Laura non c’è

Posted: September 11, 2013 in Fantasy, Love, Magic
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Image courtesy of “graur codin”  /

Roberta finally arrived at her hotel in Munich.  She parked her rental car close to the entrance and went in.  For the first time in her life, she had booked a flight, boarded a plane, rented a car, and booked a hotel for a one-week-vacation.  She had done so because she needed to think about Luigi’s proposal.  And she had felt deep inside that she urgently needed a certain distance to do so.

After unpacking her suitcase she left the hotel and walked through the adjacent streets, found a park near by.  She loved Bavaria’s capital right from the start.  And even more its beautiful parks in the summer time, the intense colours and scents.  Next morning, after breakfast, she strolled to the park.  She wandered deeper inside, sat down on a bench and relaxed.

Roberta Paolini grew up in a small Italian town.  Compared to the other girls, she had always seemed rather plain – something like an ugly duckling.  Her friends went to the cinema with their boyfriends, went shopping together, etc.  Roberta stayed at home.  Her classmates went dancing, Roberta stayed at home.  When she was 19, her parents died in a car accident.  At least 200 visitors arrived for the funeral and paid their condolences.  Roberta went home alone – as usual.  She continued working as an accountant, without anything special ever happening.

One day, at the office, her colleague asked her to take care of a new customer.  Luigi Bertone was stunning and – he showed a strong interest in her.  Suddenly, Roberta went out a lot.  Luigi was charming.  He invited her to a café, when he wanted to pay he realised that he had left his wallet at the hotel – Roberta paid.  He scheduled her at a beautician’s, a hairdresser’s, invited her to an exquisite restaurant, and proposed to her at cocktail time.  He promised her heaven on earth, and that he would take care of all their finances as ‘such a loveable woman’ should not have to think about money.  The first sensation was joy – only for a moment, though.  Then she realised the part with Luigi’s taking care of all their finances.  Trying to appear calm, she excused herself, went in the direction of the ladies’ room, and slipped out of the rear entrance.

After a rather sleepless night with strange dreams, Roberta decided she needed a break.  A former colleague had once sent a postcard from Munich, Bavaria.  It seemed nice then – and now she felt the urge to go there.  She packed a trolley, closed the house and walked to the train station.  In Rome, she went to the airport to take the next flight to Munich, she organised a rental car to wait for her at Munich, then sat down in the lounge until it was time to board the plane.  Picking up the rental and a map had been a piece of cake.

Image courtesy of xxx /

Image courtesy of “photostock” /

Sitting there in the sun, a light breeze gently touching her skin and caressing her hair was fantastic.  “Hi, daydreamer!  May I…?”  Roberta quickly opened her eyes to see a beautiful girl with the most captivating smile she had ever seen.  Roberta nodded.  “I am Laura Holmes,” the girl said smiling.  “Isn’t this just the most wonderful day?!”  She spoke German fluently with just a hint of British accent.  Roberta introduced herself.  Her German was perhaps not quite as fluent, she understood everything pretty well, though.  They sat for a while in companionable silence.  Then Laura began speaking.  “When you were sitting here all alone, you seemed relaxed at first.  Suddenly your aura turned rather gloomy.  May I help you?”  Roberta didn’t know what to say.  She sat there, looking at Laura who fiddled with her silver necklace and its silver pendant – a shamrock with tiny emeralds.  Roberta suddenly realised that she had to tell Laura her story.  “I’ll tell you.  I beg you: don’t laugh!” – “I won’t!” Laura promised solemnly.

