Waving atcha, my darlings!
There’s a rumour going around that a big golden ball will rise in a blue sky tomorrow. I believe it’s called the sun and it’s been a while since we’ve seen it around here. I’m thinking BBQ, maybe…
It’s time for a Ludlow Hall short story…
The Dower House just after dawn on Saturday morning…
Sophia Ferranti, tucked up all warm and cozy in her princess bed, was drifting in that lovely space between awake and asleep. It occurred to her the birds were terribly noisy this morning. The Ferranti’s didn’t keep geese themselves, but her papa had let a young couple, the Matthews, rent a smallholding next to their land at the bottom of their lane. The Matthews kept a variety of geese, chickens, goats and four really cute Lamas. Right now the geese squawked and screeched. When a couple of cockerels began to crow to add their voice to the dawn chorus her brows met. She heaved a sigh, rolled onto her other side and snuggled into her The Greatest Showman comforter. It smelled of lavender. In her mind she heard the song A Million Dreams and began to drift off into an awesome world about the circus. But then her eyes flew open…
The creak came again—the movement of someone walking over a floorboard in the hallway outside her room. It wasn’t a usual sound for this time in the morning. Her mama and papa had a certain routine, especially when the baby was teething. No, this was something quite different. Her heart beat faster. But the sound of a boyish hiss made her roll her eyes. It was her stupid brothers. She was about to go right back to sleep when a stifled giggle had her shoot up to sit. Did they seriously think they were being quiet? Then she wondered why were they sneaking around the house at this time in the morning? A tread on the stair told her they were on their way to the kitchen. The kitchen was the place where the last of the chocolate Easter eggs were safe from greedy boys. In fact, Sophia’s favourite milk chocolate egg, an untouched gift from Auntie Rosie, was in a glass cupboard in the kitchen. And that greedy pig, Luca, had had his beady eyes on that egg for days. Like an arrow fired from a longbow, Sophia was out of bed, out the door and tip-toeing down the stairs—careful to avoid the squeaky tread.
In her Elsa nightie, she slid, like a ninja, to press her ear to the kitchen door, she couldn’t hear the rustling of a carboard box opening, or the crackle of golden paper. Instead, her brows flew into her hairline because it seemed someone was pressing buttons to disengage the alarm system. Her mouth dropped open because touching the alarm system was, in the words of Auntie Rosie, verboten. NAUGHTY BOYS. All thoughts of her chocolate egg fled when the sound of the back door closing had her scurry on bare feet through the kitchen to the window to watch ten year old Tonio and her twin, Luca, creep very slowly along a gravel path screened by a tall conifer hedge. The boys were dressed in black from head to toe, T-shirt, jogging pants and running shoes. Through narrowed eyes, her mouth pursing, Sophia Ferranti reckoned she had three choices.
1 – Go straight to mama and papa and tattle tale.
2 – Leave her brothers to it and go back to bed.
3 – Follow and find out exactly what they were up to, gather the FACTS and THEN tattle-tale. Number three it was.
It didn’t take her long to get dressed in black leggings, hoodie and matching sneakers. On her way out the door, she passed the huge mirror leaning against the bedroom wall. It struck her that unlike her brother’s inky curls her white-blonde hair might attract unwanted attention, so she shoved her plait beneath a black woollen cap, and headed out.
Her heart beat fast with thrilled excitement as she raced to the end of the gravel path and paused. She’d never been out alone at this time in the morning. The world was very different. Quiet. Empty of people. Empty of cars or farm tractors. She peeked around the end of the lane and didn’t see a sign of her brothers. She jogged past the Matthews cute cottage. A couple of lama’s, chewing on a straw bale, watched her with unfettered interest, but undeterred, she raced to the bottom of the road, looked right and left and just caught her brothers strolling along the road as if they hadn’t a care in the whole wide world. When they turned into another narrow lane that led back to The Dower House, Sophia was confused. Why sneak out of the house, go down the road and then up the lane that took them back home?
However, she’d got out of her warm bed this morning and come this far.
What was it Auntie Rosie said, in for a penny in for a pound?
When she turned into the lane and tracked them, using huge oak trees that lined the lane for cover, Sophia decided this was THE best fun, evah. If only her best friend Emily was here. She’d get such a rush. Or maybe not. Emily was a scaredy-cat at times, and she was allergic to certain pollens. Since Sophia herself was not allergic to anything or ever got sick, she didn’t have a lotta sympathy for people like Emily and Luca who always had the sniffles and caught every bug.
