Cover Design: Hang Le
Release Date: December 12, 2016
Synopsis: Inspired by a true story.
There was no way to distinguish one from the other in my life.
Nothing in this world could destroy a bond as fierce as ours.
Or so I believed… Because life interfered.
Impulsive decisions, reaped unyielding consequences.
Fate had a way of making you question your sanity.
Loyalties were blurred.
And destiny… destiny dispelled all our beliefs.
In the end love was just too consuming. Tragic even. Without a doubt, love… crossed many unfathomable lines.
Prologue & Chapter One
Oh God, I can’t breathe.
I see it in his eyes; it’s not him anymore.
He’s lost all ability to reason, incapable of realizing what he’s doing with his own two hands.
He’s not grasping the finality of this… there’s no coming back.
I struggle as best I can against him, against the pain and the panic that’s rising. Imploring him, but it’s too late now.
He’s so far gone and taking me with him.
And with this realization, my mind eases as my struggle begins to fade… an eerie calm settles over me just then.
“If I can’t have you, Gia, NOBODY FUCKIN’ WILL!” he bellows.
It’s as if he doesn’t have a choice in this. His eyes are not only frantic but in agony. They’re telling me everything there is to say; he can’t help himself.
I knew this could happen… I just refused to believe it would.
I gasp one last time, trying to pull in the last breath of air before the darkness completely consumes me.
The last thought I struggle to actualize… is my wish and my goodbye…
In the beginning
There isn’t a single memory I can reminisce that Giorgio wasn’t in.
He met me the day I was born on June 16, 1941, in the beautiful town of Salerno, in the Amalfi coast of Italy.
My first smile was for Gio, my first giggle coaxed by him. Even the first few steps I took were in his direction. Everything I did in life was with him or for him, loving that boy for as long as I could remember.
See, my Giorgio could do anything. He wasn’t capable of being mediocre. He always needed to do something and, no, it couldn’t be subpar either. Giorgio had to be the best at everything and, irritatingly, he always was. He swam the fastest, sang the nicest, jumped the highest, threw the farthest, and lifted the most. He was even the tallest of our group when that was something he had no control over.
And as you can already imagine, Giorgio was the most handsome, too.
Since he was a young boy, he held an air of arrogance that somehow only made him more of a man’s man, and he was constantly surrounded by a flock of girls.
Every mother doted on him, and every father looked at him with a knowing smile. Everyone, young and old, was vying for his attention, yet I never had to fight for it. I guess that made him all the more perfect to me.
The story about the bond we created on the day I was born had been recounted to me and to all in our town, hundreds of times.
For many generations, the Moretti and Vitale families were inseparable. They were always, always, always together. They were like pasta and pomodoro, bread and olive oil, espresso and biscotti… I’m sure you get it by now.
The Morettis visited us at the hospital that morning, and our fathers were outside smoking their cigars while our mothers yammered about my birth. I was nursing in my mother’s arms when Giorgio’s mother brought him over to meet me. With only just a glimpse of me, he was squirming out of his mother’s arms to reach me.
When she didn’t let him go, he screamed at the top of his lungs to get his way, so my mama offered to let him sit in her free arm while I nursed in her other. Once he settled in, he laid a chubby little hand on me and, according to our mothers, hadn’t let go of me since.
They couldn’t believe his fascination at just four years old with me, but I imagine as they did with every one of their tales, they exaggerated the story.
I will admit though, it made me swoon every time I heard it, and I heard it plenty.
Our love was quite beautiful. Solid and appassionato.
Our families didn’t arrange our marriage, but they certainly fostered it from childhood.
My babbo and mama, Alessandro and Apolognia Vitale, have been Domenico and Chiara Moretti’s friends since they were children. Their parents and grandparents were friends, and so on. The two families have probably been friends since the time of the Roman Empire.
The Moretti boys: Domenico Jr., who we call Nico, Matteo, who was the second born, and my Giorgio, were raised together with my siblings and me.
The first memory I could recall was on my third birthday in 1944. Mama, babbo, my sister Gabriella, my big brother Alessandro and the Morettis were all in attendance for my celebration, la bambina’s birthday. They were our neighbors, but even then Giorgio wouldn’t have let them miss my party for anything.
I can’t quite tell why my third birthday stood out, other than it being my first memory of the day I knew I adored him. My parents hadn’t done anything too special for the celebration. They were simple people, with humble tastes. My mama baked rosemary bread, Gabi helped her make a cannoli-filled cake, babbo doted on me all day, and Sandro played every game I wanted.
