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Tell Her The Truth

Novel Excerpt

By Kale RossPublished 2 months ago 7 min read
5
Tell Her The Truth
Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

Sicily | 1943

Blinded by the harrowing sight of her mother’s bullet-riddled body, Rosalie was unable to compute the face of the man who had just unleashed hell upon the German soldiers on the ridge with the machine gun mounted to an American jeep.

The stranger quickly ushered Rosalie into the passenger seat of the vehicle, then instructed Garret to help him move Aida’s body from the street.

“Help me,” he said, with a thick Sicilian accent as she rushed over to Aida’s side, “Collect her ankles and help me get her into the jeep. There’s more of them coming down the hillside. We cannot stay here.”

Garret had no idea who this man was, but he was clearly here to help them, so he threw in his faith with the stranger. Following the man’s lead, he lifted her legs from the ground, then tightly wrapped his arms around both of her ankles. Precisely stepping in stride with the man whose arms were latched beneath Aida’s shoulders, they carefully slid her body into the rear bed of the jeep, resting her head behind the back of Rosalie’s seat.

“I need you on that gun, soldier,” the man said, while jumping into the driver’s seat - cranking the shifter into gear.

Garret did not hesitate. He climbed up into the rear bed, carefully straddling his legs over Aida’s body - taking great care to not step on any part of her - inspected the machine gun’s ammo supply, then leaned his rear end up against the mounted spare tire as comfortable leverage.

Voices suddenly began shouting from the still smoking ridge line, and were followed up by automatic gunfire and a volley of hand-thrown grenades.

“Let’s move!” Garret hollered, while rotating the barrel of the machine to the left - opening fire on the surging swarm of German soldiers.

The Jeep’s engine erupted with power, and they immediately sped off down the curving service road, leaving an eerie trail of blood, tire smoke, exhaust fumes and bullets as their wake.

After thirty minutes of evasive driving, diligent over watch, and Rosalie reaching her head over the side of the vehicle to throw up, the stranger finally pulled into the small, ancient Sicilian village of Assorus.

Rosalie broke free of her catatonic prison while throwing up over the side of the Jeep. It was then, in her lowest moment - with the dead body of her mother behind her - she saw the face of the man driving the Jeep. It was the face of the one man she yearned to see more than anyone else, yet it was also the face of the man whom she blamed for everything.

Stopping the Jeep at the top of another hill, Garret craned his neck at the remains of an old castle encompassed by excavation equipment. The driver exited the Jeep, and quickly raced to assist Rosalie who was slowly climbing over the bile-encrusted door. Looking down, he carefully lifted his boots from the sticky puddle of blood, and stepped over Aida’s body.

“Who are you,” Garret asked.

Helping Rosalie sit beneath the protective shade of a massive Olive tree, he turned to answer Garret’s question - but was cut off.

“He’s my father,” Rosalie said, shivering with adrenaline.

Garret stared at the man who now clearly resembled Rosalie and Corrado, and struggled with his moral code. He was honored and proud to meet Rosalie and Corrado’s father, yet he also wanted to punch the man in his mouth for inserting his children into his life of espionage.

“Corrado Tutino,” the man said, while reaching out his right hand, “I know what you’ve done for my children, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I owe you a debt that I fear I may never be able to pay.”

Garret shook the man’s hand with fury, “Sergeant Garret McLaughlin. Corrado was a brave young man. Braver than you or I will ever be.”

Clement knew of his failures all too well, and he could no longer hide behind them.

“Thank you, Sergeant,” Clement said, as he turned to face his daughter.

Clement could tell that she needed time to be alone. Time to download the death of her twin brother, and now her mother. Time to hate her father. Time to accept that what he and his wife did was done to protect all of humanity from the disease that claimed both of his son’s, and wife’s lives. And hopefully time to forgive him.

He turned back around to Garret who was covering Aida’s face with a few of the pieces of fabric from Rosalie’s pack, and approached him with a heavy heart.

“I have another favor I need to ask of you, Sergeant. Will you help me bury my wife?”

