Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop (8 page)

BOOK: Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop
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“He came even closer to me and whispered, ‘
Sono belli, ah?
' A wicked grin broke out across Marco's face. He knew he'd intrigued me with the cookies, but I refused to give in.
“ ‘I have seen far more beautiful cookies,' I said as I shrugged my shoulders and then I went back to placing clothespins on the sheet, but not before I wrested my hand free from Marco's grip.
“But he pleaded with me, ‘
Dai,
Rosalia. Come on. Try one. I bought them in Lipari and carried them all the way here on the ferry.'
“I couldn't help laughing and said, ‘You went all the way to Lipari to buy cookies? You really are crazy, Marco.'
“I don't know what came over me, but suddenly I was no longer afraid of him. Instead, my anger was taking hold at his stubborn refusal to accept that I had no interest in him.
“His eyes darkened before he responded. ‘
Si,
I went all the way to Lipari. Doesn't that show you how much I care about you and what a good impression I want to make on your parents, that I would go to one of the finest
pasticcerie
and bring these as a gift? And they're not just
any
cookies. They're
Nacatuli
. On the island of Lipari, they serve these at engagement parties. Each of the different shaped cookies symbolizes a good omen for the couple. The roses symbolize love, the fish good luck, and the oval-shaped cookies are for fertility.' Marco smiled.
“Once more, he seemed proud of himself, but I was horrified as I realized why he had brought these particular cookies to my home. And my suspicions were confirmed by what he said next.
“ ‘Rosalia, we will be very happy together once we're married and settled into our home. Once your father agrees to give me your hand in marriage, we can have the proper courtship until our wedding day.'
“My fury was completely unleashed at this point. I yelled, ‘I am never marrying you, Marco! And my father will never allow you to marry me! Never!'
“Marco's face went as white as the sheets I was hanging. For a few minutes, he said nothing. My fear returned, but I refused to let him see it. I turned my back to him and resumed hanging laundry. Perhaps my outburst would convince him finally to leave. If only I had been so lucky.
“He came up behind me and whispered into my ear, ‘You think you are too good for me, don't you? But you're nothing more than a tailor's daughter. You should be honored that I am interested in you. Do you even know how much money my family has? You could live like a queen instead of being your parents' slave at home and in the tailor shop. What is the matter with your father? Having you take men's measurements and letting you get so close to them?'
“I turned around and beat my fists against Marco's chest. ‘You pig! Get out! Get out before I call the police!'
“ ‘The police?' Marco said, laughing loudly before adding, ‘Go ahead. A few of the police officers are my good friends.'
“I couldn't stand there any longer, listening to him. I ran toward my house, but he ran after me and caught me by the arm, pulling it roughly behind me. I winced aloud in pain.
“His voice then rose. ‘Why are you making this so hard, Rosalia? Can't you see I just want to make you happy? Give it some time. You are young and inexperienced. Surely, you will come to see I am the only man for you.'
“I grew desperate and decided to appeal to any sense of decency he might have. ‘Please, Marco, you're hurting my arm. Let me go. If you truly care about me, you will come back when my family is here and do the respectable thing.' My voice trembled as I said this.
“He said, ‘That is what I am trying to do, Rosalia, but you refuse to listen to me. I was hoping to do this differently, but I can see now there is no other way. You are right about your father. He will continue to stand in our way. I was a fool to think I could persuade him otherwise.'
“And then I felt a sharp prick in the back of my neck. Before I could realize what was happening, I passed out. When I woke up I was in that horrible cave.” Rosalia stopped narrating her story. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut as if trying to block out the memories that had returned.
“Rosalia, you don't need to tell me further what happened to you.” Madre Carmela reached into the pocket of her habit and pulled out a handkerchief. She wiped the tears running down Rosalia's face.
“I am all right. I just need a moment.”
Madre Carmela waited patiently for Rosalia to continue.
“I woke up and had no idea where I was. It was pitch-black, and it felt like I was lying down outside on the cool ground. I screamed, but no one seemed to be near. I crawled, trying to make my way in the dark. Then suddenly, I heard the strike of a match, and Marco was standing before me, lighting a candle.
“I screamed, ‘Where have you taken me? Take me back home! You will be arrested and go to prison for kidnapping me!' I was hysterical, but Marco remained calm, ignoring me as he proceeded to light several more candles that were in a semicircle on the ground.
“Now that I could see, I was able to make out that he had taken me to a cave. My eyes searched frantically for an escape, but all I could see was a long, narrow passageway, which I assumed probably led to the cave's exit. I realized then he had taken me deep into the cave, and I feared I would get lost if I tried to make a run for it. For I was certain there must be other passageways, and how would I know which would lead me back outside? I also felt weak. I now realized Marco had drugged me earlier when I felt something sharp prick my neck. Whatever Marco had injected me with had left me feeling groggy and lethargic. No, I needed to wait patiently before I escaped. That was my first mistake. I should have tried to run then. If I had succeeded in getting away from him, that might have prevented what happened next.”
“Don't punish yourself, Rosalia. There is no way of knowing what would have happened.”
Rosalia looked into Madre Carmela's face. “Perhaps.” From her tone, she didn't sound quite convinced. Sighing deeply, she continued her story.
“After Marco was done lighting the candles, he proceeded to show me around the cave.” Rosalia laughed. “Can you imagine that? It was as if he had brought his new bride home for the first time and was proud of where they were living. And that was exactly what he was thinking. He had me, and no one would stand in his way now.
“Marco said to me, ‘Rosalia, I know it will take some time for you to get accustomed to being here, but this is only temporary. I need to make arrangements, and then we will leave and go where we can start fresh. You will be happy being married to me.'
“ ‘How many times do I need to tell you I will never marry you? Do you understand you have committed a crime by kidnapping me?' I cried as I said this.
