Mafia Puppet

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DAYS PASSED BY in a blur and soon enough Antonio and I stopped talking for a whole week. It was also the same amount of time we spent in Italy. I went around, of course, with Gianna, Amalia and the other women. It was fun and I sure spent a lot of Antonio's money. At first it was just to spite him but when he didn't even notice I stopped caring as well.

In front of others, he and I were happy. At least he was. The relationship was normal. He would still grip my thigh under the table during feast or wrap a hand around my waist to show his possessiveness. The only thing changed was our sex life. He didn't try to touch me and I didn't let him touch me, because every time I would decide to give up on my stubbornness I'd remember the stunt he pulled. But he respected my boundaries. I could only hope that he kept away for the betterment of my feelings. He knew I needed space from him.

Would being his mistress have been better? At least she would've gotten his company and love, I thought bitterly.

"Antonio," I called him.

He hummed in response, not bothering to look up from the papers in his hands.

"Do you have a mistress?" I asked.

His hand stilled from flipping the page before he let it go softly on the oak desk in front of him. Taking his sweet time, he looked up, his eyes dark with hidden fury that I wouldn’t have been able to detect if I hadn’t been with him day and night for so long. He leaned back on the couch and crossed his right leg over his left.

"What makes you think that?" he asked, twirling a pen in between his fingers.

He didn’t deny it.

"Do you?" I needed to hear it from him, because if he did then I knew that it was over from his side too, if there was anything in the first place.

He stared into my eyes but I kept them blank. My emotions would make me vulnerable.

“No," he finally said, looking into my eyes. "I don't."

I didn't let it show but I felt relief sweep through me. It annoyed me that his answer mattered so much. It wasn't just about self respect. I didn't want to share him. I never did but for the last few weeks it pissed me off to even see him with any girl, let it even be Gianna or Amalia. Jealousy was a very bad feeling.

"Anything else?" he asked as if he knew I wanted to ask more.

I shook my head but then replied verbally. "No."

He nodded and after a moment he went back to scanning the papers in his hands.

"We are returning to New York tomorrow," he said.

I knew that already though. Was he trying to make conversation? "What time?"

"At noon."

Awkward silence fell upon us once again.

"I'm going to take a shower," I told him bitterly. He watched me walk away without a word.

I tried. I really did just so I could forget him. It was hard to do when I was married to him and saw him every night. But maybe it would get better when to back to New York. He'd fall into his daily routine of coming home late and I’d be cooped up alone at home.

But I knew that wasn't case anymore. Something had changed. Something big.

"Francesca, wait!" he called out and I hated how my body instantly halted.

Just one genuine apology. That’s all I ask. Is your ego too big to let you risk losing my affection?

I heard him get up and walk toward me. "What?" I snapped without meaning to.

"Are you still mad about it? It's been a week, Francesca," he said calmly. He didn't even sound guilty.

I harshly turned around to face him. I couldn't believe he would ask me that but I shouldn't have been surprised either. This was Antonio and he didn't give a single care about feelings. I should’ve understood that when he was still refusing to apologize for that stupid stunt.

I instantly changed my attitude. There was no point in giving him a strong reaction. It would only make me more predictable. "No, of course not. How could I stay mad when there is absolutely no reason for me to stay mad," I said in the same tone as him—calm and serene. The sarcastic undertone wasn’t hidden.

He narrowed his eyes at me. Before he could make another one of his emotionless remarks, I swiftly turned around and locked myself in the bathroom.

My heart felt like it was going to burst. I clutched my phone in my hand tightly. I needed to talk to someone but I didn't know who. Sophia was out of the question. I had lost her and I wasn’t a fool to try to get in touch with her again. That would be breaking omertà. Arianna ran away. Calling her would be no point and it would also be a sign of betrayal. Amalia and the other women were out of question as well. They would most likely use it against me in the future. Nonna wasn't an option either. She'd think I was weak. I needed someone oblivious to the mafia world and trustworthy.

I scrolled through my contact list. My hand hovered over our home phone landline. For the past few days, I had been calling in to check on Alessia and to talk with her. She was living with three older brothers who were always distant and I knew she probably felt lonely. Dante, Costanzo and Omero weren't too fun to hang around with considering that the most they talked about was business or their call-girls.

