Regina still felt like she had lost connection with the earth, even into the next evening. All the kisses swirled in her head, and she wondered if they would see each other again the next time she went to the cabin. They could write each other when she was back home, she thought, and meet up when she was visiting.
She smiled to herself, rocking on the balls of her feet while waiting under the lamppost that was their usual meeting spot. The smile only dimmed a little when he was two minutes late, despite his usual punctuality. Every minute that passed after that added up to bring her back to earth. The warmth that had filled her since the previous night dissipated, and for the first time in weeks, she realised that these late nights were chilly once the warmth of daylight had worn off.
It should have made her relieved to see Enzo finally walking towards her over the square, but from the moment she heard his footsteps on the stones, something felt off.
Maybe it was the fact that he refused to look at her face as he walked towards her, or it was the way he was dressed. Far from the usual soft T-shirts and jeans, these clothes were different. He rolled his shoulders like the seams of his crisp shirt bothered him and she could tell from the way he walked that the shoes must be uncomfortable. As if all of that wasn’t enough, he didn’t open his arms to hug her, or even look up.
“You’re finally here,” she said, trying for a smile in spite of everything that made her feel sick to her stomach.
Most of all, it was because he still didn’t look at her. He brushed imaginary dust from the dark fabric of his trousers, he adjusted the cuffs of his shirt. His voice was cold when he finally spoke:
“I’ve come to say goodbye.”
“What… do you mean?” she said, hating the weakness in her own tone.
“I don’t want to see you anymore. My family… we have a certain standing in the area, and connecting with you will hurt that.”
Gina curled her fingers into fists and let the nails dig into her palms. It was a silent way to remind herself not to punch him, however much she may want to. It wouldn’t help, her dad would say, because violence wasn’t the answer. Sometimes she just really wished it was.
“Because of the gang?”
“So after all the ‘you’re so cool’ and the kissing, this is it?”
He sighed. “I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong idea.”
“The wrong idea?” Her vision blurred and her head spun. “How did I get the wrong idea? You only ever said that you liked me. Why would you say that if you didn’t mean it?”
“I guess… I was bored.”
Gina’s heart stung. “Bored?”
Still refusing to look at her, Enzo nodded and repeated: “Bored. Not a lot of things happen around here in the summer, and after I’ve spent the whole day with tutors… well, it was kind of fun.”
She blacked out for a second, hearing from far away that she quoted his ‘kind of fun’ back at him.
“You can’t even look at me, can you?” her voice said. “Go on! The least you can do while dumping me is fucking look at me.”
His voice was quiet, and for a split-second, he sounded so like himself that she started and sound came rushing back. She said:
But the moment passed, and he looked her in the eyes, all cool noble arrogance and indifference.
“Like I said—I was bored.”
Gina snorted. “You fucking asshole.”
He gave her a final indifferent look and spun on his heel, marching away with his back held so straight, it looked like he was held up by a string on the scalp. This would be a good time to go home and cry and get over it, but she had never been particularly good at holding her mouth when she should.
Vincente Cavalcante VII got into a waiting car while she let curses and swears rain over his head. She insulted his family, him, everything she could think of, hoping that at least one projectile would land and cause him some small measure of the pain she felt. But he remained cool and aloof and the only thing she managed to do was make herself look like an idiot.
She called Marta, and her sister came to take her home. She listened and expressed sympathy when Gina told her everything that had happened; she even nodded approvingly when she told her how she had sworn up a storm in the middle of the square.
“I shouldn’t have…”
“Perhaps not,” she said. “But at least you didn’t stab him, so that’s good. Besides, he deserved all those curses, it sounds like.”
Gina wasn’t so sure, but she was glad that Marta was on her side. Turned out she needed that, because when they made it back home, her dad was on the lawn outside, talking to a police officer.
Gina shrank back with Marta’s arms around her. Carlo Mancini made an imposing figure, even dressed in a robe as he was. He was a head taller than the police officer and told the man in no clear terms that whatever it was they thought his daughter had done, there was no truth to it.
