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Authors: Ginny Baird

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BOOK: The Calendar Brides
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“To meet and fall in love,” Angie finished with a fond smile.

“It all sounds terribly romantic,” said Claire.

“We had to sneak away,” Nona informed them. “Meet on the sly by the sea. Giovanni helped us. He covered for me.” She dabbed her eye with a tissue. “I miss my brother so.”

“I can’t imagine what that was like. Having a brother,” Zoe said.

“Nor can any of us!” Tiny confirmed, and they all laughed.

“At least you have each other, not just some of you as sisters, but all of you as cousins. That’s something.”

They all added their agreement, saying they were truly blessed.

“What sorts of things do you talk about?” Trish wondered. “You and Luigi, when you speak online?”

“Oh, you know.” Nona gave a little shrug. “This and that…”

Emma lifted an eyebrow. The puppy had awakened and snuggled contentedly in her lap, as she stroked under its chin. “Now she’s being coy.”

“I am
not
,” Nona contested. “Only private. And a woman my age…” She tittered a laugh. “…is entitled to some secrets.”

“Goodness gracious, Nona,” Jane said. “We weren’t asking for details!”

“Oh, yes, we were,” Susan said.

“The more, the better,” Zoe chirped eagerly.

“Okay, I’ll tell you.” Nona leaned forward on her elbows and the others angled toward her. “We talk about the old days, and how things used to be. The adventures we had. And then…” Her cheeks colored dusty rose. “We speak of the adventures we’d like to have, even now. Just the two of us.”

“Like?” Lena pressed.

“We’d like to picnic on the shore.” Nona shared a distant smile. “With a blanket and a very large bottle of wine. In a private spot where no one else can—”

“Okay, okay.” Jane flagged a palm at her grandmother. “We get it.”

“What, Jane?” Susan said. “She was just getting to the good part.”

“No, she wasn’t,” cautioned Trish. “She was headed into TMI.”

Nona blinked in innocence. “What’s TMI?”

Rachel giggled and hugged her warmly. After the group hug, she’d moved from the arm of the sofa to the arm of her grandmother’s overstuffed chair. Rachel was their social butterfly, ever circulating, even among family. “Too much information,” she said in a whisper. “I think you were embarrassing Jane.”

“I don’t embarrass!” Jane balked, but even so her face reddened.

“Neither do I,” Trish added quickly. “I… We…” She glanced at Jane. “Just didn’t want you to confess anything you’d regret later.”

“Heavens!” Nona proclaimed. “I haven’t had a chance to regret anything yet.” Her expression was glum. “I suppose that’s the problem.”

Tiny studied her with admiration. “You’re quite an inspiration, Nona. Oh, that we all had so much spunk at your age.”

“You most certainly will,” Nona said with a wink. “It’s in your DNA. And I know what
those
initials mean.”
 

 

“Do you think she’s serious?” Rachel quietly asked the others, as they wound down the path and away from their grandmother’s house. “Serious about this whole Luigi thing?”

Back on the crest of the hill, they heard wailing through the living room window.

“Oh, Luigi!” followed by a torrent of sobs.

The girls sucked in a collective breath.
 

“That sounded awful!” Bev whispered.

Claire choked back her tears. “Worse than awful.”

“Yeah,” Zoe agreed. “Totally bad.”

The cousins looked at each other and nodded. Without saying a word, they’d agreed. They had to devise a plan.

“She
is
eighty-seven,” Tiny offered.

Haley motioned with her racket. “Hasn’t got much time left.”
 

“That was uncalled for!” Angie cried.

“Shh…” Emma set down the pup, and clipped the leash to its collar. “She’ll hear us.”

All eyes turned back toward the house, which stood like a lonely beacon. A lonely widow’s beacon… They were all thinking the same thing. After all this time, and everything she’d done for them, their Nona had earned some happiness.

Lena spoke next. “Whatever time she’s got, she deserves to spend it how she wants. With the man she loves.
Capische
?”

Susan adjusted the knitting bag on her shoulder. “But what can we do?”

“Something, we have to do
something,
” Jane affirmed.

“Absolutely. After all, we D’Amatos aren’t quitters.” Trish set her chin with a determined look, and glanced back at the house. “It’s in our DNA.”

 

Ten minutes after her granddaughters had departed, Lucia pulled herself together. What was the point of it all? Weeping over a future that couldn’t be. She dried her tears and inhaled deeply—recalling the sweet scent of lilacs and a faraway island blooming with wildflowers. Lucia heard a noise chirp from her computer and turned toward the adjoining room where she’d left it on the dining room table. The music sounded again, and Lucia’s heart bounded. That had to be Luigi keeping their appointment for a video chat.

She pushed out of her wing chair and practically skipped toward the table with spry steps.
Luigi! My love is calling…
Lucia felt fire in her cheeks to imagine a woman her age would think of someone—anyone—as her
love.
But that’s how she thought of him.
Il mio amore.
The computer chimed again and Lucia skirted toward it, first taking care to check her reflection in the mirror hanging over the sideboard. Her gray hair was tousled, and her eyes still a little red from crying. She hoped Luigi wouldn’t notice.

“Ciao, bella!”
came his enthusiastic greeting once she was seated and had accepted his call. He was as dashing as ever, with sea-blue eyes and deeply tanned skin that spoke of the sun. By contrast, Lucia was fair, having spent these sheltered years indoors.

“Luigi,” she said in their native tongue, “this
is
a surprise!”

His laugh rumbled. “Don’t tell me you’d forgotten our date,
cara mia
?” But, by the way his eyes sparkled, she knew he understood she’d been teasing.

“I would never forget you, Luigi.”

“Hmm. Yes. This is why you ran away from home to marry another man?”

