Historically accurate love story: 1909 - Decades after the great famine, Molly and her grandfather leave their poor town in Ireland for America. On the ship, her necklace is rescued by Luigi DiMattio, a young Sicilian man fleeing the horrific Messina earthquake. He's never seen a girl like Molly. Book One of a series.
Historical fiction, romance fiction. 24 chapters. 357 pages.
Leaning out over the railing just a little, Molly avidly watched the scene below. A figure caught her eye; the bold, well-dressed stranger from the dining hall was down in steerage, talking sternly with a rather thin-looking Irishman and his family, out for air on the deck. The woman and children looked at the well-dressed man with wide, frightened eyes. The wizened man nodded sadly, putting something in the second-class man's hand; it looked like coins to Molly but the suited man put it out of sight, looking around sharply.
A slight movement at her neck took Molly's attention from the crowd; looking down at her necklace, she saw it fall down upon her shawl. Horrified, she grabbed for it, only to watch it slip right through her fingers. The silver locket and chain fell, right onto the brimmed cap of a man standing below, smoking a cigarette with a few others. Molly froze, her eyes wide. The man below started and looked behind him quickly; the well-dressed stranger from second class was standing there; he found himself face to face with one angered Italian emigrant.
“Why you do that?” the young man demanded, gesturing with one hand. The dining hall stranger appeared mystified and gauged the potential foe in front of him. Burly, tall and younger than he, the Italian appeared to be sizing him up as well.
“Do what?” the stranger said, equally loud. “I've no quarrel with you.” The crowd grew a little quieter, watching the situation with interest.
“You hit my head?” the young man demanded. The youth was no fool, his brown eyes were wary and calculating. Two older emigrant men, familiar in form and face to the young Italian stood nearby, glaring at the well-dressed man from second class. The Irishman snorted.
“I did not touch you.” he spat.
“Please sir... it was me...” called a feminine voice from above. “I'm so sorry, sir....” Both men looked up, along with the other people nearby. Molly waved and leaned over the railing a little, her face drawn with concern. Her green eyes met those of the young Italian.
Luigi Dimattio felt his anger vanish. A pretty girl in a green bonnet from the deck above him was calling down to him, apologizing. “My necklace dropped...” she continued, in her sweet voice. “... on your hat. It was an accident. I'm so sorry, sir.” Taking off his cap, Luigi looked at it and smiled; a silver chain hung off it, with a little star-shaped locket. Taking it in hand, he held it up; the silver gleamed in the sunlight. The girl above saw it and smiled; her radiant smile made Luigi feel lighter, somehow. She had green, clear eyes, he noticed. “Oh, thank you!” the young woman said, relieved.
“I can toss it up.” Luigi called up to her. “But it may go over... into the sea.” Molly's smile faded at his words.
Looking around, she saw a staircase leading down, guarded by two crew members. Steerage passengers were not allowed up on the second-class promenade. Leaning over a little again, Molly found the young man's face once more. He was still smiling up at her; his warm brown eyes held a kind look.
“I will come down.” she called to him. “Can you meet me by the stairs?” The two older men standing behind Luigi exchanged a grin at these words. The young Italian nodded, still smiling; he began to make his way through the crowd over to a staircase, some thirty feet away.
Molly had a bit of trouble getting down the stairs, at first.
“Miss... don't go down there.” a uniformed crewman said, holding a hand in front of her. “'Tis no place for a respectable young woman. 'Tis steerage.”
“My necklace fell.” Molly explained. “'Twas my mother's. That man rescued it and he's bringing it to me. I’ll come right back up.” The crewman looked down and nodded.
“Please stay on the stair, miss where I can see you.” he said, letting her pass. Molly held onto the rail and carefully stepped down the white-painted stairs.
At the base the young Italian man turned and smiled at her again; he held out the necklace without hesitation.
“Oh, thank you, sir!” Molly said, accepting it into her gloved hands. She turned grateful eyes up to the stranger's, suddenly feeling shy. “It was my mother's... I could not lose it. I don't know how it fell off.”
Luigi kept his cap in his hand, scrutinizing the young woman in front of him. Above, at the head of the stair a crewman eyed him with frank suspicion.
“You should get the clasp fixed.” he told her, in a thick accent. “It has broken.” Molly smiled, looking at her necklace.
“I will.” she said. “Thank you, sir.”
“My name is Luigi... Luigi DiMattio.” Molly looked up at him again.
“Molly Callahan.” she replied, giving a small curtsy. “I see you speak English very well, Mr. DiMattio.” The young man smiled, proudly.
“Sister Mary at... eh...the church, yes?” he explained; his warm smile never faded. “She taught us good English in Messina.” Molly's face fell at the name of the city.
“Oh... I heard about the terrible earthquake. I am so sorry for your city.” she said, her eyes saddened. Luigi nodded, his smile finally disappearing.
“Yes. Many die.” he said, seriously. “We go now to New York. Ellis Island.” Molly smiled at this.
“My grandfather and I are going to New York as well.” she said. “Sister Mary... are you Catholic?” Luigi shook his head, no.
“God has, I think left, with my parents.” he said. “But... He is not done with me, yet.” At this he crossed himself. Molly did not quite understand him but nodded, politely.
“Miss...” came the well-dressed stranger's voice, interrupting. Molly and Luigi turned to look at the man. The man stood nearby in the crowd, looking at Luigi with undisguised disgust. “Allow me to escort you back up to the promenade.” he said, looking at Molly. “It is not safe for you down here.” Molly felt almost nauseous, as if she were sea-sick again.
“I do not know you sir.” she said, politely. “I shall not go anywhere with you.”
Luigi grinned; the girl had spirit. She turned her lovely green eyes to his again and smiled. “Thank you again, Mr.. DiMattio.” she said, shyly. “It was a pleasure to meet you.” Her fair skin and green eyes were unusual to the young man but her hair seemed even more so; red-gold curls of it peeked down from under her bonnet.
“A pleasure for me, Miss Calla-han.” Luigi said, haltingly. His English was not perfect but Molly was able to catch every word. Giving the young man one last smile, she turned and went alone back up the steps, holding tightly to the rail. Luigi watched her go, his smile lingering. The young woman's presence was like a warm breeze on this wintery sea.