Novelist and Poet

Posts tagged ‘familysaga’

DEADLY VEILS BOOK ONE: SHATTERING TRUTHS – 12

Chapter Twelve 

As the weeks passed in that glorious October of ‘87, it seemed inevitable that Farran, Angie, and I would be at the Cove most Friday and Saturday nights. Admittedly, I craved the ambiance and excitement. 

I was there this Saturday night with my arm in a sling—the result of having tripped on the way to the parking lot the night before. 

It seemed to embarrass Farran. “You’ll be cut off by Steve, if he knew. You were drunk.” 

“I wasn’t drunk,” I said. 

It was true. The two or three drinks I’d usually have never caused me to stagger around, pouring my heart out, or to act impulsively. I was never loud or the life of the party. I consumed just enough to keep me on guard while making my fears and insecurities somewhat bearable. 

We were at the table farthest back from the bar. Steve was leaving. Billy had taken over bartending duties, and I was glad I had my drinks already. Billy would not serve me liquor. I was certain if Tully knew Steve did it, he would have fired him. Evidently, Billy didn’t want the guy fired, nor did he want to tell him how to do his job. 

“Don’t you quit, man,” I heard him telling Steve once. “Tully’s picky, and if you leave, I’ll get stuck behind that bar 24/7.” 

Farran interrupted my thoughts. “You’ll get plenty of attention with that sling.” 

Angie smiled, and, almost as if to the sound of trumpets, the Lynx members filed in. No one could miss the grand entrance. The Castel brothers were dapper and dashing in their long coats—Valentin flanked by Nico on the right, Tommy Catalano on the left, and Joey behind him. A brawny male of about six-foot-three walked alongside Joey. His medium brown hair was almost shoulder-length. 

Billy seemed well aware of the disturbance. It was like an atmospheric wave. 

I could see them all stopping in certain circles, giving out fisted handshakes along with the occasional kiss. It might have been a campaign trail. 

“Who’s that really tall guy?” Angie asked.“He’s good looking, too.” 

“I haven’t formally met him yet,” Farran replied, “but his name’s Giancarlo.” 

“Gianni Bonafacio,” I said. “He’s Tommy’s cousin.” 

Farran turned to me. “How do you know that?” 

“I was at his house in Bridgeport three years ago. He lives in the South End, around Black Rock—a few blocks from where Tommy lives.” 

I had liked that quaint seaside community. Joey mentioned while we were there that Pleasure Beach wasn’t far. A fanciful picture of it came to mind at the time—a lovely place I’d heard about with decades-old buildings and a dance pavilion with glass sides and bell towers, supposedly the largest ballroom in New England. People spent days at the beach and amusement park and nights dancing in the pavilion. That was back in the fifties. 

In my mind now was a chillingly different picture, one I didn’t want to think about.  

Farran was still talking to me. “You were at his house?” 

“He just came home from Beirut and was having a bachelor party for some Marine buddy,” I said. “Joey just went there to bring him a camcorder, and I tagged along.” 

“So he’s a Marine. Wow.” Moments later, she was off on a tangent with, “Valentin hates the nickname Val, you know. That’s why some people call him V. Oh, and I heard he lives in Stamford with Katharine. Nico’s living with his parents, but he’s looking for a place.” She was like this small fountain of tidbits. 

“Uh, Nico and Joey are on their way over here,” Angie warned. 

When the two reached our table, Joey explained about my arm before I could open my mouth. 

“Sorry to hear,” Nico said. His smile astounded me. 

“How long have you known Joe?” Angie asked him. 

“Hush,” Joey said with a finger to his lips. “I think there’s been a comment from Angela.” He always teased her that she was quiet. 

Nico glanced at her. “What’s that, doll?” The music was loud. 

She raised her voice. “How long have you two known each other?” 

“Not that long, but he’s become a very good friend and part of the family. You come from good stock.” He shifted his gaze to me, winked, and smiled. Someone called him then, and he excused himself.  

Joey followed. 

Farran was red-faced and smiling. “Oh, fess up, Dani. If Nico wanted to, wouldn’t you? Or are you too much of a little girl for him?” She laughed. “Hey, if you don’t wanna give it to ‘im, someone else will.” 

It took me a few minutes to recover from these declarations, which I found disturbing on many levels. 

Farran didn’t let up. “You’d do it, wouldn’t you, Angie?” 

“I have to admit, it would be really hard to resist that guy,” Angie said. “I can respect he’s with Shannon, but something happens to me whenever I see him. I don’t know, I’m getting this huge crush on him.” She giggled. 

“See, Angie’s normal,” Farran teased, grinning. “We’re young. We’re not saints. It’s only natural to feel this way.” 

“Thank you for defining normal.” I rolled my eyes. “These are experienced men. You have to be careful what you’re asking for.” 

She held my gaze with a look of bold defiance. “Maybe I want what I am asking for.” After a moment’s pause, she added, “By the way, Giancarlo is checking you out.” 

I shrugged. “Maybe he recognizes me and can’t remember why.” 

“He watches you a lot, though. He was in a trance the moment he saw you.” 

The arrival of Valentin at our table interrupted this uncomfortable exchange. He asked about my arm, and I downplayed it, not wanting to incur Farran’s wrath. 

His eyes scanned our little trio. “How’s school?” 

Perhaps Farran took offense to this question, a reminder that we were young, or that it was a polite way of conversing with minors. She appeared stumped. 

The liquid courage helped, but I didn’t mind the subject of school. My English teacher had an enthusiasm for literature that matched my own. My classmates seemed to appreciate my talents and often asked me to share my poetry. 

“Good,” I replied. “This year’s been great. I really love my English teacher. He rents movies for us to watch in class so we can talk about them, like Wuthering Heights, which is my favorite, and then Nicholas and Alexandra.” 

He looked at me. “You like Wuthering Heights?” 

I told him I loved the bizarre romance on the Yorkshire Moors, and he said it was a favorite of his. He asked what authors I liked. I rattled off quite a few, and it became apparent we liked many of the same writers. The opportunity to talk with anyone about books delighted me. Most of the people in my everyday world had little, if any, interest in reading. In grade school, my favorite thing had been ordering books. After picking out so many that I liked, it took forever to narrow it down. When the books arrived, the sight of those fresh paperbacks thrilled me. In high school, I couldn’t wait to read the classics that made the other kids groan. 

Before I knew it, Valentin’s coat was over his arm, and he was standing there chatting with me about poets—Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley among them. He recommended John Keats. 

There was little time to savor that and no time to continue. A song came on: “Dancing on the Ceiling” by Lionel Richie. Shannon entered from the back—perhaps the kitchen or some other part of the building, since she wasn’t wearing a coat. She began dancing and then grabbed Valentin. He had to toss someone his coat. Onlookers backed away to give them room, obviously enthralled by the performance that followed. Shannon and Valentin were good dancers and so good at being sexy with their undulating hips and perfect spins—him, especially. 

