The girl was named Marta. Marta Zini. She said it loudly, with a great deal of pride. Meanwhile, Vittoria’s brain worked overtime, trying to figure out just how deep trouble she was in. She was sweaty and uncomfortable in the silk dress, and Marta’s voice grated on her. Carlo’s hand on the small of her back did little to ease her mind.
“Would’ve preferred an assassin,” Franco muttered under his breath next to her, and she heartily agreed.
Carlo just shrugged and walked straight up to the girl.
“Hungry, kid?” he asked.
Marta looked up at him, eyebrow raised, and then nodded.
“Unless you’re poisoning the food, in which case, I’m full.”
A smile played at the corners of his mouth. “No poison, promise.”
He sent Franco out to the wedding buffet for a cookie, and when they put it in front of her, she only eyed it for a second before scarfing it down. In the kitchen light, it was clear that she had been through some ordeal. Her clothes were torn in places and twigs and dry grass stuck to her greasy hair.
“Where’d you come from?” Carlo asked as she was munching on the last bit of cookie.
Marta eyed him suspiciously. “Who’s asking?”
“Carlo Mancini,” he answered, and then he pointed. “This is Franco, a friend of mine, and Vittoria, my wife.”
“Your name’s really Lisa,” Marta said, crossing her arms, eyeing Vittoria up and down.
Vittoria wanted to shake the brat, but her husband remained calm.
“No, you’ve got that wrong.” Carlo crouched next to the chair. “And I’d like to know who told you about Lisa.”
The first shred of doubt appeared on Marta’s face.
“Mummy talked about Lisa all the time.”
Vittoria started. “Your mother? What’s her name?”
The girl opened her mouth, but closed it again. There was a slight tremble in her hand as she picked at one of the twigs in her hair.
“She told me only to call her Mummy. If I called her anything else, she got mad.”
Carlo put a hand on the girl’s shoulder and he winked playfully. “I’m not going to tell her. We really need that name, Marta.”
Before she even said it, Vittoria knew what it was.
If it shocked Carlo, he didn’t show. He continued in the same warm, patient tone he used only with the kids.
“And what did Lucia say about Lisa?”
“That she was a bad daughter and because she was bad, she died. But daddy had already told me that Lisa didn’t die at all. She just didn’t like being home, and he helped her run away.”
Vittoria let out a deep sigh, almost a sob, and Carlo rushed to her side.
“Your daddy is called Alberto Zini, isn’t he?”
Marta cast her eyes down. “Yeah, he was.”
“That name’s familiar,” Franco said.
Vittoria grit her teeth and nodded. It took her a good minute to find her voice again. “Marta, I bet you’re tired. Carlo and Franco will get you a blanket and you can sleep on the sofa.”
The girl nodded. Carlo stopped Vittoria before she could leave the room.
“What’s going on?”
Vittoria closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, pushing down the desire to scream at the kid. When she opened her eyes again, they were big and panicked. “I need to change out of this dress.”
“Darling, you’re shaking.”
“Give me five minutes. I want to talk to her before I can say for sure, but I think… Five minutes.”
Carlo took a step back and nodded.
Marta looked up with a lifted eyebrow.
“I liked the dress better.”
Vittoria noticed that the girl stumbled a little over her words, and she straightened her back to compensate.
“It’s a pretty great dress.”
She walked over to the sofa and moved the pile of blankets out of the way so that she could sit next to the girl. Every time she made a sudden movement, Marta started. Vittoria wondered if the girl could feel her anger like a cloud around them, but then if she had really lived with Lucia… the answer would be yes.
“Pretty good to be away from her, right?” Vittoria said, leaning back in the sofa. “Except you don’t really feel safe. You’re scared. Paranoid. If you last that long, it’ll take a few years before you stop looking over your shoulder.”
“So, you are Lisa?”
Vittoria shook her head. “No. And if you tell anyone I am, you’ll be in trouble.”
Marta nodded. “Right, it’s just that Mum-.”
“Lucia,” Vittoria corrected her. “She’s not actually your mother, is she?”
“But it’s a habit. Yeah. Woe betide the ungrateful child who call her anything but mummy.”
The girl cracked a careful smile. “Y-yeah.”
Marta looked so small, holding herself and looking at nothing in particular. Somehow, she knew that the memories playing in her mind right now were very similar to her own.
“Marta, when did your father die?”
“I was seven.”
Vittoria cursed in her head. “So, four years ago, just about.”
“Tell me about it.”
Marta’s eyes filled with tears, and she looked up at Vittoria in horror.
“B-but, I don’t like…”
“I don’t know what to say,” she said, tears falling while she spoke. “I came home from school and daddy was just… you know. There was a lot of blood all over the place, and he was quiet. I’ve seen a lot of blood before, so I know what means. I just didn’t know it could happen to daddy, because he said it just happened t-to bad people.”
“And she was there, too. Mu- I mean, Lucia. She said that daddy had an accident and that she was my new mummy and that I had to live with her because nobody else wanted me. But she said she would protect me.”
