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grown up?’ Antonio cannot contain his curiosity. He still has no
idea whether or not she is married. She wears a ring, but that
means nothing. Paolina looks about her vaguely. ‘Oh, travel… get
away from here, anyway.’ Her tone tells Antonio she is not happy.
‘Come on.’ She gets to her feet. ‘It’s time I was off again.’
He tries by any pretext to delay her; he still has so much he
wants to ask her. ‘What is it that we share?’ he asks hurriedly as
they cross the square.
She stops in her tracks and seems to weigh her words.
‘Perhaps I’ll tell you tomorrow,’ she smiles mysteriously, suddenly
planting a kiss on his cheek. She calls the child and they wander
off together chattering, watched by a bewildered Vivaldi. He can
hardly credit the turmoil inside him.
He plunges into work with renewed vigour. Early each morning he
awakens with the pleasant prospect of seeing Paolina. So the weeks
pass by, a chance meeting in the market, followed by coffee, always
at the same place beneath the arcade. They talk about all and
everything, but Paolina evades the question of what it is they share.
Like ten years before, she shows a fascinated interest in his work
and life, but, as then, gives little away regarding her own. It soon
becomes plain to the priest that something lies hidden behind her
warm façade and charming smile. But as relations between them
deepen, Paolina little by little reveals glimpses of her life. For years
she has helped her father in his wig-making business, assisting
him on the clerical side with orders and deliveries. But business is
going downhill, due not so much to a reduced demand for wigs,
for there is plenty, but more because Pietro Tessieri cannot stay off
the drink. Paolina confesses this with shame. Her father’s habit
has worsened over the years, she tells Antonio, and it did not help
that her mother had abandoned the family. Her two younger
brothers are still at home but they hardly lift a finger. The elder
finds a job every now and then, but the younger seems intent on
following in his father’s drunken footsteps. Antonio listens with
mounting horror as Paolina’s story unfolds. So dreadful is it that
215
197-248 Chapter 5.indd 215 22-11-2007 14:11:16
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