‘Sophia was relaxing on one of the sun decks and told me she just wanted to read her book and try and take her mind off things.’ Looking straight into Kate’s transfixed gaze, Luca swallowed hard. ‘We had been through a difficult time…a very difficult time. For three years we had been trying for a baby, without success. In the last of those three years we decided to have some investigations done as to why we could not conceive a child. We found out that there was a problem with Sophia’s ovaries that could not be rectified and that pregnancy was impossible. She was devastated.
‘From when we were first together we had always known we wanted a family. I was my parents’ only child, and they had both died by the time I was twenty-one. I wanted to fill this beautiful villa they had left me with the sound of my children’s laughter…many children! Sophia was one of six girls, and had had a brother who died. Because of that she dreamed about giving her parents a boy grandchild. All we had seemed to talk about…hope for…dream of…for three long years was having a baby! I told her that we could adopt now we could not have one of our own…that I was happy to do that. I meant it. But Sophia was not happy. Every day she was in tears. Then more and more she retreated inside herself, and eventually she would barely talk to me about how she felt at all.
‘That morning, about half an hour after I had left her relaxing on the sun deck, I returned to see how she was and found her chair empty and her book left open at the page she was reading beside it. Thinking she might have gone to lie down in the cabin, I searched for her. But, no…there was no sign. Unable to ignore the sense of fear that was building in me, I ran to find my friends and we all searched the boat together.’
Frowning deeply at the memory, his jaw tight, Luca took a couple of moments before continuing. ‘Her body was found later on that afternoon by the coastguard. There were railings around the deck where she had been sitting. There was no way she could have just fallen overboard. After a full investigation by the police the coroner returned a verdict of death by suicide.’
Scrubbing a hand round his jaw, Luca stared hard at Kate. ‘What I want to know…what has been eating me up inside for over three years…is did I help drive Sophia to take her own life by my great desire to be a father? Did I put too much pressure on her when as it turns out she was so fragile?’
‘Oh, Luca! It doesn’t sound remotely to me as if that’s what happened at all!’ Her heart pierced by the way Luca’s wife had died, as well as by the raw pain in his voice as he confessed what had been troubling him the most about her death, Kate leaned across the table and reached for his hand. ‘From what you’ve told me, Sophia wanted children as much as you—maybe more! For some women it can take over their lives…the desire to have a baby. I had a friend it affected in that way. She had a wonderful marriage, a loving, caring husband, but she just couldn’t get pregnant. In the end, because of the obsession that consumed her, the marriage broke up. I met her husband a while afterwards, and he told me that he’d had to leave because he had started to feel as though he’d ceased to exist. My friend cared more about having a baby than him! In a relationship you have to take care of each other too…don’t you think?’
Smiling gently, Kate clasped Luca’s hand in both of hers.
‘For whatever reason, Sophia did what she did. It sounds like her deep personal sorrow went beyond where anybody could reach her or help her put it right. Not even a loving husband! I’m sorry for what you both must have endured in not being able to have a child of your own. But I’m more sorry for what you have had to endure since—blaming yourself for Sophia’s tragic death.’
Luca did not know what to say. All he knew was that the kindness that shone like a fiercely bright beacon from Katherine’s beguiling gaze was stirring him in the most profound way. It was making him dare to imagine that life could be far better than it had been for a long time, and he realised that he passionately wanted that. You have to take care of each other too, she had reminded him. Well…he could definitely relate to Katherine’s friend’s husband. Sophia had hardly even looked at him in the final weeks of her life, when her sorrow over not being able to conceive a child had made her withdraw further and further inside herself.
It was not until now that Luca had fully allowed himself to experience the reality of feeling both rejected and neglected by her. There had been times when he had been so alone with the deep unhappiness that racked him that he’d hardly been able to bear it! And for the past three years he had shut out every bit of possible comfort from another human being in order to protect himself from any further hurt. It was as though he had hidden himself in a deep dark cave when he had really needed to place himself in the light…in the warmth…in a place where he could see that life did have more to offer than just more pain.