The Man Who Couldn't Stay Dead. (Part 3)
MILAN, ITALY. AUGUST 15th. 2014 CAFE REALE 8pm.
She came to lying on a bench in the staff room of the Café Reale.
Anthony was holding a damp cloth to her forehead and fanning her with a year old copy of Vogue.
Immediately she tugged open his shirt to be sure of what she'd seen.
The star birthmark was still there.
“Who are you ?” She demanded.
“My name is Anthony Walsh. I'm from London, England.” he wanted to say more. A lot more. He wanted to pour out his life story. Both life stories. But how could he. Where do you start to tell someone you've lived before. Especially someone who appears to have known 'the other you'.
“What's your name ?” he asked. He was sure he knew. He could almost feel it. For some reason, his mothers name, Sophie, was stuck in his head.
“My name is Sophia. I own the bar where we first set eyes on each other. You knew then didn't you ?” There was no use pretending.
“Yes. I felt it then. Just as you did. The feeling that you know someone you've never met before. But that's not unusual, it happens all the time.” Anthony tried to downplay the situation. To defuse some of the tension they were both feeling.
“You think so ? You think this is just a coincidence ?” Sophia sat up and reached for her handbag. She rummaged inside for a few seconds then handed Anthony a dog eared photograph. It was a holiday snap of a boy and girl. Early twenties Probably lovers from the affectionate pose. The girl was obviously a young Sophia. The male was topless in the sunshine, a star birthmark was visible on his shoulder. He could have been Anthony's twin brother. Anthony's hands trembled as he looked at the photograph. Tears brimmed in his eyes and overflowed down his cheeks. For twenty five years, his previous life had only existed inside his head. Now he was holding a real, physical object from that life, and more than that, he was looking at himself. His previous self.
Twenty five years of flashbacks and nightmares were finally out of his head and into the real world. He wasn't insane after all.
Sophia was more confused than ever, seeing Anthony so overcome with emotion.
She took out a tissue and gently dried the tears falling freely down his cheeks.
“Why should this photograph mean so much to a complete stranger ?” her question was loaded with possibilities that she wasn't sure she wanted to hear. Anthony's emotion was amplified by the tenderness of the lady with whom he felt such empathy, such connection to his past. His body tingled with electricity as twenty five years of pain and nightmares poured out of him and the floodgates opened to past memories.
“This was taken at Camogli it was your twenty first birthday. You bought that dress specially for the occasion. It was the first time you wore Acqua di Parma perfume.” his voice shook as the tears continued to pour.
A huge shiver ran the length of Sophia's body. She couldn't understand what was happening. “How do you know all that ?” now her voice was breaking with emotion.
“Nobody else knows any of that. And why did you shout that's your name when I mentioned his name, Antonio Petrini ? What's happening here ? Who are you ?” tears were now pouring down Sophia's face. Tears of confusion and feelings of a long lost love that she thought she'd locked away for ever.
“We need to get out of here.” Anthony said.
Both of them were shaken by the turn of events. A café's staff room was not the best place to explain you were lovers in another life.
The five minute walk to Sophia's home was undertaken in an awkward silence. Sophia totally confused, Anthony not knowing how to begin his explanation. They reached Sophia's apartment building and Anthony had to fight the urge to point out all the things he recognised. He didn't want to confuse her any more than he already had. But when she opened her apartment door and entered, he couldn't help himself. He was overcome with memories. “My God, you still live here. I loved this place.” he looked at the pictures lining the hallway, “I helped you hang those when you moved in.”
“Will you stop it.“ Sophia was instantly angry. “You're frightening me now. I don't understand how you know all of this. I don't even know who you are. I'm not sure I want you in my home. I'm beginning to think you are some kind of stalker.”
“I'm sorry Sophia. I don't mean to scare you. I promise you I'm not a stalker. But the explanation will be hard for you to believe.” he put his hand affectionately on Sophia's cheek. She instinctively leaned into it. He even smelt the same.
”Please don't worry Sophia. Your beautiful eyes were not made to look worried.”
Sophia let out a cry and backed away. “That was him. That was Antonio. Only he ever said that to me, just like that, with his hand on my cheek.” She put her hand to her cheek and cherished the memory. Her normal reasoning began to crumble.
“It's not possible. You can't be him. Who are you ?” And how did you get that star on your shoulder ?
“I was born with that. It's just a birthmark.”
“I don't believe you. It's more than a birthmark. When ?
Anthony didn't understand. “When what ?”
