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Opis ebooka The ripped flower - Gladys Rovini

Il sesso è una cosa bella, romantica, appagante...è un fiore.Ma quando viene subito con violenza diventa brutta, volgare, devastante...Diventa un fiore strappato.In questo romanzo, le vite di quattro persone “normali”, ruotano attorno ad un’unica, pesante realtà...Lavinia, alle prese con le prime cotte, i voti non sempre brillanti a scuola,l’amore per la musica e per il “suo” Vasco...Camilla, misteriosa, affascinante, intrigante ragazza che ha dato un taglionetto al suo passato...Federica, una pediatra innamorata della sua professione, ma che, quasi beffardamente, non riesce a diventare mamma...

Opinie o ebooku The ripped flower - Gladys Rovini

Fragment ebooka The ripped flower - Gladys Rovini

The ripped flower

by Gladys Rovini

Translation by Laura Stecco

Title | The ripped flower

Author | Gladys Rovini

ISBN | 9788893325080

Prima edizione digitale: 2015

© Tutti i diritti riservati all’Autore

Youcanprint Self-Publishing

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Questo eBook non potrà formare oggetto di scambio, commercio, prestito e rivendita e non potrà essere in alcun modo diffuso senza il previo consenso scritto dell’autore.

Qualsiasi distribuzione o fruizione non autorizzata costituisce violazione dei diritti dell’editore e dell’autore e sarà sanzionata civilmente e penalmente secondo quanto previsto dalla legge 633/1941.

To Massimo…

my great love

To Maelys… to Gaizka…

the most beautiful works I did

To my mum…

whose love always shines …

Thanks to those who will buy this book…

Thanks to those who will share it…

Thanks to those who will let emotions drive them…

Thanks to the women that will cry, while reading it…

Thanks to those who will ‘understand’ what I wrote…

Thanks to those who help the victims of violence…

Thanks to Paola… my special little sister…

Thanks to my wonderful parents…

example of pure love!

Thanks to you, dear reader…

The waves

in the sea of life

sometimes sweetly rock you

sometimes violently sweep you away…

Hope

is the only anchor that can rescue you…

A survey from the Italian Central Statistics Institute states that every day on average seven women are raped in Italy. The data are obviously referred to the cases reported to the authorities; some research ascertained that they only represent the 8% of the real rapes. This means that the remaining 92% of the victims, due to several reasons (shame or ‘covering’ of the harasser, especially if he’s a member of the family), decide not the report the rape…

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

The countless news items attracted my attention, arousing in me emotions and feelings so strong that I had to put them on paper…

The stories of some women, who approached my counselling group, being victims of violence and abuses even within their families, convinced me to write this novel.

Violence is deplorable… no man is entitled to rape a woman, converting the sex act, a moment in which usually emotions and feelings are exchanged, into a tactless coercion, lacking of respect and passion…

Unfortunately, there is also another form of more silent violence… the psychological one, rich in threats and blackmails, aimed at diminishing the woman’s value as human being.

Women should rebel also against this type of violence, and feel free to wear a miniskirt, a low-necked T-shirt, to put on lipstick, to meet their friends…

I don’t dare to comment the child abuse… touching children in their innocence is the most disgusting thing an adult can make…

There is also another aspect, still more hidden… sexual harassments.

Sometimes, the victims of these behaviours don’t report them, for fear, unease, embarrassment, above all when they are teenagers…

No male should dare to devastate the self-worth of a girl or a woman…

Children, girls, women… don’t withdraw into yourselves! Report these acts!

PROLOGUE

Lavinia was looking at the photos, frenetically, bitterly…

Her eyes were bright with tears, the forehead contracted, the lips tightened. Her heart was beating like mad and the hands wriggled nervously.

While looking at those rough, mean faces, she could still clearly smell the fetid odour that reached her nose and hear the hard and disturbing noise which invaded her ears.

It’s a nightmare... only a nightmare... in a little while I’ll wake up and everything will be finished! She tried to convince herself, in vain.

In fact, it wasn’t a nightmare.

Suddenly, she felt something on her hands.

She turned and saw her: she was there, next to her! The doctor was holding her hands into her own.

“Don’t worry, Lavinia! Everything has ended and you are safe. They cannot hurt you anymore. Whoever they are… they won’t harm you again.”

The girl nodded, weakly.

“I know it’s very difficult for you, but…” she said, grasping the photos in front of them, “… now we need your help. We know you can assist us. Try to concentrate only for a while and tell these people if the men you see in these…”

“No!”, she cried resolute, withdrawing her hands with anger.

The doctor and the policeman looked at each other confused.

