She came into Lucy's bedroom one night and tucked her in. She told her that she wouldn't be there for breakfast next day but there was a new box of her favourite cereal with a free gift. Then she kissed her gently on her forehead and stroked her hair
. The next morning Lucy sat looking at her father's sad face and then at the free gift in her cereal bowl. It was a blue plastic submarine. She kept it under her pillow for a long time thinking maybe the tooth fairy would take it away and her mother would come home.
Lucy's father had been a promising professional Referee but now stayed at home all the time on what was referred to as Benefits.Lucy wasn't sure what it meant but every day she came home from school and found him there waiting. Sometimes the washing up would still be in the sink from breakfast or he would be lying on the sofa listening to gloomy music and staring at an old photo of her mother.
One day, just after her twelfth birthday, Lucy came home to find people from the Social services measuring the bathrooms and the kitchen. She made them all a cup of tea. Then one of them, a large cheerful woman called Brenda, told her that she was a brave girl and they knew her dad was in good hands. It didn't sound right to Lucy. She didn't feel brave. She just liked being with her dad.
That evening her father came and sat next to her on the sofa and put his arm as tight as he could around her shoulders.
' It was bad enough for you that your mum left but now it seems the doctor thinks the illness that I've had all these years is going to mean I'll be bedridden within a year.'
It was the longest sentence her father had ever spoke. Lucy looked at his kind sad face and put her arms around him.
'I'm here for you, whatever you have to face you are not alone.'
From then on Lucy came straight home from school instead of hanging around the town with her friends. She learnt to cook, watching all the cookery programmes on the television.
She went to the library once a week and read her father all the books she could. Together they lived the adventures of Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, Roald Dahl , the Brontes. Lucy read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights at school and she could see so much of herself in these books. The teacher told them that it was amazing how someone who had never known passion could write about it in such a way.
The lady in the library would often recommend books that had just arrived. Lucy and her father travelled the whole world together reading books. They liked watching the soaps and following the lives of the all the characters. They would discuss the various drams and problems and say what they would have done. They watched all the quiz programmes and the documentaries.
The Social workers and the carers were astonished by Lucy's father's resilience. Although he was bedridden and had to be changed and fed, his mind was alert and his enjoyment of life amazed them. Sometimes Lucy could hear them mutter to each other about how they rather do away with themselves than be so bedridden and useless. Lucy froze when she heard them talk like this. She would look at her father's frail form and her heart would ache unbearably.
As Lucy's father got worse different carers came, proper nurses and trained carers. One of these was a kind woman called Pammy who had seven children by different fathers, She would often tell Lucy to go out and have some fun with her friends and leave her to look after her father. Lucy didn't have any friends any more. She had no relations and the neighbours in their quiet lane just went about in cars and she didn't know who they were. Lucy's school work suffered and she barely scraped through her GCSEs but then she managed to pass two A levels in History and English largely due to all the books she had read over the years and watching the History channel.
When Lucy was nineteen she became her father's official carer.
There was no point in her looking for any other job, she didn't want to be away from him all day and then spend her salary on paying someone else to look after him.
The doctor and some of the district nurses tried to persuade her to go out and make friends or join a club. Reluctantly she joined the gym and made friends with a girl who worked there as a receptionist. She was from Italy and wanted to improve her English. Her name was Anita and she was as outgoing and exuberant as Lucy was shy. Her dark glossy curls and dancing brown eyes were in stark contrast to Lucy's fair skin and pale blue eyes. Anita came from a large family and with her warm enthusiasm and friendliness she broke down Lucy's reserve. She invited herself to Lucy's house and brought gifts of wine, olives, cheese and Sicilian sweets. Anita taught Lucy how to cook Spaghetti with rich sauces and they would sit round Lucy's father's bed twirling the spaghetti in messy forkfuls and chinking their glasses of red wine. The carers were surprised to arrive for their evening call and find such a party atmosphere. They were delighted to be offered the Sicilian sweets and pastries and asked for all the recipes and asked about Italian men. One day Anita brought her brother Paolo with her. He shared his sister's dashing good looks but was quieter and more reserved. He came back with roses for Lucy. As she arranged them in a vase so her father could see them she was sure she saw him wink.
Then one day Anita was let in by Pammy who nodded towards the room where Lucy's father lay. Lucy was sitting holding his hand and stroking his brow and kissing his closed eyes. Anita touched her gently on the shoulder. The tears came then, as she thought of what her father's life could have been like. Almost twenty tears of unshed
|Roses for Lucy|
Anita took charge, choosing clothes and ordering flowers. She chose some songs and poems to be read and wrote a short speech about families and the power of love. Her brother Paolo worked in a small café and said he would do all the refreshments.
