FIRST, I LOVE YOU
By Genevieve Dewey
Copyright 2012 by Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to living persons is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Mickey sighed with satisfaction as he finished the last fine sanding of the figurine he had been carving. He usually worked on furniture, but occasionally he would challenge himself with smaller hand-carved pieces. He loved the awe he still felt when a piece of wood transformed itself into a work of art. It felt that way too; as if the wood had a mind of its own, an identity struggling to get out, and his hands and tools were merely the medium with which it transformed itself. When he was a younger man he would take months to complete what now took him only a few weeks. But back then he had been consumed with making money and the woodworking had been squeezed in as a way to decompress and allow him to be the family man he needed to be.
It was never as easy for him to switch gears as it had been for some of the other guys, or for his father. Maybe it was because he was more of a money guy than a muscle man, but still, it wasn’t as if he hadn’t had to do or be party to some things that just felt like it left a permanent sort of horror in his brain. The sort of thing that made a person feel like he didn’t deserve something as pure as a child’s adoration, or a woman’s loving touch. And truth was, maybe he didn’t. But selfish man that he was, he would continue to take his cake and eat it too, as long as God saw fit to let him roam the earth.
The shrill ring of the shop phone broke his reverie. He knew it would be Frank Bonanno. Right on cue.
“What you got,” he asked without the preliminaries.
“Listen, before I head back, was havin’ a chat with those friends of ours, and they’re fine with what I’ve laid out. As long as you do your part,” Frank stated curtly.
“I’m a man of my word, Frank. You know that,” Mickey tried to curtail the annoyance in his own voice.
These people, he thought, like vultures mated with a pack of African bees. Stand still and you get it, move and you get it worse.
“Your guest list Saturday before last was … interesting … to say the least. You understand their concern,” Frank stated more than asked.
“My son will always be included in my family events. If he chooses to bring a few of his playmates then it’s no different than Kiki inviting your daughter. I believe we discussed this matter at some length already, Frank. I’m just a retired financial and shipping consultant who likes to tinker in his garage. I’m not a threat to nobody. I didn’t even take my damn ball and bat and go home, I left it to yous guys and forgot what it even looked like,” he said, voice betraying some of the street they had both grown up on, instead of the cultured tones he had worked so hard at acquiring.
“I ain’t so worried about the boy or his pals, I’m sure you’ll handle that. I was referring to your female friend. Remember how that pillow talk ended up last time, Mickey. I’m sticking my neck out for you cuz we’re family. Right? Family. You know what they say, if you can’t get rid of the ticks yourself, you just have to get the dog dipped, capiche?” Frank continued.
Mickey counted to twenty inside his head. His hand trembled so hard the Dremel tool he held in it slipped out and clattered on the floor.
“Listen… listen…” Mickey gritted out half a decibel above a whisper. “We agreed. We agreed to this arrangement and my personal life is mine. I’ve stuck to the terms. You stick to yours. I stay out of your thing… you leave me mine. Or we will have a problem,” he ended, he hoped with enough ice and menace to get the image across of what he’d do to Frank if anything happened… if anything… He felt bile rise in his throat.
“Fine, fine,” Frank’s voice was jovial now, signaling an end to business. “Gotta run. Plane’s about to take off. It was good seeing you again, Mickey. I’ll be in touch.”
Mickey didn’t bother to say goodbye he simply slammed the phone down. He breathed carefully and slowly to slow his pounding heart and racing thoughts. When he felt in control enough, he took his cell phone out and called his daughter.
“Lo?” She sounded breathless, like she’d just woken up.
“Wake up. It’s the middle of the day, princess,” he said as calmly as he could muster.
“Oh! Daddy! I – no I was just… thinking… about my next article,” she answered evasively.
He pursed his lips. He sincerely hoped the girl didn’t have another one of her boyfriends over. Though at twenty-one, he supposed she wasn’t a girl anymore.
“Well, I was just checking on you. Would you like to meet for lunch?” Mickey asked.
He could hear rustling in the background and a distinctly male chuckle. He tried to contain his irritation. The mood he was in, it was a good thing he had called before dropping by or some soon-to-be-sorry asshole would be getting his dick rammed into his teeth.
“Well, it is the middle of the day. In the middle of the week. I thought you could see if your brother wanted to meet us somewhere,” he suggested.
