To say that Luca hates the summer would be a wild understatement.
The sun glares down, burning with a vengeance, and the sky above him seems kin to the sun, holding it steady and away from clouds, daring autumn to appear.
Luca sighs. The summer was bearable on the seas, he thinks. And just as the thought of the wild waves beneath his feet enters his mind, he finds himself hating the solid ground on which he walks towards his home. “You’re a man of the seas, my boy!” his father used to bellow in glee. As a little boy, he knew that he agreed with his father vehemently. The need for an adventure was ever-present in his bones like the very waves of the sea that may calm down or recede at times but are always there—a law of nature.
Alas, no matter how fervently his heart sings the lament of missing his life on the ship, he must visit his home now and then. His wife, Andrea, waits for him eagerly after all.
At the thought of his wife, the longing in his heart abates and is gradually replaced by a child-like excitement. As the hot wind whistles past him and the sun’s glare intensifies right above his head, Luca consoles himself — preparing to regale his wife with detailed accounts of his life at sea — and lets a slight bounce guide his steps.
The streets stay empty during his walk, bumming him out a tad, but he amuses himself with the wildflowers on the sidewalk.
Finally, when he reaches his home — a small, humble yet lovely cottage — he rapidly knocks on the door, and a smile plasters itself onto his face, almost rivalling the sun in its brightness. He shoves his hands into his pockets and bounces back and forth on his heels and toes. A beat later, the door opens and out peeks the head of Andrea, her red hair cascading down her back and a tired frown marring her beautiful face.
“Darling!” Luca greets her and swoops down for a kiss on her cheek. She smells of vanilla and flour. Glancing towards the kitchen, Luca finds a large heap of bread in a tray. That only serves to brighten his smile further.
“You’re back,” Andrea smiles. It looks forced.
“I indeed am,” Luca says, his giddiness not diminishing in the slightest. “And I shall tell you all about my life at sea! Oh, Andrea! I feel alive when I’m standing on the deck of our grand ship, doing something as mundane as arranging the cartons! And I—” he stops.
Andrea stands far away from him. When did she get that far? She keeps fiddling with her dress and her lips wobble slightly as she tries to press them into a smile.
Worry and apprehensiveness drown Luca immediately. It all settles like an uncomfortable itch in his chest.
“Are you not happy to see me?” he asks. It hangs in the air. Pungent, rotting and hot.
“Of course I am,” Andrea whispers. Then she shakes her head and walks to the kitchen. “Go on, tell me more.”
And while it unsettles Luca, he begins his stories regardless. He misses the sea, and the only way to curb his longing would be to talk about it; to fantasise about it. So, he goes on. He tells her of his sea adventures, his voice rising in excitement with every word he speaks as his limbs vibrate with energy. All this time, he notices how Andrea grows more fidgety. The frown between her eyebrows deepens further, and her cheeks flush with an angry red, her eyes fill with tears that she keeps blinking back.
“And then the storm grew wilder —”
“Stop,” Andrea whispers. Finally turning around to face Luca, her wrists balled by her side.
“I said,” her voice shakes, a whisper yet somehow a scream, “stop. You are no goddamn sailor! You do not live on the sea! You haven’t lived on the sea for two years now!”
Shock gives way to frustration, and that slowly melts into angry disbelief. Has she gone crazy in my absence?
“What are you talking about, Andrea? I’m just coming back from my ship. I just got off it. What do you mean I haven’t been on the sea for two years?” he questions. His limbs shake, and he drops on the nearest chair as breathing becomes hard. Confused at the turn of events, he scoffs.
Should’ve stayed at the ship and done my damn job.
Andrea, it seems, has forgone all her control. She looks almost manic when she screams, “You’re a crazy man! Every day! Every damn day you get up from your bed and go, god knows where. Then you come back and say you were at the sea! Where you haven’t been for years! I stay in this house and work like a man for our lives while you go about your day like a lunatic,” she heaves several deep breaths. Rivulets of tears slither down her cheeks. “You had an accident! And since you’ve been in this house, not working a day to earn a single penny! Why don’t you remember?”
Luca chokes on his breath. Nothing makes sense. Surely, his wife has gone crazy. His heart beats wildly out of control, and his hand shakes as his head spins. Why don’t you remember?
His head spins some more until his vision blurs entirely, and black spots dance in his eyes.
And then the last thing he remembers is hitting his head on the table as he passes out.
It is evening by the time Luca wakes up. The cool breeze enters his cottage and gives relief to his sweaty neck. Andrea sits beside him on a chair. Her eyes look empty. Luca smiles at her. “Good evening, darling.”
“Can you pack my bags? I’m sorry, I have to head back tomorrow. I could not ask for more days. Next time I will visit you for an entire week, how’s that?”