Five years. It had been five years since I had given birth to my beautiful twins. To say that these past five years had been nothing but happiness and pure bliss would be a lie, but there were good times; many good times. However, there had been just as many bad times.
Watching my babies grow under the watchful eye of Val had given me a different perspective of the man I had been forced to marry, he was gentle and protective with them. It was wonderful to see this side of him that I didn’t know existed until Luca and Ariella were born. I would wake in the middle of the night to see him holding one of the babies, he was always eager to give them whatever they desired and most importantly he found time to be their father.
It all came so unexpectedly and my hopeful self had begun to think that our lives could be this blissful forever. But nothing good lasts forever, and Val proved that the moment the twins turned three.
At that age they were able to walk, talk and understand most things they hadn’t in the prior years which led Val to believe that age three was the perfect time to start preparing Luca for his future. Ariella didn’t have to worry about that responsibility, but she wanted to badly to be included on Luca’s alone time with their daddy. This led to temper tantrums and lash outs from Ariella’s end, but my concern was focused on what my little Luca was going through.
By three and a half he understood words that most children his age shouldn’t know. His vocabulary included: guns, fight, murder, strength, mafia, omerta, and kill. I hadn’t realized how severe it had become until we were sitting at the dinner table one night and Luca ate his peas while casually saying, “Daddy showed me how to kill the fuckers that mess with us.”
That night ended with a huge fight between Val and I. It resulted in me crying and begging Val to give him a few more years of being a little boy but my begging came to no avail. Although we argued and yelled at one another, Val never laid a hand on me but instead pulled me into a tight, unwilling embrace.
Now that the twins were five, I still didn’t agree with this lifestyle but came to the conclusion that fighting it wouldn’t make a difference. This was Luca’s life and I couldn’t change that, the only thing I could do was attempt to give him a normal life outside of his sessions with Val.
“Why doesn’t daddy like me?” Ariella asked while we were in the kitchen one evening. Her question took me off guard but at the same time I knew something like this was coming.
My instinct was to protect her feelings and her view of Val, “Ari, honey... Your daddy loves you. I promise, he’s just helping Luca with some boy things, okay?”
“But he never takes me fishing,” She argued.
Fishing. That was the code we used for when Luca was taken with Val to train. It wasn’t like we could tell Ari what they were really doing and at first fishing disgusted her so she wasn’t interested. At this point, she was so desperate for her father’s attention she would even considering the dreadful thought of fishing.
“Fishing is yuck,” I told her in attempt to turn her away from the thought, “You get your hands dirty and have to touch worms.”
Ariella wasn’t pleased but it wasn’t anger that covered her face, it was sadness. She loved Val with everything in her and I had no doubt that he loved her too, but training had taken up most of his time which left little to no time for Ari.
I sat at the island next to her, turning her face in my direction, “How about you and me go to American Girl this weekend? You can choose any doll that you want.”
Still, Ari didn’t seem interested. She only shrugged her shoulders and once the sound of the front door opening was heard, she jumped from her chair and ran out of the kitchen, “Daddy!”
I ran my fingers through my hair, at loss for what I could do to let her know that she was loved and that Luca wasn’t favored over her. A moment passed and Val walked into the kitchen with Ari in his arms, she was clinging onto him happily.
Val was still the same aside from his change in compassion. He dressed in his suits and was still very passionate about the family business. Ari made him softer although he wouldn’t admit that to anyone.
“Sweetheart,” Val leaned down and kissed me on the lips once, “How was your day?”
“Great,” I responded with a smile, trying to cheer Ari up, “Ms. Ariella and I made some cupcakes.”
“Is that right?” Val showed interest, giving Ariella a smile, “I hope you saved one for me.”
She nodded her head, pulling out of Val’s arms and running to the kitchen counter, her dark hair bouncing with every step.
“What’s on Luca’s face?” Ari asked as she walked towards Val with a cupcake in hand.
When I looked at my little boy, it was clear what was on his face. Blood. Of all the times Val took him for training, he never came back with signs of violence on him until now.
“Ketchup,” Val answered quickly and with ease, “From his hot dog.”
I stood from my chair quickly and grabbed Luca’s hand, “Lets go wash your face, honey.”
“That’s okay, it makes me look strong. Acerbi’s need to be strong, mother.”
His response made me cringe. He shouldn’t be looking at life that way, not only did I have no idea why blood was on his face but I was also losing the innocent little boy and I had no control over it. It was heartbreaking to watch the once two year old who plucked roses from my garden for me turning into the boy who called me mother in the coldest tone.
I pulled Luca to the bathroom and grabbed a wash cloth, damping it with warm water and sitting on the toilet in front of him. My lip quivered as I gently wiped the blood from his little face, holding back any emotions I was feeling at this point.
