She had found it rummaging in an old warm-eaten chest relegated to the attic. As soon as Marianna had the red box in her hands, after pulling it out of the pile of junk where ( into which) it was ______pieces of fabric, balls of wool, crochet hooks, scissors, hairpins, zippers, ribbons, spools of thread….._____she felt her heartbeat speeding up with emotion. That heart shaped box, of modest size, was made of cardboard, a white cardboard yellowed over time. The top ( the upper half) of the box was covered with a soft scarlet red cloth. Marianna, with trembling hands, ( had) opened the box, waiting to find…who knows what treasure, or secret inside. The box was instead empty. She felt its emptiness like a slap of air on her face. On the bottom of the box there was attached a small pink card with on it written, in golden letters : KATHLEEN.
Maybe that box had contained chocolates, Marianna thought….ah, maybe it had been a gift that a lover had given to her mother, perhaps when she was young. But then…why that heart shaped box had been ended, indeed abandoned in that old chest as if someone wanted to hide it, and even to forget it?
“ Mom, look what I found in the old chest , up in the attic” She had decided to ask her mother about that box, which intrigued her very much. “ What was inside? Did it contain chocolates?”
Her mother looked at her , and did not said a word. “ Hey, Mom….listen , let’s see if I guess: it was a box of chocolates that your boyfriend had given you, a lot of years ago, maybe for Valentine’s day, eh?” Marianna ,almost anxious, was waiting for her mother’s answer.
“ Ah, my dear…but look what you went ( had gone) to find out….oh, that old box. I didn’t even know where it had ended up. No, it has nothing to do with Valentine’s day, nor with a boyfriend of mine “ Her mother said. “ But it contained chocolates, didn’t it?” “ Yes, it was a box of chocolates” And, so saying, her mother took off her glasses and sighed.
“ Mom…there is a name inside this box “ “ Yes, a name” Her mother said, nodding. Then she remained silent for some moments, and she avoided looking at Marianna. But Marianna was too eager to know. “ Mom, who was KATHLEEN? “ Alicia, her mother, looked down at the book she was reading, then she stared at Marianna without saying a word. Her mother was looking at her with a look which said her hesitation, even her fear, as if she were wondering if she could tell her daughter of Kathleen. “ On, Mom who is Kathleen? Inside this box there is only this name ” Alicia remained silent again, as she started biting her lips. “ Eh, Marianna, it is not easy at all for me to tell you of….of Kathleen” Her mother said, sighing. “ But who is she? At least who she is you can tell me, right? Wait…” Marianna be silent for a moment, as if she couldn’t stand the mounting of the emotion that the curiosity, the impatience to know, caused her. “ Then, there is no one among your friends named Kathleen, right?” Marianna asked “Well, was perhaps Kathleen a friend of yours when you was a child or a girl? Is she perhaps a friend with whom you lost sight of? Why didn’t you ever tell me about her?”
“ Ah, my dear, I never told you of….Kathleen since it is not easy to talk about….about her” Alicia murmured, in a sad tone.
“ Anyway, can I know WHO she is? Why did her name remain, and only her name, inside this old, dusty heart shaped box, which , as you said me, contained chocolates?” Marianna’s curiosity was growing in according with her heartbeat, which was getting faster and faster. She was bewildered to realize her mother’s tangible embarrassment at just hearing that name: Kathleen.
Alicia stood up and took a few steps there in the room, keeping her eyes fixed on the ground ( on the floor), before deciding to speak. “ It’s a very complicated story Marianna, and also quite long. And…I don’t know from where to start” Alicia said, keeping walking in the room. “ Well, Mom, you can start by telling me who this Kathleen is” Marianna was baffled by her mother’s reticence. And then, WHY if she was going to tell her a long story, had she stood up? “ On Mom…I assume, for the name, that Kathleen is a woman “ Marianna urged her mother.
Alicia sat on the armchair in front of the window . Turning her back to Marianna, she started to speak. “ You see, Marianne, as I told you, it is not easy at all, for me , to tell of…Kathleen.” She interrupted her speech to sigh. “ Well, one summer, many years ago, when I was very young, not married…. Ah, you would have been born ten years later….” Alicia said “ well, that summer I spent my summer vacation going to a camp in T. In this campground there were also many foreign tourists . Here, Kathleen was one of them” “ Ah, she was a foreigner….And where was she from?” Marianna asked, going in front of her mother. Alicia raised one arm , waiving her hand.
“ Look, for the moment, it is better not to wonder where she came from. You will understand WHY I’m telling you this later. Eh, no one knew where that….that very strange girl came from. Some said she was Swedish, some Hungarian, others said she was Indian”
“ Ah, but she, Kathleen ….did no one ask her where she came from?” Marianna asked.
