16. Wild rose

Alongside a country road, a young man in an old car looked at Nadia and her aunt walking in the woods nearby. He was not there to spy on them, but he followed them with his eyes along their path. His name was Pietro, but everyone used to call him Peter, even his mother.

First, he saw the imposing mother of his best friend walking steadily among the trees, then Nadia appeared. She stopped her walking to look around, edgy and hesitant. He loved to see a girl passing through that kind of moment. He liked to witness that happening in the dark of a room, of his car, of an improvised shelter, right before the desire is too much to bare and she kisses you. Once, a boy had kissed him that way.

The two disappeared into a thicker group of trees. Peter reclined his seat and turned up the volume of his walkman. The car was so old that the radio had no cassette player. It was one of those days Marco wanted to fight for nothing. So Peter had decided to let him boil down and had taken the car they shared for a ride. Marco bad mood had started the night before. Peter didn’t know if it was because he had refused to share with him the company of that showy girl or for the oncoming gig in the city. It was going to be their biggest show, maybe a trampoline to make it as professional DJs, and Marco had started to grow more nervous every day in the last weeks.

After Nick Drake had finished singing about the Sunday morning, Peter was excepting the tape to go into white noise, but he heard a click and a new song began with violins and the voices of a woman and a man.

“They called me the Wild Rose

but my name was Elisa Day

why they call me it I do not know

for my name was Elisa Day.”

Peter reached for the cassette box on the passenger seat. Marco’s minuscule writing covered the facade of the white booklet entirely. The last line only had the signs “N.11” and an arrow pointing to the inside of the sheet. Peter opened it with a sigh, while the sweet female voice sang in his hear about how she laid on the bed for her lover and he calls her “the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.” On the other side, the precise Marco’s handwriting told:

“It’s time you meet another Nick. Cave. He’s a very ugly man. He resembles you. Ahah!”

Peter smiled and nodded with his head full of thick black hair. The girl died. The song ended. He removed the headphones from his head and heard the voices of the two woman he had seen before. They both were very much alive. He threw away the Walkman and started the car. He followed them along their path, for the woods were not that thick, and he could see them clearly from the main road. They seemed unaware of his presence, even if the old engine of his car was rather noisy. He kept his slow pace and finally, Nadia turned her eyes to him. He waved to her and waited for a response from the girl.

With stupor in her eye, she asked him to stop with a gesture and approached the car. Marco’s mother waited among the trees, with her head tilted to one side.

“Hi!”

“Hi – Nadia looked inside the car – where’s the ditzy blond?”

“At home, menstruating.”

“Oops! I am here with his mother.”

Nadia moved to the side to show him the lady and Peter stuck his head out of the car window to wave at her.

“Hi, Mrs. Lupo! May I offer the two of you a lift?”

The friendly lady nodded and moved among the trees to reach the street.

“And you? What are you doing here all alone?”

He shrugged. Nadia opened the rear car door and seated behind Peter.

“I was listening to this.”

Peter gave to her his Walkman and the cassette box.

“Listen to it. If you like it, I’ll make a copy for you.”

Then he quickly moved out the car to open the passenger door for Sandra.

“Thank you, Peter – said the woman the moment the boy closed the car door beside her – Aren’t you the kindest? But where’s my son? It is so strange to see you without Marco.”

“I think he’s at home.”

“Did you have a fight?”

“Oh, no!”

“Please, don’t tell me that. You are a very nice couple.”

“Ahem, um…”

Nadia chuckled.

“Pleas, auntie. Don’t say out loud that they are a nice couple. People could get it wrong – she pause – well, unless it is true. Peter, are you and my cousin a couple?”

“Thanks, Nadia for your intelligent intervention. No! Marco and I are not a couple. We are good friends, pals, mates, buddies even business partners but we are not into a romantic relationship.”

“Of course you are not! – Exclaimed Sandra – Who would think that!”

Nadia laughed hiding her mouth behind the collar of her shirt.  Peter heard her regardless and tried to pinch her leg, squeezing a hand back between his seat and the car door. The girl pushed his hand away.

“Auntie, now Peter is angry at me!”

“Oh, don’t be, Peter. She’s just a gay girl who likes to pull the cat’s tail.”

“Yeah, Mrs. Lupo, but do you think she’s ready to face the consequences of her actions?”

“Not at all, but life is long. She’ll learn from her mistakes like everyone does.”

“Have you heard, Miss?”

She put Peter’s headphones on her head.

“She’s a little rude, don’t you think?”

Said Peter to Sandra with a smirk on his face.

“Sometimes, but she’s also beautiful. We excuse so much to beauty. Isn’t it?”

“I’ve never thought about it.”

Peter looked at his friend’s mother, and she smiled back at him with the sweetest smile he had aver seen. Behind him, Nadia was feeling itchy and upset. She smelled something in the air coming through the open window, and it was something sharp and eerie that made wobble her stomach. She pushed her nose out of the window, Peter’s headphones still on her head, trying to catch something more, but all she sensed was the impression of a dark shadow, running fast among the trees.

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