Brianna didn’t sleep well.
She kept jerking awake, sweaty and nervous, to check if Tino was breathing. He always seemed fine, his muscular chest rising and falling in a slow, steady rhythm, but Brianna couldn’t say the same for herself.
It was Saturday, and fortunately she didn’t have practice. It was past noon by the time she heard Carina moving around the apartment. Tino was still passed out, when usually he was an extremely light sleeper.
Normally, that would make her nervous as hell, but this wasn’t the first time he crashed in her bed. She suspected he’d been on a binge the entire time he’d been gone, and likely hadn’t slept in days. This deep, unmovable sleep was part of his crash. It was how he recovered. So she slipped out from under him and showered.
She spent the time washing and double conditioning her hair. She took extra care shaving and even exfoliated because she didn’t want to get out of the shower. She wanted to scrub the night off her. She needed the water to take away the images her imagination was churning up of Tino cutting into dead bodies and searching for bullets.
Brianna knew what he did for a living.
They all knew.
Tino just made it so easy to forget the borgata made him a killer. He didn’t want to burden any of them. So he joked around and made sure everyone saw him as fun and carefree in order to hide the horrible existence he lived.
Until the nights when it got to be too much, and it left him open and exposed to Brianna. She never told anyone, even Carina, how tortured he truly was. Like Tino, she believed they were better off not knowing.
What would it solve?
Unfortunately, the hot water ran out before she was ready to get out. Brianna didn’t bother with any clothes after the shower. She just slipped on her robe with her skin still dewy and her hair wrapped up in a towel. Clothes seemed too hard.
Carina was doing dishes. Usually Brianna did them, but sometimes Carina had too much energy and needed something to do with her hands.
“Made you breakfast.” Carina pointed to a plate on the counter that had a pile of overcooked scrambled eggs with a side of broccoli. “Your favorite.
Carina hated broccoli. The fact that she cooked it was nothing short of amazing.
“Why are you being so nice?” Brianna asked suspiciously.
Carina frowned and looked back at her. “I’m always nice.”
Brianna took a bite of her eggs rather than say anything. They were cold, and slightly burnt. The broccoli was limp and over salted but considering Brianna had never seen Carina cook in her life—it was a valiant effort.
“I don’t think anyone would list nice as one of your more sterling qualities,” Brianna said with a grin. “More like bad ass bitch who’s loyal to a fault, but that’s what I love about you.”
“I’d help you hide a body in a fucking heartbeat.” Carina gave her a broad smile, obviously willing to take the compromise. “How’re the eggs?”
“Oh, good,” Brianna lied and took another bite to prove her point. They were edible enough. “Thank you. Did God change my birthday and forget to tell me?”
“Nah, I just—” Carina shrugged. “Felt like making it up to you.”
Brianna took another bite of cold eggs and looked at her curiously. “Make what up to me?”
“I know my family’s fucked up.” Carina glanced away as she said it. “And I know I pulled you down with me.”
“I love Tino,” Brianna reminded her. “I love you too. I don’t hate my life.”
“Not yet, but I’ve never met any old and happy mob wives,” Carina whispered. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame him for the blow. I know why he snorts it. I’d snort it too if I were Tino. I just wish I could make it all stop. What if we all ran away? You ever think about that?”
Brianna stared at her plate for a while, because she did think about it. She was certain they all did. Sometimes she and Tino would talk about running away like a far-off fantasy, but the reality seemed impossible.
“You know it wouldn’t work out. No one escapes Cosa Nostra justice. It always finds them.”
And cuts the bullets out of their dead bodies afterwards.
Brianna didn’t say the last part, but she couldn’t stop thinking it.
“You love him enough to be an old, miserable mob wife one day?” Carina asked like she couldn’t believe it. “What happens when he goes to prison? What’re you gonna do then?”
“Just ‘cause your dad’s away right now doesn’t mean anything,” Brianna argued, and left it unsaid she’d take prison over a coffin any day when it came to Tino. “And that was his fault. He went outside the network.”
