Alchemist Gift Marcella’s Vision
Alchemist Gift continued: Fausto was still the master of his house. He still had influence over his son and daughter-in-law, never letting the embers of doubt completely burn out. Amelia tried to be a good mother and a good wife but her haunting secret lead her away from her motherly and wifely duties down a path to a destination of mild madness that could only be held at bay by an obsessive amount of prayer. A pot might boil over or Marcella might fuss, and Amelia would hear the fire hiss when the pot boiled over and hear Marcella’s cry when she needed tending to and know these things were happening, but to Amelia they were happening a world away and she was unable to leave that safe and holy place she inhabited when she prayed.
When Amelia was taken to pray Fausto would look at his son and
say things like, “anyone who prays that much must be guilty of something,” or “a good wife does her duty to her master here on earth as well as in heaven.” Farintino had no argument. For his own sake and peace he overlooked Amelia’s obsessive praying and after a time he convinced Fausto, who didn’t much like his food burned or the sound of a crying baby, to take on a servant.
Farintino, when his doubts about his wife’s fidelity and Marcella’s parentage were in abeyance, cared for Amelia. Farintino remembered when she first came to live in the house how Amelia was always happy and bright and singing. Such a pretty girl; Farintino felt he was lucky to have such a wife. But since her confinement and the birth of the baby she had changed so much. When he looked at Marcella he could see only how different in appearance she was from him and Amelia. Of course Amelia saw the glaring similarities between Fausto and Marcella immediately and was glad Fausto grew his little goatee to hide that telltale dimple.
Amelia’s and Farintino’s relationship was defined by the hundreds of daily details and decisions that had to be made and of course, Marcella. Once in a while they would escape Fausto’s hold. Farintino did not spend every day second guessing his wife’s faithfulness and Amelia wasn’t always at her kneeler with her head bowed praying for strength and guidance. There were bright and light moments, but they were few and that fragile world of ease and happiness eventually slid back under the somber and sober pall. Farintino and Amelia never looked to each other for more than a quiet and polite state of being governed by Concordia. Marcella spent her first years in this emotional twilight and could have received more affection and care if her parents weren’t so burdened.
Marcella was an only child until the spring of her seventh year. Three days before Marcella was to make her first Holy Communion Amelia gave birth to a baby girl. Marcella’s new little sister had a head full of dark curly hair and a dark glowing complexion. The household was abuzz over the baby. Fausto warmed up to his new granddaughter immediately and sincerely congratulated both parents.
In the three years that followed, Farintino and Amelia had two more children, both dark headed, dark skinned girls. Fausto looked on with a strange satisfaction knowing that his son could do no better than himself in creating an heir and someone to carry on the Andano name.
Marcella became a great help to her mother. Her three sisters took up most of her time as Amelia was at her kneeler praying or needed to work more and more in the shop. Fausto’s hands were riddled with arthritis and he was unable to practice his trade. He spent his time pacing between his son and daughter-in-law pointing out any flaws or imperfections in their work.
When the youngest was weaned Marcella took on all the motherly tasks. More than once Amelia would come in the house to find an exhausted Marcella sitting in a chair, a baby in each arm and rocking the one in the cradle at her feet.
Marcella was just that much different in looks and in age to feel the outsider; she felt more like an aunt than on older sister. Her three sisters were entwined tightly with each other in their own little knot. They were lively and curious and constantly giggling and exploring the house or playing in the garden. Marcella was either cleaning up after them or preparing them something to eat or kissing a bump or bruise, singing to them or teaching them their prayers.
When the oldest, Maria, turned six she took over the care of her two younger sisters. For the first time in that many years Marcella was free. Amelia and Farintino made no great demands on her. They let her to herself. Marcella spent lazy mornings walking the sunny paths that took her into the country. She found a pond that she especially liked. She would sit under a tree in the late afternoon and when the sun was just right the air would be glazed with a delicate ivory glow and she could see countless insects of all sizes and shapes on the wing, diving, darting and dancing on the breeze.
On one such afternoon Marcella sat on the cool ground and rested her back against the trunk of an old walnut tree and looked out on her favorite pond. Bits of golden light filtered through the branches and leaves and made a pattern that twinkled and shifted back and forth in the breeze that was alive with dusty scents of summer. Long wisps of almost transparent white clouds hung motionless in the sky.
Marcella opened her pouch and took out her lunch of a crust of bread some cheese and a good size bunch of red grapes. She spread her bandana over her lap and lazily ate as she looked out at the meadow that was more gold than green. Her eyes slowly closed and she listened to the leaves whisper over her head and heard the sweet songs of birds as they called to one another. The last thing she heard was her own breathing as she slipped into an afternoon nap.
Whether it was a dream or a vision Marcella could not tell. But she took it to be real and remembered it as something special. Though she did not know it then, it would be a defining moment from that day on until the end of her life. When she awoke she quickly gathered up her uneaten scraps of cheese and bread, tossed them in her pouch along with her bandana and started quickly back home. She was bursting with the excitement of what she just experienced and needed to tell someone.
The country lane seemed to stretch on forever as she passed certain landmarks she used to measure the way: the little tufts of weeds that looked like horses tails, then further on by the dead tree with the broken branch, then she finally came to the little pile of stones that were stacked knee high right before the bend in the lane. She walked up the last hill and then she started to run when she saw the walls and gate of Terra Sanctus.
