Untamed Hearts Memories - Nova on the balcony with his mother
Nova stared at the top of the bunk, trying to fall asleep, but it wasn’t working. He leaned up, looking past Tino to the alarm clock, seeing that is was 2:12 in the morning.
The entire bunk bed creaked when Romeo turned on his side. On instinct, Nova glanced at the missing slate four down from the top. He wasn’t sure where it went, but he would bet money Tino had something to do with its disappearance. It wasn’t the first time, and that bunk could not afford to lose its third slat when Romeo was the guy sleeping on it.
Nova crawled over Tino, who seemed to unconsciously enjoy the extra space, and rolled onto his back. He was wearing his karate gi because Ma had been distracted, and didn’t make him shower after practice, even though Nova was the one stuck sleeping with him.
Nova was planning on finding something to eat, but heard the television from his mother’s room. A re-run of an old game show was casting shadows over the darkened room, and the sounds of East Harlem at night were louder because of the opened window. He leaned down, looking out to the small balcony that was their gift for having one of the coveted corner units.
His mother was sitting on a pillow, robe tied tight to fight the fall chill. Her long, shiny black hair fell down her back in thick waves, when usually she kept her hair up at night. It was like she couldn’t be bothered as she tilted her head back and blew smoke into the city air.
Nova was going to leave like he usually did when he caught her, but she spotted him this time, doing a double take when she pushed her hair off her forehead. “Nova!” She threw something in the ashtray, and then made an effort to put it out, as she barked in Italian, “What’re you doing up?”
“You don’t have to do that.” Nova looked at the ashtray. “I’m not going to dime on you.”
She sighed and looked back out to the city. “Are you going to remember me badly when I’m gone one day?”
“No.” Nova gave her a look as he crawled out onto the balcony. “But you should probably know that the laws of physics don’t completely rule out the probability of Romeo killing Tino when he comes crashing through the top bunk with that new slat missing. It won’t be so great for me either. I’m not lying to you when I say it needs to be replaced.”
She laughed, one of those soft, girlish giggles that showed up out of the blue sometimes. She gave him a radiant smile and whispered, “We’ll fix it tomorrow.”
She grabbed the ashtray and hid it behind her, like putting it there would make Nova forget. She kept her face turned, showing him only her profile, but Nova could still see the happiness drift away as quickly as it showed up.
“You’re the only one who’ll remember me beautiful, amore.” Her voice cracked, and tears ran down her face. “It’s not the only thing I’m sad about. There’s so much, but right now, that’s what I’m thinking about. I worry about Tino.”
Nova sighed. “I know.”
“I wish it was easier for him.”
“He’s reading better.” Nova moved up, and let his Ma hug him. “He’ll be okay.”
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed the top of his head. Then she started running her fingers through his hair, absently straightening the thick strands. He laid his head on her shoulder and looked out to the city, feeling his eyes get heavy.
“You’ll be handsome like your brother,” she told him. “What are going to do when all those girls start knocking on our door, huh?”
He tilted his head on his ma’s shoulder to give her a cynical look. “Is that your way of saying you wish I looked like Romeo instead of who I actually look like.”
“I didn’t say that. You said that, amore.” She sounded undisturbed by the accusation, probably because of what she was smoking before Nova came out there. “I think the guy you look like is pretty handsome if we’re confessing things. You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t, and Tino definitely wouldn’t be here.”
“Oh my God.” Nova tried to get up, but she held onto him, laughing again. “What is wrong with you?” It made him angry, because honestly, it wasn’t funny. “I’m serious, Ma, what is wrong with you? He treats you like merda.”
She stopped laughing and looked away with a huff, sounding tired of the topic. “Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with how he looks, does it?”
Nova rubbed a hand over his face, knowing she heard it enough from Romeo.
She had really bad taste in boyfriends, it wasn’t a news flash.
“Always so serious.” She kissed the top of his head and started stroking his hair again. “And I don’t want to be serious. Not tonight.”
“You never want to be serious,” he reminded her. “Especially when it comes to him. I can’t believe you invited him over.”
“I need you to be polite to him. I’m not joking now. If he shows up this weekend, you be respectful. People like what they’re used to and he’s powerful. If you treat him how he expects to be treated, he feel comfortable and I need him to like us right now.”
“Whatever.” Nova brushed her hand away when she tried to comb his hair out his face. He wanted to go back to bed, but she wasn’t letting go. “I thought it was over with him. Now he’s back all of a sudden? Rome is going to go nuts when he finds out.”
She kissed his cheek and smothered him to the point that he felt like he couldn’t breathe. Then she whispered seriously in his ear, “There’s things you don’t know, amore. We’re going to need his help.”
Nova heard the fear in her voice and turned to stare at his mother.
“You’re supposed to be my wingman. You know Rome barely holds his tongue, and I need you to keep Tino calm. Play video games with him, maybe even let him win.” Her dark brown eyes were soft and pleading, glimmering under the moonlight. She brushed his hair back away from his forehead and kissed it once more. “A few more years, and we’ll be okay. You’ll see. Women raise their own allies. We don’t all need husbands.”
“You always say that,” Nova grumbled, trying and failing to stay mad at her. “I don’t think it’s working out for you.”
“It’s a long-term project¼and there’s three of you.” She tossed him another smile. “One of you has to turn out semi-decent.”
Nova snorted. “It’s definitely going to be Romeo.”
She pulled Nova tighter against her and squeezed his shoulder. “Promise me.”
“I promise,” Nova said because there never really was a question. “But, I’m not letting Tino win just to keep him calm. I’m not tricking my brother for that coglione.”