Chapter Five: Responsibilities
Part One: Preparing For
Rosabella grinned and complained to her niece that his manner was intolerable. “Yes, yes,” said the niece smiling slyly, “I can see your suffering from here.”
They laughed and went to bed.
Mattia did not have the benefit of sleep. He wheeled himself up and down the gallery’s elevator two dozen times. Boxes upon boxes were brought from his third floor apartment and emptied.
He straightened fixtures and arranged displays. Highlighted, accented, and illuminated the lobby.
One remaining detail – a table with an invitation and rose lit by a gentle single light – was put in place by the front door as the sun began to streak the night. Giving one last look at his creation, he dimmed the lights.
Then he wheeled himself onto the front sidewalk under the galłery’s marquee and waited. It was not long until he heard her voice:
Have I to see by
Day the one whose words
By night have moved me.
Mattia returned the greeting:
Presence outshines all.
To join me, please come
To the gallery.
Rosabella answered she would be there in three minutes.
He rolled into a shadow of the still-dark lobby. And waited.
It was an agonizing three minutes for Mattia. “This was a mistake,” he thought. What was he thinking? She would never . . . –
-There she was! Rosabella Terrazzo! He wanted to hide in his apartment or crawl under his wheelchair but it was too late!
She walked into the gallery wearing a face mask and found the invitation: “Welcome to Nuovo Galleria’s Presentation Titled ‘Facing Fear’.” She looked around.
Part Two: Approaching
Two lights came on and lit up a wall with thirty shots of her talking about gardens and flowers.
A row of lights lit up tables in the back with dozens more of her describing opulent dinners from long past.
And, there! In the middle of the lobby were the tiniest of lights intimately twinkling upon photographs of her smiling over flutes of Méthode Champenoise.
“Those are my favorites,” Mattia said from the shadows. “I trusted your eyes.”
Rosabella spun around not knowing which direction to face. “I’m sorry for losing your trust.”
“You didn’t,” he said. Mattia pushed himself from the shadows and rolled his wheelchair to her. “I took it back.”
She pulled over a chair and they sat six socially distanced feet apart without looking at each other.
Rosabella spoke of inheriting the family business half a century ago. “I was twenty-five and terrified of failing,” she said.
“Afraid of letting down her family. Of not putting food on the table or not keeping a roof over her siblings’ heads. Afraid of . . .”
“. . . Of what?” Mattia asked.
She paused, took a deep breath, and continued, “Never laughing or enjoying conversations the way we have.” She spoke quietly.
Her silence filled their conversation.
Mattia wheeled back into the shadows and returned with a bottle of Méthode Champenoise and two flutes. Rosabella decided that the champagne would keep out any pandemic and lowered her face mask.
The glasses were filled and they toasted to “Laughter and Conversation.”
Part Three: Acknowledging
He spoke of buying the building fifty years ago to display his photographs. Others in the area asked to show their work and he turned it into Nuovo Galleria.
He met his wife at an exhibition and they married soon after. For a dozen years their world was each other and the gallery. Every day he would serenade her with poetry.
Sometimes he would quote from legends – Claire de la Chovney, Moss Iverson, or J. L. Beckdar. More often it what his own words. Improvised in, and flowing from, the moment.
Then she died.
Rosabella stood to look at the pictures. In the back, off to the side, was a canvas hanging on the wall. Under it was a picture of a woman.
“Who’s this?” she called to Mattia.
Rosabella marveled: “She is beautiful.”
“I visited her grave yesterday evening. Reminded her that my Love had not dimmed in the thirty-five years since her death. But I would no longer allow the pain of her death keep me from living.”
Rosabella questioned “What changed?”
“When she died all beauty left. Until I saw you.” He proposed a toast to “Beauty Most Everlasting.” They clinked glasses and drained their flutes.
She spoke: “I’ve been thinking . . . ?”
Mattia chimed in: “That’s never been a strength of mine.”
Rosabella laughed and continued: “I’ve been thinking that maybe I could . . .”
Mattia wheeled toward her and spoke, “I am sure you could. Why don’t you?”
“Yes, of course I COULD,” stumbled Rosabella. “What I mean is . . .”
Mattia wheeled closer and said, “What DO you mean?”
Rosabella’s wasn’t sure. She asked if the lobby was getting warmer. Mattia refilled her glass and she finished it in one drink.
She had no idea how to say what was on her mind!
“Come on, Rosabella,” she told herself. “You can do this! Figure it out!”
She had given presentations to wealthy and powerful individuals for half a century. She had spoken to thousands of people at a single time and had been interviewed in hundreds of publications.
But words had never gotten lost inside her head. She had never forgotten what to say. Until now.
Part Four: Accepting
Mattia asked her to continue but she couldn’t. “Think, think, think,” she told herself.
She pulled her chair next to his and whispered: “I have been thinking I could, . . . or you might . . . or maybe we could do something like this . . .”
They leaned toward each and . . .-
“-That doesn’t look like social distancing to me,” said the Favorite Niece.
Mattia looked up and smiled, “One of yours?” Rosabella sighed and agreed: “One of mine.”
The niece, wearing a face mask, came closer and asked for an introduction. Rosabella obliged: “Mattia, this is my niece.”
“FAVORITE niece is what she means,” said the niece.
“Only if you leave now,” countered Rosabella.
The niece continued, “You’ve got less than a minute to hide until the rest of the family drags you off to meetings with the attorneys and investors.”
Rosabella had forgotten about the meetings! She resumed her duties the night before and the meetings would finalize the details.
The niece spoke again and with more urgency: “The family will be here any moment. You can’t go with them.”
Rosabella saw her family crossing the street. She looked at her niece and told her she would not hide from her responsibility.
She kissed Mattia’s hand and apologized: “I have to go.” Mattia pressed his cheek into her hand and nodded his understanding.
She walked out dictating letters to her niece.
Mattia wheeled around the lobby. There were shots of Rosabella everywhere. He filled his glass and raised it to his deceased wife and then to Rosabella.
“To ‘Beauty Most Everlasting’,” he said and drank the glass in full.
Behind him he heard, “It’s a good thing I brought another bottle. And breakfast.”
He spun around and there was Isabella and the Favorite Niece – both in face masks. He wheeled up and asked about facing her responsibility.
Rosabella explained she drafted a letter of resignation and appointed her niece as Special Liaison to the Outgoing Chief Executive and Assistant to the Chair to the Executive Council. Her first task was to deliver the resignation letter to the investors and attorneys.
“By the way,” asked the niece. “Do you have a table to set up breakfast?”
He tilted his head to the back of the lobby and in a moment breakfast was served.
The newly installed Special Liaison to the Outgoing Chief Executive and Chair to the Executive Council hugged. All three raised a glass to future success.
Alone, they dined on breads, pastries, and sipped cappuccino. Mattia thought this could be a new great meal. Rosabella agreed and raised her glass in a toast.
“To ‘Great Meals’?” he asked.
“And ‘Overcoming Fears’,” she said.
They clinked glasses, toasted each other, and laughed.
The End of BEYOND REACH.
About the Artist:
The art for BEYOND REACH is by N. Krok. The artist is a graduate of Raritan Valley Community College and is finishing up their degree at The College of New Jersey in Art Education with a minor in Art History. They enjoy graphic design, art history, and finding new adventures to read and writing some along the way.