Alchemist Gift Farintino Confronts Amelia
Alchemist Gift continued: For all of Fausto’s sarcasm and affected disappointment, parental love would not be denied. Farintino and Amelia, and for a while Aunt Prunella, enjoyed Marcella. As soon as Amelia was capable of taking care of both the baby and the house Fausto ordered his sister to be gone. Farintino fell from his father’s grace and was again the brunt of jibes and jokes. Things returned to normal or as normal as the Andano household could be. Fausto never held Marcella, or for that matter even acknowledged her existence, and only spoke to Amelia when he wanted something done.
Fausto held sway until a very hot and humid August afternoon. All that morning the two men worked in the sweltering shop. Fausto went on and on until Farintino could no longer stand to hear his father berate Amelia, his Aunt Prunella, himself and now even little Marcella. It was time to eat and rest for the afternoon until the heat of the day broke.
The two men entered the cool and dark main room of the house. They drank water that Amelia left out for them and stood near an open window where they could feel a mounting breeze that heralded a change in the weather. Fausto drank from his cup, yawned and looked at his son and began again. “Another thing, that brat kept me awake with its crying…crying all night. Can’t that wife of yours shut the little thing up?”
Farintino put his cup of water down on the side table next to the window. He had heard this kind of thing all morning and he was hot and tired. His blood pulsed and surged through his entire being. His lips parted as the air rushed in and out of his lungs. His face contorted in an uncontrollable glare as he turned toward his father. Fausto was about to deliver another complaint but was stopped in mid breath when he saw the threatening look on his son’s face. For an instant Fausto feared his son. He quickly looked to the left then to the right for an escape. Farintino grabbed Fausto high on the shoulders, lifted him to his tiptoes and held him against the wall.
Farintino forced his face into Fausto’s. “That is enough! Enough! She has a name, its Marcella, Marcella.” Farintino set his father down and continued with heated impatience. “Why is it you treat my daughter and Amelia with such contempt and hate and for that matter, myself? Be the man, be the father you should be.”
As soon as Farintino loosened his grip Fausto wiggled free and pushed him away. “You question me? You threaten me in my own house? Who do you think you are? I treat you the way I do because that is all you know and that is all you deserve.” Fausto took a step away from the wall and Farintino backed up. Fausto shook his head slightly, almost with pity and continued. “You are such a glutton for punishment. I treat your precious wife the way I do because she is nothing more than a common slut. You are so blind. I allowed her in my house and let her marry you out of kindness, and what do I get in return? Do you not see the way she acts, the way she carries on with any man she meets? She gives everyone that… uh…charming… smile of hers. She even tried to work her wiles on me. It was your Aunt Prunella who told me what they say about her at the market place. Everyone in town is surprised you’re not wearing the horns of a cuckold.”
Farintino was dumbfounded by what Fausto said. After he caught his mental breath he went on. “I can’t believe what you’re saying. What are you talking about?”
It was Fausto’s turn. He grabbed Farintino by his shirt, high on his shoulder as one might a child, and hurried him across the room to his desk. Fausto dug in his pocket for his key fob and pulled it out. He unlocked the desk drawer and with a gesture that was more exaggerated than he wanted, pulled the drawer out completely spilling its contents on the floor. The packet of love letters fell between the two men. A few more papers floated in a seesaw motion and gently landed around the tightly tied packet. With the toe of his boot Fausto kicked the letters toward Farintino.
“Pick them up, look at them, read them.” Fausto crossed his arms and watched Farintino stoop down and pick up the letters. He untied the string, unfolded the first letter and began to read. After the first few sentences he understood what they were. He glanced at the next one and the one after that, then shuffled his way to the last one.
Farintino put the letters back in order and tied them together with the string. He quietly tossed them back on the desk. The confidence and courage he had just moments ago when he confronted Fausto flagged. He stood there numb. He felt lost.
“Where did you get these?” Farintino finally asked.
“Let’s just say I found them in the house.” Fausto answered coolly.
“Does she know you have them?”
“No, no she doesn’t, and anyway she’ll deny ever seeing them.”
Fausto became impatient as Farintino deliberated what to do next. Finally he looked to his father for some advice. Farintino did not have to say a word. It was obvious by his expression.
“Send her and that brat of hers back to the sorry village she came from.”
Farintino shook his head. “No, I care too much for the child. She is an innocent.” Farintino thought of the pure, loving look Marcella gave him when he held her.
“I suppose you can’t send the mother away and leave the baby behind.” Fausto rubbed his forehead and thought for a second. “Well, you could give your wife a good beating; from head to toe, front and back. You must break their spirits. You know, I had to beat your mother when we were first married. She came to me spoiled and with strange notions. I think after the fifth of sixth time she came around.”
