9: there was a need
“–and drop her off at the clinic after you are done. Tell her I do not want to see her fuckin’ face ever again.” I stared down at the two female members in front of me, Francesca and Sofia. ”Cazzo Madre di Dio,” I muttered, rotating the ring around my middle finger irritably.
The women nodded, dark eyes focused and determined on the task that was given. Turning around, they marched out of the room, shutting the door behind them.
How dare she do what she did?
That’s all they do, ruin shit. For no fucking reason.
A clear, ”I don’t want to see you anymore,” was said straight to her face.
There were tears even.
I tried calling and texting Xenia after our date. Over and over again I apologized, desperately trying to get in contact with her.
And when I went into the shop later that day – nerves making it difficult to focus and focus on anything but – only a younger girl, who I assumed was the intern, greeted Dom and I as we brought in the parts to insert the hooks along the beam.
Every time that back door opened, I nearly got whiplash to see who it was – disappointed to find out it wasn’t who I needed it to be.
No one could’ve imagined the disheartenment I felt not being to see her face.
One part of my mind had spat at me.
Disperto. Ecco cosa sei.
It belittled me for being so sensitive.
So willing to accept anyone into my life.
But then another part of me had a rebuttal.
Era più di questo.
So much fucking more.
By the end of the day, I had not seen Xenia, anger underlying the massive frustration I had felt. Just once I had heard the quiet, smooth sound of her voice when I had gone over to Dom to help him with the final bolts.
I craned my neck to hear more, even taking a small step towards the back room before Dom called my name to hand him another bolt.
We had finished up and started packing things into the truck – me purposely being slower in attempt to meet Xenia somewhere halfway while she was coming out the shop to lock up.
I sat in the driver’s seat of the truck zeroed in on the front door of the shop minutes after we were done packing things in.
Then minutes turned into an hour. Hours.
Dom left himself, escaping to a family gathering.
Rubbing my eyes tiredly after yet another hour had passed, there was movement in the shop and the intern came forward first, followed by Melia and Xenia.
I put my hand in the door handle, ready to exit the truck and rush to her, the multitude of apologies anticipating to spill at the tip of my tongue.
Xenia’s hair was blown into her face from the wind as the door was opened for her, curls masking what I was yearning to lay eyes on. Her slender fingers flipped it away, a smile gracing her lips after Melia had said something into her ear.
I didn’t notice the faint smile on my lips too. Caused by nothing but hers – nothing but her.
I didn’t move a muscle. I just sat there and watched her until she made her way to her car and climbed in, driving away.
My hand slipped from the door handle, a huff leaving my mouth.
Then I had realized.
I realized that that look she had on her face before she left the cafe was one I knew I never wanted to see let alone be the cause of.
Two thudding knocks came on to my door, making me click out of the texts between Xenia and me, shouting for whoever it was to enter.
Dom strolled in, a smug smile on his face.
“You’re so fucking whipped. Getting your pocket pussy beat up because she interrupted your little date.” Dom quirked a brow and mimicked a whip’s noise, plopping down in the seat in front of my desk.
“Shut up,” I grumbled, rotating the rings on my index finger as I stared at my desk. “She should not have involved herself.”
Dom shook his head. ”Te l’ho detto. I told you. She was clingy since the first time you two met. Sei un deficiente.”
My eyes flit to his, narrowing. “Do not speak to me like that. Did you come here to tell me something? No, then leave.”
“I did actually,” Dom continued. “Since Luca...others have been skeptical of other traitors here.”
With my eyes closed and an exhale, I responded, “are we clear on who it would be?”
“Any assumptions with evidence?”
Dom slumped his shoulders and downturned his lips, looking away. “No.”
“Then why the fuck am I being told.” I gritted my teeth, tracing the plan of my hand with an index finger. “That’s wasting time. I do not like wasting time.”
“Yeah, Boss. Gotcha,” Dom replied exasperatedly, standing up. “I’ll keep you updated.”
I waved him off. “It is your job to.”
The door slammed shut and I was left alone, the chattering outside fading out as I laid my head down on the desk, my phone near a couple of inches away from me. I tapped my fingers next to it, little restraint holding to not call or text her again.
You already sent a call and a text.
Don’t be fucking desperate.
I slipped my hand away from the phone and turned the opposite way, my lips downturned.
I believe I stared at nothing for one hour, a cloud of misery floating over me stagnant.
When I did reach for my phone, it was only because I had come to a solution to my problem.
And what was the problem?
The umbrella of misery we call emotions.
Each and every one. Nothing comes good from it.
