00 | a wisp of pain
"He's a fine young man, daughter, and he's the Don now. He will be less rough if you do as he says," Mother had said when she heard the news years back. I didn't expect any different words.
I had finished my education even though I knew I'd never need it. The higher the woman's degree, the more she was valued. It would mean less groping from men in the Family and a more prestigious suitor—although I didn't need one because I already had one and he was very much high ranked.
"I can't believe we've already graduated university." My oblivious best friend bristled with excitement. "We should go party!"
A somber expression marred my face. Not only because I'd be leaving her but also because I knew what was promised after this. "I can't, Sophia. You know that."
She rolled her eyes. "You're barely twenty-four and you haven't even gone to a club yet. I always have to go alone but not this time, missy. I'll drag you there myself if I have to."
No, I was already in early twenties which meant I was very late to marry. It was my good fate that my betrothed wanted to tie the knot late. Otherwise, I would have been shunned out of the society. But I didn't expect her to understand. My priorities had always been different.
"I mean it, I can't. I'd be lucky if I can see you again." Oops! I really shouldn't have said that.
Her brows furrowed. "What do you mean? I swear you are always so sketchy. You never stay after school. You have bodyguards trailing you every minute and you are always so stiff. I know you are rich but seriously? This is just too much."
"It's not like that. My parents are just strict and overly overprotective," I tried to explain but it was in vain.
"Which is exactly why you should move out. You can afford to live for yourself, right? You can even come live with me. Your parents didn't even come to your graduation," she fussed.
I quickly shook my head before looking around to see if anyone heard, more specifically if my bodyguards did. They usually didn't come inside the building unless it was absolutely necessary but once in a day they did round the building. "Look, I can't, okay. Don't be stubborn."
"Francesca." She sighed. "You're ruining your life by dancing around on your parents' tunes. I don't get why you don't even have a tiny bit of freedom but I do hope you'd tell me. I'd understand."
She wouldn't. She would run away, just like everyone else would. She wouldn't get it. I wasn't following the orders of my parents. I was following the orders of the one I was betrothed to. I was following his orders.
Women didn't get much freedom in my world. It was a curse to even be one. One would get engaged at a very young age and if her betrothed died she would be shunned by everyone else. It was difficult to find another match after that for a woman. It was all that messed up.
"Look, I've got to go. I'll call you later." I quickly walked away and out of the prestigious university glass doors.
Spotting my ride wasn't that hard. It stood out like a black dot in a duvet of pure white. The sleek black limousine caught the attention of many bystanders. The students should have been used to it by now but they never were. When Silvio, the head bodyguard, saw me he opened the back door. I mumbled a silent 'thank you' even though it was not really necessary. They didn't talk to me and I didn't talk to them, though I liked Silvio the best.
The inside smelled like the sweet smell of mangoes and peaches, covering the smell of new leather. It was my favourite smell and a smell that Silvio always made sure to have in my presence. A blissful sigh left my lips at finally being away from the eyes of the many strangers. I didn't mind the two guards sitting opposite me either. I was used to them by now. They were almost invisible. Almost.
"Can we go home now?" It wasn't a question but I was being polite. I knew Silvio would take it more like an order.
I was fairly respected by the guards which was quite odd because my mother wasn't. She was always groped and Father never really cared.
I felt the car move as I turned my head to the side. I didn't miss my best friend staring at the tinted car with her eyes narrowed in suspicion. I had to keep her safe and away from my world. She couldn't know. The facade of being the conservative rich daughter of a millionaire transportation company owner helped but I knew she had her own theories. She wasn't stupid or oblivious and I wasn't that good at being too discreet either. It was only time before she found out.
Not unless you stop meeting her.
Father had told me that the friends I made in school needed to stay in school. If anyone were to interfere in my personal life or life after school, they'd be gone out of sight. I didn't bother testing his threats. They were always real and he didn't have any reason to lie.
This might just be the last time I see her.
My eyes were on the brink of closing yet I didn't. It would be unladylike and risky. Just because I was privileged enough to be a high ranked mobster's daughter did not mean I wasn't treated like many of the other women. Respect for a woman was decided by her man and his rank or her father. If the husband didn't mind his wife being shared then nothing else could be done for her. Everything depended on the man. First the father and then the husband. It was always the man. Never a woman.
But he wanted me pure so then that was what he was going to get. Father had always made sure of that. And I expected it. Virginity was too sacred and important in my world to be lost. It was the honour of a noblewoman. I haven't lost my honour yet, so I was safe but I knew it wouldn't be forever. One day he would decide to take my hand at the alter and soon.
Home wasn't sweet and Father never failed to let us know.
"Francesca, your father has some guests. Do not come out of your room," Mother's timid voice greeted me. She was scared. I'd know. It wasn't the first time Father had his allies visiting him.
Without a word, I left for my room upstairs. I didn't want to hear the noises. I didn't want to hear the screams and even though I should be used to it, I wasn't. It was just as difficult as the first time.
They were all downstairs. I could hear their booming laughter. I felt bad for Mother. She had to please all of them by Father's orders. Would I have to do that too?
I grabbed my phone and earphones before blasting some slow, soothing music. It blocked out my mother's screams of shame. It blocked out Father's pleasing laugh and the men's nasty grunts. It blocked out the reality.
Night fell and I knew my mother would be lying in the guest room with a bunch of bruises and a nearly tattered soul but I didn't go there to comfort her. I didn't want to get seen by the disgusting men, much less get groped. Mother wouldn't want me down, and that was what I told myself every time.