Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is male and a toymaker. A sceptre plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a bridge in ancient times. The story is about trust.
Giorgio set his bag down at his feet and looked over the parapet at the water. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief. The sun was still climbing, so he took his time, enjoying the breeze off the water.
“Excuse me, Signore.” He turned at the tap on his shoulder to find a young girl dressed in a simple frock with an apron and wooden shoes. A scarf covered her hair.
“How can I assist you, signorina?”
“Per favore, Signore, my mama is sick. I am to bring back the lemons to help her get well, but il mercante will not sell them to me. He calls me ragazza and tells me to go away. But you look kind. Will you please help me?”
What is your name, my dear?”
“Luisa, Signore. Luisa Cantone. I have the money here.” She shows him the piastras enclosed in her apron pocket.
“And where do you live with your mama, Luisa?”
“Via Veneta, Signore.”
“Very well, Luisa. Let’s go see Signor Mercante and see if we can get the lemons for your mama.” He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder and took her hand.
As they walked, she chatted happily about her family and the many babbinos at home. Luisa was the oldest and responsible for the others. When they reached the vendor, she pointed him out.
Giorgio approached the vendor, inquired about the lemons. He chose carefully, sniffing each one and giving it a gentle squeeze. He made the purchase on Luisa’s behalf then he turned and handed her the lemons.
“Grazie, Signore! My mother will be so happy.” Luisa ran for home.
Smiling, Giorgio turned toward the bridge. Thud! He felt the blow on the back of his head and lost consciousness.
When he awoke with a throbbing head, the sun was low in the sky and his purse was gone. His nose and mouth were full of dirt. His bag was inside out and the contents were strewn on the ground. There were pieces everywhere. With a heavy heart he knelt to gather them. Everything appeared to be unbroken. He breathed a sigh of relief.
“Oh, Signore!” Luisa reappeared at his side. “Are you hurt? I am so sorry.”
Giorgio stood and examined her distraught face. “Why should you be sorry, Luisa?”
“I should never have left you, Signore. Then you would have been safe.”
“But you needed to get the lemons to your mother…”
“She could have waited until I saw you safely back to the bridge. The market is not a good place for strangers. I am sorry, Signore. You helped me and I left you. It is all my fault.” She hung her head.
“Now, now, Luisa. Please help me pick up the rest of my things and you can show me back to the bridge.”
“Oh si, si, of course, Signore. I will help you.” Luisa dropped to her knees and began to gather the contents of his bag.
‘What are all these things?”
“What do they look like to you, Luisa?”
She picked up a miniature cabinet and tiny belt and held them toward him.
“They look like toys, Signore.”
“Yes, Luisa. I am a toymaker.”
She continued to pick up furniture and clothing, balls and puppets. She marveled at a small doll in a green velvet dress.
“She is very beautiful, Signore.”
“Si, she is very beautiful, Luisa. And she is even more beautiful with her crown,” he placed a tiny jeweled crown on the doll’s head. “And her scepter.” He placed a golden scepter in the doll’s little hand.
“Oh, Signore! She is marvelous to behold. How did you make her so perfectly? Look! She is smiling since you gave her back her things.” She turned to Giorgio in wonder.
“Shh! That is a secret.”
“But Signore, she was not smiling before and now she is. You must be a marvelous toymaker indeed.”
“Si, si, Luisa. She is happy now, but it is not because of her things. If you promise not to tell, I will share her secret.”
“Si, si, Signore. I will not tell.” And then her face fell. “No. Do not tell me, Signore. I do not deserve to know. ” She put her head down and sobbed.
“There, there, Luisa. Don’t cry.” He patted her shoulder.
“But Signore. I let you get hurt.” She sobbed harder.
“Luisa, it is mostly my pride that is hurt now.”
“But your money,” she wailed
“I have my toys. They are my treasure and my livelihood. Please, Luisa. Calm yourself.”
She continued to sniffle. He held out the tiny doll. Luisa wiped her nose on her sleeve. Her jaw dropped in wonder.
“Signore, she is crying.”
“She is crying because you are crying.”
Luisa wiped her eyes and took the doll. “You are right, she is not crying any more.” And as her smile grew so did the doll’s until both were grinning from ear to ear.
“She is yours, Luisa. But…”
Luisa remained entranced by the doll’s reflection of her mood.
“But you must promise you will never lie again.”
Shocked, Luisa looked up from the doll’s face.
“If you do, she will tell on you and everyone will know.”
Luisa nodded soberly and the tiny version of Luisa in the green velvet dress with the crown and the sceptre smiled.
With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php
And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.
What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.