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La Don-a: The Rise of the Swan - 5

Updated: May 22

Author's Note: Warning this chapter of this Historical YA contains mentions of domestic violence, PTSD, and child abuse.


5 Old Fashions: To the players all falling into place


Connecticut was not a busy port, in fact it was mostly forgotten and ignored in favor of the more accessible New York port or Boston port. For this reason it was often empty except for the few ships that docked with imported goods. Even then those were rare as often the ships would dock in New York or Boston and be delivered by truck to its less popular neighbor. Connecticut was the middle child that was often ignored in favor of the whining/loud youngest and the successful eldest. That made it the perfect place to receive shipments of goods that were not supposed to be received. There was a shipment of rum coming in from the Dominican Republic and a shipment of Scotch coming from Scotland. It was a new batch and brand that had not hit the states yet as it had been released after Prohibition. There was a lot of great praise about it from the European crowd, which will guarantee sales and raise the Moretti family name above all else. That was why Clarence Moretti found himself in the docks in Connecticut, freezing in the February night air.


“How much longer?” The twenty two years old didn’t want to whine because he wanted to prove to his family that he was mature enough to join the family business but it was cold.


“As long as it takes. If you truly want to be a rum runner then you need to be patient. A major part of our job is waiting and not getting caught.” Clarence stared at his father, he wondered how the man could be so calm when it was so cold outside. Clarence had been accompanying his father on pick-ups for a year before it was all made illegal. Then when the location had to be changed, despite being only two years younger than his cousin Joey, he was kept away from everything for fear that his inexperience might ruin everything. But something changed a few months ago and Joey felt that he was ready to take over because his father begrudgingly began bringing him on his runs.


“There has to be a better way to do this…Why don’t we pick up instead of waiting here for it and run the risk of possibly getting caught? It looks a lot less suspicious for a father and son to be on a late night fishing trip than standing on a deserted dock in the middle of balls freezing weather.”


“That is not how this works Clarence, we pay for shipment to be delivered. That is how it has always been done.”


“That’s wasteful and dangerous…”


“Clarence was always a visionary, he was ahead of his time and wanted to make everything better and easier. He was the embodiment of the new and younger generation that believes the older generation did things wrong and that it was his job to change it and make it better. He had the Moretti arrogance but he was a brilliant visionary at least in this business. I tried to recruit him when I first started…” Geraldine revealed with a disappointed look in her face as she remember the results.


“What happened? Was he too loyal to the Morettis?”


“Not really, like all visionaries he was only loyal to the vision. He didn’t care much about the Moretti family, in fact he and Joey didn’t really get along, mainly because Joey saw him as a threat. Clarence definitely had the brains in the family, with him the family could have gone from a small-time mob controlling New York to the big leagues controlling the whole country. Joey hated that and it was the reason he wanted to make him a rum runner. Not only did it keep him away from everything but rum running was also dangerous so there was always the possibility that he would be killed or caught.”


“That’s so cruel! To his own family…”


“For Joseph Moretti there was no family, there were only idiots that could get him what he wanted and where he wanted to be. In this business there is no family…”


“But what about Elsie and your sisters…?!”


“I’m different from Joseph, I know my limitations and also the strength that those around me possess and I’m not afraid to use it to my advantage. Besides, the Salazars are much different than the Morettis.” It was much later when Helen noticed that Geraldine didn't answered her question about what happened when she tried to recruit Clarence.


Finally they could see the silhouette of a ship in the horizon “which is this one?” Clarence wondered out loud; part of him didn't really care, he just wanted to get out of the cold. He knew that the important one for his cousin was the one coming from Scotland, the rum was played out at their Drum [Speakeasy] and the people were growing bored so he wanted something different to keep them interested.


“It’s very important that you do not fuck this up or I will have to cut off your balls and feed them to you,” Clarence would have to admit that his cousin was getting more and more creative with his threats. They had no effect on him but his father stood up straighter at those words, for Clarence, after he saw his cousin shit his pants when they were little any fear or respect he could ever have for the older man disappeared.


“Doesn’t matter which one, come on we have to go out to meet it.”


