“So, I’m fucking stupid and worthless and the worse Siciliana ever to be born into the borgata, but I don’t care. I don’t even want to be in this goddamn borgata and I don’t want the fucking gun Tino took away either. I’ll just run away. All I need is my guitar and a microphone and—”
“Cosa?” Nova looked up from the target papers Carlo handed him and frowned at Carina who was sitting across from him at the kitchen table. Then he looked over her shoulder at Tino and asked, “Why’d you take her gun?”
Tino stood behind his sister bouncing a tennis ball he stole off the tennis court at the Bensonhurt mansion last week. To answer Nova’s question, Tino looked at the target papers pointedly over Carina’s shoulder, and then added, “Because she threw it across the room while there were still bullets in the clip.”
“I don’t even want the fucking thing,” Carina snarled, and then flipped Tino off for good measure. “Now both of yous are gonna gang up on me. I don’t give a shit about your guns or this borgata. I don’t even want this fucking house.” She gestured around wildly to the Mills Basin mansion they were sitting in. “Take it all! I don’t care! I hate this family!”
“Okay.” Tino rolled his eyes, for once understanding Nova’s annoyance with Carina when it came to her place in the borgata. “It’s so hard for you in the family.”
“So, basically, you’re fighting because Carina’s got bad aim and that pisses you off.” Nova held up his hand and glared at Tino once more. “Why do you care if she can’t do it?”
“She can’t protect herself! She’s gonna end up in a fucking basement!”
Nova burst out laughing, and then looked around at rest of them like they were nuts when they didn’t get the joke. “Are you serious right now? Men fall at her feet. They just do whatever the fuck she wants. It’s a phenomenon. This entire borgata is scared to death of her and you think that just because she can’t pull a trigger like you can she’s gonna end up in a basement. You’re a great shot. You still ended up in a basement. I ended up in one too. Valentino, I watched her beat her own mother almost to death to save your ass. Do you know what kinda balls it takes to beat the woman who gave birth to you with a frying pan? She can protect herself.”
Carina straightened a little and looked back to Tino. “Men do fall at my feet.”
“Madonn’.” Tino growled in disgust, not nearly as surprised as he should be that was what Carina heard out of Nova’s speech.
“You know”— Nova started as he went back to looking at the targets — “it is like it’s something more than just bad aim.”
Carina shrugged. “I went to the eye doctor.”
Nova touched three bullet holes outside the target on the paper. “It’s not that she can’t see the target. It’s got to be something else. Tino, throw the ball at her.”
Tino didn’t ask, he just did it. He was annoyingly programed like that and he promptly hit his sister in the arm when she didn’t catch it fast enough.
“Motherfucker!” Carina hissed, still very pissed off at him.
She picked up the ball and threw it back at Tino, only he dodged her. She would’ve barely grazed his arm anyway, even if he hadn’t.
Her throwing arm sucked almost as bad as her trigger finger.
“Why don’t you play sports?” Nova asked her. “You never wanted to participate in any sports. Dancing. Karate. You dropped out of everything.”
“’Cause I hate them!”
“Throw the ball at her again.”
“Fuck you with your ball.” Carina turned around to glare at Tino. “Throw it at me. I dare you. I don’t need good aim to slam a fucking salt shaker into your face.”
Carina picked up the salt shaker and Tino decided notto follow Nova’s suggestion a second time. It turned out self-preservation was more ingrained than blindly following Nova’s orders. Tino had seen what Carina could do to someone’s face with a hard, blunt object.
Nova didn’t look concerned. “Carlo, hand me the paper on the top of the fridge. I shove them up there when I’m done with them.”
“Why do you still get the newspaper delivered?” Carina asked him. “Not even nonno reads the real paper anymore. You’re the only one left.”
“I can scan the page faster and I enjoy reading something tangible in the morning. It’s tedious clicking through the pages online. It’s too slow.” Nova took the paper out of Carlo’s hand and put it in front of her. “So, read it to me.”
“Fuck you, no,” Carina growled at him. “I’m not reading to you.”
Nova shrugged. “Why not?”
“’Cause I’m not gonna sit here and read it to you so you can make fun of me when I stumble over every other word.”
“Do you stumble over words? Is it hard for you to read a newspaper? Most of them are written at an eighth-grade level.”
“I’m leaving,” Carina decided as she stood up. “Even though it’s my fucking house now,” she reminded all of them. “I’m gonna go and pick up Brianna ‘cause I’m done.”
“But you read music,” Nova went on like he missed her announcement that she was leaving. “And you’re not an amateur musician. I hear how talented you are with the guitar in comparison to others and you taught yourself. Nonno wouldn’t let you get lessons, so you just—” He pulled back and looked at her in shock. “Oh my God. You don’t read it, do you? There’s no sheet music at your apartment. No music books.”