“ ‘Once you become my wife, the authorities won't care,' Marco said, shrugging his shoulders. He wasn't even looking at me. Instead, his eyes stared off into space, and he had this sick smile.
“I became so enraged in that moment and did not think about my safety. I threw myself at him, scratching his face, pulling his hair, kicking him. He let me have my way for a little while, but then without warning, he struck my face so hard with the back of his hand that I fell. That should've frightened me, but it only made me angrier. I crawled over and bit his leg. He pulled me by my hair, forcing me to stand.” Rosalia placed her hand on the back of her head as if she were feeling the pain all over again.
“Then he turned me around, and pulled my arms behind me. He nudged the back of my legs with his knees and said, ‘Walk!'
“I remained rooted in place, but then he jerked my arms back so hard I thought my shoulder was going to dislocate.
“He screamed again, ‘Walk!' I stepped forward. He kept nudging me forward until we came to a spot in the cave that had what looked like a bed made of hay with blankets laid on top.”
Madre Carmela closed her eyes, remembering the makeshift bed of hay and the bloody clothes she'd found when she examined the cave after she and the other nuns had discovered Rosalia.
“Marco pushed me so hard that I fell onto the hay bed. He then slapped me a few times. I fought back, kicking and scratching him. But it was no use. He was stronger than me. He tore my clothes off and . . .” Rosalia's voice trailed off. She looked at Madre Carmela, who was weeping silently. “I think you know what happened next, Madre.”
Madre Carmela took Rosalia in her arms. She held her close as Rosalia sobbed uncontrollably. “He stole my innocence. He took away the girl I used to be.”
“Shhh! Shhh! No one can take away who you are, Rosalia. Remember that! No one! You still have the same pure heart of the girl you were before this monster came into your life.”
“Thank you, Madre,” Rosalia said before pulling away and continuing her story.
“Over the next few weeks . . . Well, I imagine it was weeks. It felt like I was there a long time. You found me by the cave in September, Madre? Is that right?”

Si.
It was September.”
“So I was in the cave for a month, since I remember it was early August when Marco kidnapped me. He continued to beat me over the course of those weeks. He beat me often for no reason. After he raped me, I was too afraid and in too much despair to fight back like I had on that first day. He seemed to take pleasure in hurting me. He didn't rape me again after that first time. I thought that was strange since he continued to beat me. Then I realized he was deluding himself into thinking we had a pure relationship. He actually apologized for forcing himself onto me.” Rosalia shook her head.
“He said, ‘I hope you will forgive me, Rosalia, for taking you against your will. We will not sleep together again until we are man and wife.'
“I asked him, ‘Why did you do that, Marco?'
“Naturally, I did not expect a rational answer from a lunatic. I had no doubt that he was absolutely mad in addition to being evil. But I still had to ask him why, especially now that he was telling me he would wait to have relations with me until we were married.
“He said, ‘Rosalia, you must see I had no choice. It was the only way. Your father will now have to agree to let me marry you. For who else will have you now that you are no longer a virgin?'
“My heart sank when I heard those words, and a cold shiver ran throughout my body. I had heard of girls who had disappeared in neighboring villages, and then they were found, but were suddenly married off. People whispered that the girls were no longer virgins, and they had to marry the men who had kidnapped them because they were now ruined. My mother told me it was a barbaric custom, and she could not believe the poor girls were forced to wed the men who had violated them. But she dared not voice her opinion to anyone else but me. In our village and the neighboring towns, people held fast to their customs. My mother didn't want to become an outcast. The only comfort I had in that moment was remembering my mother's being horrified by this act. She would never allow me to marry Marco, and I could not see my father giving his permission either. This emboldened me.
“ ‘My father would never let you marry me even after what you did to me.' You do not know my parents. They love me and will always protect me.' I said this calmly.
“He laughed and said, ‘Ah, Rosalia. You might now be a woman, but I see you still have the mind of an innocent child. Everyone lets us down in this life—even those closest to us.'
“ ‘You're wrong! You're wrong!' I screamed.
“‘Stop screaming!' Marco yelled at me, covering his ears. ‘When will you start trusting that I am the one who has your best interests at heart,
not
your parents? When?'
“He grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me so hard. Then with one last thrust, he banged my head against the wall of the cave. I blacked out.
“After that, things only got worse. He continued to beat me, but he began to hardly feed me. I think he did this to make me weaker so that I could not escape. He would leave me alone during the day to go to work, which surprised me since he didn't have a job when he was spending all of his time spying on me at my father's tailor shop. He had also suggested before he kidnapped me that his family had plenty of money, so I didn't think he needed to work. But he explained to me one day he was saving money so that after we got married we could move far away and he could give me a grand house. I then realized he must've lied about his family's being well-off in an attempt to impress me.
“One day while he was at work or wherever he was, for I still had my doubts about whether he really did have a job, I decided to try to escape. I walked down the narrow passageway I had noticed the first day he brought me to the cave. But as I suspected, there were other passageways. I refused to give up. I couldn't take his beatings anymore, and I was constantly hungry. And when I thought about my family and how worried they must be about me, I found what little strength I had left in me to keep walking through that cave. But I was getting disoriented and could not keep track of the different passageways I had gone down. Then I heard Marco calling to me, ‘Rosalia! Rosalia! Come out now! I will find you.'
“I began running, trying to get farther and farther away from his voice. But it was no use. He found me.
“He said, ‘Did you really think you could get away from me, Rosalia? I have taken care of you. How do you think you would last alone out there? Ah? You don't even know where we are. I will tell you. We're in the middle of a deep forest. The nearest town is miles away.'
“I know now he was lying since you and the sisters found me, and your convent isn't too far from where he took me.”
BOOK: Rosalia's Bittersweet Pastry Shop
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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