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Ruined Secrets: Part 1 – Chapter 8


I reach for the water carafe in the middle of the table, watching Luca from the corner of my eye. He’s been in a sour mood for the last few days, but it hit its peak this morning. He hasn’t said a word since he came down for breakfast.
We’ve been at this status quo for almost three weeks now. We have breakfast with Damian and Rosa, and then he goes to work. Every day at two, I go to his office, where he wrecks me bit by bit with his fingers in the best possible way, and in the evening, he enters my room and devours me with his masterful tongue. He sates me so well the only thing I’m able to do after is fall into a deep sleep.
However, nothing else has changed. He still mostly ignores my presence during the day. He hasn’t touched me in any way unless he is “solving my problems,” and my patience is slowly running out.
“Is your downtown office just a front or a real business?” I ask as I fill my glass with water.
“It’s real,” he says without lifting his head, focused intently on the plate of food in front of him. “Real estate business is the best way to launder big amounts of money,” he adds after another bite.
“And who’s in charge of that?”
“Oh, that would be me,” Damian chimes in with a mischievous smile.
I raise my eyebrows. He’s barely twenty-three, and we’re talking about laundering millions. Luca must have great deal of confidence in his brother’s abilities.
“Are you involved in the arms dealing as well, or do you just handle the financial part?” I ask.
Luca’s head snaps up. “How do you know about our arms dealing business?”
“Please.” I snort. “Where do you think I’ve lived my whole life? Under a rock?”
“You’re the don’s granddaughter. You should have spent your days browsing magazines, shopping, and going to spas.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint. Spas were never my thing.” I shrug. “And because I am the don’s granddaughter, I’ve been groomed for my role since I was ten.”
“And what role would that be?”
“The wife of a capo,” I say and take a croissant from the basket.
“Who should do nothing but go shopping and to spas and browse magazines.”
“Well, I didn’t expect to be married off to a chauvinistic grump, but it is what it is.”
Across the table from me, Damian chokes on his coffee when he bursts out laughing. “Sorry I just . . .” He snickers. “Chauvinistic grump.” He laughs again.
I turn my head and find Luca watching me through narrowed eyes. “I want you to stay in your room this afternoon,” he says.
“Simona is coming to take Rosa, and I have a meeting I need to attend. I don’t want you two confronting one another, especially when I’m not here.”
I reach for the milk and fill the glass for Rosa. When I went to see her earlier, she said she’s not feeling well and decided to stay in her room. “You’re afraid I’ll bite your ex or something?”
“I’m not concerned about what you may do, Isabella.”
Oh. He’s concerned about what his big, bad ex will do to his delicate young wife. How sweet of him. I wish I were drunk again so I could allow myself to throw something else in his face.
“I’ll take Rosa her breakfast, then make sure I’m locked away safe in my room when your ex-wife comes.” I grab the plate I’ve prepared for Rosa, turn on my heel, and march toward the stairway.
Damian’s laughter rings out behind me.
* * *
“Do you want me to get you tea or something?” I ask Rosa.
“No,” she mumbles into her pillow.
“Maybe we should call a doctor.” I put my palm on her forehead, but it doesn’t feel like she has a fever. “Did you eat something strange yesterday?”
“Diarrhea? Do you feel like vomiting?”
“No, just my stomach hurts. I’m okay.”
I sit on the edge of her bed and lightly squeeze her shoulder. “So, this has nothing to do with the fact your mom is coming?”
“She wants me to call her Simona,” she says. “And I don’t want to go with her. She always takes me to a mall. It’s boring.”
“Well, can you ask her to take you to the park? Or to see some movie? How about that?”
“She hates parks because I get dirty. And she says she doesn’t like movies because her eyes hurt. I want to stay here.”
“You’ll be bored here, too.”
“I won’t. I can call Clara. She said she’ll bring Tomas next time she comes.”
“Who’s Tomas?”
“Her cat. He has a little leash so we can walk him around the garden. And Grace will make us sandwiches.”
“Did you tell your dad that you don’t want to go with Simona?”
“No. He wouldn’t understand.”
“Of course, he would. Want me to call him to come upstairs?”
I nod, grab my phone, and call Luca.
“What?” he barks.
A picture of politeness. “Please come upstairs. Rosa wants to talk to you.”
“I’m just getting into my car.”
“Well un-get and come talk with your daughter. It’s important.”
