Monday, November 04, 2013

Chapter Three: Diana Comes Home

Diana was surprised to see her dad’s car parked in front of the house. He was usually gone by now and out late. Maybe he was just getting up. It was possible. Her mom’s car was still gone, so Diana pulled her white Beetle into the second space. She couldn’t help but glance over at the third space, where Delores used to park her car before she went away to college, where AJ would never park a car. Because of her. She steeled herself and managed not to cry. 

Hold it in until you get to your room, she chided herself. Dad never let it rest if he saw her crying. “Aw, my sweetheart, it wasn’t your fault. When you gonna get that through that big brain of yours, huh?” He would ask, putting his arm around her. And the whole thing would just make her feel even more guilty. She almost locked her keys in her car, but scolded herself again as she reached back for them.

Even walking into the house was difficult. She couldn’t help but remember that she would never see AJ sitting at the counter gobbling up the leftovers (she’d never told their parents AJ had started smoking pot with his friends—a fact that had earned her a year free of dish duty, or… at least most of a year). She’d been dreaming about him, and in the dreams he was always smoking, the smoke drifting out of holes, jagged rends, that had no right to be in her little brother.

There was no sign of her dad and she almost bolted up to her room to cry and think, but she heard voices, raised voices coming from the basement. She walked toward the door that led from the washer room to the stairs that led down. Her dad had his little projects down there, a big table that always had some puzzle or another on it, and tools for making bullets. Sometimes when he had company, he took his buddies down there to talk. Diana had never managed to hear a word from the place before, but as she reached the door, it was as if they spoke just a few feet away from her. Things like this had been happening for weeks. She felt like her body was one big nerve, and the whole world was standing on it, talking loudly.

“I’m telling you, Tony, if you keep fighting me on this, it’s gonna go bad for you.” It was her cousin Vitto and he sounded pissed off.

Her dad was not exactly calm, “You choosin’ that fat fuck over me, Vitto? Is that what we’ve come to?”

Diana’s heart raced. She’d never heard raw fury in his voice like that. Their voices became even clearer. Everything became more distinct to her as she stood and listened.

“It’s embarrassing. Makes it look like I don’t have control of my crew. Makes me look weak. You never made Vincent look weak, Tony.”

“Oh, yeah, well he had the fucking balls to stand up for his people when they’re fucking wronged. You’re gonna come here and threaten me in my own house?”

“It’s not a threat, Tony. Come on, man. You know me. I’m just trying to talk to you.” Diana could tell Vitto was full of shit. It sounded like they were going to fight. Last year, Diana would have shrank away, maybe called the cops or her mom over this situation brewing in the basement. But she didn’t do either of those things. Instead, she put her ear to the door and inhaled deeply, subconsciously. Her eyes glittered with the faintest amber. She smelled their rage. No way she could have known what that was. Nope. But she did. It smelled sharp and… tangy, rage. She’d been living with her parents’ scents her whole life and even now they registered, but the clarity of them did not stand out to her. But Vitto smelled of lies and anger and of treachery.

But her dad was no fool. “You know what?” he said, “You should get the fuck out. Get out before one of us does something that won’t be so easy to make go away.”

“I get that you’re angry, Tony. I’ll give you some time to cool off, okay? Let’s talk this weekend.” Again, Vitto lied. His anger had already boiled over, he was just very good at keeping a lid on it.

Diana heard footsteps on the stairs. Vitto was climbing up toward her. Her dad was silent. There were no hugs, no pleasantries here. Diana had heard her dad and mom scream at each other in rage. This was somehow worse. She found herself several feet from the door, the urge to growl strong in her heart. But her fear won out for the moment and she bolted for the stairs. She reached the top of the staircase before Vitto did, even though it was on the other side of the house. Not a very fit guy, Vitto. He made his way across the first floor. Diana’s heart was still racing and she could hear her dad’s steps coming out of the cellar to follow Vitto out. She felt this had more to do with asserting dominance than any suspicion that Vitto would steal something or do harm to the house. From her barely opened door to her room, Diana watched Vitto reach the front door and let himself out, turning back briefly to glance at her dad with feigned remorse. 

She’d seen this man a thousand times in her life. He was one of her dad’s best friends. He’d been to every party, every holiday gathering she herself had ever been to. But this time was different. It was like a switch had been turned in her mind. He was an enemy. He was prey. Diana shut the door, more upon that thought than to keep anyone from seeing her as she spied.

She looked up into the mirror on her door. Her little brother stood behind her. Diana screamed.
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