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I took the paper I had found a few weeks ago and parked my car on the main road in front of the address dad had left for me. When I got out I locked the car before slowly walking up the staircase of marble that led to the front of a mansion. The heat of the Italian sun made my walk feel longer, but since this was my first time out of New York I had not packed for such a hot environment. I glanced at each marble statue I passed on either side of the stairs to see Aphrodite, Zeus, Athena, Ares, Poseidon, and many other Greek gods. Who could dad have known that was so ridiculously wealthy? I finally reached the top of the stairs and knocked on the large wooden doors that made up the house’s front entrance. A man in a light blue polo and white Baja shorts looked to me with annoyance, “Are you here selling something?”
“Uh…no.” I replied as I blushed.
“Are you here to cut the grass?”
“Clean the house?”
His posture changed to match his attitude, “Then what in the world are you here for?”
I opened the letter from my father, “Um, I’m looking for Greco Costa.”
The man leaned on the door frame, “He doesn’t meet with outsiders.”
“Oh! Ok, um, could you give this to him then?” I asked as I handed the necklace around my neck to him. I turned around to go back to my rental car.
“Wait!” The man called and I turned back to him in curiosity, “I’ll bring you to him.”
“But I thought you said…”
He snarled, “Forget what I said and just come in.”
“O-okay.” I whispered before coming inside and the man shut the door behind me. I slowly followed the man through the house and we stopped in front of a large wooden door. The man knocked on the door and a young man about my age opened the door. “Inform your grandfather that someone is here to see him.” The boy nodded before running back into the room he had been in and I followed the older man into the room covered in couches and statues, “Please take a seat. Greco will be here soon.”
“Alright, thanks.” I said as I slowly went and sat on a couch next to a statue of Hera. An old man with a cane and a grouchy aura came into the room with the man about my age following closely behind.
“What is this about, Luca! You know I do not like meeting people!” The old man hissed as he came over to the man who had let me in.
He handed the old man the necklace, “This young girl came and said she was sent to give this to you.”
The old man took the necklace and looked up to me with shock, “Where did you get this, young lady?” He demanded and I flinched.
“M-my dad. H-he left it for me.”
“And where is your father?”
I squeezed my jeans in my hands, “I-I found it while going through his things. Dad died a month back and I found a letter saying I needed to come to Italy and find a man named Greco Costa at this address.”
“And what was your father’s name?” The old man demanded as he moved closer to me.
“M-Marco Via, sir.”
The old man frowned more than before as he came and sat on the couch across from me, “You are Marco’s daughter?” He asked and I quickly nodded, “Do you still have that letter?”
I stood and quickly handed him the letter from my bag before going to sit dawn, “I-I don’t understand why he wanted to give you his prized necklace, but I assumed it was important since he even left money for me to fly all the way here.”
“Where do you live, young Lady?”
“A-Albany, New York.”
“You’re an American?”
He looked up from the letter, “What is your name?”
“Did your father ever give you a necklace like this?”
I nodded and pulled the red gem out from behind my shirt, “I’ve had it since I was a baby.”
He watched my eyes, “Have you ever taken off the necklace?”
I shook my head, “My dad told me to never take it off.”
“So you live with your mother now that your father has passed away?”
I looked to my hands, “No sir.”
“Who do you live with then? Your relatives?”
“No sir, I live by myself.”
“How old are you, Isabella?”
“I just turned seventeen a few months ago, sir.”
“Have you ever been to Italy before?”
I shook my head, “N-No, sir. This is my first time to ever leave New York.”
“Why don’t you live with your grandparents?”
I looked to my necklace, “My mom left when I was a baby so I have no connections to her family and dad said he had bad relations with his family so I never met any of his family.”
He stood suddenly and kept the necklace and letter with him, “Luca, fix a room for Miss Isabella upstairs. I will call the rest of the family for an emergency meeting.”
The man near my age stepped in front of the old man, “You cannot be serious grandfather!” He hissed before looking over to me, “She cannot be Macro’s kid! He would never send her here after all he has done! And look at her eyes! She cannot be one of us with blue eyes!”
The old man shoved the guy out of his way, “Make yourself useful, Leonardo! Help the girl get her stuff and be quiet!”
