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Luce is beautiful as the sun. Luce is fragile and delicate. Luce has everything she lacks. Pina hates her, even if she’s her sister. Luce has Vito, the guy she has always wanted. She is only missing something, only one thing. Anything that can make her become human, because she is not. When the secret is discovered, Pina becomes conscious of the terrible life her sister has had until now. Segregated, un-protected. Supervised, a stranger to the whole world. If there is an only hope for her to lead a normal life, it can only be found there, in that lost convent lost in the mountains, where she was born. A temple where the Mother is worshipped and not the Son. Where she could find total loss or salvation.
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Illusion Novella # 2
Original Title: Luce
Translated by Andrea Suárez
© 2018 Illusion
© 2015 Stefano Pastor
Graphics: Angela M.
All rights reserved
Those where other times. I was nineteen already but I was still called the girl. In fact, there was nothing of an adult in me, boobs where almost nonexistent, hair was cut short; I had an insane passion for masculine clothes that I was never allowed to wear. “Only the filthy woman do it!” my mother always said.
For Luce it was different, she could do anything. Or at least I saw her like that. I hated her. She was the greatest, the most beautiful, my mom and dad’s favorite; boys never took their eyes off of her. It was not my case; they hardly took a second look at me. But Luce was truly beautiful, like the princess of a fairytale, so much that my parents considered it like that, they protected her as she was a fragile object and was in risk of breaking.
They didn’t like it when Luce met Vito. Dad knew how to work his way through in every occasion. He had been a fascist when it was comfortable for him, but at the end of the ward he had recycled himself to the majority party and had continued to be the councilor. No one was interested in his political faith, they cared about the man and the benefits he could bring. Dad was someone important, in the country, and our family, one of the most esteemed.
There were nothing to say about Vito. He was a great worker, his family was not so rich, but was always welcomed by all. He had many brothers and everyone knew them. There was not an excuse to prevent them from frequenting each other. So Dad suffered in silence, and mom with him. I heard them discuss continuously, mom and Luce, and the argument was always the same: mom wanted her to break up with him, so that they frequenting of each other wouldn’t get too serious.
Luce and Vito were never left alone. When Luce left the house she always had someone with her, to control her. Not me, luckily, mom did not trust me with important matters. Uncle Agata, sometimes, but most of the times Aunt Tonina, she was a spinster, and had so much time available. Luce and Vito often went to the movies together and sometimes dancing. And nightly discussions always became more and more heated.
The night the tragedy happened, I didn’t notice it at first. Yes, I felt Luce come back, but she didn’t even say hello and ran to lock herself in her room. I was listening to the radio, trying to learn a new American dance that was so much in fashion, and I didn’t even notice. Mom followed her, but I didn’t notice that either. Trouble started only one hour later, as I was getting ready to go to bed. We heard knocking on the door; we also heard someone beat it. Then came the screams, furious, unrecognizable.
I was already in pajamas, but mom and dad had not changed yet. Mom arrived in Luce’s bedroom. “Think about it Rocco!” said to Dad. She already knew who was making all that noise. Dad also had to understand it, for he immediately went down the stairs without complaining. I approached the walkway, and mom was too worried to notice and reprimand me.
Our entrance was spacious and the staircase long, it circled around it. From my position I had a perfect view. Dad did not even mention opening the door. “Go home!” he yelled. “It's too late. It's inappropriate for you to come here!”
“You know what she has done to me!” yelled a voice behind the door and I recognized it was Vito’s. “You have always known!”
I was impressed that Vito spoke to Dad with such confidence. Until then, he had always shown huge respect for him. I realized he was drunk and Dad did too. “Tonight you’re not in condition for discussing, come back tomorrow!” he yelled.
“Why?” yelled Vito. “Why didn’t she tell me? Why did you let everyone make fun of me?”
Dad was not defending Luce, absolutely, and it was evident that she was in the middle of everything. It had to be something serious, if even our parents were involved.
“Vito, stop it! You can’t reason tonight. Come back tomorrow, we will find a solution. You’ll see that everything will work out!”
Dad did not use to behave like that. Whether he was wrong or right, he always attacked. I had never seen him step back on any occasion or until that night at least.
