Danielle Steel: Remembrance

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Danielle Steel Remembrance
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Remembrance: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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But now Serena was no longer fascinated by the architecture. Ever since they had turned into the maze of smaller canals, her face had been tense, and her brow furrowed as she watched familiar landmarks begin to slide by. They were coming closer now, and the answers to the questions that had tormented her for two years now were within reach.

The gondolier turned to confirm the address with her, and then, having seen her face, he said nothing more. He knew. Others had come home before her. Soldiers mostly. Some had been prisoners of war, and come home to find their mothers and their lovers and their wives. He wondered who his young beauty could be looking for and where she had been. Whatever she was looking for, he hoped she found it. They were only a few hundred feet from the house now, and Serena had already sighted it. She saw the shutters falling from their hinges, boards over a few of the windows, and the narrow canal lapping at the stone steps just beneath the iron grille on the landing. As the gondolier approached the building Serena stood up.

“You want me to ring the bell for you?” There was a big old-fashioned bell and a knocker, but Serena was quick to shake her head. He held her arm to steady her as she stepped carefully onto the landing, and for an instant she looked up at the darkened windows, knowing only too well the tale they told.

She hesitated for an endless moment, and then quickly pulled the chain on the bell and closed her eyes as she waited, thinking back to all the other times her hand had touched that bell … waiting … counting the moments until one of the old familiar faces would appear, her grandmother just behind them, smiling, waiting to embrace Serena and run laughingly up the steps with her to the main salon … the tapestries, the rich brocades … the statues … the tiny miniatures of the exquisite golden copper horses of San Marco at the head of the stairs … and this time only silence and the sounds of the canal behind her. As she stood there Serena knew that there would be no answer to the bell.

“Non, c'è nessuno, signorina?” the gondolier inquired. But it was a useless question. No, of course there was no one home, and hadn't been in years. For a moment Serena's eyes rested on the knocker, wanting to try that too, to urge someone from the familiar depths within, to make them open the door, to make them roll back the clock for her.

“Eh! … Eh!” It was an insistent sound behind her, almost an aggressive one, and she turned to see a vegetable merchant drifting past in his boat, watching her suspiciously. “Can't you see there's no one there?”

“Do you know where they are?” Serena called across the other boats, relishing the sound of her own language again. It was as though she had never left. The four years in the States did not exist.

The vegetable man shrugged. “Who knows?” And then, philosophically, “The war … a lot of people moved away.”

“Do you know what happened to the woman who lived here?” An edge of franticness was moving back into Serena's voice and the gondolier watched her face, as a mailman on a barge came slowly by, looking at Serena with interest.

“The house was sold, signorina” The postman answered the question for her.

“To whom? When?” Serena looked suddenly shocked. Sold? The house had been sold? She had never contemplated that. But why would her grandmother have sold the house? Had she been short of money? It was a possibility that had never occurred to Serena before.

“It was sold last year, when the war was still on. Some people from Milano bought it. They said that when the war was over they would retire and move to Venice … fix up the house.…”He shrugged and Serena felt herself bridle. “Fix up the house.” What the hell did he mean? What did they mean? Fix what up? The bronzes? The priceless antiques, the marble floors? The impeccable gardens behind the house? What was there to fix? As he watched her the mailman understood her pain. He pulled his boat close to the landing and looked up into her face. “Was she a friend of yours … the old lady?” Serena nodded slowly, not daring to say more. “Ècco. Capisco allora.” He only thought he understood, but he didn't. “She died, you know. Two years ago. In the spring.”

“Of what?” Serena felt her whole body grow limp, as though suddenly someone had pulled all of the bones out of her. She thought for a moment that she might faint. They were the words she had expected, the words she had feared, but now she had heard them and they cut through her like a knife. She wanted him to be wrong, but as she looked at the kind old face she knew that he wasn't. Her grandmother was gone.

“She was very old, you know, signorina. Almost ninety.”

Serena shook her head almost absentmindedly and spoke softly. “No, she turned eighty that spring.”

“Ah.” He spoke gently, wanting to offer comfort but not sure how. “Her son came from Rome, but only for two days. He had everything sent to Rome, I heard later. Everything, all her things. But he put the house up for sale right away. Still, it took them a year to sell it.”

So it was Sergio again, Serena thought to herself as she stood there. Sergio. He had everything sent to Rome. “And her letters?” She sounded angry now, as though within her there was something slowly beginning to burn. “Where did her mail go? Was it sent to him?”

The mailman nodded. “Except the letters for the servants. He told me to send those back.”

Then, Sergio had got all of her letters. Why hadn't he told her? Why hadn't someone written to her to tell her? For more than two years she had gone crazy, waiting, wondering, asking questions that no one could answer. But he could have answered, the bastard.

“Signorina?” The mailman and the gondolier waited. “Va bene?” She nodded slowly.

Sí … sí… grazie … I was just …” She had been about to offer an explanation but her eyes filled with tears instead. She turned away and the two men exchanged a glance.

“I'm sorry, signorina.” She nodded, her back still turned, and the mailman moved on. Only her gondolier waited.

In a moment, after a last look at the rusting hinges on the gate, she fingered the bellpull one last time, as though making contact with some piece of her, some tangible part of the past, as though by touching something that her grandmother had touched she could become part of her again, and then slowly she came back to the gondola, feeling as though some vital part of her had died. So Sergio finally had what he wanted now—the title. She hated him. She wanted him to choke on his title, to rot in his own blood, to die a far more horrible death than her father, to …

“Signorina?” The gondolier had watched her face contort with anger and anguish, and he wondered what agony had seized her soul to make someone so young look so tormented. “Where would you like to go now?”

She hesitated for a moment, not sure. Should she go back to the train station? She wasn't ready. Not yet. There was something she had to do first. She turned slowly to the gondolier, remembering the little church perfectly. It was exquisite, and perhaps someone there would know more. “Take me please to the Campo Santa Maria Nuova.”

“Maria dei Miracoli?” he asked her, naming the church where she wanted to go. She nodded, and he helped her back into the gondola and pushed slowly away from the landing, as her eyes held interminably to the facade she would always remember and never come back to see again. This would be her last journey to Venice. She knew that now. She had no reason to come back. Not anymore.

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