The Romantic on The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Monday, December 16, 2013

Romantic Musings: The Romantic (pt 5)

When the letter came, Hadriel Alighieri felt that life, as he knew it, was over. The time for his mandatory military service had come. Though selection was made by a lottery system, fate had determined that Hadriel Alighieri’s time with Sophia Paula would end.
Six years together as the best of friends allowed them to learn as much as there was to discover about two kids who had yet to truly discover themselves, but as the date of his departure for the military approached, Hadriel was moved by the fear of what would be lost, and preemptively reached for her heart.
On her birthday in mid-July, he presented her with a letter, and two poems that confessed his desire to be more than friends. He selfishly ignored that he was leaving in less than sixty-days.
The entire village was abuzz when it was discovered that Hadriel Alighieri had revealed his feelings to Sophia Paula, because it wasn't a secret that could easily be kept. Everyone knew how close they were, and noticed that they had spent a week apart. A peculiarity that raised eyebrows, and inspired inquiries about "what happened?"
Even Padre Carlo Coelho weighed in on the matter when he found Hadriel Alighieri sitting alone on a bench in the plaza. The cleric sat down beside him without saying a word. After a while, Hadriel Alighieri turned to the old man and asked if this is why people pray.
“People pray for many things. God will grant you your request, if you ask Him from the heart.” Padre Carlo Coelho pointed at his chest.
“Matthew seven, seven. Yes, Padre, I’m aware of the verse, but if God holds sway over another’s heart, then is it true love?” Hadriel Alighieri closed his book.
Padre Carlo Coelho pondered the question and scratched his chin. God’s will, he thought. If whom we love is God’s will, then free will is merely an illusion. And if we love whom we choose to love, then how can God punish us?
Padre Carlo Coelho intuitively understood what Hadriel Alighieri endured. For he too had once fallen in love, in his native Brazil, when he was a boy and love was a hopeless passion. He remembered her still, Maria Ruiz-Gonzalez, the angel that paralyzed his heart. Padre Carlo Coelho reflected on the kindness in her hazel eyes, and the comfort he felt in her embrace. He always loved to see her wear her long wavy brown hair twisted in a braid over her shoulder.
Her heart was restless and her laugh contagious, but it was her smile that he remembered most. For when Carlo Coelho emerged from the ashes of the fire on December 15th, 1961, the Gran Circus Norte-Americano’s premier transformed into a tragedy that claimed five hundred lives. Among the dead lied Maria Ruiz-Gonzalez, and the unborn seed in her womb.
Devastated, Carlo Coelho fell into a deep depression, and there was no power on earth to grant him solace. Within a broken heart lie a realm of impenetrable shadows, and the echo of what could have been. A devout Catholic, he turned to God for answers, but He did not answer. Not at first.
Then, one morning, he woke in the street. Carlo Coelho had passed out from the excessive consumption of alcohol, and wandered in the night in search of the shadow of death. Instead, Azrael had come to him in a dream.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Azrael leaned in close.
Carlo Coelho gave the angel of death a guarded look.
“You possess the answers that you seek.” Azrael whispered.
Carlo Coelho inched away. The angel of death nodded at Carlo Coelho’s chest. Carlo felt something press against his ribs. He rummaged through his pockets to see what Azrael referred to. He pulled out a flask, and tangled around the lip was a rosary.
How did this get here, he wondered. For Carlo Coelho had not seen his rosary since his First Communion. “You are the devil!” He looked at Azrael, astonished.
“I am not the devil.” Azrael loomed closer. “He is kinder than I.”
Carlo Coelho woke from his drunken dream. The sun peered over the peak of the Corcovado Mountain. A silhouette loomed at its summit. The statue of Christ the Redeemer with outstretched arms was the sign that led Carlo Coelho to take the Cloth. For he had long ago promised Maria Ruiz-Gonzalez that he would never love another woman, and he intended to keep his promise.
Thirty-three years later, he sat on a bench in the plaza beside Hadriel Alighieri. He knew how the boy felt. He was familiar with the seismic tremor of young love.
At eighteen years of age, Hadriel Alighieri presented young love with the fervor of a man, no longer a boy enthralled by childhood obsessions.
