Children of Liberty(8)

By: Paullina Simons






Chapter Four




GREAT EXPECTATIONS




1

IN a narrow alley, away from the bustle of Salem Street, the main artery of North End, they pulled up to a three-story building and Ben and Harry jumped down. Ben tied up the horse, while Harry helped Mimoo down from the carriage. He was going to help Gina down too, and she wanted him to, extending her hand to him, but Salvo intervened before Harry even came close to touching her. Salvo helped her down, too roughly for her liking.

“Thank you, young man,” Mimoo said in the meantime to Harry. “I hope we are on the first floor. I am very tired.”

“Unfortunately we are on the third.”

“Ah, but from the third floor,” Ben said, “you can see Boston Harbor if you lean out the window and look to the left.”

“Boston Harbor?” Salvo repeated contemptuously. “I lived a road away from the Adriatic sea. I was born and raised on the Mediterranean.”

“I’m sure it’s very nice,” said Ben. “But we don’t have the Mediterranean here. Just the harbor.”

Mimoo turned to Harry. “Forgive Salvo for squabbling. It’s been a long journey.”

“Nothing to forgive. He is in better spirits than most people we meet.”

Mimoo smiled. “You do this often?”

“Every week when the ships come in. If we have the space.”

Mimoo looked inside the front doors. A dark wide staircase ran up the center of the building like a spine. “How are we going to get our heavy trunks up three flights of stairs? We are such a burden. You shouldn’t have bothered with us.”

“It’s no bother,” Harry said. “None at all. This is what we do. We’ll get you upstairs, don’t worry.”

Mimoo appraised him, her face softening.

“Believe me, you won’t mind being on the third floor,” said Harry, helping her to the landing. “On the first floor you hear the sailors outside your windows all night in the summers. They tend to get rowdy by the docks.”

“You are so well mannered. How did you get into this line of work?”

“I’m not in this line of work,” Harry corrected her. “My father owns some apartment buildings. In the summers when we’re on a lighter load at university, we help him manage them. Ben and I see to the three he has here on Lime Alley.”

“He’s got more?”

“A few more.”

“Isn’t that the understatement of the decade,” Ben said, propping open the front door with a piece of driftwood. Harry glanced down the pavement at Gina, who in her blue dress and faded hat stood entranced by the little boys playing ball on the street. He watched her for a moment. Maybe two.

“She won’t like Lawrence,” Harry said to Mimoo, nodding to Gina. “It’s too sleepy. You’re sure you don’t want to stay? We can help you. We’ll find you work.”

Mimoo shook her head. “Too sleepy for her maybe, but ideal for her mother, who worries too much. I don’t need excitement in my life. I’ve had enough of it, thank you.” She shrugged. “Gia will be fine. She’ll be fine anywhere.”

“Gia?”

“It’s Gia when I love her,” said Mimoo. “My husband never called her anything but that. Me, I love her, but she drives me crazy. So headstrong. To call her stubborn like a mule is an injustice to mules. The mules are St. Francis compared to her.”

Harry laughed.

“It’s my husband’s fault, bless his soul,” Mimoo went on. “Now he was a saint. Adored her. And she took every advantage. Wouldn’t take no for an answer. You know what my husband used to say, may he rest in peace?” She crossed herself. “He said many wise things. Like your father, I imagine?”

“My father is mostly silent,” said Harry. “But if he did speak, perhaps he would say wise things.”

“Well, my dearest departed Alessandro, the second greatest man ever to walk this earth, and the greatest man to stand before the gates of St. Peter, said about his children, they find a life everywhere they look.”

Mimoo held on to Harry’s arm. He nodded politely, listening as if deep in thought. The day was waning and the shadows were long.

“But if that is true, señora,” Harry said, as they began slowly to walk up the stairs, with Ben carrying one of the trunks behind them, “why did you leave your homeland? You must have thought you could find a better life here, no?”

“No,” replied Mimoo. “That is not why we left.”

“Why then?”

The weary Italian woman nodded at her children behind her. “Where we come from, everybody lives only one kind of life. Alessandro said he wanted his children to choose the life, not the life to choose the children. And also,” she added, panting, slowing down and wiping her brow, “he said America is the only place in the world where even the poor can be smart.”

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