ADOPTED – Episode 21
© Happy William
I stared at him with raised brows. Then I sighed. Maybe I should give him a chance to explain things—if that’s what he wanted to do.
“OK,” I said on exhalation, “I’m all ears.”
He chuckled. “It’s going to be a long story, mia carissima, I won’t finish telling it while standing. You’ll get bored.”
I rolled my eyes, but in reality I was trying to hide the colour rising up my cheeks. I realm missed how he calls me those Italian endearments. Which reminds me; I’ve got an appointment with my Italian/English dictionary.
“Let’s use your room.”
”Alright,” I replied and preceded him.
Emilio closed the door behind him and sat beside me on my bed.
I looked at him expectantly as he cleared his throat.
“My father was the don of the Mafia, always busy, and the head of Salvatore Wineries — that’s our wine producing company. You could say that I’ve never had the kind of childhood that included bedtime stories, playing with puppies in the garden, or practicing for soccer with papà or mamà. I held a gun when I was six, and shot my first target at seven. The kind of life we live is unexpected… enemies every where. So were always prepared. Papà trained me to take over the Mafia from when I was young, while Emilia, Cosima, Sophia enjoyed the early….should I say love? of mamà. That’s before she changed totally.”
He paused, and seemed to brace himself to say the next thing.
I knew Cosima, Sophia, but who’s Emilia?
“Emilia was my twin.”
“Sì. She died.”
I gasped, and held his hand instinctively. He smiled at me.
“Portia changed all of a sudden. She sent Sophia away… put her in her place, and had no more time for us. We used to hear her and papà arguing behind closed doors every day. What for, we never knew. But I usually caught Sergio and my name, and inheritance. That was it. Then Emilia died, and although I don’t know if it affected her, Portia became irrevocable. All she cared for was money.
And then papà died — I got the call when I was in NYC. That’s why I left.”
I understood now.
“But why didn’t you tell me?” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Didn’t want to burden you. I went home, and after the burial, the will was read—everything in my name, and not a dime for either Portia or Sergio. I didn’t understand, but I guessed papà knew what he was doing. He always knows what he’s doing.”
There was a pained expression in his face and I couldn’t bear it. I wanted to tell him to stop talking, but he continued, “Anne, I didn’t mean to hide anything, but it was like the only way to keep you out of trouble. If anyone of my enemies knew about you, they’d use you to get to me. Couldn’t let that happen.”
“But you’re not marrying me anymore,” I pointed out.
“No. But this marriage, I swear I didn’t know about the second will, the Cosima thing. I’m sure something’s off somewhere, and I’m looking into that. But I don’t love Cosima one bit. She’s too….”
He made a sicko face to describe her, and I laughed a bit. The tension eased a bit.
He held my hand , his eyes twinkling with… what?
“OK….mother confessor. I’ve bared my whole soul to you now. Am I forgiven?”
“Hmm….” I made a show of thinking, “OK. But Emilio, I hope that’s all, and you’re not hiding anything from me? It’ll hurt if you do.”
He was quiet for only a second.
“Then, by the power vested in me, I pronounce you forgiven.”
He smiled and nodded, and then I told him about my own childhood.
He frowned most times, especially the maltreatment parts, and expressed how he could kill my foster parents with his bare hands, which I asked him not to even think about.
Then I told him about my real parents, and how happy I was, am, to find them.
“I felt so lucky! It was like a dream come true.”
He nodded once. “Yes, it was.”
I was glad Emilio and I talked things over, and were good now. Although, his marriage to Cosima was my major piss off each day.
I was sitting in the living room, watching a romantic soap opera that was kind of interesting, but had me thinking of my own love life—or the absence of it.
I felt a depression in the seat, and looked up to see Cosima beside me, wearing a skimpy green dress and impossibly high shoes. She had a fake friendly smile on her face.
“Hey Anne. Watching TV?”
I rolled my eyes. “Whatcha want?”
“Oh, I want us to be friends, you know? We could start off by watching the TV together. Oh, its Erotica. My favorite. Can’t believe I hardly have time for it.”
She snuggled, and I scoffed.
“You see, it’s an Italian romance story. The guy’s a millionaire, he owns vineyards allover the country, And he’s in love with Dame Lorita, and she’s also rich. They make the perfect couple — SAY!” She gasped and snapped her finger, as if just realizing something. “This reminds me exactly of Emilio and me. Were rich and popular and in love and married. Awwww, you shouldn’t be watching this,” she purred.
I had enough.
I threw the remote to her.
“You know what, have the TV to yourself.”
“Nooo, but we were bonding, right? Sit, sit.”
I sat back, just because the movie was too interesting to give it up for her.
“You know what? Emilio and I are planning to have a baby!”
My head snapped to her.
“Yes, you know how the Mafia is. So unpredictable. So, he needs an heir, and were going to start tonight —”
“Shut up! I’m trying to focus here. So what if you and Emilio wants to make babies enough to fill an orphanage!? Unbelievable.”
I walked out while her sinister laughter followed me…. and stopped at my door as soon as I banged it.
