Prologue – Taylor
I silently watch the uniformed policemen keep the curious crowd at bay, sirens wailing in the background. People dressed in white overalls zip several black body bags shut and carry them off to awaiting black cars. I can’t really believe it’s over, that they are really gone and never coming back. When that sense finally kicks in, my knees buckle and I crash to the ground. I don’t even feel the impact, I watch in horror as a guy in a white overall zip up the body bag containing several body parts of my beloved grandfather and father. I am just glad my little four-year-old brother Sylvester isn’t here to witness this horrible event.
My uncle Gordo squeezes my shoulders in an attempt to comfort me. I just don’t see how that can comfort me since I lost everything to that freaking traitor Julian. This wasn’t supposed to happen, the war with the rival family was over, so why do this now? “That antipatico Julian is responsible for this isn’t he?” I growl out as I work myself back up, intent on following the black cars with the remains. Gordo sighed “You don’t know that Ragazzo. Why are you so intent on blaming him anyway?” I gritted my teeth as I turned back to dace him near my car “Who else would blow the house to pieces on my last week here? The war with the rival family is over and I don’t think they have anything more to gain now the families are merged together as one.” Gordo just sighed shaking his head as he slipped into the passenger seat of my Fiat 500.
The drive to the morgue was a silent one, the both of us stewing in our own thoughts. Mine was focused on taking care of the funeral, contacting the family, making funeral arrangements for the church priest, and so on. We were shown through immediately on arrival, following some guy down white halls, through double doors until we reached the place where they were laid on a gurney still in the body bag. Papà was first; he had a frightened expression on his face like he couldn’t believe it. He was more intact than my grandfather, who apparently was standing closer to the place where the bomb went off than my dad. As they opened the second bag, I barely managed to keep the bile rising in my throat. They only managed to recover some body parts like his head, torso, arms and one leg. I checked his hands for his rings, grandfather had only one ring since he stepped down and my father rose up to lead. But it wasn’t there; my grandfather’s hands were bare.
“THAT piccolo cagna stole Amato Nonno's wedding ring!” Gordo was at my side within a second, staring at grandfather’s bare hands. “Quell’idiota!” That was the first time I heard my laid-back uncle Gordo curse Julian to hell and back. The on-duty medical examiner looked at me with sympathy “They are your grandfather and father?” I nodded as he scribbled something on his clipboard. The rest was all a blur to me; I only remember standing there at the church as I stared at the two closed caskets at the front. I could hear family members and friends wail in the background, right there I promised myself to find the one responsible and make them pay in blood. Nobody gets away scot-free with messing with my family.
That’s a promise, a promise I will honour even if it kills me.
Returning back to the US was a little less happy than I originally planned. Sylvester was glad to see me of course, he was always happy to see me. He should, he is my little brother after all. I am just glad that dad agreed to send him back a week before, and not at the same time as me, something Sylvester protested against. He was a big boy now; he could go home with his older brother. He was a little depressed as the news about dad not coming home ever again. He didn’t really get it, so he was smiling and happily doing things little four-year-old boys did not much later.
Since my father’s death a mere week ago, my mother Cecilia decided to run off with her current boy toy and leave me and my brother in uncle Gordo and aunt Meredith’s care. I didn’t mind, they were good for us, and took very good care of little Syl. “What’s wrong piccolo uomo?” I asked as Syl entered my room clutching his favourite blanket and stuffed toy. “Can’t sleep Fratello, there’s a big bad monster in my closet.” I put away the book I was reading and made space on my king sized bed for him “Come here piccolo uomo, you can stay here.” I was puzzled why he was still hovering in the doorway. What is wrong with him? He usually jumps at the chance to sleep in my bed. “I-I- we-wet t-the b-bed t-too fra-Fratello.” He looked down to the floor in shame.
“That’s okay piccolo uomo, those things happen sometimes. Did the monster scare you?” He nodded his head slowly, “I don’t want Gordo to know. They will think of me as weak and send me away.” My eyes soften as he says that. For some reason, my little brother had a fear of being sent away whenever he had a little accident like this. It might have something to do with Cecilia telling him she would send him away whenever she found out about it and he tried so very hard to hide it. “Come on piccolo uomo, we have a monster to defeat and a bed to clean up.” Leading him back to his room just across the hall, we vanquish the monster first (it was the shadow of his shoes in his closet). I quickly stripped the wet sheets and put them in the washing machine; I turned over the mattress and put on clean sheets. “Do you want to sleep in my room?” He nodded sleepily, so I carried him back to my room and put him under the covers “Sleep well piccolo uomo.” Kissing his forehead, I made my way out of the room and downstairs.
