6: there was a realization
Maybe it was just infatuation.
And this would all end soon.
So then when I looked at her, I wouldn’t feel my heart speed up like I had been running for miles. I wouldn’t be able to look her in the eyes because the more I did, the deeper my body drowned into the pool of desire and admiration.
And oh, was I drowning.
Water up to the the neck, weights attached to my ankles.
What was the resistance? Where was the hesitation?
In the past? Was it the loss of family and the fear of losing something–someone–else?
Perhaps it had been my upbringing. Growing up in an orphanage, pushing away friendships that could’ve helped with the coping of my parents’ death.
It’s puppy love. You’ll get past it, one part of my mind encouraged.
If I was going to get past this then why is it that every night I come home, the loneliness is replaced with images of her flashing in my mind?
Was it obsession?
Cosa posso fare?
I tossed and turned in bed, throwing the pillows off my bed in frustration. My eyes adjusted to the dark, flitting around the empty space around me.
I ripped the blankets away from my body and swiveled my legs to the side of the bed, gripping the edge. I looked at the time on the closed and exhaled, raking a hand through my hair tiredly.
The last time I had gotten any type of good rest was when I was a child.
When everything was whole.
And now everything was broken. Torn apart by a man with a gun and an agenda.
Pushing myself off the bed, I trudged out my bedroom and to the kitchen, pulling down a bottle of scotch from a cupboard. Swiping a glass from the next compartment, I sat down at the long dining table and opened the bottle, pouring just a bit of the hazel liquid.
I swallowed the bitter drink, baring my teeth at the strong taste.
The glass clinked against the hard surface.
Then I sat at the table and stared at the empty cup for three hours until the sun was peeking through the windows.
I squinted as I looked up, a sliver of light hitting my eyes.
"Stupide lampadine. Fa tutto più duro di lui,” I muttered, rubbing over my stomach with a scrunched up face. I walked over to the curtains and shut them tight, returning to the darkness that ensued.
The buzz in my pocket snapped me out of the wallowing, having me pull my phone from my pocket and look at the darkened screen with Antonio’s number written across. I swiped across the screen to answer it, holding it up to my ear.
"Parlare,” I commanded, switching the phone to speaker.
“Um...hi Boss and good morning. Uh, bad news–”
“What?” I hissed, walking into the bathroom and turning the water on in the shower.
“...it’s Luca. He let it slip up that he purposely messed up the drug deal. We have him right now, but I just wanted to know what you wanted to do about it,” Antonio spoke uneasily.
I froze in front of the mirror, looking at my face contort into rage, my jaw clenching. My grip tightened around my phone, nails digging into the side of the case.
Luca was young, just like Antonio, but only a year younger. He had been born into the mafia, his father a prominent member in the New York mob.
When it was decided that we would split and send the younger mafia members to the Los Angeles, his father was so proud to have him be a pioneer in the movement.
“I’m coming,” I said through gritted teeth. “Tie him up and use the water.”
“Yes, Boss,” Antonio mumbled then hung up.
I slammed my phone on the sink and breathed in, stripping off the last of my clothing and entered the shower, attempting to wash away the fatigue and doubt.
When I was done, I walked out and picked up the towel from rack, wrapping it loosely around my waist. While in my bedroom, I heard a phone ring again, eliciting a grunt of frustration from my mouth as I jogged back to the bathroom, confused as to see that it wasn’t ringing.
Realizing the situation, I sprinted back to my bedroom and opened the nightstand drawer, pulling out the phone meant for my side-job. I cleared my throat and breathed out once before answering the call.
“Hello?” Xenia’s voice came through, light and smooth.
Almost immediately, a smile creeped onto my face and there was a small fluttering feeling deep deep down in my stomach.
“Um...hello?” she spoke again, her greeting louder this time.
I furrowed my brows, internally chastising myself for drifting off simply because her ′hello′ had acted like a beam of sunlight through a curtain of darkness.
“Yes,” I quickly replied, “hello.”
“Hi,” Xenia said back, then sputtered, “I just said that, I am so sorry. It’s early and I haven’t gotten...a lot of good sleep lately. You know what? Why am I telling you all of this you most likely wouldn’t want to know!”
“You’re doing great,” a woman’s voice, I assumed was Melia’s, encouraged in the background.
“I do not mind,” I replied, raking a hand through my hair. “Actually I have been having the same problem.”
“Oh.” There was rustling on Xenia’s side of the phone and then a door closed. “It was sudden wasn’t it? Just one night you’re all good and the next you’re just staring up at the ceiling.”
“Sí. It has been while for me.
It has gotten worse lately,”
was my response, a grin still on my face like a little boy in high school talking to his latest infatuation.
“Mhm mhm,” Xenia agreed with much enthusiasm. “It’s just...my mind lately...it’s stuck on–”
"Someone,” we said simultaneously.
Then it was silent and there was a puff of air released from Xenia’s lips.
“Ugh, no...” she murmured to herself. “Anyways, sorry to get off track, it won’t happen again. I was just going to ask if you could come in a bit later today? Around 9 pm? Only if that’s good for you. I mean we can work around it...or whatever.”
