I'm Here to Fix You

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Chapter 27

JAKE

I didn’t mean to make her cry. Hell, I’ve only seen her cry twice, but damn, I hate it. It makes me feel powerless and useless. But she was crying now ... and I’m not sure it’s because she was touched or pained or ... anything.

I didn’t talk because I thought she should take in my words first. I just told her she’s my soul mate, guys. It’s even worse than if I’d bent down on one knee to ask her to marry me. Why did I even say such a thing, I really don’t know. I just ... hell, I just spoke without thinking, which is definitely a problem of mine, as you might have guessed.

It’s just that after that dream, and the talk with Ryan ... I found myself more and more convinced there’s something so strong between us, that no matter how much it hurts, I just ... can’t be parted from her. I can’t stay away. And I cannot allow her to suffer any longer either.

That’s why I came here today. Tess told me Silvia had refused to go out, so she most probably was at home wallowing in her misery, and I couldn’t allow that. It’s pathetic, but this afternoon alone with her was by far the best I’ve ever had. My life revolves around the efforts I make at not thinking, but rarely do I ever spend so many hours truly distracted. With Silvia it was ... natural.

Do I say it? Do I dare say it? It’ll be pathetic and stupid, beware. Brace yourself.

It’s better than sex. Not almost, not maybe, not kinda ... it is. Spending time together, just me and Silvia, bantering, bickering, laughing ... simply being with her. It’s better than sex itself. Better than the most enthralling, most exciting sex I’ve ever had and will ever have. And believe me, I’ve tried a lot of things in that department. But whatever the kink, whatever the pleasure, it’ll never be comparable to this. Silvia and I on her couch, spending a whole afternoon watching cartoons, laughing together, bickering like we’re used to. It’s better, definitely better than sex. Hell, it’s better than anything else in this world.

Told you it would be pathetic and stupid. Now feel free to laugh.

Meanwhile, Silvia seemed to have stopped crying, finally. “Why ... why do you do this?” She asked, her voice weak. “Why do you ... you don’t ... you ...”

“I didn’t lie.” I pointed out, letting her keep her face hidden behind my neck as I rubbed her back. “I dreamed of these two girls in a pool, and they were tied to a chair and-”

“Please, stop.” She begged, her voice quivering due to tears once again. “Don’t ...” her hands gripped my shirt as she pressed against me, “...don’t do this ...”

The memories are still too painful, I see. She can’t even talk about it. I know the feeling so well. I’ve never spoken out loud about my own dramas, you know. The sole people that know are uncle Keith and Fitz, but because they lived it with me. And even so, they know only the practical details, not the whole world behind them. I’ve never once said it out loud. My therapist is trying to get me to open up, but hardly will she ever.

So I see what Silvia means. I know how sorrowful it can be to even only dare mention what happened. There are things that will not only mark your life, but also taint your soul, and haunt you until the rest of your days. And I’m not much of a believer, but if there is something beyond this life, I’m pretty sure those memories will haunt me there too. Then again, I’m definitely bound to Hell, so I guess I’ll relive every single instant of those.

“It’s alright.” I said. “You don’t have to tell me now.” But she’ll have to eventually. I was taken off guard when Ryan came to me, but he’s right. She needs all the help we can give, even if she doesn’t want it. The sole chance to succeed is if we set aside any grudge we may have, every rivalry, and focus on her.

He loves her, I know he does. I’m not a blind fool, I won’t say I’m the only one that loves her or I love her the most. We may be irremediably different, Ryan and I, but as much as I he loves Silvia very deeply. Even only coming to me proves it.

I joked about it with him, but you think I don’t understand how hard it was for Ryan to say those things? He knows I’m the hugest threat to their relationship, useless to deny it. As much as she loves him, if there’s anyone that can get between them, that’s me. Ryan knows it, I know it, even Silvia knows it. Yet he came to me, told me to spend as much time as possible with her, basically gave me his blessing to steal her away from him. And why? Because he loves her, and he knows she needs help.