Even though Connecticut was a relatively safe port there was still the risk of being caught so they always took a small boat and met the ship mid-way. This lowered the risk for both parties as well as gave them extra time to check the merchandise before accepting the delivery. That was probably the best part of rum running in Clarence's opinion, the tasting of the products. As they grew closer, Clarence rejoiced as he realized that the Scottish ship had arrived first with the shipment of new Scotch. He didn't care if his cousin was in charge, as long as he got to enjoy the finer things in life, he would gladly step back and let him sink the ship on his own.


 

While his cousin and uncle were taking care of the shipment in Connecticut, Joseph was in Washington D.C attending a dinner honoring some politician that was retiring. He had no interest in the politician or his retirement, much like most present. They all knew the real purpose of the dinner was to make connections and deals that would benefit both parties. As someone big in New York, Joseph was desperately looking to expand outside of the city. New York was one of the most important cities in the country and if he had control of it then that alone would gain him the respect and fear of others but he wanted more. “Clarence is much better suited for the role of boss, the boy has the brains while you just have a bad temper that will earn you more enemies than partnerships…” His father’s harsh words played over and over in his head and it filled him with hate towards his cousin for getting the approval he had always wanted. It also urged him to prove the man wrong, to show him that he was the right Moretti for the job.


“Wait…Joseph wasn’t the original Moretti leader?”


“No, his father felt that Clarence was better suited for the role and was going to pass it down to him. Unfortunately for him, he told Joseph before sharing the news with the family or anyone else, so of course he died a few days later.”


“Do you think Joseph…?”


“It’s not hard to put two and two together and get four. You never warn someone that you’re about to double cross them specially someone like Joseph who had no love or loyalty for anyone. Joseph’s father was sloppy and careless, he had it coming.” Geraldine declared with no empathy for the man whose reckless actions paved the way for Joseph to gain the power he used to torment people including her.


“So you think he deserved to die?”


“I don’t really care, his existence is irrelevant to me and my goals.” That was a lie, Geraldine had conflicting feels, if asked earlier in her life she would say that she would have wished he lived so that Joseph wouldn't have the power to ruin her life. But the older her rejoiced at the man's death as she developed a hate for anyone that had a hand in make Joseph Moretti even his mother.


Joseph sneered at all the smaller politicians acting like bitches begging to lick their master’s ass. It was nauseating to see men with no pride or backbone. “They make quite the spectacle, do they not?” The voice was far too soft to belong to a man and for a moment Joseph was surprised, it’s not that there weren't women present but most were firmly in the arms of their husbands who would not allow them to address another man without them present, let alone a young man. He missed Geraldine and wished he had decided to bring the girl along, having her hanging from his arm would make everything much more enjoyable. Unfortunately she was still too young, most would frown at the sight of a fourteen years old girl with a twenty three, almost twenty four, years old man despite them doing much worse behind closed doors. All these old men the turned their nose up on him and what he does were far more deviant than they want others to believe, they just hid it behind a mask of false virtue and superiority.


The young man took a deep breath and turned around to see a blonde woman, not much older than him, with perfectly styled hair -almost obsessively so- and a black dress that made him raise an eyebrow as it covered most of her even her neck. At first glance the woman seemed like the prudes that spend their days locked at home and only went out for church. The ones that looked scandalized at the mention of music and alcohol, that sleep in separate beds from their husbands because they panic at the mere thought of their skins touching.


In all, just the type of woman and person that Joseph liked to avoid because their general purpose in life was to make everyone as miserable as them. He was about to dismiss her when he saw a glint in her brown eyes that contradicted the image she presented. “I have not had the pleasure of meeting you…who might you be?” He noticed that the woman talked as if she was offended that she did not know who he was, as if she was supposed to know who he was. For a moment he thought that the woman was the hostess of the dinner but he had not seen her at the door greeting. People like the blonde were very strict about etiquette so she wouldn’t have missed that. It was clear that she was one of those rich ladies that felt entitled to everyone's time, attention and respect but Joseph wasn’t one to bow to anyone.


“Is it not customary to introduce yourself first; you know, offer something to get something?” The woman raised her eyebrow, Joseph saw the flash of displeasure at his lack of reverence or instant respect.


“Forgive me, I assumed everyone knew who I was. In these circles everyone usually does,”


“Bold of you to assume I run in these circles.” Joseph smirked as he could see the slight twitch from the woman that was clearly not happy with him. She wanted to humiliate him for not being in the know but he was not ashamed of his background so her trick wouldn't work on him.


