t was about the third week in March when Farran told me she’d come close to losing her virginity to Tommy. She said they ended up arguing over something unrelated, so it didn’t happen.
When I pulled into the Cove parking lot that night, Tommy and Nico sped in on their bikes and pulled up alongside me. They invited us to the Meadowside Inn and led the way as I followed.
The Inn was beautifully eerie, and the nearby beach looked inviting. It was dark and chilly, but we had seen the last of the winter snow. The streets had cleared, and spring was days away.
Valentin was behind the bar when we walked in. Farran rushed to hug and squeeze the stuffing out of him, leaving him to smile affectionately like a pet had ambushed him or a child.
After kissing me hello, he held my hands together in his. “How are you doing?” he asked.
I told him I had taken on writing and editing our senior newspaper, as well as contributing poems for every edition. It was true. I needed the focus.
He said that was great, along with whatever else I asked him. Daytona was great. The kids were great. He and Katharine had separated, and he was sharing a place in Greenwich with Nico and another guy. He also said he hadn’t picked up a drink since the night of the fight with Billy, though he was bartending one or two nights a week.
“Is it wise for you to be pouring drinks?” I had to ask. “Aren’t you tempted?”
The question seemed to amuse him. “Sometimes,” he said, “but it strengthens my resolve. It’s not something I would recommend to anyone I sponsor down the road, but it’s been therapeutic. I see the other side of it, and it’s a powerful reminder.” He asked what we wanted, and I ordered a soda. Farran tried for a Gin Rickey and got a soda as well.
“God, I love him!” Farran gushed as we settled in a booth with our drinks. “I think he’s wearing Creed. It’s scrumptious on him. I’m making my move on him tonight, just going for it. I’m telling you, that man is a god.” Her eyes sparkled, and her grin was as wide as her face. “Hey, you know, I ran into someone from my church this morning, and she said the world was going to end today. Not kidding. She really believes that, and, whether it’s true or not, I ain’t wasting time.” She laughed.
Tommy slipped into the seat next to me. “‘Sup?” he said.
It was as if they all descended upon us. Gianni surfaced from the pool table in the back, ready to sit beside Farran, and she stood to let him slide in.
Nico shoved at Gianni. “Move over.”
Farran sat down next to Nico.
“Yeah, have a seat,” I told them all. “The world’s going to end tonight. Farran’s church friend told her.”
Nico said, “They’ve been saying that since the beginning of time.” Our eyes met, and he held my gaze, looking intrigued and maybe a bit curious. It could have been my imagination, but I think he was wondering if I had meant what I’d said to him.
Gianni shouted over to Valentin at the bar. “V, sit down, man, the world is gonna end tonight.” When Valentin looked over, Gianni said, “Oh, if I know Valentin, he knew about this already.”
Tommy laughed. “He got a psychic revelation.”
“Better serve those drinks up a little faster,” Nico said. “And seek deliverance!”
I think Farran was the only one who didn’t get the deliverance part, but she laughed with us.
I saw Valentin laughing, too. He said, “I don’t know what the hell you guys are talking about, but, by all means, enjoy the end.”
It made them laugh more.
Tommy continued to joke. “How does this church lady know? Memo from God? It would have been in the paper.”
“How is it going to end?” Nico asked. “We need the details.”
“Maybe it’ll just blow up,” I said.
Nico winked at me, dazzling me with a smile. “It’s good to see you’re okay.”
I felt embarrassed and thanked him for what he’d done.
“I did nothing,” he replied.
Gianni looked at me. “Hey, if this world’s gonna blow, you can come home with me tonight. It won’t matter, and we won’t have another chance.”
I couldn’t stop laughing. I did ask him where Liz was, and he shrugged. I felt Valentin’s eyes on me, but when I looked back, he shifted his gaze and walked down the bar to tend to a customer.
That’s when things began to get crazy.
Joey came in with Katharine and Shannon. Though the greetings all around seemed polite enough, I could see Nico wasn’t happy that Katharine and Shannon were there. I caught a glimpse of Valentin, and while he may not have been thrilled, he seemed to take it in stride.
