2. The lady and her beast

In the house of wood and stone at the end of the town, on the low sandy river bank, the little old lady was waiting for her granddaughter. She was sitting in a comfy chair, her feline companion on her lap. She was thinking about her late husband, his strong hands, his dark hair. The day she had arrived at the town, with one small cardboard suitcase in one hand and a rolled paper in the other, her husband was the first guy to approach the coach door, to help her with the high step. He was rather stunning in his shiny carabineer uniform with the red bands, but she was not much impressed. What took her breath away was his answer when she tried to exit the coach all by herself anyway.

“Please, I feel responsible”

“Don’t.” She replied, but she let him help her anyway.

The officer square hands grabbed her waist and pose her on the ground with ease and kindness as if she was a bouquet of wild flowers.

“Thank you – she extended her hand towards him – my name is Enrichetta Colombo. I am the new teacher”

He took her hand by the fingers for a formal kiss and then stretched himself high, his arms alongside his body, and introduced himself by his name, title and rank.

“As you are so kind, appointee Aldobrandi, may I ask you where I can find the Inn of Mrs Yolanda?”

He stretched out his right arm, pointing at a building on the long side of the square where the coach had stopped.

“It’s right there. This is a very small town. But I will escort you anyway, to carry your luggage and introduce you to Miss Yolanda”

“The owner of the only inn in town is a miss?”

“Yes”

“Is it polite to ask how Miss Yolanda made her small fortune?”

“No – said her future husband bringing up her suitcase – but someone will tell you anyway. But don’t mind it, nowadays Miss Yolanda has a very tight relationship with Jesus”

Enrichetta nodded and followed the young officer through the square. As she was walking beside him, other young males, used to wasting their time around the square, observed the scene and moaned that the cute platinum blonde just descended from the coach had already been conquered. They didn’t know that she felt not conquered at all by the carabineer, though. From that encounter at the bus stop till their wedding day, ten years passed and their engagement occupied only the last of those ten years. For the rest of the time,  their public relationship was polite but rather cold.

When they reached the inn, Miss Yolanda, a curvaceous woman in her fifties, came to the door herself to greet the new teacher. She was wearing a very conservative dress and, as Enrichetta introduce herself and offered her hand to shake, the woman grabbed it with both her hands, kissed it, and pushed it against the huge silver cross that hanging from the long chain around her neck.

“I am so happy you finally arrived here safe and sound, Miss Colombo”

Enrichetta wanted to reclaim her hand, but she didn’t want to displease the lady as well, so she smiled while trying to gently pull her hand away from the lady grasp.

“Oh, you are even more charming than Mother Luisa told me! – she looked at the carabineer – isn’t she, officer?”

“I think she would be even more charming after a little rest, Miss Yolanda”

“Oh, sure! Sure. You are right. Your room… – the woman seemed to be looking for something around the little hall – let me check”

And she disappeared into another room, finally letting go Enrichetta little hand.

“You were right, I should not mind. If Mother Luisa trusts her my reputation is safe. Anyway, my poor hand thanks you… again”

Said Enrichetta with a half smile.

“Obliged”, answered the young man, looking at her curly hairdo intensely.

“What are you looking at?”, said Enrichetta suddenly without smiling at all.

“Your hair. This colour really suits you”

“Lucky me”, said Enrichetta without noticing that the inn owner had come back and was observing with interest the two of them. They kept on staring at each other in complete silence for half a minute. Then Miss Yolanda’s warm voice interrupted their silent confrontation.

“Miss Colombo – she softly touched her arm – your room is ready”

When the old lady regained consciousness of her surroundings, emerging from her old memories, the living room was completely dark and the cat on her lap was staring at her intensely. The black fur on his back all upright.

“No. No, no, no – said the old lady, softly caressing her huge cat – it’s alright. Everything’s alright and Nadia will be here soon”

Then the doorbell rang and the cat jumped down from her lap.

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