Authors: Cindy Thomson
Copyright © 2015 by Cindy Thomson. All rights reserved.
Visit Cindy Thomson’s website at
Cover photograph taken by Kelsey Thomson. Copyright © 2015 by Cindy Thomson. All rights reserved. Dog photograph by Zach Welty. Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.
Cover design by Kim M. Draper of Kim René Designs, www.kimrenedesigns.com
Interior Formating by Penoaks Publishing,
Author photography by Barbara Jo Photography, copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from the
, King James Version.
is a work of fiction. Where real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales appear; they are used fictitiously. All other elements of the novel are drawn from the author’s imagination.
Con amore a mia famiglia,
Tom, Dan, Jeff, Kyle, Kelsey, and Aryn.
Like branches on a tree,
We all grow in different directions,
Yet our roots remain as one.
The biggest supporters to me while I was working on
were the fans of the first two books in the series. You told me you wanted the next book, and that is what truly kept me in my chair writing. My special team of promotors deserve a high five. Thank you so very much!
Holly Lorincz of Lorincz Literary Services did a fine job of editing for me. Holly had some terrific ideas for improving the story.
Thank you to the Twinless Twins support group for answering my queries and putting me in touch with someone whose personal story helped inspire Sofia’s.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the Italian immigrants who came through Ellis Island and left their stories behind for future generations. I made good use of the Ellis Island website (
) and the National Archives (
) along with books such as
Imported Americans: The Story of the Experiences of a Disguised American and His Wife Studying the Immigration Question
by Broughton Brandenberg, which inspired, among other things, the scene of Antonio at Giovanni’s.
Thank you to Ken Grossi, College Archivist at Oberlin College for answering questions and sending me a copy of “The First 100 Years of the Conservatory.”
Rosanne Dingli, fellow author and member of the Historical Novel Society, was a huge blessing to me by reviewing the Italian words and phrases and suggesting changes. If I have made any mistakes, they are all mine.
Big hugs to Kim Draper who waited patiently to work on
, supported me with Facebook messages, and who is without question a very talented designer. She was also helpful by reading an early copy of the manuscript.
Serious prayer partners at Etna UMC, and Sandy Beck, Cris Carnahan, and all those on social media, were critical to the process. Thanks for being so patient and faithful. Thanks also to Kendra Morgan and Cindy K. Thomson for their special support.
Kelsey Thomson was my photographer and Kaitlan Livingston my model. Thank you, girls, for being willing to tromp around old houses with me. You really did a wonderful job.
Thank you to Dean and Jodi at the Orchard House Bed and Breakfast for allowing us to do a photo shoot.
For his gentle shoves, moral support, brainstorming help, I thank my husband Tom for loving me through this process. It’s not easy to live with an author sometimes. Thanks also to my kids Dan, Jeff, and Kyle, and to the girls Kelsey and Aryn, for your loving support as always. Our fun gatherings gave me much needed down time.
I’m grateful God has allowed me to keep publishing novels. His blessings every day continue to amaze me.
Thank YOU for reading! You are truly the reason I do it. Please visit me:
Throughout her twenty-one years, Sofia Falcone had always been her mother’s favored child, humored and made over more than her sister and three brothers. That is, until September rolled around. Every September.
The first autumn chill from the north brought about a palpable change that Sofia had learned to anticipate. The inaugural twinge of gold in the trees, the reddening of apples, the shorter days—all harbingers of her mother’s impending personality change. Sofia’s body responded like an old person’s, with aching bones, as if a storm were gathering. Her hands grew cold and would not warm again until the new year arrived. She dreaded this season of sadness that made no sense. Autumn blues, Papà called it, and Mamma had it worse than anyone Sofia knew.
As Sofia and her mother tidied up the kitchen before beginning supper, Mamma grabbed the dish Sofia had put in the rinse water and plunked it back into the soapy dish pail. “Not clean enough,” she scolded. “You cannot make up for what you lack, Sofia, no matter how hard you try. Some children are not completely what God intended them to be.”
Sofia turned away, her heart pounding. Mamma’s melancholy sometimes made her say hurtful things. She heard Papà’s voice behind her.
“Angelina, please. Poor Sofia.”
Her mother slammed a fist against the sink. “You know!” She pointed a dripping finger at him.
Tears burned Sofia’s eyes. Mamma’s demons had returned despite Sofia’s prayers that God would banish them. They would have to endure the next couple of months until Mamma returned to herself. For most of Sofia’s life, Papà and his cousins had made numerous trips to America, returning to their village with the money they had earned before winter settled on Manhattan. Immigration had not been Papà’s intent. He hadn’t initially planned to bring Sofia and the rest of the family over, but then he got the idea that living in a new country might help improve Mamma’s autumn melancholy. Sofia had been in favor of trying anything new. Something had to be done. But after six months of living in New York City it hadn’t helped after all.