Antonio’s number was clicked and it rang once before he came to the phone.
“Yes, Boss,” he chirped.
“Come here.” I pressed the end call button.
Antonio was at my door about five seconds after, knocking for entrance.
I called him in, standing as he stood in front of me, fear tainting his innocent brown eyes as I looked down at him.
“Who is at gym right now?” was the question I asked and a bit of relief sunk into his rigid figure.
“Just some guys moving in new equipment,” Antonio answered. He opened his mouth to speak again, hesitantly closing it.
“Make sure they are gone when I get there.” I walked past Antonio and out the door.
“Yes, Boss.” Antonio hurried behind me, rapidly tapping into his phone.
I stopped walking abruptly, Antonio stumbling just to keep from touching me accidentally.
“Why are you following?” I furrowed my brows, anger peaking through the curtain of frustration. “Did I ask you to?”
Antonio shook his head. “No, Boss. Just...didn’t know if you wanted me to drive you there.”
“No,” I grumbled back, turning on my heel to begin walking to the exit. “No one follow me. Me ne vado a casa.”
“You got it, Boss.”
I dropped down to the ground, staring at the blood-stained wrap around my knuckles.
It was an empty gaze, blank and meaningless.
It stung. It was painful.
But I knew it would go away.
This was my reminder.
Just a reminder that things you feel will eventually go away. Sometimes for the best.
At least that’s what I wanted myself to think.
As much as I tried to pry myself away from her, I couldn’t. Every moment I tried to disconnect myself from her there was resistance.
There was a part of me that was clinging for dear life, plugging me back in to being so ready for any feelings that were introduced to me as long it was with her.
I blinked, sitting up from my crouched position.
How long had I been here?
I looked around at the emptiness and then up to the bright lights.
“Ah,” I hissed, rubbing my urges tiredly and slowly getting up, cracking my neck. “Fuck.”
My muscles screamed in agony, forcing me back down to my knees my breathing growing heavier.
I was just alone, sitting empty around emptiness.
I don’t know when I grew to be fine with it but I happened when I was younger.
The orphanage was full of kids. Kids my age, kids older and younger.
The first few months I spent there, every night I closed my eyes to sleep, all I saw were my parents' faces.
All the blood.
Even the gunshots that took their lives still rung in my ears, awakening me from my slumber to find that I had wet the bed or wanted to throw up.
I was so young. Too young.
After a year and a half, I forgot what their faces looked like.
Can you believe how selfish that was?
Their own flesh and blood, forgetting the faces that brought him into this shithole. There was only a fuzzy outline at that point no matter how hard I pushed myself to remember.
I got up from my position and stretched, the satisfying crack of my bones emitting a sigh from my mouth.
I unwrapped my hands and tossed the wrap away into the trash and proceeded to walk out of the warehouse, locking it behind me.
I trudged to my truck and crawled in, a pained exhale leaving my mouth as I sat. I cursed lowly and turned on the car.
I drove back to my place, slightly limping as I entered the building. Pressing the elevator button with my elbow, I flinched at the pain even that gave me and waited for the doors to close, silently elevating to the penthouse.
Walking to the room, I unlocked the door and tossed my keys aside, making my way to the alcohol cabinet in the kitchen. I blindly chose a bottle and struggled to twist off the cap, throwing that aside as well when it did come loose.
Drinking straight from the bottle, I gagged at the taste at first nonetheless chugging in three big gulps.
“Bleh.” I stuck my tongue out and squeezed my eyes shut, shaking my head at the aftertaste in the back of my tongue.
I set the bottle down and turned around, lazily opening the medicine cabinet as I searched for the painkillers and ointment for my hands. I read the label of the small white bottle, making sure it was the correct medicine before taking out the assigned dosage, setting back in the cabinet. Grabbing the tube of ointment, I smeared the transparent substance onto my knuckles, cursing at nothing as my fingers met the small gashes.
I had the two pills in my hand, my free one reaching behind me to grab the bottle. I swallowed both at the same time, smacking my tongue.
Another chug followed. Then another.
I stared at the half-finished bottle and smiled to myself, starting my trek towards the bedroom.
At this point, my view was fuzzy and my perception was dulled. I stumbled across the dark hall – an idiotic idea indeed – crashing into the walls every five seconds.
I paused and took a breath.
And drank a little more.
Finally reaching my bedroom, I stood blankly unsure of what to do.
What did I want to do?
With hooded eyes, I stared into darkness.
I lifted my arm and turned the lights on, darkening it tremendously when the brightness battered my eyes.