“When were you born.” Sophia wasn't sure why she was asking, but her brain had stopped thinking logically by now.
“August 17th 1989.”
“Oh my God. That's not possible.” She slid down the wall and sat on the hallway floor whimpering like a child.
Anthony knelt beside her, stroking her hair to try and calm her.
“Why is that not possible ?” he already knew the answer.
“That is the date my fiancé disappeared. We were to be married two weeks later. We worshipped each other. He was never seen again and I never loved another. His name was Antonio Petrini. The name you shouted was you back at the café. Why did you do that ? How do you know so much about us ? Why have I never felt his touch again until you touched my cheek and said his words ? How do you look identical to him all those years ago ? Who are you ?”
Anthony wanted to explain everything in seconds. He tried to be slow and cautious but his words fell over each other in a jumbled mess. He had to jump in and hope for the best.
“Would you believe me if I said I was Antonio Petrini ?”
“For twenty five years I have dreamed and wished for that.” Sophia said between sobs. “For him to come back to me. But it is not possible. Antonio is dead. And anyway, he would be my age now. So no, as much as I long for that to be true, it is not possible.”
Anthony's head was filling with memories. He was past the point of no return.
“Your Father, Umberto, took me to my first football match. I was bored and never went again. He joked about it and called me a philistine.”
Sophia cupped her hands to her mouth and looked at Anthony over her fingers as though he were an alien.
“Your sister, Maria, broke your favourite shoes and you didn't speak to her for a week.”
He gently lifted the short sleeve of Sophia's dress to reveal a scar on her upper arm. He kissed it softly. Sophia began crying hard.
“You got that scar climbing trees as a girl. I used to kiss it to make it go away.”
Sophia, almost incoherent behind her hands, kept repeating. “It's not possible. It's not possible.”
Anthony continued. “The first time we ever made love, you shouted something that made me laugh. It was our private joke for ever more.”
“Nobody knows that.” said Sophia, still crying on the floor, behind her hands. “It was too intimate.”
“That's why you made me promise never to tell anyone else. And I didn't.”
“What did I say.' asked Sophie. Almost scared to hear the answer.
“At the crucial moment, you shouted; 'Praise the Lord.'”
Sophia burst into uncontrollable sobs, threw her arms around Anthony's neck and smothered him with kisses.
“It's true. It is you. Where have you been ? Where did you go ?
Anthony responded and twenty five years of separation were lost in a blissful reunion.
MILAN, ITALY. AUGUST 16th STAR DIAMOND DEALERS. 3pm.
The door to the office burst open with such force it crashed against the wall. Paulo shot out of his chair, sending his liquor bottle flying across the desk. It landed at the feet of two very large men in expensive suits, standing in the doorway blocking the light.
“Hello Paulo. We've come for our money.” said the biggest hulk with faux friendliness.
The second, uglier hulk picked up the spilled bottle from the floor, took a large swig and then broke the bottle on Paulo's desk. They had obviously seen the good cop bad cop routine. Except these were not policemen. The second hulk grinned psychotically and silently waved the broken bottle under Paulo's chin.
“Patience Mario. Patience.” said hulk number one. “There's plenty of time for that. He's probably got our money for us right here. Isn't that right Paulo ?” the hulk casually pulled drawers from the desk and upended the contents on the floor.
Paulo cowered against the wall, unable to speak. A large damp patch appeared on the crotch of his trousers and a puddle spread across the floor at his feet.
“I guess that's a no then.” said hulk number one with gleeful disgust.
“He's all yours Mario.” he stepped aside and Mario stepped in with the broken bottle. “Money.” he said, drawing the jagged edge down Paulo's cheek and under his chin, pressing it upwards. Paulo whimpered against the wall as blood dripped heavily down his shirt. Mario pressed harder up into Paulo's chin. Hulk number one stopped him just before the broken glass appeared in Paulo's mouth. He picked up a set of car keys from the desk. “Is that your Porsche outside Paulo ?”
“Yes, yes, take it . Take it. It's yours.” Paulo spluttered through his own blood.
“That's very kind of you. We'll do that.” the men made to leave. At the door, hulk number one stopped and turned. “We'll be back for the rest in a few days. I hope you've got another ten of these.” he waved the car keys in the air. “Otherwise, Mario's gonna be very upset.” Mario threw the broken bottle against the wall next to Paulo's head, showering him in glass splinters. the hulks turned and left. Paulo collapsed to the floor and lay in his own blood and urine.
LINK TO PART FOUR.