I have known life in a way that would describe me as a paradox, a contradiction at every moment, a deception at every turn. The thing about paradoxes is, they can be proven, they can be explained, they can be justified.
You cannot describe me in words, I am more than them. One would describe me as a perfect accessory while the other as a perfect assassin. I can heal and I can burn. But amongst everyone else in this world, I know that I know myself well. And this satisfies me. This is my strength, knowing myself, knowing myself detached from emotions, materialistic pains and pleasures, I know myself and I know how I perform at every emotion.
But most, they don’t know.
They don’t know what they will do if they fall in love.
They don’t know what they will do should they face the prospect of winning a lottery.
They make themselves vulnerable; they let the unknown control them. And then they say love is a weakness.
I was born on Valentine’s Day, that saved my parents from thinking too much about my name and I was simply called Valentina. I was an angel child, born with beauty and intelligence, in our family women were told to focus on the chores of the household. Cooking, baking, bringing up the family and most of all maintaining that family; those were all the duties that would fall upon the wives. Behind closed doors the duties extended to stroking fragile male egos and the male genitalia. Pleasure was important, the number of mistresses a man had was inversely related to how poor of a whore she was in the bed.
Wives on the outside and whores under the sheets; a paradox of sacred and the profane.
Such were the lives of the women of the Mafia.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror, a pastel dress grazing my knees and my long hair in a perfect ponytail, a pale pink lipstick on the lips for red was the colour of the harlots and I happened to be the daughter of Capo Silvano Ricci. I was the virgin daughter, the pure child of an evil mobster. He had an image that was to be maintained.
I walked out of my room, my eyes trained on my father who stood outside waiting for me. He had pride in his eyes, I was perfection personified. He gave me that smile, the smile that explained how he approved of my conservative dress, my minimal makeup and my natural beauty. Daughters were the honour of the family and I was the most honourable of all and Silvano was so happy.
He regularly boasted about me in front of the others, how I would be the perfect wife, how he had taught me well and so did his wife.
But they didn’t teach me the most important thing.
How to be a whore in the sheets, Daddy?
I gave him my sweet smile and he gently took my hand in his, his calloused hands explained his physical training, his muscular strength, his power but only I knew of the fear that hid behind his booming voice, the prickling of the skin as he tensed, he was afraid to lose control, he was afraid to not be a Capo. I was the perfect daughter but daughters didn’t become Capos. They became wives of Capos.
And I knew the time had come for me to be a wife.
But did they really think that I was to follow the protocol.
Daughter or not, I was the heiress. I was to be the Capo. I was to be the boss, the one who had the say, the one who lead.
And lead I shall, I wanted power for me not to be someone in the other’s eyes.
Because Capo or not, I shall lead.
With my ambition to myself, I walked alongside my father. My eyes skimmed through the opulence of our hallways, my father was a rich man, owing to the illegal activities and a few legal ones. I could see the domestic help cleaning the house thoroughly, more thorough than ever. We had guests coming over or should I say, my betrothed.
An uncomfortable feeling rose within me, akin to a fear for the unfamiliar and the mysterious but I knew I must stay detached, I must be clinical for power was not physical but mental.
We walked downstairs, my heels clicking against the pristine marble floors. Walking into the foyer I saw my mother hollering to the housekeeper, her voice frantic. She had to make sure that tonight was perfect.
“Lily, is everything ready?” Silvano asked. My father’s voice was booming, it spoke of his strength and his power over her. Father had only one mistress, meaning my mother wasn’t that bad.
“Silvano, y-yes, everything is ready, I was just checking everything to make…” my father simply waved his hand, effectively silencing her and she gulped back her words and stood with her eyes lowered. I pitied my mother. She was a skittish woman with a good heart but this was not the world where she would be cherished for it.
“I just want everything to be perfect, can you manage that?” he asked her. She nodded and a content smile appeared on his face, but that smile scared her because she knew if even one thing went wrong then Silvano would blow up. My father’s volatile temper was another one of his vices.
A soldier walked to my father; dressed in a pair of simple jeans and a black t-shirt he respectfully bowed his head. There was a fear in his eyes, a respectful fear. My father motioned for him to speak.
“Caporegime Joseph has sent the information, the Morrettis have entered the Ricci territory,” the soldier informed. Silvano nodded and the soldier walked away. He turned to me, his expression now serious and sombre. Gone was the mirth that graced me, in its place was eyes filled with warning.
“You have been good daughter and while the lack of a son has always seemed to pinch but your qualities of intelligence and beauty have always made up for their lack. The Morrettis are important, most important. I want this marriage to happen,” Silvano said.
I don’t know what he would do if it didn’t happen.
The Morrettis were the most powerful Mafia family. Their strength was unmatchable. For over a century they have been the most powerful, producing stronger heirs and training them to be ruthless made men. My betrothed was the heir, he was the Capo. Just the thought of him made a shiver run down my body and I hated him for it.
There was absolutely nothing anyone knew about him, just that he had been running the entire crime syndicate from the prison. Arrested ten years ago for various charges owing to a mole in the hierarchy, Raffaello Morretti was recently released from the prison what followed his release was a bloodshed of all he had his suspicions on.
He was ruthless, unpredictable and well-guarded.
I was informed of our betrothal seven years ago, when I was fifteen. My father had pledged loyalty to the Morretti, to save himself from the wrath of Raffaello. The proof of the loyalty was my betrothal to Raffaello. It had not been a good day, for the first time in my life I had felt powerless.
But I had recuperated from it very soon.
But today those foreign feeling were returning. They were trying to control me once again. They were trying to scare me into submission, they were trying to make me leave my ambition and I was not having that.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, commanding my body to relax and it obeyed me.
I opened my eyes and found my father opening the door. The driveway was now getting occupied with sleek and daunting SUVs, made men were stepping out, I was sure they were definitely Caporegimes. The Morretti family was filled with cousins and almost all occupied very powerful positions.
But there was one a man from who power leaked and I knew he was the one, the one that would challenge me at every turn, the one that would threaten my ambition and the one who would try to force me into submission.