The family of four sat in the living room on a day off. Donatella snatched the remote and changed the channel as her favourite Italian soap was about to air.
’’Mamma! Football! They were just about to get a goal in!’’ Sergio threw his hands up in protest.
‘’And now I’m watching my soap,’’ Donatella retorted.
’’Put it back on the previous channel, Amore mio,’’ Alberto said to Donatella. ‘’Just this one time?’’
’’Let Mamma watch her show. The match was a rerun of last week’s match. You can still watch the game online anyway.’’ Isabella shrugged.
‘’Exactly.’’ Donatella backed her daughter up.
Isabella leaned closer to her mother so the others couldn’t eavesdrop. ‘’Haven’t you seen this episode already?’’
‘’They don’t have to know that.’’ Donatella winked at her daughter making her laugh.
The bell went off and so Isabella stood up to get it. She opened the front door, expecting to see a person but there was nobody. Creases between her black eyebrows appeared in confusion. She began closing it again until she noticed a bouquet of lilac flowers on the doorstep. Isabella picked it up and retreated inside.
Who sent it? Giovanni?
Curious, she read the small note attached to it. The words on it written neatly in black ink.
You are kind-hearted and innocent. For that reason alone I’m warning you to not delve into something you’re unfamiliar with. You are smart but you don’t seem to know whom you should and shouldn’t associate with. Don’t make the same mistake I made.
I hope you like the flowers.’
The message pushed Isabella’s mind in a state of puzzlement. She did not know what to make out of the vague meaning behind the words. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a hint of doubt the flowers weren’t from Giovanni.
‘’Who was at the door?’’ Donatella shouted from the couch.
‘’Nobody,’’ Isabella answered truthfully.
Nimbly, the tiny card was grasped in between Isabella’s fingers. She turned it over, looking to see if there was anything written on the back. A plain white colour stared back.
After the white flowers were put in a vase, Isabella’s steps led her to the balcony. A moment alone with her thoughts, brainstorming on who could have possibly sent the note to her. Hands laid folded on her lap as she rocked back and forth on the chair.
The message on the card was read for the second time.
Despite it sounding concerned about her well-being, Isabella couldn’t bring herself to trust the words of a faceless stranger. There was an overwhelming sense inside her that the message came with an underlying threat.
Isabella thought of people who could have sent her the flowers. So far, only Theo had made it onto her list of suspects.
‘’I saw the flowers Giovanni sent you.’’
The voice of her father spiked Isabella’s alarm senses. She clenched her hand shut, hiding the piece of paper in her fist. Isabella was not entirely sure why she acted on the impulse to hide the note from her father.
Alberto took up the seat on the left of his daughter and stared out in front of him.
Isabella didn’t correct her father’s statement as she couldn’t come up with a clever lie to explain the pretty flower bouquet away. Green eyes flitted between Alberto and her fist. They stopped moving as her father spoke again.
‘’They suit you perfectly. I didn’t think Giovanni would know much of flowers.’’
‘’They suit me? How so?’’
‘’White lilacs stand for innocence.’’
‘’And how do you know that?’’ Isabella looked sceptically at him.
Alberto let out a hearty laugh at his daughter’s question. ‘’You might not believe it but there was a time in which I was a young man. I did everything I could to try and sway your mother and brushed up my knowledge on flowers.’’
‘’I guess your plan worked well,’’ she said and smiled sweetly hearing her father’s revelation.
‘’I wish it did. She told me it was only when I shaved my moustache she began taking a liking to me.’’
‘’You had a moustache? No beard? Only a moustache?’’ Isabella’s jaw almost hit the floor.
‘’It looked good,’’ he grumbled. ‘’At least, I thought it did.’’
‘’Mamma clearly had other thoughts about it.’’ Isabella bit her lip to try and hold back a laugh.
Alberto joined Isabella’s laughter before sobering up. ‘’Your mother is the best thing that happened to me. You and your brother as well. I can’t even imagine how everything would have turned out without all of you. That’s why I want to keep and protect it.’’
Hearing him made Isabella’s eyes well up. Her father might have been a man of few words but when he did let someone peek inside his heart, it was full of warmth for his family. Isabella reached over with her free hand and took hold of her father’s hand to give it a light squeeze.
Alberto continued saying, ‘’You know I don’t approve of Giovanni, yet you still go out to see him.’’
‘’Papà,’’ her whisper came out as a plea to not bring the topic up.
‘’Out of everyone, why him? I would have been fine with anyone else. You know what he and the rest of his family are. Did you see how many more of their men walk around town now? Something must have happened to them. It’s best to put some distance between you and Giovanni. I-’’ Alberto let go of his daughter, hunched over and intertwined his fingers in each other. ’’I only want what is best for you, Tesoro.’’
Isabella’s gaze was cast downward and her grip on the note tightened. She couldn’t deny the start of a dire situation had begun brewing where Giovanni and his family were concerned. The wound on his arm acting as proof of it.
’’I already know, Papà. Nothing bad is going to happen.’’
‘’And how much I want to believe in that,’’ he said wistfully.
Throughout the day, the card had been bugging her mind. She made up her mind and decided on telling her brother about it. Her feet met the floor and she headed to Sergio’s room. Isabella eased past the door that stood wide open and tapped on it to get his attention.
‘’-ciana.’’ Sergio jumped at the sight of his sister standing by the door. ‘’Holy fuck! You scared me.’’
‘’Am I interrupting?’’
Sergio lowered the phone from his hear and covered the microphone up. ‘’Yes – I mean no. Is it important?’’
‘’A kind of.’’
‘’Wait a second,’’ Sergio said to his little sister and brought the phone to his ear again. ‘’I have to go. I’ll speak to you later.’’
Isabella shut the door and showed Sergio the card. ‘’I got this yesterday.’’
Sergio smoothed over the creases and read the text on it. A harsh scowl made its way onto his features, thinking the message indicated that Isabella shouldn’t associate herself with him. After all, Sergio was a man from the underworld. A hitman. His nostrils flared with anger as he breathed out.
‘’Who the fuck does this guy think he is? I’m your brother for fuck’s sake.’’
Isabella frowned at his words. ‘’Why would you think it’s talking about you? I thought it meant my association with Giovanni and his family.’’
‘’Who sent this to you?’’
‘’I don’t know,’’ she said and lifted her shoulders. ‘’Theo was the only person I could think of to sent me something like this.’’
‘’When I went to help Luciana out in the restaurant, he was also there and kept staring at me.’’ Isabella shivered thinking back on it. ‘’There is something off about him.’’
‘’Why didn’t you tell me sooner?’’ he groaned.
‘’How could I have known that it would come to this? I’m not even completely sure if he really is the one who sent it.’’
Sergio handed the note over to Isabella and grabbed his jacket from the chair. He wore it and picked his car keys from the desk.
‘’What are you doing?’’ her voice soft and careful.
‘’Making sure that piece of shit starts using his goddamn brains.’’
Sergio left and began his hunt after his old acquaintance. He would make sure Theo wouldn’t dare harass his sister anymore.