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La Don-a: The Rise of the Swan - 10

Updated: Apr 21

Author's Note: Warning this chapter of this Dark Historical YA contains mentions of domestic violence, mentioned/implied rape, and child abuse.


This story is told by adult Geraldine who is being interviewed by a young woman. For this reason there are some changes between the present (with adult Geraldine) and the past (with child Geraldine).


Bold: Helen (in the present)

Italics: Adult Geraldine and present narration

Regular: Past narration

Blue: Flashbacks


Enjoy!


 

10 Southside Fizz: To moving on and switching sides


Day two of the trial was no better than day one, the first day had been a competition to prove which lawyer was a better ringleader. Day two was about what was more exciting the deed or the actions that led to them. Finally their mother’s lawyer talked about how violent Miguel was to all of them but it was waved away as normal by everyone around them. Geraldine saw some women in the stands look sympathetic but none were appalled or disgusted by Miguel’s behavior. The tension was high as it was also the day when the jury will deliberate and make a verdict. Anna was present for this one but Margarita and Geraldine did not miss the excess of make-up that the woman wore. Ruth also noticed her daughter wincing and the cast on her arm that was covered by a blazer hanging on her shoulders. None acknowledged it with words but Anna felt their questioning looks filled with sympathy and anger.


“We will talk about your new accessory after this.” Margarita whispered in her sister’s ear, earning a flinch from the younger woman that had the eldest feeling guilty. She wasn’t angry at Anna but at her husband who was no doubt to blame for it.


Geraldine watched as the lawyers went back and forth, with Miguel being painted as a hard working family man who’s only sin was having a slight temper when drunk. She could see the sympathy in the all male jury’s eyes and the indifference when her mother’s lawyer spoke of her abuse. What Miguel did to Elsie was left out as per Ruth’s request, they all knew that the little girl would be forced to face the court and answer invasive questions or worse go into details about what her father did. Geraldine knew that their mother would rather be put to death than have Elsie be put through that once more, especially so publicly. 


It all made Geraldine think of the conversation she had with Joey and the ultimatum that the man gave her.


The swan vs, the devil

Flashback


She had entered the Moretti family’s restaurant with no trouble, most men just nodded while the others jeered as if she were a whore walking towards her next client. In a sense, Geraldine knew that was exactly what she was. The only difference was that the payment for her services was something she could not afford to lose. She had never really stepped foot in the place, the menu was full of Italian dishes, but she knew it was far out of her price range. 


Most of the walls were a cream color, except for one that had a fake mural of what she assumed was Italy covering it. Roman style columns were painted on, only seen as fake if one got too close. As an added touch the floors were made of cobblestones like the streets in Italy. There were a few olive trees in large planters and herbs in smaller planters hanging from the walls. The place looked like a hole in the wall restaurant in Italy with a touch of elegance, seen in the almost silky tablecloth and napkins. The silverware and plates shined so bright that Geraldine almost wanted to steal them and pawn them to a jewelry store. She felt out of place and it was not only her lack of formal clothing but her entire existence. 


“My swan!” Joseph Moretti on the other hand seemed to fit in perfectly, his suit looked expensive and well fitted. “What a great surprise!” As much as she wanted to say something sassy and snarky she knew that she had to be polite if she wanted to get her mother’s freedom.


“I’m sorry to come unannounced” the words and the docile tone pained her and the man could clearly see that which made him smirk.  “I felt our conversation was better continued face to face.”


“You are always welcome here. Have a seat,” the man steered her toward one of the tables despite her protest about not being dressed properly to stay in the front. “Bring us a bottle of wine,” the server stared at her either trying to gauge her age or if she was a snitch but one glare from Joey had him running off.


“Sorry, sometimes people forget themselves.” In that tone, she knew things would not end well for the server. “Now tell me what is it you wanted to talk about? I will be honest, you left me the impression that you were not interested in my proposal.”


“I thought we could renegotiate,” Geraldine declared, happy to get to the point.


“Renegotiate?” The older man raised an eyebrow, his mouth twitched as if something was trying to break free. “What did you have in mind?” They were silent as the server came and poured them a drink before practically running away.


“One night, my first night, for your help.” The man licked his lips and Geraldine felt as if he was undressing her with his eyes. She was sure that she won but then something happened and the man’s face hardened.


“No,” he declared firmly.


“What, but I thought you wanted…?”


“I want all of you, I want all your nights, to be your first and only,” Geraldine’s eyes widened, she was sure that Joseph’s infatuation with her would pass after he had her but his tone and words made her think that it went deeper than that. “I want you to become my woman and I will take care of your mother and all your family. That is the deal, take it or leave it.”


