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The Sweetest Oblivion: Chapter 40

Elena

“If the Sun and Moon should ever doubt, they’d immediately go out.”

—William Blake


THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK’S TICKS AND tocks filled the silent room.

Mamma took a sip of wine and stared at me.

Nonna sat on the adjacent couch, watching me like she knew I’d had mind-blowing, premarital sex last night.

I flushed.

She smiled like a cat.

“Have some fruit salad, Elena.” Mamma set down her wine glass to push a plate across the coffee table. “I just made it last night.”

“I’m not hungry, Mamma.”

Both of their gazes widened as though I’d confessed I wanted to join a convent. I suddenly regretted not accepting the salad.

My mother placed a hand on her chest. “I knew that Russo was abusing her.”

I sighed. “He’s not—”

Please,” Nonna scoffed. “It looks consensual enough from where I’m sitting.” She observed me like someone would a bride in an off-white gown.

“Nadia,” Mamma scolded. “That’s not what I meant.”

“No, it wouldn’t be. You’re the biggest prude on this side of the Mississippi.”

“He’s not abusing me, all right?” I crossed my legs in discomfort. “I’m just not hungry.”

Mamma didn’t look like she believed me, and my grandmother’s expression softened as well.

“You’re always hungry,” Nonna muttered.

“Am not,” I replied like a two-year-old.

Mamma shook her head. “We should’ve never let this happen.” She pushed the plate closer to me. “This is the worst thing your papà has ever done.”

I raised a brow. The worst?

Nonna harrumphed.

“Nobody cared when he handed Adriana over without a second thought.”

“Of course we cared,” Mamma said.

“No, you didn’t. I distinctly remember you telling me to ‘trust my papà.’”

“Adriana would have been fine. You—” she cut herself off.

“Me, what?” I said calmly, though my cheeks heated in frustration. They didn’t worry about Adriana because they thought she could handle herself. They didn’t think the same of me.

She pursed her lips and nudged the plate. “Why don’t you eat the salad?”

“For the third time—I’m not hungry.”

“It’s the depression,” Nonna whispered to my mamma.

I exhaled. “I’m not depressed.”

“Then eat the fruit,” Mamma suggested.

“Yeah, cara mia. You need to eat the fruit. You’re too skinny as it is.”

“She’s not too skinny,” my mamma said. “She’s just right.”

Nonna eyed me with a frown. “She’s all boobs and nothing else.” Then muttered, “No wonder that Russo’s so hell-bent on having her.”

I scoffed. “If I were depressed that wouldn’t be a comment that would help.”

They both watched me like I’d just admitted I was depressed.

Mamma jumped up and shoved the plate closer. Another inch and it would be in my lap. “You’ll feel better after you eat.”

My teeth clenched. “For goodness’ sake, I’m not going to eat that stupid salad, Mamma.”

“We can’t help you if you don’t help yourself,” Nonna mumbled.

I rubbed my temple. “Why don’t you think I can take care of myself? I can be just as assertive as Adriana.”

“Of course we know that,” Mamma said a little too quickly. “But maybe you’re not as emotionally . . . stable.” She closed her mouth like she realized that was worse than saying I wasn’t as assertive.

“Keep digging yourself into a hole, Celia,” Nonna muttered, taking a sip of coffee. “You’ll be to China in no time.”

I blinked. “Emotionally stable?”

Mamma played with her jacket zipper like it had suddenly become interesting. “Maybe that was the wrong term.”

“Please, Celia, do explain yourself,” Nonna urged with a grin. “I’m on pins and needles.”

“All I meant to say is that you’re softer than your sister . . . more docile, and a man like that Russo would abuse it.”

I opened my mouth to deny it, but then realized she might be right. It was suddenly clear to us all that I’d lasted not even a week with Nico before I’d come home without an appetite.

“Simply put,” Mamma said, “we don’t think the Russo is right for you.”

We?” Nonna’s brows pulled together. “Who’s we? Don’t put words into my mouth.”

I laughed, though I wasn’t amused in the slightest. “I didn’t believe he was right for me from the beginning, but it didn’t matter. ‘It is done,’ as Papà said.”

Mamma frowned. “Your papà doesn’t act like he wants this marriage. He’s been in a mood all weekend.”

“Don’t sugarcoat it, Celia. He’s been a downright cad.”

“If you tell your papà you are not happy with the Russo, maybe he will change his mind.”

I swallowed. Was I not happy? I wasn’t today.

“Even if Salvatore does change his mind,” Nonna said, “I’m sure she’s already as knocked up as your other daughter.”

Mamma grimaced. “Don’t be vulgar, Nadia.”

Oh, Madonna, salvami. I wonder how you ever had three children. You’re as squeamish as a virgin.”

A headache bloomed behind my eyes and I stood. “I assure you, Nonna, I’m not pregnant. I’ve been on the pill for years.”

Nonna shot Mamma a look. “No wonder your daughters are little floozies. You’re practically encouraging them!”

My mamma muttered, “Better a floozy than senile,” as I headed out of the room.


The curtains were closed as though someone was in mourning. A lump showed beneath the tangle of blankets on the bed. Smallish in size, and blaring Seven Nation Army. I lifted the comforter and climbed in before pulling it back over my head. We lay on our sides facing each other, with Adriana’s iPod playing music between us.

When the song stopped, I pushed pause on her playlist. “What did one sister say to the other?”

She fought an eye roll, but a corner of her mouth lifted. “What?”

