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A Silent Shore

A Silent Shore

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A Silent Shore

272 Seiten
4 Stunden
Jul 16, 2012


Haunted by a lifetime of regret and on the eve of his 80th birthday, Francesco Corbelli reassembles his family at the ancestral home, 'Il Rifugio', on the shores of Lake Trasimeno. His intention is to put right all the mistakes of the past and secure a future for his family.
His children expect a celebration. They are not prepared for the litany of lies and deceits that their father is about to reveal. This is a family already in pieces - will the truth finally bring them together or tear them apart forever?
Set in Umbria, 'A Silent Shore' spans three generations of the Corbelli family and warns of what can happen when pride and expectation come before love.

Jul 16, 2012

Über den Autor

EJ Mack was born in Sydney, Australia, and came to live in England at the age of 3. She left school after A’ levels to embark on a career in the music industry during which she worked in concert promotion, A&R and business affairs. After more than 10 years she left to raise a family. She has been writing since the age of 20, initially working on novels and more recently screenplays. ‘A Silent Shore’ is her second self-published book.


A Silent Shore - E J Mack



Copyright © 2012 E J Mack

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved

This book is a work of fiction.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Cover image: © Alexandr Blinov (

"He who works with his hands is a labourer.

He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.

He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist."

- St. Francis of Assisi


August 2011

Izzy checked her phone - 12:45 - they'd be at the station in just under ten minutes. As the train clattered its way through the rolling Umbrian landscape she returned her attention to the endless cypress trees, stone pines and remote villages that flashed past her window. This was where she had spent her childhood so it should have felt like home, but it had been some time since her last visit and those years were now a distant memory. She had no idea what to expect; she had not seen Francesco or any of her stepfamily in such a long time it was impossible to know what kind of reception she would get. It had surprised her greatly that she had received any invitation at all,

"Miei Cari Figli,

I feel the time has come for us to reconvene at Il Rifugio one last time. My health is failing and I fear it won't be long before I am no longer able to make the journey from Rome. I do not wish to have our last gathering anywhere but in the family home and therefore I ask you, on the eve of my 80th birthday to join me there. You may stay for as long or as short a time as you wish, so long as you are all present on the day. There is much you need to know.

I shall expect you all and ask you not to deny me this last request.

Ti voglio bene

Papa / Francesco

She had tried to keep the trip quiet from her mother, but failed spectacularly by leaving the letter on her mantelpiece back in London, forgetting that Christy had a key and would no doubt engineer an occasion to drop in. She glanced over at her mother sitting opposite her now, calmly reading a book as if she were simply on a day trip, rather than on her way to a reunion with her estranged husband. Was it really only four days ago that Christy had tracked her down in Florence? And yet here she was now. It never ceased to amaze Izzy that when she set her mind to something, there was nothing her mother couldn't achieve.

Darling, I'm so glad you're having a wonderful time. I just adore Florence! Now, listen, do you need me to look in on your flat whilst you're gone? her mother had asked over the phone.

Izzy hadn't given it a second thought,

Yeah, that would be great Mum, thanks. The plants could no doubt do with some water.

Consider it done.

They had hung up and Izzy had gone back to her sightseeing and thought nothing more of it. However the next day Christy caught Izzy on the hop, right in the middle of bartering the price of a leather handbag at Florence market. Pulling her mobile from her pocket she apologetically stepped away from the stall to a quieter corner and inspected the display. The moment she saw her mother's name come up she was filled with an inexplicable dread.

Hey Mum. Everything okay? she asked breezily but the short silence told her it was not.

Why didn't you tell me you were planning on seeing Francesco? Christy barked.

Izzy knew her mother's particular tone of voice meant it was no use trying to placate her.

Because I wasn't. she said calmly.

Don't lie to me. I found his letter.

Izzy could feel her own temper rising,

Why were you snooping through my things? I only asked you to water..

I wasn't snooping! You left it on the mantelpiece like some trophy!

Even at a distance and over a poor line, Izzy could hear her mother was indignant.

It was in an envelope!

Oh, and you thought that I wouldn't recognise his handwriting? her mother screeched before composing herself. I don't see why you need to be there. It's not as if he's your father.