I stood as Greco left with Luca and Leonardo stormed over to me, “Where are your things?”
“A-at a hotel across town.”
He frowned, “Did you walk here?”
I shook my head, “I have a car outside.”
He put his hand out to me, “I will drive.” I placed my keys in his hand and then followed behind him to my car. I got in the passenger’s seat as Leonardo slammed his door shut. I sat quietly as he sped through the streets of the city, “Which hotel are you staying at?”
“T-the Scheppers Hotel.” I replied and he kept driving. When we got there he parked on the side of the street and then followed me inside angrily. I quickly went to my room and Leonardo grabbed two of my suitcases as I grabbed the last one. He threw them into the back of the car as I paid for my room and then went out to the car.
As Leonardo started driving home he finally spoke, “Are you here for money from grandfather Greco?”
I shook my head, “I just came to give him my dad’s necklace as dad asked me to.”
“How much do you know about my family?”
I thought for a moment, “You are related to Luca and are the grandson of Greco, your family is rich, and is very influenced by the Greek gods.”
“What did you know before you met us?”
I shrugged my shoulder, “All I knew was there was a man named Greco Coast who lived at your address in Rome that my dad knew.”
“I don’t know what you want me to tell you, Leonardo, but I don’t know anything other than what I just told you.”
“Why didn’t you just send the necklace to us?”
I looked to my hands, “That necklace was my dad’s prized possession. If he wanted someone I did not know to have it then that person must have been very important to him, so I decided it would be best for me to hand deliver the necklace and make sure it got to the correct person.”
“If you are American, why do you speak Italian so fluently?”
“Dad never learned English so I learned Italian as my first language.”
He stopped the car in front of his house and became very serious, “You seem like a nice girl, Isabella, but you do not belong here,” He hissed without looking at me, “No one in my family will ever forgive your father for what he did and, in turn, will never accept you. You should just leave while you still are innocent.” He got out and quickly carried two of my bags inside. I slowly followed behind him with my last suitcase. It was obvious I was not wanted here.
I stayed in the room I was given until there was a knock at the door. When I answered it Greco came into the room with his cane and angry aura, “There are some people you need to meet, Isabella, as Marco’s daughter. You should wear the best clothes you have and need to be downstairs in half an hour.”
When he left I quickly changed into my nice summer dress my dad had bought me before fixing my hair and putting on makeup. By the time I was done time was up so I hurried downstairs to see Leonardo angrily waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, “Sorry.” I whispered as I stopped next to him.
He examined me, “Don’t be sorry, be here on time.” He hissed before leading me out the back door of the house. On a large marble porch was a table with over fifty people seated comfortably who were all talking amongst small groups.
“Ah! Isabella!” Greco announced happily and I was startled when everyone stopped talking to look at me. I quickly went over to Greco who smiled at me for the first time, “Everyone! This is Marco’s daughter Isabella.”
A woman near Greco watched me intensely, “How can you say this is Marco’s daughter so happily? She has blue eyes.”
I looked to the ground but looked back up when a man a few seats down let out a laugh, “Well, you know Marco, he always went for things he was not allowed to have so this girl probably had a mother with blue eyes.”
An older man stood and walked over to me. He grabbed my arm slightly and turned me to him, “Where is Marco? Too chicken to show his face in front of those he betrayed?”
I froze for a moment, “B-betrayed you? What relationship did you people have with my dad?”
“I asked where the coward was!” The man hollered but he and I were both shocked when Greco slapped the man’s hand from me.
“Marco is dead!” Greco hissed, “As his last wish he asked his one and only child to bring his necklace to us.”
“Marco died!” A mid-aged woman gasped as she jumped from her chair and ran over to me, “Please, dear child, tell me this is a joke!”
I watched the woman with tears building in her eyes. Why was she so upset? Who was she to my dad? “He died about a month ago in a car accident on his way home from work. It was a head on collision that killed him instantly.”
“And your mother brought you here?” The man who laughed earlier asked as he stood from his chair.
I shook my head and grabbed my red gem in my hand, “She left us when I was just a baby. It was just dad and me.”
Greco cleared his throat, “That is why I have called you all here. Marco has sent us his orphaned daughter since he is no longer part of this world. As a group we must decide what to do with this child.”