To say I couldn’t take my eyes off him—well, that was the least of it. I felt this burgeoning desire from the depths of me, like dying embers set alight with a single flame’s fury and resilience. It was mindboggling to me that he triggered this response after those two men and Pleasure Beach. What had those vile creatures unleashed in me? What beast had they awakened? I think I vowed to kill the beast and bury it so deep in the abyss that it would never again rear its ugly head. Part of me did make this promise. The other part embraced an unfolding of life’s inextinguishable flames and the mind’s unspoken bondage. 

Angie smiled now, shaking her head. “I wonder what Nico’s thinking.” 

Valentin was closer to Shannon when the music began, but Nico was nearby, and he stood alone. 

Angie called out to him. “Nico, why aren’t you dancing?” 

He looked at her, his eyes glazed, and smiled warmly. “I’m beat, doll … long day.” He glanced at me, treating me to a wink and a smile. After the dance, Shannon went to him and kissed him quite passionately before they went up to the bar. 

Farran turned to me. “Uh, thanks a lot for carrying on with Valentin about Wuthering Heights and every other thing.” 

I tried to laugh it off. “Should I not talk to him?” 

“Dani, when you get on those subjects, you come alive. You get very excited. I can understand that, but it’s like you don’t even know Angie and I are still sitting here. You’re oblivious to anything else going on around you. I mean, I’d like to talk to him, too.” 

Valentin didn’t stay long after that. He never did. 

We went up to the bar. Farran went to grab a hold of Tommy for some reason, and Angie trailed after her, so I stood alone in front of Billy, feeling nervous. Gianni headed toward Billy with a slow, lazy swagger, moving a step closer to me with every click of his boots. 

He asked Billy for a Black Sunday then turned to me, touching my sling. “What happened?” His voice was gentle and soothing. His dimpled chin was sexy. 

“It’s a ridiculous story.” I said. “You don’t want to know.” 

“I love ridiculous stories.” He was soft-spoken with a velvety voice. “Tell me.” 

“I tripped over a broken stop sign.” 

He met my gaze fearlessly, and I noticed the color of his eyes—hazel like mine.“You tripped over a broken stop sign. Where do you find broken stop signs you could trip over?” 

“Yeah, well, it was only about yea big.” I demonstrated with my hand. “Maybe a foot. And it was dark. I missed it.” 

“I see.” 

Though he wore a denim jacket adorned with patches, emblems, and embroidery, it was open to reveal a tight black shirt, one that couldn’t hide a well-defined masculine chest and broad shoulders. I imagined anyone would feel safe in his big, strong arms.  

I smiled. “You don’t remember me. Or do you?” 

“Should I?” 

“I came to your house in Bridgeport with my brother Joey.” 

“Now that you mention it, I do. You were a kid then and now…” He paused briefly, as if studying me a moment. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” 

“Thanks. Well, do you still live in Bridgeport?” 

“Yeah.” 

“I remember there was a lady with you.” I recalled she was Asian and pretty. After introductions, Gianni had invited us to sit and offered sodas, but I have no memory of what we discussed. 

“The young lady and I parted ways some time ago.” 

Billy handed him the drink. 

Gianni put money down on the counter and clasped the glass. He looked at me. “Are you even eighteen yet? Where’s your boyfriend? You must have a boyfriend.” 

Billy clenched his teeth. 

“I’ll be seventeen soon, and I don’t … have a boyfriend. I’m keeping out of trouble.”  

Gianni shook his head and then lifted the glass to salute me. 

He had a two-way radio with him, which now transmitted interference. He took it out of his jacket. “Yeah, what is it?” 

A loud, muddled voice came through. “We could use you, G, but it’s an NE—your call.” 

“Be right there. I do owe you one.” 

“Thanks.” 

Gianni put the radio back in his pocket. 

“Are you a cop?” I was curious. 

“He’s not a cop,” Billy answered for him. 

With a nod in my direction, Gianni departed. 

“He’s a bodyguard,” Billy said. “I think he wants to be a cop. Just be careful around them. I have my suspicions that Gianni and Valentin are connected to the Hells Angels, and Valentin’s been linked to the Pagans and Warlocks.” 

I had to ask. “What are the Pagans and Warlocks?” 

“Other motorcycle gangs,” he said. “I’m pretty sure Gianni wears a bulletproof vest at times and carries a gun.” 

I don’t know why, but the idea of Gianni in a bulletproof vest, carrying a gun, was exciting to me. I did wonder how good it would feel, him holding me safe in his arms, comforting me, caressing my hair as I buried my head in his chest, holding me closer as I cried on his shoulders, and then cuddling with me in his bed. 

All of them were gone within the hour, and I’m sure Billy was glad. 

With and without his help, however, I learned a lot about the Lynx. 

I could tell much about what was going on in the various romantic situations by the songs people played on the jukebox. Nico would play “In Too Deep” by Genesis more than any other song. 

Katharine and Shannon liked to play Whitney Houston’s “You Give Good Love,” because, according to Farran, Valentin and Nico had to be the ultimate lovers. The three of us had fun speculating. 

I noticed every little thing about the Lynx—like the way they all used “doll” when addressing females. And they focused on you when you spoke to them. They paid attention, and I liked that.  

Tommy was an integral part of the gang—nicknamed Tommy Cat. We learned he was an Air Force paratrooper, honorably discharged. Someone said he had participated in the bombing strikes on Libya. He worked as a delivery driver for an auto parts store and now lived alone in the Bridgeport house. I had never again seen him as drunk as he’d been that first night we reconnected. In fact, he often seemed more sober and grounded than anyone else. 

Valentin came across as the most genuine and approachable of the bunch. He was not around as much as the others. All the more reason for Farran to appear spellbound when he was there, and he would remain the god of gods, something of a legend, all-powerful, and then he’d just laugh like crazy because I’m sure even he knew how silly it was. Women fell in love with everything there was to love about him, including his laughter. 

Gianni and Nico, on the other hand, had the air of icons who, every so often, consented to grace you with their presence. Nico, however, seemed guarded and a bit less secure than the others, but he had an endearing innocence about him. 

Gianni would be in the bar only a few minutes before Farran would say, “Look, he’s staring at you.” 

“Just be careful,” she told me another time. “Liz is his girlfriend.” 

She pointed her out to me: a pretty, doe-eyed brunette, maybe five-foot-seven, with hair styled in a meticulous bob. I thought she could be a model, considering her boyish, athletic frame and petite bone structure. Her makeup was perfect, her style of dress modest and tasteful, with a designer bag always strapped over her shoulder. She plopped herself into Gianni’s lap whenever I came into view, some kind of animalistic marking of her territory, and she made it a point to be all over him. Farran found this behavior hilarious. Gianni would gently caress Liz as he might do with a pet that belonged to him. 

“He is stunned by you,” Farran insisted. “He doesn’t look at anyone else like that, not even Liz. Damn, even when Liz is with him, he can’t take his eyes off you. She is so jealous of you. Not kidding, man, she hates you.” 

I didn’t hate Liz, or even dislike her, but I couldn’t understand her perception of me as a rival. I was unable to relate to her jealousy. She was the star of this show, along with the entire Lynx gang. I was an audience member riveted by their adventures, using booze now and then as my popcorn. Getting up on that stage with them wasn’t part of my plan. 

