They say, best men are moulded out of faults;
And, for the most, become much more the better
For being a little bad.
Gianna: "God is gracious"
A ten-year old Gianna slammed the silly name book shut. God is gracious. What does that even mean? A furtive glance to her left spotted an excited Oria bragging about how her name meant "golden". Even Adela, the ugliest and fattest girl in the class, got a good name. Hers meant noble.
Why couldn't I get a name that meant beautiful or graceful? Gianna felt angry tears prick the corners of her eyes.
"Psst, Gianna! What does your name mean?" Gianna hurriedly wiped her eyes and turned around. Rosalba grinned at her. "Mine means white rose. What is yours?"
Gianna bit her lower lip. Rosalba was her best friend; they'd promise not to keep secrets or lie to one another. But she wasn't about to confess to someone whose name meant 'white rose' that her own didn't define her at all.
"Strong and powerful," Gianna lied. Her voice was perfectly modulated so that no one would guess something was wrong. "It means strong and powerful."
"Is that right?" Miss Damiani stood before Gianna's desk. "I thought your name meant 'God is gracious'."
Exactly as Gianna had feared, she heard snickers and giggles escape the class. Flushing bright red, Gianna said, "Well, I have the wrong name. You said names define who a person is. Well, that's what I'm gonna be. That's what my name's going to mean. I'm going to be strong and powerful. You'll see."
A thirteen-year old Gianna hunted quietly after the creature. The disgusting thing's life would end now. Gianna held the sandal tightly in her hands as she waited for the opportune moment. She did not move; she barely breathed. Suddenly, it lurched out of its hiding place, scurrying across the grimy linoleum.
Raising the sandal, Gianna saw the squashed remains of the cockroach. One of its legs was twitching spastically so she brought the sandal down again.
Better safe than sorry.
Once she was sure it was dead, she tore a piece of the paper towel she had beside her and mopped the cockroach from the floor. Holding the paper gingerly between her fingers, she tossed it into the trashcan. Glancing at the counter, she spotted that morning's cupcake now strung like a Christmas tree with ants. Like the cockroach, it found itself tossed unceremoniously into the trashcan.
She kept telling her mother about the cockroach and ant infestation spreading throughout their house, but would she do anything? Of course not. Her mother was too busy holding down two jobs and keeping her boyfriend happy to hire something as ridiculous as an exterminator.
Sighing, she looked around the small kitchen. The floor was in need of a good washing, the plates were piling up in the sink, threatening to spill over the edges, and the table's leg had broken off. Again.
Another night of missed homework. I'm going to fail my test tomorrow.
Thinking of a place where her dear mother could burn for eternity cheered Gianna considerably as she turned to tackle the mountain of plates.
Suddenly, a hand reached out and took the plate from her. Gianna turned to see her half-sister, Emilia, run the plate under some water and start scrubbing.
"Emilia!" Gianna exclaimed throwing herself at her sister whom she had not seen in three years. "I didn't hear you come in! What are you doing here?"
Gianna felt Emilia's arms wrap tightly around her before her sister pulled away. "Let me look at you." Emilia took Gianna's face into her hands. Gianna took this time to examine her.
Emilia had run away six years ago when she was fifteen and the time had not been kind to her. She looked tired and much older than her twenty-two years. There were new lines around her eyes and there was a slight downward pull to her lips, as if she found little happiness in life anymore. But she was smiling as she said, "My little lily."
Gianna smiled. 'Lily' had been Emilia's nickname for her since they were young. Gianna didn't remember specifics but Emilia had told her the story of when she was a little over a year old, she stood up and began to walk. Amazed, Emilia had followed Gianna as she toddled towards a flower basket their father had given their mother. Gianna had grabbed a lily and offered it to Emilia. Ever since, Emilia had always called her 'lily', and was the only one who could.
"Did you come back to stay?" Gianna asked her eagerly. Emilia's smile froze.
"I can't, lily. You know that. After I ran away, I died in Mother's eyes. She'll never welcome me here. Not that I would ever come back." The last she muttered off-handedly, more to herself than to Gianna.
