Whilst waiting for Graziella to arrive, I have a final conversation with my mother.
“It was such a shock that day, Mamma.” I’m startled by my disembodied voice. Did I speak out loud? I listen breathless. Will I receive an answer? My voice tumbles out again, child-like, “You never told me anything about my father. You never allowed me to ask questions about him. And then to show me a photograph of him, on that very last day. Such a handsome man with big brown eyes just like mine. What did you do with that photograph? At least you could have left that for me!”
I listen for a minute, and then chide myself. I rub my eyes irritably, realising that I’m truly exhausted.
“And now I won’t be able to ask you—ever.” I brush threatening tears away impatiently. “No more tears. No more!”
An hour later, Graziella and I hug each other fiercely. We both know that our lives are on very different paths. But, in our hearts we will be close forever. A childish voice excitedly interrupts this emotional parting, asking when we will be leaving for the airport. With all that has happened, I had almost forgotten about the promise I made to Esther, to take her daughter back with me. I look down at Vera, Esther’s daughter, who has arrived with her grandmother. They will both accompany me on the flight back to Africa.
As we board the aeroplane, I let Vera and her nonna go in front of me, “Vuoi sedere vicino alla finestra? Do you want to sit next to the window?”
Vera answers with an engaging smile. While they are busy settling, I stand in the aisle, watching the grandmother fuss over the young girl.
“La cintura di sicurezza. Safety belt.” Esther’s mother squawks, pointing at her granddaughter’s waist.
“Si, Nonna,” Vera answers, fumbling with the belt. The fresh young face of the nine-year-old girl with twinkling eyes and a pointed nose make me smile.
“Va bene? All good?”
One young and one old face nod seriously at my question; Vera’s face is animated while her grandmother purses her lips at the sound of loud laughter from other passengers.
I know that Esther and her son, Paolo, will be ecstatic to have more of their family join them. And my own family is waiting for me too; Eugenio, Bambi, and the people at the shop back in Rhodesia, Africa.
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