"I don't have any friends," I answered bluntly.
"Francesca of course you have friends" my mother scoffed as she picked up her Chanel handbag on the kitchen side. She blew me a kiss as her driver came into the kitchen.
"Have fun and leave daddy alone!" She whispered as they both walked out.
I heard the front door slam and rose from my chair. Leave daddy alone, I chuckled, I was going to do the opposite.
I left the kitchen and walked up our white stone staircase. I don't get what my mother's obsession with white was?! Other than my father’s office the place looked like a hospital. And that's exactly where I was headed, third door on the right. I heard muffled voices as I approached and knocked on the door .
"Yes" a booming voice came back to me. I opened the door to the most beautiful room in our house in my opinion. My father’s office, maroon type red carpet and matching chair gave off a classy elegance. His black desk was at the centre of the room and around it were three comfortable sofa type chairs.
He looked up at me when I walked in.
"Francesca" his face beamed.
Many thought my father was terrifying, he was a very important man especially in New Jersey and little Italy. He was busy the majority of the time and left late at night and arrived home early in the morning. My mother never had to work and we could afford this beautiful home. I wasn't stupid, I knew what my father was and I was okay with that. I didn't know any different, he used to tell me the story of when he was made, he was no older than 20. We had a certain type of life that was difficult for others to comprehend, we only spent time with each other and we never had any outsiders. We spent all our time with uncles, aunties and cousins. Although I'm not sure how many of these people were actually our uncle's, aunties and cousins. My father had been in this career his whole life, it was his life and I was pretty certain he was very high up in our family. Both my parents are originally from Sicily, my father arriving in the US when he was fifteen. My mother came here when it was time to marry him when they were both twenty one. An agreement between their families. As awful as it sounds I think it was the best for them. They looked very much in love to me and if my father could handle my mother for nearly 30 years then he deserved a medal. My mother fell pregnant with my older brother Luca immediately after their wedding. I came along 18 months later.
I know it might not be the smartest idea to disturb a man as important as my father for not much reason at all, but what we had was different. I was the definition of a daddy’s girl, he was scary, he was loud and I knew he had done some terrible things. 5 years in prison away from us when I was 10 gave that away. A 'tax issue' he told me and Luca. Through all these things my father would always make time for me and to be honest, as sad as it sounds he was my best friend.
I looked around the room as I was now fully in the space. To my father’s right was my uncle Silvio, a man roughly the same age with salt and pepper hair. My father’s hair was still jet black at 50, although my mother once told me drunk that he dyes it. Silvio was my favourite uncle; he had the kindest eyes and he and my father did everything together. Silvio got up and kissed both my cheeks. "Marco look at this one, she's a beauty," Silvio said with his arms pointing out to me, ignoring the fact that he had dinner with us yesterday and instead pretending he hadn't seen me in months. My father just nodded his head. "We got to protect that one!!" He said as he sat down.
"That we do, Silv, that we do." I smiled at my father and turned to his left, my cousin Anthony was sitting, legs spread and drink in hand. His dark hair over half of his face. He looked pissed off. Anthony wasn't my actual cousin I knew for sure and he and Luca had recently had a falling out which is most likely the cause of this conversation and Anthony's purple and blue right eye and his left hands bloody knuckles.
I looked at the third chair and huffed. Matthew. He turned to look at me and winked. Matthew was Luca's best friend. He had been around our family for as long as I can remember and he and my father were very close too. I know he did a lot of jobs for him with Luca and what used to be Anthony. I'm sure Luca refused to have this discussion hence why Matthew was here in his place. Matthew irritated every fibre of my being personality wise. He was arrogant, rude and to be honest a little bit scary. He would never be made like the others because he wasn't Italian and stood out like a sore thumb in our family, but my father’s love for him was obvious. Matthew was the same age as Luca, with a wicked smile. His dark skin was a lot darker than our Italian olive glow and it was beautiful. His hair was cut short and sharp at the edges. His torso was full of muscles and tattoos which peeked out his white t-shirt onto his hands and neck. Even his beauty irritated me. I rolled my eyes at him and turned to my father.
"How can I help you, Principessa" he asked with a wide grin on his olive, friendly face.
"Mom has gone to her yoga class and..." I trailed off. I would normally never have this insecurity if it was just me and him but the other eyes in the room made me wish I hadn't knocked.
"You’re bored Principessa?" My father asked using only his native tongue on the last word. Princess. My pet name. I nodded slowly and put my head down.
"Matthew" my father boomed like he was 5 miles away. "Take my daughter out please. Shopping, movies, whatever she wants to do". My mouth fell open. Er not him, anyone but him.
"Can you not take me?" I asked as he got a wad of $100 dollar bills out his pocket.