Geraldine clenched her fist, she wanted to slam them into his smug face. To use her tragedy as a bargaining chip made him more despicable than she thought him to be. She had hoped that at least with the people he pretended to care for, he would be kinder. She might be young but she was not a fool, she knew what being Joseph Moretti’s woman would entitle, not only of her but of her family. Joey’s women had a habit of disappearing or killing themselves when the man grew tired of them. Geraldine knew it was a gamble; she was basically trading the noose on her mother’s neck and placing it on her own.


“As tempting as that offer is, I think we’ll take our chances.” She knew that she might regret it but she could not see herself being a prisoner to the cruel man’s whims.


“Offer still stands,” Joseph shrugged his shoulders as if her rejection was no big deal and didn’t affect him one way or the other.


“I’ll save it for a rainy day.” Geraldine nodded her head and thanked the man for the wine she did not touch before leaving the restaurant.


“How’s the forecast?” He casually asked one of his men who materialized as if from the walls, as he took a zip of the wine.


“Sunny days the whole week,” he savored the drink and hummed at the smooth and slightly tangy taste.


“Let’s make sure it rains for my dear swan. After all, they do love the water.”


End Flashback 


 

As she got lost in thought Geraldine missed the moment when the judge sent the jury off to deliberate and make their decision. The sisters all stayed in their seats knowing that the press was out there and they were dying to get one of them alone. The case had gotten so much attention that everyone wanted the inside scoop. As if it was all just some gossip and not their lives and suffering, they shared conversations with their mother’s through their eyes. At one point the woman tearfully reached for them but before their hands could touch a guard stepped forward. His face was hard as stone as he warned them against it. Not even Elsie’s tear filled eyes pleading could sway him so they settled for looks and expressions.


After what felt like hours the jury returned, “that was too fast,” it was Anna’s only comment and it made Geraldine think that something was wrong. The woman’s husband knew plenty of lawyers and judges so she was sure that Anna had learned a thing or two. Her tone was filled with trepidation and something Geraldine did not want to acknowledge, dread.


“Have you deliberated?” The judge asked.


“Yes, your honor.” The spokesman for the jury stood up, holding a piece of paper but not really reading from it. Ruth was asked to stand up as the jury delivered their verdict, all the sisters held hands and squeezed them tightly.


“What’s your verdict?”


OG swan mama

“We find the defendant, Ruth Salazar,” they all held their breaths and prayed. Geraldine could feel her skin literally turn as cold as ice. Fortunately Elsie was the one holding her hand and the little girl ignored the cold and even turned their hands to hide the blue that colored the tip of her older sister’s fingers. It felt like forever before the jury continued, “guilty of murder.” The world crumbled around them and their mother’s sobs were the hammers that shattered what was left.



“Very well, in that case I sentence you to death,” the judge declared calmly as if he was not talking about a human being. “To be carried out immediately.”


“NOOOO!” all the Salazar sisters screamed in unison, no amount of wall or strength was enough to stop the tear from falling. A somber air filled the room, suddenly it was as if everyone remembered that this was not a show and there was an actual human’s life at stake. Not just any human, a mother who clearly was just trying to protect herself and her daughters. Those that once smiled, laughed or made comments turned away as the guards held the sisters back from reaching their mother.


“Please, you can’t…!” Margarita exclaimed


“Have mercy!” Anna pleaded.


Elsie broke through the guards and reached her mother, falling into the woman’s arms as she sobbed and begged the woman for forgiveness. The woman that was once seen as a cold blooded murderer was seen comforting her child. They saw the mother instead of the woman and wife and that made the verdict and sight that much more heartbreaking. Geraldine was the only one not to stand or say anything. Everyone looked at the girl with pity knowing that she was in shock. The judge was moved by the sisters’ pleas and the sight of Elsie crying and begging in her mother’s arms.


“I will give you a month to set your affairs in order,” the judge declared to Ruth who thanked him profusely, he also waved the guards back and let the sisters all rush and embraced their mother. It was Margarita that pulled Geraldine up and pushed her into their mother’s waiting arms.


“It will be okay,” Ruth tried to reassured, she also felt how cold Geraldine’s hands, fingers and arms were. “Just breathe, it will be okay.”


“I know it will, I’m not going to let you die for doing the world a favor.”  The teenager finally spoke, her tone cold yet resolute.


“Geraldine, what will you do?” Ruth did not like the look in those eyes or tone in her daughter’s voice, she could see the same worry in Margarita’s eyes meaning that they were not aware of Geraldine’s plans.


