MYSTERIOUS HERITAGE

Fiction

 
40 year-old Italian ambassador, Count Giovanni Di Castellano, breaks all the rules of his world, when in New York in the 1930s, he falls in love with Sofia Assenova, a divorced, Bulgarian opera-star at La Scala. She gives up her brilliant career and converts to Roman Catholicism to obtain permission to marry Giovanni from the Italian King Victor Emanuel the Third, and from the Vatican.

Count Di Castellano is forced to resign after years of high profile work in Rome, Paris, Moscow, London, Morocco, and New York and returns home to Sicily. After his premature death, Sofia finds herself in a Sicilian mental home and tries to understand what has happened with her and why, struggling how to free herself from that place and from her past without anger and revenge. Seven years later Sofia is saved with great difficulty, and she recovers in a catholic monastery before finding the path back to her grown-up son, the new heir of the Di Castellano family.

Questions, mystery and resolution unfold in a unique love story.

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PART ONE

CHAPTER ONE

 

1991, Italy

“The key! Damn it! Where is the key?”

Michelangelo walked to the entrance hall and stood staring at the car as it drove away from his estate. Being sure he was alone in the whole palace he could check-up something long forgotten without drawing out any curiosity.

But the key to it was at no place he could found. The short hand of the big and beautiful clock moved. An hour went by too quickly and he wanted to finish before the others to come back.

Soon he stopped searching it. The energetic man in his late forties decisively ran up the long stairs. He propped open the door to the attic, allowing sunlight to creep inside the dusty space. For years nobody of the family had a reason to go there. Now his tall figure approached a corner and bent over a forgotten, dusty chest. Locked out! Why did he need a key to his mother's past? Who should have more right to know her secrets?

An angry slog followed, and another, and finally the rusty padlock, unused for years, fell onto the floor. Michelangelo lifted the creaking lid and jerked back to avoid the thick cloud of dust filling the air.

Now everything inside belonged only to him. Unfortunately he saw the things in their worst look. The brilliance of the once-fashioned clothes inside had faded away. The newspapers and photographs were yellow, their dry pages curling with age. By the pale light his eager hands touched each object in succession. For longer he stared at an article in an old magazine. It featured glossy pictures of the famous Sofiana Assenova, a world-renowned opera singer, and a soloist at the greatest Italian opera theatre of its era, La Scala. His mother! His breath stopped for second in surprise!

Beneath that magazine, on the bottom of the chest, lay her personal diary with tarnished covers. Feeling strange, Michelangelo opened it at random, and as he bent over the pages, silver tufts of his short-trimmed hair flopped onto his forehead. He began to read his mother’s most personal history jumping from one of her reminiscences to another. The lips moved following a story in a way he had to retell his three children a time later. From them he would not hide what was secret for him for so long.

What was the reason for it, for silence from all, relatives, workers, neighbours? Who was really his mother? At least to him she should have explained who she was.

 

1950

"Who are you?"

The question startled the woman. Was she suffering from hallucinations all the time? Was she a very ordinary, sick girl, who loved to dream about being an opera star or to marry a charismatic Count, while doctors and nurses took care of her mental disease? What sort of medications did the injections they give her contain? Standing in seclusion in a corner of the mental home, Sofiana shuddered with fear. Her isolation in a separate room had been repealed for some days now, but nobody had informed her of the reason. Therefore she had to remain in the common premises. The sight of other patients was frustrating to her, and at times, she feared their possible actions. Now one of them was staring at her with curiosity. To her horror she had attracted the interest of a real lunatic. Hiding in her corner, she huddled against the wall.

The patient, suffering from suicidal tendencies, had hurt himself. The eyes of the others grew dull, and trembling. They had burst into shrieks. The hospital attendants rushed into the premises, while Sofiana tried hard in the turmoil not to attract attention to herself. The question again gripped her mind that was numbed by sedatives.

"Who am I? I am… I was… I am… I was the wife… I was the wife of Count Di Castellano…"

 

1991, Italy, Sicily, in the attic

Some of his mother’s notes… Sounded painfully they gripped his mind. He was not in a hurry anymore despite the others would look for him upon their coming back. Straining his eyes in the semi-darkness, Michelangelo approached impatiently the window of the attic and having better light over the pages of the old diary he thirsty began to turn them again. It surprised him that some of the earlier content was written in Bulgarian, an unspoken language by him. Despite this he should find out the answers about her secret past, of which his family used to be so afraid.

A burning need for answers, always the same since his childhood... He remembered very well the first time he experienced this yearning to find the truth of the story he regarded as his heritage. It was a kind of boyish curiosity once. Now it was simply a never-ending mystery. His mother’s heritage seemed to him no less important than the inherited estates and shares from his father. About him Michelangelo claimed to know everything.

 

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