“Will you be my Maid of Honor?”

Expectantly, she pursed her lips like it was a hard decision to consider. “Your fiancé put Ryan in the hospital.”

He was her fiancé not even a week ago, but now that he was mine she was quick to make me accountable for his actions. “I know, or I guess I assumed. I’m sorry, Adriana.”

“I thought they were going to kill him.” Her voice was shaky with relief.

A piece of my heart dissolved into bits and pieces, leaving an empty ache behind. “But they didn’t.”

“No.” She traced the edges of her iPod. “I know it was because of you. You always know what to do.”

A lump formed in the back of my throat. If only that were the truth. God, sometimes it felt like I was stranded on a raft at sea. Today was one of those days.

“You really love him, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

My eyes burned. “What’s it like?”

Her gaze met mine, her brows knitting. “What do you mean?”

“To be in love.”

“But—” She blinked, glancing at my left hand.

Understanding hit me. Of course she would think I was in love. I was a romantic at heart and I hadn’t even been able to lie to the world, let alone myself. I wasn’t a girl to have casual sex and everyone knew it.

I twisted the ring on my finger, and a bitter laugh escaped. “I didn’t even know his name, Adriana—don’t know his name.”

“Then why did you leave?” She frowned. “I thought you’d met him somewhere, fell in love, and went to be with him.”

Guilt pierced my chest. I was a terrible sister. I didn’t confide in her and I’d lusted after her fiancé. If I died before getting to Confession I was surely going to Hell.

I averted my gaze. “You know that little musical carousel I used to play over and over when we were younger?”

“Yeah, it’s pink.”

I smiled. “Yeah. Well, Nonno gave it to me for Christmas one year, if you remember. Since then, I’d always wanted to see a carousel in real life. A silly childhood dream, I guess. But it never happened . . . you know how busy Papà is.” I cleared my throat. “Anyway, that night I left . . . I guess I couldn’t take the expectations. Everything felt like too much. Oscar Perez, and the idea that someone like him would be my future. Having to force a smile. Squeezing myself into this person I didn’t think I could be anymore. It started all at once; my lungs closed up and I couldn’t breathe. All I believed at that moment was that if I didn’t get out of the house, I was going to die. The carousel just sat there on my dresser, taunting me with fanciful dreams. I wanted one to come true, even as trivial as it was. So I snuck out, took the bus—”

Her eyes widened, and I laughed.

“I didn’t even stop to think that it was winter and the carnival wouldn’t be there. I guessed I imagined the carousel would be dusted with a little snow. Anyway, he was a security guard at a mall nearby and stopped to see why I was standing in an empty parking lot alone. And I don’t know . . . it just happened from there. I told him I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t have much money or a place to stay, and he took me to his apartment to figure something out.”

“He was probably trying to get laid,” Adriana muttered.

I laughed. “Maybe. Though, he seemed nice and genuine. He was charming, and I liked him . . . but I never loved him.”

Silence settled in the space between us, and a heavy weight had drifted off my shoulders. I hadn’t realized how much I’d needed to share that with somebody until now.

“I’ll be your Maid of Honor,” she said quietly.

“Thank God.” I put a hand on my chest in relief. “Otherwise I was going to have to ask Sophia, and can you imagine that speech?”

Her laugh was light before drifting off. “I have a doctor’s appointment today.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

I smiled. “I can’t believe I’m going to be an aunt.”

She swallowed. “Elena, I was terrified they were going to kill him if they found out . . .” I knew she was trying to explain the reason she’d drunk so much. “And now I’m even more scared I’ve hurt the baby.”

“It’ll be okay.” I gave a piece of her hair a tug. “An Abelli is stronger than all that. Can you imagine hurting Tony with a few shots of vodka?”

She smiled. “A bullet doesn’t hurt Tony. Benito sure likes to whine about it, though.”

We laughed with a lightness that had been absent between us for a while. The amusement faded into an easy quiet.

“Love . . .” she started. “I guess it feels like you’re falling . . . and he’s the only one who could catch you.”

I thought about it for a second. “Sounds scary.”

She laughed. “No, not scary . . . thrilling.”

“For you, maybe. You’re not scared of anything.”

“You’re sure you aren’t in love?” she questioned once more, her gaze steady on mine.

“No, I’m really not.”

“Uh-oh,” she muttered.

Before I could question her, a loud commotion drifted up the stairs. The door slamming, masculine shouts . . .

I sat up, pushing the covers off.

When I recognized one of the angry men’s voices to be Nico’s, my stomach dropped to my toes. “Oh my god . . .”

My pulse trembled as I jumped out of bed and ran down the hall.

I froze at the top of the stairs.

If someone handcrafted nightmares for individuals, this would be mine. Anger permeated the air so thick it touched my skin. Luca, Lorenzo, and Ricardo stood in the foyer with tense countenances.

Something twisted in my chest as Nico and Benito got in each other’s faces and grabbed the other by the collar.

Nico shoved Benito against the wall hard enough a vase fell off the table and shattered. “You crossed a fucking line—”

“Ask me if I give a shit about your goddamn line.” My cousin pushed him back a foot.

“Maybe you’ll give a shit if I draw the line with your fucking body,” Nico growled.

They both had their guns pressed against the other’s temples before I could blink.

My heart turned to a block of ice.

The front door flew open and slammed against the wall. Papà, my brother, and Dominic stepped in.

Guns pointed in every direction.

Cazzo.

I think I really screwed up.


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