Chapter 1: Rest Easy
Fate is one horrible bitch. She might even be worse than Karma herself. At least you can sense when Karma is coming. Fate sneaks up on you when you least expect it, flipping your entire life upside down in an instant.
You’re never prepared for it, either.
One day, the sun is shining bright in the sky, and you’re starting to feel like yourself again. Then, dark storm clouds pass overhead, and you forget who you are all over again. They say that trials and tribulations are what make a person, but sometimes they can be what breaks a person, too. Not everyone is strong enough to deal with the battles they are given. Not everyone can be a warrior.
But my brother was.
And he died in the midst of the greatest battle ever. The war he had going on within himself. The war that constantly waged between his head and his heart. Everet Nico-Giovanni Santoro only ever wanted to help people, but it was his incessant kindness, and blind loyalty to his family that got him killed in the end. He knew how dangerous Elliot was, but instead of fearing him, he tried to save a lost soul that was beyond retrieving.
He sacrificed himself to save someone else, but unfortunately, it was all in vein. He couldn’t save somebody who was already gone. He never gave up hope when everyone else realized that there was none. Everet was always a little too nice in a world that was always a little too mean. And that… that was his ultimate downfall.
A lot of people insisted that my brothers and I were heartless—but if any of us had a heart—Everet was the closest one to it. He was by no means a saint, a sinner just like the rest of us, but he tried his best, which is a lot more than some people can say.
It was more than I could ever say.
I wasn’t proud of the way I lived my life. I’d spent the majority of my younger years feeling like the black sheep in my family. Because of that, I never really bothered to get to know my brothers. I was too self-absorbed to pay them any mind. And when I did try to get their attention, they completely ignored me. None of us knew how to communicate properly back then. We were the type to bottle up our emotions and act like we didn’t have any.
I guess that’s why things ended up the way they did.
A part of me wished that I could go back and change all that had happened. But it was already too late for action. The damage had been done. The pain had already been inflicted upon us and there was nothing left we could do to take it away. We tried to kill the pain, but as long as we were alive, the pain would be, too. It was something we would all have to learn to live with.
Sometimes I thought being dead would be easier than living with this sorrow.
Rain poured from the dark sky, like the tears of everyone here. The cold raindrops did a good job of masking the tears on the men who were too proud to admit they were crying. I looked up at the angry sky, tilting the black umbrella that hung over my head to see the violent storm clouds. A flash of lightening illuminated the evening sky as boisterous thunder started to roll in from the east. Between the heavy rain and emphatic thunder, I could barely hear the Italian Pastor as he said his peace, standing over the final resting place of my older brother.
I never really got to know him the way I wanted to. And now I’d never get to know him at all.
My gaze left the darkening sky, settling on the two women that hovered over my brother’s grave. One of them held a couple delicate white roses in one hand and a small child in the other. She placed one of the flowers in the middle of the grave where someone had just buried my brother six feet into the ground. She wiped a tear away from her bloodshot eyes. The other woman who stood beside her patted her on the back supportively, pulling her into a warm embrace.
As Elisa fell into the hug, Lily glanced at me from the other side of the cemetery. She looked completely different from girl she used to be. She looked like a woman. A black long-sleeved dress fell just above her knees, highlighting her hourglass figure. Her sleek, dark pumps seemed to sink into the wet mud, but she was still standing tall. A small leather clutch rested at her side and I knew exactly what was inside of it.
It took her a long time, but she finally learned the importance of having weapons to defend yourself with. She carried that little pistol with her everywhere she went. It was practically attached to her hip, and sometimes it was, whenever she decided to wear a holster. Today, though, she didn’t have her weapon holstered. She had it at the ready.
Everyone was worried that Elliot and Francesca might decide to show up at the funeral. They were both crazy and unpredictable on their own, but when they got together, only God knew what they were truly capable of. It was better to be safe than sorry, which is why nearly everyone here was armed in one way or another. Some had guns. Some had knives. Some had poison. And me? I had all three and a couple other dangerous things.
With Everet gone, I knew there was a good chance they would come after me next. And this time, I’d be prepared for them. I wouldn’t go down without taking someone else with me. I didn’t care who it was, either. They both deserved to die for what they had done. Although, I wasn’t in the business of judging people based on their actions. I was in the business of making people pay for their actions.
I watched intently as Lily whispered something into Elisa’s ear, desperately wanting to know what she was saying. She was probably giving her some friendly encouragements, telling her that she would make it through all of this someday. No one really knows what to say when someone dies, so we offer our sympathies and sentiments, knowing all too well that words can’t heal every wound. Hell, time can’t even heal all wounds.