The girl stared at the floor for a while, then she firmly watched the woman sitting next to her. The doctor jumped. The girl’s eyes were full of anger, rage, pain…

“No! These aren’t men. Men don’t do such things… men love, respect, help… men don’t let you roar with pain, don’t let you cry begging them to stop, they don’t let your soul bleed… these things are made only by … individuals like them! By bastards like them!”

Tears, which she had repressed with dignity up to that moment, began to flow abundantly. All the vehemence with which she had vented her pain, had converted into weakness.

Tired and feeble, she buried her face in her hands and, bending inexorably like a small branch crushed by a big stone, she cried surrounded by silent respect that, by then, had frozen the whole room.

None of those present told anything, perfectly aware of how difficult it was for her.

The doctor was still there, next to her. She let her vent for a while, then she gently began to caress her hair.

When the incessant sobs of the girl became fainter, with a light and embarrassed cough one of the officers called her attention.

“What you said it’s true. Unfortunately, when facts like this happen, we cling to our uniform not to sink in anger, shame and, as men, we feel outraged… deeply outraged! I’d like to apologize to you for what you suffered, but… the only way I can help you and all other women in the same situation… is arresting these criminals. Now, we can do it also thanks to you. To your brave contribution.”

The girl, looking at him in the eyes and carefully listening at each word, nodded.

“I only ask you to say… are they among these ones?”

Lavinia slowly raised her face and rubbed her cheeks, wet from tears. Then, she breathed again, timidly watching the agent and the doctor, who slimed to buck her up, and concentrated on the photos. She wasn’t looking for certainty since their faces were imprinted in her memory, but for the satisfaction of answering having in front of her their merciless glances. She had to do it… she wanted to hurl all her frustration, pain and distress on those criminals who had stolen her innocence… It wasn’t a punishment, but it was all she could do…

“Yes, they are.”

At that very moment, a huge weight slid from her heart, her back relaxed and all around her seemed more peaceful.

CHAPTER 1

What a beauty! That stranger… with her hands that she moved sinuously in the air, her lips, which he imagined having a strawberry flavour, her eyes, always shining with a bright light… She was wonderful! He loved looking at her. Maybe, one day, he would dare to tell her ‘Hello’, but for now it was enough for him just to look at her, when she didn’t notice him, studying her gestures, during the few time he spent with her, smelling her scent whenever he approached her.

It was his morning rite and he wouldn’t have renounced it for any reason. That day, in particular, she was smiling in such a charming way that his heart filled with joy... joy for her! He was pleased to see her happy. Despite not knowing her nor her name and even more so he had never heard her voice yet... he was still really happy for her.

Sometimes she arrived alone, without that colleague or friend of hers with whom she usually had breakfast. Then, silently, she sat at the table and waited for her. In the meantime she read. She always carried a book. She wore her pink glasses and read.

That early long-sightedness was the most fascinating aspect he had ever found in a woman.

One time, he saw her opening a huge volume, with at least seven hundred pages... And, yet, his beautiful stranger had carried it in her big bag from which she always got out curious objects.

One morning she had taken out some samples of colours… another time a bone for dogs… and even a pendulum clock…

Gabriele doubted his eyes! And, laughed.

The weather could be horrible, the first coffee of the morning could have been awful, his motorcycle’s tyre could be flat, he could have several bills to pay, he could have quarrelled with his best friend… but, she was there, the mysterious girl was sitting there, a few meters away from him, and everything went well. At least for a quarter of an hour!

He thought that, all things considered, she was a present that life had given him.

He didn’t know anything about her, not even her name, but she could rouse in him indescribable emotions.

Suddenly, the stranger stood up. She was getting closer.

Gabriele’s heart speeded up. He prepared to welcome her, eager of satisfying all her wishes, but just at that moment, his boss planted himself between them.

He wished he could tell him to get out of the way. She was there and he couldn’t miss that magic moment in which, like almost all mornings, she gave him the money and in that precise indescribable moment, their hands touched. No words were needed because the amount was always the same: 4 Euro and 20 cents.

Each morning her colleague and her always had a cappuccino and a bun and they paid alternately. Today it was her turn to pay! So, he wanted to be at the cash desk, instead of his boss. Besides, it had always been like this… in the last three months he had always given her the receipt. What had happened today? Why should things change? That was his magic moment. He couldn’t allow someone to steal it. Otherwise, he would have to wait two further days before he could touch her hands again… two days! Forty-eight hours, two nights, two lunches, two dinners, two hours of gym, two hours of lonely walks at nightfall… no! It was too much! He wanted to touch her hands now!

The boss was approaching the cash register when a thud, followed by the noise of broken glass and by an intense smell of alcohol, invaded the room.

“Damn!”

