This is a sample of one of Carlo's written stories.

He says that part of this story is based on fact and part fiction. As to which part is fact and which part fiction only he can tell. I wonder who Mata really is ???



Carlo Gabbi

It has been a long time since I wrote about life and love. The few times I tried to move my fingers on the keyboard, I couldn’t create any sensible words, only notes without meaning.

After I separated from Annabelle, my life was shattered. It was too much for me to discover the terrible truth. My son is not really mine, even though he had my name.

Annabelle had lied. My love had died and I became crushed in the ocean of doubt and disillusion.

I couldn’t find any solutions and I asked her, to return with her son, where she belonged, in her country and with her family. Although I had no obligation to the baby I settle a generous endowment on her to stay out of my life.

It took a long time to return to normal and to rise above the depression and apathy. A few months after the separation, disillusioned, I moved away as far I possibly could. . I sold my possessions, and packed a few indispensable things in cartons, which I fitted in my Combo-van. I drove north without a proper destination in mind, mainly I drove at nights, in the fresh air, and rested during the heat of the day. . Where was I really going? I never asked this question of myself, and I really didn’t care. I was sure that when the time would come, my mind would finally find the place to start a new life.

It was a late afternoon in springtime, and a fresh wind blew from the ocean. The long stretch of beach was nearly deserted. Only two fishermen were on the shore arching their arms, throwing their lines away into the foaming ocean, where some breams were biting at their hooks.

One of the fishermen was a tall, slim young woman. She had an olive complexion and dark hazel eyes. Seagulls circled close to her, attracted by the scraps that she discarded. The woman was in her late twenties and was a newcomer on this part of Queensland. She came from a remote island in the Pacific, hoping to mend her life, after a painful separation from a long time lover.

Mata found this coast of Queensland, had so many similarities with her loved island, with the same blue sky, and with the sea mostly calm, protected by the coral barrier. At the shoreline was also the identical broken line of coconut trees, bent by the wind. Large patches of shade were created by the big green umbrellas of the palm and welcomed by the people who sought relief, from the heat.

Mata liked this stretch of Queensland, but the same time, she missed the tradition and legend of her people.

No much had been written in the past about them, but all the same, those archaic inheritances were well preserved. She remembered the local story-tellers, who narrated the legends to the locals, in the long warm nights in her island.

On those occasions the villagers used to congregate outside the hall. Families arrived at dusk bringing with them baskets of food. Someone of the group prepared the kava in a large shallow wooden dish. This traditional beverage, symbol of friendship between the islanders, was drunk from a half coconut shell, passed around, and became polished over the time.

Finally, under the stars, the storyteller would revive the life of their legendary ghosts who initiated life in that tropical paradise.

Mata also missed her father. When she and the other children were young, he taught them the secrets of the island, practical survival things. Father shoved them where to find ripe and perfumed tropical fruits, and how to cultivate cassavas and dalos in the rich volcanic soil. Her father also taught her to love the sea and respect the strength of the ocean. She learned where to find the rich seafood, in the lagoon on the island, and she learned the way to sail the canoe fitted with one outrigger and the coconut canvas, and how to fish with the quadrangular net and the way to throw it properly. Her father also showed her the best spots to sink the baited baskets to catch lobsters and crabs. .

I reached Bowen one evening. The sunset was glorious, sparkling in reds and gold, creating luminescent contrast over far west of the sky, where the sun descended rapidly at the horizon. Sunset was the time chose by the fishermen to leave the calm moorings and move to sea, hoping for a good catch overnight.

I liked the remoteness, and the calm of the site surrounding me, more, I enjoyed the warmer sub-tropical climate. I set camp for my overnight stay. On the portable barbecue I cooked a T-bone steak with fried tomatoes and pineapple rings for my dinner. My constant companion, a blue heeler, lay lazily near the camper-van, waiting his share of the evening meal.

At night the entire tropical constellation appeared more brilliant then usual, and the Southern Cross seemed closer to earth pointing the north-south direction in the sky.

After months of lonely nomadic life I realized something was mellowing inside me, creating the desire to finally settle down. .

Suddenly the need to move from one place to another wasn’t important any more.

In the morning I set up my camp on a deserted beach, a few kilometers out of town, where only a few occasional visitors came for a swim or to try their luck to catch fish.

One morning, as I was strolling along the beach, I noticed a “ FOR SALE “sign outside a property. It was an old solid cabin, adjoining a mango plantation.

At the next visit to town, curiosity made me to stop at the Real Estate office for some information. “Pure curiosity” I told myself, “ No time yet to put roots here or anywhere else.”

When I inspected the place, I came to like the rustic nature of the cabin. It consisted of a large open room, the walls were built with of boulders and squared ironbark logs.

It was an old spartan lodge and had solid clumsy furniture, left behind by the previous owner. In all this simplicity, and in great contrast, was a mahogany desk, with a matching bookcase containing old yellowish books, which emanated a musky odor. I felt weak in front of those luxuries and my old passions resurfaced. . I gently touched the smooth silky patina of the old refined desk. I couldn’t resist the temptation and I paid a deposit, and became the new owner. . .

