Eternal

Eternal

Unabridged — 19 hours, 7 minutes

Eternal

Eternal

Unabridged — 19 hours, 7 minutes

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

Lisa Scottoline proves her prowess for powerful storytelling in her entrance into historical fiction. Written with her trademark fast-paced, captivating style, she tells the story of a love triangle between lifelong best friends caught in the throes of Mussolini’s dangerous rise to power in Rome. Brilliant, heartbreaking and moving, Eternal’s characters will stand the test of time in this gripping novel of love, friendship and courage in the face of unimaginable circumstances.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
#1 bestselling author Lisa Scottoline offers a sweeping and shattering epic of historical fiction fueled by shocking true events, the tale of a love triangle that unfolds in the heart of Rome...in the creeping shadow of fascism.


What war destroys, only love can heal.

Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro grow up as the best of friends despite their differences. Elisabetta is a feisty beauty who dreams of becoming a novelist; Marco the brash and athletic son in a family of professional cyclists; and Sandro a Jewish mathematics prodigy, kind-hearted and thoughtful, the son of a lawyer and a doctor. Their friendship blossoms to love, with both Sandro and Marco hoping to win Elisabetta's heart. But in the autumn of 1937, all of that begins to change as Mussolini asserts his power, aligning Italy's Fascists with Hitler's Nazis and altering the very laws that govern Rome. In time, everything that the three hold dear--their families, their homes, and their connection to one another--is tested in ways they never could have imagined.

As anti-Semitism takes legal root and World War II erupts, the threesome realizes that Mussolini was only the beginning. The Nazis invade Rome, and with their occupation come new atrocities against the city's Jews, culminating in a final, horrific betrayal. Against this backdrop, the intertwined fates of Elisabetta, Marco, Sandro, and their families will be decided, in a heartbreaking story of both the best and the worst that the world has to offer.

Unfolding over decades, Eternal is a tale of loyalty and loss, family and food, love and war--all set in one of the world's most beautiful cities at its darkest moment. This moving novel will be forever etched in the hearts and minds of readers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

12/14/2020

Scottoline’s admirable foray into historical fiction (after her Rosato & Associates series) visits pre-WWII Italy during Mussolini’s rise to power as three teenage friends navigate a love triangle. Elisabetta D’Orfeo works at a restaurant to support her alcoholic father. Marco Terrizzi, the son of a bar owner, begins his rise in the Fascist government, using his wit and charm to hide the secret of his learning disability and inability to read. Sandro Simone, a brilliant student, lives in Rome’s Jewish quarter with his obstetrician mother and lawyer father, Massimo. Sandro’s parents want him to date a Jewish girl, but he is determined to court Elisabetta, plans that are put to a halt by Mussolini’s racial laws barring relationships between Jews and non-Jews. Elisabetta succumbs to Marco’s charms, but their relationship is derailed after Marco falsely takes credit for a notebook left for her by Sandro to encourage her writing. As the Nazis occupy Rome, threatening to arrest and deport Jewish residents, the Simones are stripped of their livelihoods. Sandro and Massimo are eventually rounded up by the Nazis, and Marco and Elisabetta go to increasingly dangerous lengths to try to rescue them. While the dialogue is a bit wooden at times, Scottoline expertly brings historical events to life. Fans of WWII fiction will be drawn to this immersive, emotional novel. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group. (Mar.)

From the Publisher

"An accomplished historical novel that is both steeped in period detail and full of relatable characters.... Scottoline is a master at ramping up the suspense."—Washington Post

"In this book of her heart, Lisa Scottoline delivers what her readers expect and so much more, fast-paced intrigue, but also an authentic, tender coming of age tale of three best friends navigating the complexities of fascism, war, political and family strife and romantic competition."—Lisa Wingate, author of Before We Were Yours and The Book Of Lost Friends

"Eternal feels so real you can almost taste the cappelletti, as you get lost in the pages on your glorious and heart-wrenching trip to Italy."—Martha Hall Kelly, author of Lilac Girls and Sunflower Sisters

“Powerful and absorbing…at the heart of the novel is an enduring message, that what’s perhaps most heroic in any life is to love fiercely and completely, in spite of loss and betrayal, and even beyond death.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and When the Stars Go Dark

“With characters who change and grow and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, Eternal is a blockbuster with cinematic intensity.”—Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train and The Exiles

