Chapter 20 - I Am....
Bells ring continuously.
The echo of the vibration pounds violently against my skull.
It rings... rings... rings.
The louder it gets the harder it is to focus.
This is detrimental.
"Alessio," I hear.
The quiet voice calls out my name, yet its size doesn't remain that way.
No, it grows in depth and volume as it's repeated once more.
Taunting me, judging me.
The world and my sanity feels like it's slipping away, everything becoming tainted when the voice that infiltrates this peaceful moment slithers around the shell of my ear, whispering words of doubt.
The corruption of the tone distract me so much so that I lose all physical senses.
Why can't I feel... her?
Why is it all becoming blurry?
The smell of fresh grass and roses is replaced by leather and cigarettes. The brightness simmers down and darkness falls over my line of sight.
The gentle breeze that was just blowing against my back is replaced by a toughened fabric.
Broken yellow lines, bright head lights, just an empty road.
What is this?
"Alessio!" I'm screamed at, this time it's not so muffled. Its sounds as if I'm underwater and their voice is just above the surface.
This isn't drowning — so why do I feel like I'm suffocating?
There's still a haze over my eyes but a hit to my chest lifts up fog as I choke out a breath. "Alessio, look at me!" The voice is loud and clear — and it belongs to my father.
"Look at me damn it! Voglio che tu mi presti attenzione quando ti parlo."
(I want you to pay attention to me when I talk to you.)
The smell of iron makes me cringe.
As a natural reaction my face scrunches from the overwhelming scent. Yet it's when I look down do I realize why it seems so close.
Blood, I'm covered in blood.
"Get your shit together, you don't have time to be acting like this-"
My hands move to my chest where the pain of the hit pulses.
So much blood... Is this all coming from me? But I don't feel any pain from where the blood sits, just in my head.
What the hell is going on?
"Do you hear me!" My father yells at me again with all his might.
Flinching at the sound I slowly turn my head to look in his direction.
Everything is clear now.
I know exactly where I am.
As for my father, it may be dark but its impossible to miss the rage of his face through the shades of the night. I can hear the tightening of his grip on the steering wheel, it creaks and sounds as if it'll break any moment.
Though conscious of my surroundings my head still feels light as it bobbles up and down, swaying from the speed of the car. "What?" I ask breathlessly, feeling weightless and a bit disorientated.
"He's dying, do you understand that? Fionn is dying." Those words are spoken to me sternly, lecturing and instilling what permanent damage has been inflicted upon my little cousin.
It all flashes before me.
The bullets flying.
Fionn and Harry falling to the floor.
The flashback of feeling his blood secreting past my shirt and into the crevices of my skin makes me shiver.
"You're supposed to be leading this family but look at you," he goes on with a voice full of passionate anger, "you're falling apart and for what!" It's a rhetorical question but I still want to selfishly justify myself, my actions.
"You said you were ready for this, that I could rely on you." No type of darkness is able to shield me away from his disappointment, I can't hide from the truth. "How could you do this, how could you lie to me." His fist frustratingly hits the steering wheel and I turn away from his judgment.
Specks of lights in the distance are slowly getting bigger and I know we'll have to be more inconspicuous of our appearance.
Upon hearing a groan emerge from the backseat of the car I turn my head to look over my shoulder to see Fionn laying down with his head in Gio's lap.
Gio sits worriedly while holding a bundled up jacket to Fionn's wounds. He pays no attention to my father and I — this I know is out of respect.
"Earlier you said something about Edoardo but what went wrong." My father's volume in voice decreases but his seriousness remains.
Facing the road again I keep my gaze on the dashboard and let out a defeated sigh."I miscalculated," quietly answering. Why did I think leaving Edoardo with just Christian to manage the center of the third floor was a good idea? His reckless behavior reflects negatively on all of us. If I can't count on my own family who can I count on?
"And how did you do that?"
"I split them up," finding it hard to talk about this I close my eyes and exhale deeply. "I put them into sections. He was with Christian but something happened... and a fight broke out on the third floor."
"And Edoardo was apart of this," he concludes from the little I told him earlier. "And you also thought you could rely on him didn't you." The car slows down into speed limits as we come in contact with more cars at a crossroad. "Why?"
"I wanted to give him a chance, I thought he could manage. I was wrong." There's nothing that I can do be honest with myself and my father. I wanted to give my cousin a chance to prove himself and because of that I failed as a leader.
Nothing is said for a few minutes.
It's just a space of silence — where we simply exist.
"He's a stupid kid," he says with a calmer tone. "A stupid kid with stupid tendencies that shouldn't have been left alone with only one person. Tonight, Edoardo, Christian, and you have disappointed me greatly. None of you thought of the repercussions."
Everything that happened tonight happened, it's done with. "I can't change this... any of it."
My father simply scoffs at my words, not comically but sarcastically. "Just like your mother." I hear his head lightly hit the headrest of his seat, breathing lowly. "You're too kind... even to the ones who don't deserve it."
Shame... but I can only face this shame head on.
I was taught from birth how I should act, how I should be perceived. My shoulders uncurl and I straighten my spine to face the consequences of my actions.
Everything I've worked hard for... beaten and bruised to understand my place in this world and fight for a better position. There's no need to hang my head anymore.
"Alessio, are you listening?"
This shame I will carry as scars for the ones who now have their own.
The ringing is starting up again. Why doesn't it stop? Why does it have to fucken pierce through my skin... muscles... bones. It's tearing me apart, my body feels like it could crumble underneath this pain.
It hurts and I just need it to fucken stop.... just stop.
I need to open my eyes and face the judgment, the scrutiny, the sins. If I can do that then maybe I'll be spared of this punishment.
My teeth grind down roughly before I finally open my mouth and say, "I am."
However, when I open my eyes... all I see is purity.
A sinless innocent soul whose name is of the fruit of the gardens, a woman that could walk amongst the heavenly angels if she wanted to.
"I am," I carry on our conversation as if it was never interrupted by the monsters who lurk in the darkness of my mind. "It's something I'm trying to work on."