From the Sky - Part XII

"So you won't tell me?" Ernesto asked, brow wrinkling. "Suppose she comes to buy rolls or pastry? What am I supposed to say? 'Welcome to Tarentella Bakery, Miss-Room-212-at-the-hotel!' I must know my customer's names, Zia!"

"She's not your customer, Papa, she's mine. She asked me to keep anything she tells me about herself …even her name …in strictest confidence. She has her reasons. I gave my word, Papa. You always say a man's word is a most sacred thing."

"You're a child! It doesn't count."

"I'm no child, Papa. I just had my twenty-first birthday. I'm all grown up."

"Well, when did that happen?" he sighed, a mix of exasperation and sadness in his voice. "All my girls, all grown! So you're a woman, then. Fine. Well, a woman's word is nothing. Nothing! You're just gossips, the lot of you!"

"What a horrible thing to say!" Zia said, shaking her head. "Well, I'm sorry, Papa, but I'm keeping my word because that's how you raised me. Otherwise I dishonor both of us."

Ernesto's cheeks flushed in embarrassment. He brought his closed fist up to his mouth again for a moment. Finally he said softly: "Forgive me. You're right, Zia. You must keep your word. Oh, she makes me crazy, this woman!"

He brought his fist up once more, cursing the agita.

"Forget her, Papa. Then you and Uncle Gio can go back to fighting over wedding cakes."

"Forget her? Surrender her to Gio?"

"Oh, this is hopeless," Zia muttered, shaking her head and rolling her eyes skyward.

"Tell me something, Zia: you are with her every night. What does she say about me? What does she say about Gio?"

"She says nothing. She sits. I paint. I come home."

"I've tried to call her. I want to take her to lunch at Delvecchio's. The hotel won't put me through to her room. I've left messages. I've sent notes and gifts…"

"Yes, Papa. That's why I'm here. You and Gio, with all your gifts! She is sending everything back today. She wants both of you to stop!"

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