I cut the call and rub Rosa’s back. “He’s coming. If you don’t feel like doing something, you should always tell your dad. Okay?”
“I’ll be in my room. Come get me if you need me. If you want, we can watch something downstairs later. Or we can call your friend. Deal?”
I squeeze her shoulder again and leave her room.


“She’s your mother, piccola.” I brush the back of my palm down Rosa’s cheek. “You should spend some time with her.”
“I don’t want to,” she bites out, staring me down. She’s trying very hard to keep her tears at bay, but I see how her nose scrunches a little, and a stray tear slides down her cheek. “Please don’t make me go with her.”
“I will never make you do anything you don’t want to, Rosa,” I say and gather her in my arms. Rosa sniffs, then wraps her arms around my neck, burying her face in the crook of it. She’s always loved doing that, even when she was a baby.
“Promise?” she whispers.
I take her chin between my thumb and fingers and tilt her head up to look into her eyes. “I promise.”
“Simona told me she would write to some kind of service that will take me away and make me live with her. I don’t want to live with her, Dad.”
I squeeze my hand into a fist. “She told you that, huh?”
“That’s not true, Rosa. No one can take you away from me. She’s just trying to manipulate you.”
“Why does she want me to go anywhere with her? She doesn’t love me. Why can’t she just . . . go away?”
Sometimes I wish I could just kill Simona and be done with it, but I can’t do that to Rosa. Simona is still her mother. I press my daughter’s face to my chest and wrap my arm around her back. “She loves you in her own way, Rosa. She just doesn’t know how to show it.”
I’m not sure Simona is capable of loving anyone except herself. Sometimes I wonder if I should have just taken Rosa without marrying my ex, but I didn’t want my child to grow up without a mother like I did. I thought Simona would change, so I stayed with her for Rosa’s sake. She didn’t.
“Can I call Clara to come over?” Rosa asks into my chest. “We can ask Grace to make us tuna sandwiches. And those ginger cookies with cinnamon.”
“Only if you leave some for me. You and Clara ate everything the last time.”
“Uncle Damian ate them! We told him to leave you some, but he said his sugar level was low and he needed them more than you.”
I laugh. Why am I not surprised?
“Isa said she’d watch a movie with me,” Rosa adds and leans back to look at my eyes. “I really like Isa, Dad.”
“You do?” I brush my thumb over her cheek, removing her tears.
“Yeah. I was working on some math problems we needed to finish during vacation yesterday and asked her to help me. She worked with me the whole morning. Isa is super smart.”
“Yes, she is.” I nod.
It’s the truth. My young wife is one exceptionally intelligent woman. I can’t help but admire the way she plays me, day after day, without backing down or faltering her stance. And with every passing day, it’s becoming harder to continue resisting. Sometimes, I find myself watching her, debating whether I should just say, “to hell with it,” grab her and crush my mouth to hers. I don’t remember a time I’ve been so crazy about a woman before. It’s like she’s slipped under my skin and made her home there, and it’s getting exponentially worse with every day that passes. Every stubborn look, every clever remark, every defiant tilt of her chin—it all contributes to her working her way even deeper into me.
I quickly shake my head and place a kiss at Rosa’s head. “I have to go to work but call me if you need me, and I’ll come right back. Okay, piccola?”
“Yeah.” she nods.
When I leave Rosa’s room, I find Isabella downstairs talking with one of the maids. She spots me coming, and her eyes instantly flick away before I can pin her with my gaze. As if my presence makes no difference to her one way or another, she continues her conversation without missing a beat.
“I’ll call Simona to reschedule her visit,” I say in passing.
“How nice. Does that mean it’s safe for me to roam the house this afternoon?”
I decide to ignore her snarky remark and head toward the front door. I’m not sure if Isabella would be able to stand up to Simona, especially if my ex is in one of her moods, and I won’t risk them meeting unless I’m there. Simona is a bitch and just the idea of her saying something that might hurt Isabella makes the rage boil in my stomach.


I close the book on world economy, one of the courses on my curriculum next semester, and put it into the desk drawer. Since I have nothing to do around here, I’ve decided to use the time to go over the main subjects and get myself prepared for when classes resume. I doubt my husband knows I’m attending college as an online student, and since he’s never actually asked what I do during the day, I’ve never offered the information.
My phone rings as I’m heading to the bathroom to shower and change before going over to Luca’s office. The display shows the number from the gate guard. Strange. I don’t remember inviting anyone over.
