Broken Queen

Page 76

“Yes. I’m happy. You, brother?” he asks me.
I nod, rub her back. “What’s on your mind, Vittoria?”
“You’re both so great with Emma.”
I raise my eyebrows.
“And she loves you both so much. I’m glad she has you in her life.”
Bastian and I wait because she has something to say.
“She’s young to be an aunt and I know it’s soon. We haven’t even talked about it, but…”
Shock stops my heart. It takes me a full minute to process. I stare at her, and she can’t seem to stop smiling.
“What are you saying?” Bastian finally asks, sounding off, not quite himself.
“I’m pregnant.”
Five Months Later
The Naples house is feeling more and more like home. Emma’s toys and books are scattered throughout, and she is adjusting so well. She’s enrolled in school, and her speaking is progressing by leaps and bounds. And she’s easily picking up Italian. It helps that the brothers speak Italian with her while Nana and I stick to English.
The villa at Ravello has been sold, and I’m glad. I don’t want Emma to see it again. To remember what happened there. And Nora still has nightmares of what she witnessed in that house.
It’s a bright, clear morning, and I take a deep breath in. I love it here in Italy. I understand why my dad wanted so badly to come back.
The cemetery is deserted so early in the morning. Fog curls low around the gravestones, and I hug my wool jacket closer, putting a hand on my softly rounded belly. I walk toward my father’s grave.
When I reach it, I crouch down in the soft, damp earth. I wipe mud from a recent storm off the carving of his name and pick the dandelions growing in the thick grass. I didn’t bring flowers, so I lay those in a sort of bouquet. He would smile down on me to see it, but I doubt he’s smiling today. He knows why I’m here.
I straighten and think about the man I knew, and tears warm my eyes. I hope he is at peace.
I don’t know if Amadeo and Bastian realize how much it meant to me that they let me rebury my father. It symbolizes the closing of a chapter for me. I will mourn my father. I will miss him. And I accept that there are things I will never learn about him. But in a way, I don’t want to know. Maybe that’s cowardice on my part but it is the truth and it’s the best I can do right now.
But there is one more thing.
I won’t come back here after today. I can’t. Burying my father properly will be my final act as his daughter. Now I am no longer that. I am Amadeo and Bastian’s wife. Because I meant it about closing this chapter. His grave will be looked after. Fresh flowers delivered weekly. I arranged for it all. But anything else, after all that’s happened, all that could have been prevented, I can’t without feeling like I’m betraying those I love, those who are living.
“I love you, Daddy. I’ll try to remember you as you were to me. And I will miss you,” I tell him and let my tears drop into the earth. Do I forgive him? I don’t know. From inside my coat pocket, I take out his ring. It’s heavy in my hand. I set it on top of his grave, then lay my hand on the cool stone. “Goodbye.”
Without a word, the brothers come to stand on either side of me. I don’t look at them, not yet. This was my idea, not theirs. They wouldn’t have asked this of me.
A cool wind blows and a wisp of hair slips from its pins. It’s only here this happens. Nowhere else do the dropped leaves of this early fall day rustle. Just around us. Goose bumps rise on my arms, and I slip my hands into Amadeo’s and Bastian’s.
I don’t know what my father wants to say as we turn and walk back toward our waiting SUV. Was it that he understands my decision? I’m going to think so. And as we climb into the back of the vehicle and Amadeo draws the seat belt over my shoulder, taking care to tuck it under my swelling belly, I feel her. For the first time, I feel our baby.
I must gasp because both Amadeo and Bastian stop.
“Dandelion?” Bastian asks. He hasn’t stopped calling me that, but I don’t mind.
I smile and nod as I set my hand over the spot where I feel it again. It’s the lightest touch. A flutter of butterfly wings almost. It’s gone as quickly as it came, and I turn to the brothers in turn.
“We’ll name her Hannah,” I say.