The instrumental music livened the house while I popped my hips my to the drum sounds and swag my head to the flute. Sofie joined me showing me old fashion hip motions. I tried coaxing mama to come and let teach her but she preferred to watch clapping her hands along to the music like Sofie showed her. My fondness for belly dancing definitely sprung from Grandma’s genes. Her outlandish gypsy practices were frequently what I distanced myself from during my childhood. It’s ironic how I took to them as I grew, particularly the fortune telling cards and festivals. “This is a type of dance that celebrates being a woman.” Sofie told me once became intrigued and expressed my interest in it.
Her daughter-in-law, Lyla Kimper, was a very shy reserved woman and found the dance a bit overly sultry to take part in. So did Papa, when I first started learning he forbade it until Grandma confronted him. Winning an argument with his relentless mother damn near impossible for him.
I thought the dance was mystifying, energetic and full of joy. I loved the rippling movements and the excitement I got doing them. I couldn’t wait for the festival this year. I had so much fun at the last.
“Your husband will be offering his gratitude one day I just know it.”
Sofie gushed, studying me her granddaughter’s dancing for herself.
Mama and I laughed when she said that.
“You move more graceful than ever before, bravo.”
She remarked in awe clapping after I was done.
“Graci,” I laughed taking a bow.
“Angelica, if you’re out there I need in here.”
Papa bellowed loudly he had to we had the music really high.
He was in the kitchen making what I counted were ten boxes. Boxes filled with the Kimper special chocolates. He couldn’t hold a candle to grandma’s incredible apple pies, nevertheless, his chocolates were yummy.
I helped mix the batter then licked the spoon clean after he took the bowl. “Those squares are plain you should use stylish shapes. Hearts and stars would look nicer.”
“Your mother said the same thing she wants us to garnishing them with tiny fruit cuts at the top.”
He said placing two trays in hot oven.
I smiled remembering the strawberries I planted in fact were recently growing. “Good idea, I have an even one.”
I woke up weary it’s what I get for being active the entire night. Papa insisted on tagging with Kenny to meet and discuss their deal with Bokers. We didn’t mind managing the store without him. I volunteered to sell the chocolates the boxes seemed dull to me so tied them with the ribbons I bought for my bouquets.
I peered up at the masculine voice uttering my name.
A tall, dark haired fox hovered above me his dimples were the absolute cutest I’ve ever seen. I wanted to reach out and touch them. His eyes glowing greyish, his grin sent shivers down my spine.
The gaze he had on looked like he was just bewitched. I greeted him with pleasant simper and straightened dropping the ribbons in hand. He was cloaked in such an immaculate suit. Was he one the Brokers? I wondered. He certainly could be. Perhaps, he was misinformed and expected to find Kenny here.
“Welcome, can I be of service?”
“Indeed, you can. You don’t recognize me, do you?”
I winced shaking my head in response.
Oh, my god. Oh, no.
Close up I slowly began to make out the man in front me. The posture was different as was his physique, but there was no doubt about it. “If it isn’t, Mr. Luciano,” My simper quickly faded into a pale grimace.
“No need for prefixes, Angelica, we’re old school buddies after all.”
He grinned, that his grin alright. It easily oozed arrogance.
“We went to the same school we were never buddies you should know you terrorized my cousin and I for so many years.”
I clarified his absurd statement.
“I’m surprised you have the time to idle at a place such as this, aren’t you supposed to be in a cozy office with your construction plans.”
He grimaced. He was a hundred times more handsome since I last glimpse as a teen boy. Then again, that’s what money does keep wealthy tycoons looking dashing.
“How things spread fast in this town. I actually came out genuine courtesy. You’re completely unaware of the disaster that just struck, I can tell.”
I stared at him utterly blank and confused.
“You’ll understand. Will you take a break and come sit with me, please, it concerns your family.”
“My family,” I bristled doubly confused.
I had some minutes spare so I took him up on the offer bringing two cups of coffee to the table he chose. “On the house, Mr. Luciano.”
“Johnny, cara, and thank you.”
He graciously accepted the courtesy treat.
“You obviously haven’t lost your stubbornness.”
I smiled sarcastically.
“Old habits die hard.”
