Sempre redemption, p.66
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.66

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 66

 

  “Why are you surprised?” he asked, playfully repeating her words from the day before. “You’re his son’s girlfriend. ”

  She glanced up at Carmine and raised her eyebrows. “Am I?”

  “Are you what?”

  “Am I your girlfriend?”

  He hesitated at her question. “I don’t know, are you?”

  She smiled. “I asked you first. ”

  “Do you think it’s too soon?”

  “I don’t know, do you?”

  He stared at her as he tried to make sense of their conversation. “I don’t know. This is fucking ridiculous, Haven. ”

  “It is,” she said, turning her attention back to the envelope in her hand. “I wonder what he left for me. ”

  “Could be anything,” he replied as she opened it and read the paper giving her the time and date to appear. “Money, property . . . who knows. ”

  “But why?” she asked. “None of that matters to me. ”

  He shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out on Monday. ”

  * * *

  They spent the weekend together, catching movies and having dinner as he showed her around Chicago. Monday approached quickly and he dressed around noon, putting on some black slacks and a white button-down shirt, trying to look halfway decent since Corrado would be there. He slipped on a pair of black and white Nike’s and headed downstairs while Haven was in the shower, opening the freezer and pulling out the bottle of Grey Goose. He took the top off the bottle and brought it to his lips, taking a big swig. It burned his throat but soothed his nerves, his anxiety lessening almost immediately.

  They made it to the lawyer’s office at exactly a quarter after one, right when the will reading was set to start. Haven sat in a large black office chair around the long wooden table, and Carmine pulled out the chair beside her to sit down. She smiled and reached under the table, taking his hand. The family surrounded them—Celia and Corrado, Dominic and Tess. Even Carmine’s grandmother was present, although she looked less than happy to be there with them.

  Mr. Borza cleared his throat to get started. “Everyone here knew Vincent well, so I think we can all agree that he wouldn’t mind if we kept it informal. He left a letter with his wishes, so I’m just going to read it. ”

  Haven fidgeted in her chair, looking at Carmine anxiously. He squeezed her hand, hoping she would relax as Mr. Borza started reading.

  It’s with a heavy heart that I write this. I’m sorry for any pain I’ve caused you all. Everything I’ve done has been with you in mind, and I know I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve always tried to do what I felt was best. I don’t expect you all to understand, but I hope with time you’ll find peace with my decision. I assure you I have.

  During the next twenty minutes, property was divided and personal items were bequeathed. The house in Durante went to Dominic, while the place in Chicago was officially turned over to Carmine. Tess was given a vast savings bond—as was Dia, who couldn’t be there—while he left his mother enough money to sustain her.

  Celia was left a bunch of mementos, while Corrado was given the key to a storage unit. The rest of his assets, his stocks and bank accounts, were to be split equally between Carmine and Dominic.

  The reading was winding down when Haven’s name was finally read. The eyes of everyone in the room darted to her. She fidgeted from the attention, the apprehension clear on her face.

  “I’m leaving you an envelope,” Mr. Borza read. “It seems petty in comparison to what the others have been given, but I don’t think you’ll mind. What’s inside is selfishly as much for me as it is for you, and I wish I would have delivered it in person like I originally planned, but this will have to do. ”

  Mr. Borza held a white envelope out to Haven and she took it carefully. Curiosity burned inside of Carmine but he knew it was none of his business, so he turned his focus back to the lawyer.

  “I have one last request,” Mr. Borza read, “a favor to ask of my son, Carmine. ”

  Carmine rolled his eyes. “Why am I not surprised?”

  Everyone laughed as Mr. Borza continued. “I ask that he go to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church and meet with Father Alberto. I left something there, something I think he’ll someday need. ”

  Mr. Borza set the letter down on the table. “That’s it. ”

  Carmine glanced at Haven, fighting back the emotion flooding him, and tensed when he saw tears streaming from her eyes. She had torn the envelope open and it sat on the table in front of her, her hand clutching a piece of paper she had pulled from it.

  “Tesoro, what’s wrong?” he asked quietly, reaching over and wiping the tears from her cheeks. She looked at him and shook her head before hesitantly holding the paper out to him. He took it carefully, smiling as he read the words scribbled in the middle.

  You were worth it.

  “We should celebrate,” Celia said. “Have a family dinner in honor of Vincent. We can go out somewhere, or I can cook. ”

  “I’ll do it,” Haven chimed in, shoving the paper back in the envelope.

  “You don’t have to, dear. ”

  “I know,” she said. “I haven’t really cooked a meal in so long, since I was on my own. It’ll be nice to do it again. ”

  Celia smiled. “Would you like to borrow my kitchen?”

  “No, I can do it at home. ” Almost instantly her eyes widened and she started stammering. “I mean, you know, at Carmine’s. ”

  A smile tugged the corner of Carmine’s lips. Home.