"Then, take me with you!" Gianna begged. "I want to go with you."
"You can't, lily. I don't have house, a stable salary. Hell, I barely have food. Here, at least, you have that."
"But, I don't want to stay here. I want to run away too."
Emilia grabbed her arms. "You won't. Don't leave this house until you're eighteen. Y—"
"But you left when you were fifteen!"
"I couldn't handle it anymore. And it was a mistake. It's so hard to live out there when you have nothing. I couldn't even work in a fast-food restaurant because I never graduated. No, stay here and stay in school until you're eighteen. Then you can go."
"So, if you didn't come here to stay and you're not taking me with you, why are you here?" Emilia looked away.
"I came to say goodbye."
"What?" Gianna gasped. Emilia smiled tremulously.
"I found a job but it's really far away. I don't know when I'll be able to see you again so I came here to say goodbye."
"Hey, lily, don't cry. The moment I'm settled, I'll send you a letter so you can write me. And who knows? We may find each other again soon. Cheer up."
Gianna hugged her tightly, burying her face in Emilia's threadbare coat. She felt Emilia's hands slide around her back, one of her hands at Gianna's hair, gently stroking it. Finally, too soon for Gianna, Emilia disentangled herself quietly and kissed Gianna's cheeks.
"I love you, lily," she said softly, smiling sadly. Then, Emilia turned and walked out the door.
Gianna stood alone in the dingy kitchen, deliberating for a moment before she grabbed her sweater and ran out behind her sister.
"Emilia!" she screamed. "Emilia, please, take me with you! Emilia!" Gianna felt her throat tear as she screamed her sister's name.
Except for a few cars, the street was empty.
A sixteen-year old Gianna raced through the school halls. Almost losing her footing, she dove into a bathroom that was, mercifully, empty. She ran directly to one of the stalls and promptly vomited everything in her stomach.
Once she was done, she collapsed to the ground, her body shaking. She wrapped her arms tightly around her torso as she fought back the tears burning her eyes.
How could he? How dare he?
The image of Massimo and Rosalba kissing was engraved into the inside of her eyelids. Rosalba was no surprise; after their falling out they had been competing for everything: best clothes, best grades, best boyfriends.
But Massimo? Massimo who'd told her there was no one more beautiful than she, Massimo who would hold her face in his hands and make her feel perfectly safe, Massimo who had been her savior whenever she thought things would never get better?
That night, Gianna crept into bed, wrapping her sheets like a cocoon around her. She sunk her teeth into the soft skin of her inner wrist until she tasted the copper of her blood. Drawing her arm away, she watched almost disbelieving as the vivid red drops carved a path down the flesh of her forearm. She raised a finger to one of the drops. There, watching herself bleed, Gianna made a promise to herself.
No one will ever hurt me again. No one. I will become stronger and more powerful than them. No one will ever dare cross me again.
Essay: If you could be one thing in the world, what would you be and why? Remember to include the five paragraphs (introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and conclusion), thesis statement and specific support.
"Though they don't want to kill anybody, they like to have the power to do so" (Proverbs). It is something we all would like, power to do anything even if we would never do those things ourselves. It grants us a feeling of freedom, that there is nothing tying us down or keeping us from doing what we wish. It is why I want to be a princess. A powerful princess. One that no one could control. …
An eighteen-year old Gianna glared at her mother.
This fight had been brewing for eighteen years. She had never started it before because she had no place to go. Now, she was eighteen and she would be damned before staying another night with her mother.
"You ungrateful bitch!" her mother screamed. Her green eyes, the only part of her Gianna inherited, were narrowed in vicious hate. "I worked for you, cleaned up after you. You will go because I order you to!"
Gianna's hands balled into tight fists, the crescents of her nails cutting into her skin. "I'm not going to the factory. I'm not going to waste my life like you."
"Oh and what will you do? Work at a bordello like your miserable sister?"