Lily gave her best friend one last hug, before turning away to give her some alone time. Judging by the tears that ran down Elisa’s face, she was preparing to say her final goodbyes to my brother. She was getting ready to say goodbye to her husband. They never got the chance to have a real wedding ceremony, but that didn’t change the fact that they loved each other unconditionally. She saw past his flaws and saw the man he was underneath his mistakes. He did the same for her.
I couldn’t help but feel bad for Elisa. She should have been planning a wedding, instead she had to plan a funeral.
Elisa looked different, too. Her hair had gone back to the dirty blonde color it had previously been. She stopped wearing the dark makeup that distracted from her natural beauty. All in all, she looked more like herself than she ever had. Yet… she didn’t seem like herself anymore. The grief had changed her. And it wasn’t over yet. In fact, it had barely even started. There would be many more painful days ahead of this one. I wasn’t sure if things would ever get any easier on her, but I was going to do my best to make damn sure they didn’t get any tougher.
I’d spent most of my life damaging and ruining my relationships with people. It was time that I started mending a couple of those broken relationships. If my brother’s death taught me anything, it was that I no longer sought out death and destruction. I always thought vengeance was what fueled me, but it never got me very far. Someone once told that acceptance was the only thing that would ever take me anywhere.
And I tried to accept that, but I’d always been a little hard-headed. I was prone to doing the opposite of what was good for me. When I made mistakes, I didn’t regret them. I just made those same mistakes over and over again. I became so numb to the world that I forgot what the hell I was doing half the damn time. Those were the days I really started to hate myself. That’s when I first started to feel like Elliot. I knew I wasn’t a good guy, but I wasn’t sure if I was still the bad guy.No one was willing to help me decide, either.
A lot had changed in such little time. Nothing was the same and I doubted it ever would be. We lost more than Everet that day. We lost Elliot… and then we lost a piece of ourselves. It was a piece that we’d never get back, a hole that could never be filled. I’d always felt a little empty, but on today specifically, I felt especially less whole.
I felt broken.
The more I pitied myself, the harder the rain seemed to fall. The dark blue sky was unforgiving, relinquishing its wrath on me in the form of a flood. By tomorrow, this entire valley would be covered in water. The roses on my brother’s grave would die and get washed away. All of the mementos that had been placed by his headstone, all of the photographs that we’d taken, all of it would be ruined. It didn’t seem fair. None of this did.
I was watching the raindrops form into small puddles when Lily came over to me. A black umbrella shielded her face from view, but I could see the ends of her red hair sneaking out just above her shoulders. It used to flow down the column of her back, but now it barely reached the end of her neck. She chopped her hair off as soon as we walked out of that mansion, right after we killed a handful of her father’s men who’d broken into the estate. We didn’t even reach the driveway, before she pulled out a pair of scissors, snipping over half her hair off.
I think it was symbolic for her. She was letting go of something else when she cut her hair off. It was more than just a physical change, it was an emotional one, too.
Her short hair took some getting used to, but it framed her face nicely. Her father never gave her much of anything, but he was responsible for her amazing bone structure. She had a soft but striking look about her. I never saw how beautiful she was before because I never really looked.
“What did the Pastor say?” Lily tilted her head to the side slowly, exposing her face to me. Her thin eyebrows were drawn together, her lips pursed together in a slight grimace. Her frustration was brought on by her limited knowledge on the Italian language. She barely knew any Italian, and the Pastor did his entire sermon in our native language.
“Nothing special.” I shrugged with a sigh, leaning against the back of the willow tree I was standing under. I pulled a pack of cigarettes from my back packet, lighting one, and bringing it to my lips. “He said the usual bullshit. It went something like “Everet was more than just a person. He was a friend. He was a father. He was a son.” and all of that other dumb shit people close to him already know.”
“Maybe you should have given the eulogy.” She suggested quietly, gripping the umbrella handle with a closed fist.
“In case you didn’t know, my brother and I weren’t on the best of terms when he died.” I took a sharp inhale from the cigarette, feeling the nicotine enter my bloodstream. For the first time today, I felt a little better. It wasn’t much, but it was something to keep me going. “I’m not sure if he’d even want me here at his funeral, let alone be the one giving his damn eulogy.”
“So that’s why you’re standing all the way over here by yourself?” She narrowed her green eyes at me, a look of concern crossing her face. “You don’t think he’d want you here?”
“I don’t know.” My voice felt as heavy as the rain that soaked the Earth. It held just as much weight, too. Every word seemed hard to get out. “And now, I never will.”
