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Her euphoric cries echoed through the house.
     “Lilia! Boys! Wake up—Arturo is coming! 
Maria’s excitement stirred everyone around her. She blew open the front door. 
     “Virginio! He’s coming!” 
Virginio dropped his tools and tore out of the barn after his wife. Breathless, Maria ran into the street, her arms flailing and tears of joy and disbelief pouring from her eyes as they strained into the distance. After weeks of prayers and the chaotic retreat of thousands of soldiers, Arturo was making his way down Via della Chiesa, leading the last of the troops. He looked thinner and ragged, dressed in civilian clothing, and covered in dirt and mud. His eyes were small and tired. He had been transformed. Maria saw lines in his face she had never seen before, but to her, Arturo was as beautiful a vision as ever. 
     “Oh my God, my son! My SON!” 
The dark visions of war were instantly yanked out of Arturo the moment he saw Maria. It was like walking through one of his many dreams, although this time, it was real.
     Arturo embraced his mother, who unraveled in his arms like delicate lace. “It’s okay, Mama. Don’t cry.” Her warmth and love radiated through his entire body.
     “Papa!” Arturo looked up to see his father’s tear-streaked face break into a full grin. 
     “My boy!” Virginio pulled him into a tight embrace.
     “It’s good to be alive, Papa,” Arturo whispered, tears stinging his eyes for all the time they’d missed. “It’s good to be home.”
     Lilia felt her entire world burst into sunshine as she ran into her big brother’s arms, the young boys flanking her sides. Everything felt somehow brighter, crisper. The grayness of the landscape gave way to color.
     “Arturo! I knew you would come back!”
     “I always keep my promises.” A smile he had not felt in over a year cracked on Arturo’s face as he caressed Lilia’s hair. “How’s my favorite girl? And look at you boys! How big you’ve grown!” Arturo pinched Bruno’s cheeks, and with the last of his strength, threw Giovanni and Riccardo over his shoulders, generating a chain reaction of laugher. 
     This long-awaited family reunion was a sight to behold for villagers, who watched in adoration. Amid the celebration, Maria dropped to her knees to kiss the ground. “Thank you, Lord, for answering my prayer…for bringing him home.”

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