"Her work's no different from yours!" Gianna screamed. Daughter and mother both fell silent. Gianna knew she had crossed a line, one she could not return over. But the words hung in the air like flaming arrows and she knew she did not regret them.
Her mother had taken a step back as if her daughter's words were a physical blow. But she quickly regained control. "You whore!" Her mother stepped forward, one hand raised in order to strike Gianna. But Gianna was ready for her. When her hand swung down, Gianna intercepted it, grabbing her by the wrist in a vice-like grip.
"You will not hit me again. You will not insult me again. I am sick of you and sick of this. You can destroy your own life but I'm leaving."
"Then leave," her mother hissed. "You'll come crawling back."
"Not anymore," Gianna snapped.
Gianna dropped her mother's hand and strode to her room. She ignored her mother as she packed her things and dug out all the money she had saved. Then, her mother's insults ringing in her ears, Gianna followed her sister's example and walked out the door without looking back.
A twenty-three year old Gianna scrambled around searching for her notebook. Amongst the mess she had on her desk, it was incredible she hadn't lost it before. Finally, she unearthed it from under a calendar and appointment book and flipped to the right page. Cradling the phone awkwardly between her shoulder and ear, she penciled in the time and did some calculations.
"Your appointment will be Thursday at 10:30 AM. …Yes, very well… Thank you and have a nice day."
Gianna hung up and sighed.
Secretarial service was not something she ever imagined herself doing. Then again, this job was much better than anything else she's ever had. The salary was not fantastic but it paid the bills. It was also a safe, stable job, something she knew she should be very thankful for.
As Gianna shifted a huge pile of papers to her In-box, the phone rang again. Quickly picking up, she said, "Good morning, Sarzana Metal, how may I help you?"
As the man on the other side answered, she heard the door open. "Just a minute," Gianna called to the person who walked in as she opened another book. "Yes, we would be able to do that for € 5400.48. …All right, then. …Of course, you may come to pick it up next Tuesday at any time from 9 A…M."
Gianna stared at the woman who had just come in. She had long mahogany hair and the fairest skin Gianna had ever seen. She wore a form-fitting long-sleeved blue turtleneck and black pants. Black gloves covered her hands and her eyes were the oddest shade, a wild violet as if she wore red contacts over bright blue eyes. The woman smiled a close-lipped smile at Gianna.
"There's still someone on the line," she laughed. The woman's voice and laughter were the silkiest sounds she had ever heard. But her words snapped Gianna back to reality and the man on the phone asking her if she was still there.
"I'm sorry, sir, I had another client. But, yes, you may come by next Tuesday any time from 9 to 4 to pick it up. …Yes, thank you, goodbye." Gianna hung up abruptly and turned to the woman. "Good morning, is there anything you needed?"
"Yes, you may help me," the woman said. Gianna did not miss the subtle inflection the woman placed on the word 'you'.
"How may I help you?" Gianna reworded her question. The woman's smile grew.
"I come here with an offer, Gianna." Gianna started when the woman said her name but could not speak as the woman continued. "But, this is hardly the place for it. Perhaps we can meet elsewhere in a more private setting? I promise; it will be worth your time."
Entranced by the woman's violet eyes, Gianna heard herself distantly agreeing and saying the name of a restaurant she frequented.
The woman nodded once. "Very well. We shall meet there this evening at eight. Please, do not be late." With a last smile, she pivoted gracefully and left.
Gianna could do nothing but stare in numb shock after her.
"Gianna!" Gianna started as Mr. Mancini barked her name. "What's my next appointment?
Gianna seized upon the appointment book and flipped open to the correct page. "With a Mr. Felice at 1: 30 pm."
"Good. Send him right in when he arrives. I need to step out for a bit."
"Yes, sir," Gianna said. She glanced at the clock mounted on the wall. 12:27. She had eight hours to decide whether to take the woman up on her invitation.
