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Yesterday and Today English Edition Part Ten (The Last)

English Edition Part Ten (The Last)

 

 

   “Why don’t you tell me about your life in Australia, Ludovic? What have you done for all this years? Have you ever been married?

    “I’ll tell you my story, Rosie, and then is your turn.”

     ‘I’ve told you already, Ludovic. I’m an Italian descendent and I was born in North Queensland. I dedicated my entire life to my family and my work. Nothing fancy really, one of the many plain lives that many have.”

    “Well, I have already told you a few things about me, Rose. I came to Australia soon after the war was over and, as many others at that time, I went to the Snowy Rivers project. I had the responsibility to prepare the explosives and detonate then in the tunnels. The job went smooth until the day my colleague made a terrible mistake that pre-ignited the explosives. He and another two men lost their lives and I was badly burned on my legs, but I survived the accident. During those years, because of my accent, many people thought I was an ex German soldier and they let me know of their anger for the many bad things Germans did at war time. My remonstration, in telling them I was a Swiss born, was hardly accepted with many, and quite skeptical they turned their friendship away from me.

       I kept moving away. I’ve been around a lot, seeing Australia while moving from one state to another, doing odd jobs here and there. I never was prone of factory work because it is repetitive and too monotonous. I needed something where I could use better my intelligence and learned different trades. I’ve been a plumber and an electrician which I founded to be more interesting and rewording jobs.

    “No, in all these years I have never been married, although, from time to time, I lived in a de facto relationship, with different women and in different states. They always demanded too much and returned too little. None of those women that had been my lovers had been capable of returning the most important thing in a union. They lacked in understanding and compatibility necessary to create the solid knot necessary to be man and wife. In the end, discouraged, I chose celibacy and freedom.

   “That’s summarily what had been my life for decades.”

    “Thank you, Ludovic. Apparently we both have had such boring lives.

     “But now it is time for our afternoon tea.”

     Rose went to the kitchen to prepare it and while the electric kettle was boiling, she considered Frederic arguments.

     Finally she exclaimed, ‘He lied to me!”

 

     She returned to the living room with the tea and cakes and served it to Ludovic.

     Then with a sardonic smile she said, “Bravo. It was a well rehearsed act that you have told me. Tell me how many times have you used it before? It’s evident you haven’t told me the real truth. You are not what you say you are. You are certainly not a plumber or else your kitchen tap wouldn’t be leaking. Also you aren’t an electrician either, are you Ludovic? The electrical cord of the kettle is badly worn and risky. The wires are exposed and can electrocute you any time. But tell me, as an electrician didn’t you see the danger? Tell me, it never passed through your mind the necessity to have a new cord? Why Ludovic? Why are you lying to me?”

    “I’m asking the same question, Lucia. Isn’t this your real name? It is now long time I recognize who you really are, But why, why are hiding your real name? What is behind your past that compels you to keep secret your previous life?”

     For a short time Rose was taken aback, she never thought he could possibly had recognized her.

     “I hate you! Finally I can say that Ludovic. Because of you I can’t forget the past, isn’t that clear enough, Ludovic.”

    “I haven’t forgotten the past either, Lucia. How could I possibly have forgotten you, Lucia? I always thought you were dead until recently when you came back into my life. When we met, at the first moment I wasn’t so sure. Then finally your mannerisms, which had never changed since the old days, told me that you were the real Lucia.”

     “I’m not Lucia. I’m Rose. And don’t forget the real reason I’m here. It’s because you have a debt from the past and now is the time you pay for it. That’s why destiny had taken me back, Ludovic. You haven’t forgotten, or have you Commandant? Have you forgotten that evening in Piazza Santa Caterina, when you murdered those innocent women?  Is their blood still fresh on your hands? Is that the reason why you kept running away all your life looking for peace?  Has the remorse of killing them hunted you all this years and is that the reason you have been hiding under a false name hoping you will go unpunished? Is it, Ludovic?”