Meanwhile, her brothers climbed over a wooden slatted fence constructed for ramblers to have a right of way across the countryside. Her papa always made sure the gates were well constructed and in ‘good nick’ as Auntie Rosie said.
When Luca laughed out loud and shoved his brother, Sophia curled her lip.
They made more noise than a herd of elephants.
By this time, she’d reached the fence herself.
The boys, back to creeping on their tip-toes, headed straight for the huge barn conversion that housed her papa’s personal gym and a swimming pool that was STRICTLY VERBOTEN to the Ferranti children without adult supervision.
The boys peered through a window.
As if by magic Tonio produced a silver metal key from his pocket, and Sophia’s jaw dropped open for the second time.
Surely they were not going into the gym?
Oh yes they were, she thought, as they entered.
Oh man, she thought with something like satisfaction, the boys were they in BIG trouble now.
However, typically, they hadn’t closed the door properly, so it didn’t take her moments to slip in and softly click the door closed.
The floor was a polished wood of pale oak. The walls built of ancient red brick. The ceiling was high. Large skylights let in the sun. Dust motes danced in the early morning rays. The place smelled of lemon wipes, chlorine from the pool sparkling like a blue lake behind a floor to ceiling glass wall, and a very faint odor of sweat.
As she crouched behind a wellness ball, Sophia watched her brothers switch on the high ceiling lights. The whole place was suddenly so bright it made her blink.
“Okay,” Tonio said as he approached a bench press and rubbed his hands with obvious glee. “You need to spot me.”
Luca nodded his head so hard his curls danced.
“No probs,” he said, obviously channelling his papa.
Watching all the pathetic male posturising, as her Auntie Rosie would call the chest beating behaviour, Sophia’s brows flew into her hairline and her little mouth pursed into a rosebud shape her brothers hated.
Tonio grabbed a barbell and wound a silver metal weight to one end and then the other, then he lay on the bench, grabbed the barbell, took a breath and lifted it up once, twice.
Sophia couldn’t help it, she rolled her eyes.
All that cloak and dagger this morning for this?
“Cool!” Luca the clueless said.
“I started at a low weight to work my way up,” Tonio told him, sounding like a boss. He returned the pole to its slots and rose. He rubbed his hands again. “I’ll add three extra pounds.”
After watching her brothers, Tonio was a bit red in the face by this time, it became clear to Sophia trouble lay ahead because Luca had the muscle tone of a starving flea. He would be less than useless in an emergency if Tonio found himself in difficulties.
It also occurred to Sophia, too late, that she should have grabbed her mama’s cell phone from the kitchen table.
What was a girl to do?
It was her duty, she heard her papa’s voice in her head, to put a stop to it.
Like a jack in the box she leapt to her feet and yelled, “What the HELL do you two think you’re doing?”
The boys got such a fright that Tonio lost focus and let go of the barbell.
The weight caught him across the shoulders, pinning him to the bench press.
His screams of pain had Luca cry out too.
Sophia flew to Tonio’s side.
She felt sick when she saw his face white, his eyes wide with shock.
“Stop yelling, Luca!” she spat at her twin. “Help me lift this off him.”
It took a huge amount of effort, but the twins managed to return the barbell to its slots.
However, it was clear one of poor Tonio’s shoulders looked—odd.
And at any moment Luca, by the look of him, was about to pass out.
He did that a lot when upset, either that or he was as sick as a dog.
Sheer panic might grip her belly, but since she didn’t want either to happen, Sophia grabbed Luca’s shoulders and shook him hard, not easy since he was a good five inches taller than her. “Don’t you dare pass out. Run to the Matthews and tell them to call an ambulance. NOW!”
Luca, his appalled grey eyes glued to hers, nodded. “‘Kay.”
She shoved him towards the door. “Hurry!”
Feeling terribly sick herself, in her mind Sophia chanted, oh God, oh God. But she kept it together as she turned to Tonio and promptly burst into tears.
Tonio felt as if pain was all over, passing through him in stunning waves that drowned every cell in his body. Pain strangled him until he couldn’t hear, couldn’t breathe.
His breathe came in short little pants, each inhale agony.
He made a sound like the whimpering of a dog.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw his sister.
Her little hands, trembling, hovered over him.
“I don’t want to touch you in case I hurt you. What can I do?” she sobbed.
His breath came faster now in choking gasps that caught another scream in his throat.
A sound burst from his throat—a whine.
Sophia began sob in earnest now, tears tracked down her pale face.
