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Contemporary Gay Inspirational

Adalia looks at her reflection on the laptop screen. Her dark eyes stare back at her, fused with the bear mother on the screensaver. That bear mother brings her strength every time. Her survival skills, her maternal power, her ability to get away from it all and hibernate through the depths of winter. This is her role model, her mentor, her nurturing mother (almae matres).


She curls her long thick hair around her index finger and feels the soft strands strengthen as she pulls at them. She then settles her gaze on the cup of dark hot chocolate on the white table cloth. Is this moment part of her autobiography? For years she has been coming to this speciality chocolate shop on the outskirts of Bologna. The drive allows her to clear her mind and enjoy time out of time. She imbibes the deep, syrupy aroma and closes her eyes. It is a direct connection with her grandmother. Her grandmother who used to look at her with wide, unjudging eyes, no matter what vice or whim was being exposed. Her grandmother who had borne so much and spoke so little.


Soaking her thoughts in the thick chocolate she meditates on life’s sources. On the dualities within us. Bitter dark chocolate becomes smooth when combined with sweetness and cream. One spoon contains both sin and grandeur in equal measure. Right and wrong swirl in the same cup.


Could she talk about this in her self-portrait of Italy’s up and coming human rights lawyer? Would it make sense to anybody else? These days, she needs to preserve every inch of privacy she can get.


So why had she agreed to write this article?


Maybe it was better than letting someone else write it for her? Maybe her inner voice was yearning to be heard.


Can the public and private persona be two different people? Does she have to justify herself to anyone? After all, she and Ricardo have an agreement. An implicit agreement. To live separate lives. It is just hard to remember that sometimes.


A sense of Guilt. I have heard it said (or read) that Guilt is an act of emotional growth. If that is so, then where am I growing to? Am I leaving an old skin behind, and what will my new one look like? And where does my current self reside?


She sees her reflection again on the laptop screen, then hesitantly takes the clean white napkin from her lap and dabs at her bright red lipstick. She pats her lips slowly until they stop shining back at her. She stretches her jaws into a wide grimace and sees the cracks in her pale pink lips; cracks of age and experience that can now taste the acidity in limoncello.


Right, let’s get started. “At the age of 8 I saw a picture of American mafia mogul Paul Castellano shot dead in New York. The mafia boss’ death sent shock waves through our home-town. We felt fear and hope. My parents talked about it for days. If this could happen in America, what about Italy? Christmas that year had a different feel to it. A sense of possibility and change. A sense that we could look outwards. That’s when I decided I wanted to become a lawyer.”


Hm, that’s not bad. Every story has to start with a powerful beginning.


“One day, when I was in high school, a fight broke out. Two girls had been caught behind the sports field. It was as if they had committed national treason. The boys were the worst. They were outraged. As if it was an affront to their very masculinity. As if, as if, if there was any of that going around, they should be the ones to benefit. It became a witch hunt. The girls had to leave. The whole thing was silenced.”


Adalia stares into space and absently wipes the moisture from her eyes. The pain is in her gut. Her chest is heaving. 


OK, let’s start over. “At the age of 15 I moved to Bologna. My father got a job at the university and my parents thought it would be a good place for me to finish my education. I was exposed to new ideas. Bologna was an up-and-coming place. Politics, philosophy, these things were discussed in a way we could not imagine in the South. I met young thinkers and activists. Heard people criticise the networks of power that hide all around us. This was the start of a new phase in my life. This is where I learnt about humanism and human rights. This is where I realised what kind of a lawyer I could be.”


Almost there. Do I have to mention that I am married? What is a woman in this country without a husband? “This self-portrait is an account of my professional career. Proof that women in this country can be successful. I will not talk here about my private life. Some may say that embracing our personal fulfilment is essential to our emancipation. But that is not my battle to fight. I have enough to tackle as it is. Let my voice be my own. Let the readers accept me as I am. I am an Italian lawyer fighting for justice and the protection of innocent people”.


Adalia reads and re-reads the last paragraph. It seems to say nothing and everything all at once. She saves the document and looks again at the mother bear on the screen. This time Adalia's grimace turns into a smile. A smile that lightens her eyes and shows her wrinkles. She can sense the strength within her. The strength to be a complex woman in a society that wants things to be simple. The courage to fight for things outside herself. The pain of not being whole all of the time. The fate of being human. Female. Sexual. Hidden. Public. Seen. These are all her fates and many more.


Let my voice be my own, she whispers again to mother bear. I am not hibernating yet.

November 24, 2023 10:48

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9 comments

23:52 Nov 30, 2023

Interesting story to the prompt. I loved the sentence that Geir quoted, too! I would have started with the name Adalia but switched the first two paragraphs. 4th paragraph needs to start with 'can.' (like another paragraph does.) She is writing as you are writing. Could is past but is also about possibility that can no longer happen in the present. Can is more likely. She hasn't written it yet but she is formulating the sentences to write in the present. And she is thinking about hot chocolate in the general sense, not especially her own cup...

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S Fevre
18:21 Dec 01, 2023

Hi Kaitlyn, thanks a lot for these suggestions, I will play around with the paragraph order and see how it feels. That's a good tip in general, as sometimes the best order doesn't reflect the order we write it. Appreciate your feedback!

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21:03 Dec 01, 2023

The way it reads at present is focus on the screen and screen saver, a daydream in the 2nd paragraph, and then getting down to business in a sense in the third. (Loosely) May happen that way in real life. When writing it is always good to write things progressively and chronologically. A better progression is the daydream/reflection, then focus on the screen and then starting to get down to business. A lot of the story is hypothetical as in you are progressively deciding what to write/include. Your object that pops into your story is the cup...

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Martin Ross
03:04 Nov 30, 2023

Wow. There is a very dynamic sense of narrative pace and impact. A wonderful story of self-empowerment, marvelously told.

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S Fevre
13:36 Nov 30, 2023

Thanks Martin for the positive feedback, really appreciate it! I actually thought that it might have been too static (more like a portrait than a narrative), so good to hear.

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Martin Ross
15:40 Nov 30, 2023

To me, there’s no one template for a great story — it’s all in the writing, and you truly made it come alive. There are folks here who do stories completely in sparkling and revealing dialogue, and those who can convey all the interpersonal conflict, feelings, suspense, and resolution all without a spoken word. If you can find it, read Conrad Aiken’s “Secret Snow Silent Snow” — total detached narrative that quietly and gracefully and chillingly paints a tragedy in the making. It was anthologized in an early ‘70s TV horror anthology, narrat...

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S Fevre
18:24 Dec 01, 2023

Wow sounds interesting, I will look it up! Appreciate your thoughts.

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Geir Westrul
13:20 Nov 27, 2023

This feels like the start of a very intriguing longer piece. Very reflective (pun, maybe, intended). Lots of chewy passages. My favorite: Soaking her thoughts in the thick chocolate she meditates on life's sources. On the dualities within us. Bitter dark chocolate becomes smooth when combined with sweetness and cream. One spoon contains both sin and grandeur in equal measure. Right and wrong swirl in the same cup.

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S Fevre
13:37 Nov 30, 2023

Thank you Geir, I appreciate the feedback!

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