Cinderella In The Sicilian's World(3)

By: Sharon Kendrick

Lina didn’t agree with her mother’s condemnation but there was little point in arguing. Because her mother was always right, wasn’t she? Early widowhood had given her the moral high ground, as well as an increasing bitterness towards the world in general as the years passed by. And with that bitterness had come a highly sophisticated ability to create a feeling of guilt in her only child. To make her feel as if she were somehow responsible for her mother’s woes. And wasn’t that state of affairs becoming increasingly intolerable? Picking up her helmet, Lina made a passable attempt at a smile though she met no answering smile in response. ‘There’s been a lot going on, Mama. I just...need a break.’

‘Oh, that I were twenty-eight years old again! When I was your age I never used to complain about tiredness. I was too busy running this business almost single-handed. You are too young to be taking a break. When I was your age I never stopped,’ her mother mocked. ‘And there’s work for you here.’

Of course there was. There was always work for her here. Lina toiled from dawn to dusk in the family’s small dressmaking business, running up cheap skirts and dresses which would later be sold on one of the island’s many markets, with barely a word of thanks from the woman who had birthed her. But she didn’t really expect any, if the truth be known. Obedience had been drummed into her for as long as she could remember—even before her father had died so young, leaving her to bear the full brunt of her mother’s ire. And Lina had accepted what fate had bequeathed her because that was what village girls like her had always done. They worked hard, they obeyed their parents and behaved respectably and one day they married and produced a family of their own—and so the whole cycle was repeated.

But Lina had never married. She’d not even come close—and not because there hadn’t been the opportunity. She’d caused outrage and consternation in the village by rejecting the couple of suitors who had called for her, with their wilting bunches of flowers and sly eyes, which had strayed lecherously to the over-abundant thrust of her breasts. She had decided she would prefer to be on her own than to sacrifice herself to the unimaginable prospect of sharing a bed with either of those two men. It was a black mark against her of course. For an only child, a failure to produce a clutch of grandchildren would not easily be forgiven. And although Lina didn’t regret either of those two decisions, it sometimes left her with the feeling that she had somehow burnt her boats. That she would remain here for the rest of her days and that this was to be her future.

As her mother slammed her way out of the bedroom, Lina was aware that nothing had really changed in her life since yesterday’s funeral, yet she was aware that something had changed inside her. It had been a busy time—especially for the womenfolk, who had been preparing all the food which had been consumed by the mourners. They had buried Paolo Cardinelli with all the honour and ceremony with which Sicily traditionally regarded the deceased. But now it was over and life went on and Lina had been struck by the realisation that time was stretching out in front of her like an uninspiring road. Suddenly she felt trapped by the towering walls of oppression and expectation and her mother’s endless demands.

And she needed to escape.

She didn’t really have a plan. Her best friend lived in a neighbouring mountain village and often they would meet for a coffee. But their friendship had taken a hit since Rosa’s recent marriage and travelling solo to one of the fancier seaside resorts at the foot of the mountain wouldn’t usually have been on Lina’s agenda. Yet today she felt like breaking a few of her own self-imposed rules. Scrabbling at the back of the wardrobe to locate some of the money she’d stashed away from her ridiculously small wages, she found herself itching for a different experience. For something new.

Pausing only to stuff her swimsuit in the back of her rucksack, she wheeled out her little scooter and accelerated away from the village, the dust from the dry streets billowing up in clouds around her. Past the last straggle of houses on the edge of the village she negotiated the winding bends, and a sudden unexpected sense of freedom lifted her spirits as she sped downwards towards the coast. She could smell the sea before she saw it—a wide ribbon of cobalt glittering brightly in the afternoon sunshine and it smelt delicious.