Angel’s Trumpet by Sem Thornwood
I wore a beautiful blue dress for my engagement party. Giovanni Vasile insisted that we have it right after my sixteenth birthday. Deep down, I knew he was even okay to have the wedding now. Luckily there were not many underage marriages in the Outfit now, but some were missing the older days when they could have child brides. To me, even eighteen was too young to get married.
After Bella’s birthday, I didn’t see Sal for more than six months. He did give me the space I wanted, but I was skeptical about his promise. Unlike Antonio and Alessio, I was not worried about him hurting me physically. I was concerned about what he was doing to my soul and my heart.
I wanted to believe him, though. I wanted to believe he was not going to act like an asshole around me anymore.
Sadly, my hopes started to crush the second we were left alone. We decided to have the ring “ceremony” behind closed doors and then have the celebration. My father was okay with me being alone with Salvatore, which showed that he trusted him with me. Alessio, on the other hand, wanted to chaperone, but when I told him to not be a dick, he accepted the situation with some angry mumbles under his breath.
Then it was only Salvatore and me on the cigar lounge of the Vasile Mansion. He was wearing a three-piece navy-blue suit and even a tie. “I think this is the first time I saw you with a tie.”
He looked at me for a second like he didn’t understand what I was saying, so I pointed to his burgundy tie. He looked down and brushed nonexistent dust from it. “Oh right. I thought this occasion called for a tie.”
I smiled even though his slight disinterest bothered me. “It does.”
Sal didn’t say anything. He didn’t even take out the ring. I had no idea what he was thinking, but it was clear that he was not here with me. Even his eyes were out of focus when he looked at me.
So much for not hurting me anymore.
Still, I didn’t give up. I sweetly swayed, showing off the frilly skirt of my cerulean dress. “Did you like my dress?” It was a stupid question, but it was the first thing I could think of.
“Yes, you look beautiful.” He didn’t even act like checking out my dress before saying that. Was I making him that distressed?
Then he shook his head and reached for the inner pocket of his jacket like he just remembered he needed to give me a ring. But I was not going to let him give me the ring and left the room when he was acting like this, not after his promise to me in the lake house.
“Is something wrong?”
His hand stopped midair and caressed his face in frustration. “Nothing is wrong, Mia.” Then he looked at me with tired eyes. “I said ‘you look beautiful,’ didn’t I.”
Oh, just like I thought then. The promise meant nothing. He was going to keep acting like this and hurt me every time we were in the same room. Then I was not going to back up and try to act sweet for him.
“Then why are you acting like an asshole,” I asked, my voice higher than I anticipated.
Sal looked at me, but there was no anger in his eyes like I would have guessed. He looked at unease. “I am not Mia.”
“Bullshit,” I claimed. “You promised to never hurt me like you did before, but you are not even trying. Do I make you that uncomfortable, Sal?” I couldn’t help my voice shook even though I hated myself for it.
He looked at me with wide eyes, and he looked… hurt? Oh no, I was the victim here. I was not going to let him act otherwise. But then he said something I wasn’t expecting. “Something is wrong.”
“Yeah.” Then he shook his head, and finally, his eyes focused on me. “I am sorry. I know I keep saying that, but…”
“What is wrong?” If it had that much impact on him, it must have been important, and I didn’t want him to feel worse than he already did.
He looked away for a second. He was considering if he should tell me, but I could see it in his eyes that he wanted to. Or I was just going crazy.
He stepped closer to me and looked into my eyes intensely. I hated that his closeness was enough for me to lose my breath even after he acted like a dick to me just a few seconds before.
“You have to promise not to tell Bella.”
Oh no. “That is something big. Did your father promise her to some old douchebag?” That was the most possible option.
Salvatore shook his head. “No, it’s not that. Can you promise to keep it a secret?”
It actually warmed my heart that my promise had value for him. He was trusting me to keep secrets from my best friend just because I promised him, and just because of that act of trust, I decided to really keep it to myself. “I promise.”
Again, he looked undecided for a moment but then answered. “My mom is sick.”
My heart stopped for a second. I have seen Aunt Claretta very recently. She never said anything about being sick. “Sick how?”
“She has lung cancer. She doesn’t want anyone to know. I think only your mother knows other than me.”
My eyebrows went up. I didn’t even know what to say. I loved Aunt Claretta; she was like a second mother to me since I was a child, but she was Salvatore’s mother. “How bad it is?” I asked, even though I knew the answer won’t ease his pain.
“Not bad, she is getting her treatment,” he said and blinked. I could see that tears were threatening to come. I had never seen Salvatore cry, even when we were children. Maybe because of that, my heart ached.
I could have told him that it was going to be okay since it was not bad. I could have told him to be positive. I could have told him to be strong. But personally, none of those things would make the pain I felt go away, so I assumed Sal was feeling the same way.
There was only one thing I knew would make me feel better. I hoped it would also make him feel good too, and stepped closer. My hands lifted with doubt, and I asked, “Can I hug you?”
His eyes shined silver, but he smiled a little anyway. “Yes,” he said as his hands came to my waist. “Please.”
I wrapped my arms around his middle and pressed my head to his chest. He held me tight and close. His chin was resting lightly atop my head. I could feel his hands slightly shook, but from his chest, I could also hear his heartbeat getting slower by the second. I pulled him even closer. It calmed him, and it calmed me.
This was all anyone needed sometimes. Just a hug.