When it was over Lucy sat in the café and felt completely alone. She took the plastic submarine out of her pocket and looked at it. Then she went home and hugged her father's pillow, breathing in the smell of the aftershave she had given him at Christmas.
She saw him then, running and running, flowers and sunshine all around. The wind in his hair and the sun on his face, he was laughing and his arms were open wide. The joy and love that had been in his heart were there in the sound of his laughter.
The doorbell rang. It was Anita and Paolo.
'They need a waitress in the café just for the mornings, Paolo will look after you. It could just be for a time while you decide what to do.'
Lucy could only nod dumbly, she didn't want to do anything. She just wanted to sit by her father again and feel safe.
The next day Anita came to fetch her and take her to the café. Lucy was shown where all the cups and saucers were kept and how to work the coffee machine. She was surprised to see a lot of the carers come in for their morning break. They were so happy to see her there and it felt like being at home. Anita would stop by sometimes on her way to the gym. There was a Solicitor's next door to the Cafè and Lucy noticed that one of the young lawyers would come in as soon as Anita arrived. He seemed hypnotized by her bouncing curls and swaying hips and before long the two of them were sharing a table and drinking their coffee together.
The lawyer was called Matt. He was a quiet thin young man with blonde curly hair and a shy smile. He lived in the next village with his parents, all lawyers.
Matt's family invited them all for Christmas day. Paolo and Lucy sat by the fire after the wonderful Christmas lunch,sipping the brandy that Matt's father had poured for them. Lucy looked at the large decorated Christmas tree and thought of the small artificial one she always put up for her father. Staring at the twinkling lights she saw his face smiling at her. Just at that moment Paolo took her hand. Lucy didn't know what to do, she felt a warm glow steal over her. Behind them they could hear Anita teaching Matt's mother some Italian words,' Buon Natal... EH , not Buon Natalee, and be careful to say Buon ANNO, it has two Ns.' Lucy giggled at her friend's bossy tone and turned to see Matt's mother beaming with delight at the exotic creature before her.
'You have brought the sunshine into our family.' Anita gave her one of her impetuous hugs.
On Valentine's day Anita rushed into the café waving her left hand in the air.
'Look, we're engaged. They all want to come to Sicily and meet mamma and papà'
Paolo hugged his sister. 'I'm so happy for you Anita, I will miss you though'.
Lucy froze. What did Paolo mean ? She had grown so used to his gentle comforting presence, she now thought of him as a real friend.
Anita was too excited to take in what he had said, but Lucy turned to him quietly.
He saw her questioning look.
'I miss the sunshine, I miss my people. I love England but my heart is still in Sicily. the only trouble is Lucy that I am afraid that I will miss you even more than my country.'
Lucy's heart missed a beat. She stared at him, her blue eyes enormous. Paolo touched her cheek.
'Ti amo Lucy, I love you'. Please come to Sicily with me. You could teach English, all Sicilians want to learn it now. I will get a grant to set up my own café.' We could give it a try.'
Lucy looked at him, she knew what the Brontes meant, all that passion flooded through her now. Paolo knelt down dramatically.
'Marry me mia bella Lucy.'
They clung to each other as a round of applause broke out in the café. All the regulars and the carers were standing up and beaming with delight.
'About time you realised you were made for each other' said Pammy.
Anita rushed forward to embrace them.' My two favourite people , well apart from Matt' she grinned mischievously. 'I can't wait to tell mamma and papa.
Two years later in a small Sicilian town the owners of 'La Tazza d'oro.,proudly announced the safe arrival of their first born baby daughter, Emma Sofia. Her mother Lucy skyped her sister-in-law in England and held her baby daughter up.
She was not disappointed by the enthusiastic reaction 'mamma mia, è bellissima !! Non vedo l'ora di vederla', She's gorgeous, I can't wait to see her.'
Anita struggled with her twin boys Jack and Marco,who were climbing on her lap to get a better look.
'Look at your little cousin isn't she lovely?, we're going to see her soon.'
Paolo came into the room and hugged them both. When she came home from the hospital Lucy asked Paolo to take her down to the beach. She told him to wait in the car with Emma. Lucy walked to the water's edge and took the plastic submarine out of her pocket. Then she threw it as hard as she could into the sea.