“Sell myself to the devil.” Ruth gasped but before she could ask for clarification the guards were pulling her back and dragging her away. The last thing she saw was Geraldine’s once soft mischief filled eyes turned as blank and hard as the ice she creates. In that moment, Ruth realized she might not have lost one daughter but two.


 

Stella was not foolish or naive enough to believe that Geraldine would talk to her, let alone give her information, especially as she refused to go to their mother’s trial. She knew that if she wanted to get information then she would have to find the weak spot. Stella was growing anxious because every family dinner Thomas looked more and more disappointed with her lack of information. Her mother in law smirked at her seeming failure but her father in law’s sympathy was worse. Stella hated being pitied by anyone, it infuriated her more than anything because she never needed anyone’s charity. 


To her charity was given to the weak, the worms that dragged themselves on the ground without any shame or pride. Stella was not like her mother and her sisters, she was a fighter, she was strong and she could make her own way without other’s pity. Then Stella remembered that Dorothy had been married off to some tavern owner that she heard had opened a Drum. She remembered being disgusted and cut off ties with the younger woman as Dorothy was clearly heading down the wrong path.  But Dorothy was always empty headed and the younger woman would still call Stella and try to keep communication. When Stella got married, the young woman gave her older sister her number so they could keep in touch.


“Hello Dorothy,” that was why once her mother in law had left, Stella decided to call her sister. Her husband was in their room and he never went out unless it was for family dinners so she knew that he wouldn’t be a problem. She made sure to fill her tone with joy that she did not feel but that she knew Dorothy was too foolish to notice.


“Stella? Where have you been?! We were waiting for you at the trial! Geraldine and Margarita are not happy,” the younger woman declared.


Stella bit her lip to contain her anger, it infuriated her to hear so much reverence in Dorothy’s tone as if Margarita or Geraldine were the matriarchs in the family. She was older than Geraldine and as such, she was above the arrogant brat that never knew respect or understood her place. “I don’t care what Geraldine feels!” She took a deep breath to center herself, she knew that Dorothy did not like tension, she was a dumb dora that just liked having fun. Anything too serious was too hard for the girl to process and she tended to ignore it or better yet run from it.


“You must understand, I just got married, I cannot just leave my husband and home so soon.” She sounded so regretful and she almost fooled herself were it not for the smile on her face. Fortunately, Dorothy could not see her smile and no one was present to witness the contrast of her tones and her expressions.


“I understand, is everything okay?” Just like that Dorothy’s voice softened and Stella knew that she had her younger sister where she wanted her.


“My husband is firm and his family is very strict. I had to wait until they were gone to call you,” Stella adjusted her voice to a soft whisper and tentative fear that she learned from her mother when the woman talked to her parents and tried to hide Miguel’s abuse. 


The swan's traitor

Stella did not notice Leonard watching her from the doorway with wrinkled eyebrows and pursed lips. He was realizing how calculating his wife truly was, it disgusted him to see the hideous face behind that docile smile. He shivered as it reminded him of his grandfather. He knew people like his wife  would betray their own family, they had no love or loyalty to anyone. In that moment he decided that it was best to stay clear of his wife like he did his grandfather, lest he become another casualty to her ambition.


“But how is everything? Is your husband treating you well?” Stella asked playing the role of caring older sister, she knew that despite Dorothy being a dumb dora, she still had to thread carefully because Dorothy was horrible at keeping secrets and if she was to obvious than her younger sister would share it with the others and she would rather not have Geraldine and Margarita suspect anything.


“He’s boring and insists on me working but other than that he takes good care of me.”


“That is good to hear, I might be able to sneak away in a few days and I’ll go see you. Still in the drum right? Where was that again?” She held her breath as she waited until Dorothy spoke, she worried that her plan would not work and that this would be the time that Dorothy would get wise. But Stella had nothing to worry about, she placed too much faith in the younger woman. This worked better than she expected as Dorothy even told her the secret way and word to use to get in.


“Just let me know when you’re coming, I’ll save you a seat.”


“Of course, and keep me up to date on everything.”


“I will let you know if something changes.”


“Perfect!”


Stella ended the call and could not stop the loud squeal of joy that came out of her, things could not have worked out better if she had planned them months in advance. Now she would share her findings with the Roberts family patriarch and win the old man’s approval. 


 

Geraldine’s hand shook as she tried to put on lipstick, hearing her plan Margarita was not happy and even tried to stop her.  She had to explain to her sisters since her older sister refused to let her go anywhere and as headstrong as she was, Margarita was physically stronger. “You don’t have to do this,” again the eldest declared, anger still in her voice at the thought of her little sister doing something so horrible.


