Author: April Arrglington
Characters/Pairing: Bella & Edward
Rating: T+ for profanity & violence
Spoilers: Based on the Twilight universe starting out from the end of New Moon until after Breaking Dawn
Summary: Valeria is a seventeen year-old resident of Volterra who happens to witness the events concerning Bella Swan & Edward Cullen at the Piazza di Priori’s Clock Tower on Saint Marcus Day.
Author’s Note: V for Valeria's first few chapters are devoted to character introduction and plot set up. Bella is a huge character in this fan fiction, however Valeria crosses path with her and the Cullens after unlocking the secrets that plague Volterra. Be patient and I guarantee you'll enjoy the ride. In Chapter 6 Valeria stumbles into a mysterious sighting while camping with Cecilia, running into more dead ends. Hunted by her findings, she is unsuspecting that answers await around the corner.
By the end of the summer Ceci and I had arranged to go on a camping trip near the Cecina River, mostly because she felt bad about abandoning me and spending most of the summer with Dario. You could say she was trying to make it up to me, seen how she knew how much I loved camping. But I knew better than to believe we had gone on the trip just for my benefit. She was avoiding Dario, and it was obvious because she was down in the dumps.
Sure enough, I learned from Dario before leaving for our trip that they had their first fight when Ceci pressured him to quit smoking. They hadn’t spoken since, a total of two whole days, which was an eternity considering they had spent every waking moment together since they met. In turn, Ceci had come up with the camping trip idea just so she could borrow sometime before facing each other again.
I wasn’t worried though, I knew this was a passing storm. She was just incredibly sensitive to the environment, nature, and the health and well being of all organisms, especially those who she loved. To keep her occupied and away from all things Dario I showed her my progress on my target practice, one of my favorite sports. I wasn’t very good at it yet, but for some reason liked it, so had devoted part of the summer to master it. She in turned showed me the intricate macramé necklace she had been working on since she had gotten sick earlier in the summer. It was nice to catch up with her after all that time we had spent apart.
Despite my efforts though, a lot of our conversations would digress back to Dario and how ‘he was collecting tribal masks now’ something or other. In these instances I tried to veer the conversation back to neutral ground. I brought up “Buffy, l’ammazza vampiri” while we walked the woods along the river one evening. Buffy was a new popular show exported from America that was all the rage with the kids in town.
“I’m sorry, I don’t get it” said Ceci.
“What is there to get?” I responded.
“The whole show… I mean the bad jokes, the fight scenes on heels, the crazy vampire makeup…”
“It’s supposed to be cheesy. It’s set in high school! What were you expecting?”
Ceci lets out a sigh. A Dario kind of sigh, I could tell. “Not sure. I guess I’m not really into pop culture as much as I should be.”
I stopped her before she headed down that road again, “You know what your problem is?”
“You take everything too seriously.”
“I guess is part of my Gypsy heritage, or something. No matter how you look at it irony and sarcasm just… elude me.”
“Thank god you have me around to steer you in the right direction. Maybe if I dare you to come up with a sense of humor you’ll make an effort?”
She smiled and nodded quietly. I knew her contrarian ways couldn’t keep her away from a dare.
I changed the topic to a cheerier one. “So, at what time you want to go cliff diving tomorrow?”
“We are not far away from the waterfall I have in mind, so whenever we decide to head out that way. Is just a 20 minute walk west from the camp site.”
“Cool… hey, I’m getting hungry, maybe we should head back?”
“Yeah, I’m getting chilly too… I know! Let’s take this shortcut Dario taught me last time we came camping.”
I rolled my eyes at the sound of his name.
“His family owns a winery not too far from here. We sneaked into the wine fair two weeks ago by cutting through this dry basin,” she pointed out east. I followed her, happy to have thought to bring the flashlight. Twilight was upon us.
As we approached the edge of the basin we heard some voices and decided to slow down. It was windy, so it was hard to make out who was out there with the air stream coming against us so loudly. I hunched down by a bush and scanned the area. Maybe there were some other campers here?
I noticed a black van parked in reverse at the opposite edge of the basin. And at the bottom three men were smoking cigarettes next to a pile of garbage plastic bags and what appeared to be a freshly dig massive hole at the bottom of the basin.
I felt Ceci approaching quietly behind me to take a peek. I signed to her with my index finger to keep quiet. She nodded. We crouched again behind the bushes and stared at the plastic bags. And that’s when we froze. Cause we noticed that those weren’t garbage bags at all, as they actually looked like body bags.
I am not sure how we made it back to our tent. In retrospective the logical explanation hints to an adrenaline rush that somehow helped me pull Ceci away from there, managing to get us back to the camp site unscathed. Once we reached the safety of the inside of the tent we stared at each other, terrified.
“We should call the police,” I suggested, gasping for air.
“No! We need to go back home!” she reasoned, reaching for our bags.
I peeked outside the tent for signs of pursuit. Nothing. I turned back to notice Ceci already packing.
“Maybe we are over reacting.” I said, trying to keep calm.
