Eternal by Lisa Scottoline



                             May 1957

Elisabetta had kept the secret for thirteen years, but it was time to tell her son who his father was. She had been waiting until he was old enough, but she didn’t want to delay any longer. He deserved to know the truth, and she had never been comfortable concealing it from him. The secret had grown harder to keep over time, like a bag of groceries carried the first block, then the second, but by the third must be set down.

            She stood at the kitchen sink, finishing her coffee, and the apartment was quiet and still, as her son was out playing soccer. She prepared herself for the conversation, realizing she would have to relive the worst days of her life and even of her country’s history, since her youth had encompassed the ventennio, the twenty years of Mussolini’s rule and a war that had turned Italy topsy-turvy, during which good had become bad and bad had become powerful.

            Tears filmed Elisabetta’s eyes, but she blinked them away. She hoped she could make her son understand why she hadn’t told him. The revelation would shock him, as he suspected nothing, resembling her so strongly that it was as if his father’s biology expressed itself in his personality, rather than his facial features.

            Her gaze strayed to the window over the sink. She eyed a view ingrained in her memory, from Trastevere to Vatican City, a palimpsest unique to Rome, which had been adding to itself since the beginning of Western civilization, layer upon layer of travertine marble, brick arches, medieval turrets with crenellations, and the red-tiled roofs of houses with façades of amber and ochre. Church domes dotted the timeless scene, interspersed with palm trees, cypresses, and umbrella pines. Soaring above them all was Saint Peter’s Basilica, its iconic dome gilded by the Italian sun.

            Elisabetta withdrew from her reverie and set her coffee cup in the sink. Her son would be home any minute. The kitchen filled with the aroma of lasagna, his favorite meal. She had made it because he was going to hear a difficult story, but one he needed to know. One she needed to tell.

            She heard the front door open, and he entered the apartment, dropping his soccer ball. She braced herself. “Ciao, amore!”

            “Mamma, are we having lasagna?”

            “Yes! Come in the kitchen, would you?”


                                     Let everyone, then, have the right to tell his story in his own way.

                    —Ignazio Silone, Fontamara (1933)

                    The One remains, the many change and pass;

                    Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;

                    Life, like a dome of many-colour’d glass,

                    Stains the white radiance of Eternity,

                    Until Death tramples it to fragments.—Die,

                    If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!

                    Follow where all is fled!—Rome’s azure sky,

                    Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak

                    The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.

                    —Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Adonais” (1821)