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Antoinette Clair has three degrees - in Italian Philology, Bibliography and Management & Marketing. Most of the time she worked as a sales representative for Italian companies, and after 1990 as an executive manager. Since 1997 she have lived in the U.S. in suburban Philadelphia with her husband and son. The Blows of Fate is her first novel; she is currently completing her second.
The Blows of Fate
This is a story about a grand love destroyed by the communist regime established in an Eastern European country. Giuliano, Maria Luisa, and Stephan, three good friends persecuted by the dictatorial government are forced to emigrate. Maria Luisa escapes to Italy, Stephan- to the United States, and Giuliano remains in Bulgaria. Life is difficult for all of them, but they don’t forget each other, and always dream of meeting some day. After 40 years of separation, their meeting takes place. For each one fate has prepared a surprise…
Giuliano advanced to the fireplace and put in some wood. After that he took a chair, sat in front of it and spread his frozen legs so they were closer to the fire.
“Today we don’t have a performance,” he said. “After I get warm a little I'll look in Ralevi’s confectionery. I'll talk with Stephan. I won’t be late."
Carlo and Anna had known the owner of the confectionery, Ralev, for a long time, and Giuliano went to his shop often. Made there were the best sweets in Sofia--cakes, sweet-scented rolls with raisins, cakes with red currants, baklava, candies and other table luxuries--that they prepared in the bakery. The aroma could be experienced even on the street.
Passers-by, even those that didn't have any intention to come inside, were tempted and eventually decided to go in to eat. They were never sorry to have done that. The confectionery was famous in all the nearby towns and never ran out of customers. It was an honor to order a cake there for a birthday or other gala event. Because of its popularity, Ralev's family had always worked.
Ivan Ralev had inherited the confectionery from his father. He had learned from him all the recipes to prepare the sweets. He was proud to pass on this craft to his children. Ralev brought up Stephan and Angelina by himself. His third child and wife had died. Ivan loved her so much that he couldn't remarry. The children and the work in the confectionery filled up his time, and he had no cause for complaining.
Stephan was two years old when his mother died so he never remembered her. Her image was created from Angelina’s descriptions; she was six years older. It was an image of a saint, and Stephan, thinking that she watched over him, never did anything of which she would disapprove. He would never want to hurt her.
Stephan would take on the management of the confectionery when his father became old. He would do that not only as part of his duty, but also because he loved his work. He was satisfied with his fate. He worked hard, and he never rested. At Giuliano’s age, twenty-one, Stephan was short and rather stout, maybe because he always insisted on tasting all the sweets that came out of the oven. His ball-shaped face gave him quite a baby appearance that evoked people’s affections. Though he was not so attractive, that didn’t trouble him. He was good by nature, always polite with the people, and everyone loved him. Born in the house above the confectionery on Lege Street, all his memories were connected with it. He couldn’t imagine his life without them. He liked preparing the sweets and worked skillfully at it.
Work never finished there, however. There was the preparation of the mixtures, baking, arrangements of the shop window, cleaning of the rooms, washing of cups, plates, glasses and other countless things to be made pleasant to view. Stephan didn’t have any reason for feeling low. His dreams for the future stayed within the confectionery. He often saw himself with his future wife, always here, surrounded by a host of kids who would be confectioners.
Stephan’s thoughts wandered more or less in this direction when he saw Giuliano standing at the door. The two young men were good friends. For Stephan, Giuliano was a window to the world, as Stephan’s excessive workload limited him from experiencing what was occurring. He learned from Giuliano everything that happened outside of the confectionery: international politics, calamities, and other important and not so important events. Both were pleased when Stephan had time to interrupt his daily routine to talk about something interesting. Stephan admired Giuliano’s worldviews, and that these views were right gave him high spirits.
But Giuliano had another reason to visit the confectionery so often. Here he met Maria Luisa and fell in love with her. Maria Luisa studied at a medical Academy and wanted to become a doctor. The thing that had taken away Giuliano’s breath was, first of all, her appearance. Maria Luisa was thin, tall, with long, dark-blond wavy hair, which flowed around her shoulders. Her eyes were light blue, and anyone would become lost in them as if swimming in a big mountain lake. She had a perfect figure, and in Giuliano’s opinion she could be an actress. Maria Luisa seemed totally unaware of how beautiful she was, and what an impression she made on the people around her. She was always polite, smiling, and given respect. She accepted every tease with dignity. She also didn't permit anyone to approach her too closely.
Giuliano fell madly in love with her, but he was sure that she wouldn’t return his feelings. Maria Luisa was friendly with him as with all the others, and this behavior discouraged him.