nly seventeen years old,” a woman behind me said. “God bless. She was a baby.”
I knelt, made the sign of the cross, and folded my hands. Angie looked tiny indeed inside the fancy box lined with satin—my precious cousin and friend. They had draped rosary beads over her lifeless hands, and her skin was ghostly white. It was hard to fathom; this was someone who had amused, delighted, and amazed me. She’d made me laugh and smile even in my sadness, and I loved making her laugh. Well, she was free of her pain now, and that was a good thing. She no longer needed protection from me or anyone else.
Zuza had to feel gutted. Who could blame her? She broke down and cried several times, but she was strong, so brave. I could tell she was fighting to accept that Angie was with God, and if there was anyone on earth who excelled at unrelenting faith and acceptance, it was Zuza. She reminisced about Angie already, as she did about Dominic Jr.
I hugged her desperately.
When she released me, I met my uncle Dom’s gaze. A grim countenance replaced his usual grin. I went to him immediately and hugged him. “She was my best friend,” I said.
He hugged tighter. “Thank you, Danielle.” When he let go, he gave my hand a squeeze.
My parents hugged Dom and Zuza. My grandmother was hollering and crying. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how paying respects to a loved one at a funeral home was a comforting thing. All these bodies occupying that small space—I felt trapped and suffocated. The lines of folding chairs looked absurd—front row seats for a show where the top-billed, center-stage entertainer slept, drained of blood and life, in a shell that was not her but a mere representation of who she’d once been. The room wasn’t large enough to contain all the sadness, and the smell nauseated me.
Joey arrived, looking visibly shaken. I watched the exchange of handshakes and hugs until it was my turn to hug him, and I did so with all my might. Amid all the chatter, he was uncharacteristically reserved, though he seemed calm. We spoke briefly before he went up to the casket.
I looked around at all the Italian relatives, the neighbors. Zuza’s nephew had come from Italy. He’d been attending a seminary in Rome for the past year. I was glad he was there, because Zuza had always said he was like a son to her. I knew she wrote to him all the time, and his presence would help her get through this.
As for me, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread that something awful would happen at any moment, and that there was no safe place to hide from it anywhere on earth.
Robbie was heading out the door, and he yanked at my arm. “Going out for a cigarette. Want to walk?”
“Sure,” I said.
We strolled across the lawn and then along Douglas Road. It was mild for December but windy.
“How are you, Dan?” he asked.
I told him about Angie’s sleepwalking. “I didn’t know anything about it,” I said. “I didn’t know she would think to go to the attic or up to the roof, or that someone sleepwalking could climb.”
“From the way she was talking, something really bad happened to her,” he said. “I think she was raped.”
“She was, and it didn’t only happen to her. We were together. They drugged us.”
His eyes widened. “Oh, wow.” I think, for once, words didn’t come easily for him.
“I guess I was stupid to trust them. I mean, I know people have to take risks trusting others, or nobody would ever get together, but they were a lot older—too old for us.”
“So, they were the older ones who knew better,” he said bitterly, avoiding my eyes. “If anything, you probably had more trust in them because they were older, and it was easy for them to betray that. You do have some daddy issues.”
“Yeah, well, I tried to get Angie to talk about it. She kept shutting me down. I feel like there was something I should have done or could have done. I didn’t do enough. I didn’t want to push her, but maybe if I had … Who else could have helped her?”
“You can’t blame yourself. This was how she chose to deal with it, Dan.”
“That seems so harsh, though. She couldn’t handle it. I don’t think she really wanted to die. She fell …”
“It’s like when someone doesn’t mean to do damage, hitting someone. They create the circumstances for that to happen.”
“You sound angry at her.”
“I’m not angry at her,” he replied. “I’m angry that this happened to her. I’m angry that I wasn’t there to protect you both. I’m angry that protecting you guys always falls to Joey and me, since none of the adults in our lives have any clue what’s going on. You know what they say, it takes a village.”
His innate perception of people and things never ceased to amaze me. Listening to him now brought back a fond memory of how he had coached me with a bully when I was in eighth grade. The girl had wanted to fight me, and I’d never had a fight in my life. She picked the time and place, then cancelled for a dental appointment and said she’d get back to me.
“I don’t want to do this,” I’d told Robbie when I got home.
