Excerpt from “The Discovery,” Death of a Serpent
Tuesday, October 16, 1866
The following morning Serafina traipsed around the Duomo and piazza, climbed up to the promenade, wound down to the sea. The sun bounced off waves. Gulls cried. Sitting on the edge of the arena between the remains of two Greek pillars, she breathed in the salt air and watched fishermen leaving with the tide. In the distance a steamer plowed the waves.
Serafina decided to walk on. Where she was headed, she did not know, maybe as far away as Cefalù, maybe farther. She wanted to be that steamer, unfurling her sails and kissing the waves. The stones bit into her boots. The wind tore at her clothes, but she continued, past a platoon of boats heading out to claim their catch, past the cove on the edge of town, past citrus groves now picked clean of fruit.
She trudged on as if it would kill the lump in her throat, sinking into the soft soil, on and on until her legs hurt and her vision blurred. Soon she came to steep rocks jutting out almost to the water’s edge. Straight above her and some thirty meters from the edge stood a decrepit building, its lawns replaced by sand and clumps of grass, its gate rusted, its shutters askew. Guardian Angel Orphanage read the sign, Mother Concetta’s domain. As Serafina stood there staring up, she heard laughter, carefree, guileless. She smiled.
Something glinting near the rocks broke the moment. She marched over to the offender, lost or discarded in sea grass and picked it up. A reticule, brown velvet, with a gold chain and clasp. Inside she found Bella’s identity card, a fifty lire gold piece, a pair of yellow gloves, a rosary. She kissed the cross, dumped the articles back in the bag, and headed for home.