"Make a plate of fettuccine, pour a glass of red wine, and settle in with this captivating tale. You will cry tears of sadness and joy. Scottoline’s Italian heritage combined with all her diligent research will keep this story in readers’ hearts."--Library Journal (starred review)

“A beautiful, heartbreaking, wrenching love story set in the Second World War. It’s alive with characters I cared about deeply - including the remarkable city of Rome, itself - and their courage in the face of Fascism.”—Chris Bohjalian, author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant 

"This nuanced take on WWII Italy offers a variety of perspectives, but at its heart, this is a love story, with heroes lost being warmly remembered and love conquering all….Best-selling crime writer Scottoline successfully changes course in a coming-of-age WWII love story that will entrance fans and newcomers alike."—Booklist

“Scottoline’s admirable foray into historical fiction…expertly brings historical events to life. Fans of WWII fiction will be drawn to this immersive, emotional novel.”—Publishers Weekly

“Quite a change from Scottoline’s bestselling contemporary thrillers: an ambitious, deeply researched historical account of three Roman families caught in the meltdown of Fascist Italy...Heartfelt.”Kirkus Reviews

“A powerfully moving story of loss, loyalty, family and love.”—Woman's World

“As Americans go through huge growing pains (hopefully leading to something positive) in terms of their own racist pasts, Eternal offers us hope. Somehow love really can save the day—romantic love, brotherhood, spiritual love, love for a good nation and the democratic process. May the scholarship and literary invention of this extraordinary novel find a home in the hearts of readers everywhere.”—Bookreporter.com

"I absolutely loved this page-turning novel. The writing is superb, and the historical research is outstanding. Eternal is an important book about the Holocaust and fascist Italy, and tells a story that needs to be told. As a Holocaust educator and a Child Refugee Survivor of the Holocaust, I strongly recommend everyone read this book."—Dr. Miriam Klein Kassenoff, Director, The Holocaust Teacher Institute, University of Miami

"Eternal is remarkable historical fiction that brings to life Rome in the years leading up to and during WWII on the shoulders of unforgettable characters caught up on all sides of terrible events spinning beyond their control. Scottoline’s research is impeccable, her storytelling is propulsive, and the emotional times she describes are deep, moving, and yes, eternal." —Mark Sullivan, bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky

"The master storyteller Lisa Scottoline is at the height of her powers with Eternal. This magnificent epic is the story of  three childhood friends who come of age during World War II Italy. You are with them in the worst of times as they navigate their lost dreams. You will root for their survival as they find redemption in a post-war world they must build with hope. Love. Faith. Friendship. Courage. It's all here and it is essential reading."—Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of Lucia, Lucia and The Shoemaker's Wife

"In Eternal, Lisa Scottoline expands her formidable talents to World War II Italy and the heartwarming tale of three families whose intersecting worlds are torn apart. Scottoline captures the tragic beauty of wartime Rome through the eyes of unforgettable characters with whom readers will hope and mourn and cheer. A passionate story of friendship, loyalty, and unbridled heroism."—Pam Jenoff, bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

Eternal is a gripping story of suffering and survival.  It unspools at a heart-stopping pace,  yet each page resonates with emotions: fear, hope, sorrow, yearning, love, empathy, sympathy, and, ultimately, joy.  The book lives up to its title.  It will echo in the minds of readers for a long time.”--Sandra Brown

"What Elena Ferrante did with her Neapolitan Quartet, Scottoline does for war-time Rome: brings it to life as the city is ripped apart by men in power and barely held together by the courage and decency of those who stand against them. Eternal is a must read."—Lorenzo Carcaterra

“At its heart, Eternal is a beautiful, heartbreaking, yet ultimately uplifting love story. Meticulously researched, this riveting World War II-era novel explores what happens when beautiful Elisabetta must choose between lifelong best friends Sandro and Marco. As they get caught up in the madness that overtakes Italy when it becomes a satellite of Hitler and the Third Reich, each must make a gut-wrenching choice that determines the course of the rest of their lives. Action-packed and haunting, Eternal will stay with you for a long time after you finish reading it. I loved this book!”—Karen Robards, author of The Black Swan of Paris

"Lisa Scottoline is a magnificent storyteller. Eternal is a triangular story of first love, told against the backdrop of WWII in Rome, that is both terrifying and magical; three young people at one of the worst times in history are filled with love, hate, fear, rage, and at the end, survival and hope. Eternal is brilliantly written. Scottoline hits new heights in this spellbinding tale of decades-old family secrets and rips apart the fragility of first loves. I was pulled in from the first page by the lives of Scottoline’s characters as they tried to make their way through events beyond their control in this richly detailed story that makes you feel like you’re right alongside them." --Andrew Mayne, author of The Naturalist and The Girl Beneath the Sea