“Neither does she,” he replied. “You really believe she had a dental appointment? Walk up to her tomorrow morning and say, ‘This is your last chance. Meet me at Addison Park Saturday, 1:00 p.m. sharp.’ Ride up on your bike at exactly that time. If she’s not there, leave immediately. Then, when you see her at school Monday, go right up to her and say, loudly, ‘Where the fuck were you?’ Trust me, she’ll back down completely.”
“And what if she’s there?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Then you fight.”
“She’s not gonna be there.”
She wasn’t. She apologized profusely on Monday morning, concluding with, “Maybe we shouldn’t fight.”
I didn’t think it was possible for me to idolize my brother more than I did that day.
We returned to the morbid funeral parlor now. In the next half hour, we had visitors I never would have expected—Shannon and Billy followed by Tully and Mike. Yes, it was Mike! All at once, at my ripe old age of seventeen, I missed the good old days.
Those cornflower blue eyes entranced me once more. I noted that he was a bit taller and leaner than Billy. His blond hair had darkened to a sandy shade, as it always did in the winter months. I’d forgotten how cute he was, and about the trust he invited with his eyes and his smile.
We all hugged, and I would have imagined a hug from Mike McGrath would have been the most comforting thing at a time like this. It was, and it wasn’t. Happy as I was to see him, it seemed painfully obvious that our relationship wasn’t the same. He was different. We both were, and he was not my boyfriend. He was someone’s husband—some woman I had never met—and he was some little boy’s father.
“How are you doing?” he asked. “I sent a mass card. We all did.”
“Yeah, he was here for the holidays,” Shannon said, her hand on Mike’s shoulder. “They’re staying until New Year’s, so he wanted to come.”
“He brought the whole clan,” Billy added. “They’re back at the house—my mom’s.”
“How are they?” I looked at Mike and then the others. “How are your parents?”
“Everyone’s good,” Tully answered for him. “I am so terribly sorry for your loss.”
Shannon, Billy, and Mike echoed his sentiments.
While they mingled with my family, it seemed inevitable that I would remember things about Mike that I had forgotten—how sociable he was, how he loved people. I could see he was as curious and concerned about others as his sister was.
While Farran was busy chatting with Billy, Shannon took me aside and sat with me on a set of cushioned chairs in the vestibule, where an electric fireplace beckoned and a pretty wreath hovered above it as if to bring cheer. She asked how I was holding up, and she held my hand as I tried to explain what I couldn’t—that the events of the past several months had simply broken me. I tried to determine at what point it had all gone wrong and realized I had never gotten it right to begin with. I decided to ask how she was doing instead, and how things were going with her and Nico. She became teary-eyed at once.
“We broke up,” she said. “Long story, but he won’t take my calls. I’ve gone to his house. He won’t see me, wants nothing to do with me.” She patted my leg. “I’m so sorry. You’re in mourning, and I’m troubling you.”
“You’re not,” I assured her.
She held my hand. “I’m sorry again for your loss. If you need anything, I’m here.”
I hugged her, and, when she let go, Mike was standing there.
Shannon stood. “Let me go see how Joey is doing. I’m sure he’s devastated.” She walked away, and Mike sat down in her place.
“I missed you,” he said.
“I missed you, too,” I returned.
“Spent a few days at Bill’s house when I first came up. Nice place! Makes me proud he’s doing well. I’m a little worried about my sister, though. She got her heart broken. Feel bad for you, too, and your family, having to go through this.”
“I’ll be okay.” I forced a smile.
“Yeah, well, a little spark’s gone out of your pretty eyes.” He sat quietly a moment before speaking again. “What have you been up to the past couple of years?”
“Busy with work, school. I’m still writing. So much has happened, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“Tell me, babe, I’m here for you—always was, always will be.”
“No, you’re not. You can’t be, but that’s okay.”
He leaned back and looked down at his shoes. “I guess that’s true in a way. She didn’t want me to come. She’s jealous of you.”
That prompted an eye roll. Being single had to be better than being on either end of that, I supposed. Insecure as I was, I couldn’t relate to these people with their jealousy and competitiveness. Life was hard enough. I was beginning to feel I couldn’t relate to people, period.
“It’s okay,” I told him. “Thank you for coming.”
“I wanted to.”
“Your wife and child are your priority these days. I understand that.”
“It’s a rocky road, babe.”
“Yeah, one of the many reasons I never want to get married.”
“Really?” His eyes widened as he focused again upon me. “They say it’s every little girl’s dream.”