“Tommy already had lunch. I mean – I’m pretty sure they’re breaking for lunch right now, so by the time you get here… How about another time instead?” she ended.
Mickey couldn’t recall the last time his daughter had given him the brush off. Frank’s threats had him on edge, and he started to wonder just who was with her.
“Are you alright?” Mickey asked urgently.
“Of course! Daddy, what’s the matter?” Kiki asked, worry evident in her tone.
“Nothing you need concern yourself with, sweetheart. But I did want to ask you, I know you and Mary spent some time with each other last week. I was wondering—”
“Daddy, for heaven’s sake! Just call her already and stop using everyone else for updates. And the same goes for Tommy. This is getting a little ridiculous don’t you think?” Kiki interrupted.
Mickey was silent. First she brushes him off, and now she was interrupting him and making demands? Who was this girl?
The chime on his doorbell rang in the silence. He looked at his security monitors and saw Tommy standing at his front door. Had the world gone mad? First, his sweet loving daughter was being snippy and now his estranged son was actively seeking him out in the same day.
“I’ll talk to you later, princess. Someone’s at the door,” he said and hung up.
As he walked through the house to answer the front door, he texted Carlo:
Put a man on my p. Report all people.
“Hello Tommy, what a pleasant surprise!” Mickey said as he opened the door. Strange how much it still made his heart ache for those days back in Brooklyn every time he saw his oldest child.
Tommy looked hesitant, but he nodded and came inside. Mickey motioned for him to join him in the study just off the foyer. Once inside, his son made no secret of examining the room, but kept his hands in his pockets.
“Would you like something to drink? Have you eaten? What brings you here? Not that I mind, I’m happy you came, very happy…” Mickey stopped himself before he said any more.
He felt incredibly off-balance between Frank’s call, the one to Kiki, and Tommy’s surprise visit. He hated that feeling of not being in control. Hated it.
“Went to supper with Mom and Kiki last night,” Tommy said.
Mickey nodded. He knew that, of course. He had someone who kept an eye on Mary at all times. He knew where she went and what she did and who she met. And he knew she knew that he knew these things. It was almost like she was taunting him these last few weeks with her activities. He wasn’t sure what she was playing at, but he could practically hear the words ‘Game On’ in his head.
“They both figure that we… that is, you and I…” Tommy started to say, frustration and irritation clearly evident in his voice.
“Ah, I see. Plan A didn’t work, so we’re on to Plan B? First, Kiki rooks Joe into some convoluted plot, and now she’s guilting your mother into doing her dirty work as well?” Mickey interjected. He sighed. This girl of his. He didn’t know if he wanted to shake her for her interference or hug her close for always, always, having his back.
Tommy was half glaring at him, lips pursed. Then he, too, let out a sigh and shrugged, running his hand through his hair.
“Truth is, my mom had already mentioned something to me a couple times before last night about spending more time with you while I’m here. I think I’ve been soundly outvoted here,” Tommy said, still sounding agitated.
“And you hate that, don’t you?” Mickey asked with a smile.
This boy was so much like him sometimes it was uncanny. But he knew instinctively that would be the last thing he should say to him right now. He walked over to the wet bar in the study and fixed an Old Fashioned. It was 5:00 somewhere. He got a cooled bottle of water out for Tommy from the mini-fridge and handed it to him. Tommy was watching his movements with a wariness and body language that spoke of fatigue.
“I’ve made no secret of my desire to have you be a part of my life. Everything’s been said, what feels like a thousand times over by now. But the last thing I want is you standing in my home against your will. Out of some sense of obligation to the people you do actually care about. It pleases me to see you, but it pleases me to see you happy most of all. What would make you happy?” Mickey asked softly.
Tommy looked down at his bottle in his hand, then back up at Mickey through the fringes of his hair, and then looked away again. He didn’t answer, but he took a drink from his water and walked to the Chippendale desk in the corner of the room. Tommy fiddled with Mickey’s Al Capone bobble-head someone had given him as a joke when he first moved to Chicago. It was difficult, but Mickey bit his tongue and waited, giving Tommy the space he needed to answer.
“If I didn’t care it would be easier, wouldn’t it?” Tommy finally answered, still not looking at Mickey.
Mickey remained silent, such was his shock at hearing his son say he cared about him. Or is that what he said? Maybe by ‘cared’ he simply meant ‘cared to never have anything to do with you ever’. His confusion kept him mute.