“I grew up in a small village.  My parents were a little strict, I was obedient, so it didn’t matter much.  I had my chores to do after school, therefore, I didn’t have many friends, if any.  All the girls in our village were so pretty and I was just boring.  I finished school, was trained to be an accountant.  My parents died in a car accident when I was 19.  I inherited the house, a small one, nothing fancy, and I continued living there.  All my school mates got married and/or moved away.  The only thing that happened to me was that I got promoted to senior accountant.  Then a colleague introduced a new customer.  Luigi was stunning and – he was interested in me!  Plain boring old me.  He sent me to the hairdressers, stylists, etc.  I went there, was cared for, and paid the respective bills.  I didn’t mind that much because I suddenly looked quite all right.  Some days later, he invited me to a gourmet restaurant.  We laughed and chatted and – during dessert he proposed.  Just verbally, no ring, no flowers.  I was thunderstruck, should have been overjoyed but it just didn’t seem right.  I excused myself and fled through the rear entrance.  I had a horrible night.  Next morning I took the plane to Munich.  I landed less than 24 hours ago.”

Laura grinned.  “Imagine his face when he realised you were gone.  And he was sitting there and had to face the bill!”  Roberta laughed out loud.  “True.  It must have been a shock!”  Laura nodded.  “You are definitely better off without him.  He seems like a jerk.  Perhaps he has a history of embezzling.  At least it seems that way.”  Roberta looked anguished.  “The first time a man shows an interest in boring old Roberta, and it is fake.” – “You are lucky, Roberta.  There are thousands of nice men out there willing to get to know you and/or even love you for what you are.  Have you looked into a mirror, lately?  You are neither ugly nor boring.  Not in the least!”  Roberta blushed.  “No need to feel embarrassed, Roberta.  This is just the plain truth.”

Laura stood up.  “As this is your first full day here in Munich, let me show you more of this beautiful park.”  They walked through the park that was slowly filling with visitors.  As they approached the exit nearest to Roberta’s hotel, Laura glanced at her watch.  “Gee, I didn’t realise it was that late, already!  I’ve got to run!  Why don’t we meet here tomorrow morning at 9:30?  I would like to show you the museum I used to work for.”  Roberta agreed and Laura sprinted down the road and around a corner.  For the first time in years, Roberta felt truly happy.  She had met someone she could finally talk to.  Smiling, she returned to her hotel.  The evening news presented the usual reports of countries in crisis, upcoming elections, and the incarceration of internationally searched for embezzler Luigi Bertone.

Next morning, she happily went to the park entrance.  Despite her being five minutes early, Laura was already waiting for her.  Smiling broadly, she pirouetted and made a bow “Let the tour begin!”  Roberta asked her if she had seen the news.  “Sorry, I didn’t have the opportunity to watch!  What did I miss?”  Roberta told her about Luigi.  “See – I knew you were far better off without him!”  –  “I’ll end up all alone,” Roberta stated.  “No, you won’t!  I can assure you of this,” Laura replied confidently.  They set off.  On the way to the museum, Laura hinted at everything worth knowing about the route they were taking.  Roberta admired the architecture, the people around her, the stimulating vibrancy of the Bavarian capital.

At the museum, Laura excused herself “Please go in, I need to check on something, first.  Just give me a sec.”  She walked off toward a group of students.  Roberta went in and was handed a leaflet.  She was still studying it when Laura joined her.  She indicated a section.  “I would like to show you this.”  They spent three hours in the respective department, Laura showing her around and explaining.  Afterwards they walked to another park.  “I need something to drink,” Roberta declared.  She bought a bottle of sparkling water.  She offered it to Laura who declined politely.  They settled on a bench.  “How do you feel today, after I filled your head with lots of history and science?” – “I am happy and – very grateful.  I feel so relieved.  No more worries about Luigi and what he did or did not do.”  –  “It is quite normal to ‘fall in love’ with the first one who seems to care.  You will get used to guys giving you the eye.  They are already noticing you.  Didn’t you see that cute boy at the museum?”  Laura winked and continued “They are all yours, now.”  Roberta could have sat on that bench for ages, enjoying the sunlight and the company of her friend.  Suddenly, however, the park filled with children who claimed their territory.  “This playground over there is the favourite for all families in the vicinity,” Laura stated.  They got up, this time taking a different route to the hotel.  “This was an awesome day.  I hope you enjoyed it at least half as much as I did.” – “Certainly, but…” – “Please forgive me – I have an appointment I dare not miss.”  Laura turned around and hurried away, leaving Roberta speechless.