“How did you get the blood on your face, honey?” I asked him, unsure if I even wanted to know the answer.
A devilish smirk appeared on his lips as he began to brag of his slayings from the evening, “Dad took me to the woods and I shot squirrels and birds.”
I tilted my head to the side slightly, “But how did you get the blood on you if you were far from them?”
“Because I opened them up and took out their hearts.” He explained casually, “Had to make sure they weren’t still beating.”
Nausea filled my body, the urge to throw up after hearing how my five year old spent his day. It was sickening and brutal beyond anything I could have imagined.
When Val stood in the door frame, I gently tapped Luca’s back, “Get into your PJs. I’ll come tuck you in soon.”
“You mean you’ll tuck Ariella in,” He told me, “I don’t need to be babied, mother.”
Before I could respond, Luca walked out of the room and as soon as he was out of sight I burst into tears. This was unimaginable. If I never seen it with my own eyes I would have never believed it.
When I felt Val’s arms around me, I shoved him away and did the only thing I could do. I yelled, slapping his chest repeatedly, “What have you done to my son?!”
Val never got angry with me, he only stared while he allowed me to hit him and yell at him. He was calm which was more than I could say for myself, “Elaina, I never told him to tear the animals open and remove their organs. He did that on his own.”
“Are you kidding me?” I snapped, “He lives to impress you, Valentino! The only reason he knows about killing is because of you. He’s five years old and you have him murdering and dissecting animals! He’s supposed to appreciate the little things but he only appreciates blood and death.”
“You knew this would happen,” Val murmured.
“He’s a little boy,” I stared at Val, the heat from my tears making themselves known on my face. This was painful for me, as a mother I never wanted this but learned to live with it. However, this was happening much faster than I thought it would.
Val simply nodded his head in agreement with me, “I know. I’m sorry it has to be this way but it’s in his blood, he’s next in line for capo after me and he needs to be prepared. If I don’t train him, he will die the moment he steps foot into the responsibilities he is given.”
I knew he was right, but that didn’t make me feel any better about allowing my little boy to turn into a monster. I was watching as my little boy changed every day, becoming a dark and heartless child that wanted nothing more than to inflict pain on others.
After calming myself down, I had retreated upstairs to say goodnight to the twins. Ariella was sitting on her bed with at least 6 stuffed animals facing her. Usually she would pretend she was having a tea party with them but tonight was different, instead, she stared at them with an unimpressed expression on her face.
“Hi, sweetie. Is everything okay?” I asked her, stepping into the room and walking towards her bed.
She looked up from her stuffed bears and huffed in annoyance, “Can Luca live with grandpa?”
“What?” I laughed softly, shaking my head, “He’s your brother, Ari. Why would you want him to live somewhere else?”
Ari looked down and sighed softly, “He ruined my toys again...”
I furrowed my eyebrows, making my way to the side of the bed and taking a look at Ariella’s bears. The faces of each had been torn off and the only thing that could be seen was stuffing flooding out of the place in which their faces used to me. All six of the stuffed animals, not one was left untouched.
“Val!” I called out instantly, if he thought I had been overreacting about Luca’s behavior this would show him exactly how aggressive our son had become.
This wasn’t the first time Luca destroyed Ari’s toys, last time it was her barbies but he had only colored their faces with markers - this was a completely different approach, an extremely aggressive approach that I could not let slide.
Val entered the room a moment after I called him and he raised his eyebrows, “I have a business call to attend to, Elaina. Is this important?”
Without another word, I pick up one of Ariella’s stuffed toys and showed Val the face, or where the face was supposed to be, “I think this is important...”
“Jesus, Ari. What did you do?” Val asked her, chuckling lightly.
“Not me, daddy. Luca!” Ariella was quick to defend herself, folding her arms over her chest in frustration, “Tell him no!”
Val’s expression changed, looking at me for a moment and shrugging a shoulder nonchalantly, “This isn’t out of the ordinary for kids with his lifestyle... You can’t expect me to get angry with him for doing exactly what I’m teaching him to do.”
“To Ari’s toys? Val, that is completely unfair.”
“I’ll buy her new ones,” He answered simply before leaning down to Ariella and kissing her forehead, “Get some sleep, princess.”
Ariella huffed her breath and reluctantly laid down in her bed, turning her back to Val. She was giving him the silent treatment which was what she often did when he didn’t react exactly how she wanted him to.
It didn’t take an adult to see that Luca got away with everything he did, not because he was spoiled but because he needed to be raised with the mindset of getting whatever he wanted, no matter what he had to do to make it happen.