For the month of February, I will be posting to my blog excerpts from my young adult novel "Norma's Revenge" as I work on character development. Your comments, critiques, and suggestions are welcome. Today character development of Loredana Macchiano.
From Chapter 2 - The Moonstone Brooch (continued)
Loredana walked with her father to the theatre. Eduardo Macchiano was the concertmaster of the Teatro alla Scala orchestra and Loredana had grown up at the theatre. She had become a stunning beauty and as the youngest of their eight children, they held her closest. Now that the war was over and it was safe to travel, her mother had left to spend the summer in Pavia with her sister Margarit who just had given birth to a new baby boy. Loredana was to cook for her father and manage the household; and in the evenings he insisted that she accompany him to the theatre. “You only have to look to Verdi’s opera Rigoletto to know why a father doesn’t let a beautiful daughter out of his sight.” He winked at her as he carried his violin case in one hand and pinched her cheek with the other. This was their routine. He would play the opera and Loredana would make herself useful by handing out playbills, assisting in wardrobe, anything just to catch a glimpse of what was being performed on stage. This evening was different. As she walked with her father, it was the first time that she wasn’t thinking of what was on stage, but rather how she planned to escape his watchful eye and rendezvous with the fair-headed gentleman she had met last night.
Heinrich had already walked around Teatro alla Scala twice and his watch still hadn’t reached the 18:00 hour. What if she had a change of heart? Did he act too impetuously? Maybe she had no intention of meeting him and the rendezvous note was a way to orchestrate a graceful departure? He paced back and forth and his heart quickened whenever he saw a young lady heading in his direction. He didn’t want to appear too eager, yet he didn’t want to miss her. Heinrich started when he felt a hand on his arm. As he turned around, he saw Loredana’s smiling brown eyes beckoning him. Last evening she was mysteriously beautiful, and in the day’s sunlight she was breathtaking.
“Fretta! Fretta!” Her voice was just above a whisper as she took his arm and led him quickly across the Piazza. Heinrich looked over his shoulder to discover the urgency, but the other strollers paid them little attention. Loredana quickly ducked into a nearby café and Heinrich followed. They made their way toward the back of the room and Loredana gestured to one of the last tables in the corner. Heinrich held her chair for her, and for the first time felt keenly awkward and out of place. He had thought of nothing but this meeting since the moment she wrote those few lines on his playbill, but he had not allowed himself to imagine what would come next. Now that they were reunited, he was at a loss for words.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable starts and stops, Heinrich was able to ease the tension by attempting to communicate in his fairly comical Italian and Loredana attempted a few phrases of German. Her knowledge of the German language had been composed exclusively from the German operas she knew. Unaware that the dialect and words she had learned were rather archaic and obscure, Loredana’s attempt at his language endeared her to Heinrich all the more. Over drinks and the traditional aperitivo, they continued their animated pantomiming and Heinrich learned that Loredana’s father was the concertmaster of the La Scala orchestra and kept a very watchful eye on his youngest daughter. At this moment, Loredana was supposed to be diligently working at the theatre while her father was preparing to play another evening of opera in the orchestra pit. Heinrich gestured wildly trying to explain that he was a pilot of the grand airship. At the mention of the word Zeppelin and the flapping of his arms as if they were wings, Loredana’s eyes widened with curiosity as she began to understand what the young man across from her was explaining. Zeppelin’s were legendary in the Great War and as much as Loredana loved adventure she once again became wary of Heinrich. Sensing her discomfort, Heinrich tried to indicate that it was the sense of flight that was his master, not the pursuit of war.“I love the sky . . . like the birds.” Heinrich tried to find the words to describe how he felt about the war. “I will fly again. No death. No guns. Only peace.”
“No. For us.”
And at that Loredana smiled wistfully as she pictured herself high above the treetops with Heinrich and for no other reason than for pleasure. With their few words, they created their own world, their own language, and wove a bond of quick trust and young love. They ate, sipped their drinks, laughed over a shared portion of berries and cream, and inhaled the strong, yet enticing aroma of Italian coffee as the evening turned to night. Loredana looked at her watch and Heinrich froze as he saw the sadness creep into her eyes. As they left the café, they slowly walked to the Teatro and became two silent shadows of themselves holding hands beneath a shimmering moon. Tentatively Heinrich asked, “Domani? Tomorrow?” Loredana let out a happy sigh, nodded, and spontaneously brushed his cheek with a kiss as she ran to meet her father backstage. “Domani aperitivo!” Heinrich called as she disappeared behind the portico of the grand opera house.
