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

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23. Florida

The next morning, Saverio sat in his recliner with the drapes open, letting in the Florida sunshine, glad to be home and out of the hospital and into the calmer surroundings of his life there in the retirement village. He didn’t know how he would tell the rest of his friends where Rosa was or when she was coming home, and the rest of the Maia mayhem that interrupted their lives in the last week. Letting the sun wash over his face, Saverio drummed his fingertips on the arm of the chair, letting his insulin work. The stress was too much for him this week and as much as Joey irritated him, he always knew when Saverio was not well and kept an eye on him more than Paulie ever did. If he could have wished anyone to come home to Florida last night, it would have been Joey, who wouldn’t have tolerated a word from Rosa, who bickered with Paulie and Mack the whole flight home. Paulie finally made her a cocktail to shut her up, while Saverio just took out his hearing aids and refused to talk to any of them.

Too much stress. Too many worries. Even having Mack here at the house wasn’t like it always was. The one time Rosa capitulated to any other cook in her kitchen, was Mack, who always spoiled her first with his Belgium waffles and fresh fruit sauce. No waffles today though. His sugar couldn’t handle it. Instead, he got his feast omelet, packed with eggs and vegetables, a little cheese for good flavor and some sausage on the side. He hardly ate half of his omelet, spurring Mack to wake Paulie and check on his dad. This morning, he hardly touched his food. Even when Mack tried to engage the old man in conversation, he wasn’t interested in talking.

“Mr. Lenci, your dad doesn’t look so good,” said Mack, pouring Paul’s coffee from the French press. “He hardly ate.”

“Did he take his shot?”

“I don’t know.”

“Dad,” said Paul, going into the small living room. “Dad, what’s going on?”

Saverio waved him off and Paul sighed. “Imma tired. Too ahh much.”

Paul nodded. “Did you take your shot?”

“Si, si,” he replied. “Go eat your eggs while they are hot.”

“Come out to the kitchen with me. You hardly ate, and I know you have to be hungry after yesterday. I know I’m famished.”

Saverio sighed and got up from the chair, groaning as he stood and toddled over towards Paul who turned and walked back to the kitchen nook as Mack slid Paul’s omelet onto his plate and put the sausage on the side. The microwave beeped and Mack took Saverio’s out of the microwave where he had warmed it up and took both plates over to the table and set before them.

“Damn that’s beautiful, Mack, thanks,” said Paul.

“More coffee, Mr. Lenci? I just pressed a fresh pot.”

The old man smiled. “A half cup, Mack, grazie.”

Paul dug into his omelet and ate a few bites. Saverio still picked at his omelet.

“Dad, does Mama act up this way all the time?”

“Not all the time. Sometimes she does.”

“What do you do when she gets this way?”

“I stay away. I go stay at the hotel until she brings me a Kalachi.”

“Wait, what?” asked Paul with a laugh.

“She can’t make a Kalachi when she’s mad. It's ahh… how I know she’s settled and ahh sorry.”

“Ohmygod Dad,” said Paul. “I think she’s beyond baked goods.”

“Your Mama ahh not been crazy like this since I told her about Maia’s birth. She ahh still gets mad, but not this ahh mad … where she is hurting someone.”

“So wait...she didn’t know about them until Maia had been born?”

“Si, I had the trust made, and I put an IRA for $60,000 in it to pay ahh monthly to Catrina. Your mama found out about it by accident and was she mad. Crazy mad. Put a hole in the dining room wall with the cast iron skillet.”

“Wait, at my house in Chestnut Hill?”

“Si. It’s still there. Behind the painting.”

“Jesus Mary Joseph. Mack, there is a fourteen-year-old hole in my dining room wall."

"I will call Gerard and have it repaired, Mr. Lenci," said Mack, referring to the elderly butler who kept the house in Chestnut Hill for him when he is away.

"You know, she threw a skillet at Alex once. She’s strong when she’s angry. She scared the shit out of us. We took off. I had to bribe Penny to bring me clothes. I wore Alex’s for two days and had his pants falling off my ass before it was fashionable.”

“He ahh got you drunk and an earring. Oh, your mama was so angry.”

“Sophia...was madder that she could have killed Alex. I hid out there for two weeks until Mama...” Paul stopped, remembering the apricot bread that Sophia had refused at first from Rosa, the screaming match that occurred between them in Italian and Paul and Alex separating them before a brawl broke out.

“Brought you a Kalachi, eh?” asked his father.

“Yeah. Dad, she needs help.”

“You think she’s loco?”

Mack brought his coffee over and sat down at the table with them, sensing Paul needing back up. “I think what Mr. Lenci means sir, is that Mrs. Lenci had a nervous breakdown. She’s not crazy, she snapped. Like a rubber band stretched too much.”

“Rosa not loco. She ahh mad. When she gets this way, I ahh go to hotel. I ahh take the car keys. She takes the taxi to me. She hates spending money, and she won’t do it until she’s ahh sorry.”

“I got to call Penny. I can’t stay here beyond tomorrow. With Maia and all, I need to be in New York. Did she call when I was asleep?”

“No Sir,” said Mack, bringing the French Press over and refilling Paul's coffee.

“She needs an attitude adjustment after last night,” said Paul.

“Your Mama?”

“Her too. I meant Penny. Giving me shit for putting mama in the psych ward. What was I supposed to do? Let them cart her off to jail? Maia is pissed because Mama wasn’t prosecuted for this. I have enough to manage without Penny going off the rails on me.”

“At least Philomena is safe—”

Paul sighed about his middle sister. “I have no comment on her vacation in Betty Ford for the third time in two years. I was supposed to go see her for her birthday. I don’t think I’ll be able to go see her for that. Not with Maia and all.”