“What the hell are you doing?” said the man, pissed off.

“Excuse me… I don’t know how it happened…” lied Gabriele.

“Leave that alone! Go to the cash desk, I’ll take care of it. What a mess you did… How many bottles did you break?”

“A couple, I think!”

“Get out of my way!” grunted Maurizio.

Gabriele smiled like a child who had heated the thermometer on the lamp to pretend to be feverish and skip school.

He immediately looked at her.

“Your friend is very angry, isn’t he?”

Her voice… for the first time he had clearly heard her voice.

That time it wasn’t a simple ‘Hello’, briefly told before leaving… it wasn’t a piece of conversation heard when he served them breakfast... This time she was speaking directly to him. Just to him!

At the beginning he kept silent, enjoying the precious gift he received. Then, afraid of appearing stupid, he began to press the buttons to prepare the receipt. But, he got it wrong and, instead of pressing 1 euro and 30 cents, he pressed 13.

“Oh! No!”

Maurizio, who was collecting the glass next to the desk, heard him and asked: “What happened?”

“I got it wrong, don’t worry, it doesn’t matter!” he said, before the other could get closer and steal him again the possibility to touch her fingers.

“What the hell have you got today? Period pains?” commented the boss, nervously.

At that joke, he saw her face darkening and her head moving from right to left, disapprovingly.

“Maybe we should find a less male chauvinist café…” her friend proposed, smiling.

He had to put it right. Immediately!

“The stress of this job, sometimes, is so high. He has a lot of responsibilities here” whispered Gabriele, so that his boss couldn’t hear, but his words seemingly cut no ice with her.

“Besides, he can’t sleep in the night” he added, perfectly aware of what he was driving at.

The two girls watched him, suspiciously. “His baby is a night bird… his wife and him take it in turns to put him back to sleep.”

An understanding oh!!! was the softened answer of the two girls.

Maybe they won’t look for another café… let’s hope so! He was thinking while the girl gave him a note. He had to give her the change… what a stroke of luck! Their hands would have met three times! One for the 5 Euro, one for the change and one for the receipt.

Then, she told him ‘Goodbye’ and smiled. Just at him!

Gabriele felt a bit ridiculous. He had never behaved like this with a girl. The most puzzling fact was that if he had heard that someone behaved like he was doing in that period, he would have thought he was a pervert, a mad… but he wasn’t!

He was sure of it.

Some things can be justified when you fall in love… but he hadn’t fallen in love… he didn’t know her yet. How could he be? Simply, he liked that girl and also that dreamlike situation in which he followed, from behind the desk, the words forming on her lips, imagining conversations and reflections that, maybe, would fascinate him. It was a fantasy which cleverly mixed with reality.

In fact, he didn’t feel anything depraved or wrong in his behaviour. He simply liked to do it.

In the last three months he had never been rude to her, he hadn’t done anything to meet her outside the café, he hadn’t investigated where her office was… he had simply enjoyed those beautiful and short moments.

Maybe, she had a boyfriend, not a husband because, observing her hands, he had never seen a wedding ring. However, she could have a stable relationship, a situation in which he wasn’t included.

But, this happened outside. Beyond their short meeting in the morning. In those moments she was there, in front of her cappuccino. She was there, with her smile. She was there, only for him.

He didn’t want to know the details of her life. He didn’t care what she did once out of that door.

Only the moments spent in the café were important.

Because, for him she represented the scent of a cake fresh from the oven… a warm scarf in a cold winter morning… the ringing under the Christmas tree… the gust of wind of the coming spring… the sudden rainbow after the rain… the snow flake that settled on his cheek… a sleepless night to finish reading a book… a soft caress in a lonely day… a special smile in a common morning…

He couldn’t rationally explain the relationship that bound him to her. No!

It was something absolutely unique, magic. Something that he had never felt in the twenty six years of his life. It was an untameable pleasure to which he couldn’t give a name.

All that counted was held in that daily quarter of an hour.

What she did outside wasn’t important for him, he didn’t care.

Suddenly, while he was serving a barley coffee in a big cup to a bearded guy, a doubt worked its way into his mind… was it really like this?

Federica waited the box to become red. We waited and hoped. In the meantime she tried to take her mind off her thoughts. She went to the kitchen, filled the pan up with water, put it on the cooker, washed the salad and sliced a tomato. She looked at her watch. It was quarter past twelve. Andrea would arrive soon. Andrea… her Andrea! The man who had filled her thoughts, populated her dreams and moved her reflections! She loved him so much! Since the moment in which they had met, two years before, her life had completely changed. For the better.

It happened during a medical conference. They were both tired and bored, but they had immediately grown lively when their eyes had met, by accident, in that crowd of people.