My first step towards my bed, I tripped over the shoes I had just taken off, nearly falling to the ground. The bottle crashed next to me, glass bursting and liquid pouring freely.
"Che due coglioni,” I grumbled under my breath, but made no movement to clean or pick it up.
So slowly, I lowered myself down, back against my bed. I pulled my knees up and laid my head down on them, the pounding in my head making my stomach churn.
The ringing in my ears began abruptly.
Cracking my eyes open, I squinted, a groan falling from my lips.
I searched around for the familiar ringing, feeling around the floor for the noise thundering down on my ears.
My finger caught onto something sharp, cutting it slightly.
I didn’t flinch, only pulling my hand away and going the opposite direction.
I realized that the ring wasn’t coming from my room, but all the way out in the living room where my duffle bag was and had my phone in.
With a slow crawl, I dragged myself to the living room, unzipping the bag with unnecessary force and searching for my phone under my suit.
The ring became more than familiar, my droopy eyes widening and my search more frantic.
As soon as my fingers touched the phone, it stopped ringing. An irritated grunt sounded and I pulled it up to my face so quick, the screen hit my forehead, somehow amping up my headache.
missed call from 661-555-2090
I licked my dry lips and struggled to open my phone, the darkness surrounding me amplifying the screen’s brightness even if it was at its lowest.
I did a small giddy cheer when I was finally able to unlock it, tapping blindly until I was calling back.
She answered on the second ring.
“Hi!” Xenia greeted, a nervous chuckle following. “I know it’s really late and this is totally inconsiderate because I don’t know if you were asleep or not. And I know you’re having trouble sleeping so this call is a double no. I’m...are you sleeping? Please hang up if I woke you up.”
Could’ve been the drunken state I was in but nothing soothed me more than hearing her famous rambles.
“H-hello?” Xenia tried again and there was rustling in the background.
“Yes.” I cringed at my voice that was heavy with tiredness along with a slur. “...you did not interrupt, amore. I am up.”
“Okay.” She paused and I knew she was having trouble with how to start the conversation.
“How was your day–”
“I want to apologize–”
I furrowed my brows, grinding my teeth at her statement. But softly spoke, “for what?”
“For storming out of our...meetup...so frantically.” Xenia quickly added in, “also my day was fine. And yours?”
I was stuck on the word meetup.
Meetup was the word I used to call in a group of my people to get a job done.
What we did was not a meetup. Not even close.
“It was not meetup.” Disgust stuck heavy to my tone.
“Huh,” Xenia replied, confusion underlying her soft voice.
I licked over my teeth, inhaling. “It was not meetup. It was a date, no?”
She inhaled shakily, stammering into her next sentence, “yeah...um yes it was a date. I’m sorry.”
“Do not apologize,” a demand that came off more harshly than I intended.
Xenia’s voice was small, “Okay...sorry.”
She continued, “I also am such a freakin’ dummy for not answering your calls or texts. I missed the first call and text because everything at the shop is about to make my head burst and I leave my phone on do not disturb and turn off the ringer then stuff in my bag. When I did see your calls and texts...I usually don’t reply to certain people after I missed a particular timeframe for their texts. So I don’t end up calling or texting.” She breathed. “I wasn’t being mean and ignoring you or anything like that...” She trailed off and I knew she wanted to talk more.
And she did. “And I was thinking...like what if he’s hurt and called all his emergency contacts and none of them answered and I was kind of the last hope. Then that’s when I really panicked and it’s been eating me up all week. And especially with you missing all those days you were supposed to come in,” her worry was displayed evidently. “Are you okay, Emilio?”
I looked down at my bloody knuckles and the cut from the glass in my index finger. My head throbbed painfully, tensing the muscles around my whole body.
"Sí.” I cleared my throat. “I wanted you to know about the woman.”
“Oh,” Xenia’s voice flattened. “Okay.”
I rushed in, “or not. I do not want to talk about her either.” I rubbed at my eyes. “I want to do another date.”
You need another date.
You need to feel that closeness of her body against yours. Need to hear her go on and on about her sleeping habits or complain about whatever she needed to you. Need to watch closely as her hands wrapped around her tea cup for warmth, slender fingers intertwining with each other.
I just need.
“–a good idea,” she sounded reluctant. “And I’ll be busy the next few days so I don’t think I can squeeze in our meeting.”
"Date,” I urged. I laid back on the ground and exhaled, arching my back to hear a small pop.
"Date,” she mocked humorously. “I don’t think you’ll just wait on me.”
