Ruin (Page 38)

Ruin (Songs of Corruption #2)(38)
Author: C.D. Reiss

“See, it’s because you’re making me turn my hips like that,” David protested. He was ten and a funny kid, sixty-five pounds soaked in saltwater.

“It is not,” Jon said.

“David.” I sat at the table. “Your uncle knows.”

He rolled his eyes so hard his brain should have been in his line of sight.

“Here.” Jonathan poked him in the arm. “Watch.”

He pulled another orange off the tree and pitched it into the tree trunk. It landed three feet below David’s, even though its velocity had been much less.

“You just gave up a double pitching like a pussy.” David grumbled.

Jonathan laughed. He had infinite patience with David’s crappy attitude and stunted attention span. “Get out of here, kid,” he said. “Go play Minecraft.”

David rolled his eyes again, bobbing his head as he skipped off. Jonathan threw himself into the chair beside me.

“Uncoachable, that kid. Just raw energy all wrapped in IQ points.”

“I wonder if you’d be so patient with your own kids.”

He shrugged, fondling a short glass of whiskey with nearly melted ice.

“Sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

“Nah, Jessica’s miscarriage was a long time ago.”

“I feel like you guys never recovered from that.”

“We took each other for granted. That’s what we never recovered from. And me, I’m over it entirely. She stopped taking me for granted fifteen minutes after she saw me with someone else. It’s sad.”

“Where is this someone else?” I asked.

“I should be asking you. Where’s the guy you were trying to not ask about at lunch? The one who says… what was it? Come vuoi tu?”

I think I blushed. It was easy to talk about his ex-wife and their failed attempts at children. Talking about my beautiful Capo made my skin prickle.

“Working,” I lied.

“On Thanksgiving? Talk about taking someone for granted.”

“Oh, Jonathan. Do we need to get laid?”

He nearly choked on his whiskey, and I realized I’d never spoken like that around my brother. As innocent as the words were, the sentiment was not from the Theresa he knew.

“Okay, okay!” He held his hand up in surrender. “I’ll lay off the guy.”

“Which guy?” Sheila asked from the other side of the screen door. Before I could answer, she continued, stepping back. “This guy?”

Beautiful even from behind a screen, Antonio stood, smiling and holding a bottle of wine. Sheila slapped the door open. I think I must have been smiling right back at him.

“Napa, again?”

“It’s from Campania.” He handed it to Sheila, who stared at him a second, smiled, and then went back into the house. I was stunned. I hadn’t seen Sheila blown back by a man in a long, long time.

“Antonio, this is my brother, Jonathan.”

They shook and exchanged how-do-you-dos. Daniel had been the last strange man I’d brought to a holiday function, and he’d melted into the scenery as if he belonged there. But I wasn’t worried about Antonio. There were so many men and women, friends and others, who came to Sheila’s dinners, that Antonio’s presence would be noted but not focused on.

“So, Theresa’s told me all about you,” Jonathan said.

“Really?” Antonio said.

“No, actually, not a damn thing.”

“Don’t mind him,” I said to Antonio. “He’s got all my worst qualities.”

Antonio folded his napkin in front of him. “Then you must be a shrewd yet reckless man.”

“You aren’t describing my sister. You can’t be.”

“You’re implying I’m not shrewd?” I said in mock consternation.

“I’m implying that for you,” Jonathan said. “a four-inch heel is reckless.”

The doorbell rang, and the chaos began.

thirty-two.

antonio

I couldn’t count all the adults at the house, much less the children, who were more restrained and more present than the kids in Napoli. I didn’t trip over them. They were both more self-possessed than kids from home and wilder. They were shrewd with adults and seemed unable to negotiate their own squabbles or feed themselves. But I was so busy trying to remember names and faces of the adults that I didn’t have time to give the children any of my reserves of memory.

I remembered Deirdre but pretended I didn’t. I shook hands with Fiona and Margie and made a point of remembering them because they were siblings. Men came and went; there were boyfriends and husbands, and some were half a relationship I didn’t understand.

“Thank you,” Theresa whispered to me between conversations and questions I didn’t want to answer.

“For you? The world.”

“How are you holding up?” She asked as we walked the edge of the property where it fell to the beach. Beneath us, the waves crashed against the rocks.

“Which one is your mother?”

“My mother isn’t here yet.”

“Margie still looks at me like she doesn’t approve.”

“She doesn’t approve of much,” she said.

“I bet her husband is an unhappy man. Which one is he?”

“Doesn’t have one.”

“Too bad,” I said. Our hands swung together as we walked along the property, leisurely heading back toward the house. We were still too far from anyone for eavesdropping, and the water made a good mask for our conversation.

“I’m thinking you need to come to the Bortolusi wedding,” I said.

“How’s that going to work while your father negotiates the value of your cock with the Sicilians?”

“You took on this dirty language with both fists, didn’t you?”

“There’s no other word to use. Does it bother you?” she asked.

“It makes me have to keep myself from taking you by the hair and putting you on your knees.”

“Quick. Change the subject.”

“If you come, it looks like a strategic move. It looks like I can walk any time, or that I want to.”

“Keeping your frenemies on their toes,” she said.

“Exactly.” We’d gotten close to the house.

“Shall I ask for olive oil with the bread?”

Just as we came in from the patio, there was a crash from the kitchen, the volume and length indicating a mishap of some scope. It barely paused the conversations around us.