He was very charming, tall, dark-haired, with green eyes and wonderful in his elegant suit. On the contrary her beauty was not at all shocking: her dark and smooth hair had been cut somehow, her face was thin and a little angular. She had often wondered why Andrea decided to stay with her.

Federica puffed! Every time it was difficult to contain her anxiety at that moment. This time would be the right one. She felt it.

They had married one year ago and they had immediately tried to create a real family. They both worked with children, she was a paediatrician, while he was an infant neuropsychiatrist and they both were looking forward to welcoming a baby in their lives. But, up to that moment they had obtained no results.

She had turned to a specialized centre, had undergone several exams and then also hormonal stimulations. Sometimes she looked at her skin, worn out by those long, stressing treatments. Regular injections and level controls had become a sad routine for her.

To crown it all, there was the problem of age: they were both forty-years old and this, of course, didn’t make the arrival of the baby easier.

However, the worst aspect was her capricious mood. One day she was optimistic, she saw things through rose-coloured glasses, she felt she was young, strong and healthy… and the following day she felt sad, resigned, old, inappropriate and deceived.

Andrea, also in those cases, was wonderful! He cuddled her, writing notes full of feelings, and he often cooked dinner for her, even on a working day.

She smiled every time that she came home and found him cooking, wearing his apron.

On the evening, after having made love, sometimes she burst into tears, hiding into his arms. He understood that for her it was very difficult to see children all day long and don’t have her own to love.

It was a cruelty! And, he hoped that their wish would realize soon.

His brother had two children and Federica’s sister, too. The littlest was born recently. Obviously he was a patient of hers, but she had practically followed him since the embryonic stage since she had dedicated a lot to her sister’s pregnancy.

She was aware that the wish of having a child was converting into an obsession. She clearly understood it when, walking in the street, she met a mother pushing a pram.

She got closer to see the baby and this, every time, broke her heart.

Besides, twist of fate, sweet mothers and lovable babies seemed to emerge from every corner of the town…

Of course, it wasn’t exactly like this, but she knew that when you wish a baby, you see children everywhere…

Or, when in her study arrived a woman with her three children. Egoistically, she often thought ‘why can’t I have at least one?’

She wanted to give a baby to Andrea, from the bottom of her heart. But, things didn’t work exactly as she wished.

She was absorbed in her thoughts when she heard the noise of the keys in the lock.

“Hello, my love!”

His smile. His wonderful smile…

“Are we taking off?”

He always said that sentence the day of the test.

“I’ve fastened my seat belt... let’s see what the control tower says”, she joked.

After having leant his bag on the table, he got closer, hugged her tight and kissed her.

“Are you ready?”

“I’m never ready…”

“Neither am I. Come on, let’s go and check”, he said, caressing her cheek.

They set off for the bathroom, where their dream was waiting for the confirmation to take off.

She heard a noise she perfectly knew: feet’s shuffling. Then, the key in the lock and the usual beep beep of the mobile phone. She had probably received one the countless messages she exchanged with her friends every day. Recently she received them even in the night. She was sure she had a boyfriend, probably that blond boy she liked so much. She was her mother, and her instinct couldn’t fail.

She took the cake out from the oven, hanged the mitt and the pot holder on the hooks, smelled the air and congratulated herself.

She rinsed the cups in which that morning she had taken coffee with her neighbour, before going at work, placed them on the draining board and waited for some moments.

Then, she drained the pasta, put it in the pan with the sauce, meticulously mixed it, while a light smoke rose, and covered it with the lid.

A few moments later, her coloured head peeped out on the kitchen door.

“Hello, mum…”

“Hello, what about the school this morning?”

“Everything is all right” she said kissing her on the cheek.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not very much” she admitted while sitting at the table. She gave a sigh.

Her mother watched her carefully: her eyes were dreamy, her hands played with the napkin and a faint smile lighted up her face…

“Did you get any tests at school, today?”

“Excuse me? No… no.”

She served her the pasta and asked: “But, in case, are you ready?”

“What? Yes, of course.”

She rolled the spaghetti, but before eating them, she asked: “What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing with me…” her mother answered in a provoking tone.

They watched each other, smiling, then suddenly the daughter said: “OK, nosy parker! There’s a news… today I celebrate a month! The first month in which Fabrizio and I are dating.”

“Oh! That famous Fabrizio, so nice and sweet that I cannot think of anything else?” she said, quoting a phrase she had heard millions of times in that period.

“Exactly! Mum… I’ve fallen in love with him!”

“Lavinia, don’t you think it’s exaggerated? You are only sixteen years old and speaking of love seems excessive to me.”