Frankie made too many stupid mistakes running a ponzi scheme behind the borgata’s back. Nova couldn’t save him when they all found out after the Feds showed up and arrested him last year.
“They all go away eventually. All of them.” Carina sighed. “Even Nonno served over ten years before I was born.”
“Your father’s in federal for two years.” Brianna held up her hand. “That’s nothing, especially for our borgata. Tino could do that if he had to. If Frankie can do it, Tino can. There’s no conjugal visits in Federal, but he could still do it.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Carina held up her hands. “Do you honestly think the other girls at your school know the difference between federal and state.”
“I’m pretty sure everyone knows the difference between federal and state,” Brianna argued.
Carina shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“And how would you know?” Brianna laughed. “What makes you an expert on the outside?”
“I listen to people.” Carina looked a little lost. “Most of them don’t know, Bri. It’s not on their radar because they don’t have to worry about it. You were supposed to live your whole life and never know this shit because it shouldn’t be something you have to fear.”
“She’s right, you know?”
Brianna turned to see Tino walk into the kitchen. Bare chested and barefoot, he wore only jeans. His dark hair was disheveled, but he ran a hand through it, trying to push it back into place.
“I know she’s right,” Brianna said softly, because she wasn’t going to insult Tino by denying it. “I still have no regrets.”
“But you should.” Tino eyed the plate in Brianna’s hand. “What’re you eating?”
“Oh, Carina made breakfast.” Brianna held up the plate. “Want some?”
Tino looked at it hesitantly, before his gaze darted to Carina. “No, I’m good.”
“It’s not that bad,” Carina snapped at him. “I’d like to see you do better.”
“I didn’t say anything.” Tino’s voice was raspy, making it obvious he was still tired and burned out. “You’re assuming, Rina.”
“Maybe.” Carina gestured to the coffee pot. “It’s fresh.”
“Grazie.” Tino walked to the coffee maker and pulled down a cup from the cabinet above it. “I guess I should thank you for the benzos too. That was an unexpected hook-up. When did you start popping those?”
Carina laughed incredulously. “Are you giving me shit about my habits?”
“Yeah.” Tino set the cup down without pouring coffee in it. Instead he folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the counter to glare at his sister. “I’m giving you shit.”
“I’ll tell you what? Why don’t we do a few lines and discuss it.”
“Okay.” Tino gave her a look rather than back down, his eyes wide, his smile cynical. “You got some?”
“You know, strange enough, considering I’m such a raging addict, I don’t carry blow on me,” Carina said haughtily. “Bet you can’t say the same.”
“Nope.” Tino didn’t bother to deny it. “I can’t.”
Brianna jumped when Carina reached into the sink and hurled a plate at Tino. He managed to swiftly lean to the side, dodging the impact, despite recovering from a days long binge. Instead the plate shattered against the counter, sending shards of glass everywhere as Carina screamed, “You turned into him! You’re Frankie!”
“Where have you been?” Tino laughed, completely unfazed by Carina’s fury. Then he stepped away from the counter, and Carina actually backed up, almost looking fearful as Tino crowded into her personal space and leaned down to whisper in Carina’s ear, “And I promise, I’m much better than he is. You’re insulting me by comparing me to him.”
Carina shoved him, hard, but Tino didn’t budge. He was like a big, unmovable wall. She grabbed another dish and threw it at the floor, making it shatter at Tino’s bare feet.
Still Tino didn’t move, so Carina threw another one.
At the same time, she was screaming, “I hate you! I hate you! You were never supposed to be him! That was supposed to be Nova’s job! They took both of you and you let it happen!”
“Maybe you oughta eat more of mommy’s benzos,” Tino suggested as he looked down at Carina losing her mind. “’Cause I can’t tell you how much I fucking love watching you turn into her.”
