General Fiction posted January 22, 2022

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Destiny in Tuscany

by VJWild

Two women sit at a deserted bar Contest Winner 
"The grapes were a fine vintage that year..." the woman said as she tilted a freshly opened bottle toward my empty glass. "... with a hint of black cherries, vanilla and white pepper."

Her accent was very slight, but her English was perfect, better than mine actually and I was born and raised in the United States. She has kind eyes, robin's egg blue with a gold ring around the pupil, much like my own. Small lines radiate from the corners, probably from smiling so much; she hasn't stopped since I met her. She reminds me of someone, someone familiar yet distant.

I picked up the now half-full glass, swirled it, sniffed it, sipped it. I've never had a wine like this before. A burgundy so deep and intoxicating I couldn't take my eyes off of it.

"Welcome to Tuscany!" We clinked glasses. "Saluti!"

I drank in the scenery, the atmosphere, the moment. A bee buzzed at the silky yellow petals of a Heliopsis in a purple vase, while several tea lights flickered creating shadows that danced delicately as the sun started to set. A parfait of pinks, soft oranges, lemon yellows and baby blues layered the lime green grasses of the rolling hills, beckoning me to paint, dance, sing.

I checked my phone for a text, a missed call, or any signs of electronic life.

Nothing. Nulla. Nil.

Having no phone service is music to my ears and the scenery, a sight for sore eyes. The wild poppies were in full bloom, bright red, cheery, and abundant. I could practically smell the olives in the distance, if not for the wine lingering on my tastebuds. Towering pines stood tall and proud, lining the winding road that led me to where I'm sitting now.

These are the things I had to see for myself. These are moments I've been yearning for. This is the freedom I didn't have at home.

"Nobody knows I'm here," I abruptly say to the beautiful woman. "I fled the country. Actually, I did more than that."

She emptied the remainder of the bottle into both of our glasses, never taking her eyes off of mine, yet careful not to spill a drop.

The woman leaned in, her voice just above a whisper. "Well, what did you do that was more than that?"

I sipped my wine, pretending it was somebody else's blood and if I drank enough of it, I'd turn into a completely different person. A sane person. A loyal and patriotic person.

"I faked my own death." I can't believe I just told her that. What if she turns me in? What if she thinks I'm a criminal? What if she...

She laughed, the wine jumping out of her glass, spilling onto the crisp white linen, the dark red droplets blooming like watercolor paints on a blank paper canvass, creating a print any fashion designer would envy. "That only happens in the movies!"

"Okay, okay, so I didn't exactly fake my own death, I just up-and-left without telling anybody, not my husband, not my siblings, not even my dad. I did everything incognito, the plane ticket, this AirBnB. I turned off my cell phone location, I even brought a ton of cash so my credit cards can't be tracked..."

"Well my dear, no worries I promise you that. You're staying here I assume?" There was an excitement to her voice, maybe she's lonely. This place was otherwise deserted, vast and beautiful, but she could probably use the company.

"So, you must be Tessa?" I asked when I finally settled down. I recognized her name and picture from the booking website.

"That's me and this is my home. I own all of this land, those trees, this grass, these flowers." She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. Her exhale was long, slow, calming.

"That's amazing! How did you acquire all of this, if you don't mind me asking?" I was truly in awe of the landscape, the easy-going vibes, the smell of the air.

"Well, it was always in the family, going back to my great grandfather. When he died he willed it to me and me alone." She spoke with a confidence I've never had. Not arrogance, but passion.

"I was just out of college when I received the letter in the mail. My parents were furious. They weren't even mentioned in the will, not a dime. Not even the ugliest piece of furniture he owned. So, naturally, I agreed to take it. It wasn't easy, but I managed."

A yawn snuck out of my mouth before I could stop it. "I'm so sorry!"

"Do I bore you that much?" Tessa winked at me. I felt my face turn red hot.

"Oh no, no, it's just the wine. And the long flight, and, well, it's just been a long year." The world has been feeling so heavy lately. But here I feel at peace.

"Maybe it's time I show you to your room. Take a little nap and I'll wake you for dinner. I hope you like chicken and pasta, with garlic, bell peppers and fresh Rosemary, Thyme and Oregano from my garden."

Interesting. That's my favorite Italian dish.

"Tessa, can I ask you one more thing? What's your great grandfather's name?" The mention of food sparked my curiosity even more.

"Francesco D'Agostino, people called him Frank." Her smile got bigger, brighter. I didn't think it was possible. "I was very lucky to have known him. I got to visit him every summer when I was a kid."

"I'd love to hear more about him at dinner. I'll see you in a few hours?" I really was happy to learn about this beautiful place. Sure, it wasn't home, but it felt like it already.

Tessa showed me to my room, we did the double cheek-kiss thing and she closed the door behind me.

I fumbled through my carry-on bag for my wallet and pulled out a picture that I've had since I was a little kid. My mother. The mother I never knew, who I always hoped to find, but never had the resources or courage to look for. I took a closer peek at the woman in the photo. The eyes are the same robin's egg blue, with a gold ring around the pupil. Same long thin nose. Same beaming ear-to-ear smile.

Scribbled on the back is the name Contessa.

Tessa, short for Contessa.
I pulled out my birth certificate, my hands unsteady, tears forming in my own robin's egg blue eyes.

Contessa Agustino. Mother of Francesca Reeves, born September 27, 1970.

My mother and father never married and she changed the spelling of her great grandfather's name to be what, more American? Unless HER parents changed it.

It all makes sense now.

I flopped onto the bed, exhaustion taking over my entire being. Exhaustion and relief and a bouquet of other emotions.

On top of the plush white pillows neatly placed near the headboard was a sprig of lavender and a note attached:

Dear Frankie,

I guess you know my secret now, too. We have a lot of catching up to do. I want to hear all about your life, good and bad. And I myself have a lot of explaining to do. I hope you will give me that chance. See you at 7pm.



Writing Prompt
Write a story using the premise two woman sit at an otherwise deserted bar. They share a secret. They strike up a friendship.

Two women sit at a deserted bar
Contest Winner

I hope the ending isn't too abrupt. I'm also working on "show don't tell" but I still struggle with this. I'd love some constructive feedback. This story has been sitting with me for a while and it's been edited and changed and scrapped and changed again, so this is how it finally ended up. Thanks! Enjoy!
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