Marcella ran through the gate, past the ragged beggars, who looked up hopefully when they heard footsteps then returned to their chatter when they realized it was only a girl. To save time she ran behind the last aisle of stalls and tents that made the far border of the open air market. She headed across the square and stopped in front of the church, genuflected, made a quick sign of the cross and hurried on her way.
Out of breath she arrived at the front gate. She opened it and ran into the house. She was just about to speak when Maria brought her finger to her lips and shushed her to be quiet.
“I’ve just put the girls down for a nap.” she whispered rather impatiently.
“Mama?” whispered Marcella back.
“At her kneeler, in her bedroom.” she whispered back.
Marcella nodded to her sister; Maria fell into the chair and stretched her legs out then let out a long tired sigh.
Marcella went to her mother’s room. The door was ajar. She peeked in and saw Amelia at her kneeler, her head was bowed and she was fervently praying. Marcella went in as quietly as she possibly could and sat on the bed and watched her mother. She tried to remember every detail from her dream.
Amelia finally looked up at her daughter. She looked at Marcella very closely and did not say anything. Still keeping her eyes on Marcella she made a sign of the cross and put her rosary in the pocket of her dress.
“Tell me…have you seen it too?” Amelia nodded all the time she spoke.
Marcella leaned a little towards her mother. “Mama I saw something. I think I was blessed with a vision. I think it was a sign from the Holy Ghost.” Amelia smiled at the thought. She arose, went to her daughter’s side and sat next to her on the bed.
“Tell me, Marcella.”
“Mama, I went to my favorite place, by the pond on the Longo farm. I ate my lunch under the walnut tree. It was so peaceful that before I knew it dozed off. Then it was like I was hearing voices but they were whispering. I opened my eyes and I was in the clouds. I wasn’t afraid of falling, I just knew I wouldn’t. Below me there was a big city. It was on the sea shore. There were so many houses and roads. But I don’t remember anything more about the city. Then I went up higher in the sky, above clouds where the sky was so blue. Then I saw you, you were floating in a line along with people who were floating too. The people behind you were all white, they were like statues. You called me over to you and all I had to do was think I was there and I was. You told me to stand in front of you and look ahead. When I did, I could see the line go on and on. These people would flicker like a candle flame in the breeze, some of them would glow; others would explode into a sparkly dust and just float away. Then all of a sudden, somehow I was whisked to the front of the line where this man was. He looked lost, but he smiled when he saw me. It was like I knew him, but I know I’ve never seen him before. He reached out and his hands and almost touched me. Then I woke up. Do you think it was the Holy Ghost?”
Amelia was all smiles. She pulled Marcella close to her and hugged her. She thought for a long few moments before she spoke. All the time she was thinking she could feel the excitement bubbling in her daughter as Marcella fidgeted and wiggled in her embrace. Amelia let go of her daughter and held her at arm’s length and looked into her eyes. “Tell me more about the city.”
Marcella sighed. “Mama, I saw so little of it and it was so far away.”
“Did it have a long curving bridge?”
Marcella thought for a moment. “Yes, I do remember seeing a bridge and it did curve over the water. It was so far below me. But it was you and the statue people behind us and the ghost people ahead of us in line that I remember most. Do you think it was a sign from the Holy Ghost?”
“Our Lord Savior works in mysterious ways Marcella. You should not ask a sinner like me about the Lord. I am unworthy to even speak His name.”
This reply confused Marcella. She could not remember even once her mother do something so wrong that she should consider herself so low in the eyes of the all forgiving Lord.
“Should I tell the Monsignor Perti?”
Amelia pursed her lips then spoke quite deliberately. “I would not mention this to anyone. What you think is a sign from our Holy Father others may think it’s a sign of the Dark One.”
“But it’s not; it was so beautiful and peaceful where I was. I didn’t want the dream to end.”
“It will always live in you. I think that is where it must stay.”
Marcella did not understand why her mother did not celebrate the notion that she might have been chosen to receive a sign from God. “You mean I’m not to tell anyone?”
“No.” Amelia had a note of finality in her voice.
“Girls and women who think they might have heard the words of the Lord are sometimes thought to be possessed by Satan. Sometimes these girls and women, who seem to be good and devout people, are called witches by those who are jealous.”
“A witch?” Marcella was worried. Granted she did not tell anyone but her mama. Still she was scared.
“Dear girl, I have heard that from a young traveler who has just purchased a hat yesterday. His name is Rene Hermes. Anyway, he is returning to his home in Bavaria.”
“Yes, mama, I did pass a young man, he wore one of our hats. It must have been him.”
“He told your father and me some towns and villages in and around where he is from, there are no women left. They have all been burned at the stake.”
“That won’t happen here, will it?” Marcella’s eyes widened and she was shocked by these terrible revelations.
“Let’s hope it won’t. You have told me, and I promise on the Blood that has flowed from our Savior’s wounds never to tell a soul. And you shouldn’t either. Not even in confession.”
Marcella reached up haltingly to her mother. Amelia smiled at her daughter and gave her a loving hug.
Marcella came to realize that her mother was right. She should remain silent about her spiritual experience. She figured it was a sign only for her, so why would other people be interested? Marcella went about her young life with its dramas and discoveries, but now having had this experience, and for this first time in her life she was spoken to as an adult by her mother, she felt self-satisfied and secure in who she was. She did not feel aloof or arrogant; she did not look down on anyone, ever, but she felt fulfilled and happy and excited about the future.
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