“We all know that I do, unless you have a better idea on how to help our mother.” Geraldine snapped because her eldest sister was making an already hard situation harder. The teenager wasn’t one for tears but having Elsie and Anna crying while she tried to get ready was not helping her at all.


Suddenly the lipstick was taken out of her hand and Geraldine turned to see Dorothy, “let me do it.” Surprisingly the woman was the only one keeping herself together, she grabbed Geraldine's chin and moved her to better place the red lipstick on her.


grooming a swan's feathers

“At that time, we were all surprised by Dorothy’s strength and maturity. She had always been wild and a little chaotic like the wind but in that moment she was the only one to fill me with the strength I needed to do what I had to do to save our mother.” Adult Geraldine explained with a look of pride shining in her eyes. She remembers that moment and how terrified she truly was, it was the first time she could ever remember being so scared and close to panicking.



“Was there really no other option?” Helen asked, feeling disgusted by what a young girl was being forced to do.


“Not that we had access to, Stella had the connections with her husband’s family and she could have maybe done something, but she had made her opinion quite clear and chosen a side, which was against us.” 


“You can’t cake it on too much or it looks horrible, you have to be subtle about it to entice a man.” Dorothy explained with an ease that had them all thinking that she was just too stupid to understand what was going on.


“Are you serious?!” Margarita exclaimed. “I know you can be a little ditzy but you can’t seriously be supporting your younger sister practically selling herself to Joseph Moretti?!”


Suddenly there was a cold air in the room, it howled almost eerily like the winds announcing a great storm to come. Geraldine was confused, she knew that it was not her doing and she was sure that neither of her sisters were an Elemental like herself.  


“Although at that point I did begin to suspect that Stella might have been one as well.” Adult Geraldine interjected. 


Geraldine looked around hoping to be able to gauge which of her sisters it could be. The most likely suspect was Margarita who was the most upset and seemed to be the closest to losing control.


“I know I might not be the brightest but at least I have enough tact to know how hard this already is for Geraldine and I’m trying not to make it harder for her but instead help ease a little of her burden since neither of us could fully take it away.” 


It was by far the wisest and most insightful thing that Dorothy had ever said and it left all of them speechless. For the first time possibly ever, they all saw anger in Dorothy’s eyes and they realized that she was as affected by what was going on as they were. 


“That was when I knew that Dorothy was an Elemental,” the older woman confessed with something akin to glee or pride in her eyes. Helen noticed that the woman never truly gave away anything she did not want others to know. Her eyes, while expressive, could also be dulled and the emotions in them turned off at any moment. It was an amazing and frightening talent to have.  


The air-headed swan

Geraldine stared at her older sister with wide bright eyes, she had met other Elementals but not in her own family. It felt like finding someone who would accept and understand her. Elsie knew but as much as the young girl tried she could never truly understand what it was like to live not only in fear of change that would force Geraldine into hiding to avoid persecution but also know the need to let go and lose some of the tension that builds when one does not use their element, it becomes suffocating.


“Dorothy…”


“Save it, I know you all don’t really expect much from me but that doesn’t mean that I don’t care or notice when my sisters are hurting,” at those words she turned briefly to Anna who had insisted that her wounds were from her own clumsiness. 


The woman told them that she had taken a stumble down the stairs in her home and her husband had been so worried that he would not allow her to leave the house and that was why she did not make it to the first day of the trial. No one believed her but no matter how much they pushed she continued to insist so they let it go for the time being.


Anna looked away in shame, she knew that neither of her sisters believed her story of having an accident at home or her husband caring for her. She felt so weak and useless, even her youngest sister had been strong enough to witness far worse, yet here was Anna almost falling apart at something so trivial, something every woman dealt with at some point in their life. She could not take the looks full of worry and pity from her sisters so she focused on something else, she opened the bag she brought with some of her best dresses. 


“Here one of these should work better than your usual pants and skirts.” 


Just like that, attention was back on Geraldine’s future torment instead of Anna’s, Dorothy continued finishing up her make-up, at the same time that Margarita seemed to realize that she was outnumbered and fighting a losing battle. She walked over and kneeled before Geraldine, “as much as I hate this and wish I could stop it, I realize that I can’t,” the woman sighed deeply and in clear pain, “but you are my little sister and if I can’t protect you at least I can prepare you and ease the pain you will face.” All but Geraldine knew what pain Margarita talked about as they had all been through it, some had more pain than others but for all it was a horrid experience. They all in unison agreed they would try to spare their sister that pain.


“Pain?”


“The first always hurts, sometimes it hurts a lot but sometimes a little. It all depends on your partner and let’s face Joseph is not one to be patient or gentle.” They all winced but none more than Geraldine who had seen the man lose his temper and beat someone to near death.