The house phone rang, and Mack looked at the caller ID.

“It’s Mr. Cravens, Sir,” said Mack, bringing the receiver to him.

“Hey Babe, what’s up?”

“Where’s your phone?”

“Charging, why?”

“I’ve been trying to reach you.”

“Is Maia okay?”

“Jimmy Wilkins is here.”

“No shit—”

“Apparently, Jon Reardon had a massive stroke the week before they were to come home. He was just cleared to fly home when the news broke about Maia.”

“Do you believe him?”

“Hardly. I told him he wasn’t getting her back. Not after they abandoned her the way they did.”

“You’re right about that.”

“How’s your Dad?”

“Not good.”

“Did he check his blood sugar?”

“Dad, did you check your sugar?”

“120.”

“He says 120.”

“He’s had some stress. Did he eat?”

“Mack made him an omelet.”

“Did he eat?”

“About half. He already took his insulin.”

“When’s Penny getting there?”

“Right now, she’s not.”

“What the hell is wrong with her now?”

“She’s pissed at me for putting Mama in St. Frank's psych ward and not letting her finish off Maia, then we would be rid of them both.”

"Ohmygod, she must have not had her wine."

"Oh she had that with an adderall chaser, I'm sure."

“Did you tell her the alternative?”

“Of course, I did.”

“Did you take your antibiotic yet?”

“I just finished eating and I will take the very last one. I’m so glad to be done with them. I will take it as soon as I’m off the phone with you.”

“Take your probiotic I packed too. Do you expect me to call Penny?”

“If you want to, I won’t say no.”

“Paulie, I have enough going on here. I really do not want to be arguing with her in public or in front of Jim Wilkins.”

“Fine, I’ll call her again.”

“If she won’t come to Florida, then bring your father home with you. What choice do we have? I need you here. Like today. They had their attorney on the phone.”

“What?”

“He said that they had been her parents since the day she was born. They have guardianship of her and its good until next June.”

“Jesus Mary Joseph.”

“Please, Paulie. Come back here.”

“I will be on my way as soon as possible.”

“Text me when you know what you’re doing.”

“I will. Love you, Babe.”

“Love you too. Bye.”

Mack looked to Paul, who shook his head at his huge bodyguard.

“Wilkins showed up, Mack. We got to go back.”

“Calling Ernie now, Mr. Lenci.”

“Find out how soon we can take off.”

Paul called Penny who did not pick up her phone. He called the house phone, no answer. He called Antonio, his errant nephew, who knew better than to pass on a call from Uncle Paulie, who has paid a legal team to get him out of all his legal scrapes.

“Hey Uncle Paulie, wassup?”

“Tony, where’s your mama?”

“I’m at school. She didn’t answer?”

“No, she didn’t.”

“She's pissed about the kid and Nana. I’ll text her and tell her to cut the crap and answer the phone, Uncle Paulie.”

“Thanks, Tony. How’s school?”

“Better if I can get Becca to go with me to prom.”

“Let me know what I can do to help out.”

“I will, Uncle Paulie. Are you in New York?”

“Florida with Papa.”

“Hey Pops!”

Saverio grumbled and furrowed his brow.

“He says hello and study hard. Tell your mama to call me its an emergency.”

“If it’s got to deal with the kid, Uncle Paulie, she’s not going to help out.”

Paulie sighed. “I got to go back to New York. I need your mama to come to Florida.”

“I got winter break in 2 days. Maybe I can get Mama to go to Pops house, if I go with her. Then I can check out the honeys at Disney.”

“If you can make that work, I’ll pay for the park pass.”

“You got a deal, Uncle Paulie. Peace out.”

“Deuces.”

“I ahh don’t need Antonio or Pena here,” grumbled Saverio. “I have enough… without their troubles.”

“Dad, I don’t want you here by yourself.”

“Antonio needs to stay in school. He’s hardly passing and graduation is three months away.”

“So, come back to New York with me.”

“No, I ahh stay here, in my home, in my warm sunshine. You go back to the snow and the reporters.”

“Dad, you can’t take care of yourself.”

“I am not a child, Paulie.”

Paul sighed. “I need someone to come in and make meals for you.”

The old man smiled a deep grin. “Call Angelica.”

“Who?”

“Giovanni’s housekeeper.”

“Oh, do you have her number?”

Saverio picked up his cell phone and fished out his reading glasses from their case in his dress shirt pocket.

“There,” he said, showing it to Paul who called her from his father’s phone. A middle-aged woman answered and swooned in Italian, thinking it was Saverio. Paul scoffed and replied in Italian to her as well, making her giddy that she was talking to The Paul Lenci. He rolled his eyes at her verbal gawking and asked her if she could look in on his father for him. Make breakfast and dinner for him and clean up daily until his mother returns from her ‘trip.’ She agreed that she could do that for him.

“How is 50 an hour?”

An ecstatic Angelica agreed happily and Paul thanked her and told her to write down her hours and Saverio would pay her at the end of the week on Fridays.

When he hung up, Saverio smiled and drummed his fingers on the table.

“Dad, how does Mama like Angelica?”

Saverio chuckled and patted his son’s hand as he stood up.

“Don’t be chasing the maid around the coffee table when she’s supposed to be working, old man.”

“Of course not. She’s married and a good Catholic,” replied Saverio with a knowing smile. If only the boy knew he was going to be paying his mistress to take care of him, he’d pack his father up and take him back to the cold of New York.

“You need to pick the fruit from the trees before you go. With the two of you here, I don’t need the ladder. You take a box to my baby.”


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