What did she know about that woman, anyway? And how had that woman known her name? It wasn't written anywhere in the office and Gianna was sure she had never seen her before. That face was unforgettable. Could the woman have been following her? But there was nothing about Gianna that could warrant such an action. She had a mediocre job, lived in a mediocre apartment, drove a mediocre car and received a less than mediocre wage. She was not well-connected. In fact, no one would miss her if she disappeared. The only thing that truly stood out about her were her looks, something she took pains to maintain by choosing good-looking (if low-priced) clothing, her hair stylishly cut, her nails manicured, and her make-up intact. But even that would not warrant extra attention.
What could this woman, dressed in clothes that looked tailor-made for her and an air of power around her want with someone like me?
Perhaps it was a joke. Gianna would not be surprised to learn it was. But, remembering the woman, the power behind her words and the vivid violet eyes, Gianna knew her decision was made for her.
Ten minutes before eight found Gianna seated nervously before the windows of her favorite restaurant. Different what ifs ran through her mind as she anxiously tapped her foot against the wooden floor. She played with the olive on her martini before downing the drink in one gulp.
"I've never seen you so jumpy," Paolo laughed. He took the now empty glass and smiled questioningly at Gianna. "Another?"
"So what's bothering you?"
"Nothing, I'm just meeting someone."
"Ah, old boyfriend?"
Gianna glared at him with mock indignation. "What kind of woman do you take me for?"
"One who has just drunk two martinis in a row and has been wearing a hole in my floor for the past fifteen minutes."
"Oh, sorry." Paolo laughed and handed her drink before turning to another customer.
Gianna drank half the glass and glanced at her watch just in time to see the minute hand jump to the twelve.
Gianna jumped at the silken, soft voice jut over her shoulder and turned quickly to see the woman from that morning smiling her close-lipped smile.
"You're—" late. But, no, she wasn't. She was exactly on time. Gianna swallowed the last word but the woman's mile spread, as if she had heard the unspoken adjective.
"How are you?" she asked politely and this time, when she spoke, the fluorescent lights caught on her straight, white teeth. Gianna felt a sudden discomfort at the sight of those prefect teeth but she quickly squashed the feeling. Afraid of teeth. Ridiculous.
"Fine, thank you. Did you want something? Paolo!" Paolo turned at Gianna's call and his jaw dropped as he caught sight of the woman behind Gianna.
"I don't want anything, thank you. I'm not thirsty anymore." The woman laughed her tinkling laugh. She sat at the stool next to Gianna.
"What is your name?" Gianna blurted. The woman laughed again.
"It's true; I haven't introduced myself, have I? Where have my manners gone? My name is Heidi." She smiled and Gianna found her attention again riveted on her perfect teeth.
"Heidi," Gianna tried the name. "A pleasure."
Heidi smiled. "Now, I'm sure you're wondering what was so important as to meet with a stranger, correct?"
"Well…yes," Gianna admitted. Heidi laughed.
"I represent a group who requires someone of your skills. We're currently searching for an efficient and responsible secretary. I've been watching you for a few weeks and I believe you are precisely the person we need. Please, wait until I finish." Heidi raised a hand and Gianna quickly closed her mouth again. "We're based in Volterra and we will pay for travel costs. Housing, electricity and plumbing would also be paid by us. Your biweekly salary would be the equivalent of your current yearly salary—quadrupled. I do hope that would be enough to get you through."
Gianna quickly did the math. She made €1500 monthly for a total of €18000 a year. Multiply that by four and you had a grand total of €72000—every two weeks. Which meant her yearly salary would be over €1000000.
Oh. My. God.
"God isn't the one giving you the money," Heidi laughed. Too late Gianna realized she had spoken aloud. "But maybe He did have something to do in choosing. He is gracious, after all, isn't he?"
Gianna could do nothing but gape at her.
"I can see that this is a lot for you to take in. I'll leave you my card. Feel free to contact me at any time. I don't sleep." She laughed as if at an inside joke, bid farewell, and swept gracefully from the bar.
Gianna stared at the slim rectangle. A shaky hand brushed the raised lettering with Heidi's name and phone number.
"God is gracious."
Maybe her name did define her.