I wrote this story last year and posted it on journalspace. Now, thanks to Google cache, I have it back. Obviously, I'm a sentimental romantic.
Sophia could see him just as he was, if she closed her eyes. She could re-live the entire day, if she put her mind to it. That was the day that Mama had wanted her to go down to the market, to pick up an eggplant for the evening meal, and she hadn't wanted to go. The day wasn't as sunny as it usually was, but there was a nice wind, and she'd been busy hanging sheets on the line her Papa had strung up between their little villa and the pole at the back of the garden. She'd wanted to do some reading afterwards, before she started the afternoon cleaning, but instead she stored the wicker basket in a corner of the small kitchen and went out front to get the old red bicycle.
She waved to her neighbour, Salvatore, as she rode past, and gestured wildly at the driver of a grubby, three wheeled truck that veered too close to her. "Ma sei pazzo?!" - are you crazy?!"
Once she arrived at the market, her mood seemed to lighten. Children ran in and around the stands filled with fruits and vegetables, their laughter echoing off the old buildings in the background. Older couples walked hand in hand, and the young people - her friends, called out to her from where they sat eating in the piazza. It was then that she spotted the stranger, sitting at a table by himself. He didn't fit in, mostly because of his clothing. He was wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers, but the others in the square had already stripped down to their undershirts, and many of the young men had begun wearing dungarees, made popular by American movies. She noticed him looking at her as she joined her friends, but had soon forgotten him as she laughed and visited with the girls she'd gone to school with. One of them had hoped to attend college, but her parents wanted her to marry. The other was already married, and was expecting a little bambino in the fall. Sophia wished silently for a family of her own.
A deep voice interrupted their talk. "Scusi, Per favore."
Sophia looked up to see the strange young man standing nearby, holding a piece of paper. He looked shy, and he was blushing. "Mi chiamo ... my name is William." William! She had never met a William before, and she'd had no idea how quickly her life was about to change. He'd stumbled over a few Italian phrases, telling the small group of girls about his trip so far (he'd been travelling with an Uncle, and they were both from a small community in Western Canada) and he had less than two weeks left before having to return home.
By that time, he'd had his Uncle visit Sophia's home and arrange a proper introduction, and they'd been out several times, enjoying the warm Italian weather under the watchful eye of her chaperone. Several months later, he returned to her little village for the first ceremony, and she cried copiously as her parents saw them off at the dock.
A second wedding ceremony took place in Leduc, with all of William's friends and family attending, and they'd settled into the little house on the edge of town. "Mio Dio!", she thought now. That had been fifty-four years ago, and it was hard to believe she was an old woman of seventy-two.
Her life played through her mind like an old movie reel - the babies, one after another. The lean years, when they were all little. The twins were both married, and had given William and Sophia five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren between them. Tomas wasn't married, but was an architect and travelled extensively. A few years ago he'd gone back to her village and had taken pictures of her old villa, which had been renovated extensively by a younger cousin. She'd hung it proudly in their bedroom, where she could look at it as she put her hair up each morning.
Today she sat in the over-stuffed chair in the corner of their room, watching William sleep. She wasn't sure how long he'd be here, as the cancer had progressed quickly. Every morning while her grandaughter watched him, she walked over to the little Catholic church and lit a candle for him. At the very least, his pain was being managed and she wasn't afraid for him. She was a little afraid for herself, as she'd never been alone since coming to this country. Hard to believe it all began because she'd gone down to the market for an eggplant.
Scooting over to the edge of her seat, she reached across and rested one hand over his. "Tesoro mio, angelo Mio - my treasure, my Angel. I love you so." She felt his fingers close around hers, and her heart swelled. Her home had always been where he was, and that would never change. "Scrivami una cartolina - I'll miss you so."