“You are seriously considering allowing her into the family? Even after all her father did to us?” The man who grabbed me earlier asked.
“She should not be punished for her father’s actions! She did not have anything to do with what happened in the past!” The woman who was still in tears hollered.
“She should be punished in her father’s place!” The old man yelled.
“She should become part of our family!” The woman who was about to cry hollered back.
“Wait!” I exclaimed without thinking and everyone turned to me, “Uh, what do you mean by become part of the family?”
Greco sighed, “Isabella was not informed by Marco that we were her family so she does not know anything about us or our connection to Marco.”
“Dad was part of this family?” I asked Greco who nodded and I looked to the ground, “He sent me here to meet the family he had cut all ties with?” I looked to my necklace, “I-I should go.” I whispered before running into the house and up to my room. I sat down and called the airline in order to get my flight changed from tomorrow morning to tonight. I packed up my things and went back downstairs to see the woman who nearly cried standing at the bottom of the stairs.
“Where are you off to, Isabella?”
I set down my bags and looked to the woman, “I don’t mean to be rude, but all I came to Rome for was to give dad’s necklace to a man named Greco Costa. Now that I have done so it is time for me to go back home and get back to my own life.”
She watched me, “But how will you survive without your dad?”
I smiled and picked up my bags again, “I will have to figure something out, but staying here, in this place, will not help me reach stability.” I bowed my head slightly to the woman before hurrying out the door and out to my car. Leonard was right, I don’t belong here.
When I got home late the next day I went home and went straight to sleep. In the morning I woke up and went to school at around 6 with my uniform in my school bag, my soccer bag on my shoulder, and my practice clothes on. I started the jogging warm up with the rest of the soccer team while wearing a low cut t-shirt and a pair of soccer shorts. By the time morning practice was over I had to hurry to get to class on time. Biology, Math, English, and Art went by quickly and at lunch I sat outside with a group of friends from the team. The rest of school went by and then came afternoon practice which lasted until 6 so I had to grab dinner on my way to work at the family owned Italian restaurant near my apartment. I busted tables and served people their orders until nearly ten before I went home and started my homework. I fell asleep at my coffee table at 11 and did not get into my bed until 2.
The next morning I hurried over to practice after a quick shower and went to classes afterwards. During lunch my friend Jessie asked me to come to the music room to help her practice for her duet. “Thanks so much for doing this, Bella. I was so afraid I wasn’t going to be able to practice since my partner is sick but then I remembered you were really good at playing the violin.”
I smiled as I tuned the violin I was borrowing from the music teacher, “I’m happy to help and I always love finding an excuse to play.”
“Then let’s start!” She cheered and as she played her first note I joined in. We played Mozart until lunch ended and when school was over I went to my first soccer game of the spring season. I was happy when my coach put me as first string even though I was the only sophomore on the varsity team. I played offence and scored 8 of our 12 goals in the game and we won 12-1. When the game ended I sat on the bench and talked with some of the other players but was shocked when I heard someone speak in my father’s native language.
“Could I please speak to Isabella Via?” A man asked and when I turned I saw Leonardo talking to my coach who turned to me.
“Bella! You speak Italian! What’d he just say?” She called and I quickly ran to her aid.
“He asked to speak with me, coach.”
“This somebody you know or somebody you need taken care of?”
I laughed lightly, “No, he’s a friend. I was just not expecting him.”
“Well you should probably be goin’ anyways. It’s gettin’ late.”
I nodded before grabbing my two bags and looking to Leonardo, “Follow me.” I said and he nodded. He followed me down the streets of the city towards my house, “I never expected to see you again.”
He pushed his hands in his pockets, “Aunt Gina was worried about you since you left so suddenly so I was sent to see you.”
I sighed as I pulled my bag up on my shoulder, “Thank her for her worry, but it is not necessary.”
“Grandfather Greco wants you to come back to Rome with me.”
I stopped in front of the restaurant I worked at, “I do not have the time or money to go back,” I replied before opening the front door, “As far as I am concerned, my association to your family was finished when I gave Greco dad’s necklace…”
“Bella!” The owner hollered over to me and I smiled to him, “How was your game?”
“Very good, sir. We won.”
“Congradulations!” He called before I turned back to Leonardo.
