T H I R T E E N
LILLIANA - 7 YEARS OLD
I stood by the window and watched all the other children play in the park. They were so happy. I wanted to be there, but I knew Daddy would be so mad at me, like the last time. I saw the pretty blonde girl, wearing pigtails, sitting on that red swing. It was my favourite swing.
Nanny would take me to that park sometimes, at night, because I was supposed to go out—ever. Daddy said if I ever go out, they would kill me like they killed my Mommy.
“What are you doing by the window, girl?” Nanny stormed in as I quickly got down from the stool.
“She is sitting on my red swing.”
“It is not yours, Lilliana,” Nanny scolded. “Besides, I took you last week already. And you know the rules.”
Rules. There were so many I couldn’t remember all at once. All I had to remember is that—no one can see me or they kill me. So, no friends, no strangers—no one.
“Would you please take me tonight?” I pouted, clutching my brown teddy bear.
“That’s enough, Lilliana! You can only go out twice a month and at night. Now stay put in your room and don’t stand by the window.”
With that, she left, after shutting close the windows and slammed the door closed behind her.
Tears pooled my eyes as I clutched the soft teddy bear around my chest, sniffing into it. “I miss you, Mommy,” I whispered, hoping she would hear me.
I read a story last night: it said your Mommy could hear you, even when she was far, far away.
Can my Mommy hear me too?
If yes, why is she not answering me?
I cried until I fell asleep with the thought, but when I woke up, the house was silent. Gingerly, I opened the door and peeked out of the room to find that Nanny was out. She was probably out to get my veggies for dinner.
Knowing she wouldn’t come back for a long time, I opened the door. There was no one in the corridor.
If there is no one around, no one would see me, right?
With that thought, I went down the street, clutching the teddy bear in my hands. The park was just across the house, and I saw my red swing was empty. I would come back before Nanny gets home, I told myself as I crossed the path.
“Are you lost, little girl?” I turned around to see a woman smiling down at me.
Does she know Nanny?
“I am…I am with Nanny,” I said.
“Oh, that’s alright, sweetheart. Enjoy.” She ruffled my hair and left.
When I turned back, the only thing I saw was the red swing—my red swing. Running towards it, I quickly sat and swung on it, feeling the cold breeze on my face. It was so, so cold, but it felt so good too. Other children were screaming and laughing around me, playing with their mommies and friends, and I wondered how good it must have felt.
I didn’t know how long I was on the swing until someone grabbed me by my hoodie and yanked me off the swing. As a result, my teddy bear fell from my hand as the man dragged me out of the park.
“NO! NO!” I yelled, but his large hand clasped over my mouth as he carried me out of the park.
When we reached an alley behind the house, he finally pushed me to the ground as another one jerked me up.
“What the hell were you doing there—out in the park?” he shouted into my face with an angry scowl.
“Daddy,” I whispered, scared and relieved, all at once. I thought wicked people would kidnap and burn me in the fire, as they had done with my Mommy.
“ANSWER ME, GIRL!” he yelled again, shaking me by the shoulders.
“I…I wanted to play…the red swing,” I stuttered, crying.
“How many times have I told you not to go out?” he growled.
“But…I…I wanted to play, Daddy,” I managed to whisper through quivering lips while the tears streaked down my face.
His face turned another shade angrier when he pursed his lips and dragged me to the house instead. Yanking the door of my room open, he threw me against the bed.
“You are not going out for the next six months.” He turned to Nanny, who, by now, rushed to stand by my father. “Lock her up in the closet if need be. Don’t ever let her out of sight.”
With that, he barged out and left.
“What did I do? I just wanted to play a little,” I whispered, looking down at my muddy slippers.
Nanny didn’t say anything. She gave me a look and left, as I heard the click of the locks from inside.
“I just wanted to play a little…” I mumbled into the empty room, hugging my knees into the chest.
Now I didn’t have my cuddly teddy bear.
LILLIANA - PRESENT
I kept staring at the broken swing as memories flooded my mind. To some people, childhood memories are precious. To me, they were nightmares. The kind-of nightmare that won’t ever end until I put an end to it. And to put an end to it, I have to wipe out the reason that destroyed my life in the first place.
The fucking Romanos.
They killed my mother; they burnt her alive to teach my father lesson—that you should never cross a Romano in Chicago. You never betray them; you never manipulate them, and you, sure as hell, never come for their blood.
