A hint of lemons on the ocean breeze coming through the open window brought a wistful smile to Marzia’s face as she pulled more wet laundry from the tiny washing machine. She could already taste those lemons in her mouth at the end of the day.
Carlo would be in the fields now laughing and smiling with the men and women who also worked there. Carlo was always bright and cheerful, not like his sister who’d grown increasingly tired and sour with the years.
Marzia carried a heavy sheet out to the balcony where she added it to the others that swayed and moved with the currents of the warm scented air. Looking down below, she spotted young Theresa and Paulo hiding and giggling near the corner of the market. They didn’t realize that they had an audience as they French kissed and ran their hands over each other in places that would have their mothers squawking.
She remembered when she’d been Theresa’s age, wearing the starched white shirts and pleated skirts of the Catholic school. Toni Marellli had been her boyfriend then. They’d thought that the same corner was private too. After Carlo’s accident, Toni had gone away. Marzia stalked him sometimes on the internet. The photos of his receding hairline, beer buddies and of his two grown daughters always stayed with her for days. That would have been my life.
When the disaster struck—the one that had left the top half of her brother’s skull missing, Marzia knelt in the surgery waiting room saying prayers on her rosary and begging God to let Carlo live. God had granted that wish. The Doctors warned her that Carlo would probably not live past the age of twenty-five.
They were both in their sixties now. Carlo worked during harvest in the lemon and olive fields perched on the steep slopes of the coastal mountains. In the early evenings, he sat at the edges of the walkway leading down to the Ligurian Sea. He smiled innocently at the tourists who regarded him with surprised pity. There was never a language barrier for Carlo. Turning his head so that they had a clear view of his injury, he motioned toward his hat lying near his feet. The loose change that he proudly poured into their kitchen table did help make ends meet, as did Mariza’s miniature sketches that she drew of seascapes and buildings in their tiny town. The sheets she washed were destined for tourist beds. At night, she sipped on Carlo’s share of the Limoncello that he received at the conclusion of the harvest season.
In her top dresser drawer was the rosary that she’d used that night. She hadn’t touched it since. If Carlo beat her to the grave, she planned to put it in with his ashes.
Story Prompt: WriteOn weekend challenge: 500 words or less – “Window”
Inspiration: A trip to Manarola, Italy in Cinque Terra – art and photography by the author