“No, mum! Don’t speak like this. He’s different from other boys. He’s mature, sweet, responsible…”

“He’s a teenager!”

“Mum… I love him!”

“What a buzzword!” smiled her mother, nodding her to keep on eating. “You are still a child, a short time ago you still played with Barbie, secretly of course, buy you did it…”

Lavinia smiled.

“There’s a lot of time to fall in love… now it’s time for studying. Don’t behave as your mother, that necessarily became a worker. Apply yourself, find fulfilment and show all males that, even if they call us the ‘weaker sex’, we are stronger than a lot of them.”

She had heard those talks several times before.

“Mum! Which marks do I get?”

“Full marks…”

“I’ve good marks, I don’t miss classes, I don’t play truant, I’m a serious girl… allow me to live a love story…”

“Love…” she began, while she stood up.

Lavinia knew what she was going to say.

“Love is what I feel for you… that’s love. You can’t find it at your age. You shouldn’t trust men… and, do you know why? Because they are only males!”

Every time the same story!

“So, didn’t you love dad?” finally she had dared to ask it. Her father had left a few months before, and at long last she had found the nerve to ask that question.

The woman became nervous. She seriously stared at her daughter. How could that girl wearing faded jeans, a Vasco Rossi’s T-shirt and several coloured hairgrips on the head make her feel so uneasy? Her daughter? Her creature?

“These are not subjects of which a mother should speak with her daughter...”

“I’m sixteen years old, not a baby. My parents separated all of a sudden, our life was completely upset and I cannot ask you this question?”

“I don’t want to speak of this. Your father is still your father. You see him twice a week, you should respect him. All the rest is not your business.”

“OK… but then, don’t complain if I don’t tell you everything about me!” she said nervously, rolling with anger those poor spaghetti.

“Lavinia...”

“Excuse me, but this evening I must rehearse with my group and now I’d like to have a rest…” she said, looking for the TV remote control.

On the screen appeared the signature tune of a musical program and, from that moment on, the only background was music and the shouting of enthusiastic and smiling teenagers.

“Elisa… Elisa…”

The woman frenetically walked along the corridor, opening and closing the doors.

“Elisa, come on, stop playing. We know you can hide very well, but now, please, stop it.”

The child next to her snorted.

“Elisa, you won! Come out, now!”

Nothing.

“Sara, look for daddy, please. I’m worried.”

“What’s happening here?”, the man arrived timely.

“I can’t find your daughter.”

“Again?”

“Yes!” admitted the woman.

“Recently, she has been doing it too often. Why do you always play hide-and-seek?”

“She always asks it to us!” admitted the child.

“I see, but in a while she must go riding. It’s late! Elisa, where are you?” shouted the man.

“Stop it! We have been looking for her for more than half an hour! I’m worried! We will never play hide-and-seek again!” told the mother.

Just at that moment the child slunk out from her hiding place: a cabinet in the corridor. It was so little that her parents hadn’t thought at looking for her there. She immediately placed in front of them. She wore a knee-length lilac flowered dress, white sockets and lilac pumps with a little tassel. Among her blond curls stood out two lilac ribbons. She held her teddy bear.

“No, mummy! Please, let’s play again hide-and-seek!”

“Elisa, how could you enter that little cabinet?”

The child didn’t answer.

“We are going to play hide-and-seek again, isn’t it?” she asked alarmed.

Her parents looked at each other, smiling.

“OK, but now it’s time to prepare. Your sister and you must go riding. Uncle Alfredo will pick you up soon.”

“I’ve tummy-ache.”

“Again? You had tummy-ache the last time” said her sister, “Do you remember, mum?”

“What? Yes, but now let’s go!” said the woman, absently, dragging the child towards her bedroom.

Sara was ready, while Elisa was still tinkering about in her socks. Her mother was placing her dresses on the bed, coupling them by colour.

“So today green shorts with the pale green T-shirt… the one with the horse printed on it.”

“No!”

The child’s voice resounded loud in the room.

The mother stopped, suddenly.

“What’s the problem, now?”

“I don’t want that T-shirt” the child said, resolute.

“Well” laughed the mother, “and why? It’s beautiful and the only one which matches with the green shorts. If you want to be a fashionable child… raise your arms and wear it.”

“No!” said the child, hugging her teddy bear.

“Elisa, I don’t like these tantrums… come on!”

The child kept on hugging her teddy bear. So, the mother strongly grasped her arms and pulled the t-shirt on her.

“Mum, I’ve tummy-ache…” moaned the child.

The woman didn’t listen to her.

“I want to stay here and play with Bibù.”