She took a couple steps closer, until she was standing right beside me. Her back was against the tree and her face was turned towards me. I could feel her eyes on me, but when I didn’t look back at her, her gaze moved to the sky. In that exact moment, a flock of white doves passed overhead, stretching their wings wide open. They were the only light to break up the darkness in the clouds.
“Something tells me that he wants you here.” She smiled at the birds softly, giving them a faint wave, as if they could see her from all the way up in the sky. She always seemed to see the best in every situation. After everything she’d been through, she was still standing here tall, as if she’d never been broken down in her entire life.
That made me smile for the first time in what felt like a very long time.
“You should go tell him goodbye.” She put her hand on my shoulder, giving me a supportive squeeze. Her hand lingered there for a while after she let go. I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t want her to pull away. “If you don’t say something now, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. I wish I could’ve told my mother goodbye one last time.”
“Why didn’t you go to her funeral?” I furrowed my eyebrows together with the ghost of a frown forming on my lips.
“I thought it would be easier if I didn’t go, but it only ever made it harder on me.” Her voice cracked halfway through. “The longer you try to hide from your problems, the harder they become to ignore.”
“Don’t I fucking know it.” I threw the cigarette butt on the damp ground, watching as it sizzled out in the rain. I could feel the bottom of my shoes sinking deeper and deeper into the mud. I didn’t bother trying to pull myself out. I felt like I was sinking and a dark part of me thought I deserved to drown in the dirt. “It should have been me.”
“Excuse me?” She raised an eyebrow, her mouth hung open in confusion.
“Elliot should have killed me instead.” I said monotonously, looking away. “I’m the one who really deserved it.”
“No one deserved it.” She shook her head fervently, placing a hand on my bicep. She squeezed me gently to get my attention, only speaking when I made eye contact with her. “No one deserved what Francesca and Elliot did. No one.”
I appreciated her efforts, but there were some things she could never change my opinion on, and this was one of them. It should have been me and no one could convince me otherwise. Everet had a wife and a child to live for. I didn’t have much left to live for. No one would’ve missed me if I was dead. Hell, no one would’ve even noticed I was gone. But with Everet, everyone noticed his absence. The atmosphere was heavier, and it was a little harder to breathe. Everyone was uncomfortable. We no longer had someone to look up to. We were all lost, trying to find ourselves, but the only thing we ever found were different ways to cope with the sadness. That’s the one and only thing all of us had in common.
“If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for him.” She let go of my arm, walking away from the tree slowly. I wasn’t sure where she was going, but I didn’t feel like following her. I didn’t feel like doing anything. “He would’ve wanted you to say goodbye.”
“It’s too late.” I called after her powerfully, unsure if she could hear me over the violent rain that crashed all around us.
“It’s never too late.” She stopped to look back at me, clear raindrops running down her face. Some of them looked like tears, but I couldn’t be too sure. It was too hard to tell from all the way over here. “The only thing worse than saying the wrong thing is saying nothing at all. Tell him everything you never got the chance to say. It’s never too late, Emmet, not even for a guy like you.”
“I’m glad someone thinks so.” I muttered underneath my breath, but somehow, she was still able to hear me.
“I do.” The ghost of a smile touched her lips. “I really do.”
With a small wave goodbye, she began walking up the little hill that lead to the parking lot. People began to follow her out and that’s when I realized the funeral ceremony had come to a close. The whole thing had gone by in the blink of an eye, yet somehow it felt like an eternity had passed since I’d first gotten here. This day, in general, felt like it would never come to an end.
I glanced at the grave plot they had buried my brother in apprehensively. There were only two people left standing by the new marble headstone. Elisa and her daughter. Her lips were moving, but I couldn’t tell what she was saying. I didn’t try to make it out, either. Whatever she was saying was meant for Everet’s ear and his ears only.
A few minutes later, she dropped the white rose in her hand, placing it in front of his headstone. She stood there for a long moment of silence before she started to walk away. Every few feet she got, she turned back around to stare at the grave with a devastating look in her eyes. It looked like she wanted to fall to her knees, but she stayed strong even when she felt like falling apart at the seams. She stayed strong not only for herself, but for her daughter, too. It was hard for her to leave because she’d made a vow to never leave his side when they got married. She didn’t want to leave him, but he’d already left her. He was gone and there was nothing she could do to get him back.
When she finally disappeared over the hill, I made my way to the place where she’d been standing, right in front of his grave. I didn’t really know how to say goodbye, but I was going try my best to get my words out properly. I spent my whole life disappointing Everet and the rest of my family. I didn’t want to disappoint him anymore. I wanted to make him proud.
Fate tried to turn my world upside down, but I was going to turn that bitch back around.
And no one was going to stop me.
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