“If you will excuse me, I have to work. Have a safe flight back to Rome.” I mumbled before hurrying inside the restaurant. When I finished working at about ten I was shocked to see Leonardo waiting outside for me. I walked over to him and he looked up from the sidewalk and to my eyes.
“My flight isn’t until Monday.”
I sighed, “Where are you staying?”
“I was planning to just stay at a hotel.”
I looked to the sidewalk, “There are no hotels in the part of the city that speaks only Italian. You can just stay with me,” I looked up to the sky, “But if you’re coming with me, we need to go. The streets get dangerous around this time.”
He stood and started following me down the sidewalk, “What do you mean by dangerous?”
I looked back to him before looking straight ahead once more, “The Italian part of this city is known for its gangs.”
“Then why do you live here?”
“Dad and I weren’t exactly wealthy so we had to live here,” I stopped when a woman waved to me as we passed her house, “Good evening Miss Cassini!”
“Hello, Bella! How are you holding up?”
“Very well, Miss Cassini. Thank you for sending Carlo over with so much delicious food.”
She smiled with a small laugh, “He actually cooked most of that food himself, but you should get home dear. It’s getting pretty late.”
“Alright, Miss Cassini. Goodnight.” I said kindly before walking and going up the stairs of my apartment building.
“That woman sent food over to your home?”
I nodded but never looked back. I stopped and opened up my apartment door with my key, “She was really good friends with my dad so when he passed away she sent over some food to help me out.”
“Is this your place?” He asked as I held the door open for him. I nodded as he came in and then locked the door behind him.
“Sorry, it isn’t much and is certainly nothing like your house, but this is all dad and I could afford.”
“I’m surprised Marco could live in such a place after growing up at our house.” Leonardo said as he examined the kitchen and living room. I went and started making some pasta.
“Dad said he didn’t like big, fancy houses. He always told me that this was more than enough room for just the two of us.”
“Wouldn’t you rather live in a house?”
I took the pasta off the stove and strained out the water, “This place is much larger than anything I would ever need.”
“So you play soccer?”
I nodded with a slight smile to him as he sat at the small bar at the edge of the counter in the kitchen, “Apparently my mom played it.”
He watched me, “Do you remember your mom?”
I shook my head, “She left before I was even a year old.”
“What was her name?”
“Did she have blue eyes?”
I smiled, “Yea.”
“I’m surprised Marco married someone with blue eyes.”
I set a bowl of pasta in front of Leonardo, “Dad never married Anna. They didn’t even love each other.”
“Why don’t you try to get in contact with your mom?”
I sat down next to him and started eating, “She never wanted me so I’m sure she wouldn’t want me now,” I smiled towards him again, “Why are you so curious about me and dad’s life, Leonardo?”
He frowned, “Call me Leo,” He said before sighing, “I guess I’m curious because Marco is the first person to ever go against our family traditions.”
I looked to my pasta, “Your family seems very tightly knit.”
He looked to me, “They are your family too.”
I shook my head, “They hated my dad so they aren’t my family. Most of them probably hate me for what my dad did.”
“Did Marco ever talk about us?”
I rested my head on my hand, “I only asked about our family once and dad said that he had done something as a child to anger everyone in his family. He said that his parents told him he had to either follow their rules or leave the family forever, so he left. We never talked about it other than that one time.”
“Weren’t you curious?”
I looked up, “Not really. I mean if dad made the choice to leave his family he must have had a reason and he wasn’t the type of person to make a decision without really thinking about it. So, if he did cut away from his family, I was going to stand at his side too.”
A knock sounded at the door so I quickly got up and opened the door, “Hey there Bella.” Carlo said as he held up a bag, “Can I come in?”
I hugged the man only 3 years my senior, “Of course!” I said and then held the door for him. When he came in I locked the door.
“Oh,” Carlo said as he set his bag in the kitchen, “Mom didn’t say you had company.”
I smiled to him, “Carlo, this is Leo,” I looked to Leo, “Leo, this is Carlo. He is Miss Cassini’s son.”
“And you just let him into your home so late at night?”
Carlo looked to Leo, “Of course, Bella and I have known each other since she was a baby.”
“Would Marco be alright with this man being over so late?”
I nodded, “Of course, but I cannot say the same about you. Dad probably wouldn’t want you here.”