Only this time, I was going to change the rules.
I was going to betray them, manipulate them, and I was coming for their blood. And so much more.
She looked me in the eye, lied through her teeth, right in front of my face, and I let it fucking happen. Had it been someone else, that person would have been half-dead. But I did nothing—I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t destroy her even at the cost of my own family.
There was something about her, something about her expression that tugged me every time I looked at her. At times, she looked familiar to my eyes, yet, I understood nothing about her.
I waited in her apartment for her to come back home after her shift at the cafe. When the door opened, and her eyes fell on mine, she didn’t even look surprised to find me there.
“I am tired, Dominic. If you are here to torture me some more, can this wait till tomorrow morning?” she asked, dropping her bag on the floor as she walked into the kitchen.
“I had to see you,” I told her, and the moment the words flew out of my lips, I realized how genuine they were. The thought was terrifying, yet relieving when I said it out loud.
The glass of water in her hand paused midway as she looked at me fixedly. Then, shaking her head, like she was trying to push aside dark thoughts like mine, she drank the water and came to crash on the couch beside mine. It creaked a little with our combined weight.
“This couch is going to break my spine someday.” I grimaced, shifting a little. I just wanted a conversation, in all honesty.
Lilliana didn’t answer. She stared at the dirty ceiling for a long time before mumbling, “I lied to you.”
Her confession made my heartbeat race. “What?” I jerked aside to face her when she finally took her time to look into my eyes again.
A wry smile played on her lips. “I said I lied to you. I went and sniffed around Sapphire because I wanted to know you…a little more.” She let out a small laugh before shaking her head and tied her hair into a ponytail. “You are a Romano, Dominic. Do you know how many journalists would carve out their heart to have a story on your family?”
It was true. Romano name was itself a headline in Chicago. There were so many speculations about my family and its involvement—from mafia to gang war, from dirty politicians to law enforcements—but nobody has proof of anything.
Lilliana continued. “The news agency where I intern—it’s a motherfucking battleground. Everyone is screwing each other behind their back. And if you can’t give anything substantial, you are worse than the janitor. When I met you, known you—God! I hated you.”
Maybe she was telling me the truth. I saw the hatred right in her eyes. “I have no doubt,” I muttered.
“You were known to be a dick, and you behaved like one. I knew I was a quick fuck for you, so I thought, why not? If not anything, I will get a small story at least. Well, I was wrong.”
This woman was my ruination, my damnation, and I knew this from day one. Her generalization of my character affected me more than I let it show. “You gave away your virginity—something I heard is very special for girls—just for a story? A fucking story?”
“It’s not what you think,” Lilliana pleaded. “I was…lost.”
“Are you even listening to yourself, Lilliana?” I barked, getting up from the couch. “FUCK!”
“I know how it sounds. I acted like a slut,” she admitted quickly, too quickly.
“You did,” I punched.
“I am not very proud of the things I did,” she muttered. “But I didn’t play you—trust me. I—”
I quickly cut her in as my arms planted on either side of the couch, trapping her. “No, Lilliana. You played me; at least you tried and then failed.” I smiled down at her. “You tried to play to fire. You were drawn to the brightness until you realized it would burn you. It was then you stepped aside.”
She flinched and then stiffened. “Dominic—” Lilliana tried best to push me away from her only that I didn’t budge.
I was too furious to act rationally. I could feel the anger building blocks inside my brain, and hurt was the source of anger. Why was I hurt in the first place?
“You wanted a quick fuck?” I bore down menacingly, rumbling low as a smirk threatened out of the corner of my lips. “I show you what a quick fuck feels with a Romano. You will have an amazing story by tomorrow morning,” I promised.
I felt her body stilled as her eyes dilated, staring widely at me.
We were Romanos. We owned Chicago.
And nobody has ever gotten away by playing us.
Hey guys, as promised, here’s the next update. I know a lot of you said that the last update was not much about Lilliana and Dominic. It’s true—the last chapter was supposed to be compiled with this one, only I changed it a bit.
This story took a long time to update because of the initial storyline, drafts I had, I wanted to change it. I deleted everything and wrote it all from scratch.
Lilliana might be manipulative, but she has her reasons, just like Dominic has his own for being ruthless. In the upcoming chapters, you will definitely find more of the answers.
Until the next update, lots and lots of love and hugs to you all for reading and appreciating the story.