TWO YEARS LATER.
We knew each other from way back in high school. One of those high school sweetheart stories but we got separated because I moved to America to stay with my grandma and that was the worst time of my life. All because my father got mixed up with the wrong people and the only way of saving me was if I moved to stay with my grandma.
Jemma Moretti wasn’t even my real name. Well it kind of was but it was my mother’s maiden name. My father’s line of work didn’t allow my existence. I was an easy target for his enemies. So I always met him once a year.
But things were different now. He was just a regular guy living peacefully in Verona and I was back home. It was just him and I now. I was told that my mother died in a car accident when I was in America. I didn’t really get the chance to say goodbye to her. Our relationship wasn’t the perfect kind but I cried for days when they told me the news.
My life at that moment was a sad story. It was honestly kind of depressing. I did the same things every day and that kind of made it so hard. I craved that excitement and I was too afraid I wasn’t going to find it any time soon.
Growing up, I never knew what it really meant to be free. I was always hiding from people I didn’t even know and that sucked. A big lot. It was something I had to live with until a few years back.
I know that my father is no longer involved with any criminals or anybody who can threaten to kill him and me but I still felt like someone was watching my every move. That wasn’t a good feeling. I never walked alone late at night. The dark alleys always freaked the shit out of me. I never stayed out late even then because I still felt like someone will just come out of the night and kill me or worse…rape me. It wasn’t a good feeling. Again.
“Hey, Lady”. I didn’t even notice Rich walk in. He had his sleeves rolled up to his forearms. He was a medium man in pretty much everything. He didn’t like hitting the gym but he wasn’t fat either. His body was just good. He wasn’t bad to look at.
“Hey.” I placed my hands together and looked straight at him. I smiled then looked at the table. Sometimes I didn’t know what to say around him. He was this perfectly achieved man who needed someone who hadn’t seen a dime in a while to be impressed.
I wasn’t that someone. Obvious.
The waitress came to our table and laid out the menus. “I’ll give you two a moment”. She left us.
I took the menu and started checking out the food. I already knew what I wanted. I needed some kind of distraction.
“What are you getting?” Rich asked as he laid his menu on the table. He took a sip of water from the glass. I smiled as I said it. It was my favorite food. I always ordered that. Anywhere. If they had it, that is.
“The salmon and the salad. I might also take the soup since it’s there.” I felt like that was something he should’ve known since we’d been together since forever.
“Uh, alright. I’m getting the red meat and the potatoes”. He said then put the menu down “I had this crazy client today, babe. Crazy. She divorced her husband a couple of years ago and he still hasn’t paid her the alimony. Imagine.”
I forced a smile. “Must be hard”.
“Yeah. It is. It’s a shitshow out there…”
I tuned him out. He didn’t really care about me. The only thing he cared about was his job and how many cases he solved at the end of the day. There obviously weren’t any room for me.
The bell on the door dinged and a couple walked in. they were both dressed in fancy clothes. The girl was in an elegant tight blue dress that showed the outline of her body. She had her arm in the crook of the tall and sexy man with her, he was in a sleek black Armani suit and he looked like one of those powerful men. His jawline was so hard and so was the rest of his body. He had his arm at the small of the girl’s back as they were motioned to the table next to me and Rich. He seemed to adore her because he pulled the chair out for her and held her hand when he sat down across her.
I hoped Rich would show the world I was his as much as this strange did.
“Jem?” Rich tapped my hand and my train of thoughts came to a halt. I looked at him quizzically. He looked at me and then at our food on the table. I didn’t even notice the waitress stop by at our table because I was so caught up in my thoughts for the couple that just walked in.
“Sorry. I went away for a sec.” I smiled at him and then stared at my food. I suddenly didn’t feel like eating anymore. I noticed that my relationship had so many cracks and I had been so blind to them. Rich should treat me the way that man treated his lady. He never took the chair out for me. He never held my hand when we were in public and the sex was just too weird. I told him that it was fine because I just couldn’t do him like that. Now I realized that I wasn’t happy with him.
“You alright?” He took his folk and started eating.
“This isn’t working, Rich. Is it working for you?” I pushed my plate away and leaned back in my seat.
He paused and left his fork and knife down. “Where is this coming from?”
“I’m not happy in this whole thing, Rich”
“Is it something I did?” he leaned on his body on the table.
“Well yeah. It’s more of the things you don’t do. I just realized that this isn’t something I want to keep doing. You’re amazing and I’m sure that there’s someone out there who would kill to have you.” I straightened my dress then took my purse and stood up.
“Well you’re right. You’re ungrateful. Every woman would certainly kill to be at this table with me”. He picked his fork and knife and cut into his meat again. Aggressively.
I nodded at him and sneaked one last glance at that perfect couple and walked out.
I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I needed someone who knew me and just didn’t require so much work. Mama always said love isn’t simple but it should be easy. It wasn’t easy with Rich.
