Bella gazed down at the Piazza, holding back the heavy curtains with a trembling hand. The bustling crowds had been replaced by an eerie silence, broken only by the rustling of pigeons and one old man by the fountain, muttering to himself. Her mind wandered back to her parents smiling their goodbyes. No hugging, not even a handshake. Virus. The unspoken word circled above them like a dark bird. They would be fine, they reassured her. They were healthy; they had each other and the close-knit community of village life. She had returned to Milan to fly home, only to find endless cancellations, and the ghost of an airport. Now she waited in her hotel. There was nowhere to go, no one to talk to. Yesterday was gone; tomorrow, uncertain.
The long shadows of afternoon outlined a naked city stripped of its usual finery. Panic started creeping up Bella’s spine, like the long fingers of hemlock. If it reached her mind, she would be gone. “Daniel,” she whispered. She moved stiffly toward the phone. Her fingers and voice, all on auto-pilot, placed the transatlantic call.
“Tell me something lovely, Daniel. Anything.” She just wanted to hear her own voice, and his, answering.
“The apple tree, Bellissima. The apple tree!” His voice was hushed as if he were in a cathedral, rather than looking out the window at their garden. He drew back the lace curtain and pushed open the casement, breathing in the mid-morning fragrance of apple blossoms. Life returns. Spring returns. Bella will return. The age-old cycles will hold.
He’d written her a poem just before dawn, anticipating her call, sensing her fear. Now he read it slowly, filling his voice with strength and confidence:
There’s not a hairbreadth of distance between us, love.
I gaze through your lowered eyelids,
You gaze through mine.
Come, let us shower the empty Piazza with apple blossoms!
Like pale pink love letters,
Like fragrant rivers of light,
Like sturdy boats to carry us through the fear-storms
And bring us all, at last, to safe harbor.
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Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
2 years ago

Hello Juma, how beautifully expressed. You can feel Bella in her darkest moment – that of being alone, being isolated, feeling the panic as it eats away at everything that gives her hope. We are suddenly lifted when Daniel is reached. And I love the end where Daniel uses the Apple Tree, a bridge that reaches out to connect, to restore. Finally, we feel the hug, the kiss, the handshake, the human… Read more »

Sandra James
Sandra James(@sandra-james)
2 years ago

A wonderful story, Juma. So much emotion; I want to reach out and reassure her!

musing mind
musing mind(@musing-mind)
2 years ago

Very refreshing read.

sanika chatterjee
sanika chatterjee(@sanika-chatterjee)
2 years ago

Beautifully written, Juma. It was so relatable. The fear, insecurity and loneliness was presented very nicely. The hope instilled at the ending was necessary.
The portion I loved the most was:
Life returns. Spring returns. Bella will return. The age-old cycles will hold.The poem, of course, was wonderful.
Thank you so much for writing this.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
2 years ago

A lovely story and, at this time, very relatable. I think we all need a Daniel in our lives! Great to read.

Susan Giles
Susan Giles(@susan-giles)
2 years ago

The story was emotionally pleasing, but the piece de resistance was the poem. A perfect culmination to an on-going love story.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
2 years ago

You have managed to paint a lovely and realistic picture of a person’s unfortunate situation because of the virus. It’s sad and poetic at the same time. As a reader, one feels both Bella’s emotional and physical loneliness. The poetic description of her situation is stressed by the fact that it is a poem that gives her comfort at the end. The beautiful poem reminds me of Rumi’s “Come to the Orchard… Read more »

Andrew Carter
Andrew Carter(@andrew-carter)
2 years ago

Ha. I knew you were a fine poet, Juma. And, what an ending, rich in floral and nautical metaphors.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
2 years ago

Hello Juma, I really love your story. It bears something that connects directly to the heart of the reader. I really feel the loneliness of Bella, the fear and the panic but something changes when Daniel reaches Bella. Life returns, Spring returns. Bella will return. I love it 🙂

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