| 10 YEARS PRIOR |
“Darren, honey, what was that noise?” My mother asks, setting her fork down onto her plate as she looks towards the front of the house. Were in the middle of eating dinner and chatting about my day at school. 4th Grade math was very complicated at the moment, so I was reviewing multiplication flashcards while I ate my bowl of chicken alfredo. My father always makes the best pasta, the whole meal practically melts in your mouth with every bite. My father looks up from his plate and looks to my mother, a smile on his face.
“Probably the wind, Melissa. It was a bit cold outside this morning, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the weather was acting up again.” He replies, stuffing a forkful of pasta in his mouth. We all jump when we hear a bang come from the front door. Then again, and again. My parents look at me in fright and jump from the table.
“Melissa, hide her,” My dad commands and my mother nods her head. She comes over to me and picks me up effortlessly, taking me to the kitchen.
“It’s okay, baby. Everything’s fine,” She comforts me as I hold onto a flashcard in my hand. She brings me to the cupboards and opens the one below the sink. “Baby, get in here and whatever you do, do not leave this cupboard unless me and Daddy say so. Do not say a single word. Do I make myself clear?” My mother demands. I nod my head and she exhales, placing a kiss onto my forehead. “I love you so much, Anastasia. Never forget that okay? Daddy loves you too,” She says and pushes me into the cupboard. I curl up into a ball, squishing into the small area as my mother closes the door, leaving a small gap in it for me to be able to see into the kitchen. I grip onto the flashcard with all my might, oblivious to the fact it’s crumbling in my hands. I’m scared, wanting my parents to hold me and tell me everything’s okay.
“-so you need to leave before I call the police on you, Marcus-” I hear my father say, walking into the kitchen and reaching towards the home phone. A big scary man comes up to him and grabs his hand, shoving him to the ground. He laughs, his horrifying noise filling up the room and making me shiver.
“Darren, you don’t tell me what to do. You lost that privilege a long time ago,” The man laughs, his deep voice daring me to take a look at him. I shift a little to see the scene, holding my breath to avoid interrupting the men. I see my father being shoved to the floor by the big man, punching him, and I want to squeal. No noise comes out though. I can’t speak, my mother said not to.
“Darren!” I hear my mother scream, and I feel tears well up in my eyes. I don’t like hearing my mother in pain. “Let go of him, please!” She shouts, and the man stops and turns to her, his face masked with pure anger. The one thing that stands out to me most are his vivid green eyes. They can pierce through someone’s soul like a knife. He’s probably the scariest man I’ve ever seen in my life.
“Stai zitto you fool! (Shut up!) You knew this would happen! Why would you marry a crazy man like him? You should-” The scary man yells, but is quickly cut off by my father.
“Non parlare così con mia moglie! (Don’t talk to my wife like that!)” He roars, but I don’t understand what he’s saying.
“You don’t get to boss me around anymore, Darren. I’m in charge now!” The old man hisses, and my father tries to get up from off the ground. He’s shoved back down by the scary man and my dad groans in pain as his head hits the ground. I feel a tear run down my cheek. Don’t hurt my father, please, I hear my insides yell, but I refuse to move. It would make mother mad.
“Ace, come see the surprise!” The scary man laughs, and I hear footsteps enter the room. The “Ace” man gasps, and I hear him stomp up closer to me. He’s now in clear view, and I see the distressed look on his face.
“Padre, what is the meaning of this?” The “Ace” man roars, and he tries to move to my father. The scary man shoves him away and “Ace” stumbles back. “Stop this, Marcus! This will not happen!” “Ace” yells, but the scary man starts to laugh again.
“Ace, when I say I am bringing you on a job to kill bad people, you will kill them. Now, kill them.” The scary man commands, and I hear my mother burst into sobs.
“No, no, please! Not him please!” My mother cries, and I see her try to wiggle out of some man’s grasp. The scary man walks over to her and slaps her across the face. I quietly gasp and feel more tears fall from my eyes. My father yells at him to stop, but the scary man continues to hit my mother, making her cry. “Ace” tries to pull him off of her, but he once again is shoved.
The scary man pulls out a gun, and I hear my dad yell in horror. My eyes go wide as I see the scary man point the gun at my mother’s head, chuckling as he places his hand on the trigger.
