Stunned, Sam remained frozen in place on one knee with his right hand extended, holding the ring. Only when Chiara suddenly pushed away from the table, causing the chair to crash to the floor, was he released from the spell he was under. She ran sobbing towards the door. Sam ran after her, grabbing her around the waist, and turning her around into his strong arms. She struggled wildly, then collapsed totally, now weeping quietly.
"Chiara, Chiara," Sam whispered, and picking her up, carried her to the bed where they had spent so many love-filled nights. He undressed her, tucked her under the covers, then shed his own clothes, and slid in beside her, gently pulling her into his arms, her head on his big chest.
They lay that way, unspeaking and awake, as the full moon traveled across the sky. The first light of dawn was overtaking the moonlight when Chiara spoke.
"Sam, my father's family is very proud, wealthy, well-known in Italy, and highly respected. As is our custom, my marriage was prearranged from birth to the son of my father's best friend. Leonardo Salvatore is twenty years older than me, and had many long-established mistresses when we married. I was seventeen, and full of the romantic dreams of all young girls. He didn't love me, and resented the forced marriage. I rarely even saw him, except at family celebrations."
She waited, giving Sam a chance to comment, but he wisely continued to silently listen, stroking the dark curls from her forehead.
She swallowed and continued. "I never was…with…him, as I have been with you. He was content with his mistresses until my father began to press us on the subject of a male heir. Ten years ago, after a particularly loud argument between Papa and Leonardo, my husband slammed out of the house."
Sam felt her fresh tears running down his chest and touched her wet cheeks with his fingers.
"I was asleep when he came storming in, drunker than I had ever seen him. He forced himself on me, and nine months later my Luca was born."
Chiara felt Sam tense in anger.
"No, no! My darling Luca is worth going through anything! He is God's gift to me, and Papa adores him. He is already quite a good cello player, is bello…beautiful…and has the sunny disposition of an angel."
"Chiara, if the boy is the reason, I would love him because he is a part of you. Leave that man and marry me! Please, my love. We can live wherever you choose." Sam felt a ray of hope again, thinking he now understood.
Chiara sat up and turned so she could look directly into his eyes. "Oh, Sam, I knew that! You don't understand my culture. In my country, my father would be shamed if I left Leonardo. We are Catholic, and divorce is not permitted. And they would not let me take Luca, no matter what."
She continued, looking intently into his eyes, hoping for understanding and forgiveness. "I can never say how sorry and ashamed I am for not telling you this earlier, even on the first day. You see, Sam, I have never really loved a man before, and now I shall never again. And I loved you from the first moment, too."
"I'm glad, Chiara. You gave us more times. It must have been so hard on you." Sam tenderly pulled her down to his chest again, and began to kiss the tears from her face.
They spent their last full day together doing the things they loved. Just lying close together, and Chiara singing to Sam's fiddle playing while sitting in the rose and lilac scented garden. Later in the day, they took one last ride, racing across the prairie to their special spot under the shade of the tree by the creek, where they had first been together.
Their last night together they put blankets and quilts and pillows on the floor in the attic room under the open stained glass window, so they could see the moon as they lay together.
Sam wore his best clothes with the red string tie to walk Chiara to the train station early on the fourteenth day. They sat close together on one of the outdoor benches, holding hands as they waited for the train.
When the train pulled in, they waited until the last minute, then Sam and Chiara walked over to the last car's steps. Sam heaved her suitcases up onto the train, then assisted her up onto the steps. Suddenly Chiara turned, came down the steps and flung her arms around Sam's neck. They kissed long and deeply until the train whistle blew. Chiara reached into her reticule, pulled out a folded piece of paper, thrust it into Sam's hand, and raced back up the steps and into the already moving car.
Sam stood there watching until the train was a dark smudge on the horizon. Then he returned to the bench and sat, staring at the folded paper.
He was still sitting there three hours later when Doc spotted him as he drove his buggy by, heading to a call outside of town. Doc stopped and sat there a few moments watching. Kitty had always confided in him, trusting him with her thoughts and feelings, and had talked to him yesterday about Sam's plan to propose to Chiara last night. She had shared with Doc her concerns for Sam, sensing that Chiara was withholding something. As Doc studied Sam, he didn't think the big bartender looked like a man joyously waiting to marry.
Sam turned his head, saw Doc in his buggy, waved, and strode over. "Doc, didn't I hear you mention that you have a dictionary for translating Italian into English?"
"Er…hello Sam, yes I do. If you need to use it, go on up to my office. It has a red cover, and it should be on top of my desk, probably under some papers. Here's the office key. You can leave it with Kitty, and I'll get it later."
"Thanks, Doc." Sam had taken the key and was already hurrying away.
Doc shook his head, wondering about Sam. Then he consulted his large silver pocket watch, and clicked his tongue at his horse, continuing on his way out to the Johnson's house.
Sam found the dictionary after carefully moving some of Doc's papers atop the desk. He sat down in the desk chair and pulled out the folded paper Chiara had given to him. Carefully, he looked up each of the eight words.
"Sei la mia anima gemella. Vero amore mio."
"You are my soul mate. My true love."
She had signed it "Ti amo, mio Cavaliere," which he remembered meant "I love you, my Cowboy."
The ink of some of the words was smeared with dried teardrops. His own now joined hers.