Chapter 37 - The End
“Cherry, can you hear me?”
“Please say something.”
Slowly, my eyes open. The blur of my vision sharpening after a few blinks. “I’m alright,” I quietly say.
My hand squeezes in Alessio’s. He tucks me closer into his body, shifting so that I can curl up easier in his lap. The pier is freezing, his body heat is the only source of comforting warmth.
It would be smarter if we sought shelter elsewhere, but I’m not quite ready to leave yet. Being like this with Alessio right here and right now feels better than anything else. To interrupt the only moment of tranquility is something I seek out.
A soft breeze that is carried by the ocean cools my skin and numbs the pain, both physical and emotional.
The sun has yet to make her appearance. Instead the moon becomes less visible as a hue of blue and grey lightly saturates the sky.
And out of all the things that I could wonder — I wonder if it’ll rain, or if it’ll shine.
Behind us is a scene of chaos that I’ve muted out. Blaring alarms of fire trucks and police cars should’ve sent us into a frenzy given what is being harbored in the building that the fire broke out in. But atlas, my father knows these servicemen, owning their eyes and ears.
Something that Ace was right about. The corruption of this city.
Ace. Aceon… the name I should’ve known all my life.
His hidden existence shouldn’t make me feel so remorseful, but for some odd reason it does. Logically, I understand that it’s not my fault for the pain he endured as a child, or the decisions that our parents made in the name of his survival, but I can’t help but feel some type of regret for the brother who wished for my death.
Does that make me stupid? Maybe.
“I feel guilty.” I confess aloud while unable to take my eyes off the water. There’s shame with those words as they leave my mouth, so much so that I need a distraction.
Alessio‘s arms around me constricts. “You have nothing to feel guilty for.” His voice is the same as it’s always been, silky smooth to my ears. The strength in his words never waiver, always being so assured.
It’s the safety that he brings which I pray never leaves me. The side of his cheek rests on my head, his legs crossed with me sitting in his lap as he hugs from behind.
“I don’t understand why I’m like this. I can't explain why I feel like I’ve done something wrong to cause all of this.” I hate that my voice is cracking, that my tears are begging to free itself from my waterline.
“It wasn’t you who did the wrong. It was Ace.” Alessio speaks sternly, trying to make sure that what he’s telling me sticks with me. A scolding parent is what he reminds me of, and I think that’s what I need. I’d rather his words drill deeply in my mind than the words of anyone else. “Whatever his reasoning may be, it doesn’t justify any type of cruelty.”
That right there stops the conflicting feelings that battle within me, momentarily at least.
Stop feeling bad, Cherry. I want to yell these words at myself, scream it at the top of my lungs. I just want to stop feeling everything. Even for only a few minutes.
“I almost lost you in Sicily,” Alessio interrupts my thoughts. I can feel the way his mouth moves against the crown of my head, his words spilling into the being of me.
My eyes shut as I say, “I know, but I’m here now.” I give him the reassurance he gave me.“I’ll always be here.”
This I promise.
I don’t want to go or be anywhere else. There’s an abundance of gratitude in my heart for the man I call husband. We’re each other’s support system now. The relationship we started off with has blossomed into such love and security that even now as he holds me, my jittery nerves settle.
It doesn’t matter what’s happening all around us.
However, the peace is short lived when a blaring horn bites at my ears. My nose scrunches as I peel open my lids to see a passing by ship carrying a load of containers.
It must be from the neighboring ports.
The traveling cargo ship blares it’s horn again to warn the other smaller ships in the surrounding area that it’s making it out to sea.
Mindlessly, I stare at the workers who are on the docking bridge walking back-and-forth as they tie down objects that I have no clue of.
I wonder how their morning is going in comparison to mine. The thought almost has one side of my lips turning upwards. How strange that so many in the world are waking up, or maybe they're still sleeping, and they’ll just go about their day doing ordinary things.
Maybe I’m the strange one after all.
I almost wish that I could’ve lived an ordinary life like that, but then I wouldn't have met Alessio. So that’s something I’ll never wish.
As my eyes trail to the end of the ship, my attention falls onto one of the crew members. From this far, I see a man in a baseball cap and casual attire. I'm unable to see every aspect of him obviously but I am able to see how he tilts his head back, staring up at the sky.
How soft the view is becoming, changing into a pinkish-yellow that fades from the previous color. It all blends so seamlessly. A painted canvas is what it reminds me of.
His posture slumps, his mouth moving that indicates that maybe he’s sighing. The thought that he finds the beauty simplicity is heartwarming. It’s clear that he’s in his own world, lost in thought possibly.
It’s just the way he looks up — hopeful.
As if he can feel my eyes on him, the man’s head turns my way. If I wasn’t so tired I’d feel embarrassed for being caught.
There’s nothing strange about the way he looks at me at first — but then he slowly turns his body completely my way, facing me head on.
My mouth opens then closes, eyebrows pulling inwards when realizing that I’ve seen his jacket before.
It can’t be, can it? Squinting as the ship really starts to distance, the engine finally kicking in.
I don’t want to believe it, but it’s clear as day.
Finally my tears fall again. They drop quickly as my bottom lip wobbles. Clenching my teeth, I hide my sound.
When I was sixteen, I gifted my father a brown faux leather jacket with a distinctive black embroidered pattern on the sleeves on it. It was one of a kind. There wasn’t a day my father didn’t take it to work with him at the docks. Eventually he just kept it in his office... here at the factory.
And that man who’s falling into the distance, he’s wearing it. The jacket that was supposed to be in my father’s office is somehow on him?
His hand lifts as if he’s about to wave to me, but the wave doesn’t come. As he drops the hand I let out a sob because I now understand what’s happening.
That man... is Ace.
“Alessio.” My voice doesn’t shake as I thought it would.
“What is, Cherry?”
I want to laugh at how ridiculous this is — all of it. A never ending nightmare that I will have to endure.
Danger has always been a part of my life, I was just shielded from it all. How foolish of me to think it would be so easy to live a normal life. With it all hitting me now, I think of how both Alessio and I will survive the evil of the world and it’s Poisonous Greed.
~ End ~
Author’s Final Note: Hello Readers, this is the author here! Some of you may be wondering why I ended the book this way and that’s because in the world of true crime and romance, there is no real ending. I wanted to maintain that bit of reality in this book so I hope you understand. It’s been quite a journey, thank you for sticking with Cherry and Alessio for this long. Please support my other works as well, you won’t regret it! 🖤
Goodbye my roses.
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