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Davide Castel Davide Castel
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Cinema Bianchini - 2

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She had a friend.

(Part 2 continues...)

Instructions had been left with her solicitors, Levitt, Holme and Horde, that the proceeds from the contents would go to charity and the income from the sale of her home would buy her a cottage in the ‘Bella Rosa’ retirement village with sufficient to live on until her death.
The house and contents charity sale had been a great success.
Thousands of items collected over the years had been sold and the proceeds benefited many disadvantaged families.
The local paper had been willing to donate a full-page coloured advertisement for ‘the cause’. Conditions applied, of course.
A maximum of fifteen minutes were granted per person for their shopping venture and a donation per item was all that was required. Everything had to go.

The magic word ‘bargain’ had spread with the speed of the wind, when not only the locals but the out-of-towners came to get their ‘Bargain of the Century’. Trucks, cars and trailers had queued outside No. 8 Romsey Court, Brighton, a well-known stately residence, in the early hours of that Saturday morning.
The wrought iron security gates were opened at 9 am sharp by volunteer attendants, who allowed only a handful of people to enter the ‘house of treasures’ at any given time.
They were welcomed into rooms filled with antique furniture, walls covered with paintings and artwork, photographic equipment, musical instruments, jewellery, silverware, boxes of CD’s. Collections of classical movies, stamps, coins, books, artefacts and memorabilia accumulated from around the world.
Volunteers had been placed in the many rooms to meet the demands of the expected crowds with a generous reward promised to them by a solicitor representing Levitt, Holme & Horde.

The steady flow of people continued throughout the day.
They entered the home like hungry vultures, seeking fulfilment in material possessions from all the treasures displayed.
None were disappointed as they exited via the garage with the self-satisfied expression of winners, on their faces. By 3 pm the family home had been stripped to the very last light fitting.  
The successful auction of the home had followed, leaving one family triumphant.  
Neighbours and friends were mystified by the disappearance of the owner, a well known identity in their community, who was not seen at the auction or since. Enquiries and searches had failed to find the grieving widow who had become a recluse in the large manor house, following the death of her husband, a retired government official. With the phone disconnected, it had been assumed that she most probably had died too, for they had been inseparable. No-one seemed to know anything definite.

Florence had been having that same recurring dream from the time she lived at boarding school. Her dreams entrapped her with white matter, soap suds, hot air and even paper.
Her fears of enclosed spaces were deep-rooted.
The pain of her terror changed her way of thinking and to escape was the ultimate freedom.
She learned many things as well as fear. Be prepared, thrifty, collect and save, for one never knew when it could come in handy.
Hence began her zealous hoarding for she felt a need to fill the void inside her.
But no matter how hard she tried, it could not be filled. Hoarding seemed to be a way of life with Florence for as long as she could remember...
‘Florrie, please, please, can I have one of your swap cards?  You’ve got so many and I’ve only got three,’ said the young child pleadingly. The older sister clutched the large pile protectively.
       ‘No, Jane. You can’t have any, they are for my collection! But you can hold them if you promise to be careful.’ She handed a few to her little sister.
       ‘Florrie, can I please have some of your chocolates?  You've got so many.’
       ‘No. You ate all of yours. I saved mine. But I’ll swap some for your coloured marbles if you want.’
       Tears often accompanied these conversations. Jane was born with a delicate disposition and had become accustomed to getting her own way. Florence had really tried to be kind to the younger sister, seven years her junior.
The elder sister’s assorted collections included some colourful foils from her Easter eggs to make a pretty tapestry, wool for knitting and any small trinket she could find was stored away. She joined the work force; there was the saving of her bus tickets, pay slips and the inevitable movie tickets. Filled shoe boxes were neatly stacked under her bed. There were the more serious collections like stamps, pictures of the royal family, film stars etc. These were stored away in her small cupboard.

When questioned about her daughter’s collections, her mother Francesca would answer, ‘She’s young.  It’s only a phase. It will soon pass when she finds other interests.’

