This story is one of the September Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
Italy was spread all across the table. Verona, Bologna, and Florence were encircled in red pen.
As Lily drove along the map with her finger, she saw a young woman in pain on a balcony, heavy sculptures, and a man whose destiny it was to carve his potential into the stone.
All that, the drama and the renaissance, which she loved ever since she could remember, defined Italy, the trip, the journey.
And all that was also her past, her dad.
Because when Lily hopped on the train tomorrow, she would rush through the same pictures that her dad had left behind in his collection of analogues, headline: “I saw the angel in Italy,” Summer 1989. She always had to smile at that one. The reference to Michelangelo couldn’t be more obvious.
And now, she was going to meet the angel, too. His angel.
Lily had seen the Dolomites, heights one couldn’t even imagine, and the lake of crystal blue which invoked something in her – so indeterminable that words had lost their power.
Then she arrived in Verona, and as she visited the Casa di Giulietta and saw these ancient dresses, the words were in her:
“Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Sweet were the memories, but, at the same time, the endless possibilities cut through with an empty: “Now, there’s only you.”
To see the balcony meant to enter the dream of a child, in which both families had made peace.
And to see the Neptune Fountain in Bologna reminded her of her fear.
The weight of the waves. And the depths, who swallowed.
And how her dad used to talk about Neptune and Jupiter and Pluto as if they were real.
A world separated into three parts. Sky. Underworld. Sea.
Where was he now?
Lily touched the water, and in her mind she said to him:
“I’ve seen Neptune. I wasn’t scared.”
And it was on her ride to Florence when these images were dazzling her.
She was in need of a stone and a chisel, and tears were dropping.
The face of marble – she couldn’t meet David’s eyes.
A bell was ringing when Lily stepped through the door of the little art shop. She smiled as she met them all, the colors and brushes, and a canvas.
“Signorina, are you looking for anything certain?” mumbled an old man.
She was still caught by all the possible beauty surrounding her.
“Si. I’m looking for the finest paintbrush. And watercolors. A canvas.”
The old man chuckled.
“Il nuovo amore. No one ever leaves Florence without a new love,” he said.
He handed her a paintbrush.
“This one is perfect. It’s made of sable.”
She slightly stroked the paintbrush.
“What do you like the most about Florence? Scusa, excuse me, but I need to ask everyone I meet. In case I haven’t seen, smelled, or tasted it yet.”
She hesitated. “How you could, each time you return, fall in love with it anew.” And after a short pause she added, “My dad loved it here, and so do I.”
A sky-blue. A fiery-orange. An ocean-blue.
Lily drew them, in what her dad had believed so naturally.
The arts of the world, below and above, had been in him.
And they wouldn’t stop, and they would rule on that canvas forever.
In the middle Lily put an angel, who wouldn’t look into the beholder’s eyes.
Like that one was challenged to find one’s own expression.