Content warning: This chapter has homophobic sentiments expressed in the text. No slurs or anything like that, but it’s still not nice. Please tread with care.
Gina gave Enzo’s hand a squeeze and then she turned to look at Vincente and Rosalia Cavalcante. Both were still immaculate, a strong contrast to Enzo who no doubt looked as haggard as he felt and who still slumped in the chair. The room beyond the door was quiet and devoid of guests—no doubt, his father had sent them away when he noticed something was amiss.
Nonetheless, he closed the door before he took in the scene that awaited him.
“So, it’s you causing a stir once again,” Vincente Cavalcante said, actually acknowledging Gina this time.
Gina crossed her arms. “Not really, it was Fabrizio Aiello and his gangbanger friends. I was just cleaning up.” She glanced at the blood on the floor and then shrugged. “I admit I missed a spot, sorry.”
Vincente glanced down and sighed heavily.
“You’re not welcome here. Leave.”
Despite the fatigue that flooded his body, Enzo felt the urge to defend her. The beating he had taken was still fresh in his mind and he got chills thinking of how it could have ended if she hadn’t come. But he couldn’t speak. Much like he had been at Fabrizio’s house, he was tongue-tied. Next to him, Gina didn’t so much as blink as she stared his father in the eyes and crossed her arms.
“I’d love to,” Gina said. “But I have some papers for my lawyer to look at.”
She pulled a wad of folded-up paper from her inner pocket and handed them to Enzo. He looked up at her with a blank stare.
“Read those, and…” She hesitated. “I’m sorry. You won’t like it.”
“What’s that?” Lia asked.
“Rosalia, be quiet. You, Ms. Mancini, if you don’t leave this house immediately, I will call the police,” his father said.
“Well, I guess you’ll just have to call the fucking police.” Gina shrugged. “They can drag me out in handcuffs—wouldn’t be the first time. Enzo, honey, please look at those papers.”
Despite the fact that his mind was numb, his hands obeyed. He unfolded the papers and felt his entire body tense when the headline screamed at him: Restraining Order.
“Vincente, stop immediately,” his father protested.
Enzo ignored him and kept reading. He had to read several of the lines more than once as his confusion grew.
… after a prolonged period of harassment against V. Cavalcante and his children by the defendant Georgette Desjardins… not to go near the plaintiff… any intentional violation of this order is a criminal offense…
“Vincente, you have no reason to believe—”
“Shut up,” Enzo barked.
Lia gasped and clapped a hand over her mouth. His father said something more, but he ignored it and checked the next page. Another restraining order. It was the same defendant—his mother—but the plaintiff was different. When he saw the name, it felt like he had been punched again. His stomach did a violent lurch, a mixture of anger and disgust, when he saw his own simple, curved signature on the line that said Plaintiff’s signature. He looked up slowly. His father must have realised that he knew, because his face had grown pale and his mouth had drawn into a hard line.
“I had no choice,” he said.
His voice was controlled as it always was, but there was a shakiness to it that Enzo hadn’t heard before. He took a deep breath and leafed to the next page.
Restraining Order. Defendant: Georgette Desjardins. Plaintiff: Rosalia Cavalcante.
There was a small pile of them—one restraining order expired and another followed in its wake. Enzo ignored his father’s continued protests and looked through them all until he came to the last one. The most recent one, filed only a few days ago, on the night of Fabrizio’s gathering.
Restraining Order. Defendant: Regina Mancini. Plaintiff: Vincente Cavalcante VII.
Enzo looked up at Gina. Her face, as always open and warm, radiated sympathy. It took effort to turn his gaze on his father instead. Words completely escaped him at this moment. If he were Gina, he would have cursed him out. He would find the words that could best tear him down and march out of there with his head held high. But he wasn’t like that.
“What are those?” Lia asked from next to their father, but her question went unanswered.
Enzo felt bad for ignoring her, but he couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t focus on anything but his father and what these papers told him.
“So… so the whole ‘my mother left because of me and she doesn’t want to see us’, that was nonsense?” he asked of his father. “What was it, then?”
“What you did started the events that led to her departure.” Gina crossed her arms and snorted. Vincente glared at her angrily. “Believe what you will, but it’s true.”
“Fine,” Enzo said and he pushed himself to his feet, tapping into some centre of strength that he didn’t know he had. It was still inhumanly difficult to stand and to look his father in the eyes. “If it is my fault, tell me what happened. I’ll be happy to take responsibility.”
His father let out a deep breath he had been holding.
