Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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18. The Godfather

Saverio sauntered into Maia’s room, seeing her still asleep. Her face was now so red compared to how pale it had been yesterday. Incensed that the wife, that he begrudgingly had stayed with, attacked the young girl and nearly killed her.

The alarm of the monitor still rang in his ears. One moment he saw Rosa holding the scissors over the girl, who swiftly knocked over the I.V. stand hitting Rosa on the head and the full bag of fluids smacking her in the face as she fell on the slippery floor.

“ROSA, STOP!” he yelled, alerting Joey who had pushed past him and fought Rosa for the scissors. When Joey grabbed her up by the hair and threw her out of the room, an orderly caught her and kept her from escaping down the staircase. As the crash alarm sounded, Joey had turned back to Maia, seeing her suffocating under the mask. Once he freed her, Joey was shoved out of their way. Before he knew it, an orderly and a nurse had escorted Saverio into the waiting room and sat with him as another set shoved an embattled Rosa into the crying room. True to form, she threw her fit and hurled things at the nurse, screaming at her in Italian.

Saverio sat there shaking and crying. His handkerchief unfurled and wet; he was distraught and beside himself. Where was Paulie when he needed him? That Rosa would take Maia away from him before he even had the chance to say hello to the child, had hurt Saverio deeply. This, he couldn’t forgive. He just couldn’t.

For years, he was chuffed by their secret agreement, Maia’s name was the knife she wedged into his gut with every argument. He didn’t know how he would manage this attack on her but also himself. What Rosa did was more than to injure Maia, it was to maim him and Paulie both.

The boy was too excited over this child. To Joey, she’d become the baby Paulie refused him. Maybe Paulie was waiting for the right girl after all? Maybe Paulie wanted a woman to raise his children instead of this ruse of a life he carried on with Joey? Saverio could only hope. If only Paulie had done that in the first place. Got married, had children, Maia probably would not have mattered so much to him.

If only Maia knew where to find him, then maybe Paulie still would not know of her. Saverio could have funneled money to Chicago, sent her to live with one of Domenic’s daughters. Maia never would have left Chicago if he wasn’t a secret to her. At least he got to see her. How he wished he had known her as a child. Held her as a baby. He regretted that daily, not holding her that day in the hospital. Saverio regretted signing the paper wrong, so they had to get another document for him to sign. He had to wait. Watch Maia in her bassinette there in the room, not pick her up as he had always held his other grandbabies.

Tears dripped down his face as he stood there watching her. He put his hands on the bedrail to stabilize himself and woke Maia.

“Get Out!” she screeched. “Get away from me!” She cried out.

Carma ran into the room.

“Hey, Maia,” she said, “It’s okay, shh, it’s okay, it’s just your dad.”

Maia hyperventilated.

“Hey, I need you to slow down your breath, it’s okay, really, Maia, it’s okay.”

Saverio stepped away from the bed as other hospital personnel rushed into the room.

“Did he hurt her?”

“I didn’t see him do anything. Maia, did he do anything to you?”

“No... he startled me. I don’t want anyone in my room while I’m sleeping. Even Joey. I want no one in here. I want my door shut and to announce you are coming in when you enter. No one else is allowed in my room while I’m sleeping. I mean it.”

Shh okay, no worries, we understand completely,” said Carma and the charge nurse, Amber.

Carma held her hand. “Where’s Joey? Please, can I have my Joey back?”

“Hey, can someone locate him?” said Dr. Abramson. “He’s been gone for a few hours now.”

“Can your dad come over and say hello?” said Amber, the charge nurse. Maia nodded at the peculiar woman with two strands of glasses on cords around her neck. The one had over her eyes at the moment was tangled up in the other cord and made her glasses cock to the right. Maia smiled at Amber so she wouldn’t be accused of staring at her.

“That’s it, calm down, we got you, Maia,” said Carma.

The rest dispersed as Amber stayed behind and wrote something in the chart and called security on her hospital cell phone.

“Hi, I need Joey Cravens returned to CICU. Maia needs him and he’s been gone for a few hours now.” Amber listened to whomever was on the other end of the phone. “Seriously, I need him back. Now.” She listened again and rolled her eyes. “Thank you.”

Maia looked to Amber who shut off her phone. “He will be upstairs within the hour. He’s writing a statement.”

Saverio sat in the recliner chair across the room from her.

“Maia, this is your dad, Mr. Lenci,” said Carma.

“Nice to meet you, please don’t come into my room when I am sleeping.”

