THE LOVE OF A WOMAN—FOR HIM, SHE WAS THE WAY BACK HOME.

     “I love you,” he whispered. Angelina could feel the heat of his breath on her ear. “You’re like a fire in my soul. I’d go crazy without you! Marry me, Angelina. Marry me before I go! Come to Udine with me tomorrow, and we’ll go to City Hall before I’m deployed!” Arturo searched her face for an answer.

     Angelina paused. She pulled away from his hold. “I…I can’t, Arturo. It’s too fast. And what if you don’t come back? What will I do then?” The moonlight illuminated her face, and a single tear rushed down her cheek.

     Bewildered by her response, Arturo was taken over by a passionate need to prove himself to her. Nothing was stronger than his love for Angelina…not even this damn war. He promptly got down on his knees. “I’m coming back! I promise you, I’m coming back! Marry me!”

     “No, Arturo. It’s better that we wait.”

     “Promise me!” he insisted.

     Angelina was overcome by the power of his emotions. She succumbed, “Yes, YES! I promise. My brother’s a priest. He can marry us!” She smiled and kissed him back, as if to alleviate his doubts. “Now, walk me home, you incorrigible man!”

     Arturo saw Angelina to her front door, and they shared one last kiss.

     “When the wind blows through our windows, I’ll speak your name and blow it your way,” he proclaimed.

     “And I’ll catch it and hold on to it until you return,” replied Angelina. “Go already! And please be careful!”

Midway down the street, Arturo turned and yelled, “Do you hear the music?”

     “What music?”

He put his hand to his ear. “Shhh, listen.” Arturo flung his arms up in the air and began belting out verses from a popular love song: 

 

E nell'estasi di una musica io ti mormoro

(And in the ecstasy of music I’ll whisper to you)

Senti il cuor quello che ti dice

(Hear the heart and what it tells you)

Treman le mie labbra allor parlano d'amor

(My lips tremble and speak of love)

Ba...ba...baciami piccina

(Ki...ki...kiss me little one)

Sulla bo...bo...bocca piccolina

(On the mou...mou...mouth little one)

Dammi tan tan tanti baci in quantità

(Give me ma...ma...many kisses in quantity)

Tu...tu...tu sei birichina

(You...you...you are mischievous)

Ma sei ta...ta...tanto deliziosa

(But you are s...s...so delicious)

 

     Still glowing, Angelina shook her head, unable to stop the giddy laugh that bubbled up as a result of her lover’s serenade. She turned and closed the door behind her.

     Arturo danced home smiling and singing to the starless sky. “Ba... ba... baciami, piccina.” He was happier than he’d ever been. 

     Nearing the front gate of his home, he spotted Erminio coming from the opposite direction. “Hey, brother, how was your night?” he called out, still floating on air.

     “It was OK. Almost all my friends are leaving for Udine, too,” Ermino replied. He was clearly out of sorts—his mind overrun with many questions and no promising answers. “Why are you in such a good mood?” He looked suspiciously at his brother, seeing no reason for joy or celebration.

     “I asked Angelina, and she said yes! She’s going to marry me when I return.”

     “Wow, that’s great. I’m happy for you.” Erminio tried his best to sound enthused, but he was consumed by fear and doubt. He had hoped Arturo would be stationed in Udine with him. And now…he would be facing this turning point in his life alone, without his big brother to protect him. He couldn't help but feel angry, and even somewhat jealous, at Arturo’s unwavering strength. And although it was out of Arturo’s control, Erminio felt deserted.

     “How does it feel to never be afraid?” Erminio scoffed. —A note of resentment and mourning crept into his words. His head bent forward in weariness as he dragged one foot forward, and then another, shuffling towards the front door. 

     Arturo looked wordlessly after his brother. He understood why Erminio couldn't share in his happiness, but he didn’t know what more he could do or say to reassure him of his future. Watching his brother unravel before him, Arturo suddenly felt he had little power over either of their lives. For the first time, he was left with the reality of an uncertain future. His only salvation now was his vision of Angelina. It was burned into his heart. For him, she was the way back home.

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