“Yes, I see that. You would think after all these years I would recognize diamonds from coals.” That was definitely meant to insult him, if the words and casual tone wasn’t clear enough the smug satisfaction was. Joseph had to remind himself not to snap, he was trying to prove that he was much more than his temper.

“I’m sure this mistake fills you with great shame. I mean someone of your…” he looked the woman up and down, making his distaste clear because two can play at that game “...caliber picking up coal thinking it was a diamond…” For good measure he tsked in his most patronizing tone which worked in irritating the older woman.


“Watch it, I am Gertrude Jones nee Anderson and the sun does not rise or set in this town without my approval so I would suggest you do not make an enemy out of me.”


“Make an enemy? I would never, you have me all wrong…” Joseph smoothed out his face in a false innocence “...I was merely having a conversation that you started. I’m not here to make enemies because enemies imply a mortality and power that I don’t allow someone against me and wishing me harm to have.” The threat was clear for both of them, Gertrude stepped back slightly at the glint in the man’s eyes. There was something dark and dangerous about him, it wasn't like the darkness or danger she was used to. She was sure in that moment that she was standing before the devil himself.


“Now, if you will excuse me. I should mingle.” As he walked away, she let out a breath she did not know she was holding. She realized that the man had not given her his name which made teaching him a lesson that much more difficult. She knew that her work will be harder with men like that standing in her way.


“Lord, give me strength to carry on with your work.”


“Amen,” Gertrude turned around quickly ready to snap at whomever dared interrupt her prayer that should only be between God and herself. She was a little speechless by the sight before her; Gertrude was a faithful and devoted woman, she was a firm believer that a woman was only meant for one man and once he was no more than her only partner should be God. She never looked or even thought about another man since she said ‘I do’ and continued to be faithful even after her husband was no more. The man before her was making her question all of that, he was the snake in the garden of Eden and she was Eve falling prey to its charms. The man was tall with salt and pepper hair that was perfectly coiffed like a delicious cookies and cream mousse. His bright almost burning golden brown eyes seemed like flames. “Forgive me, I didn't mean to interrupt your conversation with the Lord. I myself know how private those are…” The older man, of maybe about fifty, had a deep southern accent that gave him a charm and made him sound so well-mannered.


“You know this yet you interrupt, Mr….?”


“Even more rude of me, I forgot to mention my name…Thomas Alexander Roberts, at your service.” The older man even bowed like a true southern gentleman and it made Gertrude feel a way she had not even felt when she first met her husband. It was the thrill of being treated like a lady or even better a queen. The name sounded familiar but she couldn’t quite place it no matter how hard she tried, it could have something to do with the fact that she was also distracted by the man’s charm.


“Gertrude Anderson, charmed.” She didn’t know why she used her maiden name but she pushed the thought way as the man smiled and brought her hand towards his lips, placing a soft lingering kiss that had her swooning slightly.


“The pleasure is all mine.”


“I’ve always been a firm believer that there are people that are just meant to meet but there are also those that should never meet. Gertrude and Thomas were the latter…”


“Why? Despite her hypocrisy she does great work, they both do.”


“The two were a toxic combination that predicted pain and suffering for all those around them although it was a brilliant move on their part. Thomas wanted to climb up the ladder and Gertrude just happened to own a ladder to the top. That does not make their union any less dangerous.”


“But Vice President Roberts has done a lot of good…” Helen was almost indignant that the older woman besmirch a great man who was practically American royalty.


“For every good he’s pretended to do there have been ten bad he has truly done and much more yet to come,”


“Why not stop him then?”


“Because I didn’t have the power until it was too late…See Thomas Roberts much like me, started out from the bottom. His family were owners of a plantation down in the south, so they had money but it was minor leagues compared to others in Washington. Unlike the rest of his family Thomas was ambitious but even more than that he was blessed with something else…Thomas was like me…”


“You mean…?!”


“Yes, he’s an elemental and a strong one.”


“Impossible!” The exclamation was loud enough that Geraldine's guards stepped in to see if she needed them to handle the young girl but the woman just waved them away. She rolled her eyes at the girl's reaction, it was always the case that those that wanted the truth couldn't really handle it when they got it.