Library Journal

★ 03/01/2021

Scottoline ("Rosato & Associates" series) veers from her usual thrillers and humorous fare with her first historical fiction, which takes place in Rome during Mussolini's rule. It centers on three childhood friends. Elisabetta is a beautiful and sweet aspiring writer who has won the hearts of her two best friends: showy, confident Marco and brilliant Jewish mathematician Sandro. Some of the protagonists support—or even, like Marco, work for—the fascist regime; others do not. As political tensions rise, the Jews of Rome feel a dark cloud approaching. Scottoline pulls readers into the lives of the characters and their families as war decimates their beloved city. Based on true events, this is an addictive read. Scottoline's passions, for Italy and the story, shine in her clear, descriptive sentences, which place you right there, watching history unfold. The book's themes coincide with political and social events in the news today. VERDICT Make a plate of fettuccine, pour a glass of red wine, and settle in with this captivating tale. You will cry tears of sadness and joy. Scottoline's Italian heritage combined with all her diligent research will keep this story in readers' hearts.—Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC

JANUARY 2021 - AudioFile

Scottoline’s newest audiobook gives us a high-stakes love triangle set in Mussolini’s Rome on the brink of war. Handsome Marco, a proud Fascist working for the party, and sensitive young Jewish scholar Sandro are best friends. Both love Elisabetta. How will this play out as anti-Semitic laws tighten around them and then war itself overtakes them? Unfortunately, someone decided not just to establish place and atmosphere with authentic pronunciation of food and place names, but also to have all the dialogue in this audiobook spoken with spaghetti-sauce-commercial accents. The characters are Italians speaking their native language to each other. Who hears them as having accents? The effect is disturbing and distancing and has certainly prevented these fine actors from doing their best work. What a missed opportunity. B.G. © AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine

Kirkus Reviews

2021-03-17
Quite a change from Scottoline’s bestselling contemporary thrillers: an ambitious, deeply researched historical account of three Roman families caught in the meltdown of Fascist Italy.

May 1937 finds Alessandro Simone and Marco Terrizzi competing for the favors of Elisabetta D’Orfeo, an aspiring journalist and cat lover who waits tables at Casa Servano, the well-regarded Trastevere restaurant owned by Giuseppina Servano, widely known as Nonna. Since Sandro’s father, Massimo Simone, is a Jewish tax lawyer who strongly supports Mussolini and Marco’s father, Giuseppe Terrizzi, is a former cyclist who proudly styles himself a Fascist of the First Hour, there’s plenty of potential for ethnic, religious, and political conflicts both between and within the leading characters, and despite the widespread conviction that Mussolini’s pre-Hitler brand of fascism will never turn against the Jews, the coming of the war flushes all these conflicts out. After Marco’s brother Aldo is killed when he joins a group of anti-fascist saboteurs, Marco, groomed by Commendatore Romano Buonacorso for a rapid rise to power, begins to have second thoughts. Sandro, his dreams of academic stardom trashed by his religion, is more open in his opposition to Il Duce. The real calamities, however, follow the German invasion of Italy, which kicks off several painful rounds of increasingly severe anti-Jewish legislation, expropriation, extortion, and finally rastrellamento, the wholesale roundup of Italian Jews to be shipped off to destinations readers will know all too well. Through it all, Scottoline struggles mightily to bring her sorely tried characters alive through their love for each other, but they mostly remain pawns of history who believe till the end that “the Vatican will intervene, of course.”

A heartfelt but schematic wartime tear-jerker.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940173185297
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication date: 03/23/2021
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 748,445

Read an Excerpt

Elisabetta

 

May 1937

 

Elisabetta made up her mind. Marco Terrizzi would be her first kiss. She watched him doing bicycle tricks by the river, riding on his back tire, his head thrown back in laughter, his teeth white against his tanned face. His thick, dark hair shone with pomade in the sun, and his legs were knotted with muscles inside the baggy shorts of his uniform. He rode with joy and athleticism, achieving a masculine grace. Marco Terrizzi had sprezzatura, a rare and effortless charm that made him irresistible.