I’ve been stupid to wait so long, I should have seen it way before. Hell, I’ve spent my life dealing with depression, how could I overlook such a fact? That the one person I love the most suffers from it. That that sneaky demon has come to once again crawl in the skin of someone I love, menacing to take her away. I was such a fool.

I knew there was something with her, but I didn’t dare think it was depression itself. Yet I should have noticed the signs. My father suffered from post traumatic depression. My mother suffered from depression. Yet I didn’t read the signs, simply because I chose to ignore them.

I wanted to think it was impossible, that maybe yes, Silvia had issues, but it wasn’t as big as that. I wanted to be able to make the selfish choice and give up on her. But how can I?

How can I give up on her when I know that, one, she’s battling with the worst monster ever faced: herself. Two, that she’s slowly and inadvertently gliding into the abyss. Three, that we’re connected, Silvia and I. We’re soul mates. Even if not on a romantic level.

I can’t give up on her. Not now, nor ever. And maybe it’ll hurt like hell to be so close yet never have her, but ... it’s for the best. At least once, I can do good in my life.

***

“What do you mean, you’re not coming??” Serene yelled in my ear.

I sighed, my gaze focused on my Silvia finally sleeping. It took long, but in the end tears worn her out, and she fell asleep in my arms, I bet without even noticing. I’d just laid her down on her bed when my sister called to wonder why was I late to our dinner. “I can’t, Pebbles ... a situation has ... arisen, and ... I can’t leave.” I can’t leave Silvia in these conditions, even if once awake she’ll want me to.

“What situation?” My sister asked, alarmed.

I bit my lip, wondering if I should tell. “It’s a long story. Can we reschedule?”

“But Colin can only tonight ...”

I frowned. “What does Fitz have to do with this? Weren’t you going to introduce me to your boyfriend?”

“Oh! Yes! I mean ... yes! I just ... never mind!”

Mmh. That’s suspicious. Why did she get all fussy out of the blue? “Did you invite him too? For support?” I asked. Fitz has always been the angel, opposite to me, of course Serene would consider him a brother. Hell, he’s been her brother when I couldn’t be. I bet she invited him just so she’ll have someone on her side. Also, inviting someone whose unpaid job is to keep me from losing my shit every time is a sneaky move from her part. I bet he’ll have to basically be her boyfriend’s bodyguard. That only confirms me she’s dating someone I’d never allow her to.

I’d go purposely now, but ... Silvia. As much as I’d love to take a hit at the jerk’s face, I can’t leave my love like this. When she wakes up she’ll find herself disoriented, and she’ll need someone close. I could call her own boyfriend, but it can’t be him or Tess or anybody else. It gotta be me. Because only I know how does it feel like to be on the awakening of such an attack to your deepest core.

“Well, I’ll have to bail nevertheless, sis. I’ll break your boyfriend’s bones another time.”

“Jakey ...”

I sighed, sitting at the edge of bed, watching Silvia sleep. She looked calm. But if I know this beast one bit, I can tell that tears aren’t the only trouble. If that bad dream I had means what I think, then she won’t sleep peacefully for long. “Pebbles, come up with another date, alright? I’ve waited all these months, I guess I can wait a few days longer.”

“But what happened?”

“Never mind that. Just ... pick another date. I’ll try to be free for then.” I sighed, brushing Silvia’s forehead. “I gotta go now. Let me know what you decide. Bye, Pebbles.” I hung up before she could say anything. My phone was blowing up with texts, mails and all sorts of things, as usual, but I threw it onto the nightstand with a sigh. I guess I should think of dinner. She’ll need to eat when she wakes up.

I stood, and decided to see what was in the fridge. I couldn’t cook to save my life, but maybe there’s something I need to warm up only. I think I can manage to turn on the oven, at least. To be honest, normally I either eat out or my maid cooks for me.

Sending one last glance to Silvia, to make sure she was still peacefully sleeping, I headed to the kitchen. I’ve never been at her place on my own. I mean, the couple of times I’ve been here, it was with the rest of our friends, so this is actually a first.

