In the crumbling palazzo in Florence where she had grown up, the revered ghosts had been the only men in the house, and her mother and grandmother had been conspicuously incomplete. They were together only for her, for Marcella. If only, if only, they frequently said, their bodies said, their very gestures–futile grasping hands, sighs, all speaking of unending lack. If only the men hadn’t left them–one in war, the other in a car accident, two commonplace stories that struck them as spectacularly tragic. All the hope in the house had landed on her, on Marcella. Someday, she would find a man to complete her, and them; it had been her birthright, her only task. But sometimes Marcella imagined they looked at her with narrowed eyes, as if they doubted her capacity to succeed.
When she had met Anthony, then, right after her mamma died, she had felt weak with relief. He was so clearly the goal for which her mother and grandmother had prepared her–so handsome, so sure, so fearsomely complete him himself! Men, the di Pavarese men she had never known, had been wondrous creatures, and it had seemed that Anthony Atkinson could stand with them. Love had seemed not a matter of comfort, but something much more august.