Padre Carlo Coelho was right: puppy love is all bark, no bite, but young love with its refined romanticism gently caresses a heart, so as to not disturb the rhythm of its beat. Learning it, studying it, until the breathing falls in sync and the heart falls in love.
Hadriel’s error was in his haste, or so he thought. He granted Sophia Paula space to reflect on the words he poured onto pages. Lyrical, liquid love as strong as ninety-proof alcohol, and she was left with a hangover that lasted a week. Though the permanent intoxication, he'd learn many years later, never truly dissipated. The words of the letter had long since been whisked away by time, but the poems he kept prisoner in his heart. In a realm that remained interlocked with hers.
When Sophia’s reply arrived in the form of a letter, Hadriel raced home to retrieve it. He entered his home and found La Señora Keila seated beside his mother. She stood and approached. Her eyes shone with the giddiness of a schoolgirl awaiting a letter from her own, first true love.
"She sent for you." La Señora Keila embraced him. "What happened?"
"I was in the plaza." Hadriel Alighieri answered. "Is she here?"
"She went out for a walk, but she left you this." La Señora Keila brandished an envelope with his name written in Sophia Paula’s tight cursive script.
He studied her smile for any indication of the contents of the letter, and asked, "Did she say anything to you?"
"No, mijo. She has kept to herself all week. She didn't come out of her room except to eat, shower, and go to work."
Hadriel’s blank stare fell to the floor, and he wondered how Sophia Paula felt.
"Something you should know Hadriel is that despite how beautiful my daughter is, and despite how much attention she gets from boys, no one has ever approached her in this way.”
La Señora Keila explained that no man had ever taken the time to pen his emotions in a letter; no one had ever given much thought to courting her with romantic poetry inspired by sincere expressions with carefully considered words. She knew that Sophia appreciated Hadriel’s sincerity.
Sophia Paula had never before secluded herself from the world to consider the prospect of love. She had been moved. Regardless of what she wrote to Hadriel Alighieri, he needed to know that if it hadn’t affected her then she wouldn't have responded at all, or she wouldn't have taken so long to formulate her reply. La Señora Keila believed that by making the effort to consider her own words carefully, it revealed more than one letter from her would ever say.
La Señora Keila embraced Hadriel, and he fled to the sanctuary of his room. The note within the envelope had merely been a request for a little more time. Without much appetite and with very little sleep, Hadriel Alighieri clung to hope. A low rapping at the door distracted him from his thoughts. His mother stood beside a servant from the home of the Paula’s with a message that Sophia wished to meet him in the garden.
She sat on a bench beneath a mango tree. Her green eyes were pensive, and glistening in the evening light. Sophia Paula smiled when Hadriel Alighieri approached. She stood to embrace him and invited him to take a seat. It was the same stone bench where they conversed for the first time. In essence, it was the center of their universe. It was where their friendship began.
She asked him about his reasons, and his timing. For it perplexed her that he professed his love on the eve of leaving for the military. He sat with her in silence. His voice escaped him, just as it had when they first met. He tried to say something, but he feared ruining the moment. He feared chasing her away. For he never felt more at ease than when he was in her presence.
La Señora Keila stepped out onto the terrace before he replied. She called out to Sophia Paula, and reminded her that they didn’t have much time. Dazed, Hadriel Alighieri could have sworn he heard La Señora Keila mention packing and the move.
In those few minutes, the sun fell beyond the horizon and destiny and chance were taken with the day. La Señora Keila called out to her again. Sophia Paula stood and waved at her mother before she turned again to Hadriel Alighieri.
“Remember me as I am.” She said to him.
She left him under a tree and under the moon and under the stars. She did not promise to return. She gave him a kiss and a letter. A long letter that was difficult to write. A letter that gave him a glimpse into her heart and revealed her confusion.
He watched her leave with tears in his eyes. He already realized how completely he would cherish the memory of the only woman he would ever truly love. After reading the letter, he folded it the way she folded it, and kept it folded that way until the end of his days.

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