“What’s wrong Ragazzo?” Gordo asked as I joined him in the living room where he was watching a soccer match. “Syl wetted his bed tonight; there was a monster in his closet that scared him. I took care of it, but he’s still afraid that you will send him away when you find out.” Meredith shook her head “We won’t send him away; we love him too much to do so. He’s our little boy, just like you are our big boy.” She came over and gave me a kiss on the forehead before moving to kiss Gordo “Good night boys.” Before walking up the stairs and not much later we heard a silent thud of their bedroom door closing. “You should get some sleep Ragazzo; you have school in the morning.” Gordo was looking at me with concerned eyes “Please don’t do anything stupid like chasing the idiota down before you finish school okay? Your Papà wanted you to finish school before going down that road you know?” I nodded my head at his pleading eyes. Standing up from the couch I stretch, yawning “Good night Gordo.” His eyes were glued to the TV screen “Good night Ragazzo.”
I smile at the sight that greeted me once I returned to my room; Syl was curled up into a tiny ball in the middle of the bed. Shrugging out of my clothes, leaving only my boxers on I crawl under the covers, curled protectively around my little brother. That’s how blinding morning light found us; I forgot to close the curtains last night. Looking at my alarm clock I knew I had at least another fifteen minutes before having to get up and ready for school. Syl however had other plans. When he opened his eyes he jumped up and down on the bed chanting it’s the first day of school under his breath. Shaking my head at his antics I gently lift him up and walk towards the bathroom, ready to get him washed and ready for school.
Once breakfast was done, we were on the way to his primary school. I was walking back to my car when I saw a familiar face in the huge crowd of parents; Greg Chambers. What the hell is he doing here? He doesn’t look like the type to be a dad. Not that I do to but still. My answer came in the shape of a goodbye shout from a cute little blond haired boy. “Bye big bro! Bye Nance!” The girl- Nance I presume- called back out to him “Bye little bro! Have a good day!” Before jabbing Greg in the side, clearly displeased by his lack of good bye. “Bye Lo, have a good day!” He waved half-heartedly at the boy’s retreating back.
I saw him again at school; he was jeering the girl Nance as she walked to the middle school part of the building. “Good luck squirt! Watch out for the pops!” He shouted making her turn and shout “Shut up GREG!” before storming away, making Greg chuckle. Throughout the rest of the day I didn’t see Greg, I still wonder who this Lo and Nance were. They looked like good friends, or something. Maybe Greg babysat the both of them and their parents coerced him in taking them to school. That might also explain why he’s dressed the way he is. I saw Greg during lunch, which he was having all by himself. Although several people called out to him, he ignored them. Greg was dressed in someone’s uni sweater, which was too big on him paired with a well-worn pair of jeans and peeling sneakers made him look like a hobo.
I was passing a girl who had called out to Greg but he just ignored her. “Why is he like that when he’s dressed that way?” She asked her friend. Who sighed and rolled her eyes “You like totally forgot the court case didn’t you? The one like where his biological dad came to visit him and kidnap him? It was like all over the news. He dresses like that because like it’s his reassurance to himself that he’s not like his biological dad.” My brows lifted “Greg’s adopted?” The girl looked at me and rolled her eyes before flipping her hair, “All the Chamber kids are adopted, Greg, Nancy and little Logan. Everybody knows that.” I frowned; she cut me off before I could say anything. “Their parents are Tiago and Zachery Chambers. Like the most famous open gay couple in town. Tiago works at the shelter home for kids from gang related backgrounds, like himself.” Her friend nodded “Yeah they say he used to be a part of the Latino Blood gang way back.” They looked at each other dreamily “And Zachery is an ex-NBA player and is now a manager for a team that tracks down heirs to estates or something like that.” I tuned them out after that since they started gossiping.
So Greg’s adopted? Then the other kids must be his siblings. I was walking with my ‘friends’ (followers) down the hall to my locker when I was bumped into. Before I could react the person was back on their feet and was shuffling around us.
He just looked at me silently with haunted eyes before ducking his head before quickly making his exit. His eyes kept haunting me, making me wonder what had happened to him. Which was a first for me; I usually don’t give a damn about others. But I couldn’t get Greg out of my mind.
What is it about him that fascinates me?