  “I know what you mean, sweetheart. ” Celia winked. “And I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we’d love to have your cooking again. ”

  “Hell yeah,” Dominic declared. “I’ve missed it. ”

  * * *

  A few hours later, Carmine stood near the doorway of his kitchen, watching as Haven fluttered around, humming to herself. Groceries covered every inch of his counter, more food than had been brought into his house in over a year.

  “So what do you need me to do?” He knew enough to make a sandwich, but starting from scratch was something he had never had to do. “I should do something. ”

  He hoped Haven didn’t have high expectations, because he was probably going to fuck things up . . . as usual.

  “Uh, can you start the chicken?” she asked.

  He eyed the whole chicken wrapped in packaging on the counter. “Start it, like, put it in the oven?”

  “No, I need you to clean it. ”

  His brow furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean, ‘clean it’? I’m not plucking a fucking chicken. ”

  She rolled her eyes. “It doesn’t have feathers, but you have to wash it out. ”

  He didn’t like the sound of that. “Do I just wash it in the sink or what?”

  She nodded and grabbed a cutting board, setting it on the counter beside the sink. “Pull the insides out and run cold water over it. ”

  He grabbed the chicken and set it down on the cutting board, grabbing a knife and slicing open the packaging. Grabbing one of its legs, Carmine turned it around so the opening faced him. He stared at it for a moment with disgust before glancing at Haven. She was busy cracking raw eggs into a bowl of torn bread to make stuffing.

  “I’m supposed to stick my hand up there?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow at her when she nodded. He took a deep breath and thrust his hand inside, cringing at the feel of the cold poultry against his skin. He came upon a package of some sort and grabbed it. “What is this, anyway?”

  “It’s the giblets,” she said, shrugging. “Neck, liver, gizzard, heart. ”

  Carmine’s eyes widened as he yanked his hand out, taking a step back in disgust. “What the fuck? Why is that in there, Haven? Who wants a chicken heart?”

  Haven grabbed the package and tossed it in the trash. “People make gravy and stuff with them or just eat them whole. ”

  “People eat the chicken’s heart?” he asked, repulsed. “Please tell me you’ve never fed
me that shit. ”

  She shook her head, laughing. “No, I haven’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else did and you never knew it, though. ” She grabbed the chicken and set it in the sink. “Can you wash it out, please?”

  “Sure thing. ”

  He turned on the water and attempted to hold the chicken under the faucet, giving up after a moment and instead grabbing the spray hose. He pressed the trigger, water firing out of it like a gun, and hosed the chicken down. “Is that it?”

  Haven wasn’t paying attention to him, wrist deep in a bowl of stuffing, the gooey bread sticking to her fingers.

  “Haven. ”

  “What?”

  He pointed the hose at her when she looked his way, on a whim pressing the trigger at close range. She gasped as a blast of water shot her neck, instinctively flicking her hands as she tried to shield herself. Raw stuffing flew in his direction, a clump of it smacking him in the face.

  “You bi—” He cut himself off abruptly as her eyes widened, choosing to shoot her again instead of finishing.

  Chaos erupted as she dodged toward him, trying to pry the hose from his hands. They wrestled for it, shoving and grabbing, as water from the spray soaked both of them. Haven managed to wiggle past him and got her hand on the faucet, turning the water off as laughter erupted from her chest. “I can’t believe you. I’m soaked!”

  “You started it. ” He wrapped his arms around her from behind. “You ignored me. ”

  “I didn’t hear you. ”

  “Same difference. ”

  Wiggling out of his grasp, she grabbed the bowl of stuffing and pushed it toward him. “Can you handle the rest?”

  He considered her question. “As long as it doesn’t involve any fucking voodoo shit with chicken hearts. ”

  She laughed. “Forget about it. ”

  “No, tell me what to do. Just gimme a job that doesn’t deal with organs. ”

  “Or water,” she mumbled, looking around. “Can you, uh, chop vegetables?”

  “Yeah, I can do that. ” He smirked. He could work a knife, at least.

  Haven pulled out some carrots, celery, potatoes, and onions, and she gave Carmine instructions, but all he heard was that he needed to cut them up.

  They were vegetables—how hard could it be?

  Haven shoved her mixture in the chicken, instructing Carmine to throw the vegetables in the pan with it. He chopped the celery and carrots with no problem but the potatoes were trickier because she didn’t tell him to peel them first.

  Or did she? He hadn’t been listening.

  Carmine got to the onion and eyed it suspiciously. Haven looked at him as he removed the skin, but she stopped him before he could cut into it.

  “Do you want me to do that?” she asked. He shook his head and she reached past him, grabbing some vinegar and rubbing it on the cutting board. “Vinegar messes with the chemical process so it doesn’t burn as much. ”

  He raised his eyebrows curiously. “Jeopardy?”

  “Just a trick I picked up along the way. Open flames help, too. I can get you a candle. ”

 
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