Joey spent the next half hour playing pool and drinking beer with Shannon while Katharine lingered at the bar. At some point, Joey came over with his beer. He pulled the material of Farran’s plunging neckline and poured the beer down her top.
She jumped up and began screaming at him. “Joey!”
It seemed Tommy was trying not to laugh.
Gianni yelled, “Hey!”
Nico shook his head, and Valentin came over with napkins.
“Why’d he do that?” Farran asked, wiping herself with the napkins.
Valentin brushed her cheek with his hand. She collapsed into his arms and clung to him.
“Why did you do that?” Valentin asked Joey as he held Farran.
Joey did not answer or even flash a smile.
Valentin looked at Nico. “What’s with him?”
“No clue,” Nico replied.
Everyone was standing around now. Shannon and Gianni began chastising Joey.
“Why can’t you leave her alone?” I asked my brother.
“I don’t know why you’re mad at me!” he bellowed. “She’s a bitch to you.”
“You’re calling my friend a bitch now?”
“She’s not your friend,” he replied.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t trust her.”
Tommy said, “He did that for you.”
My eyes widened. “For me? Please don’t do things like that for me.”
Farran backed away from Valentin, in tears now. “What have I done to Danielle? I said some things when I was mad, just as I’m sure everyone does when they’re upset.”
“That’s not all you’ve done,” Tommy said. “Try being there when your friend needs you and not bad rap her every chance you get.” He looked at me. “She’s jealous of you.”
“Jealous? Why would I be jealous?” Farran’s tone was bitter now. “I have no reason to be jealous of her. Jealousy isn’t the only reason women are put off by each other, but, of course, that’s what you guys would think. Come on, it’s not like she’s Cindy Crawford.”
“Okay, this ends here,” Valentin said. “Joey, you need to leave—and Tommy, I love you, man, but if you can’t let this go, you’re going to have to leave, too.”
“Oh, and by the way, Danielle’s been very sneaky,” Farran went on. “She’s great at playing Little Miss Innocent. Meanwhile, she turned out to be the backstabber.” She looked at me. “I know exactly who you’re after. Just don’t come off like this innocent little prude.”
My head was spinning, my heart pounding. “What the hell is your problem?” I shouted.
“Maybe I’ve just outgrown you, Danielle,” she said.“Or maybe this town just ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
That prompted a mirthless laugh from me. “What’s next? Leave town before sundown or else? I’m not going anywhere, so maybe you should start packing.” I couldn’t believe she actually said that—that the town wasn’t big enough for both of us.
The others laughed at the absurdity, but none of it was funny to me.
“She should make you walk back to Hartford,” Joey said to Farran.“Or you could always hitch.”
Nico spoke up. “I will say this, Joey: You need to have some respect. Whatever’s going on with these two girls, that’s between them. Besides, this is Valentin’s space not Billy’s—our place of refuge—since they barred him from the Cove. You know better than to come here with those two.”
“Shannon has friends here,” Joey argued, “including me.”
“We just came to say hello,” Shannon interjected in the gentlest tone. “I miss you, Nico. I think about you. Is that a crime?”
I could see how Nico stiffened then, how the light disappeared from his eyes. “Really? It seems your boy toy here provided you with plenty of comfort. You chose to cozy up to my friend, so live with it. If there was ever any hope of reconciliation, it’s gone now.”
“Bullshit!” Joey shouted. “You did not want to reconcile with her. You had no intention of doing that, and you know it.”
“Joey, you’re not helping,” Katharine said with a smile, pushing him back gently with her hand.
“And why do you know these things?” Nico asked. “Because you were a brother, and you betrayed me. You wanted her, now you got her.”
“It ain’t like that,” Joey replied.
Tommy said, “Is there a bad moon rising or full moon or something like that?”
Shannon’s only concern seemed to be Nico. “If I had known you wanted to reconcile …”
Nico clenched his teeth. “Lies. You still believed we could reconcile. You believe it now. Well, it ain’t gonna happen.”
“It was never gonna happen,” Joey barked.
Shannon went to grab Nico’s arm, but he recoiled from her like she disgusted him.
Joey got a grip on him. Nico threw his arms up, freeing himself from Joey’s grip like it was child’s play.
