he phone calls had begun again. I’d answer, and there’d be silence on the other end. Sometimes, I heard breathing or noise in the background, and, within minutes, there was a dial tone. I realized it could be anyone, but I suspected Phil or Sergio. It frightened me when I was alone.
Another problem had developed—Angie was cutting.
We had gone up to my room to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. She tried on a shawl scarf Farran had given her, catching the material on her silver studded wristband.
“What’s that on your arm?” Farran had asked as she carefully disjoined the material from the bracelet. She had grazed Angie’s forearm with her hand. “Your cat was never that feisty.”
Angie told us her dad liked to get him riled up.
During dinner, Zuza chided Angie for eating so little. It was our traditional meal of seven fishes. My mother had prepared most of it, along with spaghetti in marinara sauce. Everyone praised the meal, especially Farran and her mother, who had joined us.
Farran’s watchful eyes seemed focused on Uncle Dom when he interacted gently and affectionately with Licorice. “Is she calmer than your cat?” Farran asked.
“Nah, they’re both calm, very nice,” he replied.
It occurred to me, as I suspected it did Farran, that Uncle Dom had the gentlest nature.
There was another conversation about Angie never being in a hurry, as if she had all day. “Over an hour in the bathroom,” Zuza divulged. “Then she’s taking out the garbage from the bathroom because she complains it’s too full, that I don’t empty it enough. That’s not true. And I tell her take the other garbage, too, and she says she can’t because she’s late.”
Farran grabbed hold of Angie and me outside of the kitchen after dinner and asked if we could go outside. She said she needed a cigarette. We grabbed our jackets, headed out the door, and gathered in the lot.
Farran got right to the point. “Angie, I know what you’ve been doing.”
Angie’s eyes filled with innocence and surprise. “What am I doing?”
“What? No …”
I had no idea what they were talking about, since cutting hadn’t been a widespread concern at the time.
“A friend at school did it, a very troubled girl,” Farran explained. “She’d make cuts on her arms and legs. It’s an endorphin rush, and they get addicted real quick.”
Angie shook her head.
“Those were not scratches from your cat,” Farran said, “and I’m betting there’s more. It’s what you’ve been doing in the bathroom at home.”
I hadn’t seen Angie in short sleeves since summer, which was normal, but I realized she’d been keeping her sweater on in school, where we wore half-sleeve blouses.
“Is it true?” I asked.
“It’s not,” she replied, averting her eyes.
Farran grabbed her coat sleeve. “Let’s see your arms.”
Angie pulled away. “It’s so cold. I’m not taking my coat off!”
“Tell the truth, or I swear I’ll take it off you,” Farran said.
Angie looked guilty and then ashamed. “Okay, look, I swore it would be one time, but it was very soothing, and I did it again. It’s not a big deal. It’s not dangerous. I’m not gonna accidentally slit my wrist or something.”
“How long have you been doing it?” I asked.
“A couple of months,” she replied.“About ten times.”
Despite being the one to uncover it all, Farran looked shocked by the admission. “Damn, this is breaking my heart,” she said. “What would make you do this? Is it Nico? I know you’ve been upset about Nico.”
“You can talk to us about anything that’s bothering you,” I told Angie, “and I mean anything. You know we love you, and we’d do anything to help you.”
She teared up. “I love you guys, too.”
I hugged her as tight as I could.
“You need to promise you’re not gonna do this again,” Farran said, hugging her next. “I’ll kick your ass. I’m serious. I don’t want to lose either one of you.”
Angie promised, and I had renewed hope that she would soon be ready to face what had happened. Until then, I didn’t want to tell either of them about the phone calls.
On Christmas morning, I labored to get in as much writing as I could before Robbie’s arrival. The ideas kept coming—at work, in bed, and in the shower. Still, when I heard his voice from the top of our two-story foyer, I couldn’t get down there fast enough. We hugged with exuberance. He looked healthy, and he had grown his first thin mustache.
We ate dinner at two—lasagna and then coffee and pastries. It was just the immediate family. Robbie shared news that he’d begun working nights as a desk clerk at an inn near the campus. He planned to work summers as a camp counselor. He also said he had met a nice girl. After dessert, my mother brought out the board games. Joey encouraged my father to play and got a dismissive wave in response.
“He won’t because I always beat him,” my mother said. “He doesn’t like to lose. The minute he starts losing, he knocks the whole board over, then he says it was an accident.”
My father shook his head. “She’s making up stories. I grew up listening to all my mother’s stories, and now she makes up stories, too.”
Robbie’s eyes widened. “What kind of stories did Grandma tell you?”
We already knew my grandfather had abandoned his wife and kids when he left Italy for America. He was gone six years before they joined him in the States. My father revealed that, at the time, Grandma was always crying, and she was deathly afraid of witches and vampires.
It sounded absurd to me, but my grandmother was there, nodding her head.
I had to ask. “You believe in witches and vampires?”
“Not me,” my father said.
It saddened me to think that while my father had suffered the pain of his father’s abandonment, the one person there to comfort him had probably frightened him instead. I felt for my grandmother, too.
Joey asked about our grandfather’s alleged ghost.
“I never saw or heard anything,” my father replied.
Grandma was nodding again.
Robbie said, “I heard a door slam once in the basement when nobody was near any doors.”
My mother shook her head. “That’s not true. How would you know there was nobody near any of the doors on three floors when you can only be in one place at a time?”