The police man tried, he really did, but after a while, he realised that this was one case where he had better leave it alone. Gina’s dad didn’t outright threaten his life, but he didn’t have to either.
When the police car drove off, Carlo rounded on his daughters, his face still grim.
“Marta, go back to bed. Regina, inside.”
“I-it wasn’t Marta,” Gina said, stumbling over words. “She knew, but I made her not say anything so please—”
Marta gave her shoulder a squeeze and did as she was told. Gina and her dad followed.
“Care to tell me why some rich asshole says you’re harassing his son?” he asked once they were inside.
She felt small and exposed, standing in the middle of the living room of the cabin. It helped that her dad was so tall and she was little and young and stupid. She bent her head, feeling tears sting her eyes to hear that Enzo would go so far. One thing was dumping her, but to then report her for harassment…
“I’m not harassing him. That is—” she sighed. “I wasn’t. I promise. We were just meeting up and hanging out and then… tonight he said he didn’t want to see me anymore so I got a little angry.”
“And the reason you didn’t tell me you’ve been going out at night?”
Gina didn’t have an answer to that, so she shrugged.
“What were you thinking? You know that we still have enemies, even this far from home, and they’re just waiting for you to do something idiotic like this. How did you know that boy wasn’t one?”
“He seemed nice.”
“Yes, that’s what people like that do. It’s fine you’re making friends, I don’t even mind that you’ve apparently been breaking and entering all over town—you know I don’t mind. But doing it like that, alone with a stranger, is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. At least you should have told me so I could have Franco look into the kid and send someone with you.”
Gina groaned. “I didn’t want someone following us. I think…” She bit her lip and felt her face colour. “It would have been a little awkward.”
She glanced up at her dad’s face and he sighed. “Ah, so he wasn’t just a friend. Well, that would explain the absolute stupidity.”
She picked at the wool in her knit dress and nodded. Her dad came over and put his warm hands on her shoulders. When a single tear ran down her cheek, he dried it with a thumb.
“Broke your heart, eh, sweetie?”
Gina nodded, more tears joining the one. “He said he liked me and everything and we kissed yesterday, but apparently he was just bored.”
“Mm, that sounds like a rich kid, all right.”
“But… he was so nice.”
Her dad pulled her into his arms and stroked her hair. She rested her head on the soft velvet of his robe, leaving big, dark spots where her tears fell.
“Rich people are a lot like criminals,” he said, “apart from one thing: If a criminal wants something, he takes it by force and intimidation. The rich use money. Both hurt, but at least you know what you’ve got with people like you and me. The young man may have seemed nice, but he’s been taught that the world bends to his will, and if it doesn’t, his dad will pay it to do so. Unfortunately for him, he used my girl and you’re not known for your even temper, to say the least. Use any good curses this time?”
Gina outlined a few of them with a careful smile, and he laughed, kissing her forehead.
“You make your mother sound like a fucking saint. But try and rein it in another time. The kid’s dad reported you for harassment and if it wasn’t for my influence in the area, you would’ve been in trouble.”
Gina nodded against his chest.
“I’m sorry, daddy.”
“I know. You learnt your lesson.”
“I feel so stupid. I really thought he liked me.”
Carlo tipped her face up to meet his, and said:
“The only stupid thing you’ve done was not telling me what you were doing. Everything else is only because you’re like your old man—you’ve got too big of a heart for your own good.”
Author’s notes: Basically, the reason my prologue ballooned into five full chapters was that I felt I couldn’t introduce and develop two characters, build a cute romance, and utterly destroy it in one chapter *evil laughter*
But I’m not all bad – at least there’s cute daddy Carlo in this chapter? It’s my new favourite thing to write so get ready for more of that. Cute daddy-daughter relationship are my cryptonite, y’all.
I’ll leave it off for now and thank you for reading (and for not throwing things at me). See you for part two… and a time skip.