Her Giorgio, bless him. What would she do without him? He stands in the doorway of their bedroom scratching his ear and, she knows, half listening to her and to Maria’s piano, the melody so pleasing, the notes wafting from the parlor downstairs to the second floor.
The furniture in this room must be nothing if not the best, starting with her chaise longue, a first anniversary present from Giorgio when life was easy with a full complement of servants and only the twins to worry about; her mother, safe upstairs on her floor; and Giorgio, in the apothecary he inherited, and prosperous. His small chestnut desk stands in the corner alongside shelves containing his books. Thick oriental rugs, slightly frayed now, dot the beech-planked floor.
Their bedroom, long and imposing, faces the front of the house. From its windows on the far wall, she and Giorgio can see the town’s gardens and shops around the piazza, the cemetery and beyond, to the tile roofs of the smaller houses. On clear winter days they glimpse the spars of fishing boats anchored in Trano Mare’s port and, beyond, to the vastness of the sea.
The secret of their successful marriage, this room. For close to twenty years they’ve made love here. They’ve spawned their seven offspring here, cradling each newborn until pronounced healthy enough to sleep with the other children. They fight here. They dream here.
Sometimes in the morning, she and Giorgio look out the window together, their bodies still full of sleep, and glimpse in the distance a steamer with sails furled, but so small it seems like a speck upon the upturned face of the world. They ask, Where is it bound?—Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, New York or New Orleans? They struggle with pronunciation, their laughter tumbling over the words. They wonder if the ship carries passengers from Trano Mare, countrymen or women they know by name, or perhaps only recognize in passing, nodding to them in the piazza. ‘But we’ll never see them again,’ she whispers. ‘We’ll never even realize they’ve gone,’ he says. And for a moment Serafina feels something indescribable, like a tremor of the earth or the eerie silence following a scirocco. Will their children be on such a steamer? Will they, too, journey to distances with exotic names? Oh no, not without us, Serafina affirms. Her mind jumps away from the thought, banishes it before it becomes a full-blown horror. Gone to treacherous lands without us? We must go with them, she vows. But only to visit, of course, only to visit. Not to live there. Never.
The easy times of their early days do not last. Over the years Serafina has noticed how the town around them grew dustier, rustier. Vicenzu, who keeps the books for Giorgio, and means well, she knows he does, and moreover is right, she knows he is, but he makes her so angry sometimes. Just like an accountant he counsels, ‘Don’t buy this, forget that, wait until the feet are pinched to buy the shoes, let Totò wear my old boots, no coins for meat every night.’
Serafina’s note: Paragraphs cut from Serafina and the Brazen Serpent