Flattered as I was, I would not pursue Gianni while he had a girlfriend, particularly one I had seen in his arms. I would not pursue him at all. 

Not that I didn’t want a boyfriend. The thought of having a guy who respected my wishes seemed tangled up with fantasies about these take-charge older men who could easily overpower me. Before Phil and Sergio, I’d known what I wanted, but I now found myself in a position of needing to sort out my confusion. The crushing of one’s will didn’t cease with the conquest. Poison oozed from the wound like some fairy tale curse that corrupted your spirit, making it so vile that you couldn’t know or understand your desires. 

I tried not to look at Gianni. It irked me that he had the balls to undress me with his eyes. I could only blush and look away. 

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.

DEADLY VEILS BOOK ONE: SHATTERING TRUTHS – 9

Chapter Nine 

A few weeks into the fall ‘87 semester, Robbie finally called. Delighted to hear from him, I sprawled across my bed with the phone and settled in for a long, cozy chat. We talked about school and his new campus life before revisiting his last night at home. 

“So, what baby were you dreaming about?” I asked. “You said you killed the baby.” 

“No idea,” he responded. “I have a lot of bad dreams. How could I not in that house?” He began venting about my father. “He was always talking about how we should go to college. I got a scholarship for a fucking ABET-accredited aerospace engineering program at Florida State, and now it’s not good. People who graduate from college are dumb. That’s all his bitterness because he didn’t go to college.” 

“No, he’s proud of you, Robbie,” I said. “They’re both proud of you and very happy for you. I’m proud of you, too. You’ve come such a long way.” 

“Thanks, Dan. Don’t forget, I was supposed to be a doctor—after he failed to make a doctor out of Joey.” 

“He was devastated when Joey dropped out of high school.” 

“Yep … he wasn’t happy when Joey worked in the bakery either, or the pizza place, or as a trucking company dispatcher. He wasn’t happy when Joey took the firefighter exam and managed to get on the list. That’s the only reason Joe’s doing this elevator technician thing and working with Uncle Dom. Honestly, it would be nice if our father tried to find out what we might actually like. Just do this, do that. Fuck him. At my fucking grade school graduation, he tells me I should work on becoming a doctor. I didn’t even get to high school yet!” 

“Yeah, well, I was not even good enough to push along the medical path.” I laughed, but it hurt. “He says to me, ‘Do you know how hard it is to become successful at writing or singing? Are you kidding me, Danielle? You’re better off learning some kind of trade.’” The realization that he didn’t believe in me stung. I would fluctuate between wanting to prove he was wrong and wanting to be gone from the world. 

“Right,” Robbie agreed. “He was sure Joey and me could be doctors, and we don’t even wanna be doctors, but he knows you can’t be a writer even though you love to write.” 

“It’s okay,” I said. “He has no patience with me, no faith in my ability. Like when he was teaching me how to drive—what a disaster! But he always had so much faith in you and Joey.” 

“Not really, and, no, it’s not okay!” he said. “None of this is okay. He split your head open, the crazy fuck.” 

It was true. I was twelve at the time. My father had been raging about Robbie breaking curfew and being asleep at one in the afternoon. He called him a goddamn stupid bastard then went into a rant about one of Robbie’s friends being black. 

I first defended Robbie. 

My father yelled, “What are you, his lawyer?” 

I went on to defend the black kid and black people, and he continued to assail me with generalizations. 

“You don’t know all the black people, Daddy,” I said. “You probably don’t know any!” 

Not that he was alone in his concern about race and ethnicity. I saw it all around me. What I rarely saw was a black person. Neighbors didn’t think we belonged there either. It hadn’t escaped me that people mocked and ridiculed anyone perceived as different in any way. They didn’t know what else to do with people who didn’t fit their perception of what normal should be. I was tired of witnessing all the rejection. Granted, I loved my grandmother, but she would ask people flat out what they were in terms of ethnicity. My mother told me she had wanted my father to marry an Italian girl. 

“Who cares how white or dark anyone is, or what part of the world they were born in?” I raged on that day. I rose from the table, making no effort to conceal my vehement disgust. 

“Where are you going?” my mother asked. “We’re gonna eat now.” 

“Wake up your brother!” my father roared. 

I stormed off to my room and locked the door. 

I heard the clinking of glasses and utensils downstairs and the plunk of each plate upon the hard surface of the dining room table. My father called me to come and eat, twice. I didn’t budge. Instead, I looked longingly at the jewelry box with the pink flowers on my dresser. My grandmother had given that to me. I opened it, wanting to hear the music and watch the ballerina dance. I was ready to wind it when I heard him yelling. It scared me enough to take my hands off the jewelry box, rise, and head for the door. I hastened down the stairs. We met in a narrow corridor, in the little alcove where the desk used to be before he put it in my room.  

He slammed my head against the wall. 

I felt nothing. I could see everyone around the dining room table as I walked inches ahead of him. There was the ravioli, the plate of meatballs, beef braciole, artichokes, boned rabbit, and sausages in sauce. I saw salad with black olives, olive oil, and homemade vinegar. There was the red table wine my father made with Uncle Dom. All eyes were upon me—shocked faces. 

My mother’s chair swung back, and she sprang to her feet. She screamed at my father. “You beast!” Next thing I knew, she was rushing me over to the sink. I watched it fill with the blood gushing from my head. 

My father paced. 

“Get a towel!” she hollered at him. “Hurry up!” 

He got the towel and wrapped it tightly around my head. 

“You have to take her to the hospital!” she yelled.  

I felt dizzy going down the outside stairs. “I’m so sorry, Daddy,” I sobbed on the way to the car. 

He had a cold, faraway look in his eyes. I couldn’t decide whether it was anger and hatred for me, or his eyes had simply died. I sensed he was angrier with himself, dealing with the torment of his guilt, and I wanted to comfort him. 

“I’m so sorry, Daddy,” I said again. “I should have come when you called me.” 

He didn’t respond or look at me. He focused on the road with many glimpses into the rearview mirror. 

I apologized all the way to the emergency room. 

He pulled into the parking lot of Manchester Memorial, took the key from the ignition, and spoke with his eyes on the wheel. “I am the one who is sorry, okay? You have nothing to be sorry about.” I’d never heard him speak in such a shaky, fractured voice. 

“I love you, Daddy,” I assured him. 

An awkward silence ensued. 

“I feel like you don’t love me anymore.” 

“Danielle, it has nothing to do with whether I love you or don’t love you. You’re my daughter, okay? What happened should never have happened. You didn’t deserve that. Now, let’s go. We need to get you checked out.” He got out of the car, helped me out, and hurried me along through the entrance. 

“I think he told the doctor I walked into a wall,” I said to Robbie now. “I remember him asking how long it would be, and the doctor telling him I was going to need a few stitches, but that I would be fine. He seemed relieved. The doctor said he could come back, that he’d just be outside in the crowded waiting room, and there was no point. It was true; they did have a lot of injured patients. They needed a place to sit. I told Daddy to go eat. I remember he smiled at me and told me to call him when I was done, that he’d come get me.” 

“Wow,” was all Robbie managed. 

