Sempre redemption, p.59
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.59

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 59

 

  Corrado put his arm over Celia’s shoulder, nodding at Haven in approval before leading her away. Haven remained in place for a moment as she stared at Carmine, wondering if she even knew the person in front of her anymore. He seemed so different, from his stance to the way he was dressed, all of it foreign. His slumped shoulders screamed with defeat, as he stood seemingly oblivious to anything in the world around him.

  Haven took a few steps in his direction but stopped again when he broke his stance, grabbing a rose from the closest display and slowly approaching an adjacent grave. He crouched down in front of the headstone and laid the rose on the ground before running his fingers along the words engraved on the worn white marble.

  Haven started his way again, her curiosity fueling her, but stopped after a few steps when realization struck. He had once told her his mother was in Hillside.

  Her heart pounded rapidly as she suddenly felt like she was invading his privacy. The memory of him sitting in front of his piano, slumped down and crying on the anniversary of her death came to mind. Pain ripped through her chest.

  She immediately took a step back.

  Carmine must have sensed her movement, because his body stiffened at that moment, his shoulders squared and head held high as if on alert. Something in the atmosphere shifted—the afternoon sun disappeared behind a thick cloud, encasing the cemetery in gloomy shade. A cool breeze blew through, ruffling Haven’s dress and causing a shiver to run the length of her spine.

  It felt like it happened in slow motion as Carmine turned in her direction, their eyes locking across the way. She finally saw his face, taking in the deep frown on his lips and dark bags under his bloodshot eyes. His blank expression changed as he stared at her, distinctive emotions flashing across his face that matched the ones surging inside of her. Shock, disbelief, confusion, desperation, fear, longing, hope, sorrow, grief . . . all of it hit Haven at once as she stared at the broken boy she had once given her heart to—a heart she had never quite got back.

  She loved him, just as much as she ever had, and when she saw that same feeling reflected back at her, it all came together. Because despite everything that was different, despite everything that felt unfamiliar, despite the pain and heartbreak, the love was still there.

  Finally, something felt right again.

  He hesitantly took a step toward her, his movement causing Haven to break into a run. She kicked her shoes off in the grass as she sprinted in his direction, shaking and crying as she rammed right into him. He braced himself in an attempt to keep his footing and wrapped his arms around her, staggering a few steps from the force of the collision. His body violently shook as a strangled sob tore from his chest.

  Neither spoke, the lump in Haven’s throat making it impossible for anything to escape but cries. She closed her eyes as he held her, reveling in his familiar scent and body warmth. Despite how vulnerable she knew he was, how shaky the ground was beneath his feet, she felt secure in his arms, like all of her wandering had come down to that moment, in that place, where she finally felt like she was home again.

  He was her home. He always had been.

  She wasn’t sure how long they stood between his parents’ graves, clinging to each other, all of their hurt, and pain, and heartache expelled through each shuddering breath, each salty tear staining their cheeks. It could have been minutes or hours, but it felt as if time had stopped for them once again.

  “La mia bella ragazza,” he whispered, his voice cracking.

  The words sent a pang of longing through her body, and she closed her eyes as the electricity of his touch coursed through her veins. “Oh, Carmine. ”

  He pulled back to look at Haven, his face wet with tears and hair a disheveled mess. She reached up to run her hand through it, cringing as her fingers got tangled in a stiff nest of hair product. “Your hair. ”

  A sad smile lifted the corner of his mouth, and although he didn’t respond, she knew he understood. He reached out and wiped the tears from her cheeks, her eyes fluttering closed from his touch. He ran his fingertips down her jaw, his hand gently exploring her face, before he tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear.

  Wiping his tears, Haven explored his face much like he had hers, eyeing the small mark on his cheek peculiarly as she ran her pointer finger across it. She had never seen it before. “You have a scar. ”

  “You’re beautiful. ” He cracked a smile as the blush rose into her cheeks. “You still blush, too. ”

  “You still make me,” she whispered, surveying him. “You’re wearing a suit. ”

  Glancing down at himself, he grimaced. “I still hate them, but it’s a funeral. ” His voice cracked on the word and he turned away, taking a deep, calculated breath. He gazed past her at something. “You wore high heels. ”

  “I still hate them, but it’s a funeral,” she said, repeating his words. “You’re not wearing Nike’s. ”

  “I wish I was,” he muttered. “These fucking shoes hurt my feet. ”

  She stifled a laugh. “You still say that word. ”

  “What word?” He raised his eyebrows when she didn’t respond. “I guess you still don’t use it. ”

  Haven shrugged.

  They stood there for a while longer trading observations. It might have been trivial, given the weight of the circumstances, but it was their way of reconnecting. They memorized each other again, becoming acquainted with the things that had changed in their absence as the comfort and familiarity settled back in. Countless times she wondered what she would say if she ever saw Carmine again, musing about what he might possibly say in response, but she never considered that it would be so seamless for them.