 

Elisabetta couldn't take her eyes from him, and neither could the others. They had grown up together, but somewhere along the line, he had gone from boyhood to manhood, from Marco to Marco. That he was terribly handsome there could be no doubt. He had large, walnut-brown eyes, a strong nose, a square jaw, and a broad neck marked by a prominent Adam's apple. He was the most popular boy in their class, and everything about him seemed more vivid than everyone else. Even now, the sun drenched him in gold, as if Nature herself gilded him.

 

Elisabetta wondered what it would be like to kiss him. She guessed it would be exciting, even delicious, like biting into a ripe tomato and letting its juices run down her chin. She had never kissed a boy, though she was already fifteen years old, and at night she practiced kissing on her pillow. Her tabbycat, Rico, with whom she slept, had grown accustomed to her routine, as cats endure the silliness of young girls.

 

Elisabetta had no idea how to make Marco think of her as more than a friend. She usually achieved what she set her mind to, getting good grades and such, but this was different. She was too blunt to flirt. She lacked feminine wiles. She had been a maschiaccio, a tomboy, when she was little, which was how she had grown close with Marco. She was trying to become more womanly, but she still didn't wear a brassiere. Her mother said she didn't need one, but the other girls made fun of her, talking behind their hands.

 

"Elisabetta, help, I'll drown!" Marco raced toward the river, and she was about to call to him, but stopped herself. She had read in a female advice column that denying men the attention they craved drove them mad with desire, so she ignored him, while the other girls responded.

 

"Marco, no!" Livia called back.

 

"Marco, be careful!" Angela gasped.

 

The boys waited to see if calamity befell Marco, but he cranked the handlebars, veering away from the river's edge. They laughed and returned to their textbooks, spread out on the grass. They were doing homework, having come from their Balilla meeting, the party's compulsory youth group. They all wore their uniforms, the boys in their black shirts and gray shorts, and the girls in white muslin shirts and black skirts.

 

This quiet spot on the riverbank, just north of the Ponte Palatino, had become a hangout of her classmates after school, though Elisabetta typically sat with Marco or Sandro, apart from the other girls. Somehow she had missed her chance to become their girlfriend, and it was too late now, for they rebuffed her overtures. Perhaps they had judged her as preferring the boys, which wasn't true, and she would have loved to have had a good girlfriend. Whatever the reason, Angela and the other girls kept her at a distance, and she tried not to let it bother her.

 

"Look, Betta!" Marco called again, using her childhood nickname.

 

"Use my proper name!" Elisabetta called back, from behind her newspaper. She did prefer her full name, as she hoped to become a journalist someday. She practiced her byline at night, too. By Elisabetta D'Orfeo.

 

"Elisabetta!" Marco rode over, sliding to a stop on the grass. "Hop on my handlebars. Let's go for a ride."

 

"No, I'm reading." Elisabetta hid her smile behind the newspaper.

 

Angela rose, brushing grass from her skirt. "Marco, I'll go, take me!"

 

"Okay!" Marco extended his hand, Angela clambered onto his handlebars, and the two rode off together.

 

Elisabetta lowered her newspaper, wondering if the female advice column had been wrong. If she wanted Marco, she would have to attract him another way. She sensed she was pretty enough, now that she had grown into her features, according to her mother. Her large, round eyes were greenish-brown, and her shoulder-length hair was a rich brunette, wavy and abundant. Her nose was strong, but proportional to her prominent cheekbones, and her lips were full. Her problem was her bocca grande, big mouth, which proved a disadvantage when it came to boys, her Latin teacher, and that old bitch at the newsstand.

 

Elisabetta leaned back on her elbows, breathing in the odors of the Tiber, its water a milky jade with wavelets topped with ivory foam. Swallows skimmed the surface for a drink, cicadas rasped, and dragonflies droned. Pink oleander bushes, umbrella pines, and palm trees lined the riverbank, and the natural oasis was shielded from the hustle-bustle of the city by gray stone walls.

 

Elisabetta's gaze found the Ponte Rotto in the middle of the river, a bizarre sight. Centuries ago, the stone bridge had connected the riverbanks, but time had reduced it to only a single arch rising from the water, leading nowhere. Romans called it the broken bridge, but she thought that it was a survivor, standing despite the elements and the Tiber itself, which sent blackish-green vines up its sides, as if trying to pull it underwater.