“I won’t, I promise,” he said, “Though I won’t get to again after today.”

Why not?”

“I’m going home to Florida. Paulie will not let us stay any more. I must go with my wife. I am sorry she attacked you. I didn’t know she was going to hurt you. If I did, I never would have let her come.”

“Wait, she’s going to Florida and not jail?”

“No, not jail.”

“Why not?”

“She is Paulie’s mother. She will not go to jail. She goes to a hospital for help.”

Hospital? She’s going to the hospital? What hospital?”

“One near us in Florida. She can get better care when we are home.”

“She nearly killed me!” yelled Maia, incensed.

Maia, shh,” he said, “your heart.”

“My heart? My heart doesn’t matter to anyone, why should you start? She didn’t have to hurt me. I wasn’t going to move into your guest room or anything.”

“Worse, you will live with her son.”

“Is that what this is about? Living with Paul? Fuck that, I’m leaving the minute Jimmy and Jonny get here. I’m out of here. Fuck all of you, except Joey.”

“Why Joey?”

The nurses said that he saved my life. Joey takes care of me, and I feel safe with him.”

He takes care of me too. Worries about my diabetes more than my son does. He wants Rosa in jail.”

“So do I.”

“He hates Rosa.”

“Well then, we can have our own club, because I hate that bitch too.”

Saverio wiped his eyes with his fingers and thumb of one hand. “Maia Catrina, you need to learn respect for your elders, whether you like them or not.”

“You can leave.”

“No, Iahh stay here. I am your father.”

Carma returned to the room, hearing Maia raise her voice. She hit the hand sanitizer. Not seeing Joey but the commotion between her and Saverio said it all to her.

“Mr. Lenci, I just made a fresh pot of coffee, would you like a cup?”

“Yes, thank you.”

You’ll have to come with me, I don’t know how you like it.”

“When’s my food coming?”

“They are bringing it up soon with the dinner service. How about some cookies and a Jell-O?”

“Okay. Could I have some coffee?”

“Not today. You got your Coke still?”

“Yeah, could use some ice.”

“I’ll snag you some ice kiddo.”

Saverio followed Carma out the door and to the nurses’ station where the coffee pot was located. She poured him a cup in a ceramic mug and he put three sugars in it and stirred it up as she got a plastic cup full of ice for Maia.

“How are you doing, Mr. Lenci?”

He shook his head. “Terrible.”

“Have you eaten?”

“No.”

“That’s not good. How about some cookies with your coffee? I will see if I can get you something more substantive.”

“Thank you, that’sahh nice of you. Is Maia doing better?”

“She’s pretty traumatized and fragile right now. I think Maia needs to feel safer than she does currently. She’s been through so much, you know?”

He nodded. Carma carried the cookies and cup into Maia’s room with Saverio following her. She was flipping the channels and settled on an episode of Judge Judy.

Maia watched intensely as the lady judge laid into the defendant like she wanted to do to Paul right now. Clearly, he bought his mother’s freedom from prosecution. Carma moved the bedtable and the recliner closer to Maia’s bed then motioned for him to sit down. She lowered Maia’s bed so she could reach the table as well and poured the rest of Maia’s Coke into the glass of ice. She opened up both packages of the Oreo cookies for their feeble fingers, and Maia was thrilled to pick one up and eat it.

Saverio smiled at her as she did so, and Carma left them to their Oreos.

“Mr. Lenci,” said Maia.

“No, Papa.”

Maia snorted and did not respond. “Why did you choose her over Cat and me?”

“Cat? Who’s Cat?”

“Catrina, my mother.”

“You call her mother, out of respect.”

“Yes, Sir,” she replied. “Fine, why did you leave my mother and me for her?”

“To...to...save your lives.”

“What?” she asked incredulously.

“Rosa, my wife, her family are in the Mafioso, on her mother’s side. I had gotten—how do you say--”

“Caught?” asked a male voice from the doorway. They looked up and there stood Alexander Corwynn, of all people. If anyone knew the truth of the matter, it was Alexander, who grew up with Paulie.

Maia laughed at the remark. She would, thought Saverio.

“Maia, this is Alexander Corwynn, your godfather.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Corwynn. I didn’t know I had a godfather.”

“It’s quite recent, hasn’t been 24 hours yet, has it, Mr. Lenci?”

“No, son, I guess not.”

“Since what?” she asked him.

“Your baptism,” said Saverio. “You were baptized Roman Catholic while you were dying.”

