The Lombardi Emeralds – Episode 37

“Right,” Sofia straightened her shoulders, “to start with, I adopted my middle name of Lis and I don’t know why I chose Gilbert,” she admitted. “My given name was Strom, maybe I thought it sounded too much like storm. Whatever.”

“She’s half Norwegian,” Tish confided to May. “That’s why she’s got such lovely blonde hair.”

“My mother was Italian and we were visiting my grandmother when I met Tish in the market trying to charm a free peach off a stallholder.”

“I was working my way across Europe with friends and somehow I lost them,” Tish explained.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” May raised tolerant eyebrows.

“I’d also lost my backpack. I had nothing. Lis came to my rescue.”

“I lent her money to buy her peach – a loan which was never repaid,” Sofia pointed out with a light laugh.

“After that Lis and I palled up. She was at a loose end so we started singing. It started as a joke but things took off. Before we knew it we were in big demand.”

“Why didn’t you keep in touch with each other after the group split?” May demanded.

An uneasy glance passed between the two older women, neither of whom seemed eager to carry on with their explanation.

“What caused the big fall out?” May tried another question. “And why the secrecy? Was it because you really were the jewel thieves?”

“No, we were not!” Sofia’s voice rose in outrage. “How could you think such a thing?”

“Until someone tells me the truth I don’t know what to think.”

“Ah, Maria,” Auguste addressed the housekeeper who hearing the sound of voices had presented herself on the terrace, “some refreshments for our guests, if you would be so kind.”

“Certainly, Signore.”

“You know,” Tish leaned towards Lis, “we should do another gig.”

“To celebrate Auguste’s birthday? What a good idea.”

“We’d show your generation a thing or two.” Tish did an experimental wriggle of her hips.

“I’ve put on a few pounds,” Sofia confessed, “and I don’t sing so much these days.”

“You’d soon get back into the swing of things.”

“Is anyone going to tell me the end of the story?” May demanded.

“Sorry, darling. Where were we?”

“I always wanted a daughter,” Sofia sounded sad as she looked at May and Tish, “but I never had children.”

“You can have a share in mine if you like. I’m sure May wouldn’t mind.”

Sofia reached out and stroked May’s hair.

“You are so beautiful, May. I immediately saw the resemblance to your mother.”

“Careful. May doesn’t do being told she’s beautiful,” Tish interrupted. “She’s very today, you know hashtags and no gender stereotyping.”

“Goodness,” Sofia recoiled, “I see you have a thing or two to teach me about modern manners.”

“And there are things you can teach us, Lis,” Tish insisted. “All about your charity work. She helps youngsters develop literacy skills and loads of other stuff,” she explained to May.

“You know it must be years since anyone’s called me Lis.” A dreamy look came into Sofia’s eyes.

“If there’s one thing age teaches you it is patience.” Auguste patted May’s hand as her frustration threatened to get the better of her. “They’ll get round to us eventually and you wouldn’t deny them their little reunion, would you?”

Sofia settled down next to May.

“I’m sorry. Here we are talking about old times when you must be bursting with curiosity. You wanted to know why we didn’t keep in touch.”

“In your own time.” May realised she would get nowhere if she tried to hurry Sofia along.

“At school I was always getting into trouble for talking too much, so after the robberies I decided to keep quiet and to lie low, but over the years what happened has weighed heavily on my mind. I can’t tell you how pleased I am it’s all coming out in the open now.” Sofia stroked May’s arm.

“Darling,” Tish sat down on the other side of May, “you have no idea how often I too battled with my conscience. I wanted to get it all off my chest but I didn’t know how to start.

“It was as though I had two separate lives, a before and after, and the two didn’t match up.”

“Do you remember the fun we had doing the before bit?” Sofia leaned across May, her face alight with laughter.

“It wasn’t all fun,” Tish contradicted. “Changing into flimsy costumes in the back of a draughty vehicle or losing precious make-up because in a fit of pique someone left it in the ladies’ room.”

“That wasn’t me.” Sofia looked deceptively innocent.

“Yes, it was. You could be a right little madam at times.”

“Florence was the worst,” Sofia declared.

“Don’t dish the dirt on her, she’s not here to defend herself and you know we were as bad as each other.”

“I never told Franco the half of it,” Sofia confided, “and I never will. These days I have a social status to uphold.”


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!