“Mrs. Rossi,” he says when I take the call. “I have Ms. Albano here. She’s insisting on being let inside.”
What the hell is Luca’s ex doing here? He said they’d rescheduled her visit.
“Did you call Luca?” I ask.
“Twice. He’s not answering.”
Typical. “Let her in, Tony,” I say, leave my room, and head downstairs.
As I pass the big mirror at the landing on the second floor, I glance at my reflection and groan. If I’d known Simona would be coming, I’d have put on something else, maybe jeans and a white blouse. And heels. As it is, I’ll be meeting my husband’s first wife in pastel blue sweatpants and a matching T-shirt, with Hello Kitty face plastered all over my chest. Barefoot. How nice.
I’m halfway to the front door when I hear high-pitched yelling on the other side. The front door opens, and a tall blonde woman rushes inside, her heels clicking on the floor. Our security guard runs in after her.
“I told her to wait outside, Mrs. Rossi,” he says. “She wouldn’t listen.”
“It’s all right, Emilio.” I nod and return my gaze to Simona Albano, formerly Rossi.
I have seen her numerous times at different social gatherings. It was impossible to miss her. Each time, I felt this piercing pain in the middle of my stomach. I envied her so much. The last time I saw her was six months ago, and since then, her lips have doubled in size, her boobs are bigger, and she’s lost at least ten pounds. She looks like a clothes hanger for her expensive, beige-with-black-polka-dots dress.
Standing with her hand on her hip, she looks me up and down, pausing for a few seconds on the Hello Kitty image on my chest, and bursts out laughing.
“Dear God, I knew you were young, but I had no idea they made Luca marry a child.” She gives me a condescending smile.
“What do you want, Simona?”
“It’s Ms. Albano to you.”
“You came into my house uninvited,” I say. “I’m going to call you whatever the fuck I want.”
Simona blinks, looking a bit dumbfounded. She tries to sneer at me in the process, but all she ends up doing is cracking her Botox-infused lips. “I came to pick up Rosa.”
“Rosa doesn’t want to go. Luca told me he called you and rescheduled it.”
“I changed my mind. Where’s my daughter? I’m taking her shopping.”
“Did you clear it with Luca?”
“I don’t have to clear anything with him,” she snaps.
“Of course, you do. You signed all parental rights over to him. Rosa is not leaving unless her father says so.”
Anger flashes in Simona’s eyes. She takes two steps forward until she’s standing right in front of me, and her lips stretch into a sneer that transforms her face from beautiful into something grotesque. “Get me my daughter! Right now!”
“Have a nice day, Simona.” I turn to Emilio, who’s standing in the doorway. “Please walk her to her car and make sure she leaves the grounds. And make it clear to Tony that she is not allowed through the gate again unless Luca has cleared it.”
I turn to leave when I feel a hand grabbing my upper arm. “How dare you throw me out? This was my house!”
Was. Past tense.” I look down at her hand, then back into her eyes. “Get your hand off me.”
“Who do you think you are, you little bitch?” she snaps and starts shaking me.
I’m not a violent person. I believe in resolving problems with discussion, but I won’t allow anyone to manhandle me. Especially my husband’s ex-wife. I look down, focus my gaze on her toes peeking out from her strappy sandals, then smash my right heel onto them with all my might. Simona screams and lets go of my arm. I use the opportunity to grab a handful of her hair, pulling her head back. She screams again and tries scratching my face, but I move to stand behind her and pull her hair down even further, making her arch her back.
“Don’t you dare touch me again!” I bark and drag her toward the door where Emilio is standing, his mouth gaping. “Get her out.” I let go of Simona’s hair, turn on my heel, and head to the kitchen. I need some sugar because I’m coming down from an adrenaline high and my legs are starting to shake. As I pass the stairway, I hear chuckling and lift my head. Damian is standing next to the banister with his phone in front of him.
“Don’t even think about posting that anywhere. I mean it, Damian.”
“It’s for my private collection of catfight videos.” He grins and disappears down the hallway.


My phone rings with Damian’s name flashing on the screen. I let it ring where it’s lying on my desk and continue reading the real estate listing I was checking out. He was right. Selling those apartments was a good call. If we had waited, we’d have lost 10 percent. He’s probably calling to say “I told you so.” I’m not in the mood. It’s almost half past two, and Isabella still hasn’t come. What if she decided to call the Scardoni pup after all? The ringing stops, only to start again a few seconds later.