“Yeah, I figured it was easy enough to find a phone booth, but when I was ready to go, I realized I didn’t have the money to call. I didn’t have anything. I went to a phone booth, and I was pressing the receiver up and down to see if I could get the operator, but, for whatever reason, it didn’t work. I was going to ask a nurse or someone to call, then a man from one of the shops at Glast Center recognized me and offered to drive me, so I went. He asked what happened, and I said it was an accident.” 

“We were stunned when you came through the door.” 

“Yeah, Mommy came over and hugged me. Daddy was asking how I got there, and why I didn’t call. He kept going on that I said I would call, asking why I didn’t, why I didn’t say I had no money, why I didn’t have the doctor get a hold of him.” 

“You told him you were fine, and I had to laugh. It was so absurd … that you could be fine after that.” 

“He felt bad. He was rushing around, filling my plate and my glass, and Mommy helping him. I saw you and Joey looking at each other like what the hell—?” 

“Joey asked them, ‘Aren’t you gonna heat that up?’ He said, ‘It’s probably ice cold by now.’ They insisted it wasn’t. I also remember Joe asking you if you were okay, and you said you were. You told me later you didn’t want to upset Joey.” 

“I felt bad for causing all that.” 

“Causing what?” 

“The accident.” 

“What accident?” 

“He hit my head, and it bounced against the wall.” 

“Dani!” 

“What?” 

“He slammed it against the wall!” 

“I know, but he didn’t mean to. He was as shocked as everyone else.” 

“He couldn’t even wait for you! He didn’t make sure you had money for the fucking phone. You had to risk accepting a ride from some stranger that nobody knew you were with!” 

“That was stupid of me. I could have asked someone at the hospital to call.” 

“You were a child, Dan! It didn’t occur to them to warm up your food, when it occurred to Joey and me. I got the blame for all of it, you know. Mommy told me it was my fault, and when I said it wasn’t, she slapped me. I told her, ‘I’m not the one who slammed her head against the wall or the one who was fighting with him.’ I told her, ‘This is sick. Who do you think’s gonna eat all this crap after that?’ I felt physically sick.” 

“I’m sorry she blamed you.” 

“Will you stop saying you’re sorry? None of that was your fault! He was drinking before it happened. And you were worrying about Joey, too. You were worried about the people in the emergency room not having a place to sit. Stop worrying about everyone but yourself. Stop making excuses for Daddy. You always make excuses for him.” 

I couldn’t help it. I felt the profound suffering deep inside him that had started long ago, the little boy heartache along with the pain of a soldier who’d never spoken about the war. I had watched him fight with Robbie, plead with him—desperate to find the underlying cause of Robbie’s troubles. He had no idea what to do. Convinced he was a terrible father, he blamed himself. I had caught him crying one New Year’s Eve when he’d had too much to drink. It was as if I lived in his heart during those moments and could feel what he was feeling—like his pain was my pain. It was hard to fathom at the time that he could never feel mine.  

I once took it upon myself to reassure him that he was a wonderful father, writing a poem to that effect, which I wanted to read to him. 

“I’m busy,” he had said, focusing on his newspaper at the dining room table. 

“It’s not long,” I said. 

“Go ahead,” he growled. 

Seeing that he was holding his place in the newspaper with his finger and not looking at me, I read with a trembling voice and a lump swelling in my throat. 

He said, “Thank you,” when I’d finished and then went on reading his news. 

My mother had been smiling the whole time. She looked proud of me, and hopeful that this tribute would move him. “Beautiful,” she’d praised me. “Very nice.” 

Yet I felt diminished and dismissed by my father.  

I knew, too, that when Robbie broke curfew, as he often did, my mother wouldn’t sit down or go to bed. She continued wiping kitchen countertops long after dinner and dessert. She moved on to the stovetop, to the range, to the hood, to the cabinets, and every one of their knobs. She cleaned the sheathed cloth of the breakfast table. She wiped down the three upholstered chairs, and, every once in a while, wandered into the dining room and stole a glimpse out the window, her dishrag clenched tightly in her fist. With her free hand, she separated the drapes, magnifying the intensity of the darkness. I could see her forlorn gaze as she watched for her son. At times, I went to her and stood helplessly at her side. For what seemed an eternity, there would be nothing but twinkling stars and a beautiful moon over the vast, blackened earth. I felt her weariness and anguish. 

“Sit down, Grace,” my father would call to her from the dining room table. He might as well have been invisible. She barely saw him anymore. I bore witness to my father’s dejected expression, and I believe her rejection marked the beginning of their marital woes. 

Robbie would come home and apologize profusely to avoid punishment, but my father did beat him once. 

Another time, I followed Robbie from the house to confront him about his behavior, and he walked faster to ditch me. 

“Leave me alone!” he yelled, turning around. “Go home!” 

“You know, Robbie, I idolized you since I was a child,” I shot back. “How dare you do this! You are destroying yourself, and, because of that, Mommy and Daddy are heartbroken. I worshipped you! I wanted to be like you. But now I don’t ever want to be like you. You are the last person on earth I’d want to be like!” 

I saw a glimpse of the Robbie I thought I knew in that moment, but he turned from me and took off. 

I reminded him of it now. 

“That got to me,” he admitted. “It was the moment I’d always remember when I knew I was going down, and it was the moment I remembered when I finally decided to get clean and sober.” 

It took a while for that to sink in. “If that’s the case, I’m glad I said it. I never meant to hurt you.” 

“I know. I don’t blame you. I blame them. They live in their own little worlds, getting ripped on their wine and martinis.” 

It was true they were oblivious to most of the troubles we’d had and knew nothing of the pressures we’d felt. We didn’t tell them. I would ask if I could babysit, and they’d say yes without a thought. They never asked for whom or for a phone number. They had confidence in the way they’d raised me. They wanted me to feel trusted, since, as far as they knew, I’d done nothing to betray their trust. When I thought of all the things they didn’t know I’d done, I felt guilty. 

Another thought occurred to me. “Let me ask you something.” 

“What?” 

“When we were talking about Daddy snapping and killing the whole family, it surprised you that I thought he was capable of that. After everything, why is it so hard for you and Joey to believe that could happen?” 

“Oh, he has snapped plenty of times,” Robbie said. “It’s interesting that you think he would go that far. I never thought of that. My gut says we’ve seen the worst of it.” 

“But how do you know?” I asked. “How do you know when somebody’s reached their limit? When they’ve taken all they can take and can’t take anymore?” 

After a brief silence, he answered, “You don’t.” 

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.

DEADLY VEILS BOOK ONE: SHATTERING TRUTHS – 8

Chapter Eight 

It was dark when I turned up Cricket Lane. A thin level of fog had developed with the cooling air. There was nothing to light the wooded path except the sun’s golden gleam reflected by a waxing gibbous moon. I’d been walking fast or running. I kept looking over my shoulder. 

Passing the little white church, I could see a group of teenagers inside the cemetery—three standing and one slumped over a tombstone. 

“Get up, DeCorso,” someone urged. “Your sister’s here.” 

I moved forward. 

I could see it was Robbie. He jerked his head and tried to rise but fell back over the stone. He couldn’t open his eyes. 