“That is fine,” I answered. “I will be back.”
“Okay! Great. See you later...alligator. Oh my goodness, that was so dumb!” Xenia hung up, leaving me still standing next to my bed, speechless like she had done something to a reaction like that.
All there was was the sound of her voice and the flawless image of her glowing in my mind. That’s all it took to have me acting like un idiota.
Tossing the phone aside gently, I proceeded getting ready for the rough first half of my day, rubbing in a layer of lotion into my skin before pulling on boxers and a pair of dark brown slacks. I left the black dress shirt unbuttoned, walking back to the bathroom to brush my teeth and make my hair look presentable.
After finishing up, I grabbed the car keys and made my way outside the lobby, unlocking my car and hopping inside. Pulling into the streets, I sped down the road, left hand on the steering wheel while the other laid on the armrest.
A ghost of a smile still lingered in my lips, my knuckles brushing over the stubble covering over my jaw.
Then the situation told to me earlier wormed it’s way back into my head, pushing aside the scarcity of happiness I felt.
There were two different warehouses where we conducted business. One was a gym, half a cover and half a real time training facility. The other warehouse was for everything else including trades or deals. And not limited to, getting information out of those who were caught betraying the Family.
Omertà wasn’t something to toy with.
Once you’re sworn into the Family, there’s no out. Unless you count death then there’s the way out.
But Luca...poor Luca. That babbo, did the Family so wrong.
And there were no excuses this time that Dom or anyone else could give him.
Parking the car in the lot blocked out from the street, I stepped out the car and adjusted the rings in the fingers, taking in a deep breath before walking towards the warehouse doors.
The doors opened immediately, welcoming me into the dark interior of the building. The lights above seemed to die down every time we came to this particular warehouse.
It was catching onto the theme.
“So...” I started taking off my rings one by one, setting it in the velvet-lined box held by Sofia. “Seems like there was problem?”
The gurgling from Luca stopped and Marco ripped the rag away from his face, making him sit up in the chair. The bruising on his cheek was evident, his breathing labored.
I held out my hand, grasping the brass knuckles settling in my palm as I did.
Luca’s eyes focused onto me and fear flashed in his eyes, his fingers clawing at the armrest.
Slipping the brass knuckle on, I spoke, “what happened to Family? Huh Luca?” I stood in front of the chair and gripped his chin, forcing him to look up at me.
With his jaw quivering and tears streaming down his face, he stammered, unable to voice a full sentence.
“Shh shh. Va bene,” I whispered, wiping away the tears with fingers, giving a soft smile before, pulling my arm back and connecting my fist with his nose, breaking it for the second time.
Luca yelled out in pain, blood seeping from his dislodged nose.
Marco made way to gag him, but I held up a hand, waving him away.
“Don’t cover. I want him to hear his screams.”
Nodding, Marco returned to his spot beside Dom.
“You embarrass tuo padre. Me. Voi imbarazza la famiglia?” I backhanded his bruised cheek, exhaling heavily.
I walked back and forth wandering in front of Luca, my eyes low. Stepping forward, I swung my arm around in a right hook, followed by an uppercut.
Luca drooled blood onto his lap, small mutters of a broken apology falling from his lips.
“No apologies this time bambino,” I muttered, crouching down and balancing myself on the tips of my toes.
Gripping Luca’s jaw again, I dug my thumb into his skin and dragged it down the bottom row of his teeth until he winced, looking up at me pleadingly.
I gritted my teeth, pushing his loose tooth harder and harder, ignoring the blood coming out and the screams of pain.
"Non sei altro,” I hissed, watching the tooth escape his mouth.
“I’m sorry,” he croaked, his body shuddering. “I-I–”
"Silenzio.” A jab at his face. “It won’t fix what you did to the Family.” A hook across his jaw. “Beg all you want bambino. È l’ultima cosa che voi dirà.”
I laid my forehead on the steering wheel, my hand gripping the edges tight.
Dom sat in the passenger seat, quiet. He looked out the window of the truck, tapping his fingers against his lap.
“Are you sure you wanna do this? You should just go home and–”
“No,” I rushed out. “I want to. I have to...”
Those were the words that wanted to come out of my mouth but couldn’t.
I breathed in and messaged my temples, looking into the middle compartment for my headache pills, swallowing a couple before gulping down water.
“Good. You already got me dressed up like a stripper so let’s get to work!” Dom patted my back, making me chuckle, shaking my head.
We climbed out the car and picked up the tools from the back of the truck, trudging down a few steps on the sidewalk in front of the shop.
“Remember. You are handyman,” I spoke under my breath to Dom.
“Yeah yeah, now open the door so I bag that woman right there.” His eyes were on Melia who glanced at us slightly before returning to whatever conversation she was having with Xenia.
Opening the door, I stepped into the last of Xenia’s outburst.
“I am absolutely not going to ride Emilio’s dick into the sunset, you pervert!” she argued, her hands on her hips.