Maybe not, but he's the closest thing I've ever had to one.

Izzy knew it was below the belt and that her mother would take it personally, but sometimes Christy needed reminding of other people's feelings.

It did the trick insofar as to stop her tearing a strip off her daughter however Christy was never one to take a back seat.

Well I'm not letting you deal with this on your own. God knows what he's got up his sleeve. I'll meet you in Florence. We can go together.

It was the whole reason she had never mentioned it to her mother in the first place. The prospect of Christy joining her, never mind how the rest of the family might react to her presence, was unbearable yet here she was sitting opposite her on a train bound for Magione. She looked over at her mother and smiled. Immaculately made-up, not a chestnut hair out of place, Christy offered a tight, thin-lipped smile in response. She had been a beauty in her day, a television actress who had starred in numerous police shows as both investigator and gangster's moll and who had prided herself on the fact that she could play both a saint and a sinner. It was a talent that on occasion had proved useful in her personal life too.

From what Izzy could gather, Christy had met her stepfather in late 1975 when her daughter was only two years old. Holidaying in Rome in an attempt to get over her latest failed relationship, she had taken pity on the quiet and reserved Italian who had only recently been widowed. When he invited them both to stay at Il Rifugio, his country home in Umbria, she jumped at the chance. At twenty years her senior she didn't see him as a prospective suitor, despite his good looks, but more a father figure who deserved a little light-relief from his grieving. Once there, however, surrounded by the beauty of the countryside and the majesty of Il Rifugio, she had fallen in love. Not with Francesco but with everything he represented - the wealth, the dignity, the splendour of the house and the roll call of actors, musicians and politicians who had attended his parties over the years. He had been quick to see it happen and had taken immediate action, introducing her to his young, motherless family of two boys and two girls, the youngest of which was just a few months old. Their mother had died from complications during his birth and the baby boy had never even known her. Christy would say in later years that she had no idea what had possessed her to give up her career to become his wife and mother to his family. But nevertheless she had.

They were married the following year and Izzy acquired four new siblings. Lorenzo, the eldest, was fifteen years older than her. He had a hard face and pinched features but in fact was a kind and sensitive boy. Ever conscious of his position in the family he tried hard to please his father but Francesco was short on praise. Instead he would often berate Lorenzo for the smallest of crimes, setting him tasks to make up for his misdemeanours and then failing to acknowledge a job well done. Lorenzo had left the family home to study in Rome when Izzy was only five but returned often and she had fond memories of splashing in the pool with her big, grown-up brother. In contrast, Natalia, the eldest daughter was self-confident but remote. Beautiful like her mother, she knew exactly how to get what she wanted from her father and avoided his high expectations. All she seemed to want in life was a husband and children and she had married early, leaving the family home when Izzy was eight. With the eldest two gone from Il Rifugio, this left just Francesco's second daughter, Maria, a surly tomboy, and the baby, Stefano. Maria was just old enough to still remember her mother and feel the pain of her loss. Of all the children, she found it the hardest to accept her new sister and stepmother and Izzy spent much of her childhood in fear of this older, somewhat bitter girl who seemed to resent her no matter how hard she tried. Stefano on the other hand, born after a gap of nine years, was Izzy's favourite of the four. He was cheerful and loving, with an irresistible laugh that made even Maria smile. With seven years between herself and Maria, Izzy was often left to play with Stefano and they soon grew inseparable as the two babies of the family.

Christy and Maria had never got on. Natalia, being that much older, had known her own mind by the time her father and Christy had married and therefore avoided the eagle-eyed attentions of her new mother, however Maria was not so lucky. Brimming with advice on how a young woman should look and behave, Christy made it her mission to teach Maria the tricks of her trade. However Maria was not interested. Dressed in the prettiest clothes by her insistent stepmother, she would climb trees, roll down hills, wade in the lake. On occasion she had been known to throw herself into the pool, fully clothed, enraging Christy to such a degree that she would have to lie down in her room for the afternoon for fear of slapping the girl clean across the face. Izzy often wondered if this was exactly what Maria had had in mind - to get some distance from Christy, and perhaps some ammunition against her.

