A Rainy Day in Venice—A Grandparents’ Valentines Day Short Story for Children
~From the Children's Short Story Book: Cinderella Sarah (for 5-9 year olds) by Karen Cossey. Get your copy for free here, plus another free book for 9-12 year olds.~
I was wet through as I ran down the narrow alleyways in the rain. The only good thing about being out in a downpour was that for once I could move around freely—most of the tourists were taking cover in cafes or hotels.
I love Venice, even in a rainstorm, but this would become a flood. If I took too much time getting lost, I wouldn’t be able to help Mamma, and she’d text me to come ASAP. I scurried around a corner, not looking where I was going. Oh no, dead end—another canal. On the other side was the lane I wanted to be on. If only I could walk on water.
Spinning fast, I bumped into someone and sent them sprawling. It was a girl, my age, a tourist. I could tell by the gumboots. They all buy the same green ones from the guys who lurk outside cafes on rainy days. Ten euro for a pair. Not too bad a price, but they’ll be leaking after an hour or two of running through deep puddles. Me, I go for quality boots with red flowers all over them that Mamma bought me from the Lido. From an actual shop.
“Oops, sorry, didn’t see you there. Are you lost?” I said. Everyone is always lost in Venice. Not me, I was slightly misplaced, not lost. She let out a groan.
“Are you hurt?” I asked.
“My ankle is twisted. I’ve broken it before, so it gets sore easily.” She was trying not to cry.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you,” I offered, giving up on getting to Mamma in time. She’d have wanted me to stay, I was sure. I sent her a quick text, while the girl reached into her boot and rubbed her ankle.
“Where are you making for?” I asked when I’d finished.
“Via Guiseppe Garibaldi. My grandmother is staying there. I told her I’d be back in twenty minutes, half an hour ago, but I got a little misplaced.”
Ha, she’s like me, I thought. I liked this girl. Maybe we could be friends, even though she was just another holidaymaker. Here today, gone tomorrow. I no longer tried to make friends with tourists.
“I know the way,” I said, checking my bearings as I helped her stand. She was in a lot of pain, though trying not to show it. “Do those boots fit you?” I asked.
“Nah,” she replied. “This short African guy with a blue beret sold them to my Grandma for seven Euros. They were the only ones around my size.”
We walked, her leaning on my arm.
“Philippe,” I said, “He’s actually French. Trying to sell off his stock. He’s leaving to go work on one of the cruise boats. “Better to have a legal job, even if it’s long hours for not much money,” I said, mimicking his accent. “He’s a nice guy. Here, you can’t walk in those, let’s swap, mine are smaller.”
“Smellier too,” she joked, smiling as I passed them to her.
“Yeah,” I replied, “they’ve seen a few floods, never seem to be quite dry before the next one happens!”
“Thanks, they feel better.”
After I slipped hers on, we headed off again, me with my fingers crossed that we wouldn’t get lost. I’d have to pay more attention and not rely on getting there eventually, like I usually do. I love taking the long route, and pretending to be lost, then magically appearing where I meant to be. Sometimes I volunteer to show tourists the way, and just when they’re thinking I have no idea where we are, I turn a corner, and ta-da, there’s their hotel after all.
I worked out the quickest way and hoped the bridge to Fondamente Arsenalel would not be flooded yet. The tide was starting to come in, but we should have time.
As we hobbled along, I kept chatting, trying to keep her mind off her foot.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Meghan, what’s yours?”
“Selena. I’ve been living here with my Mamma and Nonno, my grandfather, since I was three, when my Papà left us,” I said. “My Nonna, that’s Italian for grandmother, died three years ago. What’s your Nonna doing here?”
“She visits every year. She says she’s looking for the man she met forty years ago. They had a romance, but she had to go back to America, so nothing ever came of it. She always pretends that’s why she comes, but she doesn’t look anymore, she just has a holiday. It’s a family joke now, Grandma going to Venice in the winter to find her old boyfriend. I don’t mind though, especially when I get to tag along!”
I laughed. “They say Venice is the city of romance, but my Mamma says the only man I’m ever allowed to love is my Nonno!”
We kept chatting and finally came to the bridge. It had taken longer than I thought and the tide had come in. We would have to cross with water half-way up to our knees.
“I don’t think I can do it, my foot really hurts,” whimpered Meghan, a few tears falling down her face and mingling with the rain.
I looked around helplessly. The only other way was too far for Meghan with her sore foot. As I wondered what to do, I noticed a familiar sight in the distance—Nonno’s gondola. I opened my backpack and pulled out the bright yellow and pink scarf I kept there. Nonno had said he would always find me in a crowd if I waved my scarf. I sloshed out into the middle of the bridge and flapped it frantically. Nonno lifted his oar out of the water and swung it from side to side. The gondola picked up speed and headed towards us.
“There you are, Selena, I’ve been looking for you! This rain is much worse than we thought it would be. Hey, who do we have here?” Nonno smiled at Meghan.
I quickly told him about Meghan and how she needed to get to her hotel but had hurt her foot.
“No problem,” he said, throwing me the guide rope for the gondola. He jumped out and picked Meghan up and placed her carefully in the gondola. I climbed in and we floated down the canal.
“Have you been on a gondola, Meghan?” he asked her.
“No,” she replied, “they are too expensive.”
“Today is, how you say, a freebie. My granddaughter, the imbranato, err I mean, klutz will pay me for it later in housework,” he said, winking at me. I groaned. There would be no getting out of the dishes tonight. “Are you staying for long?”
“One more week,” Meghan said.
“Well then, every day Selena will meet you and bring you to the pier near the Calle San Biagio and I will take you for a ride. Then you can see some more of Venice even with your sore foot.”
“Really? That would be awesome!” she said, beaming.
When we arrived at the pier, Nonno picked up Meghan and carried her to her hotel, and up to her room. I knocked on the door, and a worried looking lady answered.
“Meghan, thank goodness. What’s wrong?” she asked, hurrying us inside and clearing a space on the couch for Meghan.
Meghan told her everything that happened and how Nonno had promised to take her for a ride in the gondola every day. It was only then that the lady looked at Nonno.
“Carlo?” she asked, going pale.
“Abigail?” he replied, his eyes wide.
Meghan let out a shriek, “It’s him, it’s him! Grandma’s old boyfriend!”
Her grandmother had her hands over her mouth, but I heard her say, “It’s true, it’s true.”
Nonno remembered Meghan’s grandmother, Abigail. He told us how he had been heartbroken when she went back to America. It had been five years before he met my Nonna and married her.
They sat, talking and laughing, while I ran home to tell Mamma the news. At first, she didn’t believe me, but after we’d cleaned out the water from the flooded basement, she agreed to come to the hotel and meet Meghan and her grandmother. Sounded like the making of a big feast for dinner—I sure hoped Nonno would forget that I was on dishes…
Story by Karen Cossey
Copyright © Karen Cossey, 2014
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