by Frances Ford Bentley
(NOTE; THIS IS A THE FIRST DRAFT. I SUGGEST READING WHAT IS A EMTIONAL PIECE OF WRITING FOR ME. BUT, THE NEXT ONE IS THE ONE THAT WAS PUBLISHED AND YOULL SEE THE DIFFERENCE. ENJOY...)
“No, I just grew up in a part of Naples, Italy. I've seen some of the worst men and acts of men that don't contain a soul. Some that need to feel so close to death in order to feel alive even. I once met a Don and--"
“A Don? Is that a priest or something?” Rose asked and Gio laughed.
“No, and a priest would be offended to be called one. It's a man that is the head of a organized family. Criminal family. But, I never talked to any bad Dons in my life. This Don was very wise and very powerful. He wouldn't let me work for his family and made sure I couldn't work for anyone that was negatively influence my life. That's how good of a man he was at the time. He looked after me like a father.”
“You lost your father?” Gio paused and the moment filled with silence and nostalgic memories as he reflected.
“Yeah, I lost him. But, I once had him. Before I lost him, I was seven years old and he was a giant in my world. A hero! He did anything he could to provide for my family. My mother, though, she didn't love him. Actually, she spoke to him very disrespectfully. Back then, if any Italian man heard the way my father was spoken to by his wife, my father would be laughed upon and shown disrespect and maybe they did know, but because the Don held him in such high esteem, they all treated my father good.
Despite my mother's apathy and emotionless affection I mean just empty, he still loved her, and it was a love Ive never seen from a man. He loved her so much. He had many talks sitting on my bed, before always turning out my light at night. Some I remember so vividly, others I wish I can retrieve so bad, but they escape me. Ultimately, my father was known as Naples best jewel thief. Still till this day! It's how I came to know the Don.”
“Why are you stopping? I'm listening.”
"You're not watching the road."
"I am, watching the road, I am." Rose said.
“It's funny how you realize everything suddenly one day. It all becomes clear. My father stole Italy's best jewels. He did it all for my mother, who never appreciated them because she didn't love him. She just thought they weren't good enough. She never accepted any of them. My father tried everything to make her happy. I would wake up so early sometimes, and see him squeezing fresh oranges that are known for their amazing taste in Naples. He did it to serve my mother freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast."
"This is a sad story isn't it?"
"Aren't some of the best things sad? Like the best love stories, or look at the leaves. See how beautiful they are?"
"Yeah, actually. The further north we drive, I've noticed the explosive colors on the leaves. I love autumn."
"The leaves become so beautiful in their colors in the act of dying. Before they fall."
"One day the Don approached My father while we were on a walk. Everyone was scared of the Don. They cleared a path where ever he walked, but my father walked right up to him. He even called him Salvatore.”
“The Dons name was Salvatore? Your father was dangerous wasn't he?” Rose asked.
“No. You're missing my point completely! So, my father said to the younger Don, “Salvatore. What do you want I'm with my son?” The Don patted my head. My father then pulled me back. The Don, with at least ten of his armed men said, “Dario, please, just a word. I would like to talk about the diamonds and doing business. I've been very interested. We all know who you were.” My father then picked me up and walked past him and continued on. I didn't realize how much disrespect he was showing him, or how much respect the Don had for my father.
One morning at breakfast, my father gave my mother jewels that he told me she would love. I knew what was going to happen. But the most unexpected thing then occurred. She was so happy. She suddenly said how happy they made her. I remember seeing him smile in the kitchen that morning after giving my mother the gems. He was so elated, it looked like he could conquer anything in the world. His feet werent touching the ground. It was also the first time I had seen my mother smile at my father. But then I saw something I wish I hadn't seen. My mother turned around from him and put her cigarette out in her freshly squeezed orange juice.
So, naturally he kept stealing more beautiful rare gems to give to my mother to make her happy. He was convinced it had made her love him again. In turn, he became the world's best thief. She would still speak down to him in front of me during meals at the table, and he would look at me and make funny faces to make me laugh. But still, she accepted the diamonds.
Then one morning I heard my mom on the phone talking to someone. It sounded like she was talking about how much she didn't like what my father did for her. I went outside and interrupted my dad when he was squeezing the oranges. I'll never forget the look on his face. He paused what he was doing for what seemed like forever and it looked like he was solving an equation in his head. He then promised me he'd be back and to tell the Don to be waiting at the house that night.
My mother soon after asked where he was but I shrugged. The cops came asking for him too. Then the Don interrupted and told them to leave. I saw him tell his men to wait outside as he shut the front door behind him while he was inside with my mother yelling at her. When he soon came out, I told him what my father said. He bent down and looked at me. He said, “Sure kid, I'll be here.” He then asked me if I wanted ice cream, but I said no. I remembered what my father always said about talking with those men. My father was very serious about not getting in business with them, yet I saw him talking to the Don that night when he came home outside our house. He had just got home. They walked forward and sat down at the wooden picnic table that the neighbors played dominos on all the time in front of our house. I watched them as they moved their lips talking so seriously and then they shook hands.”
“Wait that's it? What about your mother? And I thought your Dad never worked with them? That can't be the end!” Rose said not keeping her eyes on the road.
“He didn't. Just one thing, one deal he made. That night my father told me something important. He said it all in English. I wondered why for years he said it in English and what he said. He told me something that he's tried his whole life to achieve. He said it can take decades, a lifetime even, yet it was only sixteen inches in distance. At the end I saw a tear fall from his face for the first and last time. He kissed me and said goodnight my little bird. That was the last time I ever saw him again.”
“What do you mean? What happen to him?”
“He was found killed. My mother ordered his death. I didn't know then, I found out before leaving and coming over here. The Don took me in and took care of me and eventually told me everything when I was old enough and he became sick. I hated him but had grown to love him the whole time since my father died.
He said my mother fell in love with him. The Don meant to sleep with her to get my father to work for him, so my father would want the Don to leave his family alone. Only, my mother fell in love with the Don. She started accepting the jewels and giving them to the Don. The Don was using her. But the whole time my father thought my mother changed and finally respected him and fell in love with him. She was just using my father all along. My father came home after spending the day marinating in the whole deceit and lies after I told him she had made a phone call, and the Don said my father knew she had called the police to get him out of her life. It broke my father and he lost his purpose in life. He then come home that final night and met the Don as planned. They talked where I watched them. My father told the Don he knew what he had done. My father told the Don, come morning he would find him and kill him. The Don then told him he understood and respected him, always had. He apologized to my father for having to go so far. My father then made the Don promise him to look after me and protect me. And they shook on it. So, when I was told this and learned how much love my father had for my mother and what he told me in bed that night I knew what he was talking about.” Gio turned to her. “He told me that night everything he's tried to achieve in life took him decades, a lifetime even, yet it was the distance of just 16 inches. He hoped for me to finally arrive where he never made it. The sixteen inches were from his mind and his heart. And a tear fell. That's when he said the last words in this life to me. Goodnight little birdie.”