Loredana and Heinrich met again the following evening. This would be their last meeting, as Heinrich had no choice but to return on the next day’s train or his delay would cause undue attention among the authorities, be they Italian or German. Loredana indicated that her mother would be returning and although her father was subject to her charms, her Mama was as keen as a cat hunting its prey. Neither could find the words to express the despair they felt as they anticipated their inevitable separation. Heinrich knew at that moment what he wanted, but without the words he could only stare at the floor shielding the sadness from Loredana’s searching eyes. As he reached into his vest pocket for his handkerchief, he felt the brown paper package that he had placed there only a day ago. He kissed Loredana’s delicate hand and placed the package in her palm. “For you.”
Loredana stared at the package, motionless. Slowly, she unwrapped the parcel, fold by fold, until the brilliant moonstone brooch lay in her hand. “Magnifico . . . it is our moon.” Still not lifting her eyes, Loredana gently caressed the iridescent stone, released the brooch clasp, and carefully fastened it to her lapel. It was then she allowed her eyes to look up and meet Heinrich’s face. It was a handsome face, not the type of fine features that might be carved into marble or immortalized in a painting, but a face that reflected the natural beauty of the outside world. His square jaw could have been overpowering but it was pleasantly balanced by his deep blue eyes. It was at that moment that Loredana knew that she loved him and she smiled as only someone in love can.
“Don’t leave me. Stay. I will make you Italiano. We will be happy.” Loredana knew his silence was her answer. He reached for the brown paper wrapping that had held the brooch safely in his pocket just hours before. He wrote three words.
Loredana Carmella Forster
The next day, Heinrich arrived at the train station, found his claim ticket for his luggage and retrieved it from the porter. He approached the ticket counter as he counted what was left of his traveling funds. “Milano to Lindau.”
“Two . . . Due.”
The ticket attendant looked at Heinrich with contempt. The Great War had made enemies of strangers. At that moment Loredana touched his arm and her eyes flashed with excitement. She had risen early, packed a small satchel and left the letter she knew would break her father’s heart, incite her mother’s wrath, and inevitably lead to her disgrace.
19 July, 1920
My Beloved Papa and Mama,
As I write this letter the sun is embracing our beautiful city in its golden morning light. The birds have just begun to sing, but the bird in my heart began singing a fortnight before and has not stopped. I know that the singing in my heart will cause you great sorrow and for that I will shed tears whenever I see the morning dawn and remember you both.
As your dutiful daughter, I have learned to live, to inhale the precious beauty that surrounds me, and finally to love. I have learned of love through Papa’s music, Mama’s dolce, and now with the man I am destined to spend my life with.
I have not sought out your permission for courtship or marriage, as I am certain that you would not approve. My husband-to-be, Heinrich Gerhart Forster, is a German. My decision will bring you shame and disgrace as all will think that I have chosen the enemy, an enemy of Italy, an enemy of the world. But in my heart I know Heinrich is not like the rest. His politics are not of his country, but of the world. And I have always known that I too am of the world.
We will be married by a magistrate after we cross the Swiss border. The church does not hold the same power outside of Italy and a simple ceremony will unite us in our love.I will write when we reach Heinrich’s homeland – Lindau, Bavaria. I hear it has a beautiful lake, much like our Lake Como and you can still see the Alps, even though they are Austrian.Please make a space between your anger and shame for the love your devoted daughter Loredana has for you. I will never forget you.
A daughter’s love never ends,
Loredana Carmella Macchiano
P.S. Tell Margarit, Theresa, Marco, Donello, Antonio, and Giacomo that I will always have them in my heart.
Heinrich and Loredana made the long train journey without berth or dining privileges. It was all that Heinrich could afford. They were married without ceremony in the courthouse of Chiasso, Switzerland, and only had enough money to buy a bar of chocolate in celebration. Loredana wore her moonstone brooch as an enduring symbol of their union. After they were married she presented Heinrich with a gift of her own. It was a flat parcel that she had hastily wrapped as she stole from her home in the morning hours to meet Heinrich at the train station. As Heinrich unwrapped the package, he held the libretto to Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma in his hands. Loredana had taken it from her father’s musical library. “This is all the Italian you will need.” Throughout their marriage, Heinrich never did master the language in order to read the libretto, but that did not change how he cherished the contents that were held between its leather bindings or how he loved the woman that gave it to him.