(ch 1) Shaken Foundation (Aria)
December 19th - 2021
‘The children will not like this,’ Aria Rossi said to her husband, who had his nose stuck in a paper. He didn’t bother looking up and made no sign he had heard either. ‘It’s because you pay so little attention to them that we are even making this decision!’ Mark scoffed, changing it to a grunt when he felt the heat of his wife’s eyes on him. ‘They are already old enough to deal with something like this, and I don’t understand what the problem is. We give them a large allowance that other kids their age are envious of. We also give the boys shelter as the law requires of us’ Mark’s voice was cold and uninterested. If Aria knew her husband well, she was sure he sneered at her worry. The mockery in his voice always presented itself when she brought up the children to him.
Aria shook her head, the fingers clutching her coffee mug tightening. The ceramic held, and Aria wished her abilities as a mum were as strong as her cup. Unbidden, tears filled the corners of her eyes and slipped down her cheeks and onto her white blouse. ‘I swear we should get a divorce,’ she muttered, standing up from her chair in a huff. With the clock ticking, Aria wanted to see her sons as fast as possible. She stood, ignoring Mark, intent on meeting her kids as they arrived home from school. Her husband wouldn’t stand by her side and relay the news over. Aria would need to break their hearts all by herself. She leaned over the railing, gasping for breath as pain filled her heart. But Aria knew she deserved it.
Remaining silent allowed Mark to feel free in his ways. In that sense, they were both cowards. How had she been unable to notice in the past that the husband she married had no sense of family and love?
Glancing at her watch for the second time, Aria felt a bit of happiness enter her hurting heart. Her boys would be home any minute! Entering the powder room, Aria stared into the mirror for a long moment. She knew she didn’t need to put on makeup for her boys; they had seen her without it many times before. However, it brightened her up, and she needed to hide the way her tears had made her look. Quickly, she washed her face, then added moisturiser, rubbing it gently into her skin. Once she finished, she reapplied her makeup just enough to cover the remnants of the sadness she had felt earlier.
She smiled into the mirror, and her reflection smiled back at her, showing her the cheekiness she needed to show to her children. Aria was grateful for how she appeared and how her age didn’t show on her body. Her shape was flawless and stomach remained flat, despite having given birth to four children. She had been unfortunate enough to lose two out of those four, and before she could fall into heavy memories and more heartbreak, she pushed the unwelcome thoughts aside.
Brushing back her golden blond hair, Aria styled her long tresses into a quick braid. Aria always loved the simple and fun styles. She switched her earrings to simple loops, putting two in for the two holes she had on each side. The part she loved most about herself was her eyes. Unlike her sons, she had green eyes that mixed with brown to make a beautiful colour exclusive to her. Gabriel and Giovanni had only received the brown part of her eyes, though she would say her sons’ eyes were still beautiful in their own right.
Changing quickly from her afternoon dress and pretty blouse into a t-shirt and jeans made her feel a little better. She would need to take a jacket outside for the bitter cold that had newly arrived in the small London town, but she remembered the new jacket she had just bought and smiled again.
Remembering her interaction with Mark made her smile disappear faster than it came. When she had first married him, Mark had been a charmer, giving her all the things that she had never received before. He seemed to have been happy to shower her with love and give her all the attention in the world. She would admit, she fell for his rugged looks, blue eyes and dark brown hair. His chiselled jaw had made her swoon on more than one occasion. His hair was full and thick, and on the rare occasion they still spent time together, she played with it to her content. If she had known what kind of man he would turn into, she wouldn’t have allowed herself to love him, no matter what.
Donning her white puffer jacket, Aria wrapped a scarf around her neck and slammed the door shut behind her. Feeling a great satisfaction at the loud bang and the string of curse words Mark spewed in his shock at the sudden noise.
With a rueful smile, Aria sat down on the porch swing, urging herself to relax, letting the gentle, if cold breeze wash over her face. Being outdoors helped calm her no matter the weather, and she was pretty certain this trait had passed down to her sons.