“What did he take?” I demanded. 

No one spoke immediately. They appeared stunned that an eleven-year-old girl would come here alone in search of her brother. 

“Tuinals,” the one female answered at last.“Maybe five …” 

“Oh, God … Robbie?” I shook him. “Are you guys just going to stand there? Help me get him out of here!” 

The two males flanked him and made a bungling attempt to pull him along. 

“Danielle?” Robbie called out to me in a faint voice. He stumbled, nearly dropping to the ground. 

His hair was in a shaggy style back then that had bangs swept off to the side. Those bangs now hung over his eyes. 

I reached for him as his handlers tightened their grip. “I’m taking him home.” There was an authoritative air in my tone, mingled with impatience. 

“I don’t think so,” the girl responded. “If your parents see him, he’ll be screwed.” 

“My parents are not home yet.” 

“We’ll take him somewhere to sleep it off.” It was the guy on Robbie’s left talking.  

“You can’t!” I yelled. “If you do that, he’ll die!” 

I don’t know where that notion came from, but I believed it and evidently convinced him as well. He offered to help. We anchored Robbie by his arms across our shoulders. All the way home, Robbie kept mumbling, stumbling, and calling my name. 

“I’m here,” I answered him. 

We dragged him along, passing familiar homes decorated with pumpkins, skeletons, and tombstones. My mom had decorated our house, too, and I could see the lights on when we got there. Joey appeared in the doorway, likely worried about not finding me home, and ready to go looking for me. 

“Help him up!” I shouted. “I’m calling 911.” 

Joey hastened down the stairs and took my side of Robbie as I ran ahead. They brought Robbie to my grandmother’s room and laid him down to rest on her bed. 

I nervously rattled off the details to a dispatcher and hung up the phone. 

“Don’t sleep,” I beseeched him upon my return. 

“Why can’t I sleep?” Robbie slurred. 

I could see the concern in Joey’s eyes. He stood close to the bed now, trusting my instincts. 

“Where’d his friend go?” I asked. 

“He took off, but he told me about the pills,” Joey said. “Where’d you find him?” 

“A bunch of kids … I didn’t recognize them, but they knew him. They knew me. They told me they saw him heading toward the cemetery with two guys holding him up, and he was in bad shape.” 

“You went to the cemetery?” 

“I was five minutes away, halfway down Angie’s block.” 

I normally left Angie’s house before it got dark, but we got busy creating a scrapbook of our teen idols, and I hadn’t noticed the time. 

He shook his head disapprovingly. “What’s his problem, man?” 

Robbie’s breathing was slow. He seemed oblivious to his surroundings, barely hanging onto consciousness. Rosary beads dangled over one side of the headboard. A nativity scene on a plaque loomed above. I sat on the bed. “Robbie told me a funny story about this one day in church, during Benediction, when he thought he was getting that calling to be a priest. Right, Rob? See, it was the fumes from the incense making your head all fuzzy. They would never call you to be a priest.” 

He was fading fast, so I sat him upright, holding onto him. 

“Stay awake!” I yelled. 

“Stay awake, Rob,” Joey echoed, shaking his shoulders. 

“Don’t fall asleep,” I told him. “Talk to me.” 

“About what, Dan?” 

I heard sirens. It wasn’t long before the emergency technicians descended upon him. 

“What did he take?” The paramedic who asked this question was the only black man—a hulking figure with a warm voice and the sweetest, most caring, eyes. 

“Tuinals,” I told him, “maybe five.” 

“Has he done this before?” 

“Not that I know of.” 

“Are you all siblings?” 

“Yeah.” 

“What’s his name?” 

“Robbie DeCorso.” 

He spoke to my brother. “Robbie? What’s going on? Do you know where you are?” 

I watched as they examined him. I saw them shine a light into both of his eyes. 

“Yes,” my brother said. 

“And where’s that?” 

He fell silent, and they hoisted his leaden body onto a stretcher. 

“I didn’t think he should sleep,” I told the kind man. 

“Well, you did a good job. He took an overdose. If he had gone to sleep, he would not have awakened.” 

“You mean …?” 

“He could have lapsed into a coma. He could have died. You can’t be messing around like that.” 

I looked at Joey, and he shook his head. 

“How old is he?” the man asked. 

“Thirteen,” I replied. 

“Where are your parents?” 

Joey answered that. “Some two hundred-year-old lady died, and they all went running off—some friend of my grandmother’s.” 

“I think you better get a hold of them.” 

Joey wrote a note for my parents and grabbed my mom’s car keys off the dining room table. We left for the hospital. He wasn’t supposed to be driving without supervision, but I knew he’d get us there safely. 

“The woman was ninety,” I told him. 

“What woman?” 

“Grandma’s friend who died.” 

“Whatever.” 

“What’d you write in the note?” 

“That Robbie’s okay but in the hospital.” 

“He is going to be okay, right?” 

“I hope so.” 

He hugged me in the waiting room. I hugged him tight in return, afraid to let go. 

My father showed up at the hospital sooner than I had expected. 

“Where’s Mommy?” I inquired. 

“Where do you think? She’s home, cooking. She was worried sick, your mother. She wanted to come. I told her to stay there. So what happened?” His gaze shifted from Joey to me and then back again.“Is he all right?” My father began walking in circles. “Where is he?” He approached an emergency room physician who’d been walking toward us. “I’m the father,” he said. “What happened?” 

The doctor smiled politely. “I’ll fill you in on what happened, but your son is fine. He had his stomach pumped, so he may be feeling some pain. He may be fatigued. Let him rest.” 

The ER staff released Robbie in an improved state, but he continued to stumble around with his eyes closed. My father held him by the arm then assisted him into the passenger seat of his car—the Pontiac Bonneville he drove then. 

“Geez, I know none of us are saints,” he mused on the way home. “I did a lot of things when I was a kid to make my father mad. He would get so mad at me, he wanted to kill me. My mother would say, ‘Wait until you grow up and have kids of your own. You’ll see.’ She was right.” 

“I’m sorry, Dad,” a groggy Robbie replied. 

“Well, I hope you learned your lesson.” 

“I did.” 

My mother was wringing her hands when we helped Robbie through the door. She looked flustered and pale. I couldn’t tell if she wanted to hug Robbie or kill him. 

“What the hell is the matter with you?” she screamed. 

Robbie said nothing in response. My father and Joey helped him upstairs to bed. 

“What’s going on with him?” she asked me. 

I told her what had happened. 

She clenched her teeth and then went about setting the dining room table. 

I helped minimally, distracted by my concerns about Robbie. Did he know he could die? Did he want to die, or did he simply not care if he lived or died? 

We sat down to dinner without him. My grandmother asked what had happened, and my father spent the next five minutes talking to her in Italian. She made the sign of the cross, tears streaming.  

“And don’t go blabbing to Zuza and everyone else, Mom!” he bellowed. “It’s nobody’s goddamn business.” 

Grandma denied she would say anything while nervously grazing her fingers across her forehead. Her hair was up and tightly bound, as always—hair she would say was the color of coffee beans, except for the dusting of silver. I could see her sad little brown eyes behind the lenses of her glasses.  