“Are you going to keep questioning everything I say because in that case this is a waste of time. I have a million shit to take care of…”


“No, I just…He’s the Vice President…wouldn’t someone need to know this?!”


“Need to? Perhaps, that doesn’t mean he would tell them. That was one secret he kept firmly and possessively close to his chest…”

 

Thomas Roberts knew from a very young age how the world worked and the advantages he had because he was not only born a man but also white. He reveled in his superiority specially with the ‘servants’ that they had on his family's plantation. Humans were a lot more like animals than anyone wants to admit. Much like animals, there was a hierarchy among humans but instead of the strongest on top, it was the wealthy that thrived and stood above the rest. His family was considered old money but they came as immigrants that were given some land. Land that they grew and turned into a thriving cotton field that brought them that money and status. His father was ruthless and he taught Thomas to be the same in order to get what he wanted. It was a lesson that was forcefully and painfully embedded into him until it became second nature. Thanks to those lessons he was naturally drawn to those at the top of the hierarchy, those that he could use to climb further up.


“Father, we did not expect you back tonight,” A very average looking man, it was seem like his mid-thirties spoke as he opened the door to a more than modest Colonial home, his tone filled with surprise and slight trepidation.


“Ernest, you know I would never miss family dinner.”


Ernest Roberts was an average man in every sense of the word from his height, looks, personality and even job. He was the type of person who blended into a crowd of people or was often the shadow in the background whether he wanted to or not. As the middle child of three it was kind of a given that he would be ignored and forgotten most of the time. Ernest found a certain comfort in being ignored, their father was a strict man that oftentimes pushed them to the brink. Fortunately his older brother was the apple of his father’s eyes, he was everything a man like Thomas Roberts would want in a son. His little sister was the gem of his heart, both fulfilled their duties and purpose so perfectly that Ernest was practically obsolete or at least he had been.


“Of course, forgive me father.” Ernest lowered his head before leading his father into the dinning room where the food was being laid out.


Ernest held his breath as his father observed every nook and cranny of the home, his father was very outspoken and opinionated about anything that had to do with his children. Even at thirty-five, Ernest was desperate for his father’s approval, mainly because it would make his life much easier. It was part of the reason why when they moved from New York to Virginia, he decided to use all of his savings and the inheritance that his grandfather left him to build the Colonial house to their preference, which really meant that his father and his wife picked everything while Ernest just signed the checks. His wife had insisted on covering the traditional brick with cream colored stucco and placed black shutters on the windows to give the house a more European feel. His wife comes from an Italian American background so he understood it but he wasn’t sure that his father would.


“I see you decided to cover the bricks, how very unamerican…”


There it was, just as Ernest expected it, as soon as his father saw his wife he made his opinion known. “Forgive me, father-in-law. I just felt that being above everyone we should set an example and not copy the masses.” But his wife, unlike him, wasn't one to be folded by his father’s passive aggressive comments and judgment. It was the only reason that the man approved their union although since Ernest was sixteen when she fell pregnant there wasn’t much of a choice. It was either marry or besmirch the family name, which he knew his father would rather disown him or kill him before letting that happen.


“Hmm,” Thomas Roberts also wasn’t one to give any compliments, his biggest compliments were sounds of approval that were brief and far in-between. “Where’s Leonard?”


“He is resting,”


“Resting at this hour? It's disrespectful! I came down to be present at family dinner but he could not come down the stairs,”


“Father, he did not sleep well last night…you know the war still haunts him…”


“The war haunts all of us but you do not see us letting it cripple us like weak women! He should be grateful that he returned, many great men did not…” The ‘unlike him’ was left unsaid, Ernest knew that his father was thinking about his older brother who was one of the many casualties of the war. Ernest was very proud of his son for at merely eighteen he joined the war and was even prouder of him for surviving and returning home but Thomas did not feel the same. Sometimes Ernest was sure that his father wished Leonard had died instead of his older brother.


“There is no need to fret grandfather, I’m right here,” They all turned to see Leonard Roberts limp into the dining room. The barely twenty-two years old was clearly not okay, there were bags under his eyes and scars on the left side of half of his face.