“Why wouldn’t he be allowed here?” Carlo asked as he started putting food in my fridge.
I sighed, “Do you remember why I left a few days ago?”
He nodded, “To give Greco Costa that necklace your dad cared about so much.”
I looked down to my necklace, “Apparently dad sent me there because he wanted me to give his necklace to his dad.”
“So you’re saying Greco Costa is your grandfather?”
I nodded, “Apparently so,” I gestured towards Leo, “And then when I left Rome I came back here with no intentions of getting in contact with Greco Costa again, but I found out today that he sent one of his other grandkids to try to bring me back.”
“So Leo is your cousin?”
Leo cleared his throat, “Third cousin, actually.”
Carlo turned to Leo, “So explain to me why you’re here.”
“I don’t need to explain anything to an American.”
“Bella is more American than me. I’m full Italian and moved here as a baby,” Carlo looked back to me, “Since you brought him here, does that mean you are going to go back with him?”
I shook my head, “I did not bring Leo back with me because of his family. I brought him back since he is in the US but doesn’t know how to speak any English.”
“I don’t need your pity.”
I looked to Leo, “It’s not pity; it is just genuine concern for a fellow human being. I didn’t bring you here so I could find out about your family or because I felt like I needed to, I frankly don’t care about your blood connection to me because I believe friendship is stronger than any blood ties that I have. Carlo is closer related to me than you are, well in my mind at least.”
“Well by those eyes of yours I wouldn’t say we are very closely related in any way.” Leo mumbled and I sighed. I started to open my mouth to yell at him, but was stopped by my cell phone ringing.
“Bella! Thank goodness I caught you!”
“Hey Jessie, is something wrong?”
She took a breath, “I need to ask a really big favor of you!”
“Did something happen?”
“Well you know how Katie was my duet partner for the talent show?” She asked and I looked to my feet.
“Yea, I remember. She is out of school ‘cause she’s sick.”
“Well she just called me and said she was just taken to the hospital so she won’t be able to perform in the talent show with me. So I didn’t know who else to ask to be my duet partner other than you.”
I leaned on my counter, “I mean I could skip my job tomorrow night if you’re really in a bind.”
“Thank you so much, Bella! I owe you!”
“So I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow to practice?”
“Definitely!” She said before I hung up and sighed while looking to the ceiling.
“What’s wrong?” Carlo asked as he put his hand on my shoulder.
“I have to perform at the talent show because my friend’s duet partner was hospitalized.”
“What is the duet of?”
He smiled slightly, “It certainly has been a long time since I listened to you play the violin.”
“Since that day I haven’t played. But now that dad is gone, I will play just to help a friend.”
“Well why did you stop playing?” Leo asked and Carlo turned to him.
“Bella was forced to stop playing when her father broke her violin about eight years ago. Other than that night I had never seen him even raise his voice but while I was over for dinner Bella finally told her dad that her music teacher wanted her to go to a music school in Maine. He suddenly started screaming at her and ended up breaking her violin.”
I looked to Leo with regret, “He was afraid I would leave him just like my mom had. That’s why I never stepped foot out of New York.”
“My father told me that his cousin Marco was always rebellious and tended to break things so I’m not surprised. The only thing that surprises me is that he did not break things often.”
“The Marco your family knew was nothing like the Marco that I saw. From the moment Anna and Marco moved into this house, Marco was always kind and considerate. He never yelled or got angry and once he had Bella he became even more perfect. Other than that one time he was the perfect dad till the day he died.”
I looked to Leo, “I don’t know why dad wanted Greco to have his prized necklace, but I know he wouldn’t want me to become part of the family he ran from.”
“Marco knew as well as any of us that the necklaces we have were made by the first people of our family hundreds of years ago and he knew that when he died, regardless of his standing with us, he had to return the family necklace. Also, I don’t think Marco sent you to become part of our family. He sent you to us because he wanted you to know who you are and what that necklace means. Our necklaces are certainly not just family heirlooms we keep just for fun.”
“Then what are they for?”
Leo glared at Carlo, “I came here to explain the necklace to Isabella but I will certainly not talk about it in front of a stranger.”