Stefano, on the other hand, was adoring of his new family members. With hair the colour of molasses and eyes the palest of green he was supposedly the image of his mother and it surprised Izzy that Francesco did not dote on him more for that very reason. But his father paid him little or no attention, instead smothering Izzy with affection whilst Stefano played quietly by himself. The little boy seemed content with the arrangement however and did not appear to suffer from his father's neglect, seeking Christy or Izzy out whenever he was in need of a cuddle. As an adult Izzy would often wonder whether Stefano, as a little boy, had somehow known he was better off avoiding his father's attention.

If Izzy found her stepfather's preference for her suffocating at times she did her best not to show it. There was nothing untoward about his behaviour but it did have the ability to make her extremely uncomfortable when his 'real' children were around, the difference in his body language towards them being markedly colder. He would greet Lorenzo with a handshake, the girls with a brief kiss, and Stefano with a ruffle of his hair. Izzy in contrast would be scooped into his arms and squeezed so tightly she could barely breathe until she managed to wriggle free and run off to play. By the time Christy and Francesco's relationship began to break down it became clear that even her own mother had resented this favouritism.

Sometimes I think you married me just to get to her, she had spat at Francesco one particular evening, during a period in her life when the drink had been in control.

Izzy had run to her room, fearful of her mother's temper, and listened as the voices from downstairs built to a crescendo of smashed glass, Christy shouting at Francesco,

You never loved me! You just wanted a mother for your bloody children!

Izzy often wondered what she might have done had she known what her mother had planned after that fight. Just a few nights later with Francesco in Rome on business, Christy woke her in her bed, packed a bag of her clothes and dragged her from the house, leaving Stefano bewildered on the doorstep with their housekeeper, Pietronella. It had broken Izzy's heart and throughout the entire journey to London and for many weeks afterward she had cried over the loss of her darling little brother.

After that, though they never divorced, Christy had settled once again in England with Izzy whilst Francesco remained in Italy. Izzy kept in contact with her stepfamily, albeit sporadically, and watched as the other Corbelli children made a concerted effort to escape their father by scattering themselves across Europe for work and study. Yet from time to time Lorenzo, as the eldest Corbelli child, would see to it that they reunited with Izzy at Il Rifugio. In the early days, she and Christy would travel to Italy together, though her mother always refused to come to the house, preferring to keep a safe distance from Francesco by remaining in Rome or Florence. But as the years went by and Francesco's relationship with his children became more and more strained, the visits began to wane. By her mid-twenties the gatherings had been reduced to just one weekend a year with one or two of the others in attendance until eventually it was just Izzy and Francesco. But whilst it pained her that she seemed to be losing touch with all of them, it was the loss of Stefano she felt the most keenly. By the time of her last visit to Il Rifugio she hadn't seen him in years and it was therefore inevitable that, as she and Francesco sat at the dinner table, nursing glasses of amaretto, his name would come up.

Do you realise I've not seen Stefano in over two years? Izzy commented as she sipped from her glass.

Francesco was smoking one of his trademark cigars, his chest wheezing with every inhalation.

Probably for the best. he grunted.

Why on earth would you say that? she asked, surprised by his comment,

You two were always far too close. It's not normal. It's best there's some distance between you.

Izzy was speechless. She had never known her affection for Stefano was frowned upon. She looked at her stepfather, at his thinning hair and the deep furrows in his brow, and wondered what had happened over the years to make him so bitter. She had seen photographs of him as a young man, handsomely debonair, and it seemed now that the only hint of who he had once been was in his sharp blue eyes, which when focused on you were impossible to ignore. Life had taken its toll.

Why? Isn't it natural for a brother and sister to be close?

You are not brother and sister, he said calmly, all the while staring her straight in the eye.

As you always like to remind me, she replied, am I still not good enough to be considered a Corbelli?

Of course you are, don't be ridiculous, he scoffed, Stefano on the other hand is proving to be a disappointment. We should never have had him.

His comment shot straight through Izzy's heart,

How can you say that? she asked, incredulous. It's not his fault his mother died.

I never said it was, he answered, staring out into the pitch-black of night, it was entirely mine.

I don't understand.

But she was met by silence. Francesco ground his cigar out in the ashtray and rose from the table.