We ate with no further talk about Robbie. Everyone assisted my mother in cleaning up. She prepared demitasse. We all had a piece of Entenmann’s cake. 

I checked on Robbie in his blissful sleep and then joined my grandmother in her room. 

She was sitting on the bed where Robbie had been earlier, the tufted chenille bedspread in pure ivory pulled up to the headboard, as though nothing had happened. The dimly lit sanctuary was quiet and safe again, a simple place of walnut-crafted furnishings, eggshell walls, and wood floors. All of it had faded away—Robbie, the sirens that had brought heroes to my door, and all the day’s events. For a few moments, we remained silent and in a comforting womb of peace. 

I looked around the room at her wooden crosses of Jesus and her pictures of the pope. There were many pictures of the pope. One might have imagined he shared the room with her. He hung amid family wedding photos. She’d tucked another photo of him in one side of the annual calendar she got from our neighborhood dry cleaner. Every year, on Palm Sunday, she brought a palm home from church, shaped it into a crucifix, and tucked it behind the same calendar. 

She’d hung two paintings of birds in this room, one a pair of bluebirds perched on a tree branch adorned with large leaves and tiny flowers. The other featured a white heron amid blossoming trees. She loved birds, as I did. 

“Oh, Dio…” She was calling to God. She looked at me. “The way you know?” It was how she talked, yet I understood. 

I explained how I’d found Robbie and what had happened next. 

“The way you know?” she repeated. 

“I didn’t know anything. I didn’t think about it.” 

“God knows—and the angels.” She reached for my hand and squeezed it. “God bless. God bless … you good girl.” 

I could feel her pain profoundly, just as I could with the other members of my family. Every one of them suffered immensely. 

I gave her a hug and then stood, making my way over to her lace-lined dresser adorned with resin statues of prayer plaques, angels, and the Blessed Mother. Our Holy Communion portraits were there in gold frames. I opened the musical jewelry box she’d brought from Italy, and, with my fingers, traced the gold satin lining the hardwood. I knew she shared a piece of my joy, taking notice of what I admired. It was the reason she’d made certain I always had a musical jewelry box with a dancing ballerina. I’d notice new things right away, like the bluebird song box in handcrafted porcelain and the floral trinket boxes. 

“Here,” she was saying. 

I turned to see her reaching for a small tulle pouch on a low wall shelf. Bomboniere is what she called it. Brides gave it as a wedding souvenir. She was untying the ribbons. She would eat the sugared almonds inside when she felt like it, unlike my mother and Zuza, who kept theirs intact. She put two in my hand and popped one in her mouth. 

I smiled and began eating the almonds. “These are the only gifts you ever like.” 

She smiled back. “Ah! I’m old, honey. I no need anything.” 

The woman rarely smiled, but, when she did, it went to my heart.  

She did go over to Zuza’s in the morning. She told them everything. I knew, because Angie rushed over and wrapped me in a hug. 

My involvement in all the Robbie madness, however, didn’t end there. 

Not a week later, I was in the family room recliner watching television. Robbie showed up with some friends. They cranked up the music, since no one was home, then put paper towels inside brown paper bags and soaked the paper with glue. Robbie handed one of the bags to me. 

“Hold it up to your nose and then breathe in and out,” he said. 

I can’t remember if I even asked why. 

The surge to my head was like a magnetic recharge, and all I could hear was AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” An explosion in my brain unleashed an outpouring of dazed, rapturous sensations. Light prickles and tremors trickled through every fiber of my being. I reveled in the light-headed euphoria. A prevailing illusion of calm and peace washed over me. Everyone, everything, faded away. In that moment, nothing was better than this high. My love for these sensations was more powerful and more enslaving than my love for anything or anyone else I knew. 

We inhaled ourselves into oblivion. The pillow top of the recliner felt so soft on my back, and I closed my eyes, drifting off to sleep with the bag on my nose. I awakened with a sense of the paneled walls encasing me. My first vague awareness was of the crouched porcelain tiger lamp resting atop the television set. I could see the fireplace my mother had decorated with sculptures—a cherubic angel with wings and a pair of praying hands. Photos in ornate gold frames, depicting all of us in our younger years, adorned the television top and the end tables. When I looked to my left and to my right, my brother and his friend were still there. I stood, dizzy, nearly losing my balance as I tried to position myself. There was laughter, howling, and cackling, all sounding far off. I felt giddy, uninhibited, and excited. I was unable to say or do anything without laughter and smiles. 

Yes, fantasy was better than reality for me, and I welcomed any escape from the latter. I kept trying to bond with Robbie, too—going on “shopping” sprees with him and his friends. We rode the bus to neighborhood department stores and returned with stolen merchandise. I stole plastic bangles in different colors, earrings, T-shirts, and pants. 

“You’re good,” a friend of his marveled.“A master thief and con artist.” 

“Well, she has the face of an angel,” said another. “Who’d suspect her?” 

I had ripped the lining out of my puffer jacket, so I could slide things around to the back. 

“Where did you get this?” my mother would ask, regarding our new acquisitions. 

We’d say a friend gave them to us, and, though she didn’t seem comfortable with the idea, she never pressed the issue. If it had been Robbie alone, and, possibly Joey, she might have, but she evidently couldn’t fathom her sweet little girl lying or stealing. 

It was an unsettling time of strange and constant shifting between the uncorrupted purity of youth and the recklessness of a demoralizing coming-of-age. A choice seemed to continually surface, bittersweet reality or sweet imagination, child or grown-up, right or wrong. I kept searching for the in-between, but I couldn’t find it. I felt a rebellious joy as well as a distant sadness. 

I began to see a parallel between life and roller coaster rides at amusement parks, even if I could not have explained it. We went barreling along on the formidable journey, propelled by some overpowering entity. There were uncomfortable moments. In other moments, we would be elated. There’d be mirth and amusement, just as there would be treacherous, spine-chilling turns. We twisted this way, that way, down many paths, and we hung on. We whirled backward, then forward then backward again. The times of gentle rolling on the track made the unexpected dark tunnels an intriguing mystery fraught with peril. We had to hold on, and we laughed a lot. It did seem uncertain, on various declines, that one was truly safe in the midst of it all, but everything was linked together toward the final destination—a higher purpose and greater good. At the same time, I weaved an intricate ball of yarn that would take a lifetime to untangle.  

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.

DEADLY VEILS BOOK ONE: SHATTERING TRUTHS – 7

Chapter Seven 

I hated this place and every place like it—uniformity, mediocrity, everything so black and white, cold, and clinical. It had taken me a while to work up the nerve to make an appointment, but, according to the phone book listing, the initial intake was free. 

A woman called me in. It’s a face I can’t remember—except to say she looked average and seemed normal. She asked me to tell her about myself. She wanted to know what had prompted me to seek psychotherapy. 

My mind seemed to have emptied itself, leaving only an uncomfortable notion that I was uniquely unacceptable. I told her my name and my age, and then paused before speaking again. 