“He got caught in the blast of a bomb…the burns will scar…more lasting damages…” Ernest remembers the words from the doctors when they went to see him at the hospital after he was brought back to the states. Leonard, unlike his father, had been such a handsome young man that his good looks had parents of all class and status vying for his attention. They all wanted him for their daughters, not only for his good looks and family name but the young man had a charm that could make a nun betray her vows. He had his mother’s wild black hair and slightly tan skin but Ernest’s icy blue eyes. There was the sign of a beard growing which gave him a rugged look but Thomas stared at in distaste. The young man limped over to the table ignoring his grandfather’s stare although Ernest saw him flinch briefly. Leonard had always been a kind boy that was in tuned to other people’s emotion which meant he cared a little too much what they thought of him although Ernest could not judge him as he was sure that the young man got that from him.


Leonard was aware of what his family thought and said about him when he wasn’t present. Some even said it when he was, which hurt even more than being whispered about behind his back. He loved his country and he doesn’t regret protecting it and doing his part to make sure it stayed safe and free but sometimes he wished he had not returned at all. The scars that start half way on his cheek and traveled down most of the left side of his body were one of the main reasons he did not want to come back. He noticed how his mother had refused to look at him and even now when she did, the woman would flinch as if he was some monster and not her son.


“...Shall we begin.” He was getting tired of the way a room would become completely silent and uncomfortable once he entered it. He sat down avoiding everyone’s eyes, instead he stared at the many dishes before them and felt nauseous. It was all too much, even years after returning he was still not used to eating anything but beans and the rations that they were given to get them through the day, but he didn’t say anything because he had already given his family enough headaches.


“Tell me Ernest, how is the new job going?”


“Great father, the Bureau is better than the Clubhouse [Police station].”


“Of course it’s better! You are working for the government instead of some poorly run local forces.” Thomas' distaste was clear, everyone knew about the man’s dissatisfaction with the police. He felt that they were ill trained and prepared to keep the order, it was one thing that once he became a senator he would work on changing.


“The FBI is better but now they have us consulting with the IRS on enforcing prohibition…”


“That’s interesting, I would think that is above the FBI’s paygrade?”


“It is, the big cheese [boss] ain’t too happy about it.”


“No one wants the job of telling people to let go of their juice.” Leonard added softly, his voice had a far off tone to it as if he was miles away instead of the current conversation. For once Thomas did not sneer or glare at his grandson, instead he merely nodded which was the closest thing Leonard knew he would get from the older man, in approval.


“Good point son, whoever figures this out will be the country's savior or public enemy number one depending on what they propose…” Ernest added with a new vigor to his voice, he was always excited when his son participated and joined the conversation. He always tried to encourage him when the younger man became brave enough to try. Thomas was lost in thought as he began formulating a strategy that he could use to secure his seat in the senate.


“Thomas only cared about his political career, to him his family members were just pawns in his game. He was the father of a war hero and a starlet that became America's sweetheart, his other son was an FBI agent protecting Americans from threats within, while his grandson was another patriot and proud veteran. They were the picture perfect family, a family that seemingly devoted their lives to serving the country.”


“That’s admirable…?” Helen sounded tentative as she began to realize that with Geraldine things are not as they seem and in this case she was right.


“It would seem that way and that was what exactly Thomas wanted everyone to believe.”



 

At twenty-three years old Stella was long past the marrying age, most of her friends were married off and had at least one child already while she was still single. She hated the looks of pity or the jeers sent her way. Stella wanted to beg her father once more to find her a husband but the man had been so angry before that she hesitated to infuriate him again. Dorothy was already married and the young girl seemed happy with her situation. She was the only one of her sisters that constantly came for a visit. She bragged about how her husband was much older and since he already had children, he didn’t really expect any from her. “He mainly wanted some help around the drum…” Dorothy would come and gossip about what she would see or hear around, she even came to brag about her first time which Stella found completely vulgar and improper. “It hurts a lot at first but once you get used to it then it’s not so bad. My husband was very patient and gentle with me but not all men are…” Dorothy had warned them and Stella was humiliated, as the older sister it was her who should be warning Dorothy. She should be the wiser and more experienced one. She stormed off not willing to hear any more from her sisters although she did hear Dorothy wonder about her behavior “what’s gotten into her?”


“Nothing, that’s the problem.” She wanted to go back and slap Geraldine, she could hear that the younger girl was clearly mocking her.