Valentin intervened now. “Okay, this party’s over. Put down the horns and balloons and get your goody bags at the door.” He looked at me. “Dani, if you are not comfortable driving Farran home, I’ll get someone to take her. Anyone else hell-bent on fighting needs to leave.”
“I’ll take Farran home,” I said aloud. “Unless she’d rather walk.”
Valentin laughed then shifted his gaze to her. “Would you rather walk?”
“No,” she said. “Thanks, Dani.”
“I’m leaving,” Joey announced. He pointed a finger at Nico. “I do love you like a brother, man, but Shannon’s a really good person. She never deserved the way you treated her.”
“Maybe not,” Nico responded, “but many of her actions showed a blatant disregard for me.”
“Oh, boohoo!” Katharine replied. “She swallowed her pride, apologized to you, begged you, I don’t know how many times, and she loves you more than you deserve, Nico! You watched her cry her eyes out and walked away with not an ounce of sympathy. That’s not how you treat the woman you claim to love.”
He glared at Katharine, his eyes cold. “She loves me more than I deserve? She had no problem lying to me that she didn’t know Valentin was the father of that little girl until Valentin and I knew—months after my niece was born. If you hadn’t told my brother the truth, she never would have told me.”
Katharine yelled, “My family threatened to take my daughter away from me if either of us told! I ended up telling Valentin anyway, because I love him. He understands that, so what’s it to you?”
“What’s it to me?” Nico seemed furious. “My brother’s child. My niece. Up until December, your cousin here was still telling me she found out when I did. Once the truth was out, I asked her how long she knew. She looked right into my eyes and lied. Now she keeps calling my house, coming to my door. She charges at Valentin every time she sees him to ask where I am. I moved on. And she needs to do the same.”
Shannon shook her head and then turned to me, her eyes glistening with tears. “Are you okay, hon?”
I nodded, and she gave me a tight hug before leaving with Katharine and Joey.
Tommy pulled me aside and handed me a slip of paper with the license plate number of Phil’s Cutlass. “Been getting the 411 on those two,” he said. “If you see them anywhere, give it to the cops. Otherwise, they’re holding you hostage, man.”
I promised I would, then slipped the piece of paper into my bag and thanked him.
“Doll, I care about you,” he said. “I didn’t mean to come down so hard on Farran, but that’s the reason. I care more than you know. You’re a special lady, and that’s all I’m gonna say.” He looked sincere and perhaps vulnerable.
“Same here,” I replied. “You’ve become special to me, too.” I hugged him.
Farran apologized to me on the way to the car.
“I’m sorry, too,” I told her. “I wasn’t honest about Valentin. All is not fair in love and war after all, is it? None of this is fair. I had no control over how I felt. I felt guilty, and it would have turned out to be a mess no matter what I did or didn’t do.”
She said nothing, and all was quiet as we got in the car and fastened our seatbelts. Then I questioned why she claimed to love Valentin yet wanted to stake her claim to every cute guy.
“It’s easy for you,” she said. “You show up, and you could have any one of them. I just want a chance at something! As for Valentin, yes, I do love him. I’d give up anything and anyone for him in a heartbeat. Doesn’t matter, though. I hate to say it, and I can’t believe I’m going to, but I’ve seen the connection between you and him from the start.”
I pulled out of the parking lot, shaking my head.
“Well, he’s clearly more interested in you than me—or anybody, for that matter,” she said.
“No, he isn’t,” I told her. “He needed a friend like I’ve needed a friend.”
“Well, he has friends. You both have friends. Something tells me it ain’t over—for you, anyway. I don’t think I’d ever be welcomed back at the Inn, and, even if I were, I don’t know if I could face them.”
“Let me ask you something, though. After all this, would you still want to sleep with Joey or Tommy?”
