Chapter 16 - Reckless

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March 27, 1968; three months later

Chris got bigger every time Francesco and Rosa went to secretly check up on him. They were both still very upset about the situation but happy he was okay. Chris had been adopted by a loving, wealthy couple, who provided him with all the things he needed and more. It stung to see strangers give their son all the things they couldn't, to watch others love and care for him the way they never could. A hole had been burned into both their hearts, and they feared it would never heal. It felt like something was missing. They felt empty and miserable, drained and exhausted. The time Francesco and Rosa were privileged to have together was spent mostly in each other's arms. They would speak of Chris and wonder what he was doing, and then they would weep and speak of him some more and then cry again. Even when they made love, their thoughts were on their son. Nothing made them forget. As time had passed, the pain had dulled and the thoughts of their son came more infrequently. But Chris was always on the back of their minds. No one they knew knew that Chris existed, and that was the way they wanted it to stay.

Rose and Rosa had very recently turned eighteen, and Antonio had an important announcement to make. The family gathered together in the dining room at the house on Daniela Avenue to talk about it.

"What is this important announcement you have to make, Antonio?" Alyssa asked, intrigued.

"I have found two lovely Italian princes for you both to marry," Antonio stated with great happiness, addressing his granddaughters.

They all gawked at him, wide-eyed, jaws agape.

"Excuse me?" Rosa spat out, appalled, her heart suddenly constricting.

"Marry?" Rose repeated. She was horrified, and she felt sick in the stomach. She couldn't believe what she had just heard.

"Yes," Antonio replied. "I have found you both two lovely future husbands. You will be married after you finish high school." He clasped his hands together joyfully.

Rose flinched.

Alexander looked her way and was suddenly concerned. Her face had lost all its colour, she looked ill, and she was gaping at Antonio with terror in her eyes, frozen to the spot. It was as if she had been told that someone she truly cared for had just died.

"No!" Rosa exclaimed, slamming her right hand onto the wooden table and rising to her feet. Her eyes filled with tears, and her eyebrows sharpened with anger.

"No? What do you mean no?" Antonio asked, astounded. He threw his chair back and rose violently to his feet.

"I will not marry someone I do not love. I will not marry who you tell me to!" Rosa shouted, her fists clenched into balls at her sides. Her heart was racing, and her body trembled. She had had enough. For too long, Rosa had put up with his rules, his orders. For too long, she had been almost completely obedient. Marriage was one thing she would not do for him. Death was much more inviting. Rosa looked to Rose for support, but Rose seemed entirely frozen with fear.

"How dare you!" Antonio rebuked, outraged.

Alyssa stood. "Antonio!" she retorted fretfully. Alyssa felt Antonio's rage emanating from him like violent waves pounding through her. She could feel Alexander's concern. But the emotions burning off Rose and Rosa were terrifyingly painful. Alyssa's heart raced hard in her chest. She could barely handle the pain. She knew Rose and Rosa always seemed to block their feelings from her, especially after they had started attending a customary school. But now it seemed they were letting go, and their intense emotions were drowning her.

"You will do what I say! You will marry the prince when you finish high school whether you like it or not! Is that clear?" Antonio roared, livid. His left eye twitched, and his fists trembled with fury.

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