It’s pretty nice, I’ll say. Two rooms, a small living room and an even smaller kitchen plus the bathroom. I prefer wide open spaces, but this seems cozy enough. And with what I pay her I don’t think she can afford a bigger place. I’d give her a pay rise, but she’d accuse me of playing favorites. This woman is so terribly stubborn and proud, you have no idea.

Once in the kitchen, I opened the fridge, and was amazed to find all sorts of foods, but nothing cooked ... damnit. There were ingredients of different sorts, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish ... but nothing, absolutely nothing cooked. Just my luck. You’ll say, how hard can it be to cook a steak? Well, last time I tried I nearly burned my kitchen down, so there’s your answer.

Sighing, I reached for my pocket, looking for my phone, only to then realize I left it on the nightstand in her bedroom. I wonder if she has a cordless of some sort ... mmh, there it is. Her own smartphone. I promise not to poke my nose into her business, but I do need to make a call unless I want to give her food poisoning tonight.

Lucky for me, Silvia had no block code, so I just needed to slide to unlock it. I found a few texts from Tess, a few missed calls from ‘papi’, which I’m guessing is her dad, unless she and Sir Douche are into kinky stuff, and a couple from ‘mami’, which is ... her mom? Hey, help me out here, I hardly speak Italian.

I spent some time in Italy, but to be honest, I was more focused on Italian girls than on learning language, as you can easily guess. An Italian friend told me they have these troubles between North and South, something about visible differences, but for me it was interesting to find out there’s not much dividing North and South over there when it comes to girls. Northern girls might seem colder, but they’re keener on the kinks, while Southern girls ... definitely not as chaste as tradition would want them. Makes me wonder ... Silvia is from the South, yet she’s a happy little virgin. Well, maybe not that happy about it, but hopefully still virgin.

I had to do my best to retain myself from reading her texts, especially as I noticed there were a couple from Sir Douche himself, but I made it. Phew. I’m pretty sure she’d kill me otherwise.

Since I know it by heart, given how many times I call her, it was easy to dial Ana’s number. Don’t think bad. It’s just my maid. And believe it or not, I haven’t slid into her bed yet, and I probably never will.

“Yes?” She answered at the third ring, her voice somewhat distracted.

“Hey, Ana, it’s Jake ... sorry to bother you on your day off, but I really need a favor.”

She chuckled for some reason. “Anything for you, Mr. Watson, you know that.” Such a sweet, lovely girl. That’s why I try to keep it friendly. I wouldn’t want to compromise her innocence.

Damnit, now that I think of it, I’m finding myself surrounded by virgins lately, how the fuck is that possible? First Silvia, then Elise, and now Ana. Is it a dare? Am I challenged to resist to temptation or to lead into temptation either of them? The latter one wouldn’t be too hard, at least with Ana and Elise. I mean, both fairly rooted on their decision to wait for Mr. Right, but ... both kinda crushing on me.

“Ok, thanks. Listen, I’m at a ... friend’s. And she’s not feeling too well, so I want to make her dinner, but ...” I laughed, “...you know how bad my cooking is, so I was wondering if you could ... I don’t know, drop by ...?” I hesitated, thinking it over. “Mmh, now that I think of it, it was an awful idea. It’s your day off after all. Sorry.”

“It’s ok, I’ll come gladly. What’s the address?” She said sweetly.

“You don’t have to ... I have no right to make you work on your day off.” I argued.

She giggled. “The thing is ... I really don’t mind. Because I love working for you, Mr. Watson.” Told you, she’s crushing on me. You women seriously think we don’t notice? Believe me, whenever a man seems not to see it, it’s because he doesn’t want to, but we almost always do know when you’re into us. Well, I do.

“You should really call me Jake, though ...”

“Nah, I prefer Mr. Watson. It’s sexier ...”

“Uh ... thanks ...?” Here goes my attempt at resisting to temptation.

“If you give me the address I’ll see to be there within 40 minutes. Do I need to buy groceries?” Ah, that’s the Ana I know, always so professional.