I curse and grab the phone. “I’m busy, Damian.”
“Simona was here.”
“What? When?”
“She just left.”
“We agreed to postpone her visit until next week.” I hit the table with my palm. “And she knows she shouldn’t come into my house unless I’m there.”
“Yeah, well, you know Simona.”
“What happened? Did she take Rosa?”
“Nope. Isabella didn’t let her. She told Simona she can’t take Rosa anywhere without your permission.”
“Jesus fuck. They met?”
“Yeah. It wasn’t pretty.”
I stand up from the chair, gripping the phone. “What did Simona do to her?”
“Calm down. Everything’s okay.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down.” I take my wallet and car keys from the table and rush out of the office. “I’m on my way.”
“Isa is fine. She’s watching Say Yes to the Dress with Rosa.”
“Don’t lie to me, Damian. Simona knew I wasn’t there, and she came with a purpose. I know my ex all too well.”
“I recorded the whole ordeal. I’m sending you a video.”
“You recorded it? Why the fuck didn’t you throw out that bitch instead?”
“It seemed Isa didn’t need my help.” He laughs. “She threw her out herself.”
“What?” I hit the button on my remote as I approach my car. The doors click just as I’m reaching for the handle.
“Just watch, Luca.” Damian cuts the call.
I get into my car and play the video Damian sent. When I come to the part where Simona grabs Isabella’s arm, I grip the steering wheel, then reach down and start the car, only to turn it off two seconds later. I watch with growing amazement as my tiny wife grabs my ex, who’s more than a head taller, and pulls Simona toward the front door by her hair. The video ends with her casually walking across the hall.
I play the video again, and then one more time. Smiling, I lean back in the seat and shake my head. Little hellion. I step out of the car, intending to call Simona to let her know what I think of her visit, when my phone rings again. The display shows Francesco’s name. I don’t get calls from Isabella’s father often.
“Francesco? What’s going on?”
“The don has just been admitted to the hospital,” he says. “Another heart attack.”
“Fuck. Is it bad?”
“Yes. Can you get Isa there? I haven’t told her yet. I was afraid she’d come by herself.”
Once he gives me the address, I jump behind the wheel and floor it.
* * *
I find Isabella just as Damian said—watching TV with Rosa in the library. Her left arm is lying on the back of the sofa, and as I approach, I notice a red bruise above her elbow. I’m going to kill Simona if she dares come within a five-yard radius of my wife ever again. Without thinking, I reach out and brush her skin with the back of my hand. Isabella’s head snaps up, surprise in her eyes, and I quickly remove my hand.
“Go get your purse,” I say and drop a kiss on the top of Rosa’s head. “I’ll wait for you in the car. We have to go.”
“To the hospital. Your grandfather’s had another heart attack.”
She stares at me for a second, then jumps up from the sofa and leaves the library at a run. I expect her to change or put on some makeup, but she rushes back down the stairs with her purse and shoes on before I reach the front door.
“How is he?” Isabella asks as we get in the car.
“I don’t know. Your father just gave me the address and hung up. We’ll ask when we get there.”
She nods and leans back in the seat, clutching her purse in her lap.
It takes us thirty minutes to reach the hospital and five more to find a parking spot. As soon as I park the car, Isabella gets out and rushes toward the entrance. I run after her, and when I reach her, I take her hand in mine. “Stay close to me.”
Isabella looks down at our joined hands, nods, and lets me lead her inside. As we enter the lobby, I scan the people in the waiting room. When I don’t notice anything suspicious, I guide us to the information desk and ask for directions.
The closer we get to the hospital unit the nurse indicated, the stronger Isabella’s grip on my hand gets. We round the corner and spot two men in front of the door at the end of the hallway and Isabella’s father sitting on a chair across from them. Immediately, Isabella lets go of my hand and runs to him.
She embraces her father while he speaks in her ear, probably updating her on her grandfather’s condition, and I expect her to break down and start crying at any moment. Instead, she nods, sits down in the chair next to Francesco, and stares at the door in front of her. It amazes me how collected she seems on the outside, because I know she’s freaking out on the inside. She couldn’t hide the fear in her eyes while we were driving to the hospital. My place is there, sitting next to her and holding her hand, but it doesn’t feel right. I’m sure she wouldn’t welcome it. Not after the cold shoulder I’ve been giving her. I’ve truly been acting like a piece of shit.