“There is nothing to work out!” yelled Vito. “It’s over! I don’t want to see her, ever again! Take her far away, otherwise I’ll kill her!” And as if the awful words he had just pronounced were not enough, he burst into laugh. A hysterical, suffering laugh.
I hated her. I hated Luce, even more now than before. Because Vito was a great guy that filled my dreams, that I had loved in silence for years, without ever having the courage to do something. They guy with whom I wished to spend life with, was now suffering and the cause of everything was her, my sister. Wasn’t it enough for her to have the best guy of the village, the most beautiful, and the best match? What could she have done to reduce him to those conditions? No, it could not be a simple attack on jealousy, this time it was something more serious, irreparable.
Vito left, without adding anything else, and at home no one talked about what had happened. But the next morning, I was informed the same. And the rumor had spread! There was no certainty; however the events left no room for doubt: my sister, the desirable and perfect Luce, was no longer a virgin. They had separated, after dancing, fleeing from the watchful look of Aunt Tonina, and like all teens, have seek forbidden pleasures. But something went wrong, because Vito had come back almost immediately and had started to drink. The more he drank, the more his anger grew. Eventually he had started talking, making very bad comments about Luce and my whole family.
Everyone talked about it in town, there was no other conversational topic: Rocco’s daughter was no longer a virgin. Was I upset? Not so much. Luce was my sister, yes, but I had never been close to her. Seeing her fall from the high pedestal on which everyone had her could only please me. The fact that the entire family had been stained by her actions didn’t seem important in that moment. I joined the gossip chorus: who could it have been? There were so many guys after her, but Luce had never shown interest for anyone, except for Vito. Too many names flourished, barely whispered. Some of them left me astonished.
But what could have been a harmless gossip became more serious in the course of the morning. To the point that, at noon, Dad, whom took his single glass of wine seated at the bar of the square, received an unexpected visit. He found himself in front of Ignazio, Vito’s father, along with his older brothers. I wasn’t there on that ocassion, but I was told the details.
“We need to talk”, Ignazio started.
Everyone found it bizarre. After all Vito was a man, he certainly could not be considered a child, the fact that Luce betrayed him did not justify so much concern. It would have been different if they had an official engagement, but this was not the case.
My father must have thought the same, because he answered abruptly. “What do I have to say? They broke up. I don’t see the problem.” And he added loudly so everyone could hear him: “Whatever my family does is nobody’s business.” Then, almost with irony: “Or do you consider tainted the honor of your son?”
Ignazio shook his head and sat in front of dad, without waiting for any invitation. “The boy is bad, Rocco. He is taking it in a wrong way.”
My father leaned his head. “I'm sorry.”
“He doesn’t want to talk about it.” Ignazio said. “He won’t tell anyone what happened. He is sorry for how he behaved last night.”
“It doesn’t matter. I already forgot about it”, my father said, despite his distress.
“He really is.” Ignazio continued. “He really loved your daughter, she was everything to him.”
Everyone said dad could have been more polite, because that poor man had come to him with his heart on his sleeve, but he remained rigid until the end. “It cannot work”, he said. “I always knew they were not meant for each other. He has to forget about her, its over.”
Ignatius remained dumbfounded and this put an end to the discussion. Dad paid the check and left.
I hated him when I knew it, I also hated my father. Vito did not deserve all of this.
Luce remained locked in her room for days and I did not find a way to see her. Mom was always with her and I rarely saw her. I had a lot of confidence with dad, I was always tempted, but I didn’t dare to ask him anything. The situation in hour house was intolerable, but outside it was no better.
The problem was Vito. The poor guy did not eat anymore, he did not leave his room, he didn’t want to talk to anyone. And this was weird, everyone was worried. If at least he had let off the steam, if he had gone around insulting my sister, even if he had called her a whore, it would have been unpleasant, but natural, and understandable. His behavior, however, was as stranger as dad’s.
I would spend hours in front of his window, hidden, melting for him, and not once I saw him come out. I saw his mother shake his head every time she was asked for news about him. How could they have treated him like that, Luce and also dad! And he could not do anything, absolutely nothing, to change the situation.