  They had both changed, and it was obvious, as she stared into his deep green eyes, that there was a darkness lurking inside of him, but it hadn’t consumed him. Carmine’s spirit might have been broken, but his soul remained intact. It was like meeting him for the first time all over again, but knowing in her heart exactly who he was from the beginning.

  He was Carmine Marcello DeMarco . . . and even broken, he was beautiful.

  “I can’t believe you’re here,” he said, pulling Haven into his arms again. He buried his face in her hair and inhaled deeply. “This has to be a fucking dream. ”

  “It’s not a dream,” she said. “I’m really here. ”

  “For how long?”

  She hesitated. Carmine’s phone rang then, tension sweeping over them as he motioned for her to stay where she was. She eyed him warily as he stepped away, bringing his phone to his ear and speaking quietly to ensure she couldn’t overhear.

  A sinking feeling settled into the pit of her stomach. She knew the easy couldn’t last, that the seamless would have snags. He was a part of that life, and there were things about him she couldn’t be involved in—things she could never know. Carmine harbored secrets that would never be spilled.

  Not wanting to appear to be eavesdropping, Haven took a step away and quietly gazed at the headstone that marked his mother’s grave.

  Maura DeMarco

  April 1965–October 1996

  “Ama, ridi, sogna—e vai dormire”

  She had only been thirty-one, too young to be ripped from the world. Dr. DeMarco had lived more than a decade without his wife. Haven couldn’t begin to imagine how he had felt waking every morning to face the realization that he would never have it back, he would never feel the spark again.

  “Sorry about that,” Carmine said, interrupting her thoughts. ”It was—”

  “I don’t need to know,” Haven cut him off, but she heard him mutter Corrado’s name regardless.

  An awkward silence lingered before Carmine sighed. “Ama, ridi, sogna—e vai dormire,” he said, reading the line chiseled into the stone. ”It means ‘Love, laugh, dream, and go to sleep’. ”

  Haven smiled softly. “I like that. ”

  “Me, too,” he mumbled, a sad smile tugging his lips. “That’s what she did
. ”

  “She was an amazing woman. ”

  “She was. Too bad I couldn’t take after her more. Instead, I’m like him. ” Tears brimmed his eyes, sudden anger flowing out with those words. “Vincent DeMarco’s son, so that makes me the fucking enemy. As much as I hate it, it’s true. I’m one of them. ”

  “You aren’t. ”

  “I am. You don’t even fucking know. ” He shook his head. “You wouldn’t be able to look at me if you knew. ”

  “You only did what you had to do. ”

  “You don’t even know what I’ve done,” he said. “What I’ve stood by and watched without saying a goddamn word. I’ve watched people die and kept my mouth shut like they didn’t matter, like they didn’t fucking count. What kinda person does that?”

  “Me,” Haven said quietly. “Did you forget about Frankie killing that girl? Number 33—that’s all I know about her, a number written on a piece of paper someone stuck to her. She’s dead and I don’t even know her name. I never did anything to help her. ”

  He shook his head. “That’s different. ”

  “How?”

  “He would’ve fucking killed you. ”

  “Are you saying they won’t kill you if you don’t go along with it?”

  “It’s still not the same,” he said, the aggravation clear in his voice. “You were born into it, but I chose this life. I chose to be this fucking person. ”

  “For me,” she said. “If nothing else, that makes you good. ”

  “Good,” he sneered. “They talked today about how good my father was, about all the people he helped, but what about the bad? He helps a few people and suddenly all the ones he hurt are forgotten? What about what he did to you? What about what he did to me? He opened fire on a house and I had to see that shit! Then he . . . then he fucking tried to . . . ”

  He shook as he fought for control, on the verge of hyperventilating. Haven rubbed his back, her tears steadily falling. He hurt, and she had no idea how to make it any better.

  “He’s gone,” Carmine said after a moment. “He went out in a blaze of glory, and I can’t help but hate him for it because now he’s gone, too! And the worst part is that I wasn’t surprised, because he did exactly what I would’ve done. I would’ve killed every single one of those motherfuckers. I’m just like my goddamn father. ”

  Haven grabbed his arm to calm him down, his moods shifting so quickly she had a hard time keeping up. He shrugged away from her, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a silver metal flask.

  Bringing it to his lips, he closed his eyes and shuddered as he took a drink. “I owe you a lot of apologies, but sorry doesn’t seem good enough. ”

  “Your intentions were always good,” Haven said, not liking his self-loathing. Based on his demeanor, he had been beating himself up for a while.

  “How’s that saying go—the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Makes sense, I guess, since I’m heading that way. ”

 
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