"E 'un piacere conoscerti," Jacklyn greets Nico's mother Elena in her best Italian. Which still isn't all that great. Little Trillare, who Elena immediately takes into her arms as she gives Jacklyn a disapproving frown, is probably more fluent that she is. Maybe it's her bad accent, Jacklyn thinks, fidgeting awkwardly under the older woman's gaze, but that's would just be wishful thinking. Elena's disapproval runs deep, Jacklyn can see that easily enough.
"Such a beautiful girl my son brings into our home," Nico's father turns his attention to Jacklyn, taking her hand in his and leaning forward to kiss her fingers, "We are so pleased to meet you at last. Though now I see why my son kept you to himself for so long. He's a very lucky young man."
As nice as it is to be welcomed by at least one of Nico's parents, the glare Elena is giving her, along with Nico's obvious anger at his father, puts Jacklyn in a difficult position. She fumbles as he tries to thank the older man sincerely without sounding more pleased to make his acquaintance than would be proper.
The couple has a moment's respite when they are lead to the guest room where they'll be staying and left alone to unpack. And even that moment was not free of awkwardness, as Elena made little digs and hints to remind them that they were only being allowed to share a room and a bed because Nico threatened to stay in a hotel or not come at all if they tried to put them in separate rooms.
Nico falls onto the bed, "We haven't been here two minutes, and they're already embarrassing me," he groans as Jacklyn sits beside him., "I'm sorry about the way they treated you. Both of them."
"Well, your mother didn't call me a whore to my face, at least," Jacklyn tries to laugh it off, "And your father is charming, in his way. I can see where you get it from."
"You think I'm like him?" Nico asks, obviously insulted by her observation.
"I just meant that you have his charm," Jacklyn answers, and sees in his eyes that it's not what he wanted to hear. She sighs, not sure how to dig herself out of this one. She'd almost rather be back in Texas right now, and she hates Texas.
"Let me take you out," Nico says, as eager to get away as she is, "We can leave Trill with my mother for awhile, and go somewhere together."
"This is what I pictured, when you said you were bringing to me to Italy," Jacklyn says as they enjoy a glass of wine at a local cafe. She's toured through Europe before, but saw only the inside of hotels and stadiums.
Nico slides his chair next to hers, close enough to kiss her shoulder as he whispers to her how beautiful she is.
"Nico? Nico Petrangelo?" A woman calls out to him.
"Jacklyn, this is Adalina Rossi, an old friend of my father's," Nico introduces her with a heavy sigh, "Jacklyn is my fiancee," he tells the intruder pointedly. It's not entirely accurate, as Jacklyn broke that engagement off and has continued to rebuff his proposals, but she's not about to make that correction to a stranger.
They carry on a conversation in Italian, their words too fast for Jacklyn to translate, but Adalina's tone is light and flirtatious, while Nico's is cold and unrelenting as stone, until the woman finally gives up and strides away with a laugh and a toss of her hair.
"Are you going to tell me what that was about?" Jacklyn asks as they stroll along the canal.
"Adalina was my father's mistress, " Nico answers.
"That can't be all there is to it," Jacklyn says, stopping and making him turn to face her.
"No, that's not all," Nico admits, "My father likes his girls young, so he'll dump his mistresses when they reach a certain age. I was fifteen when he dumped Adalina. She decided to get back at him by taking up with one of his sons. Me."
"She seduced a fifteen year old?" Jacklyn gasps, "Nico, that's horrible!"
"Just promise me you'll never say anything about this to Andrea. He'd never forgive me."
"I won't say anything to your brother," Jacklyn promises, "But, Nico, it's not your fault. You were barely a child..."
"You don't understand," Nico sighs.
"No, I don't understand," Jacklyn says, "I can't understand if you keep everything inside and don't talk to me."
"Even at fifteen, I knew better. I saw what my father was doing to my mother, and I knew he was wrong to be going behind her back. I was going to be better than that. Andrea and I both agreed on that, swore to each other we wouldn't be like our father. And then I broke so easily. I didn't even try to resist her, even knowing who she was, how much she hurt my mother."
"Nico, you were fifteen, being seduced by a woman nearly twice your age. I don't see how you can blame yourself."
"Because I knew better than that, Jacklyn," Nico insists, "And I let it happen again, didn't I? I hurt you the way my father hurt my mother. I'm no better than he is, and I never will be."
"You are better than your father," Jacklyn says, "If you weren't, I'd have dumped your ass by now, you know that."
The family dinner that evening is awkward for everyone except Lauro, oblivious to the discomfort he causes with his flirtatious attentions to Jacklyn, and Trillare, too young and innocent to understand the tension at the table.
After dinner, the family gathers in the parlor, where Elena sits on the floor to play with her granddaughter. Jacklyn takes refuge at the piano, anything to separate herself from the rest of them.
"You're playing my song," Lauro says, getting up to join Jacklyn at the piano. There is no escape, she thinks, resigning herself to her fate.
"Is it?" she asks, trying to smile sweetly, "It's something I picked up from Nico. He sings it in the shower." She turns away with a blush, suddenly conscious of revealing these kinds of intimate details, even though Elena seems too preoccupied with Trill to hear anything she says.