My life changed over night. Again a roof over my head, a well with plenty of fresh water, and the orchard had dozens of mature mango trees, heavily loaded with fruit.

I was proud of my new home. I found the books valuable to me, and I was fascinated to read of the first settler, on this land two hundred years ago. Other books described sea voyages from Europe, on elegant brigantines, swiftly flying on the waters with their white canvas filled with wind. These stories took me back to the old days, which are unreal in today existence. I was proud of my new possession, but mostly I loved the magnificent desk that I I had always dreamed to posses. My new life ignited the old passions and the love to write resurfaced in me. The keyboard once more created music in my ears, and words flowed like rivers from my soul, and translated like songs, in written words.

The first time I met Mata was at the local Hotel, where she worked as bar attendant. I used to go there at night for a schooner of bear and my evening meal.

I was attracted by her remarkable beauty and the charming smile she used to serve her customers.

On the next morning, I was strolling, down the beach, when a jogger overtook me, running on the wet edge of the sand. It was Mata passing me and she saluted me waving her hand, and with a melodious voice she threw a good morning. I replied, even if I couldn’t recognize immediately. Dressed in in her shorts and T- shirt she look quite different from the young woman I knew at the pub. She jogged to the end of the beach and turned back. As she came toward me again I asked her,

“ Hi Mata, what about a cup of coffee with me?” .

She wasn’t surprise of my invitation and with a large smile she simply reply:

“Why not?”

She had never asked me where I was living. In such a small community, word of mouth spread quickly and became obvious to all the whereabouts of newcomers.

We walked back together, exchanging a few pragmatic words till we reached my home.

We set out in the cool verandah facing the sea, with the coffee and toast that Mata had prepared for us. When we finished our frugal breakfast, Mata in a commanding voice ordered,

“My morning is free. If you don’t mind, go and do your usual things. This place is a disgrace and in needs of a woman’s attentions to brighten it all up and make it presentable.”

She left me speechless. Mata seeing my embarrassment added,

“I am your neighbor and I don’t mind, but it won’t become an habit.”

It was the beginning of our friendship. Mata said,

“On my island we are all like a big family and we use to helping each other. You are a man and not used to domestic chores. That’s the main reason I want to help you.”

As time passed Mata became indispensable around the house and the orchard with her help and some practical suggestions.

”You have to rack the leaves under the trees and burn them, the smoke will keep away the fruit fly. That’s what we use to do in my island.”

She also dug a garden bed telling me “The soils is fertile and we have plenty of water in the well. It’s time to grow fresh vegetables. I will also plant dalos and cassavas for us. You will find them delicious to eat. ”

Mata entered my life, silently, through the back door. Soon I found myself depending on her.

On her day off, Mata, cooked our dinner. After our evening meal we used to rest outside facing the sea and admiring the bright stars above us.

The semidarkness allowed us to share our confidences, with me telling her of my shattered life, while she confided to me her disappointments in life,

“When I was in Suva I had a boyfriend.” She was saying, “He was an Indian, one of the many living there. My Raj was young and handsome and he was full of attentions for me. We fell in love and we spent most of the time together.

“I never asked him to marry me. We were young and we decided to save money before our marriage.

“Regularly, Raj visited his family, who lived on the western part of the island.

Once I asked him if he ever mentioned our relationship and love to his family. He replied that Indian marriages are arranged by the families and in their traditions, love is valued differently. Ray told me they wouldn’t understand the way we loved each other, but one day, he would talk of his intentions to the family. But things didn’t work out as he said. A few months later, after returning from visiting his parents, Raj surprised me with some unexpected news.

His family had arranged a marriage for him with a young woman that Raj had never met. He accepted the marriage for the good family interest and for respect to the laws of his people.

“I wasn’t prepared to such terrible news and I have never completely recovered, and I’m still suffering today.”

“But Mata,” I told her “You mast think of your future and I’m sure eventually you will find the right man and have a family. I have also suffered in the past, but many things have changed now. I know we have much in common and I know you care for me. I believe in the future where we can find love and happiness.”

Mata came close to me. Softly I asked her,

“My dear, I haven’t completely free myself from the past. I have to find myself first, to tell you about my feelings. Even if I thought I love you now, I don’t want to hurt you.

Still in front of me stands Raj’s ghost. I can’t pretend to you, and I know he will stand between us. If I’ll marry you now, it will be only be because of the security and comfort you can offer me, but doing it, would be dishonest…”

With trepidation I asked,

“But if things change, and you became free of his ghost, will you reconsider…?”

“Yes I will, I know one day things will change. Our lives change every day, and we are changing with them. But I can guarantee you, that something wouldn’t ever change in me. The feelings and love I have for you. I need more time now to mend the pain in my heart. Let us be good friends as we are now, for a while longer. I’m sure, the day will come, when I will be receptive to love again, and ready for you. Then our future will be possible. Making a decision today is premature. We still have the scars from the past, they haven’t healed completely. Our future is so important to me. We have to wait and hope.

The morrow will be then, a better one for us. ”