Danielle Steel: Remembrance

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Danielle Steel Remembrance
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Remembrance: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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In time the look of sorrow was less apparent. Once at the convent in Upstate New York, she laughed, though rarely. She was usually serious, intense, quiet, and in every spare moment she wrote to her grandmother, asking a thousand questions, telling her each detail of every day.

It was in the spring of 1943 that the letters from the principessa stopped coming. First Serena had been mildly worried, and then it became obvious that she was deeply concerned. Finally she had lain awake every night in terror, wondering, imagining, fearing, and then hating … it was Sergio again … he had come to Venice to kill her grandmother too. He had done it, she imagined, because her grandmother knew the truth about what he had done to his brother and he couldn't bear to have anyone know, so he had killed her, and one day he would try to kill Serena too. But let him try, she thought, the extraordinary green eyes narrowing with a viciousness even she hadn't known she had. Let him, I will kill him first, I will watch him die slowly, I will.…

“Serena?” There had been a soft light in the corridor, and the Mother Superior had appeared at her door that night. “Is something wrong? Have you had bad news from home?”

“No.” The walls had come up quickly, as Serena sat up in bed and shook her head, the green eyes instantly veiled.

“Are you sure?”

“No, thank you, Mother. It is kind of you to ask.” She opened up to no one. Except her grandmother, in the daily letters, which had had no response now for almost two months. She stepped quickly to the cold floor and stood there in the simple cotton nightgown, a curtain of blond hair falling over her shoulders, her face a delicately chiseled marvel, worthy of a statue, and truly remarkable on a girl of just sixteen.

“May I sit down?” The Mother Superior had looked gently at Serena.

“Yes, Mother.”

Mother Constance sat on the room's single wooden chair as Serena hovered for a moment and then sat back on the bed, feeling uncomfortable, and her own worries still showing in her eyes. “Is there nothing I can do for you, child?” The others had made a home here. The English, the Italians, the Dutch, the French. The convent had been filled for four years now with children brought over from Europe, most of whom would eventually go back, if their families survived the war. Serena was older than most of the others. Other than Serena the oldest child had been twelve when she had arrived, the others were mostly much younger children, five, six, seven, nine. But the others had acquired a kind of ease about them, as though they had come from nowhere more exotic than Poughkeepsie, as though they knew nothing of war and had no real fears. The fears were there, and at times, at night, there were nightmares, but on the whole they were an oddly happy-go-lucky group. No one would have believed the stories that had preceded their arrivals, and in most cases there were no visible signs of the stress of war. But Serena had been different from the beginning. Only the Mother Superior and two other nuns were fully aware of her story, apprised of it in a letter from her grandmother that came shortly after she arrived. The principessa had felt that they should know the full story but they had heard nothing of it from Serena herself. Over the years she had never opened up to them. Not yet.

“What's troubling you, my child? Do you not feel well?”

“I'm fine.…” There had been only the fraction of a second of hesitation, as though for an instant she had considered opening a sacred door. It was the first time, and this time Mother Constance felt that she had to be persistent. Even if it was painful for Serena to reveal her feelings, it was obvious that the girl was in greater distress than she ever had been before. “I'm … it's only that—” Mother Constance said nothing, but her eyes reached out gently to Serena until she could resist no more. Tears suddenly filled her eyes and spilled onto her cheeks. “I've had no letter from my grandmother in almost two months.”

“I see.” Mother Constance nodded slowly. “You don't think she could be away?”

Serena shook her head and brushed away the tears with one long graceful hand. “Where would she go?”

“To Rome perhaps? On family business?”

Serena's eyes grew instantly hard. “She has no business there anymore!”

“I see.” She didn't wish to press the girl further. “It could just be that it's getting harder and harder to get the mail through. Even from London the mail is slow.” During her entire stay in New York the letters from her grandmother had reached her via an intricate network of underground and overseas channels. Getting the letters from Italy to the States had been no easy feat. But they had always come. Always.

Serena gazed at her searchingly. “I don't think it's that.”

“Is there anyone else you would write to?”

“Only one.” There was only one old servant there now. Everyone else had had to leave. Mussolini wouldn't allow anyone of the old guard to keep as many servants as the principessa had been keeping. She was permitted one servant, and one only. Some of the others had wanted to stay on without pay, but it had not been approved. And the bishop had died the previous winter, so there was no one else she could write to. “I'll write to Marcella tomorrow.” She smiled for the first time since the nun had entered her room. “I should have thought of it earlier.”

“I'm sure your grandmother's all right, Serena.”

Serena nodded slowly. With her grandmother having just turned eighty, she was not quite as sure. But she had said nothing of being ill or not feeling well. There was really no reason to think that something was wrong. Except for the silence … which continued, unexplained. The letter to Marcella was returned to Serena four weeks after she wrote it, unopened and undelivered, with a scrawled note from the postman that Marcella Fabiani did not live at that address anymore. Had they gone to stay at the farm? Things must be worse in Venice. With a growing sense of panic, Serena grew ever more silent and strained. She wrote to her grandmother at the farm in Umbría then, but that letter came back too. She wrote to the foreman, and the letter came back marked “Deceased.” For the first weeks and then months, she had felt panic-stricken and desperate, but in time the terror ebbed into a dull pain. Something had happened, of that there was no doubt, but there seemed to be no way to get an explanation. There was no one left. No family except Sergio of course. And now, in her desperation, there was nowhere for Serena to turn. All she could do was wait until she could return to Italy to find out for herself.

There was still enough money for her to do that. When Serena had left, her grandmother had pressed on her a fat roll of American bills. She had no idea how the old woman had got the American money, but it had amounted to a thousand dollars when Serena counted it out quietly, alone in the bathroom the next day. And the nuns had received another ten thousand through elaborate international channels, for her care and whatever she might need during her stay at the convent. Serena knew that there had to be a great deal of that left. And every night, as she lay in her bed, thinking, she planned to use the money to get back to Italy the moment the war was over. She would go straight to Venice and find out, and if something had happened to the old woman, because of Sergio, she would go directly to Rome immediately thereafter and kill him.

It was a thought she had cherished now for almost two years. The war had ended in Europe in May of 1945, and from the very moment it ended she began making plans to go back. Some of the others were still waiting to hear from their parents that things were ready for their return, but Serena had nothing to wait for, except her ticket, her papers. She didn't even need the permission of the nuns. She was over eighteen, and she turned nineteen on V-J Day on the train. It had seemed to take forever to get passage over, but at last she had.

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