Isabella seems to act with more maturity than Simona, who’s ten years older. When Damian told me the two of them met today, I assumed I’d find Isabella crying in her room when I came home. I never would have imagined that she’d stand her ground. Damian’s video proved me wrong and showed that she managed quite well. My young wife has turned out to be quite a surprise, and I’m finding it hard to continue keeping her at arm’s length.
The fact is, I’m attracted to her, and I don’t mean just physically. I like the way she stands up to me each and every time—never pulling away and meeting me on the middle ground instead. The way, day after day, she keeps playing the game of indifference that I started, makes me even crazier for her. Maybe I should just let go of my self-restraint and start fucking her senseless. It’s not like she doesn’t have the experience. That’s obvious from the way she’s acting. And that realization makes me furious. Why do I care if she’s had sex before? And what the hell am I going to do with this idiotic urge to find every man who’s touched her and strangle them? Maybe it’s her unpredictable behavior that’s messing with my brain. She riles me up to the point of my dick exploding one moment, and the next, she’s an ice queen, ready to brush me aside for the next schmuck who’ll fix her “little problem”.
The door to the don’s room opens, and Isabella’s mother and sister walk out. They exchange a few words, then Isabella heads inside, but not before throwing a quick look in my direction.


Dear God, he looks so old.
It’s the first thing that flashes through my mind as I enter the room and see my grandfather’s fragile form on the bed. I can’t reconcile this image of him with how I remember him from my childhood—a burly, tall man, with a deep voice and commanding presence. He always seemed so strong, until his heart started failing him.
“Isi, come here, stella mia,” he says.
I sit in the chair next to the bed and take his hand in mine. It feels so light and breakable. I want to say something, but I can’t seem to find the words.
“Have I ever told you how much you remind me of your grandmother?” He smiles weakly. “The same big eyes. The same unbreakable spirit that seems so grand for such a tiny person.”
He sounds like he is saying goodbye, and I find it hard to rein in the tears. So, I let them fall.
“Don’t cry, Isi. I had a good life, and it’s time to move on. You have to be strong now, stella mia, because when I’m gone, all hell will break loose. Luca will need you. Especially with the mess Bruno Scardoni has created.”
I shake my head and sigh. “I don’t think Luca needs anyone, Nonno. He manages quite well on his own.”
“Men can be stubborn sometimes. And your husband is the most stubborn one I’ve ever come across.” He raises his hand and brushes my cheek. “I have a confession to make, Isi. I hope you won’t get mad that I didn’t tell you sooner.”
“I can never get mad at you, Nonno. You know that.”
He regards me with his dark, slightly misty eyes, then smiles. “I knew, Isi,” he says. “I knew for years.”
“Knew what?”
“That you were in love with Luca. Still are, from what I can see.”
I open my mouth to say something, but he places his finger over my lips. “I paid that bodyguard. The one Luca caught in bed with Simona. It’s not like she wasn’t cheating on him before, but she was careful not to be caught.”
“Luca is a good man. And I wanted him for you.” He smiles. “So, I made sure you got him, stella mia.”
I burst out crying.
“Barbini is going to confront him, Isi. Lorenzo didn’t say anything in front of me, but I saw it in his face. Tell Luca to be careful.”
“I will,” I say through the tears. “But you will be okay, Nonno. Dad said they’re taking you to surgery and the doctors will fix your heart. You’re not going anywhere, yet.”
“I love you, stella mia.”
The door behind me opens and two nurses come in. I squeeze my grandfather’s hand and kiss his cheek.
“I love you, too,” I say and brush away my tears. “We’ll be waiting outside when you come out of surgery. Okay?”
I leave the room and sit next to Andrea, who’s whimpering on my mother’s shoulder. My father is standing a few paces from us, quietly talking with the doctor. As I turn my head to the right, I see Luca standing at the far end of the long hallway, leaning on the wall with his shoulder. I should go and talk to him, but I don’t think I can manage that distance on my shaking legs. Taking the phone from my bag, I press his number and watch as he takes the call.
“The surgery will last several hours. You don’t have to stay,” I say. “I know you have work to do.”
“I’m staying, Isabella.”
He puts away the phone and holds his position, looking back at me. Sighing, I lean my head against the wall and close my eyes.