So, this was impossible, but a man disappearing after a lightning strike was somehow probable? It boggled the mind.
I realized that she, too, had raised her children while being terribly afraid, maybe not of witches and vampires, but of other things. Thunderstorms seemed to rattle her far more than they did the average person. When we were kids, she would keep us all together in the dining room until the storm passed.
We played a round of Parcheesi now, which she won, but if we had played Trivial Pursuit, we’d have left her in the dust.
Joey, Robbie, and I went to the Cove after that. Joey had taken his bike, and Robbie came with me. We joked that it was a “foggy” Christmas.
I asked Robbie if he thought my father knew about the psychic my mother had consulted or about the witchcraft.
“No,” he replied. “The psychic specifically told her not to tell him or you.”
“Hmmm, maybe because I have all those books, including the one on witchcraft, and she knows I’ll know what she’s doing,” I said.
“I don’t know. I haven’t read that book cover to cover, just skimmed through. It’s a bunch of different spells.”
We picked up Angie and then Farran.
Tully was on duty. Gianni stopped in briefly with Liz, barely acknowledging us. I couldn’t help feeling slighted, though I had wanted it this way.
Farran talked about the fight between Billy and Valentin. “Dani was absolutely terrified,” she told my brothers. There was that word again—three generations of terrified. “Poor thing, she looked so upset.”
Robbie said, “I think when you grow up in a house where there’s a constant threat of violence, you either get used to it or constantly fear it.”
This declaration surprised me, and I could tell it seemed odd to Angie as well. When I thought of a violent home, I pictured tortured, abused children cowering in the corner while their father beat their mother, but he was right. Even if incidents of physical abuse in our home seemed isolated, and there was evident remorse, violence was violence.
Farran responded with, “I’m really glad Billy didn’t press charges.” She looked at Joey. “I heard Valentin disappeared, though. The latest rumor is he’s in Florida.”
“Oh, no, he’s back,” Joey divulged. “He’s barred from the Cove.”
Farran’s eyes widened. Her lips parted slightly, and there was that questioning gaze. “Have you been in touch with him? Is he okay?”
“I’ve been in touch with him,” Joey replied. “He’s fine.” He got up from our table and went to the bar. Robbie soon joined him.
“You know, as far as all this fighting and brawling goes, it doesn’t matter if it’s common or expected,” I said to Farran. “I don’t have to be okay with it. And, to be honest, I’m not sure why we were ever comfortable coming to this place.”
“I knew you weren’t,” Angie replied. “I think you wanted to be comfortable, and you tried to be, but I can always tell when you’re uncomfortable.”
Farran said, “Maybe the times you had enough drinks, you were. Anyway, how much you wanna bet Joey will meet up somewhere with Gianni and the others? Why aren’t we invited anywhere? I feel like total shit.”
Angie sighed. “They think we’re too young.”
Farran got teary-eyed. “I’m not, and I’m tired of being left behind in life.”
“I understand,” Angie said. “I feel that way about my brother dying, like he left me here, and I lost a part of me. I know it was long ago, and Dom and I were little, but we were like one. I miss him every day.”
An old, familiar feeling resurfaced—that of being a misfit who could never seem to figure out where she belonged. From the time I could walk, I merely followed my brothers. It seemed, too, that in the months after Phil and Sergio, I had become little more than a spectator in life’s drama. I had yearnings that hadn’t been there before—a hunger I didn’t understand. I felt drawn to the Lynx. Part of my hunger had me wanting to become a part of them, even if only in the fantasy realm. I was at a loss to explain how I missed them now, how I ached. Our fates seemed intertwined, and the heartbreak was excruciating.
“Well, we do have each other, no matter what,” I said. “And I will be rich and famous.” The bit of hope in that dream was enough, and all I needed. Perhaps I wanted it to be all that I needed. I had no idea at the time what a long road it would be.
Farran laughed, saying, “Oh, yes, any day now, your yacht will dwarf Gianni’s boat at Meig’s Point in Hammonasset. You’ll coast that sucker right up alongside his.”
Ignoring her, I thought about Valentin. I still felt that pull toward him. The desire for him hadn’t ceased, nor the aching. But that last time I saw him, I had feared him, and, yes, the violent recklessness was, in itself, disturbing, but there was that effortless seduction I’d found hard to resist. I might have granted him that power in fantasy, but, in reality, I thought I should run the other way. In truth, I was uncomfortable enough with the fantasy now.
Joey left, having said his goodbyes to everyone with one last Merry Christmas hug and kiss.
Robbie came back to our table. “I could have gone with him, but he can’t take me back tomorrow,” he said. “He has to work.”
I remember thinking if Joey had invited us, I could have taken Robbie back.
Robbie may have sensed the tension, as he took me aside in a possible attempt to distract me. “I liked seeing Farran,” he said with a smile. “She’s really sweet, and she looks great.”
“Yeah, she is. She does,” I said. “By the way, Angie’s sleeping over tonight, so you’ll get to spend more time with her, too.”
He laughed. “Angie barely talks! I am serious, Dan. She has so little to say. That’s strange for a cousin you’ve known all your life. I asked her what she wants to do, her plans for college. She doesn’t know or seem to care. She has no ambition at all, no dreams.”
“I think she’d love to work with animals.”
“She didn’t even say that, though. She’s like an empty shell. I can’t even get a grip on who she is or what she’s about.”
“Maybe she’s a little down.”
“How can you tell?” He laughed again. “She seems like she’s on Valium 24/7.”
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.