“Well, uh ... the fridge is full, but ... I don’t know, make whatever you prefer. Buy every grocery you need, when you get here I’ll reimburse you.”

She made a sound that I suppose resembled a smile. “Alright, I’ll see what I can think of. Text me the address.” She then hung up. Well, that was easy.

The moment I closed the phone call, however, I realized there was another one, always from ‘papi’. I wonder if I should wake Silvia up ... won’t her father get worried if she doesn’t pick up the phone at the third call? She should really get a well deserved rest, though ... alright, I guess it won’t hurt too bad.

“Yes, this is Silvia Banchi’s phone, whom am I speaking to?” I answered the moment I took the call.

Oddly enough, the person on the other side didn’t seem too surprised. “Ryan? Your voice sounds different. Where is Silvia?”

Wait, are they so well deep into this goddamn relationship that he’s already spoken to her parents? Always assuming that ‘papi’ is her father. For all I know it could be some weird dude she went out with or a friend of some sort. The man’s English came with a thick accent, though, and he sounded way older. Definitely Daddy Banchi.

Trying not to think too much of the fact that Sir Douche is already so well acquainted with who could become his father-in-law, I pointed out: “This is Jake, sir. Silvia’s friend. She’s sleeping, I didn’t want to wake her up.” Honesty is always the best policy.

“Jake?” The man repeated, as if savoring my name in his mouth. “Jake Watson?”

“Uh ... yes.” How does he know my name?

He laughed for some reason. “Well, then. Nice to finally hear your voice. My daughter has told me a lot about you.” Wait, what? She talks about me to her father? Why?

“Uh ... good things, I hope.”

The man laughed again. “Both good and bad ... but overall she depicts you as a nice fellow.” Oh, really?

“I’m glad.” But what exactly does she say about me? And how come I’ve entered her discourses? I mean, I can understand why would he know about Sir Douche, but me?

“But why is my daughter asleep at this hour, Jake? Isn’t it ... 6 o’ clock over there?” Daddy Banchi inquired. His English was pretty good, I’m surprised. Even though the Italian accent was heavy.

“Uh ... yeah, but she didn’t feel too well. She’s probably coming down with a cold or something. You know, it’s season ...” Man, I’m a class A liar.

“Mmh ...” he didn’t seem too convinced, “...well, it’s nice of you to take care of my daughter while she’s sick. Thank you.”

Really? A guy you’ve never met and that is definitely not her boyfriend is alone at home with your daughter, and that’s what you’ll say? In his shoes, I’d have already booked the first flight to come see who’s the little shit.

“Uh ... well, you know, between friends ...” I mumbled, still taken off guard by his reaction.

He made a sound, something halfway between a smile and a chuckle. “It’s funny that I’ve never met you yet I know so much about you already.” What? “Oh, my wife says hello.”

I blinked my eyes, perplexed. “Thanks. Say hello to Mrs. Banchi from my part.” I crossed the living room to get to the bedroom, where Silvia was still fast asleep. “Do you need me to take a message for your daughter, sir?” I would ask how much he knows about me, what has his daughter told him exactly, because it must be enough for him to trust me with being alone with her in her home. But I guess he’d tell her then, so ... better not. Damnit, I am not a patient man.

“Uh ... well, if you assure me she’s alright, just tell her I called, but first ... may we talk for a moment, Jake?”

I frowned. Why would he want to talk to me? He’s never even seen me. “Uh ... I guess yeah ... of course ... what is it?” I left the room just not to make too much noise and risk waking Silvia.

As I sat on the couch in the living room, Daddy Banchi began: “Sorry if my accent gets in the way, I’m practicing.”

I chuckled. “It’s alright, sir, your English is perfect.”

He laughed as well, but soon turned serious. “Listen, Jake ... I know it sounds odd, because we’ve never met, but ... I gather you and my Silvia are very close ...”

Given his pause, he meant for me to confirm it. “Uh ... yes, we’re ... very good friends, sir.” The understatement and the overstatement of the year, oddly enough. We’re way more than good friends, and way less than that, sadly.