The front door clicked close and Xenia looked back, her frustrated expression turning into horror and realization.
“Well that’s a shame amore,” I said with a taunting tone.
Xenia turned back to Melia and poured a finger. “You–”
“Emilio!” Melia exclaimed, escaping Xenia’s clutches, walking towards me with wide arms, patting mine with her hands firmly. “Welcome back my Italian friend.” She gestured to Dom. “And who’s this?”
“This is Dom,” I murmured, walking towards Xenia who was over-folding a flimsy piece of material and stuffing it harshly into a drawer.
They introduced themselves, Dom’s obvious ogling meeting a purposely oblivious Melia.
“I hope you don’t mind I brought Dom here along with me for some extra help.” I nodded my head towards the white wooden beam in the back of the truck.
“Are you kidding? The more men the merrier!” Melia laughed, catching Xenia’s eyes. “Right Xenny?”
“I like her,” Dom chuckled.
“Well, don’t mind us and get constructing! Tell us if you need anything.” Melia waved and marched up to Xenia who had wandered away from me.
She glanced up and, bringing her eyes to mine momentarily before frantically talking to Melia as she disappeared to the other room.
“Hello?” Dom waved a hand in my face. “You’ve been staring at that door way longer than you’re supposed to.”
“Did you see her?” I murmured, my face warming. I turned to Dom. ”Lei è così bella.”
“That she is,” Dom agreed. “Don’t make yourself look so thirsty.”
“Thirsty?” I questioned. “I don’t look...”
Dom gave me a look and proceeded to walk out the door, approaching the back of the truck.
“Well, I am not ashamed to be staring. Ho tutte le ragioni di.” I grabbed the other side of the beam that laid in the back and lifted it along with Dom.
Dom shook his head, letting out a breathy laugh as we carried the beam inside the shop, laying it down on the floor.
“You’re serious? Questo non è amore di cucciolo?”
I wiped my hands on my thighs, dropping my gaze.
What would I say? No?
And if it was, then what would that do to me?
What if it was more than just puppy love?
Was I even ready to go past my emotional capability and tug down the curtain that separated everyone I’ve met from my private life?
She’ll judge you...don’t they all?
After hearing what you’ve done and what your involved in, do you really think someone as pure as her would even want you?
Would even want to look in your direction?
I kept my hands on my knees and inhaled deeply, furrowing my brows at the multiple voices in my head, begging for them to shut up.
“You okay?” Xenia’s voice came out of nowhere and I quickly straightened up, forcing a smile onto my face. She was holding two water bottles in her hand, handing them both to me.
“Yes.” I took them from her, my fingers softly grazing her palm. ”Grazie.”
"Non c’è,” was her quiet timid response that earned an eye-widening expression from both Dom and me. She looked at us and rubbed her arm shyly. “Just wanted to make you feel comfortable speaking your native language...you know what? I’m going to go away now.”
Before I could say anything, Xenia turned and hurried into the back room, shutting the door behind her. And when it did, I blinked myself out of my trance, clearing my throat.
“Alright, let’s start,” I grumbled, setting the bottle down on the floor near me.
“You do realize she didn’t bring any water for me?” Dom complained. “I won’t stand for the discrimination.”
“Shut up and go get the ladder,” I said, raising a brow pointedly.
“We’re gonna talk about your feelings later,” Dom hummed, shuffling away.
“No. We are not,” I replied in the same sing-song tone.
I ducked my head again, pinching the space between my brows when the pounding started against my temples.
"Mio Dio,” I muttered, squeezing my eyes shut.
And in the darkness from my eyes closing flashed Luca’s lifeless body slumped against the chair he was tied to.
A door opened and there were slow steps towards me and a quiet, “sorry to bother you.”
Bother me. Please.
I cracked open my eyes and stood slowly, regaining my balance by just focusing on her.
Xenia held up a pill bottle, a sheepish expression on her face. “This kinda helps me deal with the day when I get no sleep. You can take some if you want.”
I reached out to her awaiting hand and let my hand hover over hers. ”Voi è un angelo.”
And not figuratively.
She had to be.
“Uh...” Xenia mumbled incoherently, brushing her hair into her face discreetly. She rubbed her lips together anxiously, making my eyes flit down to her brown lips taking in account of the shape and the pinkish tint on the bottom lip.
The pill bottle dropped to the ground, and we both kneeled down to pick it up, grasping each other’s hands with the bottle in between.
Xenia pulled away first, hurriedly. “Sorry. That was weird...I’ll leave now.” She quite literally ran back to the room, clutching her cardigan close to her body.
Dom entered, a giddy smile on his face. “Recorded the whole thing. Nearly made me tear up.”
I rolled the pill bottle in my hand, twisting it open and pouring the instructed amount of pills into my palm.
“Delete it,” I said, placing the pills on the back of my tongue. I grabbed the water bottle from the floor, taking the cap off and gulping down the pills.
“I said, delete it. Do not make me fucking repeat myself.”
I glanced at the back door briefly before looking away to set up the ladder.
It wasn’t just infatuation.