Brianna knew better than to step in between a Moretti sibling fight, because they had their own way of handling things. Usually they sorted it out on their own, but this one was a little too catastrophic to ignore. Not to mention, she was going to be the one cleaning up the dishes.
So Brianna said, “Tino, stop.”
She wasn’t mean or angry about it, but firm, and Tino turned to her and arched an eyebrow.
“You think making her hate you will make you feel better?” Brianna whispered.
Tino shrugged. “Maybe.”
“Just go, Carina,” Brianna sighed.
“You’re kicking me outta my own apartment?” Carina’s voice was still unnaturally loud, before she shouted, “Fuck you!”
“Let him reset.” Brianna didn’t know how else to put it.
“Yeah, maybe a few more valiums and I’ll be able to fake it for you again. Wanna hook me up with that?” Tino added as he gave Carina another hard look. “You think you’re scaring me, little girl? I want you to hate me. I know I’m disgusting. I know I’m hurting you. I know I’m hurting her too. You’re the one who missed the fucking news flash. Hate me. I dare you.”
Carina glanced down, because the dishes had crunched under his bare feet. Brianna looked too, seeing the stains of Tino’s blood on the tile, even if he seemed unfazed by the pain.
“Stop it,” Brianna said again. “Tino!”
“I’m pissed at you too!” Tino growled at her, turning on Brianna all of a sudden like a wild, terrifying animal.
“But you’re not going to bully me into hating you.” Brianna held up her hands. “So don’t even try it. I’m not playing.”
“Yeah, maybe not.” Tino obviously believed it as he walked away from Carina, broken dishes still crunching under his bare feet as he went back to the coffee pot. He picked up his cup and poured himself some. “We both know Carina’s got better survival skills then you.”
Carina kept looking at Tino’s feet as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. There was something so very unnerving about Carina’s quiet misery when everything about her was loud and exuberant.
“Don’t do that,” Tino snapped at his sister as he went to the fridge to get creamer. “It doesn’t suit you, Rina.”
“Just go.” Brianna looked to her best friend earnestly. “Let me help him reset.”
“How does that go down?” Carina asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“Not the way you think,” Brianna promised, staring at Carina, hoping she could silently communicate that she was fine. “Just give us a little while.”
“Yeah, run away, but don’t go too far. I’ll be the one they send to find you,” Tino said drily, making it obvious he had been listening to their conversation before he came out.
“Shut up, Tino!” Brianna snapped at him. “I’m serious, shut the fuck up!”
Tino just arched an eyebrow again as he stirred his coffee, but he didn’t say anything else.
“Do you hurt her? You two do every other kinky thing in the book. Do you do that too?” Carina asked him, her voice shaking. “Do I have to repent for that too? Do I have that on my soul for fucking eternity?”
Tino didn’t speak.
“Do you?” Carina screamed, which was better than her silent crying.
Tino still didn’t say anything, so Brianna answered for him. “No, he’d never hurt me.”
“Are you sure about that?” Carina sounded truly skeptical.
“I promise.” Brianna showed Carina her open palm. “My hand to God, Tino has never hurt me.”
It said a lot about their friendship that Carina trusted Brianna enough to leave. She threw a few things in one of her larger purses and headed for the door without looking at Tino, who was still standing in the destroyed kitchen drinking coffee.
“I love you,” Carina said when Brianna walked to the door. She grabbed Brianna’s face in both her hands and pulled her down. Then she kissed Brianna’s forehead like a sister. “Call me.”
“Yeah.” Brianna nodded in agreement, and then kissed Carina’s cheek. “I love you too. Don’t ever doubt it.”
“None of us doubt it. That’s not the problem.” Carina looked to the kitchen, the anguish on her face was palpable. Then she put a hand to her chest and took a shuddering breath. “Cazzo.”
“He’ll be fine,” Brianna assured her, hoping she was telling the truth.
Carina nodded, and opened the front door, like she needed to get out before she changed her mind.