Just as she finished her coffee, Aria heard the first gale of laughter coming from her younger son, Giovanni. Her heart warmed at the sound, but Aria could not prevent her eyes from wrinkling in despair. She knew Giovanni would take it hard; he had turned fourteen this year, and she still felt him a baby. If Aria was being honest, she knew she would have a hard time too; she needed her children as much as they needed her. Giovanni, seeing her first, ran the rest of the way up the path towards their mansion. When he reached her, he gave her a sloppy kiss, and hugged her so hard a whoosh of breath released from her lungs.
Pulling Giovanni against her and then down to the swing next to her, Aria ruffled his unruly hair. It was a light golden brown in the same way hers was golden blonde. She was happy that when her sons got older, neither of them looked too much like her husband. Giovanni was very thin and tall for his age. He had grown ten centimetres in a few short months, and she had swelled with pride at how mature he was becoming. Aria stifled a sob at the sweetness and love her son always gave to her with no thought. Giovanni, always in his own small world, took no notice of her inner turmoil. Aria held him as if her life depended on it, and her little one soaked it up with the innocence of childhood he still had. Secretly, Aria hoped he could hold on to this innocence forever.
Gabriel, the more grown-up version of her two sons, had taken his time to reach her. In his idleness, he had the time to watch the interaction between the two of them. He caught her expression, raising his eyebrows in polite question.
Gabriel was a mix between her and her husband. His hair was an auburn brown, as if they dunked him into a machine, mixing the darkness of her husband and the lightness of her and producing her son. She didn’t mind. She loved her children and she would always love them. Gabriel was also the polar opposite of how he took care of his body. Her son was already busy in the gym almost every day, and his muscles rivalled her husbands. Though Mark didn’t seem to care that much, as he was more than twice Gabriel’s age.
Gabriel was still staring at her suspiciously and Aria snorted a laugh at Gabriel’s sharp inquisitiveness, grateful that he didn’t pry despite it being obvious that he knew something was amiss. Gabriel hugged her too, glancing at her wet eyes with a frown. Aria noticed the moment Gabriel’s eyes narrowed in suspicion at her wellbeing. She felt her heart fill again at how fast her son checked the perimeter to see what had hurt her. He could find nothing though, as she knew he wouldn’t, since her issue was with her husband. His eyes turned cold and dangerous, his hand shaking a little at the need to do something. This didn’t surprise Aria much because her son like to care for both her and Giovanni on any day no matter how they felt.
‘Calm, Gabriel,’ she murmured like a gentle breeze to him.’Move, Gio,’ he responded instead, pulling Giovanni from her. Aria looked up at both of them from where she sat on the porch swing, her sadness increasing. Another tear rolled down her face, and she wiped it away, debating her words as she stood up. With puppy eyes, Giovanni stared at her so woefully she almost changed her mind. Who gave a shit what Mark had to say? Her children should come first! Aria glanced at her children again, and for a moment it seemed like Giovanni wanted to run to her and never leave. Gabriel, seeming to notice this too, grabbed Giovanni’s chest with his arm, holding him back.
‘What happened?’ Gabriel asked after a measure of silence. So lost in thought, Aria realised none of them had moved since they returned from school. Her sons were teenagers, and no longer fools to the goings-on of the world. She would need to do this no matter what, and if she had her way, she would teach her husband better. With renewed resolution, Aria hurried from the mansion, beckoning her sons to follow. She had hoped Giovanni would remain her baby longer, but she remembered why they were here in the gardens. If her husband wasn’t the death of her, she would kill him one day, especially if he didn’t learn to treasure family. He had no allowance to remove her kids from her in this way.
‘Let’s take a walk in the gardens,’ she answered instead, ignoring the breeze that pulled at her scarf around her neck. It made Aria feel good to see how her boys listened without complaint. As a trio, they walked side by side while she processed the tumultuous thoughts in her head. She sniffled, wiping at her face with a vigour Aria reserved for washing dishes. The atmosphere they had suddenly fallen into felt like it matched the frigid air of December.
‘What’s going on?’ Giovanni’s question meant he caught on that something was amiss. Aria was sure it was from the sidelong glances that Gabriel had been giving her.
‘Do you want me to sugarcoat it or tell it to you straight?’ Aria winced at how that had sounded. She was the adult in the situation, and it was her responsibility to take matters into her own hands. But she hoped her kids didn’t see it as an excuse to soften sending them away, no matter how sincere it might have been.