It took a few moments before someone picked up. Usually it was Carina but this time it was a male.

"Hello?" I furrowed my brows before I realized it was Costanzo.

"Hi," I said. "It's me—Francesca."

"Is everything okay?" he instantly asked.

"Yes. Everything's fine. I just wanted to talk with Alessia," I told him.

"Oh," he said before yelling out for his sister.

I heard some shuffling before Alessia came on line. "Hi!" she chirped. "How's your honeymoon?"

I choked on my saliva. "What?" I couldn't help but chuckle. "We aren't on honeymoon, Alessia."

"Yeah, yeah. Just a vacation," she teased. "Anyways, how's life? I haven't talked to you in so long?"

We hadn't. I wasn't able to call her for the whole week. Now I hoped I did. Her enthusiasm was making me feel better. Alessia had finally gotten over her silence and was starting to talking to me normally. She was such a carefree and innocent girl. It pained me to know that it won't last long. Alessia was fifteen and in our world families started promising the female to a male at this age. Once the girl was of age they would get her officially married. I was lucky to be promised late. Or maybe I wasn't. Maybe I was just told at eighteen. It didn't matter anymore.

"It's okay," I said.

"Did you and my brother have a fight?" Her voice turned immediately concerned.

I blinked in surprise. Alessia was sharper than she looked. I didn't want to lie to her so I opted for the truth. "We just had a silly argument. Don't worry." I changed the topic. "What are you doing?"

Pushing myself off the door, I walked toward the tub and turned on the tap water.

"Homework," she said—too quickly, I noticed. "You?"

I furrowed my brows. Was it just me or was she lying? I didn't pay much attention to it.

"Going to take a bath," I told her as I turned on the tv facing opposite the tub.

I was about to change the channel into something more quirky when the reporters mentioned a name. I froze.

"Former Don of Giordano crime family Raffaello Giordano found dead in a ditch with the symbol of the Bianchi Family—a crown—carved on his cheek with what we assume is a knife. Is the Giordano Family and the Bianchi Family at war? Is the Nostra Vita at war?" the woman said in Italian.

"Franci. Franci!" Alessia called out to me but I couldn't focus.

I heard my lips moving and mumbling a short bye before I stormed out of the bathroom, forgetting my bath completely. Antonio was pacing in the room with a phone to his ear. When I stormed inside he pointed a gun at me but quickly relaxed when he saw it was me.

"Fucking get them," he snarled before cutting the call.

"Raffaello's dead," I said. I didn't feel anything. I didn't know the man well enough to feel sympathy and with the impressions he gave me, I didn't even want to.

"I know," my husband snapped as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

I bit my lips to keep my mouth shut. Eventually my heart got the best of me. “Are you okay?”

"Do I look okay?" he snapped, hosting his gun behind him again.

I didn't understand why his father's life meant a lot. Did he love the man? I didn't see any loveable traits in him.

Antonio sighed and the look in his eyes softened. I stared right back at him. He looked like he wanted to say something but then decided not to. For a moment, I got the illusion that he would apologize.

"Go pack the bags. We're leaving right now,” he ordered instead.

I didn't object and fifteen minutes he and I were ready to go. I quickly changed into a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. I knew we would be going straight to America now. We wouldn’t be waiting a day.

"Do not get out of my sight," he told me as he pulled me out of the room.

"Our bags?" I asked him. My heart thumped in anxiety. I felt like my heart was weighing down by a brick.

"Stefano will get them."

The moment we walked down the corridors, everyone gathered. Antonio briefly left me and talked with his men.

Nonna walked over to me in the meantime. I immediately straightened up. "Things are going to get bad." She looked at her husband conversing with my husband. "Very, very bad."

I tensed even more. "How bad?" I managed to ask.

She looked me in the eyes. "This means war."

"Antonio told me that the Feds are on our back and with this war coming..." I trialed off, but the look in Nonna's eyes told me she understood.

"Toni is smart. He won't let anything happen to you," she said, grasping my hand.

I shook my head. "Nothing should happen to him."
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