When the Morettis came over, the house was even more boisterous and full of affection, tight hugs and loud kisses. But what had me over the moon was the purple bike Giorgio was escorting toward me. I must’ve played with this boy countless times, but never had I seen him so proud and excited to give me something, and what a something it was!
We’re talking all the bells and whistles with a basket on the handlebar and matching training wheels!
For any three year old, it was the best gift ever.
Coming from my Gio, it was absolute and undeniable love.
“Tanti auguri, Gia!” Happy birthday, he wished me.
But I could care less what he was saying because all I could think about was getting on that bike and never getting off of it again. I even remember wondering if it could fit in the bathroom while I bathed, it was already my most prized possession.
My childhood wasn’t lacking, considering we were in a war-stricken country at the time. Though, luxuries like a brand new purple bike were very unusual and, even at my age, I knew that was something you didn’t ordinarily get.
I guess that explains how the memory of my third birthday was so clear.
It could’ve been like any other, only I knew the social climate was uneasy and the Morettis had to have cashed in a favor, as they liked to call it, to be able to obtain something that indulgent.
Favors for the Morettis always came at a steep price and I would learn of their family’s… livelihood, much later in life.
“DIO MIO! I ALWAYS WANTED A BIKE!” I screeched, jumping up and down, as only a young child would do.
I ran toward Giorgio and practically trampled him to get on it. He was laughing and his excitement was just as energetic as mine.
“Gia, babbo got me a bike, too! We can ride together every day! Here, let me teach you. I’m taking off my training wheels this week because I was practicing all day and I’m already a professional! We have to keep yours on still because you’re little and I don’t want you to get hurt,” my protector assured me.
Of course, had I been paying attention to him, I would’ve argued I didn’t need training or his help, but I was too enthralled with the sparkling machinery.
I felt like such a big kid then.
“Gio, thank you! This is the best present!” I exclaimed, sealing it with a big kiss on the cheek he had been expectantly tapping with a finger. He then wrapped me up in his big boy hug.
For most seven-year-old boys kisses from girls were gross and were immediately wiped off, but Giorgio had always been affectionate with me. Either always kissing me or demanding I give them to him, lots of innocent smooching went on, encouraged by the laughter and ‘awws’ our mothers seemed to always sing in unison.
“Mama, Babbo, can I ride my new bike outside, please?” I asked my parents, not caring about the cannoli cake anymore.
Mama laughed and looked to babbo, who of course let me. Being la bambina of both families made me more spoiled than I would’ve normally been. I was the youngest of my family, but the Morettis indulged too, since they only had boys.
Giorgio and I immediately ran out. He went to his house to get his bike and Nico and Gabi were helping me sit on mine, when Gio, like the professional he said he was, showed off by riding around me in smoothly performed circles.
It only urged me to get moving already, but Nico insisted I learn the parts of the bike first. I might’ve listened better if Giorgio would’ve stopped riding his bike around us, causing me to become even more impatient.
Finally, my impromptu lesson was over and like a bat out of hell, I took off only to topple right off the damn bike!
Gabriella was bent over laughing and Nico, to his credit, really tried not to laugh, too, but failed.
Giorgio immediately jumped off his bike and pushed them away to help me up himself.
He did not find my fall funny.
Giorgio’s devotion to me since I had been born never lessened over time. Stories about him wanting to always be the one to bathe me in a tin bucket were told with much warm-heartedness. Sure, it was a fun splash fest for the both of us, but the serious little boy would go over to my house every day and ask my mother if he could bathe me like it was his responsibility.
I was his little human toy.
A trophy he showed off to everyone, telling all who would listen to him that I was his.
It was so cute! Giorgio claimed me.
It was so sweet! He always wanted me around.
It was so romantic! Giorgio would tell everyone he was going to marry me one day.
It didn’t help that I ate up all the attention from him, basking in all things Gio. Ever since I could remember, the sun rose and set with him and I didn’t want it any other way.
He picked me up from the ground and dusted me off. Once he was sure I was fine, he told me to wait a second and brought his bike over next to mine.
Cautiously, he helped me mount my seat and put his hand on my back to support me in case I fell over again. When he was sure I had the hang of it, he got back on his and we rode off together.
Even as young as I was, I knew without a single doubt Giorgio and I would be forever.
One of Five ARC’s for Farewell, my Loves