If Luca Tangorello wanted to marry me, we’d have been married by now. Instead, he brings home a bruised prostitute and expects me, his fiancée of four years, to roll out the red carpet.
“So, do we kill the whore and bury her in the desert, Luca? Is this for our couples’ counselling?” I twist his diamond ring round my finger. It’s getting a bit loose.
The girl watches me like I am the devil with the pansy-like eyes, innocently peeking from her face, despite her being used six ways from Sunday, then beaten up. Or in the process, I frankly don’t care to interview her.
The problem is that my knightly fiancé does. He’d spotted her crying in his place of business and brought her to our sort-of love-nest.
Now she sits on the couch we’d picked together when we had such hopes for our future. She glances nervously with pink eyes while straightening the pleats of a school-girl’s skirt. On my couch!
“Well, Luca? What do you want from me?” If he’d asked me to finish her off, I’d help him without batting an eyelash. That’s how I was raised in the mafia: bratva sticks for their own and all that.
“Kamila,” Luca says, “be a human being for once. The girl needs a place to stay until we can press charges.”
“When you say ‘we’, do you mean all three of us?” I ask sweetly.
“Stop it. Stop it or I will—”
“Do what? Hit me? After fuming about men who lift their hand at the defenseless flowers?”
His etched lips curl in a snarl that hints at him being a scion of the bulldogs. “You’re not a defenseless flower, Mila. You’re a steel flytrap.”
“And so I can be threatened with physical violence? Or told to pucker up and host your whore?” I love how cold I sound, when his breathing turns rugged. His hitching, labored breath and heating up cheeks used to make me moan. Not any more.
“That’s not what I’ve meant. Just look at her, for goodness sake. Isn’t there a shred of compassion left in you?”
“In the old country—my old country, not yours—we say, ’don’t humiliate a man with pity’. And when I say ‘a man’, I mean women too, Luca.”
“Compassion is not the same as pity.”
Oh, fine, let’s split hairs... but I survey his find, like he wants me to, because four years together is a long time, and some habits die hard.
On her own, the troubled teen girl who lives with a grown-ass man who beats her to sell her would move me. I am sure Pansy didn’t have great role-models or someone kind to turn to. Police wouldn’t do anything no matter how black-and-blue he turns her tummy, whom he tells her to stick inside her, and how loud he makes her cry. The shelters are losing funding because screw socialism is our government’s motto. And yada-yada-yada.
I know how the cruel world works... she deserves compassion.
But she didn’t come before me on her own. She didn’t ask for compassion from me.
No, she came wrapped into Luca’s strong arm. Because she did that thing available to her—batted her golden eyelashes—and a defender stepped right up. Some women are so gentle and sweet, that’s what they prefer to do. Find a man to rip out the throat of the man who beats them right now, so she could shelter with a bigger bruiser, until he beats her too.
Oh, Pansy, how can anyone be so dumb?
This time her true-and-tried strategy missed the target. My fiancé is a mafia lawyer, though he is a son of a mafioso, and a grand-son of one. He is clever and powerful, but against a man-beater he is as good as a tissue-paper airplane.
My pedigree is just as full of the colorful underworld characters, but unlike Luca, I’m no auxiliary. I am made of exact same stuff my great-grand-mother Sonya was made of, when she’d stepped off the boat to discover that the American dream is a lie.
So, really, Pansy should have prostrated herself before me with her weeping, not Luca, but that would imply her having an ounce of street smarts. Or any smarts for that matter.
“Did you drop out of school for your pimp?” I ask her to confirm my assumption.
She twists her tiny skirt into a knot between her slim thighs, sobbing-nodding-agreeing.
Luca’s gaze travels to that space immediately. I don’t think he is aware that his eyes glisten with the lust of the sable fur.
Pansy knows. She has a grace to blush as if she has no clue why the world keeps doing the mean things to her. Maybe she is not yet completely hopeless.
But she doesn’t look at me, a woman asking her the hard questions. She looks to Luca for guidance, she looks at him in a way that makes his nostrils flare in outrage, as if he didn’t just harden in response to the white flash of her panties.
You poor stupid cunt. You can have him, but be careful of what you wish for...
My brilliant fiancé would be tired of her in two months. For now, though, for now his brown eyes melt like popsicles when their gazes meet. Luca is a gorgeous man, like most of the Tangorello family. They sprout tall, long of limb, flexible at the waist. Their complexion takes on the tan easily, and both the hair and eyes fall between the softer brown-black and the stark anthracite-black.
Luca’s variant is the burnt ochre, smoother and warmer than any cappuccino. He is as gorgeous as the day when we first went to bed together... and there are solid business reasons behind our engagement.
Unbidden sigh of regret lifts my chest... truly, we made sense together. We did. We almost were good.
But these two rotten doves leave me no choice.
Nobody, nobody walks over me.
I have too much wild Tatar blood in my veins to forgive the slights, and I do not lie to myself, even when the lies are soothing like herbal tea.
“Stay, go, do whatever you wish, my darling. But without me.” ‘My darling’, what a fucking joke.
I turn on the stiletto heel in the direction of the master-bedroom and drag a suitcase from the walk-in closet.
There are a few things in this house that I don’t care to buy again.
Three pairs of Manolo Blahnic shoes.
And a rifle in a golf-bag, but that’s a separate piece of luggage.
Luca follows me into the bedroom, leans against the window, arms crossed on his chest.
Next to his thigh, on a low stand, lingers our only pet, a sorry money tree in a ceramic pot too small for it. The dirt is cracking, it’s so dry... shit... shit... shit... leave it to Luca to kill everything. I kick his lean leg out of the way harder than I have to, to grab the pot, this sorry symbol of our ruined relationship.
He cocks an eyebrow. “What are you—” and follows me to the en-suite. “No way...”
“Yes, way.” I twist the faucet to the max, and let the cold water splash into the sink.
Shit. The flow is so strong, it splatters out of my cupped palm, but I drop whatever I catch onto the thirsty dirt and plump leaves. The weirdo house plant does look like a baby tree.
“There, there,” I mumble with quivering lips. “You won’t die on my watch.”
I carry the poor, dripping thing out of the bathroom, Luca trailing us again. “You are overreacting, Mila. There is nothing between this poor girl and me.”
Even watered, the tree is so fucking forlorn on its stupid stand, but there is nothing more I can do for it. I pick up a tube of lipstick lingering on the polished mahogany of Louis the XIV-th impersonating dresser and refresh the carmine layer on my lips. Then kiss the air to even out the glowing redness and toss it into the suitcase—it’s a good shade on me.
“Do you remember the anecdote about a housewife who beats a servant before the servant breaks a tea-cup?” I ask him.
“What?” He looks perplexed, and he hates being perplexed.
“Maybe you don’t know this story, but I do. Baba Anya used to read it to me when I was little. And you know what I’ve come to realize after all these years?”
“What?” he repeats, like a broken record.
“Only the idiots laugh at the housewife.”
“Mila, I love—”
How can he look at me with the same melting gaze as he’d just looked at her?
It doesn’t matter how. He can. And he did before. And he would do it again if I don’t leave.
So, I don’t let myself hear his impossibly soft you on the end of ‘I love you’. The worst lies are so quiet.
“Ta-ta.” I brush a kiss on his cheek on my way out, the lipstick leaving a carmine trace. Then my heart can’t take it anymore: there has to be something worth saving in all this, and Luca already has Pansy. He’ll do good by her, if only to prove how wrong I am.
I run back in to grab the baby tree. I’m not leaving it in this pretty and soulless place to die.