I got to my car in the driveway and drove out of town.
WHEN I GOT HOME, MY DAD called me. I got into my apartment and locked the door before I picked it up.
“Hey, Daddy”. I smiled into the phone. I greeted him like that all the time. I felt like I would always call me that no matter how old I was.
“Hey, honey. How are you?” He sighed into the phone, like he was completely content with just hearing from me. We were all each other had.
“I’m good, Dad.” I threw myself on the couch and I landed with a loud thud. I was exhausted after the god awful dinner I had with Rich.
“I know you, sweetheart. What’s the matter?” He asked and I bit my tongue. I didn’t want to lie to him. Besides, he already knew who Rich was and they had their own relationship.
“Well, I broke up with Rich.” I said it smoothly. He had a soft spot for him and I knew that I was going to break his heart because he probably thought he was the one and we were going to have a bunch of children and grow old somewhere in Tuscany or Verona. That wasn’t going to happen.
“Sweetheart, what did he do?” he asked and I could tell that he was kind of saddened by the news but tried to be more supportive since my side was the side he was supposed to be on.
“Daddy, things don’t work out all the time and we just aren’t good for each other.” I tried to keep everything else to myself.
“Sweetheart, did he hurt you?”
“No.” I sighed into the phone and looked at the ceiling. “I wasn’t happy.”
“Sweetheart.” I knew my father adored me and I loved him for that. He was everything I could ever ask for in a father. “Why don’t you stop by tomorrow.” He wasn’t asking.
“I would love to.” I didn’t realized that I was crying until the tears hit my palm. I sniffed and I’m certain my father heard it.
“Get some rest, Honey.” He hanged up.
I knew that my father didn’t like it when I cried and that was probably the reason he hanged up abruptly like that.
I cried silently. I’d lived my whole life being miserable. Sometimes I so badly wanted siblings but I was all alone. I had my father but times like these I wished I had more friends, any friends at all and just a sister to talk to.
I cried myself to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I showered and wore my tight denim jeans with a tee. I wore my hair down and curled the edges. I applied a little make up and left for Tuscany. I loved the view of the drive there so I drove the slow as I could. I’d make stops here and there to just enjoy the heat.
When I drove into the driveway of my father’s home, I noticed some paintings on the terrace. I got out of the car to find my father outside conversing with some girl. She had on black jeans with a T-shirt that was too big for her. She wore a cap and her hair was a ponytail. My father gave her an envelope and then she turned to leave. I stared at her for a moment.
She looked so familiar.
She moved quickly like she didn’t want to waste any more time there. I smiled slightly at her and all she did was nod and walk past me. Rude.
I shrugged it off and went on the terrace to meet my father. When he saw me coming, he had a little sadness along his face.
He spread his arms and ran and hugged him. I always felt safe in those arms, it was my safe place. I felt the tears threatening to fall but I did my best to just hold them in. I clung to him so tight and he didn’t even try to let me go first. I needed this so much.
I let the tears fall. I had been holding them in for so long and I just wanted to let go. I wanted to let go of all the hurt I felt while I was trying to make things work with Rich, all the things I missed.
He rubbed his hand on my back and soothed me as I whimpered in his arms. He placed his chin on the top of my head and just held me there. He was my rock.
“Okay.” I moved out of his grasp and dried all the tears that were on my face, ruining my makeup. “I’m done.” I smiled up at him and he smiled back.
“Come on, Sara will get you some coffee.” He took my hand and led me into the house. I walked to find that the walls had been furnished with new painting and I recognized none of them. They were all amazing. My father was never a fan of paintings. Never had I seen him buy a painting my whole life. Then I remembered the paintings on the terrace.
“Daddy, are you collecting these now?” I pointed to the walls and I saw his eyes soften first time since I arrived. He stared at them as if he understood exactly what the paintings were saying, what the painter was trying to say?
“Yes.” He smiled. “They are all from the same painter. Very talented.”
“Was that girl delivering them?” I asked as I walked into the kitchen to find Sara preparing my coffee. I sat on one of the stools.
My dad followed me into the kitchen and sat next to me. “Yeah, the painter is someone I met on the streets. That girl delivers them for him.” He took the cup of coffee from Sara and placed it in front me.
“Oh okay, I didn’t know you liked paintings. I mean, I’ve never seen you buy one.” I loved that he was trying to find new things to love. That kind of brought peace to my mind. I worried about him all the time and I was just so glad that he was finally finding his new love.
“New interest.” He smiled then turned to one of the paintings. It was of the night sky. A starry night and it was beautifully made. It wasn’t something new about it, I’d seen a lot of paintings that had the night sky and many stars but this one was different. I stared at it too.
My father smiled with his eyes as he stared at the painting.
This was interesting. I stared at him as I drank my coffee. He was happy. Whatever it was about that painting, it made him happy so that also made me happy.
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