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Ruined Secrets: Part 2 – Chapter 12

Isabella

Present
I slowly approach the hospital bed where my husband is lying, numerous wires hooked up to his body and connected to a machine on the right. My hand grips the bed rail to prevent my legs giving out from under me, and I nearly collapse into the nearby chair. Most of his head is tightly wrapped in bandages, they must have shaved his hair. I press my hand to my mouth to keep the sobs from escaping.
I don’t know why that detail hits me so hard. I managed to keep it together while he was in surgery and during the hours he spent in the recovery room. I’ve put on a stoic mask and pretended I wasn’t falling apart while his life was hanging in the balance. Somehow, I managed to get through it without spilling a tear.
I reach for his hand and entwine our fingers, and dropping my forehead onto the mattress, I cry. Minutes pass. Maybe hours, I’m not sure. Different scenarios roll around my mind, each worse than the one before, and I weep harder until my whole body is shaking.
I almost miss the tiny twitch of fingers in my own. My head snaps up, and I find two dark brown eyes watching me.
“Oh, Luca . . .” I choke out, then lean over him and place a light, quick kiss on his lips.
He doesn’t say anything, just keeps looking at me. When he finally speaks, the words that leave his mouth make me go ice-cold.
“Who are you?”
I stare at him.
Luca cocks his head to the side, regarding me with his intense, calculating gaze.
“I’m Isabella,” I whisper. “Your . . . wife.”
He blinks, then looks away at the window on the other side of the room and takes a deep breath.
“So, Isabella,” he says and turns to me. “Care to tell me who I am?
I take a slow deep breath, trying to suppress the panic rising in the pit of my stomach. It’s hard to know how long he was unconscious in the car, and then there were hours of surgery. It’s perfectly normal for him to be slightly confused.
I place my hand over his, noticing the way my fingers shake. “I’ll go find the doctor. He said to call him the moment you wake up. Okay?”
After he nods, I turn around and walk to the door, trying my best to appear calm. In reality, I’m choking down the urge to run in search of the doctor, yelling for him to come right away. When I find Dr. Jacobs, he rushes to Luca’s room, asking me to stay outside. I sit in the chair and wait. And wait. I’m not sure how long the doctor has been inside when Damian comes and joins me.
When the doctor finally exits the room, we both jump from our chairs and stare at him.
“Physically, Mr. Rossi is good,” Dr. Jacobs says. “Taking into account the seriousness of his condition when he arrived, I would say he’s doing exceptionally well. I did a basic exam, and all his motor functions seem to be working quite well. We’ll do a more thorough examination, of course, and another CT scan to make sure the swelling continues to recede, but other than some bruises and burns, he seems fine. Except for his memory loss.”
I stiffen next to Damian. “Is that . . . permanent?”
“I don’t know. He could wake up tomorrow and be his old self. Or it may happen in six months. Or his memory could come back in pieces.”
“Does he remember anything?” Damian asks.
“He knows where he is, as well as which month and year it is. He can list the main cities, solve math problems, and he can read and write. When I asked him about some landmarks here in Chicago or elsewhere, he described how to reach them in great detail. But he doesn’t remember anything personal. He doesn’t know his name or recall any family members. He can’t tell me the names of any childhood friends, and he doesn’t know where he lives or what he does for a living.”
Dear God.
“We have good psychologists here.” Dr. Jacobs continues, “Once we get him out of the ICU, they can help him deal with this problem, and also give you guidelines on how to support him.”
“So it might help him remember?” I ask.
“No. It will help him manage the situation. Only time will tell if he’ll recover his memories.”
“Okay,” I say, then turn to Damian and grab his forearm. “Take the doctor to the side,” I say in Italian. “Explain to him that under no circumstances is he to share the information about Luca’s memory with anyone. He needs to leave it out of the reports. You’ll need to threaten him. Make sure he understands that if he shares this info with anyone, he won’t live long enough to regret it.”
“And if he declines?” Damian asks, in Italian, as well.
“If he declines, he’ll need to be dealt with right away.”
Damian stares at me like he’s seeing me for the first time. “I’ve never killed anyone, Isa. I deal with the finances. Luca is in charge of . . . the rest.”
I take a step forward and look him right in the eyes. “Do you have any idea what will happen if this comes out? If anyone suspects that Luca is unfit for his . . . position, he’s as good as dead. No one, other than you and me, can know.”
Damian just gapes at me. He knows very well how things work in Cosa Nostra. If the don is not capable of doing his duty, he needs to step down. If he doesn’t, someone will kill him in a matter of days.
“We have to tell Rosa,” he says.
I take a deep breath, hating myself for making this decision, then shake my head. “No. She may slip in front of her friends. This is too big. We can’t risk it.”
“How the fuck do you plan on keeping this hidden, Isa? Luca doesn’t remember who he is. How will he lead the Family? There are business meetings. He has Lorenzo coming to report to him every week. There are—”
“We’ll figure it out,” I say and squeeze his forearm. “Luca’s memory will come back in a couple of days. Go talk to the doctor.”
Damian leads the doctor to the side, speaking to him in hushed tones. The doctor watches him with a grim face. I hope to God Damian can convince him to keep his mouth shut. The alternative, the good doctor will have to die. I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my husband, which means if Damian can’t kill him, I’ll have to. The thought of killing another human being has never crossed my mind, and I get lightheaded just from the sight of blood. But if saving Luca’s life means I need to take another’s, I’ll do it.