I hear hurried steps from the direction of the elevator and lift my head to see Lorenzo and Orlando Lombardi approaching. They couldn’t have waited until the don was out of the hospital? Bastards. I push away from the wall and head in their direction.
“What do you want?” I stop before them, barring their way.
“We came to see the don,” Lorenzo says.
“Giuseppe is in surgery. When we have news, I’ll call you.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Lorenzo barks into my face. “You can’t forbid us from seeing him.” He steps forward as if I’ll let him pass.
I wrap my hand around his upper arm, stopping him, and get in his face.
“This is a personal matter, Lorenzo. I won’t let you or anyone else intrude on Giuseppe’s family in this moment. Leave.”
“Channeling a don already, Luca?” he spits out. “You couldn’t wait to jump into the role, could you? Let go of me!”
“Jesus, Lorenzo.” I shake my head and turn to Orlando. “Get him out of the hospital or I will. And I really don’t want to make a scene.”
“Luca?” Isabella’s voice reaches me from behind. “What’s going on?”
“Out. Both of you,” I say through gritted teeth and release Lorenzo’s arm. “Right fucking now.”
I watch until Lorenzo and Orlando disappear into the elevator, then turn to Isabella, who’s standing a few paces behind me, her arms wrapped tightly around her waist.
“I heard yelling. Is something wrong?” she asks.
“No. They just dropped by to see how Giuseppe is doing. Don’t worry.”
She nods but doesn’t move. She looks so small and so young. I close the distance between us and wrap my arms around her, pressing her to my body.
“He’s going to be okay, tesoro,” I say into her hair.
“I’m scared,” she whispers into my chest.
“I know.”
“Mom is freaking out. I better go back,” she says but doesn’t let me go.
I squeeze her a little tighter. “I’ll stay here to make sure no one comes to disturb you. Okay?”
Isabella nods and pulls back, looking up at me. Her eyes are red, but there are no tears. I don’t know how someone so young can have such self-control. I’m certain she’s keeping her tears at bay with sheer will.
“Thank you,” she whispers and walks back to her family.
* * *
The doctor comes out at around eleven in the evening, and Isabella’s family gathers around him. Based on the looks on their faces, the chances are not good, but the don is still alive. They return to their chairs, and sometime later, Andrea and Isabella’s parents stand up and start walking down the hallway toward me.
“How is he?” I ask Francesco.
“In the ICU. It doesn’t look good. If he lives through the next twenty-four hours, there’s a chance he’ll pull through.” He puts his arm around his wife’s back. “We’re going to grab something to eat. Can you stay with Isa?”
“Sure. Bring something for her, as well.”
“She said she can’t eat.”
“Just bring it. I’ll make sure she eats it.”
When they leave, I walk down the hallway to where Isabella is sitting and crouch in front of her. For a second, I think she must have fallen asleep in the chair, but then she opens her eyes and looks at me.
“How are you holding up?” I ask.
She doesn’t answer, just shrugs and closes her eyes again. I can’t bear seeing her like this. Beat. Lethargic. With an empty look in her eyes. Reaching out, I cup her cheek with my palm, and her eyes snap open. There it is. That spark I was looking for. I caress her skin with my thumb, noticing how perfectly soft it is. Slowly, she lifts her hand and, after a few seconds of hesitation, cups my cheek just as I have with her. She sighs and leans forward, pressing her forehead to mine.
“What am I going to do with you, Luca?” she whispers.
The sound of approaching steps reaches me from somewhere off to the side, and I assume it’s her parents and Andrea returning, but when I rise, I find the doctor from earlier standing a few feet away.
“Mrs. Rossi,” The doctor says, an expression of regret all over his face.
“No.” Isabella stands up next to me.
“His heart wasn’t in a stable condition,” the doctor continues. “It stopped while he was waking up from the anesthesia. We couldn’t bring him back.”
“No.” Isabella grabs my hand and squeezes. “Please, no.”
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Rossi. Your grandfather has passed away.”
Isabella stumbles. I catch her around the waist and turn her toward me, burying my hand in her hair and pressing her face to my chest. Her parents and sister round the corner and rush toward us. The doctor meets them halfway and gives them the news. Isabella’s mother presses her hand to her mouth, and bursts out crying. I look down at Isabella, who is clutching my shirt in her small hands, her silent tears hitting me right in the chest like a sledgehammer. There’s nothing I can do to take away her pain, so I just hold her even tighter.


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