Chapter 27 - Thorns
“My stuff?” I ask.
If I look at my dad, I won’t be able to walk away.
“The things you brought is deboarding and being packed into the car.”
I dryly swallow then cross my arms across my chest. “His car?”
“Yes. His car is out on the runway.”
Why did I think I had more time before seeing him again?
“I can’t stay, Cherry. They’re refueling, then we have to go.” We have to go — meaning not me but the family I already feel isolated from.
They only came, just to leave.
Not responding, I focus on my feet that carry me to the front of the plane where the exit is at. Deliberately I take my time, not looking forward to saying goodbye.
Can you hate someone you love?
Maybe I don’t hate my father but his actions I do. I just don’t have the energy to fight him on it. It’s been a constant struggle since we left New York.
Reaching the front I turn left into the doorway that's illuminated from the sun's hot rays. The staircase is already down, it’s only a few steps but I still take my time just in spite of the situation… but my father’s presence from behind stops the immature behavior before it begins.
Still keeping my vision glued to the ground, I count the steps as I descend and act as if everything is fine.
When I step down onto the concrete of the runway, a gentle breeze passes by that holds a familiar cologne scent. A shaky breath shutters out as my eyes break from the ground and set their sight on him.
Alessio stands some feet away from the jet near a black SUV by the backseat passenger door. He’s wearing a fitted black T-shirt that holds no design and matches his slim jeans. A pair of tinted sunglasses sit on the bridge of his nose, they too match his attire. His usual kemp’s hair looks disheveled, flopping down a bit over his forehead in a handsome way.
Looking towards the trunk of the car, I see my belongings being packed in. My uncle and two cousins don’t look my way, they’ve been ignoring me throughout the trip.
“Do we say goodbye now?” My voice has fallen monotone as I turn around to my father.
His hands settle on my shoulders, holding me — just holding me. “Yes, this is where we say goodbye.” The muscles in his face relax but his eyes tell another story. Taking me in his arms he hugs me tight. My arms snake around him as I place my head on his chest. There’s a quiver to my bottom lip but I focus on blinking away the tears instead of stopping the small tremor.
When my grip around his waist loosens, his remains strong.
“Te amo,” he whispers and a sad smile stretches across my lips. My mom teaches him spanish from time to time, especially when she misses her family. Once in a while his pronunciation is off but the effort makes up for it … this is one of those times.
“I love you too.” Earnest words full of pain leave me as he lets go.
I’m tired — just simply tired.
No other words are exchanged so when Alessio reaches out to my hand from behind me I unintentionally flinch. Once I realize what he’s doing, I let his hand wraps around my wrist and tug me next to him.
My father says nothing to Alessio. Instead he turns to walks back up the stairs of the jet. The trunk slams shut and now it’s my uncle and cousin’s whose footsteps come near. As if synchronized they all stop a few feet away. The black shades they wear disguise everything I want to see.
What do their eyes hold for me? Judgment? Anger? Pity?
However, all I get is a single nod from my uncle. All three turn away and head back onto the plane.
I’m alone now, yet not quite.
Alessio lets go of my hand to wrap his left arm around my waist and guides me to the car door. “Dobbiamo andare,” he carefully says. His words are as soft as silk, ever so soft and alluring.
(Dobbiamo andare = We have to go)
Not paying attention and letting him lead the way, he opens the back seat door and helps me inside. The interior smells like how a new car would. It’s too powerful, the aroma hurts my head as well as stomach. When Alessio shuts my door I pull my seat belt across and wait for him to slide into the passenger seat in front of me.
Instead he opens the door on the left end of my side and gets in. “Adesso portaci a casa, Andre,” Alessio mutters aloud as he scoots in and shuts the door, not bothering with his seat belt.
(Adesso portaci a casa, Andre = Now take us home, Andre.)
His finger hovers over what I think is the switch for his window but instead a black glass panel that separates the front seat from the back rises. When it touches the ceiling of the car and locks in place, he shifts in his seat and angles himself diagonally towards me. “You’re sad,” Alessio bluntly says. “Don’t be, please.”
I don’t know whether to give up or just simply laugh at his words. This is our first real conversation after days and out of all the things he could tell me, he tells me this? Basic greetings and addressing the real issue at hand is clearly not on his mind, though why would they be.
