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Vincent? My stomach lurched. Using my
finger as a placeholder, I immediately closed the journal. My knee still ached, so I got to my feet gingerly and limped to the dresser where I had dropped my clutch purse after the opera. I lifted the black satin flap and reached inside. My fingers found a tube of lip gloss, a comb, a compact, and…there it is…the business card. Vincent D’Angelo.
Family conflict? Need guidance?
The encounter had felt strange at the time, but looking back, it was even more than strange. It was downright suspicious. First, I had spotted Giovanni—or someone who looked just like him—staring down at me from the opera box. Then, I had felt that strange desire to go to him. Why—why would I have felt that way after he had manhandled me in the graveyard? It didn’t make sense. And yet, that’s exactly how I had felt. Lastly, I had discovered Vincent waiting in Giovanni’s place. It actually looked like he had been expecting me. Was it only a coincidence? Without the journal, I would have called it that. But the journal tied everything together somehow. It told me, no, Emily, you’re not crazy. And thank God for that. That had to be Giovanni in the opera box, and it also had to be the same Vincent mentioned in the journal.
Vincent D’Angelo, I read again. My eyes paused on
the phone number, and as I stared, the red numbers blurred. Maybe it wasn’t the numbers that blurred but my eyes shifting out of focus. About the same time, a tiny voice from within suggested I call the number. The idea came out of nowhere, but the more I thought about it, the louder the voice became. “Vincent D’Angelo,” I murmured. Wasn’t I just thinking I needed guidance? He could help me, couldn’t he? I searched my bedroom for a phone. I needed to find one. Needed it. But there wasn’t one in my room. There was a cordless phone in the kitchen. By this time, the journal had fallen from my hand, but I didn’t care. I had to get to the kitchen. Clutching the business card, I opened the bedroom door, stepped into the hall, but didn’t make it very far. Something crashed right into me. “Oh-ohh-oh,” Carla mumbled, half asleep and staggering backward. “Em-lee?” I put my hand to my head, confused. What was I doing in the hall? “Sorry.” “You aren’t going up to the roof, are you?” she asked in a harsh whisper, suddenly wide awake. “No!” At least I didn’t think I was.
Heavy-eyed from lack of sleep, I rummaged through my suitcase at six a.m. the next morning trying to find my favorite pair of jeans and a shirt. The sun seeped through the curtains, and I knew it would be a hot day. I put on my jeans and a fitted white blouse, the one with the little black flowers embroidered around the collar and sleeves. It’s what I had planned to wear on my first day of school in California, too. The hair on my arms bristled at the thought. Oh well. I was in Italy and had to get used to the idea. I emptied my backpack of the items I had needed on the airplane, replacing them with the school supplies Aunt Maria had given me the night before. When I removed my journal, I paused. I flipped through the book, expecting to see writing, but the pages were blank. That’s strange. Now, why would I—that’s when I remembered. Giovanni’s journal. I whirled around, searching the room for it. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten about it. In fact, I couldn’t remember the exact moment I had stopped reading it or when I had finally gone to bed. I looked beside the bed—where I usually put a book right before falling asleep—but it wasn’t there. I searched beneath the blankets and looked under the crumpled pillows. It wasn’t on my desk or under it. Why
can’t I remember? I halted in front of the dresser, scanning
its surface, pushing my clutch purse out of the way. It’s as I stepped back from the dresser that I saw the small black corner peeping out from behind the bamboo laundry hamper. “There you are,” I said, reaching down to pick it up. I traced a finger over some of the notches and bumps that warped its leather exterior. I opened to the first page just as someone pounded on my door. “Emily? We’re leaving in five,” Carla shouted. Five minutes? I tossed the journal into my backpack, and after accessorizing with the usual mass of black leather charm bracelets, I slipped on my flats, grabbed my backpack, and went to the bathroom. As Carla brushed her teeth, I dragged a comb through my wet hair, working out the knots and trying to straighten it the best I could. I adjusted the clip that swept my side-bangs away from my face. Leaning over the sink, I stared at “the spot” between my eyes. That’s what I had been calling it. I knew there was nothing there, but part of me was always afraid that it would just appear out of nowhere like in a nightmare or a horror film. I ran my fingertip over the unblemished skin. I still didn’t know what to make of that entire night. It was the wine, wasn’t it? When I caught Carla watching me, she jumped as though I startled her and said, “Are you nervous?”
The words were muffled because her mouth was full of toothpaste foam. She moved closer to the sink to spit it out. “Not really,” I lied. “Well, I am going to introduce you to everyone! But before you are disappointed, let me warn you. There are not that many cute guys at our school.” She giggled, and I smiled in return, but my mind was stuck on one phrase. Introduce me to everyone? It sounded daunting. School was a fifteen minute walk from home, and the church was on the way. I wondered if I’d see Giovanni in the graveyard. Not that it was likely, but I still couldn’t help thinking about it, especially since his journal was currently burning a hole through my backpack. If he was there, would I give it back to him? Probably not before I had the chance to read it through-and-through. “Is he there?” Carla spoke my thoughts for me. “I can’t see anyone because the trees are in the way.” I craned my neck, trying to see past the trees and bushes into the graveyard, but it was too far down the street. “Should we get a closer look?” she asked. If he was there, maybe I would have to give it back. “No!” I smiled a little. “Um, I mean. Aren’t we going to be late?” The front of the school was an impressive white building with a series of squat pillars and wrought-iron gate
embellished with the crest of an eagle. Trees shaded the sidewalk leading up to the gates, and while we walked in their shade, Carla talked on and on about all the delights that awaited me. “And inside there is a big courtyard that has a fountain in the middle, and you can see it from the windows of all the classrooms.” A group of students stood in a circle outside the entrance. A few of them looked at me, and until then, I had forgotten how intimidating school could be when you didn’t know anyone. I leaned in close to Carla and whispered, “Do you know any of these kids?” “They are the older kids, the seniors,” she whispered back. “They think they own the school.” As we crossed the street, I didn’t look away but stared at the seniors who, in turn, eyed me like the fresh meat that I was. “Uh oh, here comes Dragon Lady,” Carla said. A thickset woman, with frizzy grey hair piled in a messy bun at the back of her head, appeared at the front gate. She wasn’t very tall, and although she looked like she was trying to hurry, her little legs didn’t get her very far. I tried not to laugh and asked, “What did you say her name was?”