Tommy finally turned and looked at him. “It’s not like we’re strangers. Like we just met or something. We have… loved ones in common. A shared history; a few fond memories, though long ago. We’ve spent a couple holidays and family events together. But it’s not as if we’re close either. We don’t really know each other except for facts on a sheet and a superficial understanding of likes and dislikes. And, yes, that has been intentional on my part. I’ve told you why. I haven’t been able let go of my anger at you for what you put my mother through, and I can’t help but think,” Tommy stopped and ran a hand through his hair again. “What’s the point of getting to know you better? I’m still a cop and you’re still a man who has zero respect for what I do for a living. But I’ve never claimed to be indifferent. Of course I care. I care that my own father loves me, but I also care that he obviously doesn’t respect me—”
“Now hold up just one second, son! I do respect you. I am very proud of you, and of the man you’ve become—”
“I care that you make me feel important and valued but treat others—”
“It’s true I don’t have any faith in law enforcement—”
“—with such breathtaking callousness and cruelty.”
“—or the justice system but I admire your dedication to it. I admire—”
“I care that you lavish us with obviously heartfelt gifts with money stolen—”
“—that you are a good person and a good example to your—”
“—from ‘dedicated’ and ‘good’ people who fear you—”
“Enough!” Mickey shouted.
The bourbon in his glass spilled all over his trembling hand then dripped to the worn wooden floor below. His stomach churned with tension and residual panic, and far from calming his nerves, the alcohol seemed to be ramping up the suffocating sensation of powerlessness that had threatened at the edges since Frank’s call. For years he had called all the shots. For years he had commanded respect from everyone around him. But with the one man whose respect he was so desperate to earn he was completely ineffectual. Everything was hanging in the balance on every front, and he couldn’t guarantee that a few loyal men and few billion dollars would be enough to protect his children and the woman he loved. And he had given all that power up for this man – this man! – who refused to even see him as anything but the sum of his worst actions.
Mickey took a deep breath and forced his voice into a semblance of calm. “Answer the question, Tommy. What would make you happy? How about you just answer that question and be done with it,” he demanded, setting the drink down without taking his gaze from his son’s eyes. Eyes so like his own, bloodshot with emotion.
Tommy’s Adam’s apple moved up and down and his jaw worked. His voice was choked and hoarse as he said, “I promised my mother that I—”
“God DAMN it! I asked what YOU want! YOU! Only YOU!” Mickey shouted, accidentally knocking the stained glass lamp next to him in his agitation.
It crashed to the floor, the light bulb flickering, glass breaking. Tommy stepped back. Mickey closed his eyes and gripped the chair next to him, stilling himself and his emotions the best he could. When he opened his eyes he expected to see fear or disgust in Tommy’s face, but all he saw was something akin to marvel or curiosity. A kind of far-off look, like he was thinking about a particularly confounding puzzle.
“…‘for the first time in his life he put someone else’s needs’…” Tommy whispered.
“What?” Mickey asked, feeling utterly and completely exhausted at this point.
“And you’re actually retired?” Tommy asked, eyes still looking through him.
“I – what?” Mickey asked again, now completely lost, as well as tired. And it was only the middle of the damn day. He knelt down and started picking up glass shards.
The first bars of ‘Woke Up This Morning’ by Alabama 3 started playing on Tommy’s phone. Mickey’s head jerked up and the absurdity of his son choosing that ringtone, combined with fatigue and alcohol, forced a laugh out of him.
“You kiddin’ me?” he asked and Tommy grinned awkwardly at him.
“Detective Gates,” Tommy answered into the phone. The grin left his face as he listened. “I’ll be right there.”
Tommy put the phone back in his pocket and bent eye-level with Mickey. Mickey met his gaze feeling nothing but numb, and braced himself for another rejection.
“For the record, I don’t think this is going to work,” Tommy said.
“Duly noted,” Mickey said with a nod.
“But… I’m willing to try. And since you asked, it would make me happy if you tried as well,” Tommy said softly.
Mickey sat back on his haunches and watched his son walk out the door.
“Well, what the hell does he think I been doin’?” he said to the silence.
–Copyright 2012, Genevieve Dewey.
read on… Chapter Twelve, “Ginny”.
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