 

Beyond the Ponte Rotto was Tiber Island, the only island in the river, barely large enough to contain the Basilica di San Bartolomeo all'Isola with its faded-brick belfry, the Church of San Giovanni Calibita, and the hospital, Ospedale Fatebenefratelli, with its rows of green-shuttered windows. Across from the hospital was Bar GiroSport, which Marco's family owned and lived above. Elisabetta lived only a few blocks away from him in Trastevere, the bohemian neighborhood that she and her father loved. Unfortunately, her mother had ceased loving anything.

 

It was then that Elisabetta spotted Sandro Simone striding toward her and the others. Sandro was her other best friend, and Marco's, too, as the three of them had been a trio since childhood. Sandro walked with his characteristically lanky stride, and his light brown curls blew back from his long, lean face. He was handsome in his own way, his features more refined than Marco's and his build like a sharpened pencil, slim but strong, the way a wire cable supports a modern bridge.

 

"Ciao, Elisabetta!" Sandro reached her, smiling and taking off his fez. He wiped the sweat from his brow, slid off his backpack, and sat down. His eyes, a brilliant azure color with long eyelashes like awnings, narrowed against the sunlight. His nose was long and aquiline, and his lips finely etched into his face. Sandro lived on the east side of the river in the Jewish quarter, called the Ghetto, and throughout their childhood, Elisabetta, Sandro, and Marco had traveled back and forth on an axis from Trastevere to Tiber Island and the Ghetto, riding bikes, playing football, and generally acting as if Rome were their private playground.

 

"Ciao, Sandro." Elisabetta smiled, happy to see him.

 

"I stopped to get us a snack. Have one." Sandro produced a paper bag from his backpack and opened its top, releasing the delicious aroma of suppl“, rice croquettes with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

 

"Grazie!" Elisabetta picked up a suppl“ and took a bite. The breading was light, the tomato sauce perfectly salty, and the mozzarella hot enough to melt on her tongue.

 

"Where's Marco? I brought some for him, too."

 

"Off with Angela."

 

"Too bad." Sandro chewed a suppl“ and glanced at her newspaper. "What are you reading?"

 

"Nothing." Elisabetta used to love reading the newspaper, but her favorite columnists were gone, and she suspected they had been fired. Benito Mussolini and the Fascists had been in power for fifteen years, and censorship had become the order of the day. "All the articles are the same, about how great the government is, or they reproduce ridiculous posters like this one."

 

"Let me see." Sandro wiped his hands on a napkin.

 

"Here." Elisabetta showed him a picture of an Italian peasant woman in traditional dress, holding babies in each arm. She read him the caption. "'The ideal Fascist woman is to bear children, knit, and sew, while men work or go to war.' It's propaganda, not news, and anyway, not all women are the same."

 

"Of course they aren't. The newspaper isn't always right."

 

"No, it's not." Elisabetta thought of the female advice column. Marco and Angela still weren't back.

 

"Don't let it bother you."

 

"But it does." Elisabetta disagreed with the Fascists, though she didn't discuss it with anyone other than Sandro and Marco. Those who spoke against the government could be arrested and sent into confino, exile, far from their homes. Informers abounded in Rome, even in Trastevere, and though Elisabetta's family wasn't committed to any particular political party, as artists they were congenitally leftist.

 

"You don't like being told what to do."

 

"Who does? Do you?"

 

"No, but I don't take it so much to heart as you." Sandro leaned over. "Guess what, I have amazing news. I was accepted to an internship with Professor Levi-Civita at La Sapienza."

 

"Davvero?" Elisabetta asked, astonished. "You, a high school student? At the university?"

 

"Yes, it will be an independent study." Sandro beamed with pride.

 

"Congratulations!" Elisabetta felt delighted for him. He was a mathematical prodigy, and his preternatural talent had been plain since primary school, so she shouldn't have been surprised that he would be at La Sapienza, the city campus of the University of Rome. "And this professor is the one you always talk about, right? Levi-Civita?"

 

"Yes, and I can't wait to meet him. He's one of the greatest mathematicians of our time. He developed tensor calculus, which Einstein used in his theory of relativity. In fact, he just got back from seeing him in America."

 

"How wonderful. How did this come about, anyway? For you?"

 

"Professoressa Longhi recommended me, and I've been waiting to hear. I just stopped by the hospital to tell my mother."

 

"She must be so proud." Elisabetta admired Sandro's mother, who was one of the few female doctors she had ever heard of, an obstetrician at Ospedale Fatebenefratelli.

 

"She was, but she was surprised I hadn't told her I was being considered."