I looked to Carlo, “I’m really sorry, Carlo, but I really need to get some rest. Will I see you tomorrow at the talent show?”
He took my hands in his, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” He replied with a smile, “I will go there straight from my last class.”
“Alright.” I agreed before kissing his cheek and leading him to the door. When he left I locked the door behind him and let out a yawn.
“Are you seeing that guy?”
I looked to Leo with shock, “No,” I replied before walking over to the kitchen and cleaning up Leo’s bowl, “I need to take a shower. Since I’m going to be getting up early tomorrow, feel free to just stay here for the afternoon. I will probably come back at about 3 to change for the show.” I added before leaving Leo in my kitchen to go take a shower.
When I came home Leo was reading a book while sitting on my large couch in the living area in the center of the apartment, between the kitchen and the bedrooms, “Hey, did you sleep well?” I asked as I came in and locked the door behind me.
He looked up to me and seemed surprised to see my uniform, “The time change is still affecting me so I did not go to sleep till nearly 1 and just got up an hour ago.”
“Jet lag is very difficult,” I replied as I set down my backpack on the couch across from him and then sat next to it, “Do you want some tea? I’ve been told it can help.”
“It certainly cannot hurt,” He replied so I got up and went to the kitchen to start making some, “Don’t you have practice?”
I shook my head but never looked to Leo who came to sit at the kitchen’s bar top, “I would, but I called my coach this morning and explained the situation so she said I could miss practice today.”
“Was Marco into sports?”
“He played baseball sometimes while I was a kid. He was actually offered a spot on one of the best baseball teams in the state.”
“Did he accept the offer?”
I shook my head, “My mom had just left us and I was only two so he declined the offer. I asked him about it once and he said I was more important than any job to him.”
“You and Marco seemed very close.”
I smiled as I handed Leo a cup of tea, “All we had was each other. The struggles we had to go through because of that gave us a bond stronger than that of family. We were the world to each other. Dad was my best friend and I was him.”
“Didn’t you wish you had a mom?”
I looked to the ceiling, “Carlo’s mom was pretty much a mother to me. I never really needed a mom because I was content.”
“Yea, you seem very close to that guy’s family.”
I set down my own cup of tea, “Well I should get changed since I promised to meet my friend a little early.”
“May I go to this talent show?”
I stopped walking towards my room to look at Leo who seemed to be staring me down from behind, “You want to go?”
He nodded, “I love music.”
“Alright, just give me a few minutes,” I replied before rushing to my room and changing into a soft, black dress. When I came out I smiled to Leo, “Ready?” I asked and he nodded. He stood and we left my house, “Sorry, dad and I never had a car so we’ll have to walk.”
“It’s no problem. Your school is not very far.”
“True,” I replied but we were quiet for the rest of the walk. When we got to the school I was glad to see Carlo waiting at the front gate, “Hey!” I called as I hurried over to him, “I’m glad you made it!”
He smiled to me, “Are you ready to play?”
I nodded, “Could you stay with Leo? I don’t want him to get lost and not be able to speak with anyone to get help.”
“Sure thing. Go ahead and find your partner.” He said and after kissing him on the cheek I hurried into the school. When I found Jessie we practiced our duet quickly before we were brought onto stage. Everyone clapped when we came on and our principal introduced us. When she left the stage everyone fell silent as Jessie played the first note. I closed my eyes and quickly joined her. I felt warmth coming from my desire to play which made me play even better. I was saddened when I had to stop playing but was shocked when the crowd applauded more than they had for anyone else. They whistled and hollered in enjoyment before Jessie and I were brought off the stage. I was surprised when everyone was brought to the stage and we were told that Jessie and I had won. We received a trophy and then were allowed to leave. I went over to the front of the school to see Carlo and Leo waiting for me.
I hurried to them, “Sorry I took so long, I had to give back the violin I borrowed from the music teacher.”
“You were incredible, Bella.”
“Thanks.” I replied but turned when someone set their hand on my shoulder. I turned to see a familiar man I did not enjoy.
“That was truly magnificent, Isabella. You have certainly gotten better since the last time I heard you play.”
I moved from the man’s hand, “What do you want, Rob?”
He smiled, “My cousin was in the show. I did not come here expecting to run into you,” He looked over to Leo and his smile broadened, “Well it certainly has been a long time, Leonardo Costa. I haven’t seen you since I moved to the states for college.”