Farintino thought for a few seconds. “I must talk with her.”
“Talk? What is there to talk about?” Fausto nodded towards the packet of love letters that sat on the desk and raised his eyebrows in a quizzical and incredulous way. “Be like me, be a man. Or you can go to her like a school boy with your hat in your hand. I’m sure that would suit you just fine. Yes, Il Signore, you go talk.”
* * * * *
For the next three days Farintino was in a turbulent state that swirled in eddies of disbelief, anger and dark imaginings. He could not sleep and when he did finally pass from the conscious it was to a dreadful dreamscape where the love letters dripped with blood and faceless phantoms glistening with sweat and smelling of carnality mounted his insatiable succubus of a wife who lie in their bed with her legs spread wide and her eyes half closed in ecstasy. No matter how many of these interlopers he stabbed or clubbed or choked there was always another waiting for his turn. He lost his appetite. He shut out Amelia and Marcella. Everything Amelia said or did he imagined was suspect or a deceit. He was unable to concentrate on his work. He ignored his father’s diatribes and rants as so much babble.
Farintino quietly put the half-finished hat he was working on his bench. He looked at the hooked needle in his hand and dropped that on the table as well. Fausto was prattling on and asked a rhetorical question that sent Farintino walking out of the shop at mid-morning and into the house. He went to the desk. The letters were still sitting out where he tossed them a few days before. He calmed himself before he called out. “Amelia, where are you? Amelia.”
Amelia was surprised and glad to finally hear Farintino’s voice. It had been three days of silence, sleeping alone and cold stares. “I’m here in the kitchen.” Marcella was in her cradle, snug under a soft yellow and blue checked blanket. Marcella rolled her eyes open at the sound of Farintino’s voice; then she closed them so very slowly and settled back into sleep. The cradle was on the floor next to the work table and Amelia gently rocked it with her foot while she cut up vegetables for the omelet she was going to make for the mid-day meal. She looked towards the door when she heard Farintino’s footsteps. He entered the room a little out of breath and he was pale. He held the packet in his hand at his side.
“You’ve come in early. Are you not well?” She tried to read the concerned expression on his face. She couldn’t and could only offer him a smile.
“How many are there?” His face flushed red and his words were sharp and cutting.
Amelia looked at her husband, puzzled, she shook her head. “How many are there? I…I don’t understand.”
“Don’t mock me. How many? How many lovers have had your body?”
“Lovers?” Amelia was at a loss. “Had my body… what are you talking about?”
“Explain these.” Farintino wagged the packet of letters in front of Amelia’s face. “Who wrote you these letters?”
She glanced at the packet in his hand and again shook her head. “I have never seen them before.”
He tried to give the letters to Amelia but she would not take them.
“Yes, I’m sure. Father said you would deny it.”
“I have never seen those letters before. You know I don’t know how to read. I have never been unfaithful to you.”
Farintino pressed the question. This time, in a loud, hoarse voice he demanded an answer. The tension between Farintino and Amelia filled the room. They stood staring at each other, the baby in her cradle between them, uncertain of what to do next. Marcella awoke and began to cry. Amelia turned away from her angry husband and picked up the baby. She held Marcella close and turned back to Farintino.
“I beg you good husband, please calm yourself. Please.” Amelia, always showed the greatest modesty when she breastfed, turned away from Farintino. She untied her blouse and guided Marcella’s lips to her breast.
Farintino came to ask the question that he dreaded the answer to. “Am I Marcella’s father?” As he waited for an answer time tightened around his chest.
Amelia was glad she was turned away. The question pierced her heart. Tears welled in her eyes. “I have never been unfaithful to you, Farintino, never, never.” A sole tear spilled from the corner of Amelia’s eye and made its way down the contour of her cheek and for a second was suspended from the tip her chin before it fell onto her bosom and trickled down to Marcella’s lips where it mingled with her mother’s milk.
Farintino wearily accepted Amelia’s indirect answer because he wanted to. He wanted her words to be the truth. His heart and soul were so very tired. He needed a refuge, he needed a soft place to put his head; he needed a soft place to rest. At that moment Farintino no longer heard the faint echo of doubt concerning Amelia’s fidelity. He knew all too well that same tired sadness that shone in her soft eyes as she stood so small and vulnerable before him holding her baby to her breast. His heart ached when he realized he was responsible for some of her hurt and he felt there must be something more, something deep, something dark and awful at work. Farintino managed a slight smile and slowly extended his hands to a woman who was consumed by her own terrible secret. Amelia and Marcella came to Farintino and they embraced. From that moment all three were bound together in a silent and mysterious symbiosis that resembled the beginnings of a guarded and unsure love.
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