December 21, 1941
The next morning Marie woke to the smell of cooking food and singing voices. She hoisted herself out of bed, dressed in a blue skirt, white blouse and wrapped a white shawl around her shoulders and went out. The kitchen was very warm while the rest of the house was experiencing the winter bite.
Marie was surprised to find that Natasa was sitting at the table drinking hot tea and it was Lucio at the stove cooking breakfast.
"Good morning Signorina," Natasa said over Lucio's opera singing. "Lucio would you please pour Marie some tea."
Marie sat down at the table as Lucio poured tea into a china cup and set it on the table in front of her.
"Thank you," she mumbled.
"You are most welcome, Marie," Lucio said, and went back to the oven, humming softly.
Marie sipped her tea, which she found was very nice, and remembered her nightmare. She guessed that the reason why Lucio killed her siblings in the dream was because she knew the Italians were responsible for their deaths. And she never got to say goodbye to them, for Captain Lucio Rosetti took her away from her home before she could.
A plate was set in front of her with a hearty meal of bacon, eggs, fried tomatoes, mushrooms and toast. She picked up the fork and speared a mushroom on it. The juices that ran off it were sweet, like they were picked fresh from the garden that day.
She tried to enjoy the meal but she found she couldn't. The dream stayed in her head and remembering it made her feel sick and lose her appetite.
"You are feeling the shock of your siblings' deaths, Signorina," Natasa said, watching her. "But you should eat; get your strength back."
"Madre, I'm going to go into town and see if there is any news on the war with the United States," Lucio said, standing and walking to the sliding door that led outside. "Do you want me to buy anything at the markets?"
"No thank you Lucio," Natasa replied.
Lucio opened the door and went outside onto the deck, sending a cold gust of wind swirling into the kitchen. He closed the door again and jumped off the deck and out of sight.
"My son means you no harm," Natasa said quietly.
"I know Natasa," Marie replied.
"But he's Italian," Natasa said. "I know how you feel; I lived in Greece when I met my husband-to-be, Niccolo Rosetti. I instantly hated him the first time I met him even though I was half Italian myself. It was because in the village I lived in, I had never met a foreigner except my father but he was my father and so didn't seem like a foreigner. But then we fell in love and here we are. I promise you Signorina, my Lucio is not a bad man."
Marie didn't eat a lot over the next few days but, three days later Natasa persuaded her to go to town to get some ingredients for a plum sauce for Christmas dinner.
They wrapped up extra warm as Natasa seemed convinced that it would snow while they were out. The trip to town took ten minutes. The wind bit at their faces, but they bore it and kept trekking down the road past the warm looking farmhouses.
They reached a piazza where there were a few competing grocers' shops, a café/restaurant and a woman's boutique shop. Inside the café were men listening to the radio for news on the war, and a few, well dressed ladies stood at the window of the boutique, scanning the new winter fashions and chattering away to each other.
Natasa went into one of the grocers' shops but Marie didn't like the crowds in there so she stayed outside and watched the people crowding the piazza.
She was leaning on the wall joining the grocers' shop and the boutique. Across the other side of the piazza was the café. There were tables outside but none were taken. The people were inside and the radio was turned up loud to drown out the din of the men yelling and laughing as they drank coffee and beer.
Marie was about to go over to the café to sit in the warmth when she saw something among the crowds; a lone man sitting at a table, sipping coffee and reading a newspaper. His back was turned to Marie, but there was something about the way he slouched in his chair and the way he flicked the newspaper when he turned the page that she recognised.
She watched him for a few minutes as he drank and read. Suddenly he finished his coffee, rolled up his newspaper and stood. Then she saw his face.
He walked away across the piazza and down the shadows of a side alley. Marie looked into the grocers' for Natasa. She was near the end of a long line; she wouldn't be going anywhere in a hurry.
Marie set off after the man, following him quickly across the plaza and down the alleyway. By the time she got to the mouth of the alley he was already out and continuing up the cobbled road.
She broke into a jog, trying to catch up to him before he reached the next piazza a hundred metres down.
"Philippe?" she called. He kept walking. A gentle layer of snow fell from the iron sky, as Natasa said it would. "Philippe!"
At last he turned. They were twenty metres from each other; staring into each other's eyes, as if they couldn't believe their eyes.
Marie ran to him. He embraced her tightly and kissed her forehead gently.
"I thought you were dead Philippe!" Marie sobbed into his chest that was covered in a thick, black, woollen coat.
"It's so good to see you, darling," Philippe said. "What are you doing here? Where are Jean and Elisabeth-Louise and little Toni?"
Marie broke away and looked into his dark brown, wide eyes.
"Surely you heard that Nice was captured?" Marie asked. Philippe nodded sadly in reply. "I... I took them to the ruins of a building in the part of Nice that had already been captured... There was this building that collapsed on us and I was knocked out... I was the only one who survived."
Philippe hung his head. "I'm sorry,"
"I woke up in the hospital and this Italian soldier took me with him as he and his troops came back here. I'm staying with his mother. What are you doing here? I thought you had been taken to Poland!"
"I managed to escape somehow," Philippe said. "I was... with your parents..."
Marie stared. "How are they?"
"They are safe... well the last time I saw them they were. They wanted me to give you a message when I found you. They say: We are safe and we love you very much."
Marie felt warm tears stain her cheeks as the snow fell harder.
"The place we were taken to was a death camp," he said. "Jews were being killed, Marie! But your father and I; we were taken to make shoes, and your mother worked as a seamstress."
Marie still remembered the last time she saw her parents, but the memory was growing faint at the edges. Philippe was a Jew. Marie's grandfather on her father's side was a Jew, which made him a Jew. They were to be taken to Poland to work. Philippe and Marie's father refused. So the Nazi's forced them. Her mother wouldn't stand for it and demanded that she go with him, even though she was part of the so-called Master Race, the Aryan race. So they were all taken, but since only one of Marie's grandparents was Jewish, she and her siblings weren't considered as Jewish.
"I then came to Italy, intending to get to Nice, to get to you, but then the Nazi's completely took Nice over so I had to stay here,"
"You do realise that Italy is sided with Germany?"
"Yes Marie, I do. But Turin is such a quiet place, and no one has realised that I'm French. Only, in public I am known as Fernando, I'm from Venice and I'm Roman Catholic,"
"Alright," Marie said, hugging Philippe once again. "I can't believe I've found you. Come with me, Natasa might be looking for me."
They made their way back to the piazza, and sure enough there was Natasa, looking around for Marie.
She grinned when she saw Marie and walked over, hand out, palm up.
"What did I tell you? It's snowing! And on Christmas Eve!" She spotted Philippe and raised her eyebrows. "Who's this dashing lad then?"
Marie looked up at the blushing Philippe and laughed.
"Natasa, this is Philippe, my fiancé,"
A/N: OOOOOH CLIFFIE! Hehe! Please review!