“Your sister and Ms. Mancini have to leave and then yes, I will explain.”
“Not fucking likely,” Gina said, advancing on him.
Enzo held a hand up to stop her, looking at her meaningfully.
“Gina, if you’ll do me the favour of leaving, I’d be grateful.” He took her hand to stop her protests. “Please, I can handle this.”
Her eyes were big with concern and she bit her lip.
He put his hands on her shoulders and said, with more calm and confidence than he felt: “Thank you for coming to my aid and thank you for bringing this to my attention. Trust me when I say it’s best that I take it from here. Go home and I’ll call you later, I promise.”
She looked away, letting out a breath. “Okay. But I will see you.”
As if to seal the promise, she stood on tip-toes and kissed him hard on the lips. He hadn’t dared to imagine she would ever take him back, but her hands had a possessive hold of his shoulders and her lips on his were red-hot, as though she were branding him hers. Enzo was sure his family must be shocked to see it but all he heard was the rush of blood in his own ears before Gina drew back. She smiled and though she didn’t say anything, he could read her meaning in the look on her face: You’re all mine, rich boy. No matter what happened in this room, no matter what he had done, she wanted him. He wasn’t irredeemable after all and he suddenly felt like he could conquer whole continents so long as he still felt the ghost of her lips on his.
She looked at him one more time, then she did at mocking curtsy at his father and left the room. Lia stood and was about to follow, before Enzo stopped her. He looked at his father.
“My sister stays.”
“There is no need for her to—”
“I can see why you wouldn’t want Gina here, but Lia is part of the family. Whatever it is, she has a right to know.”
Vincente nodded slowly. “Very well. If you insist.”
Lia stayed put and Enzo nodded. “Thank you, father, and please—proceed.”
His father turned around and started pacing the room with his hands behind his back. He had always been a stiffly formal man, but more than ever, he looked like cool marble and it was only helped by the fact that he was unusually pale.
“I’ve already told you I regretted marrying your mother.”
Enzo nodded. “Yes. You said you were warned not to.”
“Why?” Lia looked from one to the other in confusion. She hadn’t heard this. “Mother is from a perfectly good family.”
“She is,” their father said, “but she was what is popularly described as a black sheep. She was known for mouthing off and going against her parents’ wishes at every turn, even going so far as to run off time and time again.”
Enzo blinked at that description. He had always known his mother as demure, soft-spoken, and obedient. His father had noticed the confusion on his face.
“Your mother changed,” he explained. “At the time I arrived in France, she was still like this and it wasn’t part of my original plan to marry her. I was there to meet her older sister, who was a more quiet woman and who would have made a more suitable wife, but I admit there was a certain quality to Georgette that her sister didn’t have. A certain something, not unlike your Ms. Mancini. Before I knew it, I fell in love with her and despite everyone’s warnings, I married her—for a while there was no issue as she changed significantly after our wedding. I’ve been told I was a good influence on her, as you will know from how she behaved throughout your childhoods.”
Something in Enzo recoiled at the good influence part. He tried imagining his mother before and all he could imagine was Regina… he wasn’t sure he liked the idea of Gina becoming as quiet as his mother had been. But he didn’t comment on it, instead he looked at his father.
“Is this relevant to her leaving?”
Vincente nodded. “She relapsed, you may say. Georgette stayed calm for years, but around the time you saw the girl, I noticed that she was acting out again. She questioned my methods for raising you and of course I had my suspicions about her and the mason. I foolishly decided to ignore it because I still loved her, but it didn’t go away. It all came to a head when I became aware of your nightly activities and decided to take action to rein you in.”
Enzo shrank from his gaze in spite of himself. It was years later, but the memories were still vivid in his mind.
“You already know that I punished you and made you aware that you had made a mistake that could harm all of us. You may not be aware but I reported the girl for harassment—this was to make sure she would stay clear of you.”
“She told me that,” Enzo said.
“Considering the hold she already had on you, I saw no other choice.”
“Because you hadn’t perfected your restraining order trick yet,” Enzo said bitterly.
Lia’s head shot up. “Restraining order?”
Once again, she was ignored.
“It had never been necessary,” his father said, running a hand through his hair. “After the initial police report, the girl never contacted you again and I thought that was the end of the matter. Unfortunately, Georgette didn’t approve of the way I handled it.”
“She didn’t approve of the police report?”
“She did not, no, and neither did she approve my circulating the news of your activities with the girl in our social circles.”