Maia laughed. “Hold up, I was what?”

Alex chuckled. “Here we go. I told you guys--”

“And yet you became my godfather.”

“Well, kiddo, It’s a quid pro quo there. Paulie is my daughter Mollie’s godfather.”

“I get it,” she said with a laugh. “Cat must be cracking up on the other side. She and Jimmy and Jonny are all Buddhist. I wouldn’t go to temple with them once I could stay home by myself. I’m an agnostic, now baptized Roman Catholic. Jesus Christ...”

Maia shook her head and Saverio looked to Alex for support.

“So wait, back to you being caught and saving my life by abandoning me.”

“This kid doesn’t miss a beat, does she, Mr. Lenci?”

“Not a bit, it seems.”

As you were saying, sir, about being caught...” led Maia.

“Right,” said Saverio, “I was caught with women other than my wife.”

“Women as in plural, as in more than just my mother?”

“Si,” he said with a smile “a few here and there.”

You were a philanderer,” she said.

Alex chuckled in agreement, but his face straightened when Saverio shot him a look. Maia laughed at both of them.

“So you got caught...” she said, rotating her hand to move the story along.

“Her brothers, Gino and Ronaldo, said that if they caught me again, they would kill both of us, and if I had a bastard to disgrace Rosa, she would be the first one killed in front of us.”

“Harsh,” said Maia, visibly not buying it.

“If we went through the courts, for child support, they would know about you. So, I made a deal with both Rosa and Catrina. I would leave you and your mother and sign you over to her and support you both with an IRAto pay for your growing up expenses.”

“Wait until Jonny hears this,” she said with a laugh. “You really don’t expect me to believe this do you?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t you?” asked the incredulous old man.

“Maia rolled her eyes. “Mr. Lenci, I wasn’t born yesterday. I may look like a child but I’m hardly naïve.”

“You have a smart mouth, young lady.” Saverio shook his crooked finger at her, “and you are too naïve to underestimate the Gambinos.”

She looked to Alex who nodded.

“No fucking way--” she said.

“Oh yeah,” said Alex.

“Am I in danger? More than before?”

“Relax my little goddaughter,” said Alex with his best Michael Corleone impersonation, making her laugh at the absurdity of it. He followed up her laugh in his normal voice, “I don’t think they would dare take a hit out on you, Maia,” said Alex.

Maia reached for her Coke and sipped it. “It’s cool to meet you. Weren’t you and Paul best friends growing up?”

“We were altar boys,” said Alex, “we met at church and went to parochial school together.”

“They were inseparable,” said Saverio. “Alexander always knew when Mama was making gravy, he was at the dinner table.”

Maia laughed. “Gravy? Like Beef?”

Alex laughed. “That’s what South Philly natives call tomato sauce from scratch.”

Oh. Gravy, eh? Is she a good cook?”

“She is,” said Alex. “Speaking of cooks, look at that, someone’s going to eat supper it seems,” said Alex as the dietary aide brought in the tray. Alex cleared the coffee cup and cookie packages from the bedtable and swung it around in front of Maia while the dietary aide set it down.

“Thanks, you can take the lid,” said Maia to the aide.

Maia picked up the fork and knife from the tray and tried to cut up the grilled chicken breast with her sore fingers and fumbled with the knife.

“Need some help?” asked Alex.

“Please,” she said, handing him the fork and knife. He cut the chicken up into small pieces for her.

You’re very good at this, godfather.”

“I have a two-year-old, and you can call me Uncle Alex as my girls call Paulie uncle,” he replied.

“Oh, all right then. Thanks, Uncle Alex. Wow, I got my very own Uncle Drosselmeyer,” she said, referring to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker story. He handed her back the fork and knife and she thanked him again before taking a bite. “No dancing rats or nutcrackers, okay?”

“I know exactly what you’re getting for Christmas,” said Alex.

“A nutcracker?”

“Tickets to the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker. I have a Founder’s box.”

“I’m really liking this godfather thing!” she exclaimed.

“All right, you eat your dinner. I’m going to take your Dad to get something to eat and bring him up to speed on what’s going on and we will be back in a while. Can I bring you something?”

“A salt shaker?”

Alex laughed, “as a fellow sufferer, I know better.”

“Okay, ketchup packets. A whole handful.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Anything else?”

A chocolate shake?”

“You got it.”

“Thank you,” she said, with her hand in front of her mouth in the middle of a bite.

He waved at her and left with the old man.

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