“Dragon lady. She is one of the office secretaries. Watch. This is funny. She is going to shout at them for smoking and make them put out the cigarettes. When she goes back inside, they will pick up the stubs and light them again.” “Gross,” I said, watching as the seniors did as Carla predicted. “Why do you call her Dragon Lady?” “Because if you get on her bad side, she will find ways to make your life miserable. Thankfully, she doesn’t know I exist.” We were through the gates and past the seniors when Carla said, “Let me see your schedule, Emily.” I handed it to her. “La, la, la, there,” she said, pointing at the page. “Your first class is in the west building, that way.” She indicated the building on our left. “It is big here, but the whole school is planned around the courtyard, so it is impossible to get lost. Your only class on the second story is third period, and you will find the staircases in any of the four corners of the courtyard. Now, my friend,”—she kissed both my cheeks— “good luck. I will meet you at the fountain at lunch time, yes? Maybe I should show you.” “No, it’s fine! Thank you,” I said, and she smiled. “For everything.” And I really meant, everything. She touched my shoulder lightly before walking in the opposite
direction. As I watched her disappear into the busy courtyard, it finally set in. Being in Italy. No parents. No friends. No past. And although it was the fresh start I needed, it was still a shock to be in Italy. Just a few weeks ago I would have told anyone who asked that of course I’d be starting junior year at Ocean High. It just shows how quickly things can change. Hopefully, it would be the last drastic change for a long time. I had my schedule in hand and was searching for my first class when I heard someone shout, “Take a shower you filthy gypsy.” The girl they teased was dressed in a faded blue skirt, draping to the ground, and an equally shabby blouse. The gypsy girl, though quite petite and gentle in appearance, turned out to be a spitfire. She didn’t shy away from the ridicule like I would have but instead, looked them square in the face and approached her antagonists fearlessly. “Filthy is the way you look in that skirt, Daniela!” said the gypsy. Unfortunately, she was outnumbered, and the girls crowded around her. I headed straight over, but by the time I got close enough to intervene, the gang of girls had already dispersed, snickering on their way. They left the poor “gypsy” girl holding up her skirt at the waistline. It looked like those brats had pulled out the drawstring. Though my
cheeks must have been on fire, this girl walked on as if nothing happened. Why isn’t she going after them? “Hey!” I said as she walked by. “You all right?” I immediately felt horrible. Anyone would be embarrassed after something like that, especially if they knew someone had seen the whole thing. She stopped to look at me. First she took in my hair, then my face, and finally, my clothes. Meanwhile, I was getting a good look at her, too, thinking she was one of the lucky few in this world who has a perfectly symmetrical face. No wonder the other girls didn’t like her; they were jealous. “You are not from here, are you?” “No, I’m from California.” “That explains much,” she answered, looking me over again. “You know, if you talk to me they might start on you, also.” When she walked on, I followed. “Why? And, hey, what’s your name?” I asked. We walked in the direction of the west building, and when she saw that she couldn’t shake her shadow, she harrumphed and said, “My name is Anna. And they will tease you if you are a gypsy-lover.” She said, “Well, what is it you want to ask me? I see nothing but questions in your eyes.” “Why did they call you a gypsy?”
“A gypsy, you ask?” Her temper surged again, though I was sure it wasn’t directed at me. “Do I look like a fortune teller? A thief or a pickpocket, maybe? No matter your choice, that is why they call me a gypsy. To them, I look like all of these things.” “You’re a real gypsy?” Only after saying it did I realize how naïve I sounded. “Today I will be Anna, The Fortune Teller Gypsy. I will guess your name, new girl. Let me see.” She closed her eyes, concentrating. “It starts with an E.” “A lucky guess.” Her eyes were still closed and when they popped open, she said, “Emily?” “How did you—” Before I could finish, she was laughing and tapping my schedule, pointing to my name. “You Americans are gullible. What grade are you in?” she asked. “I’m a junior.” “Me too.” She reached for my schedule. “Oh, you’re in my first class and third class.” Her eyes carried down the list. “And after lunch, one more class. What do we have here? You are taking Chemistry and Pre-calculus? You are a
smart girl, Emily Edwards. Follow me, I will show you to our first class.” She led me out to the middle of the unsheltered courtyard. It was still so early and already too hot. The sunlight made the water in the fountain look dazzling and cool, and as we passed by, I bent to one side, letting my hand stream the icy surface. “So, really,” I said, “are you a gypsy?” “The last time I checked? Yes, full blooded gypsy. Is that a problem?” It was a question that no sane person would have dared to answer yes. “No problem here!” “Good, because if you had a problem, I would have to put a spell on you.” I didn’t believe in spells, but I felt like playing along, so I caught my breath and said, “Really?” She shook her head, laughing. “Gullible. And just so you know, we gypsies call ourselves the Roma.
written by Rane Anderson read Chapter Seven at thelitexpress.blogspot.com
art by Ashley Stewart ashleystewart-art.com
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