Loud music reverberated from the stereo: sentimental Fifties crooners, Italian favorites. My parents never seemed to tire of “Che La Luna Mezzo Mare.” The “legal” adults were at various stages of drunk by now. The scene amusingly reminded me of The Godfather movie, prompting me to recall that disturbing conversation between Phil and Sergio.
Before I knew it, I had blurted out a question. “Daddy, if somebody says he has connections and is planning a hit on someone, would you think he’s lying? Because I don’t think somebody in the mob would want you to know that, right?”
“Who’s that?” Joey asked.
Uncle Dom raised an eyebrow. “He was telling this to who? You? He said he’s in the mob?” He looked at my father. “Cafone!”
My father laughed.
Uncle Dom waved his hand in disgust. “If he was in the mob, he wouldn’t be telling you that. Stay away from him. He’s trouble.”
“It was a conversation I heard between two guys I barely know,” I explained. “One guy was saying he was going to take somebody out—that he was going to ice someone.”
My father said, “If he was in the mob, he would never discuss that in front of someone who’s not involved.”
“Even with the people involved, they are very careful about what they say,” Uncle Dom pointed out. “Believe me, if this guy’s in the mob, he’s not gonna be for long. If he’s talking like that, they will kill him.”
We all laughed heartily at that.
“Don’t get involved,” Uncle Dom said. “Tell him to take a hike. Believe me, there’s something wrong with a guy talking like that in front of a girl. Tell him, adios, arrivederci, so long. Better yet, when you see him coming, go the other way.”
Everyone continued to laugh, but I couldn’t help thinking, I wish I had. By the time Phil and Sergio had revealed their true natures, it was too late. For the most part, I believed they were no longer a danger to me, and now I could rest assured that they weren’t likely to be mobsters who’d send someone gunning for me, ludicrous as it seemed.
I could tell that everyone remained oblivious to my true concerns. They drank their demitasse with lemon, sugar, anisette, and amaretto. We ate dessert. They sang “Happy Birthday” to me.
My grandmother was staring at Angie with a nostalgic look in her eyes. She remarked that Angie and Dom Jr. had looked so much alike. Angie never talked about Dom Jr., her identical twin, but she often visited his grave with her parents. Zuza got misty-eyed when talking about him, and Uncle Dom got quiet. He’d look down only slightly, but I could see the forlorn gaze.
Angie smiled now in response to the noted resemblance. It was hard to read what she thought about it, or about anything. I wished she would talk to me, and I vowed that I would continue trying to reach her.
The party moved to the family room. Everyone had expressed an interest in seeing old family movies. My father had every tape labeled—his and my mother’s vacation to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, another tape of when my mom took us to Bear Mountain, and childhood birthdays or holidays.
There was a scene in the home movies where my Uncle Dom stood behind my chair as I tackled a strawberry tart. I climbed on the chair in an effort to reach him. Then, turning to face him, I gave him the tightest hug I could give. He instantly reciprocated the hug with a kindly smile. Watching it moved me to tears.
Once past the age of three, my mother had instructed me not to allow any man to pick me up off the ground. If someone tried, I was to demand that he put me down and to tell him I could walk. I didn’t have to worry about Uncle Dom. He didn’t do that, and yet he responded genuinely and appropriately to a hug from me. It worked out with my father, too, since I was probably two the last time he carried me. When I was a little girl, I would jump on him as he lay on the couch watching television, and I would tickle him, laughing. I wanted to shower him with kisses.
“Get off of him,” my mother would say. “Cut that out.”
At the time, I took it to mean he needed the time to relax, and I was pestering him. As I grew older, it felt more and more that he was off-limits to me in that way. Even now, if I hugged him, it was customary to let go of him sooner than I wanted to, wishing I could stay in his arms.
I thought of Uncle Dom as someone who could observe boundaries and still make a girl feel loved and adored.
The movies revealed, too, that from the moment I could walk, I followed Robbie everywhere he went. I sucked my thumb, and he kept slapping my hand. When I stopped, he would get up and walk away.
We played children’s games at the birthday parties. Everyone, young and old, clapped heartily, smiles radiant. If it was my birthday, my mother dressed me like a princess. When it was time to blow out the candles, the birthday boy or girl stood up on a chair, wearing a crown or tiara, towering above all the seated guests. It was our moment.
My father held shot glasses out to the children. Each of us reacted the same way after taking a sip—disgusted scowls. The adults seemed to find this response hilarious.
It was apparent I had become the paradigmatic little girl—a girly girl, all ribbons and lace. I wore everything from sash-belted sailor dresses to peter pan-collared designer tunics with white anklet socks and my favorite red leather shoes. I had a purple suede coat I loved with furry cuffs and a furry hood. I endured the daily hair-brushing torture that resulted in meticulous hairstyles. The painstaking effort seemed to take centuries. My mom ripped out every minuscule knot like a mad hair-follicle scientist.
They had movies of my brothers and me standing side by side, posture perfect, holding hands and singing Christmas carols for the relatives. My mom had taught us a couple of the carols in Spanish.
That was the highlight reel.
I happened upon an unlabeled tape while fumbling through the box and handed it to my father. He played it. The first scene was a typical party. My father, presumably, took the camera from the dining room to the living room, filming. The last scene showed a baby lying on its back in a playpen they had kept in the family room.
“That’s you,” my mother said to me.
“How come we never saw this one?” Joey asked.
A boy of about two neared the playpen.
“That’s Robbie!” my father shouted.
In the clip, Robbie began yanking at my arms.
“Oh, Dio!” my grandmother cried. Her hand went to her chin.
My mother appeared on film, grabbing hold of Robbie. She slapped his face and led him away. “You were told to leave her alone!” she shrieked at him.
Robbie was wailing, and the film fizzled out.
“You said that never happened,” I blurted out.
Joey was blunt. “Were you hiding this one?”
“I was not hiding it!” My mother appeared defensive. “You found it in the box, didn’t you?” She scowled at him, clenching her teeth.
My father laughed, along with Dom, Zuza, and Angie. My grandmother was still shaking her head.
“Oh, my goodness!” Angie exclaimed. “You were right about that, too!”
“Don’t worry. Robbie loves you,” Zuza said. “Kids do stupid things. What are you gonna do?”
“Ah, kids, adults—we all do stupid things,” Uncle Dom concluded with a shrug.
I knew that much was true.
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.