Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

The days are fragments, pictures.

Rain falling.

A casket being lowered into a dark, dark hole in the muddy ground.

Anna and Cecilia, dressed in black, holding each other tightly as they weep.

Mattia's bedroom, with the bed unmade, a book that will never be read by the pillow, and pencil drawings of scaly monsters taped to the wall.

A morning at school.

People keep talking in hushed voices around me.

Someone passes me a photograph. I hold it in my trembling hand. Mattia's standing somewhere grassy and sunny, smiling forever.

Days upon days of fog. Inside and outside. Pimpa wags her tail before cuddling next to my stomach at night.

Sometimes I sleep and dream. Sometimes, when I wake up, I forget, only to remember. My chest aches so bad that I can't eat. Everything is too quiet and the slowness is sickening.

No. No.

No.

I want to go back. I want to go back to before this happened.

But it all continues with or without me.

My whole life is a tapestry of reminders of Mattia's absence.

I read the endless strings of messages we sent each other. It's a space where Mattia's almost alive.

Mattia, Last seen on October 13th at 18:53, says the phone. Who was the last to see Mattia? Who?

And why?

Why...

WHY?

I accidentally walk in the direction of Mattia's house on my way to school.

I close the door of my room. Every day now, my door stays closed. I turn up the music. Louder, louder, louder. It's never loud enough to shut out the silence.

It's suddenly November and bizarrely sunny.

For now, it's okay for me not to go to school, but mamma wants me to be outside. I spend each afternoon with Pimpa, lying in the grass on the riverbank. I live in the neighbourhood outside the historical centre of Pavia. It's all square apartment blocks in beige and brown lined by rows of narrow balconies. Ours is the single apartment block close to the river by the Ponte della Libertà. The bridge is ugly and white, but sturdy like other things that were built during fascist times.

The grass rustles by my head and Pimpa jumps up with Jack Russel alertness. Out of all the people in the world, it's Davide.

He settles next to me. He doesn't say anything at first. Maybe Davide is trying to be considerate. Maybe even Davide could be considerate.

Then Davide pulls out a cigarette. He's been smoking since we were all thirteen. He's bigger, blonder and taller than everyone else. Always was. Davide's dad just has cigarette packets lying carelessly everywhere in the house—at least that's how he describes it.

Davide offers me a cigarette, which I instantly decline. I used to admire him when we were younger, but not anymore. Davide became rude, cynical and downright unpleasant to be around. There's nothing more to admire.

"I thought that would change now," Davide says.

"What would change?"

"You, never smoking. You always did what Matti did and didn't do what he didn't do."

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