Garret did not know Aida long, but he knew enough about her to treat her with respect, and admiration. She had been fearless in her final moments, sacrificing herself without any thought of hesitation to protect Rosalie. It was easy to see where Rosalie and Corrado received their unwavering courage and devotion to family. He still struggled to see those values in Clement, but he was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He also loved the man’s daughter. It was a revelation he knew he couldn’t deny forever, but he had no strength left to fight his feelings.

“Of Course,” Garret said while softly nodding in Rosalie’s direction, “She’s the strongest person I’ve ever met. You have no idea of the things she’s been through, the trauma she’s had to endure, all to help protect your secret. Corrado lost his life for it. And now Aida. How many more must die, Clement?”

“I am well aware of my failures as a father…and husband,” Clement said, resting his hand on Aida’s shoulder, “There is something you need to understand, Sergeant. If the Germans are allowed to excavate and mine the caverns beneath Mount Etna, the volcano will become unstable. That can’t happen.”

Garret processed the harrowing implications, yet was unsure of what any of it meant. He had no idea what would happen if a volcano were to become unstable. He was a soldier, not a scientist. But considering Etna’s history of frequent eruptions, he had a pretty good idea.

“I will help you bury your wife, Clement. Then you are going to tell your daughter everything.”

Borrowing a pair of shovels from the cache of excavation equipment, Garret and Clement took the next two hours to properly bury Aida. Transporting her body to the top of the hill - where the remaining castle walls overlooked a breathtaking view of Sicily’s rolling landscape, and basked in the afternoon sunlight - they used their shovels to dig her a picturesque grave.

Rosalie hung back during the burial process, but she never strayed out of sight. She wanted to be involved, but she was too afraid. She thanked God for Garret, and prayed that he would survive. But not for herself. She prayed that he would safely return home to his family. She had fallen in love with a man whom she knew would one day have to leave her, if he even survived that long. She knew they could never be together, and she accepted that cruel fact, yet her heart still found reasons to love him.

With the assistance of a local resident, they were able to wrap Aida in three layers of fine, white linen. It would have to do, since they had no means of acquiring a coffin. Once wrapped, Garret and Clement stepped down into the grave, then very carefully, slid Aida’s body into a position where they could each lift her in.

While Garret and Clement painstakingly tossed shovels of dirt over Aida’s body, Rosalie silently strolled off to pick a few flowers to lay on top of her mother’s grave.

Upon her return, with her hands overflowing with pink and purple Wild Orchids, her father placed the final shovel of loose dirt onto the slightly curved, six-foot-long mound protruding from the Earth.

Knowing their family was catholic, Garret used the rest of the fabric from Rosalie’s pack to fasten the two shovels into the shape of a cross. He then jammed it into the dirt, just above Aida’s head.

Rosalie handed Garret one of the flowers, and he delicately placed it on top of Aida. Sweating, filthy, tired, and saddened, Garret stepped away to allow Rosalie and clement a moment alone with Aida.

Venturing into the caverns carved into the side of the hill the castle remains sat upon, Garret decided to recon the area while Rosalie and Clement said goodbye. Finding a few ancient crypts within the castle’s subterranean maze, Garret found nothing tangible to collect, nor did he find any lingering threats. He exited the caves, then proceeded to inspect the perimeter of the hillside. He knew who was following them, and he knew how resourceful they were. Just because he couldn't see them, didn’t mean they weren’t out there.

As he made his way back up to the top of the hill, he watched as Clement rocked his weeping daughter back and forth in his arms. He slowed his pace, allowing them to have as many seconds as he could spare them.

Hearing Garret’s approaching footsteps, Rosalie broke away from her father, and sullied over to the makeshift cross Garret made for Aida. She knelt down beside it, placed the remaining Wild flowers down at the base of the cross, then removed the Lapis Lazuli necklace dangling from her neck, and hung it from the horizontal shovel - letting the breeze gently sway it from left to right.

“It’s time to talk,” Garret said, “It’s time you tell Rosalie the truth.”

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5

About the Creator

Kale Ross

Author | Poet | Dog Dad | Nerd

Find my published poetry, and short story books here!

https://amzn.to/3tVtqa6

https://amzn.to/49qItsD

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (2)

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  • real Jema2 months ago

    Thanks for the article

  • Caroline Craven2 months ago

    This was so good Kale. I think your story is getting even more addictive with every chapter.

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