When Rigo arrived at his home, it was already time for him to retire for the night.
Mrs. Prettingo had fortunately made enough stewed beef over polenta for both he and Cornelia to eat. At first she had refused, saying that she was not hungry but after Rigo had practically forced her to take a bite, it was as if she had realized just how hungry she really had been. In no time she devoured her plate full of food and even ate all the extra bread that Mrs. Prettingo brought up.
Rigo had been pleased to see this for he could only imagine how long it had been since she had had the pleasure of eating a hot meal. He could tell that Cornelia was reluctant for him to go but after promising to come back first thing in the morning, she gave him a small smile that allowed him to know that she would be ok.
Rigo fed Finchenzo, and placed the 'closed until further notice' sign outside of his bakery door.
He made his way into his bedroom and sighed with profound relief as he took off his boots, it had been a really long day, and the emotion of everything exhausted his body, and yet... and yet as he looked around at his lone bed, the simple knick knacks that practically screamed to have a woman's touch reminded him that after all was said and done; Cornelia was what he wanted.
He pictured what it would be like to be married to her, and suddenly the image of his bare room came alive with warm yellow colors, and vases full of flowers. He looked over at his closet that wasn't even half-way filled and instantly it was jam-packed with dresses, shoes, and handbags.
He looked towards the door and suddenly two toddlers came running into the room with eager smiles on their faces. They circled the bed and came around to Cornelia who graced them all with one of her sincere smiles. She kissed them gently on the forehead and then directed them towards him before she said:
"Kiss your father goodnight children."
All these thoughts brought a smile to his face. An indescribable joy gripped at his heart, and it was then that he suddenly realized that he had to make Cornelia aware of his intentions.
Rigo was accustomed to getting up very early in the morning so when he got out of bed, it was still dark outside.
He went downstairs as was his custom to take care of Finchenzo's needs and cleaned himself up a bit before going into the kitchen and deciding to bring breakfast over to Mrs. Prettigo's house.
He knew that Cornelia was fond of Rosemary focaccia but he decided to do something different that morning. He made a large round sourdough and took out most of the inside. He then prepared a frittata style scramble topped with caramelized onions, tomatoes, basil, and various cheeses. He filled the sourdough bread with these contents and wrapped it up well so that when he arrived at Mrs. Prettingo's house a few minutes later, it was still incredibly warm.
"My goodness Rigo!" Mrs. Prettingo exclaimed.
"The woman that you marry will be fortunate indeed! You are an excellent cook AND baker Rigo!"
Rigo quickly glanced over at Cornelia and saw her cheeks turn a pinkish hue, she moved her food around and didn't look up at him throughout the rest of the meal, he wondered why she did this.
Mrs. Prettingo had to leave afterwards so Rigo and Cornelia arranged some chairs out in the patio and watched the sun rise over the countryside.
Cornelia was wearing a peach colored dress, and he wondered if it had at one point belonged to one of Mrs. Prettingo's daughters, it fit her a bit big but the color brought out her tan skin tone wonderfully. Cornelia realized he was staring at her and looked over at him.
"What are your plans now Cornelia? Did you and Mrs. Prettingo talk about what you're going to do?"
Cornelia looked away bashfully, apparently they had been talking about him at some point, at least that is what he guessed; he wondered what they did talk about.
"She wants me to stay with her, but I can't possibly; you all have been far too kind to me already and I don't know how to repay.."
"I'm sure that she told you that payment is not necessary; we want to help you."
"But.. " She began. "I cannot! I must go back to my home, and resume my business. It is not right for me to just sit here day and night while you all tend to me."
This brought up a question Rigo had had for a while now.
"Cornelia. On the drive over here I realized that you live quite far away; did you always walk all the way to my bakery?"
She stayed quiet for a long moment, not daring to make eye contact, a nod was the only response she gave.
"Why Cornelia? Surely there were other bakeries that were closer."
