The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 36

Two women rounded the corner.

“Not even me?” one of them asked in a teasing voice.

“My dear,” Auguste broke into a smile, “I am always pleased to see you.”

“And what’s more, Auguste, I’ve brought an old friend with me.”

May leaped to Auguste’s side as he struggled to his feet.

“Am I seeing things?” His face was wreathed in a huge smile.

“Hello, Auguste,” the second woman greeted him, “it’s good to see you again.”

“Welcome to the Villa Lombardi,” he said before enveloping her in a huge hug.


*    *    *    *

Sofia Napoli was wearing a chic crushed raspberry dress and matching jacket but she looked far from confident as her blue eyes darted from Auguste to May and back to Auguste. The woman who had stepped back from hugging Auguste and was now standing at her side presented a more challenging image in black leggings, a rock chick logo T-shirt and a scarlet bandeau entwined round her mop of chestnut curls.

Her eyes were full of fire.

“I should be so angry with you,” Tish’s blue green eyes flashed at her daughter then softened into a smile, “but you’ve reunited me with my old friend and I am the last one in the world to blame anyone for being an activist, so thank you, my darling. Come here and give me a kiss.”

“Old friend?” May echoed.

“Haven’t you worked it out yet?” she teased and drew Sofia into the embrace. “Signora Napoli, who in my day was known as Lis Gilbert, is the other half of The Beautiful Twins.”

The scales fell from May’s eyes as her mouth fell open in surprise. Why hadn’t she guessed? Sofia Napoli had more or less told her who she was, but May had been so wrapped up in investigating her mother’s past she hadn’t picked up on the clues Sofia had dripped in her direction.

“I tried to tell you,” Sofia took up the story, “but when I realised you knew nothing about me, I chickened out.”

“Coward.” Tish dug her in the ribs with her elbow.

“Not at all,” Sofia objected. “Your mother and I did not part on good terms,” she confided to May, “And I didn’t want to stir up old grievances.”

“All forgotten now.” Tish hugged her friend.

“You’re the one who went missing.” May spoke in a faint voice.

“I didn’t go missing.” Sophie bridled. “I reinvented myself.”

“She always was a survivor.” Tish’s eyes danced with amusement.

“You haven’t changed, either,” Sofia protested. “Look at you, still dressed like a hippy.”

The two women exchanged an indulgent look.

“Did you know about this?” May quizzed Auguste.

“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” he replied, a smile of pure pleasure on his face.

“Is that a yes or a no?”

“May, stop teasing Auguste,” Sofia chided. “He knew nothing. Neither did I until I got Florence’s call.”

“It’s a story we will save for another time.” Tish was still looking at her daughter. “Right now what matters is I’m here and,” she tossed her head, “I hope I am forgiven.”

“What for?”

May saw regret and sadness in her mother’s mesmerising eyes.

“Because I didn’t tell you about my past.” A fleeting look of uncertainty crossed Tish’s face. “You see, I thought you wouldn’t love me quite so much if you knew the truth and I don’t think I could have lived with that.”

“What?” May gasped.

“Exactly,” Sofia chimed in. “You’ve said some stupid things in your time, Tish, but this about beats them all. You have a beautiful daughter. Of course she loves you. She’ll always love you no matter what you’ve done – which isn’t much, I would add.”

“Come here.” Tish trembled in her arms as May gave her a fierce hug. “You really were scared about coming back, weren’t you?”

“You have no idea.” Tish’s generous lips curved into a shaky smile. “All this,” she indicated the head band and the T-shirt, “is a front.”

“But you’re one of the bravest people I know. You’ve taken on half the town’s dignitaries and come out on top.”

Tish’s aquamarine eyes regained some of their sparkle.

“Are you saying everything’s still OK between us?”

“You don’t even have to ask.”

Sofia sighed then clapped her hands.

“What did I tell you? Now explanations, come on, Tish, there’s no time like the present.”

“You go first,” she insisted, still clinging on to May.


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!