“Enough for her to confide to you?”

Ah. Straight to the point, I see. “I ... guess ... more or less, yeah.”

“Has she?” Silvia’s father wondered, serious. “Has she ever confided to you?”

“Well ...”

“I don’t mean things in general.” He sighed. “There’s Tess for that, as far as I know, sometimes her mother. I mean something different ... my daughter tells me you’re a smart man, Jake. Actually, she says you’re the cleverest and sharpest man she’s ever met, and you as much as I know how much of a compliment that is, coming from Silvia ...” Definitely. “So you might have ... sensed there is something not exactly ... how can I put it ...”

“That she has issues? Yes, I’ve sensed that, sir. No need to beat around the bush.” I cut in, since he seemed uncomfortable saying it out loud.

The man sighed loudly, and I could hear a female voice in the background asking something, not sure what, since she spoke in Italian. He said something in Italian to her, and then I heard shuffling. Presumably he went to another room or something. “Sorry,” he said, “I’d rather my wife didn’t hear this ... it’s still too painful for her.”

“I see.” Well, I don’t, but hopefully I will after this phone call. Maybe he can give me a hint as to what happened to his daughter, that way I can be more prepared for if and when she will tell me.

Silvia’s father sighed. “From what I gather, I was saying, you and my daughter are really close, Jake. Enough for her to confide to you ... something, I think you know, that she doesn’t do very often.”

“Well, I know she confides to Tess ...”

“It’s not the same, Jake. We both know it.” He sighed once more. “Listen, I know this phone call will sound terribly odd to you, but I guess that, what I mean to say is ... keep it up. Whatever it is that you do, keep going. My daughter seems ... keener on talking lately, and I think it’s due to your efforts.”

“But I’ve done nothing ...” I argued. I’ve barely started doing what I must.

“You’ve done more than you imagine, Jake. Even only being there for her whenever she needs is enough, believe me. And I want to thank you, for doing that.”

“Sir, I ...”

“No, no, I must thank you. I don’t know if you know what happened to her, but even if you don’t, you’ve already done so much for her, and I’m grateful.”

“But really, I-”

“Jake ... my daughter trusts you. Enough to cry in front of you, which is something she hasn’t done with me either.” How does he even know she cried in front of me? well, Duh, it’s her father, she probably told him.

“She doesn’t ... Silvia doesn’t cry very often, does she?”

“She never cries. Or not as much as she’d need to.” Her father sighed melancholy. “She believes the only way to paddle through this life is by being as tough as can be, so she never lets herself cry nor care, she never lowers her guard ...”

“Coping mechanism.” I murmured, eyeing the hall that led to her bedroom as I sat against the back of the sofa.

“Yes.” He confirmed with a sigh. “But the sole fact that she lowers her guard with you ... it might be unconscious, but it means more than you would think.” Mr. Banchi took a deep, deep breath, pausing for a moment. “Listen, Jake, I don’t know exactly what’s between you two, and I won’t deny I’m a little worried, because I do like Ryan. He’s a good man, which is the least a father can hope for his daughter.”

I knew we’d get to this eventually. I sighed. “Mr. Banchi, you don’t need to worry about that ... like I said, Silvia and I are just friends. She ... loves Ryan.” As painful as it is to acknowledge, it’s true.

“But she does care for you, Jake. A lot more than she’ll ever let herself admit.”

I bit my lip, trying to rein in my every hope. It can never happen. It will never happen. No matter how much I want it. “Even so, I ...” I’m bound to remain just a friend, for the rest of our lives. It may hurt like hell, but these are the odds, it’s useless to keep on repeating it. I’m pretty sure you’re tired of reading always the same thing over and over again, aren’t you?

“My point is, my daughter cares deeply for you, Jake. And you’re doing great with her. She’s letting herself go more than ever.”