One evening, taking advantage of the fact that Mom had gone down to the kitchen, I slipped into Luce’s room. I had rarely entered in all those years. Luce was something else, apart from the common mortals. In front of her, I was only a servant. Luce had never been to school as us, the ordinary people, she had private teachers. We had never played together, not even as kids. “Leave your sister alone”, my mother said, every time I tried to talk to her. And that was the result of so much consideration; the perfect Luce had thrown the discredit on our family.
“Ah, it’s you, Pina”, said a voice in the dark, completely deprived from emotion.
I could not see her. The shutters of her room had been closed for days and Luce continued to live in the deepest darkness. I tried to locate where the sound came from. “Are you OK?”
This was not what I wanted to know, I would have preferred to insult her, ask her how she could be so insensitive, how could she hurt him.
My eyes slowly got used to the dark and I started to see in the shadows. Luce was not in bed, she was not sick, she was in front of the mirror, as if she could still see in that darkness. Even then, in that moment, Her beauty hit me: I could never compete with her.
She sobbed, only for a moment, and then came her voice, unrecognizable. “I miss him, I miss him so much!” Then she turned to me. “How is he? Tell me he’s fine!”
I didn’t expect this reaction, but it didn’t move me at all. “You should have thought about it first, don’t you think?”
She wasn’t offended, she nodded. “Mom was right, I did not want to believe her. I had told her he would not be able to understand.”
I feel the irritation grow. “So it is his fault now!”
“No, no, absolutely! No, Vito has nothing to do with it. It is only my fault. I should have known it was impossible.”
Fragile, delicate, ethereal as ever, once again I felt inadequate in front of her. They would say I was mean treating her bad, yet I was convinced of knowing her better than anyone else, the actual Luce, the one behind the mask. “Stop pretending, you don’t care about anything. You don’t love him. You never loved him. You have never loved anyone in your life.”
As I was speaking, I realized that those words, dictated by jealousy, concealed a great truth. Luce was like that, cold, and all of her behavior was just a pose to be blessed.
“I wanted to so much to make him happy”, she said. And the choice of words made me uncomfortable. In the end she had not denied my accusations.
“What happened?” I ultimately asked her.
She shook her head. “I can not tell you, I'm sorry, Pina. I just can not.”
I gathered all my courage to talk about such an intimacy. “You're no…you’re no longer a virgin?”
She bowed her head and realized I had guessed. “Who did you do it with?”
She looked up, upset. Or maybe she was pretending, as usual. “With who? With Vito! With whom else could I have done it? Then she added: But it was not enough, I did not understand the same.”
I was petrified, mouth open, because it was not exactly what I imagined had happened. She said, “I did it only for him, because he had a dream. I knew it was wrong, but I could not refuse it to him.”
I shook my head, as if trying to stop these absurd explanations. “Did you do it with Vito? But…then what happened?”
She did not answer. She looked back at the dark mirror.
At that moment, everything seemed more overwhelming and heavier than ever. The mysteries of Luce, the behavior of my parents, the way they had always treated me. I came forward and grabbed her arm to force her to look at me.
Her reaction was disproportionate. She yelled and jumped to her feet, slipping away from my hands. She stepped back toward the wall. Her skin was frozen after being far from sunlight for so long, and that frost also seemed to be transmitted to me. I was scared by her behavior. “I don’t want to hurt you.” I apologized.
Before I could add anything else, my mother came back. I read her disapproval in her eyes and I hurried to run away before she sent me away. As I ran down the stairs to the open air where I could get rid of that dark feeling, I realized she did not love me, that none of them ever loved me.
No one took me seriously, not even my friends. I was the little girl, supposed to have childish attitudes and feelings. Yet my contemporaries were already amorous in dark and isolated places, but when we spoke they seemed horrified at the idea that I wanted to do it myself. “But you're just a little girl, Pina, what would you like to do?” They did not understand, or maybe it was my fault. Another reaction to Luce, surely, because all I did was make mistakes. The more she became beautiful, the more I tried to undo my femininity. Maybe it was my fault, that I had stopped growing.
At the end, my surveillance gave its fruits and I saw Vito leave the house. Sure, he was inaccessible, surrounded by his brothers, which seemed to defend him from the whole world. He was very pale, but no less fascinating for this. He was older than me; he was twenty-one years old, as Luce, but the abyss between us was unbridgeable, because he had always considered me a little girl.
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