NOTE: This contribution comes from award-winning author Josie Montano. Please enjoy and share!
Oh no! It was Nonna’s monthly rosary meeting. But this time it was at our place. If I’d known I’d have gone to the library with Sarina to check out the guys from St. Patrick’s College. They’re there every Tuesday afternoon.
“Angelina! Mamma Mia how you have grown!” Signora Romanelli was looking straight at my boobs.
“Oh, you look just like Elena, you mudder,” Signora Vesta did the sign of the cross and looked at me sadly. It’s not me that’s dead, you idiot.
Like zombies they all stood at the same time, then slowly walked over and gathered around me.
“Madonna, is dis little Angelina? She’s a big gal!” Signora Della Something was looking at my bum. I needed a quick escape, but the statue blocked the way to my bedroom. There it was – halfway up the stairs.
“Angelina, vieni qua,” Nonna called. “Come on”. She had her arm around one of her friends.
“Dis is Signora Bertolini.”
This lady I’d never met before grabs me by the cheeks with her fingers and thumbs.
“Quanda si bella!” She was shaking my face but half of my face was still in her hands. Yes. I’m beautiful, but I’m going to need plastic surgery if you don’t cut it out! Signora Bertolini? Then she wraps her arms around my neck and gives me the Italian kiss on both cheeks. Boy, lady you have a real problem! What do you do to people you know? Bertolini? Where have I heard that name before? I moved away, my face still burning. Nonna and Signora Bertolini were looking at me and giggling. They were a weird mob.
“You know who dis is?” Nonna asked. “Signora Bertolini. The Nonna of dat boy I tell you about.” She winked.
Ohhhh! Dat boy! The one you want me to marry.
Nonna and Mrs. Bertolini knelt at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at the statue. They had made a kind of altar – as if that made the whole thing more holy. I looked at the statue of Mary, I looked down at Nonna and Signora Bertolini – two interfering grandmothers. What if the statue lost balance? The very heavy statue would topple down and … that would be the end of the matchmaking!
I started to shiver … Angie, take control of yourself!
“Angelina, putta da coffee on,” Nonna yelled at me as she got up. Fantastic. Great! That means it’s time for them to go home! I went over to the sink, reached for the espresso maker and ground coffee. The saintly women dived into the food on the table. There were no sandwiches or scones here! Biscotti, cream puffs, cannoli, pizza, cheesecake – or chisacaca as Nonna would say – all homemade and all kneaded, mixed and baked with a crazed frenzy. They all try to outdo each other with their own secret recipes.
“Nonna, got any sausage rolls?” I was in one of my moods, where I didn’t care if I got into trouble, kind of like when I’m in Mr. Michael’s class. They all stopped what they were doing, mouths full of food, half-open, half-eaten cannolis mid-air, and they looked at me – then at Nonna – then back at me.
Silence. Wow! I could tell they were waiting for Nonna’s reaction.
“Oh, she’s a joking gal, eh, Angelina,” Nonna laughed. “Come here and abbracci a Nonna.” She held her arms out for the hug and I went over to her unwillingly. She gave me this deadly glare and squeezed the air out of me, at the same time pinched my leg so hard I’m sure she put a twist into the pinch!
The Italian ladies were fooled, and carried on shoving cannolis down their throats. I’d known I was going to cop it when I mentioned sausage rolls. Anything bought from the shops is looked on as dishgustink. Anyone who brings something from the shops is even more dishgustink and, worse, lazy: “What she do all the day, if she don’t hava de time to make sometink?”
All I wanted was to go to my room, but after Nonna’s powerful pinch I decided sitting down with them would be less painful. A table full of Italian food with a dozen Italian women including a couple of matchmakers, eating, laughing and talking – and that’s all at the same time! Loud slurps from their espresso cups, crumbs flying from their open mouths as they couldn’t help talking and eating at the same time. Not a nice sight. If Rachael could see me now!
Suddenly there was silence down one end of the table. Then the other end picked up on it. “Che? Che? What?” came the questions.
“Shhhh,” and looks of guilt from the quiet end.
Whispering started at one end, running down the table faster than a pack of falling dominoes. Then, nods and sly smiles from all of them.
They were acting really strange. “What’s going on, Nonna?” I asked.
“Oh, de priest he have an affair wit a married woman,” she told me as she passed a tray of her pizza down the table. They all looked at me – silence again. Ah! They’d forgotten I was here! Now they were embarrassed, ashamed, I think.
“Angelinaaaaa,” Mrs. Romanelli said in a let’s-butter-her-up tone of voice. “You know anytink about dis?”
Oh, so it wasn’t ‘cause they were embarrassed. I was just another possible source of information.
Twelve sets of black eyes stared at me. I felt like I was surrounded by a pack of wolves.
“No.” Hang on. This is my chance. “Well, yes!”
Their turkey necks jerked forward to listen closely.
“And I know who it is.” Gasps and spoons dropping shattered the silence. Now what? What am I doing? What am I going to say? I don’t know who or what the hell is going on here. How am I going to get out of this one?
“I can’t tell you, not in front of Mary.” I nodded over to the statue. They nudged each other. They were kind of happy with that excuse.
Mrs. Bertolini shoved a plate of her homemade jam and ricotta cake thingy in front of my face.
“No thank you.” I’m not getting together with your grandson!
“But try, it’sa fresh ricotta.” Shove … shove. The glass dish nearly touched my nose. I should sneeze in it after what you did to my face.
“No, thank you.” You think if I take a piece it’s happening, don’t you?
“Come on, try. Just a small piss.” She slapped a piece of the sloppy ricotta crap on my plate.
“No, thank you.” I slid the now messy piece back into the glass dish.
The only sounds that followed were spoons and forks dropping onto ceramic plates. How dare she reject food.
“Angelina!” Nonna gave me a glare.
“But, Nonna, I don’t like that type of cake!” I don’t want to know her grandson! Gasps. How dare she say she doesn’t like it, let alone not eat it! Oops, time for me to go.
“Angelina, make another pot of espresso,” Nonna ordered.
Old cows! How dare they pray to Mary every month, drag that statue around from house to house and then gossip about the priest! I spooned the ground coffee into the coffeepot. Poor guy puts up with their crap every Sunday and they go and talk behind his back. I spooned in more of the dark coffee grounds that matched my mood. How dare Nonna bring that Signora Bertolini here. I spooned in more and pressed it down so I could fit more in. I tried to keep my evil grin to myself, this was going to make them stay awake and say their prayers all over. They’ll have to pray for help to go to sleep! Why didn’t anybody warn me of what I would be coming home to! I pushed the coffee down with the back of the spoon to make room for more. This was going to keep them awake for at least a month. Right up until their next rosary meeting!
My evil side was saying, He, he! My reality side was saying, Boy, are you going to get it.