Mafia Puppet

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44 | a glance of italy

MY EYES WIDENED at the large mansion the car rolled into with many bodyguards patrolling the building. I stepped out of the car and a butler quickly came up and left with our luggage.

Antonio walked around and wrapped an arm around my waist when an old woman walked out of the manor with her hands folded behind her back. Behind her were two buff men with rifles slung around their shoulders.

"Grab the suitcases," the old woman ordered before smiling at us. "You're here early, my boy?" she asked.

"Work was finished early," my husband answered. There was an unusual warmth in his voice when talked with the woman.

"Fantastico! This your wife?" she asked him while looking at me.

"Yes. Francesca Giordano, nonna." My eyes widened when I figured that the Godfather was her husband.

"Hello, ma'am," I squeaked out, thoroughly embarrassed by my first impression.

The older woman squinted her eyes at me. I felt fear clawing my skin. I really wanted her to like me. But then she simply chuckled. "You are very pretty, dear. Simply gorgeous! Even better than Toni described you years ago!"

My eyes widened even more at what she said. Years? He talked about me? I didn't know how to feel about that but a warm, fuzzy feeling nuzzled at the pit of my stomach.

"Oh..." I trailed off before acting as if nothing happened—as if it didn't make an ounce of difference that he talked about me to his family, that he had called me gorgeous. "Thank you, ma'am," I said.

"Oof." She waved her hand dramatically. "Call me nonna. No need to be so formal."

I liked her and I was glad that she had accepted me. Or all this could just be an act. I wasn't sure but so far she was a good woman. It was honestly surprising because older woman in the Family liked to establish their domminace over the new ones so their role wouldn't get down. Nonna, having the Godfather as her husband, was already very powerful and experienced. I realized that maybe one day I would be in her postion, trying to etablish my power and guide other women, probably my daughter or daughter-in-law, through the world of crime. I didn't know how to feel about that.

"Toni, go do whatever. Francesca is coming with me." She grabbed my hand and dragged me inside the posh manor.

Unlike back home, there was only one large staircase in the middle that led to the top where it spread into two more staircases on opposite sides. The texture was beige and made with a golden tinge. The black wood that was carved on the railings made the place look even more richly. Floors were made with plain tiles and a beautiful chandlier hung on the top.

"You have a beautiful house," I complimented to the woman.

She simply smiled at me. "I know, darling. I'm the one that designed it."

I loved her confidence and self love. She had that bold aura around her that told me that she was good to the ones good to her and bad to the ones who didn't deserve it.

"Your husband is useless," she whispered. My eyes widendened as I looked around. We climbed up the stairs in a slow pace. Antonio had already ran up the moment he came. He didn't even glance at me and that honestly made me feel bad. Not humiliated but just down. I didn't know how to explain it.

"What?" I asked, surprised.

She chuckled at my expression before walking the opposite way my husband went. I was just glad he didn't hear her. I didn't know how he'd feel about that. Would it hurt him?

"Oh, don't you worry, Doll. Toni maybe a great don but he is nowhere near a great husband. I bet you would agree. After all, you do wait for him every night to come home," she said.

"He is a fine don," I agreed. I couldn't tell her whether he came late at night or not. I didn't know her and giving her that informations was sort of hinting about his whereabouts. It was also telling her that our home was 'unguarded' till late.

The upstairs was the same as downstairs. Back home, we had three floors where I hated the top floor. Here, there were only two floors that were wide and big. Nonna brought me into a living room space.

The room had a lot of windows and was bright from the outside. The walls were also biege with a golden border outlining the walls and with very, very light brown coaches in the middle. A dark tea table sat in the middle. There were acient pictures of the previous loyal soldiers and criminals. It felt like a library and a interview place. Books were stacked on shelves and the head of a deer was stuck on the wall. I was intimidated but I tried not to show it.

"Have a seat," she said.

I was nervous. Coming right from a long flight, I was actually very tired. The time difference was epic as well.

"Thank you," I muttered. I felt like this was an interrogation.

"Would you like some tea?" she asked.

I hated tea so I politely declined.

"I don't like tea as well," she said.

"How did you know I don't like tea?"

She laughed at my expression of surprise. "When you're in the mob, my child, no one is your true friend. The only difference between men and women is that men play politics outside the house and we play it inside. You have to be very observant to keep up, especially if you want to establish your own dominance within the mafiosis and mafiosas."

"Even the men?" I asked, thoroughly interested.

She smiled. The less wrinkles on the side of her face showed that she didn't smile much. "Even the men, darling. Why do you think your husband respects me so much, enough to leave you with me, a complete stranger, without any questions?"

Because you're his grandma, I wanted to say but refrained.

"No, it's not because I'm his nonna or because I have seen him grow up. It's because I have authority here. Questioning me would not be good for his position and he knows that," she said.

I smiled. "You read me like an open book," I muttered.

Her gaze hardened and I instantly felt my heart take a leap. "Do not ever tell that to anyone, Francesca. You'd be giving them a leverage against you on a silver plate." She tapped her head as she sat crossed leg just like me. "No one really knows what you're actually thinking. Confuse your opponents when you don't know what you're doing. It the art of manipulation, but you'll know that soon enough. One day, you'll be in my position saying the same things to your daughter-in-law."

I listened intently to her even though I didn't know what the point of this chat was. Was this some way of bonding?

I nodded.

"Use your words, Doll," she uttered.

Antonio's face popped up in my head and I couldn't help the small tug of my lips. He called me that often, usually when he was irritated with me.

"I understand," I said.

She smiled briefly. "You're a good woman, just how Bella was."

"Bella?" I asked, confused. It was the first time I've heard of her.

"Toni's mother. A good woman was she. Raffaello hadn't deserved her," she said.

"Where is she now?" It was as if I knew the answer and my tone got softer.

A sad smile formed on the woman's face. "She's dead."

My lips parted in shock. "How?"

Her eyes hardened. "Murdered in cold blood by the one person she trusted the most. The only person she truly loved."

"Who?" I whispered.

Her lips tugged up into a cruel smile. "Your husband, of course."
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