By the time the meeting had ended, it was already dawn. The three men parted ways and each one of them went back to their home.
Giovanni set foot in the living room and snatched his duffel bag from the couch. After slinging it onto his shoulder, he headed toward his car but got stopped in his tracks by Leone.
‘’Are you going back to your apartment?’’ Leone asked quickly.
Giovanni opened the passenger door to toss the bag onto the seat and slammed it shut. He didn’t even get to reach the driver door before he someone called his name again. He lifted his gaze to see his parents getting out of the house.
‘’We were just going to the Donati store. Do you want to come?’’ Celia gave her son a sweet smile.
Making a decision wasn’t hard. He wouldn’t say no to a quick visit to Isabella. Giovanni complied and the three of them went to the liquor store.
It was almost closing time so Isabella swept the floor clean. Her mother was behind the counter and her father cleaned the shelves. The doorbell rang and Isabella looked up to greet the customers. She didn’t expect to see Giovanni walking through the door and averted her eyes when he looked at her.
‘’Carissima!’’ Celia greeted Isabella.
‘’Hi, Celia!’’ Isabella greeted her back with a smile.
Isabella didn’t call Celia by her first name out of disrespect. Celia insisted that Isabella called her by her first name so she wouldn’t feel old.
‘’Oh, and this is Silvio. You’ve already met him but you were probably too young to remember.’’ Celia glanced at her husband.
Isabella smiled at Silvio, recognizing his face from the wedding.
‘’Celia, just let the girl work. You’re disturbing her.’’ Silvio sighed and smiled apologetically at Isabella.
‘’No, no, it’s fine.’’ Isabella giggled.
Celia had a victorious smile on her face as she looked at her husband. ‘’You said I was disturbing her?’’
When Celia and Silvio moved on to greet Donatella and Alberto, Isabella continued sweeping. A slight furrow played on her face at someone taking the broom away from her.
‘’Look at me,’’ Giovanni demanded and she did as he told her to. ‘’Don’t try and avoid me, Isabella.’’
Her gaze flickered from Giovanni to her father. Nervous about their train of thoughts. She wanted Giovanni but also her father’s approval. Eventually, Isabella’s eyes settled on Giovanni, looking at him through her eyelashes and shifted from one foot to the other.
‘’Is your father is opposed to us?’’ he motioned between himself and her.
She lifted her shoulders weakly. ‘’He…has been talking less to me.’’
Giovanni let her troubled eyes sink in. His determination to convince Alberto of their relationship got turned up by a few notches. He wouldn’t post-pone his talk with Isabella’s father. He would do it today.
‘’You should come and eat dinner with us!’’ Donatella clapped her hands.
Isabella looked at her mother wondering what she was thinking. She was sure her mother hadn’t discussed this with her father. After Isabella brought the chalkboard from outside back inside and closed the store, all of them left for the Donati house.
Somewhere along the way, Giovanni pulled Alberto to the side so he could walk with him in the back. Neither of them had uttered a single word but the air was already thick. From the corners of his eyes, Giovanni could see the disapproving look on Alberto’s face.
‘’I’m sure you are aware that I’m seeing your daughter. The only thing I want is for Isa-’’
‘’Don’t talk about my daughter. I know that my son and wife associate themselves with your family. Albeit it in different ways,’’ Alberto mumbled the last sentence. ‘’But I don’t want Isabella around your kind. It’s not safe.’’
Under different circumstances, Giovanni would be impressed by the men from the Donati family. They always stood their ground for the things they believed in. Unfortunately for Giovanni, they were intent on keeping him away from Isabella. Alberto more so than Sergio.
The muscle in Giovanni’s jaw ticked. ‘’That doesn’t mean I can’t protect her.’’
‘’Can you guarantee her safety? Don’t try and sugar-coat how you live.’’
‘’You say that because I want to hear that,’’ Alberto sighed heavily.
‘’No, and it’s not me who wants your approval. It’s Isabella. She told me you’re not talking to her anymore. You should come directly to me if you have a problem with me.’’
‘’I have nothing personal against you, Giovanni. It’s your work I have a problem with.’’
Alberto proved to be more of a challenge than Giovanni could have foreseen. Giovanni would have preferred it if the problem was personal. It would be easy to fix. The life he was born in, the life his family lived in wasn’t something he could change. He was powerless.
When both families arrived at the Donati house, no time was wasted in getting their stomachs filled.
‘’Where is Sergio?’’ Silvio asked no one in particular.
‘’Work,’’ Alberto answered his question.
‘’His shift changed and now he has to work at night. A colleague got sick or something like that.’’ Donatella added.
Dinner continued without any hitches. While Alberto and Giovanni weren’t hitting it off. Isabella and Silvio engaged each other in conversation. Without Isabella having to try, Silvio already seemed to take a liking to her. Whenever Isabella would laugh or giggle others joined her. It was contagious.
‘’How come I haven’t seen you around much?’’ Silvio asked out of genuine curiosity.
‘’My high school was in another town so I had to stay at someone else’s place. I would only come home during the weekends and vacations.’’
Giovanni’s grip on his spoon tightened. ‘’Who did you stay with?’’
‘’My aunt,’’ Isabella said which made Giovanni loosen his grip.
This small action didn’t go unnoticed by Donatella and Celia. They gave each other a knowing look and laughed making their husbands look strangely at them.
After dinner was over everybody went into the living room to chat some more except for Isabella and Giovanni. They were in the kitchen, away from prying eyes.
‘’Give me your number,’’ he said.
Isabella pulled her phone from her pocket and exchanged phone numbers with him.
‘’How did it go?’’ she referred to his earlier attempt at convincing her father.
‘’Maybe he just needs time to get used to the idea?’’
‘’Yes, maybe.’’ Giovanni took her hand and left a burning kiss on her knuckles.