"AN IRRETRIEVABLE STEP"
As the train reached Florence at last, Ray waited till the platform would be cleared of most of the passengers, and then he got off. The reasons were very simple first of all to facilitate his identification by Bianca's father, and let her father realize that he traveled first class, and let her father understand that he Ray is able to provide his daughter with the right standard of living.
They did not have any difficulty in identifying each other, as senior Conti was one of the very few left on the platform when Ray descended from the first class wagon, and Luigi Conti was the only one that was facing with expectancy the train.
Although his disappointment by the absence of Bianca that was no more than a wishful thinking, the meeting with her father amused him. Senior Conti shook his hand with a stern look on his face and without uttering a single word, and right afterwards senior Conti led the way out of the terminal to his parked car. The huge basket that Ray brought along did not change the gloomy atmosphere.
If anyone would have watched us, he could have believed that he's witnessing a meeting of two secret agents. This cynical and imaginative thought, which crossed Ray's mind, helped him to overcome his excitement and be ready to meet the entire Conti family members.
There were about a dozen family members in the living room when Ray entered it following senior Conti. He bent down and left the gift basket he was carrying on the floor, and then hastened his step and joined Bianca's father.
They were all middle aged and even much older the group members that waited for them. No one stood up when they entered and the silence was oppressive.
Luigi Conti and Ray passed just a few yards up the living room center, and stood beside each other facing the sitting group of women and men.
'Senior Magdi wishes to marry our daughter Bianca. We know very little about him, he says that he's an American citizen.' With these opening sentences said Luigi Conti turned to Ray: 'Do you carry your passport with you?'
'Yes senior Conti of course,' Ray fumbled in his jacket's inner pocket, pulled out his passport and handed it to him.
'You may sit down senior Magdi.' He told Ray showing him a free chair, and started to examine Ray's passport. He has found the folded letter of introduction to the Pope of Alexandria, and kept it folded apart without reading it.
'Well Senior Magdi is twenty four years old, five years older than our daughter. He's almost five months in Italy already; he stays in Rome and wishes to become an Italian citizen. He's Copt but he intends to marry our daughter in a civil marriage service, and he avows to honor our daughter's faith and to accompany her to church every Sunday and every time she'll wish to. He isn't a churchgoer himself and that's why he believes that the differences of faith won't disturb the marital harmony of our daughter and Senior Magdi.' Luigi Conti made a short pause sneaked a furtive look at Ray, and reviewed the faces of all his family members expecting their support.
'At his last Sunday in Florence, senior Magdi who was our host then, attended with us a service at the Duomo…'
He tries to persuade them all to support him, for he's on my side! Ray thought with much hope. He didn't ask me to come for nothing, he isn't trying to exploit me… he hasn't a suitor except me, and he didn't meet me in broad day light in case he'll have to reject my request… He wants me to take the load off his shoulders.
'We would like of course to know how Senior Magdi intends to provide our daughter with a suitable standard of living.' Luigi Conti added looking at Ray.
'I'm a son of a well to do family and I don't lack means. I've several options to start a business of my own that I'm still checking…'
'Why haven't you asked our daughter's hand during your last Sunday in Florence I would like to know, why it took you so long to propose?' It was la Seniora Beatrice Conti, Bianca's mother that expressed openly her misgivings.
'I didn't think of staying in Italy at that time and I didn't believe that it's feasible I mean marrying your daughter, although I was and I still am in love with her. I planned to visit Rome's popular sites and the Vatican museum for two weeks and fly back home. I've met during the second week several businessmen that asked me to come to Venice to discuss a business partnership, I owe them an answer but I'm still checking it and several more options with the chamber of commerce; so I've decided to stay and that's why I'm turning to you, I want to raise a family with your daughter which I love dearly.'
This long monologue seemed to have persuaded them, he had sense enough not to mention even with a hint the engagement's annulement and Bianca bad state of affairs; and instead of playing the role of their savior, and he was asking very humbly their favors.
A long silence ensued but several heads nodded with a mute acquiescence.
So the only one that had any objections was Bianca's mother Beatrice Conti but not anymore, she too accepts me... Ray realized encouraged it's going to end up much earlier than I thought.
'Well the only thing left is to ask our daughter's opinion, what she wants…' Luigi Conti declared clearing his throat.
Seniora Beatrice Conti left her seat and went to fetch their daughter. While Ray left his seat and stood up with a throbbing heart.
When Bianca entered the living room and saw him she rushed to Ray's arms and embraced him uttering sobs of happiness, and wetting his shirt with her tears. Ray shocked by his own emotions hugged Bianca's shaking body with shut eyes, feeling against his will how his own tears are flowing down his cheeks.
"An irretrievable step"
'An irretrievable step' is an espionage thriller; its plot relates the adventures of Doron Seri an Israeli junior IDF officer who is persuaded to join the Mossad against his will through sophisticated tactics, which leaves him with no other choice but volunteer to serve his country as a secret agent in an enemy state.
He is signed on a contract of seven years, and after two preparative years in Israel he is sent to Italy under a new identity, where he meets Bianca Conti, marries her and takes her with him to Egypt; where they serve as a team.
The plot's background is the nationalization of the Suez Canal during the late fifties of the previous century, and the invasion of the Suez Canal zone by the British and French armed forces.