Despite Roberta’s not having really understood Laura’s sudden hurry, it had been a wonderful day.  This night she slept soundly.  In the early morning, she dreamt that the telephone rang.  She could not reach it, it continued ringing.  She jolted awake.  The telephone on her night stand was indeed ringing.  Her watch on the night-stand showed 2:38 am.  She inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly, picked up the receiver.  “Hello?” – “Laura,” Laura was barely audible.  “I cannot…  I lost my necklace with the shamrock pendant at the museum…  I beg you, please, retrieve it for me…  Thank you…”  The call ended.  Laura had whispered hoarsely, her voice getting weaker by the syllable.  Roberta was in a fret.  She got up and took a shower.  At 6:30 she could no longer wait.  She went down to reception and asked about the phone call.  “There was no phone call for you, Miss Paolini,” the desk clerk said.  “At least it didn’t come in via our switchboard.”  Roberta asked for the phone directory.  Frantically, she scanned the pages.  There was an entry for Laura Holmes.  Hastily, she scribbled down the number and address, looked up the route from the museum to Laura’s flat.  She was too preoccupied to eat, therefore she just gulped down some coffee.

Back in her room, Roberta tried Laura’s number.  The line was busy.  She tried again and again.  The line was still busy.  The museum’s opening hours were printed on the leaflet.  She decided to get going – even if she would have to wait some minutes outside.  It was another bright summer day.  ‘I wouldn’t really mind living here,’ she thought to herself.  She arrived at the museum with several minutes to spare.  Time enough to try Laura’s number another time.  There was no phone booth in sight and for the first time in her life, Roberta regretted not having a cell phone.  Finally the doors opened.  Roberta went inside and straight to reception.  “Good morning, I visited here yesterday with a friend of mine and – she lost her necklace with a shamrock pendant here.”  –  “I remember you, yet – you were alone.”  –  “Oh, Laura came in a little later and joined me inside.”  –  “A necklace with a pendant, you say.  What does it look like?”  Roberta described the necklace and the shamrock pendant as good as she could.  “Your friend is lucky,” the receptionist said.  “A boy found it in a corner where he had dropped his brochure.  Here it is.”  Roberta took the necklace and thanked the receptionist.

Roberta finally left the museum and followed the route she had looked up on the map.  It took her only four minutes to get to her destination.  She found L. Holmes on the board just as the door was opened from the inside.  She went in, found the right door, rang the bell, waited.  Nothing.  She pressed the button – harder this time.  She heard footsteps approaching.  Roberta smiled in anticipation, holding the necklace and its shamrock pendant in her outstretched hands.  The door opened slowly.  A man in his mid-twenties, a dark mop of tousled hair, red-rimmed eyes stood in the door frame.  “Hello, my name is Roberta.  Laura asked me to retrieve her necklace from the museum.  Is she here, by any chance?  I would love to see her face when she gets it back!”  He stood there, lowered his head, mumbling “Laura is gone.”  Roberta was thunderstruck, suddenly unable to think of any German words.  “Laura non c’è?  Perché?  Impossibile!  She didn’t tell me, she was going away?!”  –  “My name is Sam Holmes, I am her brother.  Perhaps you had better come in.”  Sam stepped aside to let Roberta in, then led her to the kitchen.  He swept some crumpled paper tissues in the waste basket, offered her coffee.  She nodded.  “I hope you drink your coffee black, there is neither sugar no milk.”  –  “Black is quite fine,” Roberta replied.  Sam eyed the necklace.  “That was her lucky charm,” he said.  “I gave it to her when she left home to study in Munich.  She didn’t even take it off at night.” There was a lot of kindness in his words,