“ Please, Marianne, be patient and listen. You will be able to understand later. You see, she, Kathleen, was not a girl like many others. She was very particular, indeed too particular.”
“ What do you mean saying that she was too particular? Do you mean that she was a very extravagant girl?” Marianna was impatient to understand WHO this Kathleen was , and also WHY her name was still inside that old heart shaped box.
“ Ah, Marianna, yet I warned you it would be difficult for me to talk about Kathleen ….and even more difficult to make you understand WHO….or WHAT she was” Alicia said ( and was silent). In the silence that followed her words, a silence which lasted not even two minutes, but which seemed interminable to Marianna, she felt, she saw TIME, the past time of that distant summer , when her mother had met Kathleen, to appear, suspended, in the room where she and her mother were. She was asking about Kathleen, her mother was telling about Kathleen . What time was that? What time was now?
“ You must know, Marianna, that she, Kathleen was not just an extravagant, or eccentric, or fool girl…oh ,she was something much more than extravagant, than eccentric….Indeed she was SOMETHING OTHER than a girl of her age “ The tone with which Alicia spoke seemed to say that oh, but it was impossible to make those who hadn’t known her understand WHO this mysterious Kathleen was.
“ Mom, I still don’t understand. But do you mean that Kathleen was a transsexual or a transvestite?” “Oh, no! Kathleen was neither a transsexual nor a transvestite…Regarding her appearance she was a wonderful girl. She was tall, slender, blonde, with perfect features. Only that….” Alicia suddenly stopped to speak “ On, Mom, __Just that….?” Marianna, who was not in herself for impatience urged her.” “ Then, she, Kathleen was a beautiful girl, but ( only that) ….some people, there in the camping, but also in the town, suspected that…..oh, I don’t feel like to say what they claimed….” Alicia sighed “ Then not a few people whispered that….that Kathleen wasn’t a real girl, they said she was instead…..a bionic girl … Oh, finally I managed to say it!” Alicia said, before taking a great breath of relief.
“Oh, but they were just rumors, weren’t they? “ Marianna asked, after she had recovered from the surprise that had left speechless.
“ Wait Marianna….I haven’t finished telling you of Kathleen” Her mother said.
“ Okay , but at least can I know if those which wanted (whispered) Kathleen to be a bionic girl were just rumors, maybe slander? In short , can you tell me at least this ? Can I know if , despite those rumors, she, Kathleen, was a real girl?” Marianna was more and more impatient, and also incredulous, and disconcerted too. She needed so much to be able to get an idea of who Kathleen was, since she had seen ( found) HER NAME inside the old heart shaped box. Marianna had thought of her as a woman, a young woman, and now it turned out that there had been rumors that she was a bionic girl. “ Have a little more patience, dear, and listen…” Alicia said, underlining her invitation to patience with a wave of her hand. “ Then, I see that you are in a hurry to know if Kathleen was a real girl , or if instead she was bionic. Well, Marianna, I’m not able to answer about this, and you will understand why if you listen to the rest of the story. Yes, you will have to give the answer by yourself. In fact I, who know the whole story, have never been able to understand if Kathleen was a real girl or if she was instead an artificial being, if she was bionic. , (a doll) “ Well, I listen to you” Marianna said, more and more bewildered.
“ Then, you must know that those rumors about Kathleen had come out not only for the perfection and beauty of her features and physical appearance, but also for what she was able to do, for her performances. She was capable of running at supersonic speed, of jumping even over walls five meters high, of throwing herself into the stormy sea to save someone who was drowning …” Alicia sighed, as if telling that story cost her a great deal of effort. Indeed, even as if she were lingering in front of something she didn’t also feel like remembering, not only telling.
“ But listen, really a wonder girl this Kathleen. Oh, I would like to meet her! Didn’t you keep any contact? Don’t you know how to find her?” Marianna asked, enthusiastic. “ Ah, Marianna, I see that you still believe in stories with a happy ending. Yet you are thirty years old now, and you should know that stories almost never have happy ending “ Her mother remarked, in a sad tone.
“ Oh, Mom, I know I’ve remained an incurable dreamer…Of course you would say that I am a gullible person .Oh, but don’t tell me this very super wonder girl’s story doesn’t have a happy ending!”
“That’s right, it doesn’t have a happy ending” Alicia said sadly, and fell silent, taking her head in her hands. It seemed just like she couldn’t handle telling the rest of the story. “ Then, I told you of the rumors which were going around about her, and of her truly amazing, incredible performances…So, therefore there were many who believed that Kathleen was not a young woman in flesh and blood, but an artificial being, a kind of doll , or robot” Alicia said.