‘Sugarcoat it,’ Giovanni said, while Gabriel replied, ‘Tell us and hide nothing’ at the same time. Aria shut her eyes and sat down on the grass, her skirt flowing like a flower in bloom. Without waiting for an invitation, both boys sat down with her. Giovanni pouted the slightest bit at the thought of his white trousers getting dirty. Gabriel frowned at him in warning, forcing him to sit and pay attention. With a huff, Giovanni did as Gabriel directed, and as one, both stared at her, waiting for her to speak again.
‘I was dumb for thinking I can actually mollify something like this.’ Aria had to pause again. She felt a sizeable amount of terror at having to tell them to go. Giovanni kept his eyes downward, picking at the grass, playing with it in a mindless sort of way. Her youngest was a boy that wished there would be simple answers to all the world’s questions. Aria saw Giovanni’s mind work on more than one occasion, and how he refused to focus on one thing for long. He had no patience to wait for anything stressful. But Giovanni took his brother’s lead, and since Gabriel was calm, Giovanni followed. Aria knew this was how Giovanni functioned, so for the umpteenth time, she was happy that Gabriel was the way he was.
‘You guys are both going to a boarding school.’
‘I’m sorry, what?’ Gabriel asked, including Giovanni by glancing at him and getting a nod from the youngest. Giovanni was staring at her in horror, forgetting his trousers, and leaned towards her. He renewed his glances at Gabriel, begging for what she said to have been a dream.
‘What the heck do you mean?’ Giovanni added when his mum failed to answer Gabriel. ‘Do you know how many people I know here? You want me to leave everything? It’s in the middle of the year!’
Aria couldn’t refrain from sighing this time when she saw his lip tremble. She was aware her son had a close relationship with their young butler. She didn’t know the extent of their relationship or how much Giovanni relied on him. Her husband knew nothing of this, as he noticed nothing farther than his nose. Aria, of course, wouldn’t deign to tell him. She was sure Mark would give Giovanni trouble about it, hurting her son, and she wouldn’t have that.
‘You can always keep in touch with people that you might miss,’ she told them both. Aria hoped they wouldn’t make a fuss, though she was kidding herself like this. The life that they had grown up with and grew to cherish was being snatched away from them. Aria would need to have a talk with Johnny and hope she could settle the situation through that method. It would be her best option. Johnny had helped raise both her sons, even though he was almost the same age as Gabriel.
‘May I ask why?’ Gabriel spoke up again after the silence had stretched, following her previous response. ‘How far will we be going?’ ‘Did we do something wrong?’
Aria closed her eyes again, but couldn’t hide the tears that had fallen this time. ‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered. As much as Gabriel was trying to keep strong, she saw immediately how his voice shook. And the looks of betrayal that Giovanni shot towards her hit her like a hurricane. For the first time, he looked like he hated her.
‘They swamp your father with work,’ Aria said to them after time had stretched so much the sun had gone down. Neither of her sons so much as glanced at her when she spoke. As a mum, Aria felt like she was missing something. The endless silence of her sons scaring her but didn’t know what it was. Weren’t most teenagers noisy and complained about everything? Aria crossed her legs in front of her, peeking at them both as she spoke. ‘I need you to know that I love you more than life itself, but also that this is unavoidable. Your father refuses to change his stance on this, no matter how much I tried.’
Without a word, Gabriel shot up, his back stiff and his face cold. ‘We’ll start packing.’ In a panic, Giovanni snatched his brother’s sleeve, who helped him up.
‘What’s happening?’ Giovanni asked his brother, using his indoor library voice. Instead of answering, Gabriel stepped in front of him, blocking the former from her view. With a last glare, Gabriel grabbed Giovanni’s hand, pulling him towards their mansion. Gabriel walked with purpose, but Giovanni was the opposite, his shoulders hunched. Though Giovanni kept looking back, Gabriel kept his back tall and his eyes on Giovanni. He kept at this until they walked over the hilly path and disappeared from sight.
Aria wanted to scream their names and hold on to them. The last thing she wanted was to miss the opportunity of raising her kids into adulthood. If she wanted to do this right, she would need to make smart choices in the future. So even though Aria knew everything could work out, she fell to her knees and sobbed.