“That’s probably Ryan’s merit, sir. It’s ... he’s her boyfriend, he-”

Mr. Banchi let out a small chuckle. “Judging from what Silvia told me, you’re not much of a modest guy, Jake, how come-”

“It’s not modesty, sir. I’m simply being a realist.” I pointed out. “It’s ... Silvia is more open because she gave in to feelings, and those feelings are directed solely at her boyfriend, as it’s obvious.”

“No, Jake ... as much as she loves Ryan, I’m pretty sure most of the merit goes to you.” He argued.

“Me? I-”

“My daughter never confides, but a father can often read through silences as much as words. She’s told me a lot about you, and amongst those things, there’s this ... determination of yours to help her out. Of course, to me she’ll always say she’s perfectly fine, but I know she’s not. Knowing she does have someone beside her that can understand her and that is willing to listen makes me feel somewhat more tranquil. I know she’s in good hands with you.”

I nearly scoffed, I swear. “No offense, sir, but how could you know that? You don’t know me at all. You don’t know who I am, all you know is what your daughter told you, but she doesn’t know all the facts.”

“Even so, she trusts you. And believe me, there’s no better guarantee than Silvia’s trust. In her life she’s only ever truly, blindly trusted four people, five with you. I think not even her boyfriend gets to that level, that’s why you’re so vital to her.”

I really don’t see where does he get such belief from. I’ve done nothing. It’s not false modesty, I’ve really done nothing. Hell, I’ve barely started. This was supposed to be the first day of my attempt at patching up her wound. “What makes you think that?”

Mr. Banchi sighed, his voice getting deeper. “She’s told me a lot about you, remember?”

“Yes, but what exactly? And how can that be enough for you to think-”

“Jake ... my daughter relies on you. That is enough for me to be sure you’re special to her. And ...” he took a deep, shaky breath for some reason, “... and only another person has ever been that much. I guess all I’m saying is ... don’t give up on her.”

“Sir, I-”

“She wouldn’t want me to tell you this, but I must. My daughter, she ...” he choked up on his own words, I think, or worse, tears. “... my daughter has spent her life struggling with her own self, Jake. She can’t ... she can’t move past her sense of guilt. It was painful to let her go when she left for America, but if the outcome was her finding someone she can rely on, someone that can truly help her out, then it wasn’t in vain. All I’m asking is, I know she can be a handful, but don’t give up on her. She needs you, Jake. More than she’ll ever want to admit.”

“And you gathered all this from how she talks about me?”

“I gathered all this from the fact that ever since she met you, she’s been more open. Something’s changed in her, it feels like she’s ... somewhat closer to be being ready to face her issues. There’s a long road ahead, sure, but she’s at least more aware of her issues, that’s something. And I believe it’s all thanks to you, Jake. Maybe Ryan has his own merits, but it’s mostly you, Jake.”

I didn’t even know how to answer. What do you reply to something like that? Her own father thinks I’m a good influence on her, but how can that be? I’ve been nothing but a useless idiot that keeps on repeating the same words yet never acts upon them. How can he or anyone else believe I’m actually doing her good?

Taking a deep breath, I tried to gather the words. “I would never give up on her, sir. I ...” do I even say it? Her father is the last person ever that should know this. “I ... I’m bound to her. Whether she wants it or not. I’m bound to her for life.”

Surprisingly, Mr. Banchi seemed to crack a small chuckle, or at least that’s what my ears perceived his muffled sounds as. “Oddly enough, I said the very same thing 25 years ago. About my wife.”

I could barely retain a smile. “Is Mrs. Banchi anything like my-uh ... your Silvia?” Nice save there.

“Somewhat. But overall it’s ... in the experiences.” He inhaled deeply. “I suppose I shouldn’t tell such things to a stranger, but I feel like I know you quite well ... you see, my wife has been through quite a lot. We all have.”

“That ... event that marked Silvia for life, you mean?” A long, long silence. Maybe I brushed a raw nerve. Duh, of course I have. Think about it, idiot. The dream was about two girls ... if one was Silvia, then the other was ... oh, God. “Oh, shit. I’m sorry. I ... I never realized ... oh, Christ, I’m sorry, Mr. Banchi, I didn’t think ...” I just reopened an old wound, thanks to my stupid mouth.

