This story, once completed, will touch on some tough topics, such as alcoholism and grief, yet it will also bring along some humor and lightheartedness that are so necessary to balance out the heaviness of those deeper issues.
I'm excited about this story, but I won't have time to flesh it out completely yet, because I've got other writing plans in the coming weeks and months.
Copyright 2018 by Andrea Renee Cox. What follows may not be copied, published, or used without prior written consent.
Inspired by CutePolarBear
I hope you’re hearing this from me first.
If any of my siblings broke the news… Let’s say this: They have little tact. That doesn’t quite sum up the whole of it. They blow things out of proportion.
Way out of proportion.
There was… an incident... a series of incidents, you see. Rather small ones.
It all started with a butterfly…
Two Months Ago
A bright Adonis blue butterfly fluttered across the vineyard, landing momentarily on various stems burgeoning with heavy clumps of deep-purple-colored black grapes. My oldest brother’s youngest three children chased the insect without paying attention to where they placed their feet or flung their arms. Their laughter bubbled and played tag between the vines and sparsely spread clouds.
“Watch it!” Donte, my oldest brother and the kids’ dad, hollered at them as the youngest toddled right in front of him as he carried a large basket filled to overflowing with ripe grapes. “This isn’t a park, you know. Some of us have work to do.” He lifted a shoulder to wipe the sweat from his brow; it was immediately replaced by more moisture.
“I’m telling you, Donte,” I said, trailing him with my own basket of fruit. “There’s more money to be made if we’d branch out and sell that—”
Donte suddenly stopped, nearly forcing me into a backward tumble, and spun around to glare at me. His gray-blue eyes could narrow awfully fast, as I well knew from growing up in his shadow. “Stop this talk, Raff. You already ruined Mother’s Day and overshadowed the bambinos’ Bible school week with this chatter, not to mention when you interrupted Coach Esposito during the picnic last Saturday. You will not ruin this morning’s harvest with your bitter words. We are not selling grape juice.”
How could two words sound so dirty when they weren’t?
I shook my head and followed as my brother stomped even faster to the truck to dump his grapes. “Wine, wine. That’s all this family talks about. But there’s a problem in the world, and we’re feeding it!”
Donte stepped back from the truck and sent me another searing stare. “Alcoholism? Would you get off that already? We cannot help what people do once they purchase the wine. We print warnings to drink responsibly right on the labels.”
“In fine print! How is that helpful?”
“Enough! Papa is still in charge until he retires, but I’m next in line. Grape juice will not be on the production menu during either of our legacies.” With that, Donte took off, heading back for more bunches of grapes.
For several lengthy breaths, I stood still, looking out beyond the truck at the pre-dawn-darkened mountains beyond our property. If only I were back out there, camping for a week or so. I did that back in early spring, to get away from the craziness that is my humongous family. Yet, while I was out in the woods, I found a craziness there too. A wildcat nearly scratched my eyes out when I got too close to her den of kittens. It rained nearly the entire time I was out there, though it was predicted to be dry. And the bugs! Normally I don’t mind them—they’re a huge part of the outdoors—but the mosquitos and other biting bugs were out in force that particular week. Next time, I’ll certainly bring more bug spray.
Alas, I could not be out there now, though I desperately wanted to escape my brother’s watchful eye and persnickety stubbornness on the issue that clamped on my soul.
Heaving a huge sigh, I walked the long way around the truck. Right as I lifted the basket to dump its contents, a loud pop exploded to my left, followed by a metallic screech and a feminine squeal. I wasn’t sure to hurl the basket into the truck, to save most of the grapes, or to clutch it to my chest, risking the entirety of my work. Before I could decide, something whacked into my knee, wrenching it painfully the wrong way. A scream ripped from my throat, and the basket went flying. I crumpled into a heap of legs, arms, and a bicycle. When I sat up, my leg throbbed, but I found myself tangled up with a cute blonde, who must be the owner of the now-mangled bicycle. We both scrambled up as best we could.
That’s when I noticed the fear lining her eyes and causing her lips to tremble. Tears oozed down her cheeks, but not from the incident; these tears had been streaming for quite some time.
“I’m so, so sorry, signor.” She lifted her bicycle, but it was useless now. The frame was bent from where I’d landed on it and smacked it double-hard into the ground. The front tire had a gaping hole in it from where it’d ruptured, causing the accident. The medium-size wicker basket attached to the handlebars was nearly unrecognizable, and whatever had been in it was strewn along the path. Since the sun still hadn’t risen yet, it was too dusky out to tell what it was. Flowers, long twists of bread, rolled-up maps? Time and lightening skies would tell.
I attempted to help with the bicycle, but my knee wouldn’t hold my weight. The lady, who might have been a couple of years my junior, abandoned the transportation—it clunked to the ground again—and wrapped her thin arm around my waist and helped me inch over until I could lean against the truck.
“Where are you injured?” She tucked fine strands of pale-yellow hair behind her ears. They were barely long enough to reach where she placed them, and they swiftly flicked back into her peridot-hued eyes as she looked into my face for the first time since she ran into me. “Raffaele?”
My forehead crinkled. How could she know me but I couldn’t place her in my memory? Had I gone to school with her? Did she attend the Baptist church in the nearby town of Giorgi—named for Raffaele’s great-great-great-great-grandpapa, who founded the village? It was unlikely their paths had crossed that one time he'd vacationed in the United States and gotten stuck on the side of the road in Philadelphia. There were a thousand possibilities, and he hadn’t a clue where to begin.
“Sì. I am Raffaele. And you are…?”
She pressed a fluttery set of fingers to her chest. “I am Ilaria. Friend of your sister Margherite.”
Was my mouth hanging open, or was it just my mind that was stupefied? The little girl I recalled was now a young woman well into her twenties. Though she was no meatier than she had been in her early teens, she had blossomed into a beautiful lady. Many men might not find her attractive, with her sharp cheekbones jutting out and bony hips and lanky limbs. For me, this was exquisite.
To God Almighty, thank You for inspiring a story that will impact so many aching folks out there. They need hope, and it is my goal through the talents You've given me that this story will shine some their way.
To CutePolarBear, thank you for inspiring this story. I was immediately intrigued by the title and knew it would be bigger than a short story by the time I was finished with it. Readers like you inspire me, and I'm grateful for your participation in the contest I held on my blog.
How has alcoholism touched your family?
What type of grief have you gone through?
What helped during those moments?
How do you find joy in the dark times?
September's reading takes us Back to School.