Eight Years Previously
Regina insisted that she really, really had to go, but the strength of the statement was undercut by the fact that she didn’t then turn around and leave; rather, she stood on tip-toes and kissed Enzo again. When she pulled away, her hands stayed on his chest, tracing the lines of his shirt.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night, right?” she asked.
Already, Enzo knew he wouldn’t sleep all night and would spend his time in a happy haze until he could see her again.
“I can’t wait,” she said sweetly.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket, though before answering, she flung her arms around him and gave him the last kiss of the night. He wound his own arms around her and enjoyed the feel of holding her. It was odd to hold someone this tightly, as it was something he had never tried before. He started to realise why people did get close to each other. He didn’t want the closeness to end, but eventually Gina had to answer her phone.
“Yeah, yeah, Marta, I’m coming,” she said, rolling her eyes in Enzo’s direction as if to say: Adults, right?
Enzo grinned and waved when she walked off. She walked with a little spring in her step and he could hear her happy laughter from a distance. It wasn’t the first time that he thought to himself how alive she was.
He waited until she was out of his view around the corner, then he walked home on light feet with a smile on his face. His clothes and hair still smelled like Regina’s perfume and there was a ghost of her kiss on his lips.
The walk home was beautiful, or maybe it was that everything was beautiful. A light breeze played with his hair and apart from a few scattered smears of clouds above, the stars were visible and blinking at him. It should have been chilly by now, but he didn’t feel the cold.
Or at least he didn’t, until the house came into view. This late, he would expect to find the house dark and quiet, but the ground floor windows were lit up and he paused on the lawn across from the mansion.
He briefly considered sneaking in through the backdoor, but then immediately dismissed it. It was locked, and even if he had learnt to pick locks, he couldn’t turn off the alarm system—his dad liked to brag that you couldn’t get past it at all. No, he had to go in the front door and hope he wouldn’t be noticed.
Enzo slowed his steps and crept towards the house. Instead of walking on the sidewalk, he crept alongside the hedges, hoping that they would shield him from the revealing squares of light that fell on the lawn. He felt a spike of hope at seeing that no light spilled through the glass panes of the front door. That meant the light was on in one of the salons and hopefully that meant that it was only his mother sitting up late with a book.
That seemed to be the case for a fraction of a second. The entryway was dark and quiet, though as soon as he closed the door behind him, all relief fled.
A light came on, nearly blinding after the long walk in darkness. His eyes adjusted slowly, painfully, and then his father’s form came into view. Enzo shrank back instinctively from the blue eyes that were so like his own.
“Where in heaven’s name have you been?” his father asked. His voice wasn’t raised. He never raised his voice, even when he was angry.
Enzo didn’t answer. His mind emptied of everything but the fact that he was dressed abominably, his hair was a mess, and a cloud of sweet perfume hung around him.
“I—” he tried, but his voice broke. “Father, I…”
“What’s going on?”
To Enzo’s horror, his entire family came out. His mother with her long hair and that vacant, complacent look, plodded down the stairs. Soon Rosalia and Amadeo followed. Lia blinked sleep out of her eyes and looked at him.
“Why are you wearing that?” she asked.
“Rosalia,” their mother said. “Not now.”
“No, let him answer,” the elder Vincente Cavalcante said. “I would like to hear the explanation for him being out at this hour, dressed like that. Well, Vincente?”
Enzo’s mouth was completely dry. It was hard to believe he had ever kissed a beautiful girl and walked home under the stars with a smile on his face.
“Answer me now, Vincente, or you will regret it.”
“I was out,” he said. “Seeing… a friend.”
“Mr. Lorenzo Sartore, I presume.”
Did I really just lie to my father?
His dad walked over, each footstep like a clap of thunder in the quiet. Even though Enzo had grown a lot in the past year and was nearly as tall as him, he still felt small.
“Tell me, Vincente,” he said. “When did Mr. Sartore start to wear cheap perfume?”
Gina’s scent suddenly hit Enzo’s nostrils strongly. He strangled an angry response to hearing him describe the perfume as cheap, because he didn’t think that was at all the case. Nothing about Gina was cheap… but saying that would make it worse. Way worse.
“It wasn’t Lorenzo,” he said finally. Deciding that honesty was the best policy. “It was a girl.”
His attention was drawn to his mother at her small sound of surprise. She cocked her head and looked at him with a curious smile.
“Do you have a girlfriend, Vincente?” she asked.
“Of course he doesn’t,” his father replied tersely. “If he did, we would know of her and we would know of her family. Who is the girl?”
“Maybe Rosalia and Amadeo should head off to bed,” his mother said carefully. “I don’t think—”
“No, they’ll stay here. Who is the girl?”
“Her name is… is…”
“Stop stammering and speak up.”
“Regina Mancini,” he said.
He had hoped his dad wouldn’t recognise the last name, or at least not connect it with the gang from Monte Vista, but his eyes widened and his nostrils flared. That was always a bad sign.
“Mancini.” He said the name in a way that made it sound like a curse. “So, you’re joining a gang?”
“N-no, I was only seeing her. She’s nice and…”
“Pack your things and leave.”
Enzo’s breath caught in his throat and his vision swam. Gasps escaped his family.
“But—” he heard himself say.