After Dorothy’s visits Stella was always in a bad mood and even Geraldine stood clear. She distracted herself by making a list of what she hoped her future husband would look and be like. Stella hoped with all her heart that much like Ana he would be far away so that she would never have to look back at this horrible place. Away from her mother’s pathetic whining or Geraldine’s attitude, she did not understand why both insisted on angering her father. Her mother was useless but Geraldine was rebellious, she was everything a proper lady should not be. The ungrateful young girl only thought of herself but as a woman she owes herself to her husband or the man in her life. Stella knew from a young age that as long as the leader of the family was happy and satisfied then the house was calm and the family was at peace. All she wanted was a chance to prove that she was not as useless as her mother or as defective as her sister. She thought that she would never get her chance but then her father came in one day and gave her the good news.


“You're getting married”


“Truly…?” Stella asked earnestly like a child being promised a treat after dinner, to Geraldine she looked like a puppy begging their master for scraps. She did not understand her older sister’s obsession with being married, with being tied to a man that would control and dominate her.


“You must prepare yourself, this union is more important than any other. Your husband’s family is very important and well-off, you cannot mess this up.” Stella’s eyes shined and her face broke into a wide smile. In her mind, this was the reason her father insisted on making her wait, to prove that she was his most beloved, he had arranged the best union for her.


“Truly? Who are they?”


“His grandfather is a future senator and his father works for the FBI. They have a home hear but they spend most of their time in Washington,” Miguel’s chest puffed out as if he was expressing his own accomplishments or as if he had any connection to the family and what they achieved. Everyone gasped at the words, they all stood on different sides of the reaction spectrum. Ruth was worried, she knew that normally a family like that would not marry below their class and the fact that this family is willing to do so, worried her. They were also known for treating those beneath them horribly. She had worked cleaning a few houses for families like that and it was hell, she did not want Stella to go through that for the rest of her life.


Elsie was happy for Stella but at the same time she was sad to lose another sister. As much as she loved her sisters and her mother, the truth was that they were shields between her and her father. Geraldine was intrigued and a little annoyed that she was being whore out to a gangster twice her age while her sister was married off to a wealthy and prestigious family. She had never been jealous of Stella in her life but in that moment it was hard not to be. Neither her nor her older sisters had ever gotten any consideration from their father, they were all sold to the most convenient bidder yet Stella was being handed over like a soft beloved flower on a crystal vase. Even more nauseating, the young woman got on her knees before their father and thanked him like he was some God.


“To Stella, for the most part, men have always been above women. It was just the way things were and always will be. Miguel as her father was just slightly above the rest. Nothing he did was ever wrong, he was always justified in any of his actions no matter how wrong or horrifying. She was brainwashed, and for a time I pitied her but at a certain point she tipped the scale from being another poor brainwashed woman that fell for the propaganda of men being the strongest and dominant sex, to being a real bitch willing to destroy and betray any women for some male validation.”


“I mean, she is not the first woman to be swept away and she won’t be the last. We are all still taught and told about men’s grandeur and strength, about how much we desperately need them and can’t survive without them. So I really don’t blame her for falling prey to that way of thinking because it is the only thing we know…”


“Yet some of us still manage to somehow break through, to realize that we’re more than just the wives, mothers or lovers of men.”


“But not all women share your bravery and strength…” Helen silently thought that not everyone could be the fearsome Mama Swan.


“And that is the biggest lie that we all believe, every woman is strong, we all have the potential to achieve what I have…we just don’t all believe it and some of them don't want to believe it.”

 

The days leading up to Stella’s wedding were wild and busy for everyone, since she was marrying above her status the young woman demanded that everyone put their lives on hold and treated her like a queen. Since her father still took her earnings she insisted that her mother ‘donated’ her own. “It is the least you could do…” That almost got her a slap from Geraldine who was held back by her little sister. Stella spent most of the money on new and better clothes that fit her new class, she changed her hair finally being able to afford to cut her long locks into the short and edgy hairstyles that had become quite popular specially within young women. Geraldine had seen almost every woman in the drum with the same style down to the curls at the end, the only thing Stella was missing was the feather headband that often adorned their head. Ruth had been sad when she saw her daughter cut her beautiful long hair, Stella had by far the longest hair out of all of them, reaching her backside although she always kept it neatly picked up and tightened back.