"He sings in the shower because he's not good enough to sing on a stage, like his father," Lauro proclaims, "That's why he plays that guitar, he has no voice for singing."
"My guitar is my voice," Nico snarls, standing up to his father, "I never wanted to be a singer. That was your dream."
"You gave up too easily," Lauro insists, "You could have been a great singer, if you practiced more."
"You don't listen!" Nico accuses, "You never listen. I never wanted to sing. I chose to play guitar."
Jacklyn can listen to this in silence no longer. "Nico has a beautiful voice, Lauro," she says, standing by her man, "But no one, and I mean no one, can rock a guitar he way he does. I grew up surrounded by guitarists and played with more than my share of them, and your son is hands down the best out there. You should be proud."
"Thanks for that," Nico says when they get into bed later.
"I didn't say anything that wasn't the truth," Jacklyn says.
"But you know, you could have told me how things were with your family," she continues, "You never talk about them. You never talk about anything."
"What's the point of talking about it?" Nico asks, "I moved away from it to put it behind me."
"Even when it's behind you, it's still part of you," Jacklyn says, "Believe me, I know. And I want to know, Nico, I want you to talk to me."
Nico rolls over so he's laying above her. "I don't know what more I can say, after what you've seen. I was the only one of his son's that pursued music, and he wanted to make me into a copy of him, to be a singer. But I just wanted to play guitar. That argument you saw down there, we played that out over and over again, all the time I lived with them. I failed to live up to his expectations, a fact he never forgets to remind me of."
"And you measure success by how far from him you can get."
"I guess so, Jacklyn. I don't want to be my father. But I am his son, and I can't be anything else. Like you just said, I can put it behind me, but it's always a part of who I am."
"Don't you find it difficult, Jacklyn, to be a mother while you're working?" Elena asks, watching as Nico and Jacklyn play with Trillare. "For me, being a wife and a mother was my job."
"Mama, we're raising Trill just fine," Nico chides his mother.
"Bill, so nice to hear your voice," Jacklyn answers her buzzing phone. Normally, Jacklyn would be peeved with Bill for calling while she's on vacation, but right now it's just a relief to have an excuse to get away. "What's up?"
"Finally, I get you alone for a minute," Elena says, gesturing for her son to sit beside her. "What are you doing, running around with this girl? Look at her, the way she dresses. She has those awful tattoos, Nico. What kind of woman has a child out of wedlock?"
"Mama, just stop right there," Nico says, "It's not what you think."
"No? You think it's fine to raise your daughter in sin like this? You should take Trill away from that slut and find a nice girl---"
"That's enough," Nico says sharply, "I can't listen to you talk about Jacklyn that way. And you shouldn't think it either. You remember what you said when I told you I was moving to L.A.? Well, what I did was even worse than what you predicted. I became a gigolo, selling my body to pay my rent. Jacklyn didn't know that when she took up with me, and didn't find out about until she was already pregnant with Trill. When she found out, she forgave me and trusted me when I told her I was done with that. She agreed to marry me. And you know what I did? I betrayed her, I had an affair. Mama, I was with another woman the day my daughter was born. When Jacklyn found out, she kicked me out. I was lost, you understand? She could have taken Trill away from me forever, if she wanted. But she still loves me, even after I broke her heart, so she's giving me this chance. I know you don't like the way she dresses, but, she's my world, understand? She's the mother of my child and I'm trying to make her my wife. She's better than what you think of her, and she's far better than what I deserve. So, lay off her."
"Listen, Jackie, baby," Bill says, weariness heavy in his voice, "I really didn't want to be the one to tell you this, but your mother says she doesn't have your number. That you won't talk to her..."
"What, Bill? Just say it."
"Jack...your father..." In the long pause that follows, Jacklyn hears what Bill hesitates to say.
"How?" she asks.
"He ran his car into a tree," Bill says, "No one else was hurt, thankfully."
"Okay. Thanks, Bill," she says softly before turning her phone off.
"Did something happen?" Nico asks, joining her out on the balcony, "What did Bill say?"
"My father is dead. The stupid, drunken bastard ran himself into a tree."
She'd always said she'd dance on his grave, but that was when he was still alive.
"I'm so sorry," Nico murmurs, holding her, not sure how she's taking the news.
"I always thought there' be time," she says with a soft sob, "That someday I'd be able to tell him what a bastard he was, how much damage he'd done to us. But I never got up the balls to do it, I just ran away and never confronted him. And now I'll never get to."
Nico finds his father sitting alone on the balcony overlooking the garden, and sits on the chair beside him.
"Before we go, I just wanted to clear some things up with you," Nico says
Lauro listens in silence as his son tells him in unrelenting detail all the ways he failed as a husband and a father.
"Get out of my house," is all the response he gives when Nico is done.
"I'm leaving," Nico says sadly, not expecting much more than what he got, knowing his father would make no tearful apologies or be in anyway moved or changed by what he had to say. The important thing is he said it.
I'm sorry it's been so long between chapters, I just wanted to wait for Monte Vista to do this one.
So, there will be probably two more regular chapters to go to wrap this up. And then I'll be doing an Epilogue that will probably be two or three chapters long, to visit everyone again around five years later.