“I can wait,” I replied. ”Posso sempre aspettare.”
“Okay Mr. Italiano,” she piped up playfully. “I hope you’re not insulting me in a language I don’t know.”
“No, no, I am not,” I replied hurriedly. “I said I will always wait for you.”
Xenia quieted on the other side – I heard a trembling sigh.
“I-I gotta go,” Xenia murmured. “You’ll come in tomorrow, right?”
My ears perked at the hopefulness in her voice.
"Sí amore,” I slurred, eyes fluttering close.
"Buona sera amore.”
“Well you look better.” Dom hopped into the truck, throwing his things into the backseat. “Perhaps a little call to the love of your life made everything better?”
I gave him a look and shook my head, starting up the vehicle. “I hope you do not talk like this to others.” I pulled out of the parking lot.
Dom feigned an innocent look on his face. “These fuckers are just as interested in where you disappear to every day as I am with your sudden infatuation with Miss Xenia.”
“...and do you tell them?”
He scoffed. “What do I look like puttin’ an innocent woman in danger for gossip?”
I gritted my teeth, turning the corner on the street.
“And the fact you didn’t even settle for a nobody.” Dom chuckled incredulously. “You, the Boss, went out and found a glorious woman of fame with already so many eyes on her.”
I spoke sharply, ”cosa stai dicendo.”
Dom shrugged, looking out the passenger’s window as we arrived at the store. “Nothin’ Boss. Just be careful.”
My hands were on the collar of his uniform before I could stop myself, eyes shooting daggers at his calm ones.
“Be careful?” I moved closer. “Who is talking?”
“No one Boss. Honest to god. But you know your position and what comes with it.” Dom patted my shoulder as my grip loosened, saying again, “be careful.” He hopped out of the truck.
I eased back into my seat before exiting the car, stuffing the keys into my pocket.
He wasn’t wrong.
Not at all.
Is it selfish to want to have her knowing it could be ruined in an instant?
Enemies are ruthless. They will break you down not starting with you. Look at someone for more than ten seconds – potential target. Go sit at a restaurant and eat – the whole establishment is a target.
But I would not be the person I am if I was afraid of not being able to protect my people or anyone aside from that.
I exited the car after grabbing some items from the backseat, entering the store after I gathered them all.
Dom waited for me, back against the trunk of the truck.
We walked towards the doors, searching through the glass before entering.
As soon as we did, the back door opened and Melia came out with a bundle of things in her arms, setting them down on the counter.
“Hi!” she greeted brightly. “Guess this is one of our final meetings huh?”
“Well–” Dom began.
“–as workers. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you–” she jutted her chin at me, “–so many more time after this.”
Dom glanced at me and gave a dejected sigh.
“Okay so,” Melia began again, turning around to grab one of the items she was carrying. “Time for the final touches. The chef’s kiss if I must say.”
Dom leaned over to me and whispered in my ear, “can’t believe she’s acting like she doesn’t want me. Everyone wants me.”
I nudged him back to his spot, telling him to shut up as quiet as I could.
Melia turned back around abruptly and carried what looked like a banner to us.
“I’ve known you for like what? Two weeks. In that time, you’ve attempted to press up on me, spout these cheesy lines I haven’t heard since freshman year of high school, and stare at my ass or tits when I’m around you.” Melia looked at Dom lazily, handing him the banner. “But sure, I’m acting like I don’t want you. Haven’t even asked me on a simple date.”
Dom still had enough in him to say, “I could take you out–”
“Nope, I’m in a relationship.” Melia walked back to the counter and I snickered, I bit my lip to keep from laughing louder. “So today,” she continued like she didn’t break this man down, “is the final touch to the beam. I want these banners hung on the sides and then the mannequins will be between them.”
I nodded, slipping the banner from Dom’s hand. I peeked at the picture, seeing a model posing in a piece of the lingerie.
“Got it?” Melia waited for any questions.
“Yes,” we answered.
Melia gave a thumbs up before strutting back into the back room.
I waited, expecting Xenia to walk out after.
Melia poked her head back out through the door, eyes pointed to me. “Emilio you can come grab some water bottles and snacks, Xenia got them just for you.”
“I told you not to tell him!” I heard Xenia’s frantic whisper. Her hand met Melia’s arm and she barely flinched.
I immediately met go of the banner, letting Dom fumble with its unraveling.
I pushed through the back room door, and peered in, focusing on Xenia’s exasperated expression at her friend who was sitting across from her at the table with a mocked surprised face.
“Hi,” I croaked breathily. I didn’t even give it another try because I was truly deprived.