Carina stopped walking and kept her arms folded uncomfortably, her entire body stiff in defensiveness.
“Madonn’, your catalog is massive. I heard you taking requests on your birthday. You know it all.” Nova sounded stunned. “I thought you were reading books or watching videos when you were younger. That you learned to read music and practiced, but that’s not it. You figured out how to do it on your own. How do you do it? Did you have someone show you the cords and go from there? Can you recognize all the cords in a song and remember them?”
Carina turned back to them, because Nova’s shock made it obvious to Tino and likely Carlo too how huge of a feat that was.
“I’m not a good reader,” Carina admitted. “But that doesn’t mean I’m stupid, Nova.”
“No, you’re right, it doesn’t. You’re a genius and I’m not saying that facetiously. What you’ve accomplished is incredible, especially as flawlessly as you do it.” Nova still sounded awed and then looked back to the targets in front of him. “Carina, I’m almost positive you’re dyslexic. It causes depth perception problems in some people. The school was probably so fucking scared of Nonno they kept passing you and ignoring the issues. It makes sense, right? My brain’s fucked up. Tino’s brain’s fucked up—”
“Thanks,” Tino cut in and turned to Carlo. “Good to know it’s a family trait. I’m just the only one without a special genius gift to go with it. So glad we took her to him for his expert diagnoses.”
“How hard is it for you to read?” Nova pressed as he completely dismissed Tino’s insult.
Carina straightened up once more and looked away rather than answer him.
“I could help you.” Nova straightened the targets in his hands. Now he looked uncomfortable too. “I work with dyslexics all the time in my GED classes. It’s not a big deal. Your brain is just wired differently. There’s tricks you could learn that would make it easier for you.”
“You expect me to go to one of your GED classes. I have a genuine high school diploma,” Carina reminded him.
“Well, aren’t you special, Princess. I don’t. I had to go take the test like the other losers,” Nova growled back as his voice became suddenly cold. “Some of us weren’t that fucking privileged to have the family buy us a diploma.”
“I studied for that diploma! It’s a million times harder for me than it is for you! I could’ve dropped out. You think dad cares if I have a diploma? You think the cunt who gave birth to me gives a shit, but I didn’t drop out!” Carina shouted at him. “I worked my ass off for it.”
“How? Licking Sister Justina’s pussy after hours? What was she? The one teacher who couldn’t be bought with Nonno’s money. So, you used your other great life skill?”
“Oh my God!” Carina screamed and rounded on Tino. “You told him that?”
Tino held up his hands at Nova for throwing him that far under the bus.
Carina pointed at Tino. “Fuck you.” She pointed at Carlo next. “Fuck you.”
“What did I do?” Carlo gestured to himself. “I was impressed by the Sister Justina thing.”
“And especially fuck you!” Carina flipped Nova off. “I’m gonna go get Brianna.” She pointed at Tino once more. “Don’t you even think about coming over. She’s pissed off at you too! You can go find someone else’s ass to fuck tonight. Oh, yeah, she told me she lets you do that. She just thinks it’s a thing everyone does. No big deal. Like it’s supposed to be on the menu full time and we all do it. Don’t worry. I’m telling her how it is now. I can’t believe you told him about Sister Justina.”
Carina stormed out and the front door rattled when she slammed it.
“Spoiled puttana. I just gave her a fucking water front mansion and she acts like she’s better than me.” Nova shoved all the papers off the table and stood. “I was trying to help that cunt.”
Nova left the kitchen too.
Something broke in the living room a second later.
Tino stood there, feeling the back of his neck burn. “This was an awesome idea,” he mumbled and then looked to Carlo in annoyance. “Not totally predictable or anything.”
“You called that amazingly well,” Carlo agreed, and then gave him a wane smile. “Congrats on the ass, though. It’s not even on my menu full time.”
“Yeah, lucky me.” Tino sighed
Carlo winced. “Guess you shouldn’t have told us how she got an A in math.”
Tino just stood there for another few seconds before the stomp of Nova’s highline shoes against the tile had Tino looking back to the entrance of the kitchen.
“Give her the 9mm back.” Nova’s voice was still low in fury, but it was like he couldn’t get past that one last thought. “She needs it to protect herself.”
“Did you miss the aim problem?” Tino gestured to the targets on the ground where Nova tossed them. “That gun is a danger to her.”
“Tell her to make sure they eat it. She’s the fucking spawn of Satan. You think she can’t get in a motherfucker’s face and pull the trigger? Give her the 9mm back.”
Nova turned around and stormed out again.
Tino and Carlo went back to standing there in silence before Carlo whispered in Italian, “That was a remarkably simple solution.”
It really was.
Tino felt stupid for not thinking of it.
“My brain’s fucked up,” Tino reminded Carlo. “What’s your excuse?”
Carlo shrugged. “I guess I don’t have one.”