The day came that he had to leave again. His ship stopped first in Naples first, then in Gaeta and finally in Rome. Once in Rome, Pietro felt so close to Settefrati that he thought he could smell the forests of his town. Now he had decided that no one could stop him, neither the roar of the cannons, nor the constant bombings, nor the risk of being caught would stop him from going to Settefrati in search of Francesca. So one weekend, without permission, he set off for Settefrati, traveling by whatever means he could find. The closer he got to the town, the more horrible the sights he saw. The war had destroyed everything. Fields of flowers were burning, trees had been cut down, and there was no sign of roads, for they had been destroyed by the bombings. Many houses had been destroyed and for many of those houses that were left, the only thing that was left was the frame. No sign of people. He turned towards the crossroads, or what was left of the crossroads, he turned his eyes up towards the mountains and he saw Settefrati in ruins. He was distraught and almost cried when he saw such devastation. Once he arrived in town, he had to move through the debris and the stones from the houses that had been knocked down. He turned toward the hill, looking for his father’s house. He found it in ruins. He felt sick seeing the house where he was born and raised destroyed. He turned his head away, towards the mountains, to avoid a sight that hurt him so much.
He looked to the high mountains again, covered in green, and their tops that almost reaching the sky. The majestic mountains that he had traveled as a boy brought him back to his childhood which now was just a distant memory. He walked a little more, looking for Francesca, he did not find her. He asked someone passing by and they told him that Francesca was in church.
When he heard that, all the tiredness, all the distress, all the pain disappeared and he started walking quickly towards the church. Again Pietro stops talking….he pauses and smiles. The recollection of that day, still alive in his mind, fills him with sweet and distant memories. Lucia, ready with a new pot of hot coffee, pours it into a clean cup. Gianni, her husband, has the bottle of anisette ready in his hand and pours a generous amount in Pietro’s coffee. The two men start talking to each other and Pietro gets distracted. It is obvious that for today the interview is over. We will continue tomorrow.
The following day I found myself again with Pietro and his friends. Pietro is anxious to again begin his story and starts immediately.
When he arrived close to the church, he was full of emotions. He slowed down a bit, and then crossed the threshold, entering the semi-dark church. He saw his girlfriend on her knees, with her head bent, absorbed in her prayers. He called out her name loudly as he ran to her. Francesca turned around suddenly and almost froze, not believing her eyes in seeing her beloved Pietro in the church in front of her. Then in an instant, they found they were in each other’s arms. It did not matter that they were in church. They had a thousand questions to ask, a thousand things to say. Years had passed since the last time they had written to each other. Talking together, they walked towards Francesca’s house. They talked about the past and the dreams and hopes that they had for their future together. Then Pietro had to leave again to return to the American Army in Rome. Before he left, he renewed his promise to Francesca, that he would go back and marry her.
DELIA SOCCI SKIDMORE