A Speck in the Vastness

Palermo_angel with crossExcerpt from Death In Bagheria, a work in progress

Thursday, March 24, 1870

Serafina and Rosa descended the main staircase, stopping on the second floor to admire the ballroom and its five crystal chandeliers suspended from a vaulted ceiling, the walls made of red marble with decorative inlay. Except for three small parlors off one end, the room, devoid of furniture, took up one floor of the villa.

Rosa pointed to the corner blocks of the crown molding. Each one contained the bust of a woman holding a torch. They laughed at the excess, then at the echoes of their laughter, listening until the last remnant of sound rolled away. Serafina stood for a moment, struck by the similarity of echoes and truths; verities that she’d initially proclaimed with such force soon bounced off the walls of her mind, slowly losing meaning before evaporating.

French doors led to balconies that overlooked the front of the house, and their footsteps reverberated on the parquet floor as they walked the width of the room and stepped outside. She and Rosa gazed at the baron’s ship, astonished at its swift progress since leaving the harbor just a few minutes ago, now little more than a speck in the vastness. Both stacks were blowing smoke and the sails were unfurled, slashed with purples and reds from the setting sun before melting into the distance.

“Look what’s coming home to roost,” Rosa said. “The baron does a brisk business, I’ll tell you.” Tugs were guiding another large steamer, this one a little worn looking, into the same spot vacated by the Caterina Bella. They watched its progress for a while before making their way back across the ballroom floor when Serafina closed her eyes, conjuring the strains of a full orchestra. She held out her arms, unable to resist twirling in time to the music. “Who is that exquisite beauty dancing in my arms?” she heard Loffredo whisper. Opening her eyes, she stepped back, longing for his presence even as the ghost of him vanished. She felt Rosa’s eyes upon her, whirled around, and smiled bleakly at her friend.

Photo: Palermo angel. Wikipedia Commons.

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