THE SEA BROUGHT ROBERTO TO US, though he was as good as dead.
A limp and lifeless child he was when deposited at our back door by a sea that had raged the evening before. On his behalf, most certainly, but more peculiarly in the interest of my miserable, lonesome self, has the roiling Atlantic shown an uncharacteristic magnanimity. Mercy. Charity. Roberto, we learned somewhat later, had been sole survivor of a small passenger ship lost off the Cornwall coast.
I have never known a man yet I have become a mother, that without the attendant discomforts that ultimately culminate in the travail of birth. Roberto, once awake, latched onto me as though I were his true mother and was loath to leave my side. At first.
By degrees, he weaned himself away from a comforting, protective embrace. The draw was not so much from without, that of a child's being lured to high adventure, but the natural curiosity of a guileless young man who simply needed to explore his new world.
Roberto's nascent world, one of miraculous rebirth and subsequent discovery, was in a parallel course with the old and comfortable world inhabited by two lonely but amiable spinsters.
Whose lives had been irrevocably upended.
Thanks to Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Ladies in Lavender