25. His anthem of youth

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               We went to the living room, where everyone was already at the table. My mum had her jacket on and was standing at the doorstep. She said she had to go buy something real quick.

    "Do you need any help?" Noemi asked.

    "Of course not!" my mum exclaimed. "Go on and have fun. I'll be back soon."

    She walked out the door, and Noemi and I both shrugged. I introduced her to the guests and then we sat next to each other and devoured all the food we could get our hands on. Well actually, I was the one to devour things, Noemi instead was much more discrete. Her behaviour was a mix of politeness and discomfort. I was glad my aunts weren't bugging her, but there was someone else, my five-year-old cousin Marco, who kept asking her silly questions. She said he was adorable and, to some extent I agreed, but what she didn't know (or maybe knew but didn't say) is that he was also an annoying little shit. 

    "Why is your name Noemi? Why is your hair so soft?"

    "Do you think Santa likes you?"

    "Did you know that I can dance with a book on my head? I bet you can't do that!

    "Where do teddy bears go?"

    Noemi handled the questions like a pro, but then, in the middle of all those stupidly philosophical questions, Marco suddenly said, "but it's Christmas! Shouldn't you be with your family?"

    She gulped. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at us. It was as though they magically had ultra sensitive hearing. 

    Noemi cleared her throat and looked at Marco. "Well uhm, my mum doesn't like Christmas anymore."

    "What? How can she not like Christmas? Is she stupid?"

    Noemi chuckled. "No, she's not stupid. She's just... Christmas reminds her of bad things. Or rather, good things that she doesn't have anymore."

    "Like what?"


    She looked down and clutched her dress. Now, now she was surely thinking he was a little shit.   

    "The interview is over!" my grandpa suddenly yelled. "Come over here, Marco, show me your moves."

    He turned on the radio and, just like that, the tension melted in the room. With no hesitation Marco turned around and started dancing to the music. It was as though he completely forgot that he had asked Noemi a question just a few moments ago. He actually did know how to dance with a book on his head (until of course it fell every two seconds). Then he just gave up and set his 'disco spirit' free, dancing the way my grandpa taught him. And just like that, everyone went back to eating and laughing and clapping their hands. Even Noemi, who seemed upset and lost and confused, was now smiling at my cousin's dancing skills. 

    Then a song started playing. 

    And it wasn't just any, random song. It was "Noi, ragazzi di oggi" by Luis Miguel. Noemi always turned it off when it played on the radio, she always skipped it in the playlist of 80's hits. This song had weight. It wasn't just a song. It was a memory. It was a reminder of something she had lost. 

    "It was his favourite," she whispered. "Whenever we heard it, we immediately danced. He said it was a crime to do otherwise."

    Her eyes filled with tears. Every note made it seem more painful. No, I couldn't allow this. I couldn't allow such a beautiful song to be associated with sadness. I didn't know much about her father, but I was sure that he'd agree. No one should, especially her, cry to his anthem of happiness.

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