“I’m too honest,” I said. “I always tell people the truth even when I shouldn’t. If I don’t like something, and someone asks me if I like it, I can’t say I do, and I can’t talk to people I don’t like unless I really have to.” 

She smiled. “I see nothing wrong with that. It’s not uncommon for a young person to be blatantly honest. You’re becoming more and more aware of your feelings, and you want to make them known.” 

“I don’t think people like that honesty… or me,” I confessed. 

“Why?” she asked. 

“I don’t tell them what they want to hear.” 

“You will outgrow that. Or, rather, you will sort out what is appropriate and what isn’t and find a more comfortable way of dealing with people.” 

“I don’t know how to be myself.” 

That was true. All my life, people had referred to me as Joey’s sister, Robbie’s sister, or “one of those DeCorso kids.” By eighth grade, my classmates considered me a tough girl, though I didn’t fight. My brothers did. Once they were in high school, and I was still in middle school, a different Danielle emerged. I became a popular, gregarious type—in school, anyway. I enjoyed making others laugh. By the time I got to high school, I was befriending classmates the popular crowd shunned, perhaps because I knew a thing or two about being on the opposite end of that spectrum. If anyone knew the hearts of those quiet, fearful souls, it was me, and I wanted to use what power I had to put them at ease. 

I told the therapist about that, how I would invite them to eat with me, thinking I could end up an outcast, too, but it had the opposite effect. The others subsequently welcomed my new friends. While I had never expected that, I was glad. 

A different structure existed within the family dynamic. Whatever flaws I saw in those I held dear paled in comparison with their goodness, but I did not extend the same courtesy to myself. My flaws erased everything else about me. 

Quite possibly, it began with my barbaric entry into the world. I had arrived with my fists tightly clenched, looking more like a boxer than a baby, more like a boy than a girl, and ready to fight, rupturing membranes, and necessitating a C-section. A priest had administered Last Rites to my mother—Extreme Unction, as they called it, the Roman ritual that meant you were doomed. 

My first recollection is of lying face up in my playpen. I could see shadows. One seemed small, compared to the others, yet it signaled danger and instilled fear. The moment I became aware of its presence, hands assailed me … pulling, hitting, and hurting. A larger shadow would appear, scolding, “You were told to leave her alone.” 

It was as if I were witnessing my life from another plane. 

Years later, I asked my mother if Robbie or Joey had harassed me when I was a baby, though I felt strongly it was Robbie. I asked if she had scolded him and pulled him away. She said I’d imagined it all. 

“Sounds to me like you are a good person,” the therapist was saying. 

“Then I don’t need help?” 

“You do if you think you do, but something prompted you to come here today. You took a big step in doing that. Is there something else bothering you that you wanted to talk about?” 

“I don’t think so.” 

“Do you have hopes, Danielle? Dreams? Future plans?” 

“Yes,” I said. 

“Tell me about that.” 

I told her about my writing and my singing. 

She flashed a grin then said something nice and encouraging. That impressed me, so I tried to convey how those dreams kept me alive and how terrified I was that through the continuous horror and chaos that was life, those dreams might fade away. 

“You’re so young,” she said. “What’s the hurry?” 

Good thing I didn’t tell her I had initially hoped to achieve all of my goals before my seventeenth birthday—that, at one time, I vowed to kill myself if that didn’t happen. I don’t think I ever intended to do that, really, but I must have figured if it took much longer than that, I would be too old to enjoy my success. Where these absurd notions came from, I could only guess. I was drowning in my oblivion, and I thought these accomplishments would save me. 

What I did say was, “I think I’ll be writing until they decide to take the typewriter away from me and lay me to rest in my grave.” 

“Who are ‘they?’” she asked. 

I grew more nervous and lowered my eyes. “You know, I thought I was … I mean, I felt … I just get so … I don’t know. I seem to be fine now. I felt something was wrong. I get very depressed sometimes. This is so stupid. I shouldn’t have come here. There are enough people out there who know what’s wrong with them, and here I am. I don’t know what’s wrong, and I don’t even know what to say.” 

“Tell me about your family.” 

Something inside me caved. I had butterflies but not the happy sort. It was panic. I hesitated before saying, “There’s my mother, my father …” My eyes filled with tears. “I have two brothers.” I hesitated again. “Joey and …” A lump swelling in my throat made it difficult to speak. 

“Is there someone else?” 

I shook my head. 

“Take a deep breath.” 

I did and then broke down crying. “Robbie,” I said, “Oh, God, Robbie …” 

Deep concern filled the woman’s eyes now—and pity. It made me uncomfortable. 

“I think you should schedule an appointment for regular sessions,” she said. “Although, because you are a minor, you would need parental consent. I’d have to give you a form, and you’d have them sign it, then we can begin.” 

“No, I can’t do that.” I stood. 

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a choice.” 

“They think you only go to a shrink if you’re crazy or want to find out who’s to blame for your problems and, deep down, they’ll think whatever’s wrong with me is their fault. No, they can’t know. Isn’t there a way you can bend the rules? Or is there something I can sign to say I take full responsibility? I’m going to get a job, and I can pay myself …” 

She looked sympathetic while shaking her head. “I’ll give you my card. Please think about it, and if you decide to go ahead with their consent, give us a call. I think it would be a mistake if you didn’t.” 

I took the card knowing I would not call. It angered me that I was not entitled to help unless my parents agreed. All the relationships I had nurtured thus far in my life meant the world to me, and I cherished them in the only way I knew how. Oh, my … how I cherished them! It was a big part of why I worried so much. I felt unworthy of their love and feared losing them all. My instinct was always to take care of them, as if their needs were more important than my own. I fantasized about being rich and famous and buying them whatever they wanted, I suppose as some way to compensate for my inadequacy. 

Oddly enough, not once throughout the course of that therapy session did I mention what had happened with Phil and Sergio. I didn’t think about it. There was a little girl within me whose wails I ignored. On the surface, I was a DeCorso who would rather rebel and defy than admit defeat. People seemed to prefer that, anyway—that I bury it. It worked better for Farran, better for Angie. Maybe it worked for countless women who’d lived in places and times where you simply didn’t talk about those things. You picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and trudged on. Except I was certain, at this point, that I was not okay. I felt lost. I didn’t like myself. I wanted nothing more than to be okay again and to feel normal. 

I had a dream that night. I was plummeting to the depths of something. It was a smooth, effortless decline in total blackness until I could feel a surface beneath me. People were talking to me. I smiled, wanting them to know I was okay and could hear them. In a subsequent dream, I saw angry eyes that changed from dark to light and then red, before flames began to burn in them with a fury. The eyes had no face or body. Though I didn’t recognize them, I wondered if they were a reflection of my parents when angered—or Robbie. They may have been the eyes of others who were angry with me. It may also have been me, I suppose, angry at the world. 

When I woke, however, all I could think about was Robbie. 

He was the brother who had looked for ladybugs and caterpillars with me in our yard. He watched me chase butterflies and elusive dandelion puffs that floated through the air. 

“They’re wish nicks,” he had explained. “You’re supposed to catch one in your hand and make a wish, then blow it away.” 