The man took a deep, deep shaky breath, but his voice seemed somewhat broken ... by tears, that is. This time entirely. Was he crying? “Her name was Matilde. I can’t ... I won’t go into detail, that’s ... it’s up to Silvia. Just ...” he sighed heavily, clear sign he was having a hard time talking.

“I’m sorry if I brought it up, sir. I didn’t mean-”

“No, Jake, it’s alright. It was my exact purpose to bring it up when I asked to talk to you.” He argued, his voice somewhat weak, yet still firm. “It will have to be Silvia to tell you everything, but I’d rather you were prepared first ... because it won’t be nice.”

“I’m prepared to hear anything she’ll want to tell me, sir. Hell, I’m prepared to anything and beyond if it’ll serve to heal her.”

“But the story she might tell you, it won’t be easy to listen to.”

“Believe me, sir, it can’t be anything that’ll shock me.” After all I’ve been through, all I’ve done, there’s basically nothing that can shock me.

“I’m glad she can count on you.” Mr. Banchi said, his voice somewhat more even. “I know something about what you’re going through, so I wish you all the luck in the world, my dear boy.”

I’d have wanted to laugh, but it would have spoiled the small bonding moment with the man my stupid mind kept on calling future father-in-law. I don’t think he can quite grasp what I’m going through, but it’s fine.

“I know what it’s like to love unrequitedly.” He took me off guard. “I know how hard it is to stand there watching the woman you love suffer deeply yet not be able to heal her as fast as you’d want.”

I blinked my eyes. “You ... she told you?”

He half chuckled. “She didn’t need to. You just did.”

“But I ...”

“You said you’re bound to her. And that you’re ready to anything to heal her. Last time I heard such words, they came from my own voice as I talked about my wife.” He sighed. “You love my daughter, Jake, that transpires from your every word about her, from your determination, even from the sole fact you’re with her right now.” He seemed to smile. “Like I said, I like Ryan, he’s a good man, and I’m sure he’ll take good care of my daughter, but ... let it remain between you and I, Jake, it can only be your love to save her.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because so it was for my wife.” He sighed. “I spent a whole year pining over my unrequited love for her, I hid my feelings as best as I could while trying to help her, and in the end, we made it. Ryan may be her boyfriend, but Silvia’s future won’t be as bright without you in it.”

I would want to believe he’s right, but I highly doubt it. “I don’t know about that, sir. All I know is, you don’t need to worry. I’ll do whatever it takes to bring her out of the mist. It may hurt like hell, but as long as she’s fine, it’ll be worth it.” Did I just confess all that to my baby’s father? God, I’m so fucking whipped.

Mr. Banchi seemed to smile, or he just blew in the phone, I don’t know. “I feel like I’m hearing 24-year-old me all over again.” He said. “I can’t know whether she’ll eventually come to reciprocate your feelings, nor can I deny I do think Ryan would make a good son-in-law, but I wish you luck, Jake. Whatever happens. Thank you for taking care of my little girl.”

The moment we hung up, I took a deep, deep breath as I finally let myself take in everything I just learned, everything that just dropped onto my shoulders. Her name was Matilde, he said. It figures. The little girl did shout that name in my dream.

I raked a hand over my face, trying to think of a solution, or at least a plan, but now as ever I’m convinced, we’re so deeply connected, Silvia and I, and now I also understand why. We’ve been through the same pain. She’s lost her sister, I’ve lost my brother. We’ve both lost the people that should have guided our lives.

This revelations puts everything into a completely different perspective, though. I don’t know, I suppose I never considered it could be this. I thought of anything, but not this. If I was on a quasi impossible mission before, I realize now the chances I’ll succeed are almost nonexistent. Her father said only I can heal Silvia, but the trouble is, I’m not so sure I can anymore.

That pain, that guilt, me myself I haven’t been able to move past them, how can I say I’ll help her, when I couldn’t help myself?

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