“So what do I do?” Now Geraldine was beginning to sound like the young and innocent girl she truly was, there was fear and worry in her voice. Fear of the pain that was to come and worry that she might not be strong enough to withstand it.


“Anna, get me some oil, Elsie warm water and a clean cloth,” then Margarita turned to Geraldine, “take off your bottoms and lay on the bed.”


Geraldine did not hesitate, the only one that did was Anna but she knew that it was better for Geraldine that this was done by them than being torn apart like she was on her first time. 


Dorothy sat by Geraldine’s head and held her hand while Margarita propped up her legs as if the girl was about to give birth. 


“She’s not going to…?!” Helen exclaimed with alarm in her eyes. 


Margarita washed her hand and carefully cleaned under her nails, just as Anna came over with the oil.


“She is, all my sisters knew what was coming they had horrible experiences and knew what -besides a good partner- could have made them better. I was fortunate that they were not selfish enough to keep this knowledge to themselves.”Adult Geraldine didn’t even flinch at what she was retelling, almost as if she could not see how wrong it was. Not even reliving the memory seemed to bother the woman and this was another instance where the emotion in those eyes were turned off.


“Take a deep breath and try to calm down,” Margarita says as she covered one hand in oil after she passed a wet cloth over Geraldine’s folds, “as virgins, we are tighter than experienced women and that is why it hurts so much.” It was strange to feel fingers down there, where no one has ever touched her before.


“Try thinking of something else, something pleasant,” Dorothy suggested as Geraldine winced at the second intrusion.


“I’m just going to stretch you out slightly to ease the pain, we don’t want him to believe you’re not really pure.”


From the clothes Anna brought Geraldine chose a navy dress with a white collared bow around the neck and a white trim around the drop waist paired with some t-strap heels. She forwent the white gloves, cloche and handbag that matched with the outfit, “no point in putting that much effort.” Geraldine was thicker than the slim Anna so the dress hugged her developing curves and created a form-fitting silhouette. 


It highlighted the transition in which her body was in, with some baby fat but thick curves as her breast and hips grew out preparing her for what it was intended to do.  Geraldine had always thought herself the uglier of her sisters because out of all of them except Margarita she was the thicker one with plain looks. Miguel called it ‘fat’ and berated her because it was not what the ideal woman was. Men wanted a woman slim, almost boy-ish in her figure.


“In those times the fashion was covering up what made us women, boy-ish and flat figures covered by dropped waist and loose fitting clothes.” Adult Geraldine explained with clear distaste for those fashion trends. “For those like me that had too much to cover, there were only two options: they were either obscene or fat.” Helen stared at the woman now, it was clearly that Mama Swan did not lose her curves and voluptuous figure. Studying the form-fitting pants, tight and slightly opened blouse, it was obvious what option the woman went with. 


“Clothes that hugged the figure or ones too loose that made women look like massive whales.” 


“That was why women like me mostly dressed like men in those times and didn’t mind being treated like men for it.”


“Try not to limb or keep your legs too open otherwise it might look suspicious,” Anna suggested as Dorothy helped put the finishing touches on Geraldine’s cheeks and brown hair which was tied up as the teen refused to cut it like it was becoming popular for women to do.


“Dina…”


“Margarita, stop please,” Geraldine closed her eyes, unable to take what was coming from her eldest sister. “We all know I need to do this, instead how about praying that he loses interest and we can all forget about this and move on.” The young girl then caressed a crying Elsie’s cheek, she knows that her younger sister was no doubt feeling guilty thinking that this was all her fault.


“This is not your fault,” Geraldine firmly declared, “this would have happened eventually we all know it.” They all knew about Joseph's obsession with Geraldine and with the power that the man held, it would no doubt have been a matter of time before he would eventually have gotten what he wanted with or without consent, at least this way the girl had more control. “Besides, have a little more faith in me, I’ve got this,” the teenager smiled at her sisters putting on a brave face and actually feeling a little bit of it this time, now that her sisters all prepared her, Geraldine felt more confident but still scared.


“If anyone can turn this into an opportunity that benefits her, it’s Geraldine.” Margarita added trying to also comfort the youngest of them all but also believing her words to be true.


“Yea, I bet she will turn Joseph Moretti into her personal toy.” Dorothy declared with her signature excitement and energy.


“I don’t know about that but she will definitely hold her own.” Anna added remembering how Geraldine would often face Miguel and even challenge the man without flinching.


“Which one was true?” Helen asked. 


“All of them,” Geraldine smirked.


From abuse teen to fierce swan



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