She looked up suddenly and a shadow of a frown crossed her face. "Why? Do you not wish for me to return?"
He sighed loudly and got up from his seat to kneel next to her. "That is the last thing that I want," He replied as he took her hand in his, it was trembling slightly.
"It just didn't make sense to me, you walked almost forty minutes each way, it's not an easy distance."
"There were various reasons." She began. "One being that prices for bread had gone up where I live, over 2 euro's , and I ... I happened upon your bakery by accident."
"Really?" He asked.
She shook her head. "I had had a particularly difficult day and I just sort of started walking."
He could tell she felt silly and maybe even guilty about telling him this, but she continued anyway.
"I didn't really care where I was going; I just needed to walk away from everything. My brother and I got into an argument and I thought it was best if I simply stayed out of sight for a while."
Tears began to form in her eyes now, and she pulled out the handkerchief he had given her.
"The smell of your bread was what got my attention. It was probably the best smell I had ever encountered. I was actually only carrying 1 euro with me that day, and I figured it wouldn't be enough for anything in your bakery, but I was lured inside despite myself. It was why I was so nervous about asking the price; I figured I would have to turn away for not having enough."
And the truth was that Rigo normally didn't charge such a low price for his artisan breads, the more she spoke the more he realized that her coming into his bakery that day was no coincidence. Before he realized what he was doing, he was kissing her hand and she was looking at him in complete shock.
"Rigo, what are you doing?" She asked, but didn't pull away.
"God sent you to me Cornelia." He whispered into her hand.
Her eyes were wide, her mouth made an 'o' shape but she was too perplexed to respond.
"Cornelia," He said as he held both her hands now.
"I feel that you need to know my intentions towards you."
"I want you to be my wife Cornelia, eventually. I know not now; you're still grieving and we need to get to know one another better but..." He began quickly as he felt her try to pull her hands away from him, but he persisted.
"I know it will take time for you to heal; you've been through so much, but I cannot keep my feelings from you. I have prayed for a woman like you Cornelia, so honest, and pure, I thought such a woman didn't exist. I was resolved to live alone for the rest of my days."
He looked up at her and saw that she was still in shock and frankly looked as if she didn't believe his words.
"Say something in response Cornelia; I cannot bear your silence."
He practically begged.
"You pity me, and that is why you say these things." She ground out.
"No; believe me; I have never professed anything like this to another woman. After listening to your explanation everything makes sense now."
"For you perhaps, but it does not to me." She said in response, and this time tears did stream down her cheeks.
"You do not need a burden like me Rigo. You deserve something far better." She got up out of her chair and was going to make her way inside but he pulled her back and spun her to him. She looked up into his greyish-blue eyes and her cheeks burned. Her words said one thing but he knew that he affected her, she really did think herself a burden, and it was probably why she felt she needed to distance herself from him. Maybe she thought she would be doing him a favor.
He knew all these things because he too had similar thought patterns before; it was why he had remained alone for so long.
"What I want is you Cornelia, and I know you want me too. You left that out in your explanation." He knew he was being bold in saying this but he felt as if he had to. He would not allow for her to turn away from him because he felt in his heart that she was the one.
"One of the reasons you travelled so far is because you needed a friend, someone who cared. I know that those brief encounters meant a lot to you. I could see it in your eyes; I could see it in your face."
As he said this, he trailed his fingers down her cheek, gently wiping the tears away.
"but what you do not know Cornelia is that I need you too. Do you understand? I need you."
He smiled as he looked down at her face, wiping the remainder of her tears before gently placing a soft kiss on her cheek. "Please Cornelia, allow us, allow me most of all to a part of your life."
She was still looking up at him with disbelief but at least she finally hugged him back with ardent force. He felt her nodding as she finally looked up at him and shook her head. "I want you in my life too Rigo, but I can be selfish; I will want you with me always."
And that was music to Rigo's ears as he took her in his arms and held her as tightly as possible.