It was just three years ago since her husband, God rest his soul, had left to the other world. He had come into her life to steal her heart and disturb her soul. He was the only man in the world that she had wanted as her companion for life. They had spent thirty wonderful years together. Many times now, sitting in her favourite armchair sipping a hot cup of coffee, she remembered the places they had visited together, the joys and the heartache of everyday life, the charming words he said to amuse her, so many things. How she missed him.
Ella, her only daughter who had married and was living abroad for the last eighteen years, encouraged her when she phoned to go on outings which the Local Council organised frequently for elderly persons. “We both loved Dad, but we cannot bring him back. You should think of yourself and move on now Mum,” she often told her. She did go for a couple of outings, not because she felt like doing so, but because she did not like to displease her daughter.
Her new life began when Gianfranco walked into her life. He was born in the Tuscan region of Italy. Life was so much simpler and less hectic over there. “Don’t be sad”, he would tell her, “I want to see you happy and enjoy life”. His English, with a marked Italian accent, uplifted her spirits and brought a smile to her face.
The first night he stayed at her house in London, she cooked him a hearty English meal of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. He enjoyed it immensely. He then made her sit down, brought her a glass of wine, sat down beside her and both talked for a long time of this, that and the other.
One lovely summer evening they went to the park together, sat down on a wooden bench and looked at the stars shining in the sky. He told her the names of the stars, how far away they were from our world and other things he had learned at the University in Pisa. She was mesmerised as she had scarce knowledge of the immense universe that surrounds us. On the way back home, he held her arm in his and they walked slowly together to her house, engrossed in each other’s company.
He felt such a mystery to her, so different, yet every time she looked into his eyes, he filled her with hope. They chatted and got to know each other a little better every day. He told her about his native Tuscany – the lovely little churches, the paintings and sculptures, the sprawling countryside, the food and wine and so many other things.
After a few days of getting to know him, she observed his easy going way of looking at life. She thought that the hustle and bustle of London life would tire him and he would surely return back to the hills and valleys of his Tuscany. He was never in a hurry; he did a bit now, a bit later and has some fun and rest in between.
“Why don’t you sit down and enjoy your garden?” he would ask. “Why don’t you stop and look at the flowers?” He charmed her with his dark skin and ebony eyes. “Yes, I should. I did not have so much time before” she replied nostalgically. “I had a job, a husband and a daughter to look after. I’ve spent my life rushing around. Now I’m retired I should relax. You are right dear”.
She had grown to love him immensely. She had never experienced this kind of love before. There was something special that thrust them together. While previously her time passed slowly by, now it flew so quickly it left her breathless. She enjoyed her time with him so much; she wished he’d never leave her.
Her daughter often phoned her from abroad to see how she was getting along. Her mum seemed enthusiastic, she was enjoying herself. Her daughter was very pleased that she and Gianfranco had hit it off together, that they like each other and that he was settled with her.
On her part, once he was now to live with her, she showed him the London where she was born and grew up – the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace; the evening band concerts at St. James Park; the flow of the Thames from the railings of Tower Bridge; lounging on deckchairs in Hyde Park watching the squirrels hurry to and fro; the beautiful facades of the theatres along The Strand; the multi-coloured river boats on the canals of Little Venice.
She had met him three weeks ago at the airport. He came over to attend a year’s course at the London School of Economics. He had lived in Italy with his parents since he was just two years old. Her daughter had asked her to look after him during his stay in London. When they saw each other and embraced at Heathrow, his first words were like balm to her “It’s so nice to see you Gran, you look wonderful!”