“Knowing her, she didn’t,” Vittoria said.
“No. Well, sometimes. The men she has…”
“She has a boyfriend?”
“A boyfriend?” Marta said. “She had a lot of boyfriends and daddy would have called them ruffians, because they weren’t very nice. And anyway, they didn’t all like me, so she protected me when they were mean or yelled.”
“And let me guess, then you comforted her when they broke her heart?”
Made her dinner, made sure she got out of bed, helped her bathe when she was drunk and had vomited all over herself… It was all spelled out in Marta’s eyes.
“How did you find me?” Vittoria asked, then.
“Daddy told me where you went to live. I always knew that, but it was really hard to get away. The other day, M- Lucia was distracted, so I and ran away and I’ve been looking for you for two days. I figured since she hadn’t gotten you back, I’d be safe here.”
Vittoria didn’t scream, even though every cell in her body did. She jumped up from the sofa.
“You should sleep,” she said tersely.
Marta winced. “I’m sorry.”
“I have to talk to Carlo. Goodnight.”
Marta rolled up in a little ball on the couch with trails of dried tears still on her cheeks, and Vittoria just barely registered guilt, but then she thought of her mother and how bad things would be if Lucia found them, and the guilt drowned.
Carlo was in the bedroom, phone pressed to his ear, but he hung up as soon as she walked in.
She paced the floor, intermittently stopping to curse at the top of her lungs. When she was done, Carlo came up behind her.
“Talk to me,” he said, hugging her close. “Alberto Zini, who is he?”
“He is… was my contact. The guy I called when you were in jail four years ago.”
Carlo went silent and rocked her like you would a child. “What happened?”
She summed up what Marta had told her – Alberto’s death and the timing of it.
“He died of an ‘accident’ right around the time I called in that favour and exposed myself. It wasn’t a fucking accident, especially not when she was there to take care of his daughter, just like that.”
“You think Lucia killed him to get the girl?”
She shook her head. “No, I know she killed him because he wouldn’t say where I was. The girl was a bonus. When my mother found a new little girl who could baby her, she grabbed her and forgot about me. Marta was my mother’s replacement goldfish.”
She tore herself free.
“But now Marta is here, the little…”
“Can you blame her?”
Vittoria spun on her heel. “Yes! My mother killed to try and find me and the only thing that’s kept her away from me for four years is her. My mother is coming to find her, or sending someone to find her, and it’ll end in bloodshed. She’ll kill us both, and she’ll kill everyone in her way, and if she can’t have Marta or me, I guarantee, she’ll take Regina or Giulio. Or both.”
“And then I’ll shoot her brains out,” Carlo said calmly, grabbing her again.
“Mum is insane,” Vittoria said. “The best we can do right now is… is send the girl back.”
“Not fucking happening.” He put a finger on her lip before she could protest. “Darling, if we send that kid back, she’ll go through the exact same thing you did. Psycho boyfriends, murder training, possibly worse. The best we can do is call the Good Guys over and ask them to get rid of Lucia. If that fails and she comes here, we’ll do what we have to do to keep ourselves and that girl safe, understood?”
She looked at him pleadingly. “Please, you don’t get it.”
Carlo cupped her face and kissed her long and hard, then he pulled back and ran a thumb over her lips.
“I love you, and I’ll choose to ignore that you just suggested sacrificing a child to your mother. She stays here.”
She wanted to go outside and scream, but his voice held her there. For a long time he held her firm, stroking her back gently, and only after a minute like that did she realise what he was trying to say without words.
“I’m acting like him again, aren’t I? Like Alessandro.”
Carlo nodded. “You’re getting better at this.”
“Fine, she stays here. But we have to take care of my mother. As soon as possible.”
Author’s note: Hi folks, and welcome back to Monte Vista after the hiatus! In which Vittoria is being a pretty bad person, and we’re introduced properly to Marta 🙂 Marta was originally a lil’ pudding face that Vittoria and Carlo adopted, but I
totally cheated and made her face more interesting. Am I the only one who misses the adoption system for ts2? I once created a guy with a babby, had the kid taken away and the guy killed off so that she’d have a tragic backstory and could be adopted by a lesbian couple I made… just try and read that without context. Now that I’ve told you that, it’s probably obvious that Marta is here to stay. And, in fact, I’ve taken a little family photo of the Mancinis with her. That and a few wedding photos will be available right after this chapter as an extra. Because I’m in the mood for some extras 🙂
Now, as for content of this chapter… I based this here on the trope replacement goldfish. It’s when a character uses another character as a replacement for someone they’ve lost, and I think it’s immensely creepy. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you can’t get a new love or another child after losing a loved one, but purposefully molding a person into the one you’d lost is another matter. It speaks to me of a disregard for the other person’s humanity, of control, and just… general fucked up…ness. So that’s my two cents on why Lucia is a creepy fucker.
Rambling aside, I hope you’re all having a great old time and I will see you guys for the next one.