“Oh Stella, why would you do such a thing? You had such beautiful hair,”


“Like you would know about beauty,” Once more the venom in her daughter’s tone made Ruth flinched away. In the last days Stella had gotten much worse in her treatment of everyone around her except her father. It worried her how much like Miguel the young girl seemed, she shared his short temper and his arrogance.


“Watch it! I’m counting all your prissy comments and their adding up,”


“What? And I am supposed to be scared?” Geraldine didn’t like the way Stella looked down on them and mocked her as if she was already in a higher class.


“Not yet but soon…”


“Girls, that’s enough! This is no time for fighting.” Despite Ruth intervening, Geraldine and Stella stared each other down but neither willing to back down. Ruth feared what the hate she saw in those eyes would lead to, the sisters stared at each other as if they were the worst of enemies. “Instead let’s focus on what we shall all wear for the big event,” She tried to lighten the mood but suddenly Stella stared at her as if she spoke a foreign language.


“We? None of you are invited.”


“What?” Ruth could feel the smile melt from her face as she was hit with the news from her daughter, who did not seem to realize or care that she was breaking her mother’s heart.


“This wedding will be a grand affair, there will be very important people there and I can’t afford to have any of you there to embarrass me. Besides this will be in Virginia and you clear don't have the money for the trip.”


“But it would look worse if you have no family there at all,”


“That is why Elsie and Anna are the only ones going.” Elsie’s expression was a mixture of shock, elated and a deer stuck in a headlight. She did not expect to be invited because while she did not have the same animosity with Stella as Geraldine, they weren’t really that close plus her father never really lets her out of the house. Geraldine on the other hand was not as surprised, Stella invited the best behaved and the most beautiful to her wedding. After Elsie, Anna was definitely the most beautiful of them more so due to a grace and elegance she held in her quiet and kind demeanor. It also did not skip her notice that Anna was the only one of their sisters to also marry up and therefore be deemed worthy of being presented among Stella’s new social group.


“But I’m your mother…I’ve been to all of my girls’ big days. I wouldn’t miss them for the world,”


“Well, you’re going to miss mine,” Stella stayed firm as Ruth’s eyes watered and her voice became soft and heartbroken. Geraldine and Elsie could not understand how the girl could be so cruel to their own mother.


“Stella, please…you won’t even notice I’m there, I’ll hide in the back…” It was a sad sight to watch a mother beg their child and Geraldine had never hated Stella more than she did in that moment. The woman was willing to hide and even pretend to be a server just to see her daughter and accompany her on her big day so the girl wouldn’t feel alone or abandoned despite the girl wanting nothing to do with her.


“Won’t I? And what are you going to say about your face? These people aren’t stupid like everyone around here, they won’t believe the story that you tripped. Do you really want to cause me the embarrassment of having them all know that you failed as a wife?” The words shocked them all to silence, there was so much venom in Stella’s voice that they could all feel it. Ruth could no longer hold back and the tears ran down her bruised cheeks. The bruises had become a constant look on her face. She felt ashamed for being selfish and not thinking about how that would affect her daughter’s image.

Suddenly the silence in the room was broken by the sound of a loud hard slap, the sound of flesh hitting flesh echoed of the walls. An angry Geraldine stood before her shocked older sister, her warm brown eyes were as hard and cold as ice. Her hand was still extended as proof of what she had just done while Stella still had her face forcefully turned away, her cheek was beginning to turn red from the hard hit. “There, now they can know that you failed as a daughter.” The words were like those eyes, cold and hard. They held a brutality to them that made them all flinch away. It felt like hours before anyone reacted and it was Ruth who pulled Geraldine away before Stella got over her shock and decided to retaliate.


“Geraldine! Apologize to your sister, right now!”


“No. I have nothing to apologize for and she knows it.” Once more the two girls just stared each other down with a fierce glare that scared Ruth. Geraldine’s hands were wet and cold, she could feel them but what she missed was how red and hot Stella’s hands were in response.


“If I had known that would set the precedent for what my relationship with my sister would be like for the rest of our lives…I probably wouldn’t have changed a thing. At that moment, on that day, we didn't really know it but we both picked a side and I for one, don’t regret which side I picked.”






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