Mamma let out a tense breath. “Never mind. Your father says, ‘Poor Sofia.’” She shook her head. “Fetch the soup pot from the closet, Sofia. If you can open your eyes long enough to find it.” Such sharp reprimands were a sure sign that the moodiness had descended. Mamma wasn’t usually so curt.
Sofia paused to catch a look from her youngest brother Joey. At seventeen he was old enough to contribute to the household but he seldom worked. She never knew when he might show up at home. He grinned and shrugged his shoulders. They both knew Mamma’s sad season was here but it didn’t bother him as much.
She hurried to the back of the small flat where her parents slept, glad for the momentary escape. Back in Italy the soup pot had hung from the rafters in the kitchen, but here there was no room. The pasta pot was handy always, but the pot for stew was somewhere in this crowded storage space because they hadn’t needed it all summer.
Sofia brushed strands of hair from her eyes. Mamma should not speak to her as if she were a baby. She was the eldest child. At her age, Sofia should be married and have her own home, and not be forced to endure Mamma’s insults. One day Sofia would be free of this, but for now she had to cope with the annual autumn upheaval.
Thankfully, most of the time, Mamma wanted Sofia near. Sofia was the one Mamma taught her special recipes to, the one she trusted with the marketing money. They giggled together like sisters while escaping the summer heat out on the front stoop. At Christmastime they sang the songs Mamma’s mother had taught her when she was a young girl. After Sunday meals, when the preparation exhausted them, together they made up stories about
a creature from village folklore who came to sweep the house clean after everyone went to bed. Most of the year, Sofia and her mother were very close, and that’s what made this melancholy now so unbearable.
When they’d first arrived in America, Sofia found work at a shoe factory to help the family meet the dear price of rent. Mamma had shed tears over it and said she hated to let Sofia go. She missed her during the day. And yet, when the blue months began, Sofia seemed to be the one person Mamma did not want around. The daughter she said was not what God fully intended her to be.
Sofia bit her lip and glanced out the tenement window toward the iron fire escape. They were a proud Italian family.
L’ordine della famiglia
, the rules of the family, meant they kept to themselves, dismissing the wider world, which had become more apparent now that they were in New York City, a place more heavily inhabited than anyone living in her native village would have imagined. Sofia met outsiders on the trolley and at work. But when you do not travel about, socialize, or even shop outside your neighborhood—as Mamma and many others did not—it was not so difficult to keep to your own.
Not even Sister Stefania, her aunt who lived in the abbey next to the Church of the Most Precious Blood, was exempt from the rules of
. First she was Mamma’s sister. Second she was a bride of Christ. Everyone had his or her role. Most times Sofia found this comforting, like a cocoon of woolen blankets on a snowy day. She needed people around her. To Sofia, being alone was the worst punishment she could imagine.
She turned back to her task and soon found what she sought. But before she could grasp the pot, a box covered in flowered paper wedged behind it caught her eye. Mamma’s sister had sent up some items from the abbey because there was no room for it there, due to the recent arrival of a group of novices. Sofia’s mother had reluctantly accepted these things, stuffing them into the already overflowing space. Sofia longed to know what belongings a nun could possibly wish to hold on to. She pulled out the box.
Glancing toward the door, she heard her parents arguing. She ran her fingers over the tattered paper covering. If Sister Stefania were here, she’d allow a look. She might be a peculiar woman but was not fussy in the least. However, if Mamma knew what Sofia was doing, she’d fume, saying Sofia was impetuous, unfocused, not capable of following directions.
Sofia shook her head, reminding herself that Mamma said those things now. The true Mamma would return to them in a few months.
She paused, gripping the box in her lap. It would only take a moment to see what was inside. She untied the brown string holding the top on and peeked in. The box contained a few embroidered handkerchiefs, a yellowed photo of a stern looking couple, likely Sofia’s grandparents, and some folded letters. From underneath them, she pulled out something round, flat, and hard. She’d heard about these Victor records. The girls at the factory talked about them. If you have the machine to put them on, music comes out.
Sofia rubbed her hand over the image of the dog listening to the machine. “
La Mandolinata, Sousa’s Band
,” this one said. She didn’t need to understand English to comprehend the meaning of the phrase, “His Master’s Voice.” Supposedly the sound was so good the dog was fooled into thinking he was hearing his owner’s voice. Sofia wouldn’t know, though. She’d never heard one of these played. Her aunt the nun was certainly full of surprises.