This was the day everyone on the Salvatore estate have been anticipating.
Fermentation was completed, and it was now time to extract the liquid from the fruits, especially the grapes.
It was like a tradition when the workers would wash their feet and step directly into a big trough full of grapes, and match them.
It was shocking to me, but Sophia told me that’s how it was done.
“Uhm, we wear dresses, the traditional Italian dresses which consist of billow skirts and waist hugging blouses. It’s going to be fun!”
She was sewing the hem of a yellow dress that had green and red floral patterns on them.
“Yeah, but I don’t have any of such dresses!” I pouted. “I’ll just watch.”
Seraphina barged into the room, and Sophia yelled at her to always knock.
“Mama said to tell you that I’m hungry!” she yelled back.
“Get lost and go to the kitchen!”
Sophia banged the door in the little girl’s face, and I burst out laughing.
“She’s a real pain! Sometimes I Wonder if she’s actually my sister. So annoying.”
Then she smiled. “So you and Emilio have patched things up?” she asked hopefully.
“Wow, that’s awesome!”
“Don’t get started, OK? Get dressed let’s go.”
Rosa was in the kitchen, giving food to Serapgina, who stuck her tongue out at Sophia.
“Mama give me foooood!” she sang.
“Whatever,” Sophia muttered. “Mama, were going.”
“Oh dear, too bad I’ll miss it this year,” she said with a sad smile and one hand at her back. “But wait, Anne can have my dress…it’s her size. I wasn’t fat two years ago.”
We laughed and got the dress from her.
It was white, with red roses only at the edges.
I tried it on, it fit me.
“It’s beautiful,” I said smiling. “Thank you.”
“Oh tish tosh. Emilio wouldn’t recognize you this—oops, run along before I say something se
stupid. It’s the hormones. Have fun!”
Sophia was right.
Everything was set as if this was a big occasion!
There were lights on poles in a circle around the troughs, which were up to twenty filled with the grapes, and about ten with water to wash feet.
And there was a local music band in a corner, playing softly.
It was so nice.
When everyone arrived, they untied their sandals and stepped into the water troughs, and washed their feet. They went in male and female.
By the time everyone had stepped into the grapes troughs, the band struck up, playing a fast melody that had people dancing and laughing happily as they stepped graciously onto the grapes, which made squish noises as they burst open.
“Lovely right? Too bad we don’t have partners,” Sophia said over the music. “Look, there’s Signora Portia and Cosima. And Prudence is already dancing,” she pointed out. The woman was stomping so hard on them that I felt it was going to burst.
“Emilio isn’t here?” I asked.
“He started the programme. Don’t know where he ran off to,” she replied , her eyes were focused on one spot.
“Oh…” I giggled when I saw Felipe approaching.
“Enjoying the evening ladies?” he asked casually, his eyes not leaving Sophia.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Then you wouldn’t mind if I steal Sophia for a while?”
Sophia, who was tongue tied, spoke up, “Uh, no, you see…Anne and I were going to —”
“Just go already!” I whispered.
She turned back to give me a grin, and soon they were both part of the dance crowd.
I ran my hands up-and-down my arms to keep the cold from seeping in as I watched them.
Then I felt someone behind me. I turned to see Emilio.
“Not dancing are you, mia cara?” he asked, his breath on the nape of my neck.
I shook my head.
“I’m better here, I don’t even know how to dance.”
“Understatement of the evening,” he said. His voice was husky, his breath fanned my nape, and the tip of his nose brushed my back. It tingled.
“W-what are you doing?” my breath came out shallow.
“Admiring you. Did I mention that you look angelic this evening, mia belleza?”
Cheeks don’t heat up….cheeks don’t heat up….
“No, you didn’t. Thanks anyway.”
He chuckled. “Do I make you uncomfortable?”
He snaked an arm around my waist and pulled me to himself.
“Let’s dance then.”
#Anne ‘s POV
We were dancing, Emilio and I, and the soft, squishing pasty grapes tickled my feet as I stepped on them.
“This is so fun!”
“I know,” Emilio replied, “But it’s actually my first time joining in.”
I gasped. “You’re kidding! Who’d miss this?”
“Me. Guess I was too busy.”
He suddenly let out a wide grin that caught me off guard. Emilio rarely smiled, and even when he did, it was always so slight.
And it suits him. Made him look so carefree.
“You’re staring. Do I look good?” he asked, smiling.
“Huh—yes, I mean, no…perhaps.”
He did look good. He wore a loose silk White shirt which was Vee necked, revealing his broad tanned chest, and black trousers which was folded to his knees to prevent getting stained. And his hair was tousled from running his hand through… as usual.
I ducked my head and looked around. I caught Felipe and Sophia— they looked happy. Everyone did.
Then I saw the Salvatore’s, Portia and Cosima. Sergio wasn’t here. It then dawned on me that Cosima would be furious if she saw me with Emilio. Not wanting to cause trouble, I began to move back and out.
Emilio held my wrist and pulled me towards him.