“Well, before tonight, if I had another chance, yeah,” she said.“But I’m done with all of this, Dani, and I don’t blame anyone. Joey loves you. He’s protective of you. Tommy—that boy is just on overload, and when he cares about someone and thinks someone’s trying to harm them, he comes out guns blazing. I do worry about him. I think he’s had a hard time being strong about his dad, his brother, and everything. He’s been through a lot. To be perfectly honest, I think they’re all on overload. Nico could have ripped your brother to shreds back there, though I can’t say who would have won. They all have their demons, and Valentin may be the only one winning that battle right now, but they seem like they’re at a point in their lives where they’ve just about had it, young as they are. I feel like my life’s just beginning. Yours, too. I mean, you have a bright future to look forward to, with or without V.” After a brief silence, she added, “You know, there’s this place in East Hartford we could go to.”
I knew two things in that moment: I was never going to be a patron at the Cove or the Inn again, and I wasn’t going to this place in East Hartford. It was enough drama already, enough jealousy and competition, enough fighting and craziness. Farran had it in her to be a good friend; I’d seen that. Deep down, she was a kind person who’d grown up needing to be strong and having to prove herself. We didn’t see eye to eye on everything, and maybe she’d never liked me as much as I’d liked her, but that wasn’t entirely her fault. I had yet to begin liking myself, and maybe I was on overload, too. There was an unrelenting anguish in the realization that I had lost her—if I’d ever had her at all. I wouldn’t call her anymore. I promised myself that. When she called, wanting to go somewhere, I’d make up excuses until she got tired of asking.
As for my dear Valentin, my heart ached, but there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it.
The long ride home seemed absurd now. We had ventured out of our way all these months, and the result was pain and humiliation. The goodbye at Farran’s house was awkward, and once alone in the dark, I was a bundle of nerves. This night seemed darker than past nights along these roads. It was clear, with a sliver of a moon. When I passed Addison Park, a place of innocent love for me, I saw merely a place where crickets chirped and strangers loitered—no longer familiar or mine. After three miles on CT-94 E, along Hebron, I passed Angie’s house, and I knew I didn’t want to wallow in this misery. The lights were still on, a warm and comforting reminder of Zuza and my uncle Dom likely dozing off watching TV. It reminded me, too; I had been the lucky one. I’d learned some lessons and was free to move on, start over, and make my dreams come true.
I turned onto the final isolated, tree-lined road, and there was the black Cutlass parked on the side of the street. I saw Sergio and Phil in the car and made the startling conclusion that my tendency to panic would be the death of me in any crisis. They are just guys, I told myself. Cowardly guys. You could even get out of the car and tell them to fuck off, and they won’t do shit. And what can they do to you if you don’t get out of the car? Nothing. You can drive to the end of the long road where your house is and make a run for the door, screaming, or stay in the car and honk the horn like a maniac. What could they do? I knew there was good reason to fear strangers in the dark, and there was a particular reason to fear these men, but my perception had become so distorted that I no longer trusted my instincts. Nor was I clear on what people might consider a normal reaction. I had this bizarre idea that they could turn out to be monsters after all—homicidal maniacs ready to kill my whole family.
Fear paralyzed me. It was enough already. Tommy was right. I needed an end to this madness.
I turned the car around and drove to the police station. They followed, passing me once, and then they switched lanes, ending up behind me again. I had a shaky grasp on the wheel. My heart pounded predictably. I couldn’t believe I had chosen this option when I was closer to home, but it felt right in that moment.
Three cops were outside the station when I pulled over. Phil had turned down another street. I got out of the car and approached the police officers, bracing myself for the typical male reaction of seeing an attractive girl. I told them about the stalking, the calls, and that I feared for my safety. They looked me up and down a number of times and asked a lot of questions, including why I was out alone at night, where I’d been, how I knew these guys, and how they’d gotten my address and phone number.
“Did they get out of the car any of the times you saw them?” one officer asked. “Did either of them roll the window down, say anything? What do you think they were planning to do?”
I had to admit they did nothing, but I believed they were waiting for an opportunity to grab me.
After giving them the license plate information, one of the cops made a crack that I’d probably just had a tiff with my boyfriend. Another told me, in a fatherly manner, to be careful and travel with at least one other girl when going out at night.
They kindly offered to follow me back to my house and said they’d look around for the car. I thought about telling them the whole story, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how crazy it all sounded. I felt crazy, like someone had been gaslighting 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.