Sofia was about to replace the lid when a small photograph slid from under the pile. She gasped as she examined it. An infant in a long white lace dress lay in a tiny coffin. She turned the image over. Two dates were written in faded ink: 25/
/1882. This was Sofia’s birthday, September 25, 1882. Was it her in the picture then? Yet, this photo also had a second date recorded on the back . . . how odd. From the way the dates were written, they seemed to be recording the child’s birthday and the day of death. If this was so, the child died on October 19, 1884, shortly after her second birthday.
She dug deeper in the box, flipping through official looking papers written in Italian, when something caught her eye in the handwritten texts:
. The same dates from the photograph were written on this page, but Sofia struggled to understand the rest. She leaned against the closet door and tried to comprehend the writing. She had not had reason to learn to read until they arrived in America, and now her schooling—at night, after her work at the factory—was in English. She squinted her eyes, hoping to send a message to her brain to concentrate harder.
The paper might be some kind of official document, like a birth certificate. But with those two dates? No, this was a record of the infant’s death. Why would Sister Stefania have such a thing? Had she been hiding it? The
bore Sofia’s family’s name. And Sofia’s birthday.
Had Sofia been born with a twin?
Her heart pounded. She did not want to believe her parents would have hidden this from her, but what other explanation could there be?
She rubbed a shaky hand over her face.
“Sofia! What are you doing,
? We shall never eat if you don’t move quicker!”
Sofia slapped the lid back on the box and returned it to the corner. Gathering up the soup pot, she slipped the photograph into her apron pocket. Someone needed to explain this.
Later, after supper, when Papà was about to take his pipe to his favorite spot by the coal stove, Sofia brought out the photograph. Sofia’s twin brothers, Frankie and Fredo, were away at work, and her sister Gabriella had likely slipped downstairs to sit on the stoop and trade stories with the neighbors. This moment might be her best chance to speak to her parents.
Sofia said nothing when she held out the photograph.
Mamma’s face turned white. She snatched the photograph and handed it to Papà. He frowned. “I told you we should have told her, Angelina.”
“You told me? This is my fault? You blame me, Giuseppe.” Sofia’s mother dismissed him with the wave of a dishcloth. She pinched at her eyes. “Serena.
Joey sat silently by the stove, not defending her as Sofia thought he should, even though he looked as shocked as she felt. Of course, he hadn’t known this either. And it was done to her, not him. After a few moments he rose and slipped out the door.
Like many other Falcone conversations, this discussion rose in volume for the whole building to hear. Joey would not escape it unless he left the neighborhood. Never mind this had been a secret for nineteen years. Passion overruled privacy in these rooms.
must shout out when emotions turned hot.
“Who was she, Mamma? You must tell me.”
“I must? May God wash your tongue!” Mamma reached out to slap her but instead kept her hand aloft as though some invisible force held it back.
Sofia turned away.
“Tell her, Angelina.” Papà’s face flushed scarlet.
“You do it.” Mamma left the stove, pushed past them, and slammed the door to the bedroom behind her.
Papà lifted his gaze to the ceiling. “Always up to me, it is. All right then. Sit down,
.” Papà offered his seat.
Instead, Sofia dropped to the floor next to the chair. She longed for him to pat her head as if she were a child again, to speak softly, to understand how confusing all this was for her.
He sat and crossed his arms. Sadness choked his voice but he seemed to attempt to hold it back.
Sofia tried unsuccessfully to catch his eye. “Papà, I had a twin sister,
“You did. Your mother and I thought it best not to talk about this, Sofia.” He drew in a long breath. “
, we do not discuss such unpleasantness. I thought your Mamma, she should tell you when she saw fit.”
“It was wrong of you not to tell me!”
“It was best.” He lowered his voice. “I am your papà and I tell you it was best. For you. For Mamma.”
So this was the source of Mamma’s demons. Sofia would never agree that keeping this from her was right. “What happened?”
Papà tapped his fingers together as he spoke. “Sweet Serena.” He sighed the way someone does when recalling a pleasant memory. “The two of you together…
Sofia waited, looking away in case there were tears. He was an emotional man, but when his passion led to tears, he always tried to hide them. And right now she had no sympathy, no patience for his distress when she was the one who had been lied to.
He sighed. “Serena was just…she was not the lucky one. There was an accident.”
Sofia’s stomach clenched.
Not the lucky one.
Apparently, Sofia had been the fortunate one, the daughter who had lived. However painful, she needed to know what happened. “Please, Papà, tell me everything. I am a grown woman. I should know.”
. I told your mother…ah, no matter. I tell you the truth, and then you forget about it,
, Papà.” But she would not. How could she? This was why she had always felt less than whole, always needing someone near. She’d once shared her life with another. Her twin was gone, leaving an empty spot in Sofia’s heart that was now explained. Suddenly all her peculiarities lined up before her like the English verbs she’d learned to conjugate. There was a reason for what had before seemed like irrational behavior. Her imaginary playmate growing up had not been truly fictional.