“Is that your way of consoling?” I ask while leaning my head on the window. My hair falls over my face a bit and I’m glad, at least they’re hiding my swollen eyes that I know are red.
Crying takes a lot of you physically.
“I’m working on it.” Alessio’s voice lowers and it almost sounds innocent, as if he genuinely means that he’s been trying to work on the way he approaches situations that need comforting.
Quietly I tell him, “somehow I don’t doubt that.” The car's tires adjust before the car starts moving and drive off. Tears begin to gather again but I try to look up to stop them from falling. I can’t face Alessio like this nor do I want to cause more of a scene.
A deep breath is taken in. When I exhale a hard sound comes out then my tears follow along.
“Cherry,” Alessio calls, “look at me.” I feel his hand rest on my knee and shake my leg to get my attention. I don’t trust that my voice won’t crack. Saying nothing, I turn my head to him and try to hide the pout on my lips. My eyes don’t reach his until he places a finger under my chin and lifts my head.
“Mi dispiace,” Alessio apologizes. If it wasn’t for the circumstances, I would be ecstatically proud of myself for understanding his language better.
I’ve been practicing more and more.
Scooting from his side, he moves closer to me and wraps an arm around my shoulder. His placement is awkward, but he’s trying. Like a child my face pulls into his chest and I deeply inhale, it’s strange how a familiar scent can be so calming. My arms uncomfortably slide around his waist and hold him close. I’m overcome with so much vulnerability that I don’t care how uncomfortable I’m sitting just to get close to him.
My eyelids weigh heavy, they close just to ease the stinging. “I need to know,” I pause, hesitant but desperate for information, “why did we do it this way?”
The suddenness of our marriage, the trip for me to come to Sicily and not being able to spare a moment as if I was on the run — I didn’t want answers, I needed them.
“I had to protect you,” Alessio recites the words just like my father.
That irks me. It’s just too simple, I still need more.
“From who?” It’s my first time out of the United States, yet the beautiful scenery that this country has to offer isn’t what captivates me, it’s his silence that does. “There’s no use in hiding it now,” saying as I break away.
Face to face our eyes lock. Can he see how much this is affecting me?
His lips part and the rise of his chest slows when his eyes close. Quietly I wait for him to gather himself before I ask again, but there’s no need to because when his eyes open he tells me his piece. “We found ourselves in conflict with the Petrovs’.”
Blankly I stare at him, wondering if he think if I know who that’s supposed to be. I don’t recall meeting anyone by that name, not that I meet many people in general.
The introvert in me would never allow that nor would my parents.
“They’re a rival family,” he answers the unspoken. “Their business is similar to that of your fathers.”
“I think someone associated with that family has been spying on you,” he continues. “For now no one but our family can know that we’ve legally wed. We have to act as if we don’t know what’s happening. If they see that we’ve taken extra precautions they’ll know that we’re on to them.”
“What do the Petrovs’ want with me?” The unsettling feeling in my stomach comes back. A slight panic creeping its way into the back of my mind.
Alessio keeps his left hand on my hip. His fingers slide against the ends of my top which distracts me for a few seconds. “It’s something our family did.”
“What did they do?” I try to keep my focus on his movements instead of the fear of the unknown, the nervousness is going to eat away at my sanity.
“They think we intentionally attacked them.” My mouth drops along with a gasp. I’m being stalked because of their wrongdoing? “But we never touched them,” he quickly adds upon seeing my expression.
Somehow he’s calm but it feels like I might pass out.
I can't even look at him anymore, instead my eyes fall to the floor of the car.
Alessio doesn’t stop there. “They thought we opened fire on them, but In reality it was my cousin who opened fire on your cousin while on lookout.”
My eyes dart back up to him. “What!”
That’s not any better! Was it Fionn who shot at one of my cousins, and which cousin? None of my cousins were physically hurt. That night it was only Fionn and Harry who were injured.
“A small altercation,” Alessio says. “I can’t be sure, but maybe they think we want to war with them. That’s probably why you’ve been seeing someone around the property lately. There’s a good chance you might be target because of who you are.”
What he says is shocking — since I’ve been seeing the shadows before the incident he mentioned.