"Principessa I wish I could, you know this but we're dealing with something here. Luca is out and you can't go alone. Matthew will keep you occupied and then we will go to uncle Silvio's for dinner, all of us together, si?" He asked but it wasn't a question. I smiled and blew him a kiss which he returned. Matthew took the money from his hand and opened the door for me.
"I'll look after her boss" he said to my father as he closed the door. We walked down the white steps with me in front and Matthew slightly behind. We stayed silent while we closed the front door and walked over to Matthew’s black alfa romeo.
"So where to Frankie?" Matthew asked as he opened the passenger door for me. I huffed as he slid in next to me. Arrogant as ever.
"First don't call me Frankie and second you can take me to the mall" I said as feisty as I could muster.
"Ha!" He shouted as he turned the car ignition on "As friendly as ever Francesca" he looked over at me. "Let's not forget I’m doing you a favour" he said as he drove away from my home and onto the freeway.
"No" I said and turned to him, he was no longer looking at me and instead his eyes stayed on the road. "You’re doing my dad a favour". He shrugged.
"Potato, potata" he rubbed the back of his neck and I swear his aftershave misted towards me. "Either way let's not make this any more terrible for us both. I drop you off, you buy a couple of dresses you won't wear and then I can take you back".
I raised my right eyebrow at him. Was he always this blunt? How my father and brother even gave him the time of day baffled me. Matthew and Luca had been best friends since kindergarten and he was the only one who wasn't like us who was able to act like us.
"That I won't wear?" I asked, trying to be as blunt as him.
"That you won't wear," he said as he turned into the car park of the local shopping mall. We lived in New Jersey and it was no New York but I loved it here.
"What do you mean?" I asked, actually puzzled by his statement now.
"You don't go anywhere so where are you going to wear them?" He said as he pulled into a parking bay.
"I go to plenty of places!" I raised my voice. He turned to me now one of his stupid eyebrows raised above his stupidly beautiful dark brown eyes. "I do!"
"Name one." He said and then put his hand up to my face, "and not some family gathering, somewhere that you want to go with friends" . He had taken his seat belt off now and was staring intensively in my face.
"Err" I stopped and looked down. He was right and what I said to my mother this morning was right. I had no friends, I only knew people in the family and although I'm close with my cousin Gianna she had recently got married and wasn't into socialising but rather baby making. I didn't work so had no friends there and let's not talk about my love life. I hadn't even kissed a man at twenty six can you imagine!! I was just patiently waiting for the man who I would be forced to marry and hope I loved him like my parents loved each other.
"Yep thought so" he chuckled as he got out of the car. I followed suit and stared at him across the top of the car.
"Oh I'm sorry I don't go around flaunting all of that" I said as I waved my hand around him "and have sex with anyone who would take me just to feel loved for five minutes" Ouch. That was harsh of me and I could see it in his face as it dropped. Matthew had no real family and we all knew that. He was in care until he was five when he went to kindergarten with Luca. Once they became fast friends, my father’s 2nd hand man behind Silvio, Lorenzo took him in at the order of the court and my father.
"Wow Frankie ice cold." He got back in the car again. I opened the door and put my head in, he was staring straight ahead pretending I wasn't there.
"What are you doing? Come on" I said, trying to pretend nothing just happened. "Nope," he said and shook his head. "No?" I asked, my face full of confusion. "You're deaf as well as rude?" He asked as he finally looked at me. "You go in I'll wait here"
"No you can't do that. You have to come in with me" I said firmly. My father would never allow me to go into a public place alone, it wasn't a secret who he was and he was constantly terrified I would receive some ill treatment because of it. Matthew realised this too, gave the world's biggest huff and got out the car. I closed the passenger door and rushed to follow him to the mall entrance. As we got in I looked around at what store I should go into. I personally didn't even want or need to go shopping, I just wanted someone to spend time with me without an order.
"Can I go into forever 21?" I turned to Matthew. He shrugged.
"Whatever" as he walked towards the shop. I grabbed his shirt before he walked in and he turned to me. His face was blank.
"Sorry" I said as he was facing me.
"Sorry?" Matthew asked.
"Yes I'm sorry" why was he making this harder than it needed to be. "I was a dick I’m sorry but if you couldn't tell, my life isn't exactly exciting. Sheltered more so." I paused and took a sharp breath in. "What I said was below the belt sorry". I looked up at him and he was smiling.
"Francesca I get it, your life isn't like a normal twenty six year old smoking hot girl but it is what it is and it ain't ever gonna change." I looked up at him. He thought I was smoking hot? I smiled to match his.
"Also I’m glad you're a fan of all this" he said as he waved his own hand around his face and body with the sweetest smirk. I rolled my eyes and walked into the store.