Chapter 22: (v.3) Last Flight Home.

Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

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Sometimes I hated flying, especially on long flights that were more than five hours in length, because there was only so much fun one could have on a plane before boredom sets in. That wasn’t the case with Luca, though. He was pretty much awake the entire time from England to North Carolina, and I was too.

“Can you tell me what your abbo is like?” he asked me at one point. “Mommy said she met him a couple of times and thought that he was really nice. She said he respected her.”

I smiled warmly when I heard this. I loved the man who raised me. I remembered calling him Papa in my earliest memories, though growing up, I called him Pop. Even to this day, I still called him that, and this will likely never change. Biological or not, he will always be my father.

“He’s a good man,” I replied. “Very tenderhearted and quite reserved and observant. If you want to know what it was like to grow up in Italy in his time, all you have to do is ask him, and he’ll light up like a little kid on Christmas. He loves to tell stories about Italy and his time there. Your nonna grew up in Italy too, but she doesn’t like to talk about it. She’s proud of her heritage and roots and keeps the language alive, but she's an American as far as she’s concerned. She lived a hard life and has worked hard to make it to America, and she simply won’t have it any other way. Do you like gardening?”
“Eh,” Luca replied as he gestured with his hand.

Judging by the the scrunched-up face he made, I knew he didn’t care much for gardening.

“Same here, buddy. I can’t keep a plant alive for anything, but I’ll tell you something. Your nonna’s got a green thumb, and she loooves to plant tomatoes and herbs. She also has some beautiful plants around the house, and her garden in the backyard is gorgeous. She even owns and runs a nursery for plants and shrubbery and sells commercially and privately. I may not be crazy about gardening, but she makes it look easy and majestic. As long as you respect the plants in the house and all around the property, you won’t have any problems with her. Sometimes, I think she loves her plants more than me.”

The last line of my statement was meant to be a joke, and it did make Luca laugh for a few moments, but then he spoke up in a serious tone.

“Honestly, everything that Mommy has told me about her is mostly bad stuff, except for the statistical stuff, like what she believes in heritage and preserving her Italian roots and language. It’s nice to hear that Nonna has a good side to her too.”

His words brought tears to my eyes, maybe because of how betrayed I felt by her right now.

“She’s not an easy person to be around,” I admitted. “You’re going to find this out, one way or another. I just don’t want her to hurt you the way she hurt your mother.”

Luca was quiet for a few moments, and his eyes told me he was deep in thought, but his gaze didn’t break from mine. It was as if he was studying me or something. I was curious to know what was on his mind, but I didn’t even have to ask because his lips already parted.

“Would you like to know what I think about her, based on everything I know and on how I’ve been observing you and the king?”

Well, this ought to be interesting.

“What do you think?”
“I think, and of course, this is just my theory until we speak with Nonna and get more information, but this is what I think ...”

Here we go.

“It’s public knowledge that he was born in a monastery on the border of Xudia and Slovenia, quite near Italy actually, but very little is known about his adoption. The monastery he was born in had a fire in which they lost all their records and books, including the king’s original birth certificate. I think his birth parents are Italian and that his birth mother went to the monastery and had her baby there, and the monastery was willing to adopt him out to anyone willing to take him as their son. So I think the king knows the truth of his origins and that he has spent a lot of time in Italy, maybe to find his birth parents, maybe not, or maybe he just wanted to be connected to his roots? I would be very curious to know if I am right on this.”

That was very bold of him to assume, but then again, he did say this was a theory. Of course, he wouldn’t dare question the king on such a matter, but it’s interesting to me that he’s still speaking in Italian on this, perhaps because the guards and crew on this plane were Xudian? He certainly didn’t want them knowing this theory, which meant he didn’t want this getting back to the king, which I could certainly understand, and I definitely wouldn’t question the king on this either. I can tell through his eyes that he’s thought about this quite thoroughly. I’m intrigued to hear what he has to say entirely on this matter.

“I think he met your parents somewhere along the way and became friends with them for a while.” Oh, he was spot on with this part, at least according to what the king has told me himself. “And I think Nonna fell in love with the king, but he answered the queen’s call, and I know that last part about the queen’s call was true, as that is public knowledge. I believe Nonna was pregnant with you when the queen called for the king to become her consort, and when he chose the queen over Nonna, she became angry and bitter. I think that’s why she was so mean to Mommy because she knew Mommy was Xudian. It just reminded Nonna of what she couldn’t have, and how the king chose a Xudian woman over her, and how he chose the Xudian culture over the traditional Italian roots.”

I was at a loss for words right now, and he was probably right about this. I almost wanted to make a bet on this just to see just how correct his intuition was. Still, after I graduated high school, my father informed me about his and my mother’s distant familial ties to the mafia, as well as a gambling addiction that ran on my mother’s side.  I made a promise to him then that I would never gamble, not even if it was over something small and silly. Besides, it would’ve been pointless to make a bet of this anyways, because honestly, my theory on the matter of my mother’s racist attitude toward Camila was almost identical to Luca’s theory. No matter my mother’s history with my natural father, the Xudian king, this still didn’t give her an excuse or the right to treat Camila the way she did. Sarcastically speaking, I so couldn’t wait to hear my mother explain her side of things. What I wanted most from her, though, was a sincere apology and to own up to her mistakes.

“Yeah, well, regardless of why she treated your mother the way she did, your mother never did anything wrong, so your nonna’s attitude towards your mommy was disrespectful and …”

I didn’t know what else to say without sounding disrespectful myself, but Luca seemed to be able to finish my statement for me just fine.

“I believe the word you’re looking for might be something like arrogant, hateful, or even unbecoming?”

