Mrs P’s Lullaby
A Christmas Tale
Songs I Like Series
Text copyright © 2017 Mia Soto
All Rights Reserved
Chapter 11: 11 Pipers Piping
Natalie, Rafa, Sophia, Maria and Paolo stood smiling like fools at each other. Paolo’s parents left bickering throwing terrified glances at Natalie. It was over. He had done it! He swooped Maria into his arms twirling with her as they kissed long, deep and hard.
Elation, pure elation was filling his soul. “Rafa, take Maria home.” She pushed away startled and he grabbed her face to gaze into her eyes as he spoke. “Take her home, Rafa. Then go to Santo Stefano and bring Father de Luca. I’m getting married today.” He laughed when she threw her arms around his neck and began spreading kisses on his face.
“Go,” he grabbed one of her kisses with his lips then put her away from him. “I’ll be there soon.” He kissed her again.
Natalie fiddled with the ring to no satisfaction. “It won’t move yet.”
Paolo tried to hide his relief. He agreed with nonno if he could he would will it that Natalie never leave. “Come. I must break my engagement. Perhaps that is the final obstacle.”
The walk to Maria’s home was a somber one after the visit to Elizabetta. Natalie felt for the woman realizing that at no time in history was a broken engagement a light affair. She was reassuring Paolo as they walked along the river. In the distance there were loud words and a male shouting.
With looks of worry they hurried to see Rafa holding his hand out and Eloisa balanced on a log that rested across the river. Maria was crying and shouting from the bank beside Rafa. Eloisa held out an article over the water and Natalie could see it was bulky but could not yet make out what it was. Maria charged irrational with emotion.
Paolo and Natalie ran but not fast enough to stop Eloisa from pushing Maria into the river. From there it was screams of horror but Natalie grew focused and calm. Whatever it was about this ordeal she knew Maria could not die if Natalie wanted to get home someday. So she stormed the water where Maria floundered being swept away by the slow current. It was clear the girl could not swim.
Natalie dove headfirst to the shock of all around. The icy water was like cement dropping on her chest. Her limbs locked up stunned by the temperature, but she denied them that luxury. No she screamed in her head. Swim dammit. Swim. She swam as though her life depended on it because it did on every realistic and metaphoric level there ever was in life.
She swam with flashes of eating three day old Dairy Queen with Serge when they were so damn poor more than once they had to live in a car after being evicted. She swam remembering Isa spending the first three months of her life in NICU after Natalie’s placenta detached. Serge rubbing her back as she sat in those uncomfortable chairs for days straight not leaving. Jonah at his first dance. The day she was married. She swam determined to swim back to all of it the good, the bad, the ugly, the undying.
Her arm slipped around Maria who was no longer struggling against the current. With painful strokes she kicked back to the banks where the men ran along side them. She felt her limbs freezing. They had done all they could to help her under such conditions. Tears of effort froze on her face as she tried as hard as she had ever tried for something. Then she felt the reedy bank come into reach and a strong hand pulled. Then she closed her eyes and slept.
She woke late that night under a mountain of warm blankets and hot bottles. Her head pounded and she could feel the crackled of the fire burning so hot it stung her sensitive skin. She croaked and motion stirred around her. Paolo looked down at her.
“You’ve awoken.” He seemed distraught with relief.
Her throat hurt. Her fingers and toes hurt. Everything hurt. She nodded. “Can I get up?”
“Yes, of course.” He smiled. He helped her sit up. She was dressed in layers upon layers of warm clothing. He explained. “You were in shock from the water. You both were.”
“Maria?” The memories flooded back.
“She is well. Under her own pile of blankets. Awake and thankful.”
“Good,” she whispered. She turned at the ring, a habit by then, and it turned easily. She stopped looking up at Paolo. “It turned.”
He looked down and she did it again. Then they laughed and emotion choked her. “I’m going home.”
He nodded. His arms wrapped around her as they held each other and he kissed her temple with warm lips. “You are an angel. No matter what you say.”
She buried her face in his shoulder and held him tighter. Then she pushed away and held out her hand. “This is yours.”
“Thank you, my angel.” He slipped the ring from her finger.
Suddenly it was dark. Totally dark.