Only three days without seeing her and my whole body was tingling just from laying my eyes on her.
Xenia stood, her fingers timidly touching each other. “Hi.”
The sudden sound of a camera sounded and we both looked back at Melia holding up her phone with bright eyes.
“Carry on,” she urged, putting her phone down.
Xenia faced me again, a coy smile stretching her glossed lips. She gestured to the table behind me. “Just laid out some water and snacks for you and Dom.”
I didn’t look back to where she was pointing and just kept my eyes on her, taking in as much as I could, making up for the days I hadn’t seen her.
I was only broken out of my trance when Xenia made a sound, her gaze lowering. “Uh...that’s all for now.”
“Grazie,” I said, my voice soft. “For everything.”
Xenia furrowed her brows as she looked back up at me. Her finger reached out to my knuckles, nearly brushing them before pulling back, putting her hands behind her.
“I should get back to work.” Xenia stepped away, tearing her gaze from me and momentarily focus on my aching knuckles.
“Yes.” I frowned on the inside. I stepped back as well. “I will too.”
I met Dom back outside, finding him trying to hang one of the banners. He had an expecting stare, following my movement.
"Stare zitto.” I picked up the other poster and unraveled it, getting to work.
About thirty minutes in, the banners were evenly hung. We moved into the mannequins after a quick water break – Dom went to get them after I didn’t answer his question. He grabbed one of the mannequins, removing his gloves as directed by Melia.
I didn’t look up to the door for the back room when it opened this time, facing the opposite way as it did.
Small steps came my way, making me turn slightly just to get a glimpse of who it was.
“Um...” Xenia held the first aid kit in her hands. “I saw your knuckles earlier and I didn’t know if it hurts or not, but the way it’s looking I assume it does. So I wanted to help if I could...if you’d let me.”
I closed my water bottle and set it down on the floor. “I am fine.”
No you’re not. No you’re not.
Xenia’s shoulders slumped slightly and she gripped the first aid kit a bit tighter.
“Oh okay,” she quickly said, hurrying back into the back room.
“Hey Boss, you want me to hang that?” Dom pointed to the mannequin beside me.
“No, I will.” I tucked the mannequin under one of my arms, climbing up the ladder steadily.
When it was done, I started packing things up, carrying out the ladder first. I wiped the sweat from my forehead with the back of by hand, huffing as I lifted the ladder into the truck. Dom followed, walking past me as I held to door open for him to go through.
Melia, Xenia, and Riyya were waiting behind the counter when I came back in. They were talking amongst themselves, then Riyya glanced at me and whispered frantically to the others.
They faced me and in their hands were small gift baskets.
“As a thank you for the work,” Melia wiggled the package. “And a goodbye on the last day.”
Dom came in, eyes widening at the scene in front of him. “Wait are those both for him?”
Melia nudged Xenia, prompting her to move and give the gift.
“Sadly, no,” Melia replied, handing him the gift. “And the money’s already been deposited into both your accounts.”
I heard Melia talk but just waited on Xenia, stepping up to her as she made her way to me. She extended her arms, creating a distance between us.
I pressed my chest against the wrapping paper of her gift and kept moving forward until it was pressed up against both our bodies.
Xenia took in a breath, curling her fingers against the wrapping paper.
“I guess this is goodbye then,” she murmured. “And by the way thank you for making my work come to life. One of the best feelings.” Her eyes twinkled with admiration as she spoke.
“You are welcome,” I responded, then countered her first statement, ” I will see you again.”
Xenia shrugged, unbelieving of my statement. “I’m not holding you hostage with the construction anymore so...no need to.”
“I want to,” I proclaimed. “I–”
The look Xenia gave me buried deep into my soul – she was searching, studying me to see if it was a lie. Like she wouldn’t believe me until I showed up well after this was done just to be in her presence.
I took the gift from her hands, touching my fingers against hers momentarily.
“Okay,” she mumbled, smiling with a tilt of her head.
I was putty.
Absolutely weakened by her.
“Okay,” I copied her, chuckling.
As Dom and I left, the three women waved from the doorway until we were in the truck.
Melia and Riyya had returned inside as well as Xenia but she still stood at the doors, her goodbye still lingering.
I climbed into the driver’s seat, settling my gaze back to Xenia, lifting my hand to wave again but she had already turned around.
- - -
i’ve decided to start doing little inserts of what wasn’t written so here’s one for this chapter:
Xenia still didn’t believe Emilio would come back even after the job was done that’s why she was staring out the window longer.