A Legacy of Secrets

By: Carol Marinelli

PROLOGUE



‘PLEASE.’

Ella wasn’t sure how many times that word had been said to her in the past, but she knew that she would forever recall this time.

‘Please, Ella, don’t go.’

She stood at the departure terminal of the busy Sydney International Airport, passport and boarding pass in hand, and looked into her mother’s pleading eyes—the same amber eyes as her own—and she almost relented. How could she possibly leave her to deal with her father alone?

But, given all that had happened, how could she stay?

‘You have a beautiful home....’

‘No!’ Ella would not be swayed. ‘I have a flat that I bought in the hope that you would move in with me. I thought that you’d finally decide to leave him, and yet you won’t.’

‘I can’t.’

‘You can.’ Ella stood firm. ‘I have done everything to help you leave and yet you still refuse.’

‘He’s my husband.’

‘And I’m your daughter.’ Ella’s eyes flashed with suppressed anger. ‘He beat me, Mum!’

‘Because you upset him. Because you try to get me to leave...’ Her mother had been in Australia for more than thirty years, was married to an Australian, and yet her English was still poor. Ella knew that she could stand here and argue her point some more, but there wasn’t time for that. Instead she said the words she had planned to say and gave her mother one final chance to leave. ‘Come with me.’

Then Ella handed her mother the ticket she had secretly purchased.

‘How?’

‘I’ve brought your passport with me.’ Ella pulled it out of her bag and handed it to her mother to show that she was serious and that she really had thought this through. ‘You can walk away now, Mum. You can go back to Sicily and be with your sisters. You can have a life....’ She saw her mother wrestle with the decision. She missed her country so much, spoke about her sisters all the time, and if she would just have the courage to walk away then Ella would help her in any way that she could.

‘I can’t.’

There was simply no point, but Ella did her best to persuade her mum. Right up to check-in, right up to the departure gate, Ella tried to convince her mother to leave, but she had decided now that the subject was closed.

‘Have a nice trip, Ella.’

‘I’m not going for a holiday, Mum,’ Ella said. She wanted her mother to realise how serious this was, that she wasn’t just going to be away for a few weeks. ‘I’m going there to look for work.’

‘But you said you will visit Sicily.’

‘I might.’ Ella honestly didn’t know. ‘I don’t know if I can, Mum. I’d hoped to go there with you. I think I’ll stay in Rome.’

‘Well, if you do get to Sicily, give my love to your aunts. Tell them...’ Gabriella faltered for a moment.

‘Don’t tell them, you mean.’ Ella looked at her mum, who would be in trouble for even coming to the airport, and couldn’t believe she was expecting Ella to tell her aunts how fantastic her life was in Australia, to keep up the pretence. ‘Are you asking me to lie?’

‘Why you do this to me?’ Gabriella demanded, as she did whenever Ella didn’t conform or questioned things. Possibly Ella was more Sicilian than she gave herself credit for, because as her mother used the very familiar line, Ella was tempted to use it herself. Why you do this to me? Why did you stand and scream as you watched your daughter being beaten? Why didn’t you have the guts to get up and leave? Of course she didn’t say that. Ella hadn’t shared her feelings with anyone, not even her mum, since that day.

‘I have to go, Mum.’ Ella looked up at the board—she really did have to, customs would take forever—but at the last moment her voice cracked. ‘Mum, please...’

‘Ella, go.’

Gabriella wept as she said goodbye but Ella didn’t—she hadn’t since that terrible day two months ago. Instead she hugged her mum and headed through customs and then sat dry-eyed on the plane with an empty seat beside her, nursing her guilt for leaving her mother behind, but knowing deep down there was nothing more she could do.

She was twenty-seven years old, and had spent enough of her life trying to get her mother away from her father. Even her job had been chosen with money, rather than passion, in mind.

Ella had worked as a junior assistant for a couple of CEOs, then moved through the ranks, eventually becoming a PA to a politician. She’d spent the past two years in Canberra, dreading what she might come home to in Sydney.