Nello: A Short Story

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‘The phone, Nello,’ Paolina said, shaking him. ‘It’s the phone, Nello. '
As he swung his feet out of the bed, Antonello looked at the clock, it was 5 am. He hauled himself out of bed and walked to the kitchen where the phone hung on a wall bracket above the bench. The ringing was insistent and demanding, and then it stopped and the house fell silent, but before he could turn back, the ringing began again.
Later he’d speculate about his reluctance. Was it a premonition – not that he believed in premonitions, they were Paolina’s domain? The secret hope he’d harboured that not answering the phone might prevent whatever bad thing had happened from happening. As if bad things could be thwarted by his refusal to pay them attention. As if he didn’t know better. As if he didn’t know that tragedy could and would strike, whether you were around to pick up the phone or not, and that it would catch up with you and stop you in your tracks no matter how hard or how fast you ran, no matter how happy you were or how sad. No matter whether you 'd had your share of
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‘Everything is wrong Dad, everything.’ Alex paused and Antonello knew the panic he’d felt was real. It would not pass.
‘There’s been an accident. It’s Ashleigh,’ Alex’s voice cracking, broken.
‘How bad?’
‘The worst. She’d dead, Dad. My Ashleigh, my baby girl, she’s gone...’ Alex broke into thick heavy sobs.

Antonello heard himself gasp, but after that he was not sure what else they said, what he said, what Alex said, before they hung up. His body was limp. His arms dropped to his side. His legs felt weak and he had to lean against the wall. When he looked up, he saw Paolina, she was so old and frail he thought for a second, that it was not Paolina at all but the ghost of his mother-in-law, Vincenza, who was reduced to half her size, wrinkled skin loosely draped over brittle bones, when she died in her

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