Luca

I regard the woman sitting on the edge of my hospital bed, holding a tablet in her lap. The screen shows a photo from some event I don’t remember. She turns it toward me, pointing at the people, telling me their names, roles, and sometimes even the names of their pets.
Isabella. My amazingly beautiful and very cunning young wife, who’s been spending hours stuffing information in my head to make sure no one realizes that I don’t remember shit.
Every morning she comes to see me, trying to fill the blank spaces in my brain with pieces of my life. My brother, Damian, always arrives around noon and takes over, vomiting business information at me, describing how I act in certain situations, and explaining who does what in both our legitimate and Cosa Nostra dealings. He leaves around three, probably to take care of tasks I should be doing, and Isabella resumes teaching me what I should already know.
She’s all business when it comes to my reeducation. At first, I thought she was doing this for her own benefit because maybe she’s afraid of losing her status as the don’s wife if anyone finds out and decides to remove me from the position. But when I get one of the small details right, she smiles in a way that makes her eyes twinkle, and I’m not so sure anymore.
“Okay, let’s go through the house staff again,” she says and tries to hide a yawn.
I reach up to remove a strand of hair that’s fallen over her face, hooking it behind her ear, and she goes still. Slowly, she raises her head and looks at me, surprise in her eyes. One thing I’ve noticed, and it has been baffling me from the beginning, is the fact that during the whole six days she’s spent here, she hasn’t once tried to touch me. Is it because we don’t have that kind of relationship? She told me that ours was an arranged marriage. Or is it something else? Whatever the reason, I don’t like it.
“That’s enough for today,” I say. “Go home and rest.”
“You’re being released in the morning. We need to go over the staff one more time.”
“Security, first shift. Marco, Sandro, Gio, Antonio, Emilio, Luigi, Renato. Sergio and Tony at the gate. House staff: Grace and Anna in the kitchen. Maids: Martha, Viola . . .” I keep listing the names until I cover both shifts, all thirty-two people. “We’re good, Isabella.”
She stands, wearing a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. “Okay. I’ll get going, then.”
As she turns to leave, I wrap my hand around her wrist and wait for her to face me. “Is everything okay?”
She looks down at my hand holding her forearm, then up until our gazes meet, and nods. Her eyes flick to the side of my head. The doctor removed my bandages this morning, revealing a long, partially healed incision that starts behind my ear and curls down toward my neck. Isabella notices me watching her and quickly looks away.
“Is it that awful?” I ask. It didn’t look that bad to me when I inspected it in the mirror after the doctor had left. Only six stiches.
“What?”
“The scar?”
“No, it’s just . . .” She lifts her eyes to mine, reaches up with her hand, and lightly brushes her fingers over the hair tied at the top of my head. “I was worried they had shaved it all off,” she says in a strangled voice.
“Just the bottom part.” They got rid of everything below the crown, leaving the rest.
“I like it. Very stylish.” She plays with one of the strands that has escaped the bun.
I was rather surprised when I realized I had long hair. I didn’t expect that for some reason and considered cutting it. But after seeing that it makes her happy, I decide I’m keeping it.
Isabella leans forward to look at the back of my head, and a faint vanilla fragrance envelops me. I turn my head, burying my nose in the crook of her neck, and inhale. She tenses but doesn’t move away, just steadies herself a little more and sighs.
“Did your family make you marry me, Isabella?” I ask and cup her cheek with my hand. “You’re way too young.”
“No.”
“Then why did you marry me?”
She doesn’t reply right away, just nuzzles my neck with her nose for a few moments. “Because I’m in love with you, Luca,” she whispers, then goes rigid, like she didn’t mean to say those words.
“And me? Am I in love with you?”
Isabella steps away and smiles. “Of course you are,” she says and brushes my cheek with the back of her hand. “I have to go.  Don’t forget to call Rosa.”
“I won’t,” I say.
I’ve been calling Rosa twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. She’d usually be the one who talked while I mostly listened. About her friend Clara who has a cat. About the construction workers who came to fix the façade and one of them ending up in the rose bush. About movies she watched. It has been the hardest thing so far—talking with my child without having any recollection of her. Almost as hard as shaking my head when Isabella showed me a photo of a dark-haired girl with shoulder-length hair, asking me if I recognized her.
I don’t remember my daughter.
“Damian and I will be here first thing in the morning,” Isabella says and leaves the room without looking back.

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