The mother, exasperated, tore the puppet off her hands and told: “Trifles! Your beautiful horse Ballerina is waiting for you. You’ll go to the riding school with your uncle, you will attend the lesson with your sister and then you’ll come home and keep on playing with the teddy bear. But, only if your uncle tells me you have been good!”

The child looked at her preferred toy and a tear slid on her cheek.

Sara watched her sister, carefully. She hoped she could attend the lesson with Elisa, but often, the uncle went with the child alone into the woods.

She was jealous. The uncle preferred her sister. It wasn’t right. She was the eldest and had the right of riding along the path in the woods much more than her sister. Besides, Elisa didn’t like it because when she came back she was always silent and frowning.

Probably, she didn’t like riding. Maybe, that was the reason why, for some time now, she didn’t want to attend lessons any more.

CHAPTER 2

The air of the morning was biting. Autumn was drawing near and temperature had suddenly fallen. Gabriele had opened the café a few hours before. It was half past eight and in a little while the mysterious stranger would have arrived. The girl whom he didn’t know anything about, but that now represented everything for him.

A smile lightened up his face. That day Maurizio wasn’t there, so he would have had a free hand. No one could come between them.

The door opened and he immediately recognized her shape.

As usual, she was together with her colleague.

The two women smiled at him and nodded.

There was no need of specifying the order. He perfectly knew what they wanted and a simple nod of their heads was enough to confirm it.

That day his beautiful stranger had a dazzling smile.

He saw her speaking hard with her friend, sitting at the table, but as usual her voice reached him dampened by the other noises of the café…

When he served them their breakfast, contrary to what they used to do, the two women kept on talking.

“Well… I didn’t expect it. This promotion was a surprise for me, of course I began to take care of customers more and more often, but I didn’t think it could become my official task. I’m so excited!”

What a beautiful voice! thought Gabriele. I like her, and I like her voice, too!

“This evening I’ll have a run on the treadmill in the gym to give vent to this adrenalin… and in the meantime I’ll keep fit!”

The two girls burst out laughing.

Gabriele left, happy and satisfied for her.

How could he really feel such a strong emotion for a person he practically didn’t know?

He left his place for a while, just to put other buns into the oven.

Then, he heard someone saying. “What a sweet fragrance! I love hot buns!”

It was something new he learnt about her. Two news that morning: she went to the gym and loved hot buns.

“Gabriele, excuse me…”

He peeped out from the kitchen and saw her in front of the desk.

She knew his name. She really knew it!

“Just a moment, I’ll be with you shortly…” he said, leaving the kitchen in a hurry.

When they found themselves face to face, he smiled at her and placed a paper bag on the desk.

“I didn’t want to be indiscreet, but I heard you are celebrating something today and I thought I could offer you this.”

The girl looked at the packet. Then, her wonderful eyes placed on him.

Gabriele’s heart speeded up.

She smiled, soft and discreet, and understood how precious that simple gesture was.

At that point, Gabriele clumsily pushed the packet towards her.

It just slipped out of his fingers!

The girls looked at each other, smiling, and his beautiful stranger stared down, shyly.

So, her colleague stretched out her hand to take it. No!

Gabriele had prepared the bag for his stranger and didn’t want to give it to her friend. However, he couldn’t deny.

So, even if a little disappointed, he gave the packet to the pushy colleague.

Besides, that day it was the turn of the wonderful stranger to pay.

So, he had to condone it.

In fact, as foreseen, their hands touched also that day.

The girls thanked him again for the nice gesture and said goodbye.

Outside the café, Gabriele saw a scene which filled his heart with enthusiasm: his beautiful stranger told something to her friend who, quickly, passed the bag to her. She grasped and opened it, getting it closer to her face to smell the scent that came from that sweet gift.

Then, she carefully closed it, as if she wanted to jealously preserve the fragrance and put it into the bag. In her mythical Mary Poppins’ bag!

Gabriele’s satisfaction was huge.

His bag had proudly become part of the multitude of objects that had gone in and out from that mythical bag.

How he envied those buns… so close to her!

Soon, at least one of them would have captured the softness of her lips…

At that thinking, Gabriele felt a thrill.

He half-closed his eyes, breathed in and out slowly and a very strong emotion filled his heart.

He watched her again, while she left.

Her long hair wavering on the back, her tapering fingers closed on the edges of her bag, guardian of that precious gift and then the bright smile on his beautiful stranger’s face, were another wonderful gift of that generous morning.

“Well, everything is OK. The child is growing and also that annoying rash is going to disappear” said Federica, putting back her stethoscope.

“I prescribe an homeopathic syrup for the cough and then you can go home and have lunch” she said smiling. “I’m hungry too!”

The child smiled.

“Thanks, doctor” said the woman, a little tired.