“I don’t want you looking anywhere, mia tesoro, I want all your focus to be on me.”
I was against his chest, and could hear his steady, powerful heartbeats. I looked up to him, he was looking down into my eyes.
Then nothing else mattered. Just the two of us.
He placed an arm on my waist, and kept my other hand on his shoulder while he held my other hand.
I didn’t know how to waltz, but it didn’t matter.
We were moving slowly now, and the music changed from rapid to slow. The mashing was done, and everyone stepped out, leaving me and Emilio still in the middle trough. But I didn’t notice. I was too caught up in the sensual web he was spinning around me to notice anything else.
I was aware of the thumping of my heart, and the tension in the air around us. Emilio’s eyes never left mine.
With each waltz, he drew me closer to himself.
And by the time the music ended, he leaned down and took my lips in a soft and light kiss.
The crowd cheered and clapped around us.
“Aunt….Emilio never dances. If he wanted to tonight, he should’ve picked me, his wife, rather than that Miss Skin and Bones,” I huffed and folded my arms in anger.
Portia quietly took a sip of vintage wine from a glass, observing what went on.
“Cosima, you’re married to Emilio and you can’t keep him. What, you want me to get a chain and bound him to you?”
I’ll do anything to keep Emilio for myself, why couldn’t he see that!
I took a grape fruit and threw it into my mouth, chewing as I watched them acting as if they were some secret lovers who’d finally come out in the open.
It made my blood boil.
I’ll just wait for the dance to finish, then I’ll go to ‘my’ man.
OK, the dance is over, and they’re still there.
And….. WHAT! HE KISSED HER!? My mind screamed.
“Isn’t that your husband?” Portia asked me mockingly. “Look, he’s cheating on you in public. And the public is happy about it.”
That was the last straw!
Emilio gave Anne’s hand a squeeze and walked to the store.
I got up and stomped to her in anger, and pulled at her hair just as she was stepping out of the water.
I felt a sharp sting at the roots of my hair, drawing me backwards, and I screamed.
“You sniveling b****!” Cosima yelled as she pulled and twisted my hair from behind, while I struggled helplessly to remove her grip.
“Ouch, Cosima let go!”
“The hell I will!”
She turned in such a way that she was leaning on me, pushing me down towards the big trough of water.
“I’m going to kill you today! Then maybe when you’re dead, you’ll have no ability to go about stealing my husband!”
She locked her grip expertly into my hair that I couldn’t even move it, and soon I felt the force of water rushing into my nose as my face made contact with the water.
I struggled to hold my breath, but she kept shaking me, pressing harder on my neck.
Then I heard shouts of protest, and a rough force pulling her away from me, while hands came to help me up.
“What the hell is wrong with you!?” Emilio asked in pure anger.
“You’re wrong with me, Emilio! You and this Skin and Bones that I’m so going to kill—”
She rushed for me again, but Emilio held her back.
“Cosima stop this madness!”
“Madness… it’s my love for you Emilio, don’t you understand? Don’t anybody understand?”
She kept on screaming and kicking as Emilio took her away.
I coughed up drops of water.
“Oh dio mio, are you OK, Anne?” Prudence asked as she and Sophia looked me over.
I stared at Cosima’s retreating back with pure venom, swearing inside me that if I had the chance, I was going to personally kill that girl.
“I’m fine,” I said with steely determination and brushed past them to the house.
I could hear Emilio and Cosima’s raised voices from their room as I made my way upstairs.
“….You ruined the threshing dance and embarrassed me!”
“Oh yeah? I’ll bet you mean that I ruined your moment of kissing that worthless piece of….”
I continued on my way.
Someone tackled me to the wall.
“Where are you off to in a hurry?”
I pushed him away. “Get away from me!”
I got to my room and slammed the door.
I gulped a full glass of sherry, and felt it burn the back of my throat. I might never get used to drinking excessively.
Cosima had cried herself to sleep. I was in my study now.
Thinking back to the threshing floor….I don’t even know what possessed me to dance with Anne. Not to talk of kissing her. It wasn’t much of a kiss though, just a feather touch. But still.
All I knew is that, once I’d come out of the barn and saw her standing in that white traditional dress with roses embroidered on the hem, I just lost thought of everything but her.
It was wrong, I know.
First off, I’m married to Cosima. And she was there.
Second off, Anne is not that kind of girl.
Lord knows that if there wasn’t any drama she’d have either avoided me after, or told me off.
I chuckled at the thought.
That would only make me want to REALLY kiss her.
My phone vibrated in my pocket.
I put it to my ear.
“About Signora Portia’s movement. She left the estate early this afternoon in oddly nondescript clothes and headed towards the slum part of town.”
“I don’t know yet. I’m still working on it.”
“Buenos. Keep updating me. And I want eyes and ears on Cosima and Sergio too.”
The line went dead.
I looked at the drink in my hand and swallowed it all.
Then I headea up for a hot shower and some sleep.
Before that, I reminded myself that this was a delicate situation.
Use your head.
Guys, your lack of comments is so discouraging.