There was no way Eli and Kris could ever think up these words, not at their current ages and education levels anyways.

“Exactly,” I answered. “I’m just really, really sorry that your mommy ever experienced such hatred from your nonna.”

I avoided eye contact now because I felt my face grow hot, which meant only one thing.

“Why are you apologizing? You weren’t the one who treated Mommy like that. Nonna was. It’s Nonna that has to answer for what she did to Mommy, and to apologize, and own up to her mistakes.”

I couldn’t help but briefly meet his curious gaze as I wondered if his thought process was a lot like mine because we seemed to think the same, especially when it came to matters like this.

“I know, kiddo,” I spoke in a small voice as I tried my best to remain calm, and I had to close my eyes. “But the whole situation just … angers me to the point that I ju—”

The tears of anger threatened to fall, so I stopped mid-statement, and then I hid my face from Luca. I didn’t want him to see my fury. Even though this wasn’t a kind of anger that I would direct to him, he had seen enough of that through his stepfather, and I didn’t want to chance him thinking he did something wrong to upset me like this. Like I said before, I didn’t believe in presenting violent rage in front of my children because I wanted them to grow up and become fine gentlemen with compassion, empathy, kindness, love, and also respect for others and the world. I wouldn’t call myself a monster, but I wouldn’t call myself perfect either, though I try to do my best as a father and as a man.

“It’s alright, Abbo,” Luca replied softly as he sat back beside me again. “I know you’re still angry. You’ve got that same look on your face that you had back in your chambers after dinner.”

It took a moment to realize when he said ‘chambers,’ he meant my room in the palace. I still couldn’t fully wrap my head around that yet. I wondered if this kid studied me more than I realized, or was I so easy to read?

“Can we please change the subject?” I asked.
“Sure. When will I be meeting José?” Luca asked in curiosity.

There was an interesting topic to discuss. I couldn’t wait to introduce Luca to José because I just knew they’d adore each other. The king wanted to meet him as well, but I couldn’t be sure that I could get José to visit Xudia, for he had a wife and kids he needed to care for. Because Luca’s monster of a stepfather was still out there somewhere, I knew that I wanted the extra security, my own security that I knew I could trust. José knew everything about me, even more so than Pop, and José, on occasion, protected me from crazy fanatics.

I knew in my heart that José would protect and cared for him in the same way he’s protected and care for me. I planned on calling on my cell phone once we landed in North Carolina because I wanted to talk to him about being an extra guard with us, at least until Camila’s husband was caught and in prison. The thought that he was her husband creeps me out and sends chills down my spine. Ugh! I couldn’t wait for his capture because I wanted my son to be able to sleep at night knowing he was safe. I also wanted my son to stop using those pills because I didn’t know if they had any addictive properties. Between my alcoholism, as well as the king’s, and a known gambling addiction on my mother’s side, it’s safe to assume that addiction runs in the genes. I didn’t want to see Luca affected by this in any manner.

When we landed, a limo was there for us, and it took us back to Luca’s grandparents’ house. On the drive back, I took this as an opportunity to turn on my cell phone, as I had it off during our time in Xudia since I couldn’t get any cell service over there yet. Now that I was back on American soil, I could use it again. When I turned my phone on, I was bombarded with text messages and voice messages from family members in Italy and at home in New York, including my father. Even close friends had texted me and sent me links to news articles about Camila and Luca, as well as how much the Xudian king and I looked alike, etc. I knew I was going to have to confirm the truth with everyone. I didn’t look forward to it because I didn’t want to have to repeat and explain myself over and over, but I’m not going to have a choice in this matter. I just ignored all of those notifications and made my first call to José.

“Hey, Vince,” José answered after the first ring. “I wondered when I’d be hearing from you, all things considering. How are you?”

I was glad to hear his voice finally.

“Hanging in there, man. How are you?” I replied.
“I’m doing alright. The wife and I took the kids to the shore for a few days. I assume you’re back on American soil?”
“Yeah, we just landed about ten minutes ago. We’re on our way back to get my car. So, I won’t be home until tonight, but I want to talk to you about some things,” I told him.

He grew silent for a few moments. I must have sounded too serious. I hope my tone didn’t come across to him that I would let him find employment elsewhere because I needed him now more than ever. Aside from my wife and parents, there was no one I trusted more with my own life and finances than José. No one.

“I’m inclined to agree with you. I’ve seen how you and your family have become the latest internet sensation in the oddest way. The wife, and the kids, and I all watched Camila’s televised funeral in Xudia, which was beautiful, by the way.” My eyes collected tears as soon as he said that, but I held onto them. “I imagine you have some tough decisions to make, but I’m guessing those are among some things we have to talk about?”
“Yes, but I also need a meeting too ...”

He was silent again for a few moments. I knew he knew what I meant. Then he spoke up again.

“I had a feeling. I just want you to know, Vince, I’m here for you, no matter what.”

That was reassuring. It made me feel like I wouldn’t lose him over the coming weeks. I didn’t want our bond to end - ever.

“Thanks, man. Would it be too much to meet tonight?” I asked.
“No, not at all. I’ll be on standby, so just call whenever you get in,” José answered. “Be safe in your drive back.”
“I will. See you tonight,” I said.
“See you later.”

We both disconnected the call, and I caught Luca looking at me, which he was probably doing the whole time while I was on the phone.

“How exciting!” he exclaimed in great enthusiasm. “I get to meet José tonight! I can’t wait!”

His excitement brought a smile to my face.

“I can’t wait for you both to meet each other too. You’re going to love him.”

Submitted: May 02, 2020

© Copyright 2023 Jenah Pierce. All rights reserved.


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