At that, my mind wanders to Amadeo. I don’t know where they’ve taken him.
Vittoria touches my face, calling me back to her. I muster a smile and set her down, then begin to dry her. She lets me, and I like it. I like taking care of her. It’s strange. I’ve never felt this way for any other woman before.
“Emma?” she asks once she’s dry.
“She’s safe. She was hiding behind all those stuffed animals.”
“She called for help, Vittoria. That’s how I found her.”
Her forehead furrows. “She spoke?”
I nod. “In whispers but yes, she’s talking. I think she’s trying to get used to the sound of her own voice.”
Vittoria’s mouth stretches into a smile, but it’s only momentary as that line between her eyebrows deepens, and she begins to cry quiet tears.
“It was him,” she says. “It was all him. All the damage he did. All the people he hurt…”
I hug her to me, taking her weight when she leans into me, holding her tight as her body is wracked by her tears.
“He’s gone now, Vittoria. It’s over. He’s dead.”
“Emma is his.”
I take her face in my hands, push her hair back, and make her look at me.
“Emma is your mother’s. Period.”
“She’s not like him. She’s nothing like him,” she says, still crying. “She’s—
“She’s not, Dandelion. I know that. She’s like you,” I say, and this seems to calm her. “She’s a sweet kid. Smart too. We do need to get her some new shoes, though. Hers are ratty and, if I’m being honest, a little smelly.” I make a face that has the desired effect of making her almost smile.
“Mom gave them to her for her birthday last year. She’s worn them every day since the accident.” She pauses at the word accident because it wasn’t that. It was murder. “Where is she?”
“In Sicily with our mother.”
“I didn’t even ask. Your mom is okay?”
“I’m glad. But where’s Hyacinth?”
I take a beat too long, and she knows the answer before I even have to speak. Her eyes fill with fresh tears. I pull her to me, and she lets me hold her for a long time before drawing back.
“Have you heard from Amadeo?” she asks.
“He’ll be here soon.” I’m not actually sure about that, but Bruno found Sonny’s file on Greco and plenty of other dirty cops, politicians, and judges and has been contacting the appropriate people. He doesn’t know where they took my brother, either. But I’m not telling Vittoria that.
“But he’s not hurt?”
“He’s strong, Dandelion. Like you,” I answer, not really answering.
Her eyes lose focus momentarily. “My dad told me that, you know. When he found me there with their bodies.” She shakes her head as if to dislodge the image. “He told me what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. He left out the part about how when you break like that, you’re never quite fixed. Fixable.”
“He was right. And you don’t need to be fixed. That damage is a part of you. A part of what makes you a survivor,” I say, needing time to get my thoughts about Geno Russo straight, and also in some way understanding I’m saying this as much about myself as her. “They’re long dead. And you’re still standing.” She looks down, not convinced. I tilt her head up. “Like a fucking dandelion. Dandelions survive when everything else dies. They’ll sprout up out of a fucking crack in the pavement. It kind of fits, you have to say.”