“It was never mine. In fact, I remember worrying about it and telling my mother I didn’t want to ever. She kept saying it was because I was still a little girl, and that when I grew up, I’d feel differently. I remember thinking, no, I won’t. Marriage would just complicate everything. I told her it would ruin all the plans I made for my future, and, besides that, I’d be too busy.” I laughed at the memory now.
He laughed with me. “I hear ya, but I’m trying to make it work out for my son. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a good woman—a very good woman. I should be happy.”
“But you’re not.” I shook my head. “See, that’s another thing. Is anyone ever happy in marriage—or together? It doesn’t seem like it.”
“I miss the simple times,” he admitted.“Me working on a farm in Glast, loading and unloading the trucks. I thought I had so much responsibility then, which is funny when you think about it. Everything was so uncomplicated.”
“The old days were not exactly uncomplicated for me.”
“Oh, yeah, your pops—and you guys having to eat a three-course dinner before coming to the beach on Sunday.”
“Ha! We weren’t allowed to leave before that traditional Sunday meal.”
“And then you’d come to the beach wearing long pants in ninety-degree weather. You’d never wear shorts. I didn’t know what you were hidin’.”
“I was shy.”
“Shy! You said that about singing, too, but you have a hell of a voice. Remember that time you and Angie got sloshed, and you were walking all through the neighborhood, singing and staggering? I said, man, she’s good.”
I laughed. “That was the time Robbie dragged me home by my ear.” I reflected a bit. “I do miss those days. Remember when we used to go horseback riding? And when you took me to all your hangouts in Hartford? Everybody knew you. I was so impressed.”
“You were impressed? Whenever I got back from seeing you, my dad would go, ‘Are you back from Buckingham Palace? Did you see the princess?’ He called you the Glastonbury Princess. You were like my uptown girl. Ha! Remember that fight you got into on your fourteenth birthday? You came to me all crying and shit, saying it was the first fight you ever had in your life, and she was hitting you over the head with an umbrella.” He laughed.
“Oh, God! Yeah, that was my first and last actual fight. She was trying to pick a fight with me for weeks. I had no idea why. Someone said she was jealous of me. How stupid is that?”
“Yeah, well, people are stupid, but you are very beautiful.”
“I’m not beautiful.” I meant that. “How can I be beautiful?”
“What do you mean, how can you be? You are. You look incredible. Why be so down on yourself? Back then, you were hidin’, and you’re still hidin’. You got it—show it.”
Of course, we didn’t talk about our break-up, though it did cross my mind how relieved I’d been at the time to be free. By the time the summer had come around, however, I was having second thoughts. Mike looked better than ever then, driving around in his blue Chevy Sprint with his sleeveless shirts and hair grown out to mid-length. He seemed to have plenty of female admirers. Gone were the days of him having eyes only for me. He had moved on, and I’d missed him terribly.
“You had big dreams,” I said now. “You wanted to be an actor.”
His wistful smile spoke volumes. “I wanted a lot of things, babe. I wanted you, too. And the wonderful thing about life is—you can want all you want. You just can’t have it.” He laughed heartily at that.
“You’re quite the philosopher,” I said, laughing with him.
“I know, right? That’s like one of those things you say after you smoke a few J’s, and you think it’s brilliant.” He flashed the ear-to-ear grin that had charmed me so often in the past, and it was easy to love him, to want him, but it was easy, too, to resist. I supposed then that I had also moved on.
“Well, just so you know, I haven’t given up the acting dream,” he said. “I hope to move back when I can afford it and give it a shot. I’ll probably move to New York. But I’m not gonna lie, babe. I have regrets. I still think about you—what might have been. Hell, what’s done is done. This marriage may work out, or it may not, but I have to try.”
“Yes, you do.”
“I’d still like to be able to just sit and talk with you somewhere, nothing more. We can meet up—grab a bite. Whatever you need, man.”
My eyes clouded with tears. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Probably not,” he admitted. “You’re right, and I respect that.”
The other McGraths gathered around, and we stood.
Tully slipped an arm around Mike. “You can help us at the pub tonight,” he said with a wink. “Billy’ll give ya a crash course.”
“Definitely,” Mike replied.
“Thanks, man.” Billy responded with a fist bump for Mike. “Can’t let that charm go to waste.”
Gianni, Tommy, and Liz arrived as the McGraths were leaving, creating an awkward moment. Tully and Billy gave polite nods. Shannon extended a greeting, and Mike went a step further, shaking hands, and asking how they all were. The McGraths said goodbye, and, just like that, my reunion with Mike was over. I went inside with the Lynx gang.
