Sixteen. The age of becoming a woman. While normal girls were getting licenses, wearing makeup for the first time, and going on dates, when I turned sixteen, it was the day my life ended. I’ll never forget the feeling I had once my father called me into his office.
I had a big smile on my face. It was my birthday, after all. And my father never wanted me for anything. So when his right-hand man told me he wanted to see me, I believed it was because he wanted to tell me “Happy birthday!” and finally acknowledge me.
When I was four, my mother died. She was taken by a rival Mob and killed to teach my father a lesson, which left him with a daughter as his successor. He had never been kind to me, and I believed it was because he wanted a son. But I was what he got. And he made sure to keep me busy. No sooner had I been able to walk than he made me take violin lessons, never caring when my hands would blister from all the practicing. He would step into the room, listen, and leave. He never complimented me, told me he was proud, or gave me any indication that he was pleased with me. Or something I did.
I was practically running to my father’s office, excitement bubbling up deep inside me. I stood in front of the massive white doors and knocked lightly. My father’s deep voice came from the other side of the door, giving me permission to enter.
He didn’t look up upon my entrance, which made my heart sink a little, but I wouldn’t let it deter my mood. I took a seat in one of the chairs, waiting for him to speak. To tell me he loved me. Or “Happy birthday.” Or that he was proud of me. Something to indicate that he cared. After a few minutes passed, he finally looked up. But he wasn’t smiling. My smile fell off my face immediately.
“As you know, relations with the North Mob have been all but nonexistent, and with the expansion of the Russians in our territory, we must band together to form a more stronger union. The head capo’s son has been single for a while now and is getting older. It’s time for him to marry.” I felt my stomach begin to clench in dread as I anticipated where this conversation was going.
“Since you are the only child I have been able to legitimately conceive to this point, it is only fitting that you be the first bride for Luca Pasquino.”
My heart literally dropped out of my chest, and I honestly thought I was going to fall out of my seat right there. I wasn’t a fool. Luca was widely feared. Widely misunderstood. And if it weren’t frowned upon in our society, I would call him clinically insane.
Luca was made a man at the tender age of ten. The normal age for our boys to become a man is at least sixteen to eighteen. Luca was what any man in our world wanted their son to be like. He was malicious, cruel, and emotions were the last thing on his mind. When Luca was seventeen, he had killed a man with his bare hands. And I don’t mean he strangled him; no, he beat the man to a literal pulp, smashing his head in.
My father was rambling on about how this was a great opportunity for my family, for our clan, but I wasn’t listening. I felt as if my body had become numb. My father had never been a loving man. Hell, I had barely seen him in the sixteen years I had been alive. But this was something I couldn’t believe he was doing to me. He was marrying me off to someone who was barely human.
I looked up as silence enveloped the room, and I realized my father was waiting for me to speak. I knew the last thing he wanted was for me to express my disappointment. The last time that happened, it didn’t end well for me. “I ... uh, when are we to be wed, Father?” “When you are eighteen.”
I nodded, keeping my eyes downcast.
“This will be good for us, Elise. All of us.” I could almost laugh at his blatant disregard for my feelings. This was beneficial for him and his cronies, yes, but it had nothing to do with me. I stood from my seat in my father’s office, ready to leave. “If that is all, Father, may I be excused?” He nodded to me, and I left the room. I finally reached my bedroom and flopped onto my bed, tears flowing at an endless pace down my face. My life was over.
“It may not be all that bad. You never know, you might even grow to love this man. I know he won’t be able to resist loving you.” My cousin Arianna was smiling at me, trying to reassure me about the marriage.
She didn’t understand, though. She was one of the lucky ones. Her husband loved her. And he treated her like a queen. I came to her house to get some comfort, but what was happening was far from it. I hadn’t yet told her who my husband was supposed to be.
“You don’t understand, Ari. I’m set to marry Luca Pasquino.” My voice caught on his name. I still wasn’t used to the thought of being married to that monster.
Ari’s whole demeanor changed. Her face grew pale, and she tensed. She wasn’t a fool either. She knew as well as the rest of the women there what I was getting into.
Luca was cruel unconditionally. Gender didn’t matter to him. I remember, when I was eleven, I attended a gathering with my father, and Luca was there. I’ll never forget the shriek of the unfortunate female as he snapped her wrist for touching him. Everyone stared in shock as he stalked from the room, not caring what he just did was awful.
Ari was rubbing my back, bringing me out of my thoughts.
“Well, you still have two more years until you are actually wedded to him. In that time, you are your own person.” She tried to smile at me, but I could see right through it.
We both knew what my life would be like the moment I said “I do.”