Big emerald eyes, desperately worried, stared into his.
The slam of car doors had Sophia leap to her feet and run towards the door.
Mr. Matthews, a man in his early thirties sprinted into the gym, his wife not far behind him. Both wore jeans, T-shirts and wellington boots.
He sank to his knees in front of Tonio, dark brown eyes taking in the scene.
“Looks like you’ve injured that shoulder. The ambulance is on its way. I won’t touch you, okay?”
Tonio nodded and that was all it took for his world to go black.
Mr. Matthews glanced at a Sophia who had her fist pressed to her mouth.
“Is he dead?” she whispered.
He wrapped a strong arm around her shoulder.
“No. He’s passed out.” He cocked his head. “Ah, sounds like the ambulance.”
Five minutes later and paramedic Susan Bradshaw entered with her colleague hot on her heels. Serious blue eyes took in the scene as she shrugged off her dark green backpack.
“Never a dull moment with the Ferranti family,” she muttered. She opened her backpack. After using scissors to cut off Tonio’s T-shirt, she studied the damage and nodded. “If the worst he has is a dislocated shoulder he’s got off lucky.” She nodded glanced at Mr. Matthews and nodded at a wide-eyed Sophia. “Take her out of here.”
“I’m not leaving him,” Sophia declared, her chin lifting.
Susan took out medication, including a syringe, and made short work of making Tonio more comfortable.
Sharp blue eyes studied Sophia’s face for a moment.
“Fair enough, as long as you don’t feel squeamish at the sight of blood.”
Sophia shook her head.
Susan’s lips twitched, but she kept a straight face as she took Tonio’s vitals and gave him oxygen.
“Of course you are,” she said and stood aside as her partner slid a board beneath Tonio and then wrapped him in blankets.
They lifted him onto a trolley.
“Is he going to be alright?” Sophia whispered, her heart a slow sluggish beat against her ribs.
“He’s a Ferranti. He’s tough. We’ll know more after he’s had an X-ray,” Susan told her. “Ah, I hear the rest of the gang arriving.”
Sure enough Nico and Bronte Ferranti crashed through the doors, and that was when Sophia let all the anxiety and worry out. She raced to her mama and threw herself into her arms.
“Hush now,” Bronte crooned as she nuzzled her daughter, but her eyes were glued to Tonio’s pale face. “Everything’s going to be alright.”
Meanwhile, Nico was listening carefully to everything Susan Bradshaw and Mr. Matthews told him. He shoved his hand through his black hair.
“Dio, I do not know what they were thinking.”
“We were pumping iron,” Luca told him. “We want big guns like you and Uncle Alexander.”
Susan’s face creased.
“That makes a crazy sort of sense.”
Nico, not in the mood for laughter, turned to Bronte.
“You go with Tonio in the ambulance and I’ll follow in the car,” he said.
She nodded and handed him their daughter.
Nico, Sophia and Luca watched as the ambulance rolled down the narrow road.
“Grazie,” Nico said to Mr. Matthews and shook his hand.
“We’re happy to keep the children with us. Perhaps they’d like to help feed the chickens and the goats?”
Nico shifted to look at a very pale Sophia. “Would you like that?”
Sophia sniffed. “Okay.”
“We haven’t had breakfast,” Luca reminded his papa.
Mr. Matthews grinned. “Good job Gretchen’s a good cook then.”
Luca, his hand safely tucked in Gretchen’s, looked up at her.
“Do you have bacon?”
“Plenty,” she assured him, her eyes twinkling.
“Do you know you smell of horse poop?”
Sophia gasped. “How rude! They live on a farm, stupid. Anyway, Auntie Rosie says everyone should take a big deep breath of country air and manure, it’s good for the lungs.”
His hand scrubbing the scruff on his jaw, Nico closed his eyes.
“They’ll be fine,” Mr. Matthews told him. “Go.”
“Rosie and Alexander will collect them,” Nico told him. He turned serious eyes on the fruit of his loins. “Behave. We are going to have a long talk when mama and I return home.”
Sophia, nodding like a wise owl, shot a black look at her brother.
“You’re in BIG trouble,” she hissed.
Her twin sent her look of utter loathing.
“I hope you poop a prickly pear,” Luca hissed back.
“Dio mio,” Nico said.
Poor Tonio. All y’all may be wondering about the inspiration behind this story. I’m on a fitness kick, which includes 15k of steps per day and using (light) weights three times a week. A family member said, ‘You don’t want big guns.’ And so a story was born.
Until next time, big hugs,