“Robert,” Leo hissed, “What do you think you’re doing? You know you are not supposed to associate with anyone of our family.”
Rob smiled, “I have all right to talk to Isabella since she is the daughter of the disowned Marco who had no connection with your family.”
“That does not mean anything!” Leo hissed before he stood in between Rob and me. He took my hand in his and squeezed it, “My grandfather is having Isabella included into our family as we speak! She will become part of the Costa family and the necklace she wears around her neck proves the two of you should never associate!” He started to pull me away, “We need to go.”
I turned back to Carlo, “I’ll call you later.” I called before I followed behind Leo as he jogged to my house. When we got there he rushed into the house and pulled me with him after I opened the door. I locked it before he pulled me over to the couches and sat me down.
“What is your relationship with Robert?” He demanded.
I was shocked, “Uh…his brother used to be one of my friends.”
Leo suddenly grabbed my shoulder and squeezed them in his grip, “You and I know the way he talked to you was not like just a friend! What is your relationship with him?”
I felt memories I had suppressed coming towards my thoughts and I started to shake, “Stop! Just stop!” I hissed as I shoved him away from me, “I refuse to ever say!”
Leo seemed angrier, “What can’t you tell me? Did he rape you or something?” He yelled but when I looked away he froze, “Wait…he raped you? Did Marco know?”
I shook my head but looked to the floor, “When it happened, dad had told me not even a week before that he never wanted me to see Rob again. But Rob had called and told me that I had left a book I misplaced at his home and I went over even though I wasn’t supposed to meet with Rob ever again,” I stood and went to the kitchen to make dinner.
“I have the feeling there is something you are not including in this. Was there more?”
I set down a group of vegetables on a cutting board, “I was saved from a horrible life,” I whispered, “About a month after I found out I was pregnant and knew my life would become horrible but about two weeks later I had a miscarriage. It saved me from ever admitting my sin to my dad or to Carlo.”
“I think you are too close to that Carlo guy.”
I was about to answer when the phone rang, “Hello?”
“This is she.”
“Bella, it’s Liz,” She paused, “I just heard about what happened to Marco.”
I froze slightly, “I didn’t think the news would travel that fast. It only happened a month ago so I’m surprised it already reached the West Coast.”
“Actually I came here for a funeral just yesterday and one of my friends told me since her husband worked with your dad.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Anyway, I was calling because I wanted to see if you could meet me for lunch tomorrow? Are you free?”
I looked down, “Yea, I’m free.”
“Great! I’ll come pick you up at around noon tomorrow.” I hung up the phone and started cutting up the vegetables.
“Who was that?”
I didn’t turn around, “It was my dad’s ex-fiancé.”
“What did she want?”
“She heard about my dad’s accident and so she called. She asked me to meet her for lunch tomorrow.”
“You didn’t seem too fond of her.”
I frowned towards the food as Leo got up and leaned against the counter at my side, “Most people aren’t too happy to get a call from a woman who left their dad at the altar.”
“They were going to get married?”
I nodded, “It was about two years ago. Dad had been seeing Liz for almost two years and they became engaged. When the wedding was about to start dad’s friend got a phone call from Liz that said she wasn’t coming and was going to be walking onto a flight for L.A. in about 5 minutes. She was apparently moving, but never told anyone.”
“So you’re actually going to meet with this woman even though she left Marco?”
I left the vegetables and put a skillet on one of the stove burners. I took some chicken from the fridge and placed it in the skillet once it was hot enough. I looked to Leo who was now sitting on the counter, “Liz and my dad were together for almost all of my life that I can remember. Even if she left my dad, she is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a mom. I will meet with her so she can explain what she did.”
“Why would she need to explain her actions? She obviously didn’t love Marco enough to marry him.”
I took the chicken out of the skillet and cut it into strips on a cutting board, “The night before she left us she told me how much she wanted to be my mom,” I stopped cutting and looked over to Leo, “She also knew how little trust dad and I could put in women because of my real mom leaving us, so she wouldn’t leave us unless she had a reason.”
“Why didn’t you contact her? Couldn’t you just call her up and asked her why she left?”