He smirked, relaxing in the chair and had a sip while oddly scrutinizing me for some reason.
“Wow,” He mouthed in splendor.
“I know, its cinnamon blend from Tuscany.”
He seemed amused.
“I wasn’t talking about the coffee though yes it’s marvelous too. I was admiring the sight of you, cara mia.”
I winced then straightened myself avoiding his penetrating gaze.
“From this light you’re twice as stunning compared to when I saw you while entering the shop. Brings back memories of me chasing you week after week trying to win you,” His penetrating eyes zoomed over me like a wolf on the prowl. If I didn’t hold a grudge for this now adult bully I would probably blushing out my make-up out.
“Too bad it was a girl that didn’t want to be won.”
I supplied since wanted to reminiscence.
“I was the big meanie in preschool days, Angelica. I remember having being pushed to carry it on in high school.”
I puffed rudely at him. As if it mattered why he did those antics, otherwise than he was a spoilt rich kid who thought he owned everything and every one of his peers. He was treated that way as well, by my teachers and principal all because he was from a family of substance and was the envy of many of the kids. Kenny and I were the main targets of teasing due our family’s background. Descended from Gypsies, plus migrating from New Jersey meant we were labeled outcasts.
We resented it, we Kimpers were in fact a sensitive bunch we were easily hurt by the things others would say. Our funny pronounced surnames weren’t Italian much less Sicilian and we couldn’t speak it either. The snobby Luciano boy among the pack was the King of inciting the constant teases and jokes. Kenny especially had gotten horrible. He was a boy too, which meant not just having fingers pointed at you, but getting shoved and kicked around.
At sixteen I had blossomed and had learnt a well enough I even learnt how to sound Italian. The fellows who never use to know I existed were actually tipping their hats and calling me the prettiest Signora in Fiorito. I experienced no hassling only compliments and valentines left on my desk. I was always slightly shy but I did like that I wasn’t being teased anymore. Unlike, Kenny, he was slimmer and shorter than most of the boys and wasn’t tough. I caught Johnny wrestling him into his locker one evening. How could he think I would fall for any of his advances after he continued picking on my cousin was beyond me?
“No ring, you’re still not married.”
I moved my hands under the table watching him give me a smug look. “You must have a boyfriend then, or seeing someone?”
“That’s none of your business. Can we skip to what exactly you have to say to me concerning my family, Mr. Luciano,” I stressed his surname defiantly out of sheer delicious spite.
He twisted his mouth unhappily.
“As you wish, I hate that we had to get reacquainted under such terrible circumstances I assured you what I have to tell is nothing you should be eager to hear.”
He said checking the shiny gold Rolex adorning his wrist.
“And what might those terrible circumstances be?”
I pressed getting tired of his stalling.
“Your father and cousin were just detained by the police in connection to a fraudulent crime.”
I froze hoping he was running a joke.
“Be calm, you should know I have no reason to suspect them of aiding or abiding the crime---”
I wouldn’t hear further I acted impetuously rushing to get my cell phone, trying to steady my racing heart.
“Angelica, come back, I’m not done talking to you.”
I covered my mouth while waiting for the Kenny’s phone to pick up.
Continuing to ignore the bastardo I left at the table. I hoped and silently prayed to myself. He’s lying, he’s lying. He’s just a sick lair.
After the beep was voicemail.
It was all extremely difficult to absorb and I had to it seemed like a dramatic dream, however, it was plain reality. The Brokers they made deals with were mere frauds impersonating ex associates of Johnny for the past month scamming people into buying fake shares in a company Brewery. A company they were falsely representing, a Brewery owned by the Lucianos. It wasn’t our local authorities that busted them. City police tailed them to Fiorito. Those crooks were given our entire saved profits. It supposed to pay off most of our supplier bills. We were in deep trouble.
Grandma Sofie paced on the carpet swearing then apologizing. Mama and I and had to restrain her from slapping Kenny.
“Momma mia, I knew it. I warned all of you. I warned you, I warned you.”
She repeated till it was ringing in our ears.
There was no calming her this time no one could blame her carrying on hysterical either.
