M A R C E L L A
“So, tell me, John, do you think that was something I should have known?” Her voice was steady, but she was anything but. Her tone was laced with malice and yet a gentle smile rested on her lips.
“No,” she interrupted. “Don’t tell me. I don’t need to know. I don’t want an explanation. I already know it. You had a job to do, right? It was just business. The little girl that you saw under the table in the basement, you let her watch as her mother was killed. She was the only one who truly cared about me!” She started to yell and cry hysterically, unable to keep it all in. She wanted to gouge his eyes out. She wanted to make him bleed. She wanted him to feel pain, to feel every kind of pain.
She knew she had heard his voice before. She knew he looked familiar. And yet she never tried hard enough to place him before. But last night, she dreamt of that night, that night that she had forced out of her memories, that she had buried so far that she thought it had been lost forever. She was just a scared little girl, and John and Alessandro had killed her mother.
“Yeah? Then why did she leave you? Why did she run? She would have lived, probably in pain, but still as a mother to her daughter. But she ran, and she didn’t take you with her. She left you with your father,” John argued back fiercely, pushing her onto the bed and crawling on top of her, pinning her down. “It was just business. You’re right. I didn’t tell you so that this would be easier. Your mother didn’t deserve that, you didn’t deserve to see it and I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry means nothing to me. If my mother were alive, perhaps you wouldn’t be chasing me down.”
“I suppose you’re right. Not because you wouldn’t be running, but that I wouldn’t be the one chasing you. If your mother were alive, it would mean I didn’t do my job and she escaped successfully. Your father would have killed me and that would be that. Your mother would probably have been found by someone else and still killed. Then your mother and I would both be dead. And perhaps if I weren’t the one chasing you, you would have gotten away already. But we’ll never know, will we? Because that’s not how life works. I was young, I did my job, and I kept my life. You can’t blame me for that.”
Did he just expect her to forgive him? To just go on like he hadn’t played a part in her mother’s death?
“I hate you!” she spat. She was disgusted by him. She had seen him beat up a gang of thugs, she had been told he’d killed a man himself, and she hadn’t been disgusted by any of it. But this was her mother.
She was only young when her mother died, but she was old enough. She remembered her mother. She remembered a timid woman who was abused by Alessandro, a man whom she once loved.
John’s words pierced Mari in the heart. She knew it was true. Her mother had run. And her mother had left her daughter behind to a mafia monster. Sure, he had never treated his daughter in such a way, but there could have come a time when he did. And her mother just abandoned her for her own freedom. Was she not worth saving too? She supposed it wasn’t safe or easy to be on the run with a little child.
“Don’t hate me, Mari…” he whispered, his lips so close to her own. “I didn’t know you then and I was young. I had done a series of bad things that got me in trouble with your father. But I overheard him speaking about his missing wife and I offered to find her. I told him I was very good at finding people. She was smart, your mother. However I found her within the week. But it became clear to me what your father intended to do with her. The same thing he would have done to me. She didn’t mean anything to me then. But now I know you. The girl I played a part in semi-orphaning. I knew your father wouldn’t be much of a father. And I felt guilty. So, I didn’t tell you. But you can’t blame me for that.”
“But I do,” she replied brokenly, her voice high-pitched and squeaky through her tears. “You were responsible.”
“What do you expect me to do, Mari? Did you expect me to save her? Do you expect me to regret it? Because I didn’t until I met you. You don’t seem to be worked up about Mancini and he was like a father to you.”
“Don’t you dare-” she began.
“Don’t I dare mention him? Because you don’t either. It was your fault he died but I don’t see you in a complete mess of guilt over it. It’s the same thing.”
“I loved that man. And I will grieve him but-”
“You expect me to feel guilty about a woman I don’t know when you don’t about a man who has only helped you.” Her lower lip trembled as she figured out the next words to say. She wanted to keep fighting his words but in the back of her mind, she knew it was true. That didn’t change what he did though. How could she forgive that? She would never forgive her father.
That memory had been shot right to the back of her mind, never to be found in the rest of her childhood years. She didn’t remember how her mother died. She didn’t remember that night. If she did, she would have left a long time ago. The man was a monster. John was a monster. The people in her life were all monsters. Perhaps she was too. Monsters make monsters.
“You’re tired. You should go to sleep,” he suggested.
“It’s the morning. I just woke up.”
“We’ll be on the move later today so you should sleep on a bed while you still have a chance.” He climbed off of her and rummaged around in his bag. “I’m expecting this journey to be quieter.”
This journey. After that dream, she hadn’t even thought about how this would affect her plan. It would, greatly. Perhaps she had been rash in confronting him. It would be awkward to continue her plan, considering what she knew. Flirting with him didn’t feel right, even if it was fake. He wouldn’t believe it. Because she wouldn’t either.
How would she escape now? Maybe there was another way, now that she knew what she knew. Maybe she was prepared to take things further. Maybe she was prepared to kill him if needs be. A new fire had been lit inside of her. Could she go that far?
He had killed her mother. Him and her father. Her father would pay. And so must John.
But he also had a point. She did kill Giuseppe. Her and Manuel. Manuel would pay. So must she.
Or perhaps no one should pay. And life should go on. Perhaps her plan should go on too. She thought she was doing rather well, especially with how he was looking at her in that towel.
She had just made a huge fuss about what he had done when nothing had changed. Hadn’t she known he was a monster before? Just like the rest of them? Hadn’t she been fine flirting with him? Seducing him? Nothing had changed.
She laid back and closed her eyes, obeying John’s command. He was right. She might as well rest up in a bed before she had to leave.
Over the past week, her plan had moved seamlessly. He grew more attached to her every single day. She could feel it. And she might have just undone the whole week’s work.
Sleep overtook her and sent her to an unfamiliar place, a place that she felt she should know. She was dressed in black, as a small child. A net covered her face as she stood between the sea of headstones. She hid behind a great tree, the bark prickly against her soft hands as she peeked around it to take a look. A man stood in front of a headstone. A tall broad man. A man she knew. John.
John had somehow followed her into her dreams. Or perhaps this was a memory. The crunch of leaves created a bristled sound, alerting John of her movements. And he turned to her. His eyes softened at the sight, and behind him, she could finally read the headstone. Th De Luca. Loving wife and mother. Her mother.
Her eyes flickered back to John, back to this terrifying man who seemed like a giant to her. Her eyes stung with the tears that desired to fall. He was her mother’s killer. He was there when it happened. He pushed her mother into her father like she was some animal.
So, the little girl ran away. She ran as far as she could out of the cemetery where her mother rested. She ran as fast as her little legs could. And that was that.
She awoke, startled, alarmed, and met with the sight of her nightmare. He had been the savior in her dreams before. Now he was her nightmare.