“Hey Abuelita! It’s me, Dylan.”
I hear her gasp over the phone. “Mi rosa. How are you? Natalie told me you’re on a field trip for school. Or was that just an excuse to shirk your responsibilities as Maid of Honour?”
She sounded raspier than usual, tired and drawn really. I chuckled, but it lacked cheer. “A little bit of both, really. How is Mariana doing with the preparations?”
“You know your sister. The house is beautiful but I think several of your cousins are planning her murder. She’s more controlling than the wedding planner and that’s his job.”
I laughed. “I’m sure it isn’t that bad, Abuelita.”
“Maybe I’m exaggerating a little because I want my little rosa here with me. When are you coming home, rosa?”
My heart ached knowing I had to lie to her. “Soon, abuelita. I’ll be there for the wedding for sure... and um...I’m bringing someone with me.”
“What?!” I think she used all her energy to shriek that because there was a long pause before she spoke again. “You finally found yourself a man, rosa? What’s his name? Where does he work? Does he know I own a shotgun?”
I blush, shamefully. “I know I shouldn’t have brought him up...” I grumbled. “We’re not together, he’s just a friend.”
“I hope your friend is handsome and well mannered because I am not afraid to throw a grown man over my knee and whip some manners into him.”
I laughed at the picture of grandma throwing Enzo over his knees and giving him a good smack. “He’s a... decent guy...” I say.
“Is he handsome?”
“You’ll just have to see for yourself,” I tell her vaguely.
“Alright, alright. You never let me have fun.” She started coughing and I waited for it to pass worry creeping up my chest.
“It’s getting worst, isn’t it?”
“What did the doctor say?” I ask her, my voice strained with tears burning in the back of my eyes.
She hesitated and I knew the worst was to come as silent tears trickled down my cheek. “He said I don’t have long now.” That broke me.
I sobbed into the phone while she tried to console me but all I could think about is a life without her and it’s miserable. My grandmother was there for me for everything. Especially the day I lost everything and the world went to shit. I lost my parents at the age of nine and I’ve stayed with my grandmother ever since. She didn’t have much. A small shack on the poorer side of Mexico City. She lost her husband to a heart attack and the only means of income for her was the Children’s Clinic she worked at. But that is nothing when you have three more mouths to feed. My grandma gave everything to us and it took so much from her.
Abuelita is sick, suffering from pancreatic cancer and she’s in the final stages.
We both cry into the phone. She tries to distract me by asking me questions about New York. I told her I got a new dog. That excited her. She loved dogs but Marianna was highly allergic so we weren’t able to get any. She told me of the man she met in the park. A handsome old man from the clinic. She says he likes her but she knows all he wants to do is get into her pants. That made me laugh.
We talked a lot all through the day until it was getting late and she made me promise to be there at the wedding. I didn’t. Because it wasn’t up to me. It was up to Enzo. I was his puppet at the end of the day.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Poppy and I wandered into the Gym the next day. Abuelita and our talk in the back of my mind. When I think of her I wanted to cry and in a house like this, in the company of killers, it wasn’t a good idea to be vulnerable. So I locked that side away for now.
The guys were all working out when we entered. Malachai and Nino were sparing in the center of the room and Enzo was bench pressing in the corner. Rock music blared through invisible speakers that drowned out the sound of our entrance.
Enzo was the first to notice us and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a ‘Dylan’ app that zapped him anytime I’m near. He laid down the weights and sat up, and shamelessly my eyes went to his rippling abdomen.
When it rose to his face I narrowed my eyes at his smug look. I flipped him the bird to hide my embarrassment at getting caught checking him out.
Poppy barked excitedly in my arms and Enzo’s eyes fell to it with a frown. “I don’t want him in here,” he said.
“And maybe he doesn’t want you here, ever thought of that,” I snapped back, sassily. I put Poppy on the floor. “Attack boy! Go! Attack-- Hey! No! I said attack, not make love to his leg--” Poppy rubbed his fluffy head against Enzo’s leg emitting a rumbling sound almost like a purr.
Enzo glared daggers at the thing. “Get your mutt away from me.”
