“Lily, Fabi, back to your rooms,” Father ordered. I let go of Gianna and was about to protest but Fabi beat me to it.
“But Father, we haven’t seen Gianna in forever,” Fabi grumbled.
Father advanced on us and I tensed. He rarely hit me but he looked furious. He grabbed Fabi and me, and dragged us away from Gianna. Then he pushed us toward the staircase. “Upstairs now.”
I stumbled from the force of his push, but when I’d regained my balance I stopped and didn’t move. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t let us talk to Gianna after we hadn’t seen her in so long.
“It’s okay,” Gianna said but her face told a different story. She looked hurt and sad, and usually Gianna wasn’t someone who showed that kind of emotion. “We can talk later.”
My eyes were drawn to something behind her: Romero. He stood strong and tall, his eyes firmly focused on my father. I hadn’t seen him in seven months and over time I’d thought I’d gotten over my crush, but seeing him now my stomach fluttered with butterflies again.
Father’s outburst drew my attention back to him. “No, you can’t. I won’t have you around them. You are no longer my daughter, and I don’t want your rottenness to rub off on Liliana,” he thundered. He looked like he would have loved nothing more than to kill Gianna. It scared me. Shouldn’t he love us, his children, no matter what? If I ever did something he disapproved of, would he hate me as well?
“That’s bullshit,” Matteo said.
“Matteo,” Luca said. “This isn’t our business.” My eyes darted between the two, then again toward Romero whose hand was below his vest. A twisted part of me wanted to see him in action. He was probably amazing in fight situations, and an even worse part knew Mother, Fabi and I would be better off if Father was gone.
Mother wrapped her fingers around my wrist and took Fabi’s hand. “Come now,” she said insistently, tugging us toward the staircase and upstairs.
“That’s right. This is my family, and Gianna is still subject to my rule, don’t you ever forget that,” Father said.
“I thought I wasn’t your daughter anymore, so why do I have to listen to a word you say?”
My head whirled around, stunned by the venom in Gianna’s voice.
“Careful,” Father hissed. “You are still part of the Outfit.” He looked like he would have beaten Gianna if it wasn’t for Matteo who held her by the waist. Mother tried to pull me along but Romero glanced up that moment and his eyes met mine. His rejection on my birthday was still fresh in my mind, and yet I knew I still wanted to kiss him. Why was it that we sometimes wanted something that was impossible? Something that only led to hurt?
Sometimes it felt like I had to prove myself to Father every day. He waited for me to mess up like Gianna had, but I wasn’t sure how that was even possible; he never let me out of sight. Unless I started something with one of my ancient bodyguards, there was no way I could sully my honor. But Father hadn’t forgiven Gianna yet, which was why I hadn’t seen her in almost two years. She was forbidden from coming to Chicago, and I wasn’t allowed to visit New York. If it wasn’t for Aria’s sneakiness, I wouldn’t even have been able to talk to Gianna on the phone.
Sometimes even I felt anger toward Gianna because her escape had turned my life into hell. Maybe Father would have been less strict if Gianna had played by the rules. And then there were moments when I admired her for her daring. There wasn’t a night when I didn’t dream of freedom. I didn’t really want to run but I wished I could carve myself out more freedom in my life. Freedom to date, freedom to fall in love and be with that person.
I didn’t even remember how it felt to be in love. Just like Gianna, I hadn’t seen Romero in almost two years. What I’d felt for him back then, hadn’t been love, not even close. It had been admiration and fascination, I knew that now. But there had been nobody else either. Of course, it was hard to meet someone to fall in love with if you went to an all-girls school and weren’t allowed to go anywhere alone.
The sound of glass shattering downstairs tore me from my thoughts. I jumped off my bed and opened my door. “Mother?” I called. She’d been gone all morning. There was no answer but I could hear someone moving in the kitchen.
I crept out of my room and down the stairs. “Mother?” I tried again when I’d almost reached the door to the kitchen. Still no answer. I pushed the door open and stepped inside. A wine bottle lay broken on the floor, red wine spilled around it. Mother was kneeling beside it, her cream-colored skirt slowly soaking up the liquid, but she didn’t seem to notice. She was staring down at a shard in her palm as if it held the answer to all her questions. I’d never seen her like that. I walked toward her. “Mom?” I almost never called her that, but it felt like the right choice at the moment.