Florence was having another nightmare. ‘Mummy, mummy, I feel trapped … I can’t breathe …’ she whimpered, terrified. A cool hand was gently placed on her forehead, ‘It’s alright … It’s only a dream,’ Francesca pacified as she tucked the sheets around her young daughter. ‘Now back to your Cinema Bianchini. Sweet dreams from now on, okay?  Cinema Bianchini was from a traditional childhood saying, which referred to dreams.
Florence had always been passionate about her hobbies and interests, yet this was often seen as a waste of time by those who knew her well.
‘Never miss an opportunity,’ had been instilled in her from an early age.
She herself was overwhelmed at the extent of some of her projects, but  could not stop the rush of adrenalin followed by a sense of fulfilment when an opportunity knocked.
Over the years, she opened her door to many interesting hobbies which, like the wind, tended to blow in all directions. She had become a compulsive hoarder.
Some of her collections were quite useless, even bizarre!

Florence had wanted to do it all and she knew her limits, or so she thought.
As a perfectionist she had found it therapeutic, for it kept her idle hands busy for a while.  She found it especially helpful when she lost her husband Bert all those years ago.
Florence had not realised just how much of her time he had demanded of her.
Cooking creative meals, socialising, travelling, cleaning and just by being there seemed to put him at ease. A woman’s job is never over! She would mumble to herself.
But she loved the satisfaction it had given her.
If only she could turn back the clock.
Now she was alone and had lost interest in material possessions.
‘What is the point?’ she kept asking herself. Once upon a time she would have replied, ‘Why not?’
Entering her tidy and sparsely furnished home at the end of the day, Florence thought how proud Bert would have been.  He would never have believed her capable of uncluttered living.
Moving towards the mantelpiece and the camphor-wood chest filled with her very special memories, she bent down and opened it.
Putting on her favourite music, Florence settled down on her cosy settee and lovingly flicked through the many photo albums as pictures of Bert, Jane and Raimondo came to life.
It was thirteen years to the day when she woke to find Bert, her husband of 50 years, lying cold and unresponsive next to her. She had placed the Urn with his ashes on the mantelpiece, next to those of Jane and Raimondo. Her beautiful delicate sister Jane had surrendered to motor-neurone disease while still in her thirties. Florence had been mother to her when they were left orphans whilst still young.

Painful memories resurfaced of her beautiful little boy, Raimondo. Bert and Florence had been blessed with a child miraculously conceived later in life; a child prodigy who could play classical music at five and who enjoyed daily Bible readings. A child so intelligent, yet clumsy and who was always stumbling. Florence had blamed herself for letting him run on ahead whilst on holidays. Raimondo had accidentally drowned when he slipped into the swollen creek. His eight year old battered body was found some days later. Interest in hobbies disappeared for many years whilst depression consumed her. There seemed no release from her daily pain. It was through faith that somehow Florence managed to survive.
When Bert died, Florence had been devastated. Losing all three members of her family on that unlucky Feast of Santa Lucia, had completely changed her way of thinking.

Florence gently touched the three, now empty, Urns sitting in the centre of the mantelpiece next to her artistic arrangement of velvety perfumed roses.
Florence felt a little better when she had swallowed some thick vegetable soup, made from the organic fruits of her labour. It was all that she felt like having these days.
She prayed that sleep would not be long in coming as she did not believe in pills or sedatives.
A hot Milo drink before retiring for the night usually helped her to sleep.
Worn-out but satisfied that she had done her best to get through the day, her thoughts journeyed backwards, before sleep embraced her weary body.
Content with her reflections, Florence entered the Cinema Bianchini...

The tranquillity of the large, white, spacious room was spoiled by a slow yet persistent noisy rumbling. The solitary figure turned towards the entrance to watch mesmerised; a fusion of never-ending roses filled the room to sickly sweet levels. Florence clutched her pulsating heart and heard the irregular beats thundering to a crescendo. With a sigh, she turned and saw what looked like an archway of wisteria where an exit was finally visible. She calmly walked through the door. Freedom at last!

The End

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