I put the cut up chicken in with the vegetables and then placed it in two ceramic bowls. I handed one to Leo before taking my own and sitting at the bar, “Since she left us so suddenly I assumed she had to sort something out before she could come to us so I waited.”
Leo watched me as he sat at my side, “Did Marco wait for her till the end?”
I shook my head, “After Liz left dad said I was the only trustworthy woman in his life and never dated anyone after that.”
Leo was quiet for the rest of the time we ate and kept to his self for the rest of the night. When I woke up in the morning I was surprised to see Leo was gone. I thought about going and looking for him but I had to leave in order to meet Liz at the restaurant I knew she would want to meet at. When I came into the family restaurant her friend from high school owned I was shocked to see Liz talking with the owner. She was much skinnier than the last time I had seen her and she was in a very flattering pink silk shirt and black skirt. “Well if it ain’t Marco’s lil’ girl!” An older man who was a regular of this place that knew my dad called as he saw me walk in.
I slid past Liz even though I knew I had her attention, “Hello, Mr. Devalues, it’s been a while!”
He nodded as I saw he only had coffee in front of him, as usual, “It’sa shame ta hear what happened ta yer dad. Tell me, how’ve ya been?”
I gave him a reassuring smile, “I’ve been holding up, Mr. Devalues. It seems as though everyone in the area has been eager to help me.”
“Who’re ya livin’ with?”
“What about Miss Cassini?”
“Her son has helped me out a lot.”
“Excuse me, Mr.Devalues,” Liz said as she came to my side and wrapped her arm around my shoulders, “Isabella is here to meet me so I’m afraid I will have to take her.”
“Of course, Liz.”
I followed Liz as she brought me to a table. When I sat across from her she smiled sadly as she seemed to check for any differences in my look, “You look like a woman now,” She said with a sigh, “You certainly aren’t the kid I remember. If Mr. Devalues hadn’t called to you I’m not sure I would’ve recognized you.”
I looked to the table, “I’ve aged more in the last month than I did for the rest of the time you weren’t here.”
“You could’ve called me.”
I looked to her with intensity before looking out the window to my left. A man was getting in his car that was in the parking lot, “I was fine on my own.”
“I was surprised you were willing to meet with me.”
I looked to her, “I believe everyone does things for a reason so it would only be fair to meet with you.”
“How have you been?”
I leaned on my hand and focused on the table again, “Financially, socially, mentally, or physically?”
I started to open my mouth to answer when my phone rang, “Hello?”
“Isabella? It’s Carlo.”
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Well…I was out with some friends and saw Leo and the man you called Rob yelling at each other in the street. I tried to break up the fight but Leo got punched by Rob and was knocked unconscious. I didn’t know what to do so I brought him to your house. Since you didn’t answer the door when I knocked I used the key you gave me to bring him inside.”
I stood and grabbed my wallet off the table as Liz looked to me with concern, “Is he conscious yet? How badly is he hurt?”
Carlo sighed, “He isn’t awake but I thought I should call you before I started to treat his wound.”
“Alright, I’ll be there as soon as I can,” I looked to Liz as I closed my phone, “Sorry, I have to go.”
“Where?” She asked as she stood and grabbed my arm.
“To my house. My friend took someone I know there.”
“I’ll drive you.” She suggested and I couldn’t deny the offer since what I really needed was a way to get to Leo quickly.
“Alright,” I replied and both of us were quiet for the entire ride back to my house. I got out of the car immediately when Liz slowed down and ran up to my apartment. Leo was lying on the couch as Carlo looked up to me with surprise, “You ran that fast?”
I shook my head as I came to Leo’s side and kneeled beside the couch, “I got a ride,” I replied as I brushed Leo’s hair out of his face, “Has he shown any sign of consciousness?”
“He started reacting to sound when you opened the door.”
I took Leo’s face between my hands, “Leo!” I called, “Leonardo Costa! Wake up!”
“Coasta?” Liz asked as she came inside and shut the door, “Is this young man a relative of Marco?”
“Liz…” Carlo whispered and I heard her smile towards him.
“It’s been a while Carlo.”
“Carlo! Go grab an ice pack from the freezer!”
“Got it!” He yelled as he ran and got the ice pack. When he came back I placed the ice pack on Leo’s bruised cheek.