Sempre redemption, p.10
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.10

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 10



  Corrado started toward them from the kitchen. He shoved Dominic away, physically coming between the two brothers.

  “He doesn’t know what he’s saying,” Carmine spat.

  “Me? You’re the one fucking up!”

  “I said enough! Neither of you know what you’re talking about! Are you boys so dumb that you can’t grasp the concept of cause and effect?”

  Dominic scoffed. “This isn’t just some unfortunate side effect. ”

  “Yes, it is,” Corrado said. “It doesn’t matter what Carmine does—Haven will always have choices taken from her. I’ve taken choices from her! It can’t be helped! Certain things were determined the moment she was conceived and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that. You can’t rewrite history!”

  The commotion drew Celia’s attention. She slowly descended the stairs to the foyer, carrying her luggage. Her eyes scanned the room, frowning when she saw Carmine’s things on the floor.

  “All of us are forced to sacrifice,” Corrado continued, turning to Dominic, staring at him pointedly. “And isn’t this how most breakups go? One walks away while the other has no say. Or are you insinuating Carmine has no right to end the relationship? Isn’t that hypocritical, given your rant? The fact is, Carmine isn’t deciding Haven’s future. Carmine’s deciding his own. ”

  He turned to Carmine, the anger in his expression staggering. “And you need to grow a backbone. You’ve been sitting here all morning feeling sorry for yourself, and it’s wearing on my nerves. You either go back up those stairs or you walk out that front door, but there will be no more wavering in between. You belong in Chicago now, so be a man and do what’s expected of you. Either take her along or don’t, Carmine. She’s going to lose something regardless. The only question that remains is what she loses. ”

  The foyer grew quiet as everyone stared at Carmine, whose stomach churned with nerves. “I can’t bring her to Chicago. Those people fucked up her life enough. ”

  Dominic threw his hands up in exasperation as Corrado nodded. “Then pull yourself together and meet me in the car in five minutes. If you aren’t there, I will come back in here for you, and I assure you—you don’t want that to happen. ”

  Corrado pulled his keys out of his pocket and headed for the door, motioning for Celia to follow him. She smiled sadly at her brother before giving Dominic a quick hug, merely casting Carmine a look as she followed her husband outside.

  Carmine took a deep breath and glanced at his father as he reached into his pocket for his keys. He took the key for the house in Chicago off before holding the rest of them out. “Give my car to Haven. She’s gonna need one. If she doesn’t want to keep it she can sell it or trade it in or fucking burn it, whatever she wants to do. It doesn’t matter anymore. ”

  Carmine grabbed his bag, leaving the smashed guitar laying on the floor, and turned for the front door. He came face-to-face with his brother as he blocked his path. “Don’t expect me to be there for you when you fall apart,” Dominic said, nostrils flaring. “The only thing you’ll ever hear from me is I told you so. ”

  * * *

  Haven peeled her eyes open and glanced at the clock, surprised to see it read noon. A chill ran through her and her throat ached as she tried to clear it, an uncomfortable tickle deep inside her chest. She clung to the blanket for warmth, covering her nude body as she looked around.

  No sign of Carmine anywhere.

  Begrudgingly climbing out of bed, Haven took a hot shower before dressing in some comfortable clothes, feeling worse and worse as time trickled past. Her head started pounding, her eyes burning and body sore. Although she shivered, unable to get warm, her skin felt hot to the touch, like flames coursed through her bloodstream.

  She spotted a piece of paper laying on Carmine’s pillow and eyed it suspiciously, seeing her name written across the front. That feeling Haven had fought hard to push back the night before hit her again. Picking up the paper, her hands shook as she opened it, seeing it was a letter written in Carmine’s messy scrawl.


  FDR said freedom couldn’t be bestowed, it had to be achieved. I think I was in fifth grade when I heard about him, and I remember being pissed because I didn’t see the point in learning history when it was over. I was an ignorant little shit, but I guess that’s the point. I took a lot for granted in life and didn’t appreciate the little things—things you missed out on. It’s not okay what happened to you, and it’s only from knowing you that I understand that. I wish more people could see it. More people need to see you. Maybe then the world wouldn’t be such a fucked-up place.

  I should’ve known telling you that you were free wouldn’t make you so. Freedom has to be achieved, and that’s exactly what you have to do, tesoro. You have to go out there and achieve that shit. You have the world at your fingertips, a life waiting for you full of opportunities you can’t have if you stay with me. And I know they’re dreams you want, dreams you’ve always had, and you shouldn’t sacrifice them for me. You’ve sacrificed enough of your life because of selfish motherfuckers, and I’m not that selfish . . . not anymore. You made sure of that.

  By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. I can’t stay here. It’s not fair to you, and I’d never forgive myself for denying you a real life. A life away from all of this bullshit, where you can just be Haven. Go be you and not what people tried to make you. You have to go show those motherfuckers what they’ve been missing by not knowing you. Show them they can’t hold my girl down.