Enzo felt the colour drain from his face. Not just because of what his father had done, but because of the way he said it. He were as casual as if he had said he had cleaned his car.
“Y-you did what?” Lia said, as if she had read Enzo’s mind.
“It was to teach your brother a lesson,” Vincente said, instead of answering directly. “The word would have got out no matter what. All I did was help it along, to make sure that the message hit home. Considering how he has behaved since, I think it’s safe to say that I succeeded… mostly.”
He said the last word with cool disdain and a glare that Enzo felt sure was designed to make him feel bad for everything that had happened in the past month, not to mention the kiss Gina had just given him a moment ago. But that wasn’t the message he took from it.
“So you mean that all that pain could have been avoided if you didn’t tell everyone?” he asked his dad, feeling a tremor in his hand.
Vincente sighed, shook his head, and spoke slowly, as though he were talking to someone hard of hearing.
“Like I said: It would have come out no matter what. I only made sure that it spread widely and quickly to make you realise the kind of impact that sort of behaviour has on everyone.”
“I lost friends because of that,” Lia said. “People have been speaking ill of Vinny for years.”
“Actions. Have. Consequences,” their father said with emphasis and then he shook his head. “That was the lesson I tried to impart. Not just for your brother’s sake, but for all of you. This is what I tried to tell your mother, though she insisted I was being harsh.”
“So that’s why she left?” Enzo asked.
“Not entirely. She had made it clear that she didn’t like it, though I thought the matter was settled once I had explained myself. It turns out she had been planning her departure for a long time, together with the mason. She claimed that my disciplining my own children in the manner that I see fit made her realise that she needed to leave, but she didn’t go until later. She didn’t leave until I made your brother go.”
Enzo didn’t think anything he said at this point could shock him, but he felt his knees buckle at the words and he let out a choked What?
“After your misdeeds, I decided I would keep a closer eye on my children from then on and that’s when I discovered that Amadeo was also in a relationship. In his case, however, there was no question of pardoning him.”
“Because he’s not your heir?”
“Because I didn’t catch him with a girl.” Enzo drew in a sharp breath and his father nodded. “I can forgive you for seeing a less-than-decent girl for a few weeks, but I couldn’t possibly endorse that sort of lifestyle. You see why I had to ask him to leave.”
Enzo realised that his father misunderstood. From the way he looked at him now, as though he had said something perfectly reasonable, he could tell he thought that Enzo was shocked that Amadeo wasn’t straight—and not that he had sent him away.
He kept going: “Your mother was there and as usual, she protested. She begged me to let him stay in the house until he was at least eighteen, but I couldn’t do that and in the end she said she would leave with him and that was that. I’m aware that I should have told you this, Vincente, but I’m certain you understand now why I did what I did.”
There it was again—he sounded so sure that the two of them were in complete agreement. But he couldn’t agree. He thought of how close he had been to being kicked out, he remembered the dreadful moment when he had thought he would be lost forever, then the relief when he was yanked back to safety and allowed to stay. Amadeo had gone through that and there had been no return to safety. He had been sent away for something that was out of his control.
Enzo braced himself and looked his father in the eyes.
“You sound so certain that I agree with you,” he said to him.
“It’s because I know you’re a rational man,” his father said, sending him a rare smile. “I know well the draw of a woman like Ms. Mancini and though I’m disappointed that you fell for her wiles twice, I can’t truly blame you when your mistakes are my own. You are, in spite of everything, a good son and a good brother to your sister. You’ve handled what’s happened with grace and I believe we can move past this. The girl’s little… display before she left was regrettable, but I’m certain you’re rational enough to look past her cheap tactics.”
Enzo shook his head. “Do you realise how… how guilty I’ve felt about all this?”
His father’s smile faded. “I’m not saying what I did was easy. I do regret that I had to teach you the lesson this way, but I saw no other solution.”
“But the restraining orders,” Enzo said. “Why was that necessary?”
“Your mother wouldn’t leave it be.”
“If you think I’m so rational, why not just ask me to sign it instead of forging my signature?”
Vincente started to sound annoyed. “I feared that you would insist on talking to her if you knew she wanted to see you.”
“You’re damned right I would,” Enzo spat.
“Don’t take that tone with me.”
“You forged my signature, you forged Lia’s signature,” Enzo shouted, slamming his hand on the desk next to him and Lia let out a gasp of surprise. “You let me believe my mother didn’t want anything to do with me. You let me believe I had ruined your life and Lia’s. You kicked a fifteen-year-old boy out of your house for something he couldn’t possibly help. You knew about Fabrizio blackmailing me and did nothing.”