“When are you going to give birth?”

“In about two months and a half… but I feel so heavy…”

“I see, but it’s worth, isn’t it?”

“Yes... of course” she answered, hesitating.

Federica noticed that inexplicable hesitation, but she said nothing and stared down at the prescription book.

“How much does it cost that homeopathic syrup?”

“About twelve Euros, I think… if the price hasn’t risen.”

“Oh…”

The woman seemed worried.

Federica coughed.

“Don’t you like homeopathic products?”

“No, no it doesn’t matter” she said dressing the child again.

At that point; everything was clear.

“Well, listen…” she said, giving a look at her watch. “Now I’ve another visit, but if you wait for me, I come to the chemist with you and we can ask for the price, OK?”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to disturb you” said the woman, ill at ease.

Federica watched the child sitting on the bed. He was a wonderful child: brown-haired, big brown eyes and a round and plump face.

His little legs were hanging down of the bed.

“No problem. I need to go there, too” she lied.

“Thanks, so I’ll wait for you.”

She looked at those two beautiful people in her surgery. A mother and her baby. Does it exist something more enchanting?

“Doctor, haven’t you got any child?”

That perfect timing hit her like an icy shower.

She kicked her lips.

The mother of the child immediately understood she had made a mistake, asking that question.

“No, not for the moment …”

The child, providentially, called his mother.

“Mum… I’m hungry…”

“Yes, you are right, it’s almost lunchtime…” admitted Federica. “Well, your mother will buy you a flat bread at the baker’s round the corner, just to relieve your hunger, OK?” she said, giving the prescription to the woman.

“Could you be so kind as to buy one for me, too? And, also some rolls” she asked giving a ten Euros note to the woman.

She seemed reluctant.

“Come on!”

“Mum… I’m hungry!”

“OK, OK…” she said.

An hour later they were all in her car. The child sat on the baby’s chair that she used for her nephews and the mother next to her.

“Fortunately, the others have lunch at my sister’s…”

“Which others?” asked Federica, confused.

“I’ve three more children” answered the woman, visibly shy.

“Oh!”

Federica didn’t know that ‘detail’. The child had become her patient only recently and she didn’t know the family very well.

Or better, she didn’t know it at all!

“The oldest attends secondary school … he studies foreign languages and he’s very clever!”

The woman was evidently proud of him.

“One of the girls attends high school and loves dancing. The other one attends primary school and is excellent at drawing …”

“Goodness! How many children! Your house will be always very cheerful, I suppose!”

At that very moment she began to feel the usual uncomfortable feeling.

Why did it happen? Why did she feel so… ‘bad’?

She silently looked for an answer in her heart, but the only one she could find was that she had no children, while women like the one sitting next to her had four… and another one was going to arrive!

This wasn’t right!

Federica forcedly dissented from that thought.

She felt she was a horrible woman! A paediatrician lacking of professional ethics!

According to which criterion, to which absurd rule wasn’t it right that that woman could have all those children?

They weren’t speaking of sharing of food, money or similar stuffs! No.

It was simply egoism. Her egoism.

She sighed bitterly.

No, it wasn’t egoism… it was ‘only’ pain. Her pain.

A silent and creeping pain which wasn’t always evident, but which appeared, honeyed and treacherous, in the most unexpected moments, hardly trying her inner equilibrium.

In those instants of emotional overcoming, her stability fell through.

She psychologically condemned herself.

Fortunately, these moments were only little parenthesis in her life.

Parenthesis of humanity.

So, she tried to acquit herself…

She was a forty-year-old woman who dreamt to become a mother and who every day treated with care and love little and innocent creatures which crowded her surgery, taking smiles, cries, tears, voices, drawings, games, fears, hugs, cuddles…

How could she not be involved, at least sporadically?

Everything her husband and her wished for was there, in front of her, every day… but didn’t belong to her.

It was only a wonderful, but cruel, window of the world to which they wished to belong: the one of exasperated, tired, frustrated and disorganized parents…

How many sockets they would have gladly gathered from the floor… how many spots of food they would have cleaned… how many toys they dreamt to put in the boxes in the bedroom… how much fatigue and tiredness they would have accepted in their life!

Everything would have been lighter and more bearable compared with the emotional labour they were living now.

The love between Federica and Andrea was a strong and intense feeling… it was unfair that it couldn’t lead to the most normal thing… a child!

Federica repressed with dignity the two tears which were going to fill her eyes, parked the car and silently got out, trying to recover her emotional equilibrium.

Once in the shop, they asked the price of the syrup. The mother of her little patient played for time, asserting she had forgotten her purse at home.