I scoped him up quickly, fearing Enzo would kick it away out of spite.
Poppy yipped at him and I frowned. “You’ve turned my dog against me,” I accused him.
“No, your dog just has good taste,” he said.
Poppy jumped out of my hand and I glared at Enzo as Poppy ran circles around his legs. Enzo smirked smugly and I wanted to punch him in his gut. Dog Stealer.
“You two want the room? Because you’re giving off some sexual tension and I’m getting hard,” Nino cut in.
Malachai sniggered. I glanced at Enzo and found that he was already watching me. “What?”
He shook his head and sauntered off, Poppy following him happily. My eyebrows drew downward in confusion. “What’s his problem?” I asked no one in particular.
“You,” Malachai said, unhelpfully.
“What did I do?”
“If you don’t know by now, you don’t deserve to know,” Malachai said, sharing a look with Nino.
What’s that supposed to mean?
These boys are getting weirder and weirder every day.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
I groaned in pain as I hit the ground a fourth time. Nino hovered over me, grinning wolfishly. I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’m starting to think you’re enjoying this.”
He chuckled as he crouched down, his forearms resting on his knees. “I’m considering this as payback for the little tease you did under the table at Nonna’s party,” He said. “Thanks again for that.”
“You’re very welcome,” I winced out.
He snorted as he grabbed my outstretched arm and hauled me up. Nino and I have been sparing for a little over an hour. He’s a beast here and I’m starting to rethink challenging him to a duel. I’m bruising in several areas at the moment and my knuckles are numb from all the punches I managed to get in but he’s made of freaking steel, so he barely felt it. I wouldn’t be surprised if several of the bones in my knuckles are cracked.
Nino circled me. “You’re good but you seem a bit rusty.”
I am rusty.
“Your kicks are strong,” he assessed. “But you need to gain more muscle in your arms. You punched me a while ago and it tickled.”
“My punches don’t tickle,” I defended.
“They tickle, Dylan and I almost heard it squeak too, like a rubber duck.”
My teeth clicked in annoyance. I’ll show you.
I threw out my fist and to my surprise he caught it. The next second I was on the floor again, wincing in pain. There goes another rib. “You’re too predictable. When you’re about to make a move, your eyes flick to the spot you intend to hit. Like my jaw just now.”
Nino offered his hand again and without taking my eyes off of his, I sweep my leg underneath him, catching him off guard. He fell to the ground and I didn’t hesitate to climb on top of him and pin him down. “Ha, how is that for predictable?” I cheer.
His eyes glimmer wickedly as they fall to my boobs that are almost directly in his face. “Not predictable enough. I think you need to lean closer, just a little bit. Then I’ll be completely caught off guard.”
I release him with a scoff and begin to climb off of him. “Way to make things weird,” I said.
He put up his hands in surrender. “You’re the one thrusting your tits in my face, donna. And what magnificent tits they are by the way. 34C?”
My jaw falls slightly. “How the hell-- you know what? Your level of perviness doesn’t surprise me at this point.”
Sliding off the tape from my knuckles, I walk to where Malachai is guzzling down bottled water. He offers me one and I accept it. “You done for the day?” Malachai asks me.
I nodded as I sip on my water. “Yep. If I’m thrown on that mat again, I’m afraid I’ll get brain trauma...”
Just then the door to the Gym is thrown open and in marches Emilia. Her eyes scour the perimeter and land on Enzo doing Pull-ups on a metal bar. He pauses mid way as she glides through the maze of heavy machinery over to him, eyes hard. She flicks a black envelop at him exasperatedly. It falls to his feet but he barely even spare it a glance. “I am not your goddamn secretary.”
Then she spins on her heels and marches out.
“What is it!” he calls behind her.
“Figure it the fuck out,” she yells back, slamming the door behind her.
Enzo retrieves the envelope and rips it open. His expression is hard to decipher but there’s a light in his eyes as he reads.
Malachai noticed too because he was sauntering towards him the next minute. “What is it?” He asked.
Enzo smirked. “Our revenge,” He says ominously and a sliver of fear slither up my spine.