Robbie and Tommy talked. My mother gave Tommy a side hug and said he was a nice boy and nice-looking.
I could have sworn he blushed. “Thank you, ma’am,” he said. “Your daughter is a good girl.”
He and Gianni had both impressed her with the ma’am bit, I could tell.
Gianni said if there was anything I needed, anything he could do, I shouldn’t hesitate to ask. Liz was nodding behind him. They all had a moment before the casket and then remained with Joey. Farran was in that circle.
I found myself sitting alone in one of the side chairs as I tried to process my memories of Angie.
I saw us as children—skating, horseback riding, riding bicycles, playing video games, making scrapbooks, watching movies. I could hear the rhymes we’d chant on the sunny days we had played jump rope. She’d wanted everything my brothers and I had had, whether it was the King Kong Colorforms Playset or the Atari 2600. I had always wanted a sister, never realizing that I’d had one, if only for a while.
The previous year, Zuza had taken us to Radio City Music Hall in New York to see Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Angie and I bought a bag of chocolate at a candy store in Manhattan, and we’d eaten so much chocolate I was sure I had gained five pounds. Angie was happy. We’d laughed a lot. I would remember it always as a day that I had all I needed—a Dickens tale, chocolate, New York City, my aunt Zuza, and my dear, sweet Angie.
I was tempted to tell people who she had been—that she had tried to do everything right by society’s standards, including going to church and hanging on to her virginity. She’d never had a boyfriend! It was her dream to fall in love one day, have a big family, a nice house, and plenty of rescued pets. None of that would ever happen for her.
Surprisingly, my reflection on our friendship made me feel selfish. I realized I hadn’t thought much about Angie’s longings for Nico or anyone else. I hadn’t encouraged her much or thought much about how inferior she had seemed to feel. Cute as she was, she seemed invisible at times, between my physical presence and Farran’s strong personality. It occurred to me that few people had gotten to know Angie, and even I hadn’t known her like I’d thought I had. It had never sunk in—the isolation she must have felt as an only sibling when she had once been a twin, or that she’d never had much to say. It was all terribly sad.
Engrossed in these thoughts, I didn’t notice my father until he sat beside me. He grazed my arm lightly. “Everything okay?” The earnest look on his face was endearing.
We talked. He answered some questions I’d had about my grandfather. I’m not sure why I brought him up. Perhaps it was because he was also dead. I learned he had been a clockmaker at one time. He’d worked in a shop, making and fixing clocks. After that, he worked in a train yard. That was all before he began working on the docks in Red Hook. He’d lived in Astoria—in New York—before buying the house in Glastonbury.
“What was he like?” I asked.
“Quiet-like,” my father said. “He liked to read the paper. Sometimes he’d put his two cents in while we were talking because he got mad or he was being a wise guy. He fought with my mother. He yelled if the kids made a lot of noise. I remember he didn’t look you in the eye.”
I asked how he’d died, and my Uncle Dom, who had joined us, said it was from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage and cirrhosis of the liver.
“We used to have a cat who acted very strange after he passed away,” my father told me. “They say the animals sense spirits. Who knows?”
Another unexpected visit put an end to our chat, and this one made my heart skip a beat. It was Valentin, with Nico at his side. His presence heartened me more than it should have, I suppose, and brought a comfort I could not have explained. When he expressed his sympathy, I thanked him and asked how he was. I told him I’d been worried.
“I’m okay,” he said. “I’m sorry I caused you and others to worry.”
I reveled in his hug, and even Nico’s. Both Castel brothers adhered to proper etiquette and good manners.
My mother smiled at Valentin and gave his arm a squeeze. “Such a handsome guy,” she affirmed, “and very nice.”
I didn’t get to talk to him much. He was chatting with everyone, and Farran was in his face half the time. She told him that Tully barring him from the Cove was a shame, but he said he didn’t blame Tully, and that if he’d been in Tully’s place, he would have done the same thing.
At one point, he took me aside. “How are you doing?” he asked.
I shrugged, fighting back tears.
“I can’t imagine,” he said. “Listen, if you need an ear, a shoulder, I’m here.”
I thanked him.
The Lynx gang didn’t stay long, and when they left, I lingered at the registry where they had all signed their names. It seemed to provide further evidence that this was a done deal. Angie was gone.
I went up to the front and sat with my godparents, often crying. Robbie sat beside me. He hugged me a couple of times and cried with me.
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.