Federica knew it wasn’t true. The woman had given her the change of the ten Euros spent at the baker’s, taking it out from a woman’s purse she had in the bag. However, she decided not to comment.

“Please, give it to me” she told the chemist, behind the desk.

The mother of the child protested, but she didn’t care.

Outside, the woman profusely apologized.

“Don’t worry. It’s only a loan” she said to calm her down.

She watched her carefully. The more she watched the more she understood that there was something else… that the woman hadn’t told her.

“Is it all right?” she added.

The woman nodded.

“OK. Now I take you home…”

“No!” the alarm in her voice frightened her.

“Excuse me?” asked Federica.

“No… I don’t want to disturb you further.”

“There’s no problem. I proposed it, isn’t it?” she said, trying to put her at ease.

Unfortunately, she didn’t succeed.

“No, really… we can go on foot. My legs are swollen and walking is good for me”, she said, grasping in a hurry her child’s arm. She opened the boot, took her pushchair and sat the child on it. She made everything with such a hurry that Federica didn’t even manage to help her.

She politely answered at her thanks and said goodbye.

However, she wasn’t convinced. That woman was hiding something from her, she was sure.

So, she made something she didn’t think she would ever have done in her life: she followed the woman.

Rationally, she didn’t know for which reason she was doing it, but suddenly she remembered the words of her grandmother, a cultured and humanly excellent woman who, several years before, speaking from experience, had told her that ‘in life nothing happens by accident’.

She was sure there was a reason if that mother and her child had entered her life.

So, there was a reason also for the fact that she was following them…

Thanks to that solid certainty, she kept on her investigation.

They walked for long, until they reached the town outskirts. In that area there were several immigrant families living in flats, whose health and safety conditions were precarious.

Federica noticed that some houses were even crumbling.

She couldn’t imagine that the woman had made such a long route, being almost seven months pregnant and with a sickly child in the pushchair…

She felt a sort of tenderness for her.

Then, she saw her turning the corner. The child got off the pushchair, the woman bent it and they got into a crooked wooden door.

From an open window, above, came a strong smell of fried food. She was sure that several stranger families lived in that flat.

She gave a look around: rows of hanging clothes coloured that narrow urban corner, black and grey graffiti covered the walls, already sadly compromised by time, and voices speaking a language she didn’t understand reached her ears.

Some bottles of beer were abandoned on the pavement full of holes, and the only rubbish bin was overflowing.

A mangy cat smelled the leftovers that someone had left for him in a plastic bowl.

Federica shivered.

So, that woman and her family lived in that hovel?

An untameable sadness filled her heart.

Four children, almost five, in that miserable place?

Now, she understood the reason why that woman didn’t want her to see it, to avoid another humiliation. She perfectly understood her.

All of a sudden, the thought of that new creature who was going to come into the world, caressed her thoughts, like a sudden breeze. She felt it inside, up to her womb… as if that reality, in a sense, belonged to her.

Things never happen by accident…

Her grandmother’s voice reached her ears… like a curious notice… like a soft pray…

Federica’s lips bent in a sweet smile, and she didn’t know why.

The most beautiful gift I received from life is you…

Lavinia read that message again and again, enjoying the very strong emotions she felt.

She was lying on the sofa and Vasco Rossi’s CD filled the room with heat and magic vibrations.

Vasco singing and my boyfriend writing me messages like this one…

What could I wish more? She wondered, while she absent-mindedly looked for the bag of chips on the carpet.

What a wonderful invention is music… I couldn’t live without it! She thought, while a big smile lighted up her face.

I wonder if singers really understand what we feel when we put their CD in the CD-player and close the world outside? She sighed.

It’s a sort of an antidote… a treatment, a healthy anaesthesia to the mediocrity that attacks us… A happy isle… But, we must find it… something special is needed to find it… to feel it… to enjoy it…

She sighed again, thinking at the concert to which Fabrizio would have taken her. They had the tickets for two weeks, but she still hadn’t asked permission to her mother.

I hope she’ll let me go… she hates concerts and chaos… she doesn’t understand anything about these things.

The packet overturned and some chips fell down.

Now, she will be angry also for the crumbs! What a bore!

She read the message again. The most beautiful gift I received from life is you…

A new and strong thrill slid along her back.

It was so wonderful… she had never felt so happy! Maybe, only that one time in which, a long time ago when her father and mother still loved each other very much, mum had told her that she was pregnant. So, she would have had a little brother. Unfortunately, at the end it turned out to be only a delay…

On that occasion, she had been very happy. She had never loved being the only child. She had often dreamt to pamper a little brother or a sister, a new member of her family who allowed her to express all the feeling that she had inside.

But, it hadn’t happened and now she was accustomed to that reality and coexisted with it.