When I pulled back, I could see the tears about to escape from his eyes. I reached and brushed them away. He didn’t let me, though. He turned his head away shyly, and I thought, what was the last time he cried in front of anyone?
“People are expecting us.” He straightened after brushing away all the evidence of his tears. “Let’s get going.” He presented his arm to me.
I smiled a little. I told myself it was because of his stupidness, but deep down, I knew it was also about the hug. “Don’t you forget something?”
His brows furrowed. He looked genuinely puzzled for a few seconds, but then it came to him. He chuckled lightly and reached for his pocket. “The ring.”
Then he held out the small red velvet box to me. Even though I knew it was an arranged match and what we were doing right now was just tradition, I felt excited. My heart was doing jumping jacks inside my chest. Then Sal opened the parcel, and it got even worse.
There was a sapphire ring with a silver band. The sapphire was fashionably oversized and surrounded by three diamonds on each side, making it look like a blooming flower. I loved it so much I could not say anything or not do anything for a few seconds. I was too busy admiring it.
Salvatore got it wrong, though. “If you didn’t like it…”
“No,” I got out a little too fast. I shook my head with a big smile on my face. “It is beautiful. I was just not expecting something like this.”
The side of his mouth twitched. “Were you expecting an ugly ring?”
“Oh no, not that. I just thought you would get me something more basic. Like a diamond ring.”
He took the ring out of the parcel and held it out to me. “You are not basic at all. I thought your ring shouldn’t be basic too.” Then he shrugged, and his expression seemed like a little kid. “I also know you like blue.”
I did. It was my favorite color. His thoughtfulness and his words warmed my heart, and I thought maybe there was hope for us to be happy. So, I let him put the ring on my finger.
I examined it again. I could also feel Sal’s eyes doing the same thing. My ring was too pretty, but there was a house full of people downstairs waiting for us. I could admire my ring for the rest of my life.
I held onto Sal’s arm and smiled. “Now we can get going.”
He chuckled and stepped towards the door with me in his arm. I wished this was the real us now. He could not love me, but I couldn’t take him seeing me as a child or hate me anymore. I wanted comfort, and when he hugged me, I felt that comfort. I was okay with having it for the rest of my life.
Another tradition was that Mia and I have the first dance at our engagement party. Honestly, I was not bothered at all. After learning about Mom, I really didn’t have the energy to talk to anyone. I was just going to act like an asshole.
I already did act like an asshole, to Mia, out of all people. After I fucking promised not to do that. If I wasn’t sad, I would be pissed at myself.
To my surprise, Mia took it well. She didn’t blabber something about how it was going to be okay. I knew she was hurt too. She loved my mom. Yet she didn’t feed herself or me lies. She didn’t give us false hope. She only gave comfort.
Just a fucking hug. But it felt good.
I knew I couldn’t tell Bella because mom made me swear it when I eavesdropped on her and Aunt Pippa talking about it. I suppose I could tell Antonio. He wouldn’t tell anyone, but I was sure sharing it with him would not feel as good as sharing it with Mia.
Antonio was my best friend, but he was not very good with emotions. He was good at reading people and regulate his actions accordingly. I knew he could simulate comfort for me if he saw me needing it, but it was more than that. Mia gave me feelings. When she hugged me, I could feel her pain, too, and I felt both of us get just a little better with the contact.
Now, that was something hard to find.
In the end, it didn’t felt bad when I wrapped my arm around Mia for a dance. Actually, it felt good. Her arms were looped around my neck, and I could tell it would be hard for her without the heels.
She was short and skinny. I never specifically checked her out, but I could tell she didn’t have curves to spare. I used to believe that was because of her age. Maybe it was when I saw her before, but now I could tell it was more about her. She didn’t have a child’s body; she was just petite. It was okay, really. I didn’t have anything against petite women.
I realized that I was really unfair to Mia. I was not happy about the match, but it didn’t mean Mia was a bad person. I tried to push her away too much. Yes, she was younger than me, but she was always my friend. Actually, she was more than a friend; she was family. Thus, deserved better.
Yet, I still couldn’t find it in me to be upset about my choice to leave. For one, it turned out to be really beneficial for my future. Other than that, staying away from Mia really did result in me seeing her as something else than a child. She was still not exactly a woman I wanted to pursue, but she was not a stupid child either. She was simply Mia, my younger friend that I liked. That hopefully, I might like more in the future.
Then it occurred to me to do the thing I didn’t do before. As we danced, I checked out her dress. She didn’t try to initiate conversation and gave me some peace before people captured us in boring conversations. But I wanted to talk. I wanted to somehow give something back for comforting me before.
I didn’t even look at her when she asked me how she looked. So, I looked now. She was wearing a blue silk dress with thin straps. The dress was almost reaching to her ankles, and her delicate heels were high enough so that she could reach me. Her black hair was flowing to her back in curls. Her hair was normally straight, but I liked it in this way. I was not the expert in make-up, but her skin looked product-free. Her pale cheeks were red, and her eyelashes were long.
“You really do look beautiful, by the way,” I whispered.
She lifted her eyes at me. A small smile found her lips hesitantly. “Thank you.”
I looked into her huge eyes and realized what was so peculiar about them. The outside was ringed with a dark blue, but the middle was very light. It almost looked grey. Some found it scary. I found it beautiful and for the first time thought maybe my father really did a good job choosing my bride.