The nights without her while I was in Italy before shit hit the fan, I barely slept. But having her beside me didn’t make enough of a difference the past few weeks for me to fully rest.
Most nights since I shot Pop, I played events, possible scenarios, and potential plans over in my head. Sometimes I’d lay there and seethe about wrongs done to me, to her, wanting to kill people I’d already killed all over again, only slower, more creatively. Though, the justice I’d dished out in Mexico when they took her was pretty damn creative, if I did say so myself.
And when I did sleep, I often woke up with the feeling we weren’t alone or with dreams of all sorts of shit. Pop laughing at me. Pop pointing a gun at her. Pop shooting my own mother.
Pop telling me I’d failed his ultimate loyalty test. Pop saying, “I would’ve let you keep her, my boy. You only had to trust me. You didn’t, so now here we are.”
Tia’s father stealing her. Earl Johnson and Juan Carlos Castillo dragging her bloody and away from me. That little punk she used to date holding her hand and her smiling at him with love, her spinning, twirling with that beautiful halo of long, chestnut, silky hair flowing through the air, then my beautiful baby girl stopping to look at me and doing it with disgust.
“I hate you, Tommy. You stole me. You broke me. I curse that day you came and tied that cherry into a knot in front of me. I’m the cherry. Twisted in knots; chewed up. Ruined.”
All sorts of shit haunted me while demons taunted me. Not least of which was the fact that this girl who I’d claimed, who’d agreed to be mine, was hoping for fun, for adventure, and I was stuck in my head, making this trip a giant fail.
I had to try. All she’d been through with me so far? I had to man the fuck up and try. Give her some joy and fun. Help her forget her worries about my state of mind. Make it feel worth it to be tied to me for the rest of her life.
I told her in the beginning it wouldn’t be all sunset walks on the beach and shit like that. But I couldn’t let her down by making every minute with me miserable.
It was taking all I had, resisting the strong urge to go home and play the part of Thomas Ferrano Jr., status quo, making sure everyone knew that I was not to be fucked with any more than Tom Ferrano Sr. was to be fucked with.
Because I had the feeling that if that’s what I did, I’d become him. She’d hate me. I’d hate me.
We’d eaten a gourmet meal (after Tommy interrogated both the waiter and then the manager to ensure my food would have zero exposure to shellfish. It felt so nice to be protected like this), and then the band started.
I was watching couples dance, listening to reggae music, a singer that was almost a dead ringer in style and voice for Shaggy, and I wanted to dance, but got shut down.
“Oh c’mon, Mista lova lova…” I’d tried, thinking calling Tommy the Shaggy pet name was cute.
I don’t think he knew what I was talking about. Or worse, he did, and pretended he didn’t because he was annoyed with me.
I wanted to dance. I wanted to have fun.
This was why I’d picked this restaurant. The outdoor patio. The décor. The band. The reviews about the great vibe. It was a place for more than dinner. It was a place for an evening out. A date night.
He tried to ask for the bill when the server offered a dessert menu, stating we’d get room service back at our hotel if I wanted something sweet.
I had opened my mouth, about to protest, but froze, open-mouthed with a shrug and a disappointed expression, meaning he rolled his eyes and cut me off before I could speak.
“Forget the bill for now,” he told the waiter. “Bring her a dessert menu.”
“I think I’d just like a cocktail. Something fruity with an umbrella,” I said to the waiter. “Surprise me?”
He gave me a beaming smile. “Absolutely. Sir?” he asked Tommy.
“Jameson. Double,” Tommy replied.
The server gave him a professional head tip and went away.
I opened my mouth to say something, but Tommy’s expression cut my air off. His expression warned me to resist the urge to push my luck. He wasn’t making us leave yet, so I slunk in my seat, deciding to give him a minute. His eyes went to the water off to the left. My eyes went to the band, off to the right.
We hadn’t spoken when the waiter returned with our drinks.
We hadn’t spoken until I was half way into my pineapple-flavored alcohol slushy cocktail. His eyes had moved to watching the band. I was watching people on the dancefloor. Some of them damn good, with their moves. Some of them not so much, but looking like they were having fun. Dancing like no one was watching. Like I wanted to do…
He reached for my hand and squeezed it.
My eyes met his.