“I’ll give you one off, Ace, but the other two you kill yourself. Or else, you know what will happen. Wait, where is the little girl?” The scary man questions, and looks straight to my father. My father quickly goes emotionless and bows his head.
“She died in an accident months ago,” He whispers, and I feel a sting in my heart. Did he just say I was dead?
“I hope you’re not lying, Darren, because if you are, she’ll suffer a death far worse than yours.” The scary man hisses, then looks at my mother with the gun up to her head. “Any last words, amore?” He asks, cocking the gun as my mother shakes.
“I love you both very much,” My mother starts, but is soon cut off with a gunshot. My dad screams as we watch mother hit the ground. I feel my body go numb, knowing what had just happened. My mother is dead. He killed her.
“Curse you! Shame on you and your family! Ace, why would you do this?” My father cries, and I watch tears fall from his eyes. I silently cry along with him, knowing I no longer have my mother to protect me anymore. My eyes go back to my mother and I stare at her gunshot wound that is gushing blood. Her skin is pale and her bright blue eyes are staring right at me, haunting me with their lifeless look. I have to hold in a scream as the man who was holding her body throws her to the side of the room, out of my view. My dad continues to sob and scream as the Ace man looks at him in horror. Ace looks frightened, but I suddenly feel a wave of anger wash over me as I stare at him. Is this all his fault? Is he the reason my mother is now dead?
“Ace, get over yourself. Kill him now,” The scary man demands, pointing at my father.
“No! I will not-” Ace starts, but his father slaps him across the face, causing him to growl in anger.
“Do not put your hands on me you filthy, disgusting-”
“I will not tolerate this disrespect! Kill him, or I’ll make sure that you specifically have to tourture him until he kills himself!” The scary man roars, making me jump. I grip my legs that are pulled into my chest tighter, forcing myself to stay still.
“Vaffanculo! (Fuck you!) I won’t kill Darren, father! I won’t be responsible for this!” Ace yells, pointing at my father, who now has an emotionless look on his face. My father’s breaking. He can’t. He needs to stay strong.
“Ace De Luca, I have 5 assassins at your house right now, and if I give them the signal, they will immediately kill your wife and all of your children. You just had a child, a newborn? You wouldn’t want him to die because of you, now would you? Now, think long and hard before-”
“Just kill me, Ace.” My father murmurs, shocking both of the men standing there. My father’s eyes glace in my direction and we lock eyes. There’s so much hurt in his eyes that it pains me to look at them. I watch him mouth “I love you” to me, and I feel like screaming for him to run away. To be anywhere but here. To not be the hero just this once. To not save Ace De Luca.
“No, Darren, I will not-”
“Just do it, Ace. Please.” My father sighs, looking away from me and back at Ace. Ace looks at him with so many emotions in his face. Sadness, pity, anger, and many more I couldn’t care to identify. My father just offered to kill himself for him and I couldn’t help but to be enraged by that.
The scary man hands Ace the gun but Ace just looks at it for a second, processing what’s happening. You better not grab that-he grabs the gun and runs his hand over the barrel.
“It’s time, Ace. He’s put this on himself.” The scary man calmly explains to Ace. Ace exhales and corrects his grip on the gun. His face turns emotionless, but you can still see the pain in his eyes. No, he can’t. He’s not about to-
“Mi dispiace tanto, amico. Spero che lei mi possa perdonare, (I am so sorry, friend. I hope you can forgive me.)” Ace says, pointing the gun to my father’s head. My father sighs and gives Ace a soft smile. No, no, no, no.
“Sei perdonato, fratello. Prenditi cura del mio fiore per me. (You are forgiven, brother. Take care of my flower for me.)” My father replies and bows his head. What are they saying?
Ace sucks in a big breath and shakily moves his finger to the trigger. The scary man smirks while Ace corrects his aim to my father’s head. I stare at the scene in front of me in horror. He couldn’t possibly be doing this right now. This has to be a prank! They are just joking with me. Okay, the prank can end now, I get the point. Mother just needs to get back up and father-
My thoughts are interrupted with a bang. I jump and begin to feel my soul leave my body. No, this can’t be happening. I can’t even look. I tuck my head in between my legs and let the tears silently fall. I hold my breath, waiting for the men to leave so mother and father can open the cupboard back up. I fiddle with the flashcard in my hand as I hear footsteps move around the kitchen.