He's not well, Izzy. His mind is... He waved his fingers in the air as if trying to grasp the right words, weak. But he is getting help so you are not to worry. If you want him to get better you need to stay away.

But why?

I've seen it before with my mother. It's for the best, I promise. He kissed her briefly on the head. Goodnight, he said and left the table.

That had been thirteen years ago and despite numerous attempts to reconnect with Stefano behind Francesco's back, apart from the odd email she still had not heard from him. Nor had she seen any of the others for at least six years. Lorenzo had been the last one she had met up with whilst he was in London on a business trip; once he had exhausted all avenues of further education he had finally acquiesced and followed his father into the family business, taking over the running of the company more and more as Francesco wound down his working life.

Lorenzo! So good to see you! she had exclaimed as she hugged him tight outside the local bar she had chosen for their reunion. But she had forgotten how brittle Lorenzo could be and quickly let him go once she realised he would not be returning her affection.

They passed a pleasant enough evening over dinner and wine and Izzy was relieved to be able to ask after the others without Francesco watching over proceedings. She felt sure Lorenzo would be far more candid without his father's influence.

So how is everyone? I spoke to Maria not long ago and she sounded like she's loving life in Barcelona with Luisa. But Natalia and Stefano I haven't heard from in ages.

Natalia and George are getting divorced I'm afraid. Papa is furious - I think he always pinned his hopes for grandchildren on them but it was never to be. He blames poor George of course.

Of course. she smirked.

I'm surprised he hasn't started putting the pressure on you to come up with an heir to the throne.

Ah well, I'm not real Corbelli stock so I don't count, she reminded him before steeling herself to ask, so what of Stefano? Is he better?

Why? What was wrong with him? Lorenzo asked, incomprehension written all over his face.

Oh, it was just something Francesco said, it was nothing, she replied, dismissing her comment with a flick of her hand. It seemed to be enough to put Lorenzo off the scent.

Stefano is....Stefano, he shrugged, still working on his sculptures, still living hand to mouth. He looked almost wistful as he spoke of his younger brother.

What happened between him and Francesco? I can tell things aren't good.

No one really knows. Stefano won't speak about it, just refers to Papa as 'The Tyrant'.

He looked so sad that she wanted to reach out but thought better of it.

Should I try and see him?

Stefano? You could but you need to prepare yourself. He's not the same these days. He's devoted to his art. I think you might find him...distant.

It pained her to imagine her darling Stefano locked away in his studio, self-exiled from the family home. She felt tears spring up in the corners of her eyes so sought to change the subject.

How about you? Anyone new in your life?

Ha! I'm married to my work. Papa may not be in the office much but he's still a dictator!

Dictator, Tyrant? There's a theme going on here...

Izzy's memories were broken by the sound of the train rumbling into the station. She stood to collect her things together and looking down at her mother noticed she was staring vacantly out of the window.

You sure you want to do this? she asked.

Christy turned to face her daughter, a glimmer of the old spark in her eyes.

Absolutely. If that old bastard's got something to say I'm damn well going to hear it.


PART ONE: 1931 - 1958


Time stood still the day Francesco Corbelli was born. Or so his mother had always told him.

Your first cry was so beautiful it silenced the birds outside my window, she would croon as she cradled him in her lap, like St. Francis of Assisi you spoke to them.

But whilst Gina Corbelli doted on her youngest son, events dictated that he would eventually leave her to die alone and forgotten, aged 91, in a decaying flat to the east of Rome's Stazione Termini; the victim of a Corbelli pride which ran generations deep.

As Francesco grew up, such declarations of love from his mother became commonplace and he would often try to shrug them off. For as much as he loved her, he was always aware of how it pained his elder brother, Antonio, to have to listen to them. He may have been her first-born son but Antonio's obstinate nature meant that Gina had continually struggled to bond with him. It was plain for all to see that where Francesco's open smile and chestnut curls melted her heart, Antonio's jet-black hair and permanent scowl were a constant source of aggravation. Even the circumstances of his birth seemed to be cause for complaint. Having arrived during one of the harshest winters in memory after a long and difficult labour, whenever Antonio's defiance became unbearable, Gina could be heard to declare,

"Sometimes I think when you were born it wasn't

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