“No!” Lia’s voice rang out, echoing against the white marble in the hall. “Please don’t make Vinny leave.”
“Stay quiet, Rosalia.”
Amadeo rushed forward and put an arm around their little sister. He stroked her shoulder and shushed her, muttering comforting words.
“You heard me,” his dad said. “If this girl is so nice, go join her gang. You’re no longer welcome here.”
“Vincente…” Now his mother spoke up. “He’s just a boy…”
“He’s nearly eighteen, so he can make his way alone. Go.”
“It’s not like that,” Enzo said, wincing at how whiny he sounded. “I’m not a criminal. I was just hanging out with her, and the breaking in wasn’t—” He winced at his own idiocy. Why did I say that?
“Breaking in? So the rumours I heard of your breaking and entering were true. How lovely.”
”I won’t see her ever again, I promise,” Enzo said. “And I’ll never do it again, none of it. I promise.”
For a full, terrifying minute, his father was quiet. He paced back and forth, looked him up and down as though he were a piece of chattel he considered the value of. At last, he said in a voice that was dangerously low:
“I don’t need a disobedient, criminal son. How will I explain these kinds of misdeeds to our family? To our acquaintances?”
“Th-they don’t… have to know.”
He scoffed. “They will know, Vincente, and because of what you’ve done, everyone in our family will suffer. Your mother and I, your siblings. What do you think this will do to our reputation?”
“Sorry will never be enough to undo the damage you’ve done. Swear that you’ll cut contact with the girl.”
I’m sorry, Gina.
“You’ll be grounded for the next three months, and after this I want to see you take extra care with your work. Understood?”
“Very well. Go back to your room.”
He took a few heavy steps, past his siblings and mother towards the stairs. Their eyes burnt at the back of his neck. Then his father’s voice stopped him:
“And next time I see you, you had better dress properly.”
Enzo had thought that was the end of it. The next night, he lay on his bed and missed her, but with his father’s words in mind, he knew it was for the best. He was terrified what would happen once people learnt of what he had done.
There would be a function soon, and he didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps it would be like when the oldest Aiello boy left home in disgrace. He was disinherited and kicked out, and after that everyone flocked to the Aiello family. They said it was to comfort them, but Enzo could tell they were smug. They enjoyed the drama.
With grim thoughts of social ostracising and humiliation swirling in his head, he nearly drifted off to sleep until his father came to his room.
“Let’s go, son.”
Enzo sat up. “Where?”
“You said you had agreed to meet with the girl tonight, isn’t that right?”
“B-but you said…”
“You made an agreement and now you must keep it. You’ll go meet with the girl and tell her that you want nothing more to do with her and her kind. Come on.”
His father forced him to change into the stiffest, most uncomfortable clothes he owned and drove him to the town centre to see Gina. Enzo deliberately avoided looking at her face, because he didn’t want to see her reaction to what he was about to say. Of course, the pain in her voice was clear enough.
Regardless, he did as he was told. He tried to say the things he imagined his father would want him to say and he tried to look like him, to stand tall and not let it show that he felt worse with every word that came out of his mouth. He only stumbled for one moment, when she shouted with a voice that sounded close to tears:
“You can’t even look at me, can you? Go on! The least you can do while dumping me is fucking look at me.”
He didn’t think anything could hurt this badly. She was so alive and pretty and wonderful, and he could hear her heart breaking.
“Gina, p-please…” he said, unable to bear it for much longer.
He looked at her then, his heart doing a painful lurch in his chest. He had never met anyone whose face was so open, whose eyes betrayed so much. And it wasn’t just her eyes—all corners of her face were etched with misery. But he thought of how close he had been to being kicked out of his home, to losing everything, and he steeled himself.
He said casually: “Like I said—I was bored.”
“You fucking asshole,” she said, snorting derisively.
He couldn’t bear to look at her anymore, so he spun and walked away. Before he really had time to sigh in relief that it was over, her voice raised over the empty square, and she started screaming curses at him. She didn’t stop, even when he got into the car and shrank into the seat.
“What a charming girl,” his father said next to him, glancing out with disdain. He motioned for the driver to pull away and take them home.
“It’s just because she’s hurt.”
Enzo couldn’t help but defend her, but he lowered his head at his father’s glare.
“I’m not going to let anyone talk to my son like that, especially not a girl like her.”
He took out his phone to make a call and Enzo froze when he understood he was talking with the police. He listened in horror while his father reported Regina for harassment. He wanted to tell him not to do it, but the look his father sent him made it very clear that he would be better off not talking.
Author’s notes: At last! The new chapter is here 🙂 As some of you know, I eh… had a bit of a hangover for a day (this is what you get for partying with programmers) and I had to delay. HOWEVER! It’s finally here. This is officially the start of part three of gen 2. Part three is a short one, and it’s a flashback part, which I’m pretty excited about. This chapter might be a little lacklustre, though I promise the next ones are more meaty. At least we finally know what happened that fateful night eight years ago 🙂 And we have a proper introduction to Enzo’s dad, who’s a real peach (sarcasm may occur).
Anyway, that’s all from me for now. I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter and I’ll see you for the next one in the new year 🙂 Happy holidays and happy new year to all you guys! 🙂