“That’s so unfair!”

He stroked his chin and she saw that it was stubbled. It occurred to her he’d look handsome in a beard. She put it on her agenda to suggest he grow one.

“Si, si.”
His look was conciliatory. “You have a point. I made a slip and married, too.”

“I thought you said you loved Teresa.”

“Adored her. Just as I know you adored your husband. Yet, somewhere deep in here…” He drew a hand to his chest. “There was always a hole. As deep as the darkest cavern in the ocean… You felt it, too,
si
?”

Lucia recalled that bittersweet moment on her wedding day, seconds before she’d said
I do
. A memory had come flooding back uninvited, and it had painted a picture from her past. Just she and Luigi standing on a seaside cliff. He was dressed in a suit and she all in white. A crown of wildflowers adorned her hair. It was long and luscious then, a deep russet brown, offsetting her creamy skin and the darkness of her eyes. While they’d been too young to marry, they’d pledged themselves to each other and had taken secret vows. Though their lives, it seemed, had held other plans.
 

“Oh, Luigi…
si.
Yes, I did. It’s a miracle we found each other.”


Un miracolo.”
Luigi’s eyes twinkled. “But I also thank my great-grandson Paolo.”

“The one who connected you to the Internet.”

“He’s twelve now, did I tell you?”

“No! He had a birthday?”

“Just this week.”

“How was the party?”

“Splendid, but…” His face moved closer to the screen. “A little lonely without you.”

“Have you told them?” she asked. “About your…communications with America?”

“Oh, yes!” he said heartily. “And they approve! Everyone wants to meet you.”

Lucia sighed deeply. “And I them.”

“I wish I could meet your family, too.”

“You would love my granddaughters. All of them.”

His face sagged. “Lucia?” he asked quietly. “Have you thought any more about it? Taken time to consider my proposal?”

“I don’t have to consider. You know what my answer would be.”

“Then why not say it?”

She felt her eyes mist. “What’s the point in pretending?”

“Ah, yes.” His words were tender, caressing. “Or in dreaming, either,
no
?”
 

“Tell me your dreams, Luigi. I want to hear them.”

“The beautiful ones? About you and me?”

“Yes,” she said softly. “And start at the very beginning.”

“With a boy and a girl on the beach?”

She nodded and he laughed warmly. “Okay,
cara mia
, I will indulge you one more time. But I have to warn you about how my story ends.”

Lucia held her breath and waited for him to say it. For, each time he did, it was like a symphony to her ears.

“With
happily ever after.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

The Plan

 

The next day the cousins held an emergency meeting to discuss the whole situation. The women met at Angie’s house, since she had the largest one. What was supposed to be a living room looked more like a playroom. Toys littered the floor as two toddlers wrestled over a stack of blocks in the corner. Angie’s oldest spent her mornings in preschool.

“I don’t know how you can possibly Zumba in here,” Haley commented.

Angie appeared a tad defensive. Today her sweats were tangerine orange. “I do it during their nap time.”

Trish breezed in the door without knocking, her freckled face flushed. “Sorry,” she said, out of breath. “It took a few minutes to get away.”

They were gathering during an early lunch break, so as not to have any of the men in the way. Emma reined in the puppy, who had nabbed a pacifier off the carpet and was gnawing on it. She glanced around, then stealthily took it from the dog’s mouth and wiped it on the side of her jeans.

“Emma!” Claire said, “What are you doing with that paci?”

Emma studied the thing, then plucked off a small yellow hair before setting it on a side table. “Just getting it off the floor.”

“You’ll have to sterilize that,” Jane told Angie.

Angie shrugged. “That was with the first baby.”

Rachel checked her watch. “Guys, I don’t have much time. I’ve got six more houses to hit before five o’clock.”

“Geez, Rachel,” Trish said with a smirk. “Sounds like you’re breaking and entering.”

Rachel huffed, dark curls bouncing. “You know that I care for the plants.”

Susan settled in on the sofa with her knitting. “Isn’t that how you met Tom?”

“No, I—”

Bev stared at them with interest.

“I don’t think we need to get into any of that now,” Zoe added.
 

“Right.” Bev still wore her Parisian neck scarf, only today it was knotted on the left side. She adjusted it slightly, then spoke, taking charge. “We’re here to discuss Nona’s predicament.”

“And to devise a plan,” Angie agreed.

“Sounds good.” Tiny’s gaze rolled toward the kitchen. “But first, do you think we could have something to eat?”

 

A few minutes later, Angie had brought out a bowl of trail mix made with kids’ cereal, chocolate candies, goldfish crackers, pretzels, and raisins.

Jane scooped up a handful and stared at it. “Nice.”

“Shut up,” Angie said. “It’s tasty.”

“Mmm,” Tiny agreed, digging in for some more. “Thanks, Angie. I was starving.”

“Wish I knew how you can do that.” Emma stared down at her curvy figure. “I’ve gained ten pounds since this morning.”

“You have not,” Claire said kindly.

“You look great!” Rachel affirmed.

“We’d all look great if we took time to work at it,” Jane said flatly.

Haley was bending down, tightening the laces on her running shoes. She ran her own bakery in town, but could have doubled as a personal trainer. She looked up to see them all staring at her.
 

“Nona!” Zoe reminded the group.

“Right,” Bev said. “What are we going to do?”

Susan pulled some yarn from her bag. “Help her if we can.”

One of the kids in the corner hit the other over the head and Angie went to mediate.
 

“That would be great!” Emma said above the squalling. “If only we knew how!”

The kids yelped louder and Angie hissed from the corner. “Stop yelling, already. You’re scaring them!”

BOOK: The Calendar Brides
8.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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