It felt like holding on to nothing, yet it saddened me to open my hand and watch it float farther and farther from my view. I didn’t want Robbie to be like that wish nick. It was a familiar longing I had. There seemed to be an ongoing risk of losing him in my life, resulting in this need I had to cling to him. 

Everything changed between Robbie and me after the wish nick phase, and it seemed to begin with a boy named Tommy Catalano. There was more to it, of course, but I knew Tommy was trouble the first time I laid eyes on him. 

I was four years old at the time, returning from the hospital with a black patch over my left eye, clutching my mother’s hand as we emerged from the car. We began our ascent up the staircase. Tommy headed toward us. He must have been eight or nine at the time. He passed and, after a few paces, turned around for another glance. It was a foreboding glare, and it chilled me to my core. 

“Come on,” my mother encouraged me. She shot him a fierce look and moved me along. 

When she wasn’t around, he made fun of my eye patch. He got other neighborhood kids to make fun of me, too. 

Admittedly, he was a good-looking kid, with his dark brown hair in a regulation school cut, his downward-slanting eyes an unusual light golden brown. The fierceness in his face always reminded me of a tiger. I sensed, however, that although he acted tough, it was some sort of camouflage—an omnipotent, unshakable external facade masking something dangerously fragile. Perhaps something had distorted his countenance, stripped him of his humanity. When he laughed, he looked pained. I would see anger in his amusement. 

He used to say my brothers and I should go back to wherever we came from with our spic mother. Robbie had told him at the time that we were born here and then called him a jackass. 

When, after numerous eye examinations, I was able to trade the dreadful patch for a pair of glasses, Tommy called me “Four Eyes.” 

Robbie had defended me, saying, “The doctors fixed Danielle’s eyes.” 

But Tommy said I was still ugly, and he taunted me until tears blinded me, something collapsed inside me, and I could no longer hear him. In retrospect, it seemed such a pitiful waste of energy and emotion—the extent of my humiliation perpetuated by some bully who likely harbored his own feelings of worthlessness. 

“He doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about,” my father said when I told him. “He’s a stupid jerk. Your eyes are straight, perfect, beautiful. When somebody like that says something to you, let it go in one ear and out the other.” 

“Don’t pay any attention,” my mother agreed. 

Joey told them Tommy never said anything when he was there, or he would have beaten the crap out of him. 

But all I wanted to know was why I had to wear glasses in the first place. 

My father looked at my mother, and Robbie’s eyes shifted from one face to the next. 

“You had what they call a lazy eye,” my mother said. “A lazy muscle in the left eye.” It didn’t escape me that both she and my father looked away, like they felt guilty or embarrassed. 

“Didn’t the surgery work?” Joey asked. 

My curious gaze shifted to him and then back to my mother again. 

“Of course,” she said, “but the doctor said there are no guarantees. She wants you to wear glasses to keep the eye straight, so it doesn’t go back or more in. If you don’t, your eyesight might get worse instead of better.” 

“I only have to wear them for a while, right? Like the patch?” 

“You have to wear them until the doctor says you don’t have to, and if she says you have to wear them all the time, then you wear them all the time.” 

“Forever?” 

“Whatever it is, it is.” 

“No!” I screamed. With a vigorous pull, the glasses were off. I heaved them upon the patterned linoleum and stomped on them until they’d shattered. 

I can’t forget the look of pain in my father’s eyes. 

Robbie shrieked, “Oh, my God, she broke them!” 

My father rose from his chair. He picked up all the pieces and set them aside, then moved toward the china cabinet. “I’m going to show you something,” he said. He opened a side drawer. There was another tiny pair of glasses in there. “Those are yours,” he revealed. “We bought them, just in case. But I’m not gonna make you wear them. I’m not gonna force you. They will be right here in this drawer.” He lifted them to show me, and then placed them down again. “If you don’t wanna wear them, you don’t touch them. Okay?” 

I nodded, tears streaming. 

Robbie seemed shocked. “But she has to wear them!” 

My father clenched his teeth. “And how’s she gonna wear them if she breaks them again?” 

“The doctor said it’s like water,” my mother said. “If you’re thirsty, you’ll drink. Or like medicine: If you need it, you’ll take it.” 

It surprised me that the decision was up to me, but, for the moment, I was satisfied with my choice. 

“You know if you don’t take your medicine, you get sick and die,” Robbie hounded me. 

“So? I’m not sick.” 

“You’re supposed to be wearing your glasses!” 

“So?” 

“So the doctor said you’re gonna go blind if you don’t.” 

“I am not.” 

“Are too!” 

“Am not!” 

Now, I don’t know when exactly it happened, but Robbie went from defending my honor to laughing at me alongside Tommy Catalano. It was as if he’d reached inside of me and ripped my heart out, along with the rest of my insides, leaving a mere hollow cave behind. He had set about trying to convince others that something was wrong with me. In all fairness, I think he believed that to be true. 

At seven and eight, I’d spent hours drawing pictures, mostly of children. I’d cut them out, so that each one was an individual on a rectangular slip of paper, and I named each one. 

“She’s drawing her little girls again,” my father would say to my mother. 

“They are not all girls,” I told him. “There are boys, too, and some of them are teachers.” 

“She puts them in rows like school, and she talks to them,” Robbie tattled. “She thinks she’s the teacher, and they are her class.” 

He seemed ashamed of me, and I got the feeling my behavior was worrisome to my parents as well. 

“That makes it easier for me to study and do my homework,” I explained. It was a strategy I had devised to break the monotony of giving my attention to something I didn’t enjoy. Otherwise, it bored me to a level I couldn’t bear. 

My pretend game worked with buttons, too. I collected them from my aunt Zuza and my grandmother. Concentrating on mundane tasks never got easier, but I would learn to devise other strategies. 

My brothers, on the other hand, broke the monotony of life by fighting with other kids. It was par for the course to see one of them throwing someone into a pile of bushes or up against a wall. Adults told their kids that my brothers were crazy, and to keep away from them. I often hid on them myself. 

As far as Robbie was concerned, I was the crazy one. I think he had a sense that I relished fantasy far more than reality, and that it was not merely an extended phase but very much a part of my nature. He would tell the other kids, “Oh, she’s retarded.” There were times he summoned friends, siblings, and cousins to his room and locked the door. They would be in there talking and laughing, and I would be on the other side, wondering how I’d managed to get myself placed outside the sphere of acceptability. 

When Robbie was nice, he was irresistible. Though I could never interest him in all the writing I did, he praised my singing voice. We would listen to albums on the stereo in his room. We played a game where we took turns singing and acting out songs. I was ten and beginning to realize that music had an incredible power to lift me. Over the years, I grew to love Bach right along with Led Zeppelin. Christmas hymns during the holidays moved me to tears now, while, year round, I enjoyed gothic rock bands like the Cure, Bauhaus, and Christian Death. 

At age eleven, I continued to play with dolls. Angie and I often sat on the rug in my room or hers with our Barbie dolls and their dream houses. 

Robbie would wander in bellowing, “God, are you ever going to grow up?” 

It broke my heart to think I might have to let my dolls go in exchange for more complicated things, but that’s exactly what happened in the fall of ‘82.

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.

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