“Good work, Ace. I’m proud of you son.” The scary man congratulates his son and all I feel is disgust. You just killed my parents, how could you feel proud of yourself? I don’t even see how that’s emotionally possible.
“Merda, (Shit,)” Ace replies. I hate how they’re speaking complete gibberish. I don’t understand a single thing.
“Now you’re family is safe and you can continue your life without those Grey’s messing it up-”
“Do not talk about them like that,” Ace hisses, and his footsteps leave the room. I continue to hold in my breath and tears as I feel the scary man sigh.
“Mi ringrazierà quando sarà più vecchio. (He will thank me when he gets older.)” The scary man says and walks out of the room. I hold it in for a few more seconds until the front door closes, and I sob my heart out. I shake and scream and ask the man in the sky why he’d take my parents away from me. It’s just a joke, Ana, remember? I feel myself start to calm down, knowing that this was a prank.
I start to shuffle out of the cupboard and into the kitchen. I stand up, looking at the scene in front of me. My dad is facedown on the ground, blood puddling under his head. Fake blood, right? I walk up to him and shake his shoulder, signaling that he can open his eyes now.
“Father?” I giggle, waiting for him to look up at me with a big smile on his face. He doesn’t move and I feel my smile start to fade. “Daddy, you can stop playing now. The men are gone,” I explain, feeling tears starting to well up in my eyes. “Daddy,” I whisper, falling down on my knees and rubbing his back with my hand. “Wake up, please.”
He stays still with the puddle of blood below him, growing larger and larger as I stay with him. I fiddle once more with the flashcard in my hand and look at it. “12 x 8” the card reads and I begin to do the math in my brain as a distraction. 8 twelve times is...96. 12 times 8 equals 96. Right. I flipped the card over to reveal that the answer was, infact, 96. I smile in pride, knowing that mother and father trained me well in school. They always knew my education was important, so I took it very seriously. I look up to see my father ask me if I got it right, but he stays still. I suddenly am snapped back into reality and process the fact that my parents were just killed.
I turn my head to look at my mother who’s leaning against the cupboard, blood leaking from the bullet wound in her head. I get up, walk over to her, and just stare at her. She can’t leave me too. I look down to her hand and see her ring on her finger. I love that ring. She always took it off to let me wear it. I pretended to be married to a handsome prince who’d carry me away and bring me on extravagant adventures. My father would always pretend to be the prince, but he’d always say that he’d never let me get married. I grin at the thought and grab my mother’s hand to take off the ring. I slid it off her ring finger and put it on mine. I watch it as it shines in the kitchen lights. It’s a little big, but I’ll grow in it. I look at my mother and smile. “Thank you, Mommy. I’ll take good care of it for you.”
I look at the room around me and observe my surroundings. I know that I need to clean up. Where do I put mother and father? I decide that I need to put them in their beds to get some sleep. They’ll wake up in the morning and be fine. I grab my mother’s arms and begin to drag her to her room. She’s very heavy, but I manage to get under her and tuck her in. I put a cold towel on her forehead to help cover up her boo boo and kiss her cheek. “Goodnight, mother. I’ll see you tomorrow. Wait, I’ve got to get Daddy,” I tell her and run back to the kitchen. I look at my father and giggle. I can’t move him when he’s asleep. He’s too heavy. Maybe he’ll wake up while I carry him.
I walk over to him and grab his arms. I begin to drag him across the kitchen, grunting and heaving him across the house. “Daddy, help please,” I wheeze, making it to his room after a good few minutes of tugging. I look at the bed and then I look at him. I groan, trying to think of a plan to get him onto the bed. I decide on putting him onto my back and flipping him onto the bed.
I managed to do that and put a towel on his forehead, like I did for mother. “Goodnight Daddy, I love you.” I tell him and give him a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll clean up the table and the kitchen for you guys because you both are really tired. I’ll let you guys sleep in too as I get ready for school.” I offer them, only getting silence in reply. “Okay, goodnight!” I smile, walking out of the room and shutting the door behind me. I’ll come home from school tomorrow and see father at the table with coffee in hand and my mother in the garden tending to her roses. I smile at the thought. It was all just a silly prank.