  And don’t you be fucking scared. You’re ready for the world, Haven, and it’s been waiting eighteen years for you. Don’t make that shit wait any longer.


  Haven jumped up, the letter falling to the bedroom floor as she bolted down the two flights of stairs, tripping over her feet along the way. Tears flowed from her eyes as she burst into the foyer, hesitating briefly when she accidently kicked Carmine’s broken, discarded guitar.

  After fumbling with the keypad, furiously pressing numbers until she got the code right, she opened the front door. Cold air blasted her and stole the breath from her lungs, her bare feet slapping against frozen wood as she ran out onto the icy porch.

  The Mazda was still parked out front, the windows covered in a thin layer of frost. Last night’s snow had already started to melt, but a few white patches remained on the car. It was untouched, unmoved, and the sight of it made hope sweep through her.

  “Carmine?” she called, her shaky exhale a cloud of fog. “Where are you?”

  “He left. ”

  She swung around at the sound of the voice, her heart beating wildly. Dr. DeMarco stood in the doorway, sympathy shining from his eyes. Haven’s stomach churned ruthlessly at the sight of it. No. No way. Nuh-uh.

  “You’re wrong,” she said. “He didn’t. ”

  “He did. ”

  “No!” she yelled. “He’s still here!”

  “He’s not. ”

  “I have to change his mind!”

  “You can’t. ”

  His voice lacked all trace of emotion, the words coming out as if there was simply no room for argument, but she couldn’t accept them. It couldn’t be too late.

  She waved frantically toward the Mazda. “His car’s still here!”

  “He didn’t drive. ”

  “He wouldn’t leave it!”

  “He left it for you. ”

  “There’s no way! He loves that car!”

  “He loves you more. ”

  Haven lost her composure at those words. Tears streamed down her cheeks as a loud sob ripped from her chest, echoing through the quiet yard. Her knees buckled and she collapsed on the porch, shaking her head.

  “That’s not right,” she cried. “It can’t be right. He wouldn’t just leave!”

  Dr. DeMarco continued to stand there, not moving from the spot in the doorway. “I’m sorry. ”

  “Sorry?” she as
ked with disbelief. “You’re sorry?”

  Before he could respond, he was shoved out of the way as Dominic burst past him. He crouched down on the porch and pulled Haven into his arms, softly shushing her as he glared at his father.

  “Dominic,” Haven said. “Make him come back!”

  “I can’t,” Dominic said. “I tried, Twinkle Toes, I really did, but he wouldn’t listen. ”

  Haven started sobbing harder, hiccupping as she tried to catch her breath. She was splintering, her heart ripping from her chest as she shattered into a million tiny jagged pieces.

  “You need to calm down,” Dominic said, stroking her hair softly. “Take a deep breath, will you? It’s going to be okay. ”

  “How can you say that?” she asked desperately. “I need him!”

  Dominic squeezed her tighter. “No, you don’t. I know it feels like it, but you don’t. You’re strong. You’ll be just fine on your own. ”

  Those words didn’t have the impact Dominic seemed to think they would. Instead of comforting her, consoling her, she felt all remnants of lingering happiness fade away, like the last bit of water from a faucet swirling down a narrow drain.

  On your own. The words seeped into her skin, inciting the same terrified feelings she once had in Blackburn when she ran through the desert, desperate for her life to be spared. Everything she knew disappeared into the night, leaving her alone with a cloudy future.


  “How can he be gone?” she whispered. “He didn’t even give me a chance to say good-bye. ”


  Carmine stood in a pile of slush along the street. His socks clung uncomfortably to his feet as wetness seeped through the soles of his old Nike’s, but he couldn’t move from that spot. He was as frozen as the ice that coated the sidewalk.

  The house stood only a few feet away from the curb, the blue door illuminated by the glow of a nearby streetlight. It was just after sunset, but the cloud-covered Chicago sky made it feel much later.

  They had been traveling all day since leaving Durante, two hours in the car before quite a few more on a plane. There hadn’t been any arguing, no judgment or pity—in fact, no one said much of anything at all. He was left alone to his thoughts, and while he usually appreciated it, today was an entirely different case.

  Because Carmine’s thoughts were about as calm as a fucking hurricane.

  When they had landed, Corrado had asked him where he wanted to go. Not thinking, Carmine muttered the lone word home. He had meant Durante, back where he yearned to be, but his uncle took him literally.

  And an hour later, he stood in front of the house he grew up in, his soaked feet refusing to budge. A chill ran the length of him as a car sped by, hitting a small puddle and spraying his back with filthy frigid water. He immediately took a big step forward, out of the way, and shook his head as he moved onto the sidewalk.

  “Quit being such a pussy,” he muttered to himself, reaching into his pocket for the key his father had given him. “It’s just a fucking house. ”

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