I woke up later that day with knees sore and head throbbing. I rolled over on the beige, suede couch. I blinked and finally opened my eyes fully to see Angelina sitting in a matching armchair. She didn’t say anything but her eyes lingered behind me for a moment and I knew it was Alex. I pushed myself up off the couch and turned to face him. My head felt heavy so I used a hand to help me hold it up.
“Alex I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have…” I couldn’t think of what to apologize for first. He held up a hand and shook his head. Not needing to actually hear it.
“You’re right, you should not have. Howie is moving your things here as we speak. You can take the bedroom on the top floor Loreina.” Damn. Twice in one week. I noticed his jaw clench as his phone rang and he stepped away to the kitchen. Alex tried to keep his ruthless monster away from his family but, right now I deserved it. I needed to get it together. I swallowed and stood to go to the bathroom when I noticed Angelina crocheting a little blue blanket. My heart stopped.
“Are you making a swaddling blanket?” she tried to hide her huge grin and nodded, expertly knitting yarn together with love. They had been trying for a year to get pregnant the old-fashion way. Though, Alex being gone a lot over the last year expanding the arms side of our business made it harder on them. Things were just ironing out and this couldn’t have been better timing. She stood and I hugged her tightly as her tears dampened my shoulder.
“I’ve always felt like I was put in Alex’s life to be his wife and give him a son, now I have that chance.” a smile found my face at the thought of a tiny Alex running around being in charge. He would carry on our name. Our legacy. Our courage and confidence. Speaking of, mine was gone. I needed to get out and let off steam for a while.
“When will Howie be here? I wanna go to the range. I gotta do something to combat these nerves.” I fidgeted with my fingers as Alex finished typing out an email on his laptop on the kitchen table.
“He should be downstairs. Your gun is in my cabinet. The combo is dad’s birthday.” There was a little pull on my heart strings. May 7th, 1963. I was only twenty when dad passed. The years drag by when the strongest man you ever knew faded away in a matter of days.
My fingers spun the dial as each number caused a small internal click. Once the heavy metal door opened up I glanced down the shelves of handguns and boxes of ammo. I grabbed my Sig and two boxes of ammo. Clearing my weapon before loading it in the duffel bag on top of the gun cabinet I heard Howie come in the house. His voice carried down the halls. He was always light and fun around us. He was the opposite when dealing with business. He had the same monster inside that Alex did. But he was less experienced. I always compared it to the classic Jekyll and Hyde. Alex was older and had learned restraint and authority over his rage.
Later that week a meeting Alex and I had attended fell through.
“I don’t trust that guy. He doesn’t seem to understand our needs, how the two businesses become one but they have to provide the legit records. It’s not difficult.” We had just wrapped up the meeting for our fourth attempt at finding a partnership with other business families. Alex sighed. I chewed my lip and the cold breeze blowing down the shopping strip felt so empty and dry. My red sole heels clacked against the sidewalk and matched Alex’s dress shoes pattern.
“Wanna grab a bite to eat?” my face lit up and my stomach growled at the thought of food.
“Aiello is right around the corner, let’s go. I could use a glass of wine.” I rubbed the back of my neck. I had been staying up late getting the accounts back in a rhythm for the last three nights.
“Here’s your wine ma’am; your whiskey sir. Your food shouldn’t be much longer now.” Alex gave the waiter a blank faced nod and picked up his glass.
My wine burned my throat just enough to melt some of that stress away. I was trying to find some papers in my shoulder bag as the rain fell outside. The winter always brought gloomy and dreary days. I sighed having not dressed for such a chilly day and now it was raining. These pumps would be the death of me. Even though they made my legs look great paired with this navy shift dress.
“Ah the food is here.” Alex’s eyes fixed to his manicotti and my antipasto plate made my cheeks water with excitement. Olives, fresh provolone, pepperoncini, salami, pepperoni, mushrooms and tomatoes covered in a cold vinaigrette. Crusty bread, served warm. It felt just like home.
“Alex, doesn’t Neil Flynn deal in shell companies?” I said matter of fact as I took my last bite of lunch. He almost choked on his whiskey.
“How did you know that?” his eye brow raised and his glass met the table cloth with a thud. I shrugged and he smiled as I wiped my mouth and placed my cloth napkin back in my lap. I didn’t want to tell my oldest brother that I couldn’t stop thinking of his old business partner. Those grey eyes had such a pull behind them.
I asked the waiter for another glass of Dolcetto as he removed my empty one and my brother waited for him to walk away. Too many ears listen for money on this strip of North End shopping.
“Yes he does. He does quite well for himself but I don’t think we run the kind of business he’d be interested in investing in.” I nodded and muddled my brain trying to think of any option that I hadn’t already thought of.
“Can you get me a meeting with him? I can draw up a proposal.” My wine arrived just in time. Taking a sip melted the rest of my stress and warmed me from the inside out.
“I’ll see what I can do.” Giddy with excitement at the thought that I may see Neil again, I downed the glass, maybe too quickly.
My typing drowned out the sound of me chewing gum. The house was asleep except for me. I was anxious, that was for sure. Alex had gotten me a meeting with Neil in the morning, along with his accountant. This proposal was not simple and I needed to make sure every detail was ironed out. Some things you just don’t do like building a business plan on the spot. I made sure to include our limits on shares, alternative ideas, deal breakers and deadlines for all things Rossi business.
It must have taken me longer than expected because Howie coming in from the bar with the guys startled me. They usually shut Viza down at 3am. It was 3:45 now. He reeked of sweat and beer but looked content and exhausted.
“Hey party animal, whats up?” I grinned and stretched my arms with a small yawn escaping my lips.
“I could ask you the same thing. I am getting this proposal finished up for the morning’s meeting. Which reminds me I should set the clock on the coffee pot and head to bed.” I stood up and kissed his cheek and he took my spot on the couch as I headed towards the kitchen. I’d probably find him exactly there when I get up in the morning.
Alex inherited this house from our grandfather two years before dad passed away. Seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, two sitting rooms, formal dining and a full breakfast bar and kitchen all made up the first and second floor. The rooms smelled of old chestnut wood flooring that was all original.
I took the old room that sat downstairs from the library that was converted from the attic when we were kids. My door creaked when you opened it, the floorboards spoke when I’d get up to get a midnight snack, and the bathroom didn’t include much storage for my things, but it was old and cozy. Most of the original furnishings made their way up here when we updated the first and second floor’s furniture last year. I begged them to be saved for me.
I decided to run a hot bath before getting into bed to help me relax. My phone sat next to the old, deep claw foot tub and I noticed it light up with a new email. I dried my hands on the towel that hung just next to me from an old rusty peg, I grabbed it and opened it from an unknown address.
Ms. Rossi attached are a few of our previous yearly and quarterly audits, use them as your leisure for the proposal meeting tomorrow. We are still slotted for conference room H at 8am.
I was a little surprised he had my email but even more so he was awake at this hour. There’s no way that was a timed mass email program behind that. He didn’t even sign the email formally. I snickered and recalled that one time we met months ago. Seemed like a lifetime. So much has changed since then. Our business, my living arrangements, me. He saw me at the beginning of the worst downward spiral I’ve ever had and tomorrow he will see me at the top of my game. My hungriest, most passionate self, pleading for his investment in a company that our grandfather started by stealing groceries in the forties and reselling them for cash.
My bath grew cold as I sat and thought about what would be said and how I’d avoid talking about our last meeting like the plague. My toe pulled the plug as I stood and wrapped the towel around my body. I dried off most of the way and tied up my hair wet in a long single braid for tomorrow’s look.