Kenny, head over heels ashamed, hid himself in the upstairs attic, he couldn’t endure Sofie’s brutal tongue lashing. The moment the car pulled into the garage and she saw him stagger through the door with evident guilt marked across his paled face, Sofie became enraged having a big outburst. Kenny had to recoil in shock as his grandmother came storming at him, shoving and thumbing him until she had to be restrained by Mama and I. He decided it was better to self exile than send up Sofie’s blood pressure in addition to everything he’s caused.
“Angelica, could you boil us a pot of tea we’ll be in the living room.”
I nodded to Mama mustering a faint appreciative smile once she came behind her mother-in-law clasping her stout shoulders and rubbing them comfortingly. Sofie paused after feeling the strain her rowdy outburst on her old, hypertension prone body.
“Let’s sit down with Dominic and think things through rationally, Mama Sofie.”
Exhausted from all the yelling and condemning, she harmoniously gave in to her daughter-in-law, doing as Lyla bid without a fuss.
I placed three ceramic cups on the tray pouring the hot water of pastel pink tea pot. After setting the tray on the on coffee table I excused myself telling them I had to pee.
However, I instead took the full steaming cup I set aside on the kitchen counter and snuck to the attic, quietly, wishfully thinking that a hot chamomile remedy may work a divine miracle on everyone taking a sip and the house would be restored to normal.
Halting on the end of the squeaking staircase to knock on the door I pushed it out my way after getting fed up. My nose wrinkled, whipped by the smell of dust, rust and the toxic ancient air. I covered the tea with my free hand sauntering in between two creepy spider webs. It’s been almost a year since I last came up here and after a mouse slid across the pile of boxes, scaring half me to death, I especially dreaded this stuffy attic. Two lean legs were sprawled a short empty space in the middle of several old, dusty high packed cardboard boxes. Kenny was motionless on the dry wooden floor, back against some boxes, staring blankly at the single window Papa made sure to cut out for a little ventilation. “You could’ve answered me?” I mouthed irritable. “Gosh, how can you stay up here and not suffocate? Wouldn’t rather slump in your room?”
“Just leave me alone, Angelica.”
He said, gloomier than a wounded puppy.
“I will once you go to room.”
My persistence earned me squat except a depressed sigh before he pretended as if I didn’t exist.
“Look, I brought you something to ease your mind and maybe we could talk we always talk to each other, Kenny, why should now be any different?”
He shook his head hysterically at me.
“This time is different. Perdonami.”
He uttered with a pained voice, curling into a distorted fetus position where he sat.
I grimaced and with confidence-plastic confidence, I murmured, “we’ll get through what’s happen.”
But, he didn’t as much as look in my direction only went on obliviously staring.
Inconsolable and lifeless like he was frozen in time, like a statue with the expression of a zombie. “Just go.”
“Dio,” I let out under a low grunt, spinning on my heel to get out the attic.
I drank the tea myself much needed after seeing Kenny that dreary and it had definitely rubbed off on me though I’ve never a mostly pessimistic person. I still held on to hope even if there was only a speck shining its light.
“That boy, oh…he needs a horse whipping.”
I heard grandma say while returning to the living room.
“It’s not solely his fault I shouldn’t have been so hasty to spend our money. The contract and their Ids looked completely real. I can’t believe they scammed us.” Papa said, burying his head in his hands.
“Some people just have wicked minds, honey.”
Mama muttered consoling her husband.
“Our account savings won’t cover even half of our debt. They’re going to come for the Pasticceria soon. It’s our only asset.”
Tears welled in my eyes my heart sunk.
“No, there must be another way to amend this. Why can’t we ask for an extension?”
“We’ve extensions from every one of our creditors. They won’t provide anymore. We promised them by the end of the month no excuses.”
Mama notified me of the details I was unaware of.
“We can’t. The Pasticceria is all we have, we just can’t.”
Papa rushed to take me in his arms.
“You built it from scratch when we moved here.”
“Yes, bambina, I hate to do it but it may be the answer to all of our problems.”
He told me he was staying strong despite everything he went through.
“How’s that, Dominic?”
Sofie inquired finally settling herself.
“Instead of surrendering it to the creditors I’m going to sell it. Mr. Luciano made me very good offer, enough to clear our bills and probably rent somewhere to resume business.”
Everyone fell silent. I, in particular, let out a gasp.