From Sand and Ash(8)

By: Amy Harmon


Then I’m falling.

Eva Rosselli





CHAPTER 2

ITALY

Her father woke her, saying her name and shaking her fiercely, rescuing her from her dream.

“Eva! Eva!” He was afraid. She could hear it. And his fear made her afraid too. She opened her heavy lids and looked at him, and his face melted into relief.

“Eva! You scared me!” His voice broke, and he gathered her up, her tangled covers between them, his arms circling her back. His neck smelled like sandalwood and tobacco, and the comfort she drew from the scent made her limp and drowsy.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, not sure exactly why she needed to be sorry. She’d been asleep. That was all.

“No, mia cara. I should have known. When you were small you would sleep so deeply, Fabia would lay her head against your chest to make sure you were breathing. I suppose I forgot.”

After a few moments, he let her go, and she slumped back against her pillows.

“I was dreaming,” she said.

“Good dreams?”

“No.” It hadn’t been a good dream. “The same old dream. The one I’ve told you about before.”

“Ahh. Did you jump this time?”

“Yes. I suppose I did. But not with my legs. With my whole body. I fell. Through the window. I let myself fall. Then I woke up.”

“In dreams, we always wake up when we’re falling. We always wake up before we land,” her father soothed.

“That’s good. Because landing will be very painful. Landing might kill me,” she whispered.

“Then why are you jumping . . . in the dream? Why do you always want to jump?” her father asked.

“Because if I don’t, I will die for sure.” It was the truth. And in the dream she knew it. Jump or die.

Her father patted her cheek like she was eight instead of eighteen, almost nineteen, and she grabbed his hand and kissed his palm. He closed his hand over the kiss, the way he used to do when she was little.

He was almost to the door when she asked him, “Did I scream? Did I scream and wake you?”

“You screamed, but you didn’t wake me. I was already awake.” It was three in the morning, and she noticed suddenly how old her father looked. It scared her, worse even than the dream.

“Are you okay, Babbo?” she asked fearfully.

“Sono felice se tu sei felice.” I’m happy if you’re happy. It was what he always said.

“I’m happy.” She smiled at him affectionately.

“Then all is well in my world.” Again, what he always said. He switched off her lamp, and her room was bathed in darkness. But he hovered at the door.

“I love you, Eva.” His voice sounded strange, like he was crying, but she could no longer see his face.

“I love you too, Babbo.”



Eva’s father, Camillo Rosselli, knew what was coming. He thought he had sheltered his daughter from it, or maybe she was just Italian enough, young enough, naïve enough, that she completely missed the gathering storm and thought only of dancing in the rain. Most of her friends had no idea she was Jewish. Eva didn’t remember she was Jewish most of the time. She had no sense of being different. She’d noticed the cartoons mocking the Jews, the occasional derogatory sign, and the articles in Santino’s papers. Those things always infuriated her father. But it just seemed like politics to Eva, and politics in Italy was for the politicians, not the people—the people mostly shrugged and went about their lives.

Sure, she’d heard Camillo arguing with his brother, Augusto. But they argued constantly. They had argued at least once a week for Eva’s entire life.

“Jews are the pure blood of Italy. The synagogue preceded the church,” Augusto would say.

“This is true,” Camillo would answer heatedly and pour more wine.

“We lost friends and family in the Great War. All in the defense of our country, Camillo. Surely that counts for something.”

Camillo would nod and sip, sip and nod.

“I trust the Fascists more than the Communists,” Augusto would add.

“I see no reason to trust either,” Camillo would retort.

And that is where Augusto and Camillo would not see eye to eye, and they would spend the evening smoking, sipping, and arguing about Il Duce and the Blackshirts versus the Bolsheviks.

“No freedom-loving Jew can support an ideology that uses force and intimidation to gain followers.” Camillo would point a long finger at his younger brother.

“But, Camillo, at least they don’t seek to take our religion from us. The Fascists are as disdainful of Catholic conservatism as we are. It’s about nationalism. Revolution, even.”

“Revolution rarely helps the Jew.” Augusto would groan loudly and throw up his hands in disgust. “When was the last time you went to temple, eh, Camillo? You are more Italian than you are Jewish. Does Eva even know our prayers? Did you even realize today is Shabbat?”