“The Music Lesson,” an excerpt from No More Brothers
Wednesday, February 13, 1867
Serafina felt a stiffness in her body as she strode across the piazza with Maria. No more riding all day in a wooden cart. She smelled citrus and fresh laundry. Sidestepping a clump of women gathered around the onion seller, she rushed to keep up with her daughter.
“Hurry, we’ll be late,” Maria said.
“Slow down. The maestro will still be there.”
“Yes, but today I start a new piece.”
“The one I’ve heard you practicing? Don’t tell me: it’s a Brahms something or other.”
“How did you know?”
Maria skipped ahead.
“His sonata for cello,” she called over her shoulder.
“But you play the piano.”
She dashed a look to Serafina. “He wrote it for cello and piano. I’m accompanying the maestro. Next time we go to see Aunt Giuseppina, I want to surprise her.”
Serafina was half listening to her daughter when a shock of red hair blocked their way.
Don Tigro flashed his magnificent teeth. “I missed your visit last week.” He nodded to Maria.
Serafina whispered in her ear. “Run to your lesson. I’ll meet you there.”
“Did you hear what I said?”
“I came to see Elisabetta, not you. She’s big and uncomfortable, I’m afraid, but that’s to be expected in the final month. I don’t doubt you’ve followed my instructions and released her from her obligations to help you entertain all your criminal friends.”
“Most of us mellow in middle age, but that tongue of yours just gets sharper.”
She tried to suppress a smile. “You’ll need to move here soon so that I may manage the birth.”
“Arrived yesterday, Betta and I. And now we are neighbors, at least for a while, and I can keep a watch on Maria’s progress. That’s why I’m here—to listen to her exquisite playing.”
“Progressing nicely without your help.”
“When will you learn to think of your children first? I’m willing to be Maria’s patron.”
“She’d have the finest teachers, become world-renowned, but not if you don’t accept patronage. You barely manage now. The crops failed last year. Families are falling apart. Women are doing their own birthing. Soon you’ll lose your stipend.”
“No matter. We have the shop.”
“Won’t last. You’ll be ruined, your family spread to the four corners. I owe it to our mother to help you.”
Serafina’s temples throbbed. “Stay away from Maria. I’m Elisabetta’s midwife because she’s my friend, not because of you.”
“As you wish.” He shrugged and disappeared inside Lorenzo’s music shop.
Photo: In the Madonie. Credit: Antonio Llardo (Flickr)