A Life’s Road Less Traveled
By: Linda Barrett
“Dudley’s Stella. I know what you’re talking about,” The e-mail read.
Mirabella Reid gazed at it, sitting back in her office chair. Only eight words.
Her boss walked past her with a sidelong glance.
“Are you still mourning the loss of your Great Uncle Dudley? The guy who wrote those Stella Sonatas they’re talking about in the news. No knows who he wrote them for!” he sneered. “Quit daydreaming about your own restaurant! It ain’t gonna happen! Get back to work!”
Mirabella lowered her head and stared at her e-mails. How she wanted to
quit this New York City job and start her own restaurant. How could she do that with her boss always breathing down her neck? Her Great-Uncle Dudley and she used to spend time together when he wasn’t teaching music composition and writing his sonatas. She remembered cooking with him all sorts of Italian dishes.
Looking back at the e-mail on her computer, she glanced down at the author’s name. It was something written by someone who was unfamiliar with one.
“Mrs. Baird, Perth, Australia.”
It came from her great grandmother, Maisie.
Mirabella rummaged through Great Uncle Dudley’s letters and files for a Mrs. Baird from Perth. After spending the afternoon looking through his cookbooks, index card recipes, published and unpublished manuscripts and the sonata papers, a postcard from downtown Perth fell at her feet. Crouching down, she picked it up.
She turned it over. Spidery handwriting in purple ink spoke volumes of mysteries.
“Dear Dudley, Daddy forgives you. Mother is dead and he’s come to his senses. Please come back home. Love, Maisie.”
It was dated 16th, January 1952
Mirabella gazed at Dudley’s family tree on the internet. Maisie O’Day was born 27 May, 1920. Great Grandmother Maisie just celebrated her 103rd birthday. Mirabella couldn’t go to the party because she had to work here. Maybe she would know who Stella was from the recently discovered Stella Sonatas.
Rising from her seat, she came up to her boss’ cubicle.
“I’m going to Australia to see my great grandmother.”
“Right now?” he cried.
“I need a vacation,” she replied. “My great-grandmother needs to see me,”
Her boss aimed his finger at her.
“You’re fired!” he shouted.
Mirabella walked out of the office and down the stairs.
She found the article on the internet while she waited for her flight at the airport.
Maisie O’Day Baird was blowing out the 100 candles on her cake in a newspaper puff piece.
She resembled her brother with his lanky form and imposing size. Did she know the mystery of Stella’s secret sonata? Mirabella raised her eyes from her laptop as her flight to Australia was announced. Closing her laptop, she knew her spur of the moment decision, but it would solve the mystery.
Maisie sat by a tall window in the Perth nursing home. The room smelled of urine and hot food. A nurse led Mirabella to the old woman in the high-backed armchair.
“A visitor,” the nurse said.
Maisie Baird turned in the dark, blue armchair and stared at Mirabella.
“I heard about my brother’s sonata and the mystery about Stella on the news. I had to use the computer to contact you. I was always like my father: loath to use new things. But I needed to help solve this mystery.”
“Who is or was Stella?” Mirabella asked.
Aching with jet lag, she stifled a yawn, struggling to keep her eyes open.
“Dudley loved to cook. Mother taught him. She practically raised us, since Father wasn’t home that much. He loved cooking as much as he loved music. Father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and sell things. Father dictated what he wanted from us. Music and cooking were useless things to Father. Dudley lived for his heart. He escaped Australia and traveled the world in search of two loves. I wasn’t so lucky,” Maisie said enthroned in her armchair in the senior home.
“What is Stella?” Mirabella asked, leaning forward.
“Dudley loved to cook as I said,” Mirabella nestled deeper into the armchair. “In Italy, he fell in love,”
Maisie shook her head.
“Stella isn’t a who. Stella is a what.” Maisie croaked.
“What is a Stella?” Mirabella leaned forward even more.
“In Italy, there is an olive oil. It’s named Stella Olive Oil. Dudley loved to cook with it. He would only use that olive oil. His sonata is like an advertisement. I envied my brother because he had the spirit of adventure. Stella’s taste reminded him of how we should enjoy life and follow our hearts.”
Mirabella sat back.
Maisie croaked out a giggle.
“Sorry you came halfway around the world for olive oil.”
Suddenly, she grasped at her chest and slumped over. The nurse rushed in and gasped:
After Maisie’s funeral, one of her children handed Mirabella a battered manilla envelope with the words “Stella” written in Dudley’s handwriting.
“She wanted you to have this,” the tall man said. He resembled Great Uncle Dudley
Mirabella looked at the envelope. She noted the address of the storage place. It would be a quick trip there.
Unlocking the storage unit with the key, she pulled up the door. She flashed her torch into the darkness. Groping around the wall, she found a light switch. When the room revealed its treasure, Mirabella gasped and stood back.
Almost a thousand bottles of olive oil gleamed in the light. She stepped inside and found an old olive press. She threw back her head and laughed.
“Now I can start my own Italian restaurant with Uncle Dudley’s recipes! I’ll have the only Italian restaurant in Perth, Australia!”