Set in my hometown in Western Australia in the early 1980s, WHERE THE HEART IS, is based on true life events and people I’ve known. It is a story about the struggle for tolerance and acceptance in a tumultuous time in the country’s history.
Multiculturalism was something most people had to adjust to. Some did it well, some, not so well.
Setting her luggage on the verandah at the back of the house, and then grasping a suitcase, she moved to the backdoor. She was about to turn the handle of the door when it opened. Expecting her mother or sister, Dani grinned but her smile quickly faded when she saw a strange man standing there.
Silently, Dani stared at the stranger through slanted eyes, noticing his jet-black hair, dark eyes, and square jaw with a cleft in his chin. ‘Kissed by an angel’ her mother would say. “Who are you?” she asked, suspiciously.
The man’s eyebrows rose in surprise and Dani straightened her back, defiantly.
“Antonio Bartolini,” he said finally, his voice heavy with accent, the ‘r’ rolling over his tongue.
‘Couldn’t be any woggier,’ she thought in disgust, as his large hand pushed thick, dark hair from his eyes. ‘Antonio Bartolini,’ she pondered, and remembered a phone conversation with her mother a few weeks earlier.
“And who are you?” he enquired, looking her over inquisitively, the brown of his eyes scorching her skin.
That irked her. “I live here,” she replied, a hand on her hip.
With fingers tapping his chin, he appeared to be absorbing that information. “Daniela?” he asked, her name sounding musical on his lips.
Bristling, she tightened her grip on the suitcase handle. “Dani,” she corrected abruptly.
“Excuse me,” he said apologetically. “You look different in your fo...” he paused as if searching for the correct word, “Fotografia,” he finished, using the Italian word for photograph.
Sighing, she stared back at him. ‘I’m in no mood for this,’ she thought, irritably. “Do you think I can come inside?” she asked with annoyance.
Nodding, he moved closer. “Please excuse me,” he said and reached out to take her suitcase.
She pulled it back. “I can carry my own bag,” she snapped. He nodded, and moved aside to let her pass. ‘About time,’ she thought, moving briskly past him, catching the scent of a spicy cologne.
Storming down the carpeted hallway without a second glance, Dani arrived at her room and pushed the door open with her foot.
Flicking on the light switch, she stared in amazement at the refurbishment of her bedroom, and exclaimed objectionably, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Her bedroom furniture had been completely replaced. “My pretty pink room is gone,” she muttered, gazing around. She noticed a pair of black trousers folded over a chair in the corner. Hearing a noise behind her, she turned and looked at Antonio.
“I think your things have been moved to Liliana’s room,” he offered sheepishly, a hand on the back of his neck.
She gave him a look of loathing before pushing past him and moving to her sister’s room. Sure enough, her bed had been squeezed into the room along with her other furniture.
“Is there anything I can do to help you,” he asked from the doorway.
‘Yes, piss off,’ she thought. “No thanks, Tony,” she answered, gritting her teeth in exasperation.
“Antonio,” he corrected, firmly.
She stared at him, noting his strong jaw and cleft chin. ‘Kissed by an angel’ she mused once more and frowned as her mother’s words echoed in her mind. “Antonio,” she repeated, pronouncing it slowly. Rolling her eyes, she closed the door in his face and quickly locked it.
“Shit!” she muttered, as she put her suitcase down. “Shit!” she growled again, kicking the case. It hit the closed door with a thud.
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