“You told me that she was gone,” Roberta said.  “However, she rang me this morning at the hotel, asking me to get the necklace for her.  She didn’t tell me she was going away.  It seemed so important to her to get it back.”  For the first time, Sam looked her in the eyes.  His own eyes were full of grief.  “Perhaps I should have rephrased…  Laura died this morning.  Two days ago, she was run over by a car.  She has been in a coma until this morning.  At 2:38 am she opened her eyes and said ‘I helped her, and you, I made it.’  Then she passed away.  About the pendant…  She lost it about two weeks ago, didn’t have the opportunity to get it back.”  –  “I still don’t get it.” Roberta stated.  “I met her two days ago at about 10:30 in the morning.  She was wearing the necklace, fiddling with the shamrock pendant while listening to my story.  Yesterday, we met again and went to the museum.  Later she excused herself as she had an important appointment.  And today, at 2:38 she rang and urgently asked me to retrieve the necklace for her.”  –  “Her accident happened around 10:30 – two days ago, yesterday afternoon, her stats became extremely critical, at 2:38 this morning, she died.  I returned from the hospital about thirty minutes ago.”  Tears welled in Sam’s eyes, Roberta handed him a new handkerchief, and held him close.  “Looks like you really made it, Laura,” she thought.

  1. vozey says:

    “She loved Bavaria’s capital right from the start. And even more its beautiful parks in the summer time, the intense colours and scents.”

    You might try combining these two sentences. The second sentence is a fragment and takes away from the flow.

    “Sitting there in the sun, a light breeze gently touching her skin and caressing her hair was fantastic.” I liked where there was going, but it doesn’t seem worded right.

    You should break up you dialog into separate lines per speaker. It makes reading and comprehension very easy.

    The fact that Luigi forgot his credit card. Following this immediately with an offer to manage finances puts the camera right on him. He doesn’t sound like one to allow to manage money. I expected to hear more on this, and you followed up. Excellent and well-executed, you’d be surprised how many writers put Chekhov’s Gun in the first act, and forget about it in the second.

    I loved the hint about her “being alone” in the museum, which filled me with enough doubt to love the ending. I really liked this story. It has lots of good elements and is carried out in a professional manner. My biggest suggestion is to break up the dialog, because that will help the most with readability, which was confusing at points in the dialog.

    Excellent story. Will surely be reading more of your stuff!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you very much for your thorough comment, James! You are very right about combining the sentences. Roberta’s hesitant way apparently influenced these two sentences. This is something important to be considered when reviewing a story.
      My dialogues require a makeover, right. Thank you for this excellent suggestion – I will show future dialogues in separate lines, accordingly.
      I am glad that you like this story. It is still one of my favourites.

  2. Jack Flacco says:

    I read this twice, not because I didn’t understand it but because it was so beautiful. It’s a perfect example of things happening for a reason and how life comes full circle when we least expect it. I also enjoyed the overall feel of the story–almost haunting, really. 🙂 BTW, “Per che” s/b “Perché” 😉

    • Karen says:

      Thank you, Jack. I am glad you like this story. It is one of my favourites. The basic idea came up when my friend Lisa (Italian ancestry) was handed a present and a birthday card by her sister. I saw the card and knew that my next story required an Italian touch. The song by Nek has been a favourite for years. 🙂
      Perhaps you have already noticed: I took care of the typo. I should have derived from Spanish that it is one word. 😉 Italian is my newest language and still far far away from fluent.

  3. Ruth says:

    your stories, especially this one, leave me with a warm feeling that there is a sense behind visible reality … true? I’d love it to be that way.

    • Karen says:

      There is always more than meets the eye. All of us who only see and hear instead of understanding and listening do miss a great deal in their lives.
      I am truly glad and honoured that you really understand the meaning of this story. Thank you so much. 🙂

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