“I had good reason.”
Enzo curled his hands into fists and dug the nails into his palms. He suddenly understood Gina and the urge to punch someone.
“There’s never a good reason for any of what you did,” he said through gritted teeth. “Nothing could justify it.”
“Nothing? The reputation of our family, our standing in society, these things mean nothing to you?”
“You’ve always forced me to consider them of the utmost importance, so no, they don’t mean nothing. But I don’t think they mean more than the health and well-being of my family. If we disagree so strongly on this, maybe I should have left when you tried to kick me out all those years ago.”
His father’s eyes narrowed. “Think carefully of what you’re saying, Vincente.”
“I don’t need to.” Enzo straightened his back and looked him square in the eyes. “I refuse to live this way. I refuse to endorse the way you and others like you treat people. I’m done.”
He turned away and gathered the papers Gina had given him from the table, folded them up, and put them in his pocket.
“Don’t think I will grant you so much as a cent of your inheritance,” his father said in a low voice. “And good luck finding a job with another reputable law firm. I’m going to make sure you can’t.”
“Good luck explaining those forged signatures to everyone,” Enzo replied with a dark smile. “I’m a lawyer as you insisted, father, and I know how many legal hoops you had to jump through to get those restraining orders made, I know all the laws you broke. Even if I had no proof, I need only spread the rumour around our social circles and watch public opinion turn on you. I’m sure you understand that actions have consequences—you taught me that, after all.”
His father was entirely still and his voice stayed low. “Think carefully about this.”
“I don’t need to. I don’t need to think about whether what you’ve done was right. Nothing about this is right and I can only be ashamed that I spent so many years thinking that the way I’ve always lived is normal. I’m leaving.”
“Well then…” His father turned away to stare into nothing. “Say goodbye to your sister.”
Enzo started and turned to look at Lia. He’d forgotten all about her while they spoke and she stood, quiet and demure, where they had left her. In her eyes, he saw a reflection of his own tumultuous feelings.
“You should have thought about it,” his father said with an undercurrent of triumph in his voice. “Your actions don’t only have consequences for yourself, but also for her. I implore you to think again and realise what you’re giving up. I’m willing to forgive and move on from this, provided you come to your senses and think of your family. Don’t leave Rosalia behind.”
Enzo opened his mouth, but Lia’s voice interrupted him.
“Let’s go,” she said.
Their father frowned. Lia ignored him and shook off her distress. She straightened to her full height and walked over to Enzo with not a single trace of feeling on her face. She was as much a marble statue as their father.
“You heard father,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to leave me behind, so let’s go.”
Enzo silently offered her his arm and she took it with a curt smile. He felt light-headed as he and his sister walked towards the door together and pushed the door open.
“You will have nothing after this. Everyone you know will turn their backs on you,” Vincente said, the words coming harshly in a tone that didn’t suit him. Every syllable was drenched in desperation. “Where will you go now? What will you do with your lives? Think of how your mother has ended up—”
Enzo pushed the door closed and the heavy wood blocked out whatever else it was their father would have said. He didn’t follow them out and so the siblings walked quietly through the front hall, arm in arm.
Author’s notes: Aaaaaaaa hi guysssss! I can’t believe it’s time for this chapter because it’s only the one I’ve been looking forward to the most in part four. (Well, apart from the cutesy romance ones – you probably know me at this point). And I have to say, I know the pictures in this one are nothing special, but I still think the last one here is a favourite, because of the way the pose turned out. Look how bad ass my rich boy lawyer babe is, he’s come so far. *Wipes single tear.* I know, I know, we didn’t even get to see Gina laying into his dumb dad. At one point, I did intend it, but I realised that this should be Enzo’s big moment and she would dominate the scene if I let her stay. Instead I let her give Enzo a defiant smooch. >:) This was, of course, the end of part 4. I hope it makes it clear why Georgette decided to leave and I have no doubt that everyone hates Enzo’s dad just that bit more – that old wanker. 😛
I want to drop a quick thank you to all my pals who are sending sims over for Gina and Enzo’s wedding. Unfortunately I’m all out of spots and now all I’ll have to do is wait for your characters to arrive so I can start shooting the wedding. 🙂 I’m excited to see how frustrating it’ll be ahahha…
Oh god what am I doing to myself.
Anywayyy, thank you for reading if you made it this far. I hope it was at least half as fun to read as it was to write. I’ll see you guys in the next post.