Cecilia stopped in her tracks and stared back at me in disbelief.
“We are not sure what is in those bags…” I contested.
“I know what I saw, and even if we are wrong about it… to tell you the truth I don’t want to find out one way or the other.”
I saw the hysteria quickly filling her eyes, so I conceded the point and helped her pack the tent.
When we got back to town we kept to ourselves and didn’t talk to each other for a few days. I tried her on the phone a couple of times with no luck. It appeared she was riding the panic wave successfully with denial, but at the end of the week I couldn’t stand it any longer. I ambushed her over at Dario’s, knowing perfectly well he would be up to speed on what had transpired, and confronted her about it. I needed to get back there and find out for sure one way or the other.
“What!? Are you crazy?” She stared at me in disbelief.
“I need to know for sure if we saw what we think we saw.”
“What else could it been? I mean, who would bury trash in a dry basin in the middle of nowhere?”
Dario cut in from his desktop, motioning us to look at his screen.
“Nope. That particular area you are describing is not a landfill, as is not listed under the European Union Landfill Directive-
Cecilia turned to me, “I told you…”
Dario continued “-but found out through the archeological archives of the city’s database that the area in question geographically coincides with a registered Tumuli from the 9th century.”
“A what?” Ceci and I chimed together.
“Tumuli’s are ancient family tombs from the Etruscan period, often common in towns such as this. You said you guys were at a basin?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Did you see any mounds or small hills?
“No,” Cici and I respond in unison.
“Hmm. In that case the Tumuli could be so old that is now part of the landscape, which would make sense… been that a basin is like a small valley, and where there is a valley there are mounds that surround it.”
“So, what you are saying is that there is an ancient underground graveyard there?” I asked Dario.
Shit. I was definitely going back now. Ceci, stared back at me with apprehension.
“If you don’t want to go that’s fine. But I’m going.” I stood, determined.
“I absolutely can not let you go to a registered Tumuli site… without me.” Dario said, putting his palms together, savoring the prospect.
Out numbered two to one, Ceci just growled while giving us the ‘evil eye’ reproachfully.
We drove to the site in question on Saturday morning, agreeing with Ceci that if we found anything suspicious at all we would alert the authorities.
When we got there, however, we found nothing.
No bags, no signs of conflict, not even blood. There were no clear hills or mounds in the landscape to speak of, so we plowed around half the day for clues without avail. There were no bodies buried anywhere. The only things in the vicinity were some rock formations I hadn’t noticed the first time around.
On our way back we stopped at the Coffee Shop for refreshments, relived that we had found nothing. Ceci was especially cheerful about Mother’s new drink creation she called ‘frapeccino’ that had struck a cord particularly with the American tourists. I, however, couldn’t stop thinking about how our findings made no sense at all.
But there was nothing more to do. We were back to school that coming Monday, and the routine of classes, homework, and school gossip predictably took over my thoughts.
Save for a few weeks later, I spotted the black van again double parked near the park where the Twins and I usually had our picnics. I was able to make out, before it took off, that it belonged to a funeral home.
That night, while eating pizza over at Dario’s, I offered the scribbled name I had written down on my notebook in a hurry. “Landini e Lavorazione Funerari” Dario read out loud.
Ceci refuted the connection, “Are you even sure it is the same van?”
“Yes, I couldn’t make out the print that day at the basin. But I recognized it today; it was the same coloring and font. I am positive.”
After a few moments typing on his keyboard, Dario pulled up a website that confirmed that the small funeral home in question was located two towns away, near the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
“The place offers all types of funeral arrangements but it specializes in cremations.” Dario elaborated. We sat quiet for a while. Ironically Ceci was the first one to come up with a theory. She just couldn’t help her analytical mind. I took it as a good sign that we were winning her over.
“Ok, let’s just say hypothetically that those were body bags, just for argument sake. If we had it wrong and the body bags we saw weren’t buried but unearthed instead, to what purpose would they be taken to a funeral home? Isn’t that backwards?”
“Curious. They also help the local shelters with humane animal terminations,” Dario interrupts while scrolling down the screen.
That’s when a horrifying though entered my head. “It makes me wonder what other services they provide. Incineration for unwanted bodies perhaps?”
“To what end?” Ceci replied, “Why not leave buried bodies in the middle of the abandoned country side? Why bother moving them at all if no one is to suspect where they are in the first place.”
“Especially when the site is a known Tumuli” brainstormed Dario, “remains are expected to be found in the area, which is untouchable as historical patrimony. So there must be some other reason… maybe they were tomb robbers?”
“But there were no tombs, or bodies for that matter!” I argued, “OK, I’m no archeologist, but it was pretty clear to me there are no remains of any kind there.”
“Maybe the Tumuli location is off by a kilometer radius or two. Maybe the landscape has changed with the years, shifting its location. Even if we were at the right spot, maybe there are no remains because anything from the 9th Century is pretty much decomposed. Who knows Valeria.” Ceci said, “None of it makes any sense.”
And just like that we hit another dead end.