Clutching at the Back of a Dream

Campagna delle Madonie - AraturaExcerpt from Death of a Serpent

November 4, 1866

Patting her lips with the napkin, Francesca examined her watch pin, rang the bell, and stood. “Bella and I knew it would be hard to plant our feet in this business, so we had this room decorated. Bella’s design, no expenses spared.” Flinging her arm upward, she said, “Hired a painter for the ceiling. Needed to have a room suitable for greeting our clients.” Her voice faded. Serafina could see the woman clutching at the back of her dream.

The domestic entered. “Finished, La Grinaldi?”

“Kindly take away the tray.” She turned to Rosa. “Two o’clock. You have only thirty minutes before you must leave, and I want to show you Bella’s work.” She teared up again.

“Get up the stairs, La Grinaldi. Move now. Make Bella proud,” the domestic said, and left, casting a glance over her shoulder.

With a toss of her head and a remark about the insolence of servants, Francesca led them up a winding staircase, her scarf trailing behind.

The workroom was high-ceilinged, surrounded by windows, the view of Palermo and the sea, breathtaking. There were at least six sewing machines, five or six cutting tables, scissors, tape measures, mannequins. Shelves on one wall held bolts of material, large spools of thread. In the middle of the room, an iron figure stood, draped in a satin gown of emerald green with gossamer sleeves and high collar.

“Princess Rosso’s favorite color is green. How she loves all the shades—green of the sea, tender leafy greens, greens of the forest deep. Expects a fitting in a month. Now, I don’t know what to do.

Photo: Campagna delle Madonie. Credit: lorca56 (Flickr), Creative Commons.

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