From Sand and Ash(7)

By: Amy Harmon

Eva suddenly stood up and left the room. Angelo watched her go, probably wondering if she was done with him, but she was back before he was finished buckling the final strap. She held a book in her hands, and she sat down close to him on his bed. He scooted over immediately, almost falling onto the floor. She wondered if she made him feel shaky inside. She felt like that around him sometimes. But she kind of enjoyed the sensation. He glanced at Eva, and she recognized the look. Babbo looked at her like that when she did something he didn’t understand.

“Don’t you want to see my book?” she asked.

“I want you to show me,” he insisted, not taking it.

“Okay. Well, this is my book of confessions.” She opened the soft leather cover and turned through the pages, not letting him get a very good look at any of them.

“You have very nice penmanship, but I don’t read Italian very well. Speaking it is one thing, but I’ve only ever read in English.”

Eva nodded, glad that he couldn’t easily read her thoughts or her words.

“I thought it was your diary.” He sounded disappointed. “Who are you confessing to?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s definitely my diary. But I confess things. Very private things.” She waggled her eyebrows at him, letting him know that he was hearing very privileged information indeed. Mostly, she just wrote about her day, but she had to make it sound good.

“Read one to me,” Angelo insisted.

“I thought you were shy,” she said drily. “You aren’t. You are quite bossy, actually. I’m glad.”

Angelo tapped the book, drawing Eva’s attention from him to the pages.

“All right. I will read you the confession I wrote about you when you first arrived in Italy.”

“About me?”

“Yes. You will like it, I think.”

“I am so glad Angelo is here. I’m tired of being with adults all the time. Babbo says I am smarter and more mature than children my age because I’ve grown up surrounded by old people. That’s good, I suppose. But I’m tired of old people. I want to play hide-and-seek and tag. I want to have someone to tell my secrets to. I want to slide down the bannister, jump on my bed, and climb out my bedroom window and sit on the roof with a friend, and not just the ones in my imagination.

Angelo is only eleven, two years older than I am, and I’m already as tall as he is. He’s kind of small. Nonna says that is normal. Girls mature more quickly. She says he will catch up. But he is very handsome, and he has very beautiful eyes. They are far too beautiful for a boy, though. Of course, that is not his fault. His hair is curly like a girl’s as well. He’ll have to keep it short and never wear a dress. Otherwise he will be prettier than I, and I don’t think I like that idea.”

Angelo scowled at Eva, and she snickered at his displeasure.

“You are very handsome, you know,” she teased. “Even if your nose is too big for your face.”

“I don’t think you have to worry that I will be prettier than you,” he huffed. “You’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.” When he realized what he’d said, his face flushed all over again.

“I didn’t like that one,” he said quickly. “Read me another.”

And so she did. She read him confession after confession, and he listened as patiently as a priest.


17 November, 1938

Confession: Sometimes I’m afraid to sleep.

I dreamed my old dream last night, the dream I’ve been having since I was nine years old, the one I don’t understand but that seems to understand me. As always, it is dark in the dream, but the darkness is crowded. I can’t see anything but the flash of moonlight through the small window high up on the wall and the slats that ring the darkness on all sides. I am moving, and I am scared.

I know I must reach the window, and suddenly my fingers are clutching at the ledge beneath the small opening, and the toes of my shoes are shoved into the slats that I’ve used as a ladder to reach it.

“If you jump they will punish us.” Hands grab at my clothes, and I shake them off, kicking desperately.

“They will kill us!” a woman wails below me.

“You must think of the rest of us!”

“You will die if you jump,” someone else hisses, and the consensus grows around me. But I can’t listen.

My head fits through the opening, and the air against my face is like water. Like life. A waterfall of cold hope. I open my mouth and gulp it in, unable to quench the thirst clawing at my throat, yet I’m fortified by it anyway.

I force my shoulders through the window, clinging to everything and nothing, wiggling to free myself, and I’m suddenly hanging, headfirst, over a world that is racing and clattering, yet I can still hear my heart pounding in my chest.