“ Do you know what I’m thinking, Mom? “ Marianna, impatient, interrupted her mother. “ But , was there nobody who instead thought that Kathleen could be an alien, a creature ( being) from another planet?” Marianna asked.
Alicia stood up ( get up), and started walking around the room, absorbed, thoughtful. She walked with slow steps, with her head down, her eyes on the ground, holding her chin with one hand.
“ Yes, I remember that there was also someone who said Kathleen could be an extraterrestrial…But most of people there in the camping, and in the near town too, thought she was an artificial being, but made by humans” Alicia said, as she kept going up and down in front of the window. Then she went to open the window. “ Well, when almost everyone, at least there in the camping , believed that Kathleen was not a human being, but an artificial being….” Alicia looked out of the window, and also leaned out, to look down. Marianna ran after her and grabbed her shoulder. “ Mom, but what are you doing? Oh, you don’t want to throw yourself out of the window, I hope” “ Don’t worry, dear. I was just looking to realize at what(which) height from the ground this window is . I would say….at a height of four or five meters” Alicia said, retracting from looking out the window and pulling up her head, which she held down out of the window.
“ Yes, it will be about five meters above the ground” Marianna agreed.
“ Here, Kathleen fell, or she threw herself from a window six meters high from the ground” Alicia spoke with a dark, almost bass voice. It seemed that the few words of her sentence came from underground. “ Oh, but an artificial being cannot want to throw itself ( himself) out of the window! Then, you mean that Kathleen was a real girl!” Marianna shouted, she seemed thrilled.
“ Of course, there were also those who claimed that Kathleen had been thrown out of the window. Yes, some people thought she had be killed” Alicia added. “ Let me understand…do you mean that Kathleen died , following that fall from the window?” Marianna , who looked rather confused, asked. “ But sure, she died….” Alicia seemed to be wondering : but why my daughter is asking me a such question? Doesn’t she understand that it is very unlikely to survive falling from six meters? “ Oh, but then she wasn’t a doll or a robot, if she really died !” Marianna kept talking, all anxious, eager to be reassured that Kathleen, despite the rumors about her, oh , she had been a real girl! It seemed that Marianna didn’t care at all that Kathleen had died, that he had thrown herself or that she had been thrown out of the window . It seemed that to her cared only to know that everyone had been wrong, that Kathleen wasn’t an artificial being that, as such, (he) it had never been alive, and so it couldn’t even die. Instead she, Kathleen, had been ( was) a real girl in flesh and blood.
“ Marianna, I see that now you are sure that Kathleen was a real girl like many others, belonging to the human race, I mean” Alicia said, looking at her daughter with an indulgent smile. “ Don’t you want to hear the rest of the( this) story? “ She asked. “ Ah, but of course…. The rest of the story….yes, I think that the autopsy will have confirmed that Kathleen was ( had been) a girl made of flesh and blood…It was like that, wasn’t?”
Alicia walked around the room, , her head down, her look at the ground, before answering. “ “Right now ( right here) it comes the incredible….The autopsy confirmed that Kathleen was a young woman, belonging to the human race in all respects….except for her heart, which was entirely of CHOCOLATE! “ Alicia was silent for a few moments, as if she needed to catch her breath. Marianna kept on looking at her with a frightened face, which said all her disorientation, all her disbelief, without saying a word. “ Do you understand now why I told you that I have never been able to figure out WHO or WHAT Kathleen was?” Alicia asked. “ What? Did she have a heart of chocolate? You’re kidding, aren’t you?I can’t believe it!” Marianna screamed, astonished, shocked. “ But sure, it is incredible ! But is true! That’s what it was: Kathleen , who died like any other mortal, following that flight from the window, she had a heart completely of chocolate…
Ten very distinguished pathologists certified it ( that) in their autopsy relationship…” Alicia kept speaking, but Marianna was no longer able to listen to her. She was too shocked, too upset.
“ Are you listening to me, Marianna? “ Alicia asked, looking , almost worried, at her daughter. Marianna did not answer. She seemed to be stunned, she had the look and the movements of a sleepwalker. Alicia started again to speak. “ I still have to tell you WHY her name , Kathleen, is inside the old heart shaped box you found in the attic.” Alicia sat down and kept telling. “ This story caused a lot of sensation….Oh, there was a lot of talk about the foreign girl with a chocolate heart. Then the most important pastry shop in T. thought of made heart shaped chocolates which were packed in heart shaped boxes. And, just to remember her, inside each of these heart shaped box was written her Name: KATHLEEN:”