    “I’ve done that because of you. On that day they told me that those women had killed you in the piazza. I had to have to revenge for you, Lucia.”

    “So was that the reason why you took my mother with the others and killed her? Did you kill my mother because you were in love with me?”

     “My God, NOOO. Honestly Lucia, I didn’t know your mother was one of those women. How could I? God, what have I done? How can that be possible?”

    Ludovic was extremely distressed for the mistake that unconsciously had committed in the past and his weak body was visibly sacking.

   “I have recognized you since the first moment Ludovic, and patiently I have waited. Do you understand why I had to keep the secret? I wanted to know your real identity.  I wanted justice. You must pay for that crime.”

     “There has been a mistake, Lucia, and I’m sorry. I didn’t know your mother.  

      “I had to punish those women. I did it because of you, because of what they did to you, because I was in love with you. That’s the only reason I did it. I had to revenge your death.”

     Rose started to feel compassion for the old man in front of her. There was no longer any arrogance in him. He had lost the past imperious German Commandant’s authority. He was now a man proved by fifty years of loneliness in exile. He was sobbing, contrite for his past error, and he was unashamed of his weakness. He let exhausts the bitterness in him crying, and let the anxieties repressed in his soul come out. He was affected by mental fatigue and he was breathing with difficulty.

     Rosie’s anger for revenge slowly dissipated in front of Ludovic’s fragility. She could then see how the atrocity he had committed in those old days had weighted heavily on his conscience, grieving him for the past fifty years.

   “Why have you done such a terrible thing, Ludovic? Why? I can see now that what you have committed isn’t entirely a war crime, but it is still a crime. You have killed innocent people in your blindness. You haven’t seen reality, while shadowed by your emotion. You had committed a crime of passion, which is still a serious crime punishable by law.”

      Ludovic bent his head, destroyed by the heavy evidences in front of him and he was repented by the past mistakes. Mostly he felt discouraged seeing Lucia, the woman that always had been in his dreams and who had always loved, rising in front of him to judge him and accuse him. He never had expected it.

He murmured, “What are you going to do? Are you going to inform the police?”

       “I don’t know yet about that, Ludovic. In a way I’m feeling equally responsible, in front of God, for the death of those women. You killed them because of me.”

      It was quite a bitter statement from her and hard to accept, but she saw the truth in it. She had been the reason that indirectly had induced the killing of those women.

    It was the love for her that had compelled the Commandant to such a depreciable action. She murmured silently, with a vision in front of her.

     “Mother, forgive me…”

      Her throat was now closed in a knot of despair. Then, silently she started weeping.

      She accepted reality. She began to understand that the man seat in front of her had committed the crime only because he was so much in love.

      How could she forget the love they had in the past? Suddenly she realized that he still loved her in that unchanged way from when she was the young Lucia in those remote days.

    She looked at him. Her eyes were now reflecting gentleness and understanding. She wished to let him know that hope was still possible. Softly she smiled back at him. Reassuringly she stretched her hand to his shoulder and in a friendly way went to him.

    Reassuringly saying, “Our tea is getting cold, Ludovic. I’m going to prepare a fresh pot.”

            

~*~

                                                                                                                  

  Two years had passed since that day. It had been a time of forgiveness, time to catch up the many years of separation, time to better understand each other.

    Ludovic had finally restored his peace of mind and wasn’t any longer troubled by past memories. He was comforted by Rose’s friendship.

    He finally, one night in his sleep, died peacefully.

    Only a few people attended his memorial at the Newcastle Cemetery to tell him good bye, but there was only one woman crying silently for him. She mentally said a prayer, asking God to forgive him for his past. She had already given him forgiveness, friendship, and understanding in the last days of his human life.

    She dropped the red rose she had in her hand, and then threw a handful of sand over the casket. Finally, she murmured to him, those words he had waited to hear for the past two years, but which she never spoke,   

   “Ludovic, I have loved you also. Only my pride had stopped me from telling you that before.”         

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