 

"I am, too. Why didn't you tell us?" Elisabetta meant her and Marco.

 

"I didn't want you to know if I failed."

 

"Oh, Sandro." Elisabetta felt a rush of affection for him. "You never fail, and Levi-Civita is lucky to have you. You'll be a famous mathematician someday."

 

Sandro grinned. "And you'll be a famous journalist."

 

"Ha!" Elisabetta didn't know what Marco would become, but dismissed the thought.

 

"How can you read in the sunlight?" Sandro squinted at her newspaper. "It's so bright."

 

"It is, I know."

 

"Allow me." Sandro slid the newspaper page from her hand and stood up.

 

"No, give me that back." Elisabetta rose, reaching, but Sandro turned away, doing something with the newspaper.

 

"It's only the obituaries."

 

"I like the obituaries." Elisabetta always read the obituaries, as each one was a wonderful life story, except for the endings.

 

"Ecco." Sandro held out a hat of folded newspaper, then popped it on her head. "This will keep the sun from your eyes."

 

"Grazie." Elisabetta smiled, delighted, and all of a sudden, Sandro kissed her. She found herself kissing him back, tasting warm tomato sauce on his lips until he pulled away, smiling down at her, with a new shine in his eyes that confused her. She had just decided that Marco would be her first kiss.

 

"Sandro, why did you do that?" Elisabetta glanced around, wondering if the others had seen. Her classmates were bent over their homework, and though Marco was approaching with Angela on his handlebars, he was too far away.

 

Sandro grinned. "Isn't it obvious why?"

 

"But you never kissed me before."

 

"I never kissed anybody before."

 

Elisabetta felt touched. "So why me? Why now?"

 

Sandro laughed. "Who asks such questions? Only you!"

 

"But I thought we were just friends."

 

"Are we? I-" Sandro started to say, but Marco interrupted them, shouting from a distance.

 

"Ciao, Sandro!"

 

"Ciao, Marco!" Sandro called back, waving.

 

Elisabetta blinked, and the moment between her and Sandro vanished, so quickly that she wondered if it had happened at all.

 

Chapter Two

 

 

 

Marco

 

May 1937

 

Marco pedaled home from the river on the Lungotevere dei Pierleoni, the wide boulevard that ran along its east side. The sun had dipped behind the trees, shooting burnished rays through the city, which had come to boisterous life as the workday ended. Cars honked, drivers cursed, and exhaust fogged the air. The sidewalks thronged with people, and businessmen hustled to catch trams.

 

Marco accelerated, preoccupied with Elisabetta. He was in love with her, but she treated him as a pal, the way she always did. She hadn't even cared when he had taken Angela on his bike. He felt stumped, which never happened to him with girls. He could have his pick, but he wanted Elisabetta. She was beautiful, which was reason enough alone, but he loved her passion, her strength, her fire. She had thoughts about everything, and though her intelligence was superior, she treated him as if he were equally intelligent. Marco would stop at nothing to win her over. He was love's captive.

 

He flashed on seeing Sandro by the river today, standing oddly close to her, as if they had been having a great discussion or even sharing a secret. Anxiety gnawed at Marco, and he experienced a flicker of envy at the bond that Sandro and Elisabetta shared, for they were always talking about books or the like. But Marco knew that Sandro and Elisabetta were only friends, and Sandro had no female experience whatsoever.

 

Marco turned onto the Ponte Fabricio, his tires bobbling on the worn travertine. The footbridge was the oldest in Rome, walled on both sides-and since it connected to Tiber Island, it was essentially the street on which he lived. He dodged businessmen and veered smoothly around a cat that darted in front of him. He reached the top of the gentle span and saw that his father, Beppe, wasn't standing outside his family's bar, Bar GiroSport, as he usually did. It meant that Marco was late to dinner.

 

He sped to the foot of the bridge, passed the bar, and steered around to its side entrance on Piazza San Bartolomeo all'Isola. He jumped off his bicycle, slid it into the rack, then flew inside the crowded bar. He scooted upstairs, dropped his backpack, and entered a kitchen so small that one pot of boiling water could fill it with steam. On the wall hung framed photos of his father in the Giro d'Italia and a calendar featuring Learco Guerra, the great Italian bicycle racer. A small shelf held a framed photo of Pope Pius XI, a crucifix of dried palm, and a plaster statue of the Virgin. Marco's mother worshipped Christ; his father worshipped cycling.

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