✘ 9:40 PM ✘

59 11 29


9:40 PM—the ricci house, NJ


I DON'T REMEMBER MUCH about my father. I do remember the day my mom sat down to tell me that, at the very moment we were speaking, he was turning a darker shade of blue. I don't remember crying. I do remember asking how he died.

As sick as it sounds, I, even at the young age of seven, was fascinated by the fact that my father dropped-dead without warning. I'm not saying I was happy, I'm not some kind of freak. I was really distraught about it. I never conveyed my feelings about the whole situation, but it didn't stop me from going outside, staring up at the sky, and wishing the universe would tell me exactly what happened.

For a solid three months I would sit on the porch every night and rack-my-brain for answers. My mother must have skipped over the fact that I've always had the highest IQ in my class when she told me that, "God opened up the skies and he floated-up into the air." I'm not saying that God isn't capable of that, because he is, but I doubt very much that God would choose my dad of all people to enjoy paradise early.

If I'm wrong, then I wasted three months of valuable time, and morbidly overlooked the immense greatness of my father.

I can't help but feel like my mom is going to come out and sit beside me on the porch. That she'll tell me Matteo was also lifted up into the sky by God. Except, for my own emotional sake, I'll let myself believe her.

With a muffled sigh, I burry my head-in-my-hands and try to push the image of what I saw out of my head. My mind starts thinking over the entire day like a slot machine, realizing how often Matteo's mood was swinging. For a minute, I'm mad at myself, angry that I didn't realize the possibility sooner.

Matteo and my mother are talking away inside our two bedroom house, their loud voices reaching me without even trying.

The ride home was a quiet one. Neither one of us could come up with the words to say. It was only when we parked in front of my house that I found the words I wanted. That's when my mother came waddling out to greet Matteo—the child she never had—with wide arms and a glowing smile.

She hurried him into the house and away from the cold, leaving me behind to fester in the hell that is my head.

Trying to scream, but only resulting in a sigh, I cover my face with my hands again. I try to get the tormenting noise to magically stop. Much to my surprise, it does, and I feel like I'm floating.

It doesn't last long when I hear the hinges on the screen door squeal open and slam shut. I hear his clumpy sneakers make their way behind me, the small light from inside the house becoming even dimmer due to his tall presence.

"You should come inside," he starts, coming to sit beside me, "your mom is making who knows what, but it smells out of this world."

I lean my head against the post, closing my eyes to try to get an ounce of that floating feeling back.

"Are you still mad at me?" he asks.

"No," I start, leaning back up and looking across the street, "I just feel like killing you."

"It's not my fault, Fia," he snaps back. "I didn't choose any of this."

His face is full of anger, his jaw clenching over-and-over again. He starts to play with his hands, as though he's trying not to punch a hole in something. "One day I'm a normal kid," he begins again, his voice cracking, "and then I wake up to discover that half this damn town would be okay with seeing my blood on the ground."

I've never seen Matteo cry, and even right now, as he wipes his hand under his eye, he'll refuse to admit that he's crying. Even if he isn't, he feels like it. He runs a hand through his hair, taking that pesky curl that keeps falling in his eyes along with the rest of it.

"I don't know what I was thinking. Coming here. I'm putting you in danger," he says, standing up.

A few drops start to fall, bouncing off both our sneakers.

I look over at him, "how did this happen?"

He makes his way over to the rail, letting his head sink down against his chest, "my dad."

I stand up too, walking a little closer toward him but still keeping an amount of distance between the both of us.

"Let's do the train thing," I say, not sure if I mean it or not.

I'm not sure what I expected from his response, but I didn't expect to see him crumble again, finally crashing as he tries to hide his tears once more. He starts to shake his head back-and-forth. "Don't do this to me, Fia," he shouts, "please don't."

The sound of the rain fills in the tense silence.

There's nothing I can do now but slowly walk over to him like a wounded animal, pry his arms away from the rail, and hug him. I feel his body sink, his head hiding in my neck and his arms wrapping around my body. With every second that passes his hold on me gets tighter.

For the moment, we're just with each other. We feel each other's breathing rise-and-fall, reminding us that we're still alive—whether we want to be or not.

"God, what am I doing here," he pulls away from me, "I should go."

He starts to walk down the steps and I grab his arm. He turns around quickly, holding up his hand to hold himself back, "don't follow me, okay?" After a few moments of thinking it over, I nod my head and let his arm go, "I won't."

"Let's not make a big deal out of this, I'll see you tomorrow," he ends.

With that he walks back to his truck and drives into the darkness of the night. That's when I, the girl that didn't cry when her own father died, feel a few tears stream down my skin.

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