The twilight was announcing itself, and the light was giving way to the shadows, which were slowly taking possession of the attic.
The mother turned on an old, lived-in-looking oil lamp, and in the aura of that almost ghostly light, continued to leaf through the album with her son, who said, “After the British and Americans came, did things get better? “
“Yes, of course… in fact, thanks to the help of the Allies, the activity of the pastry shop resumed in a great way. Their command made several orders for all sorts of cakes, both for the troops and for the officers’ parties. As it had happened with the Germans,” the mother said.
“So, everything was going well as it was before the war?” the child said.
“Yes, everything went well for a year; then, suddenly, your great-grandfather Alfredo felt bad and died of a heart attack a few days later. His last words were: “Do not continue, get rid of it… or you will pay the price,” the mother said with a sad air.
“What did great-grandfather mean?” the child asked.
“I don’t know, no one has ever given him any importance. After his death in 1947, my father Ezio, your grandfather, took over the business, and together with my mother Luisa, your grandmother, he carried it on with great success throughout the Fifties,” the mother said.
“So everything was back to the way it was before?” the child asked.
“No… even if it was fine, by then it was just a faded memory of what had been our bakery. Nothing would have been the same as it was in the past, and in 1960, my father Ezio also died, while he was cleaning his beloved hunting rifle, which he kept in a wall cupboard in a room of the pastry shop,” said the disconsolate mother.
“After that, what happened?” the child asked
“I took over the business, making many sacrifices. I believed very much in the resumption of the pastry shop, I also did it to keep the memory of my grandparents and my father, even if I had the clear feeling that I should not have done it.”
“Did Grandma keep helping you?” the child asked
“Yes, she continued to help me and advise me on what to do; then, two years later, she died too, ” the mother said sadly.
“How?” the child asked.
“It was a tragic accident… that happened during the summer. She had gone to put some sweets in the cold room, to prevent them from being ruined by the heat. The door closed behind her, blocking itself, and she… she stayed inside,” the mother said.
“You were left alone then… ” said the child.
“Yes, but then I met your father, and you were born,” the mother replied
“Then, Dad went to America for work,” said the child
“Yes, he wasn’t interested in confectionery, he said it gave him bad sensations: it anguished him in short. He also told me to sell it, and to move all three of us to America, where he had a family, but I refused, we divorced, and you stayed with me.”
The child looked at the pictures again… something intrigued him, and he asked his mother: “How come nobody smiles, and they all have their eyes closed? ”
“But because they’re… dead. It’s photos of the dead that we’re looking at. They are all portrayed in the same armchair, the one where they used to sit in the pastry shop to rest. The same one where I’m sitting right now.” Said the mother
“Look, Mom, you’re in this picture too! And your eyes are closed too… why?” the child asked.
“Now… it’s your turn to run the bakery,” said the mother.
The morning sun made its way through the old windows of the attic, quickly chasing away the shadows, and illuminating a mirror in which the face of a young man with dark eyes and hair was reflected.
“Damn it… it’s already dawn and I hadn’t even noticed!”
Coming back here after my mother’s death to sell this pastry shop, finding this old album and leafing through it, had given the young man the feeling of having travelled back in time.
He closed the album and got up from the chair.
At that moment, an old photograph fell at his feet.
“And this…? Where does it come from? Surely it has come off one of the pages?” the young man thought to himself, picking up the photo.
He took it between his fingers and turned it around to look at it.
He was surprised, because it wasn’t one of the photos he had seen.
It portrayed a man with his eyes closed; then, surely dead, but this unlike the others… smiled!
On the back of the photograph, the young man found a name written.