Damage:an Arranged Marriage Mafia Romance

By: Natasha Knight


“It’ll be hand delivered. I have to go, Gabriela.”

“What modification?” I press.

“Goodbye.”

I hear a click and he’s gone. For a moment, I stand listening to the dial tone before finally putting the phone down.

I sit on the edge of the bed and run my fingers through my wet hair. I touch the bruise on my forehead, the one from when Rafa and I were driving, and those men sideswiped us. It’s the same person who arranged for me to be kidnapped because the man Stefan was asking about was at both events.

Why didn’t I tell him that? Tell him about Rafa and Taormina and that man?

There’s a knock on my door and Miss Millie comes inside with a tray of food.

“Shall I take this?” she asks about the phone once she sets the tray down. She doesn’t ask me how the call was. She knows better. Or maybe she just reads it on my face.

“Yes, thank you.” She’s about to leave when I stop her. “If he calls again, can you tell him I’m not here please?”

She studies me for a moment, then nods her head. “Of course, dear.”

On the second evening, I go downstairs for dinner because if I spend one more minute in this bed, I’m going to go crazy. There’s a replacement cell phone on the table at my place with a note from Stefan stuck to the box.

Don’t drop this one at the bottom of the sea.

S





The joke is in poor taste, but I find myself smiling anyway.

I take it out of the box. It’s the same pretty rose gold as the original phone and the same numbers are programmed.

I check the time. It’s almost noon on the East Coast. I program the number for Clear Meadows and ask the receptionist for Melanie. She connects me a few minutes later and I ask if it’s a good time to FaceTime Gabe. I can hear the smile in her voice and a few moments later, using Melanie’s cell phone, I’m looking at Gabe sitting in the community room with a smock on that has paint smeared all over it.

“Gabi!” he calls out and I see his finger coming toward the camera. I guess he’s trying to touch my face.

“Gabe! It’s so good to see you!”

“What happened to your face?” he asks.

I touch my bangs, push them down to cover the bandage.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just fell down. You know how clumsy I am.”

“You’re not clumsy.” He peers closer, the camera showing me just part of his eye and nose for a moment. “You’re hurt,” he says, his expression so worried, it breaks my heart.

“I’m okay, Gabe. I promise. It’s just a little bump.”

He just sits there studying me for a moment and his expression is almost like it used to be. Like he used to be.

But then it’s as though he suddenly remembers something and shifts the phone to his knee where there’s a scrape covered by a band-aid.

“I fell too, Gabi. We have matching band-aids.”

I smile when I see his face again. “How did you fall?”

“I tripped when I was running.”

Melanie comes into the picture. “We had a rainy day and the minute we could get outside Gabe went charging, didn’t you, Gabe?”

“Yep,” Gabe says. “But it doesn’t hurt. Are you coming for lunch, Gabi?”

“Not today, Gabe, but soon, okay? I promise.”

“Tomorrow?”

Crap. “Not tomorrow, no, but soon. It’ll be a surprise!”

“You used to come visit me more.”

“Gabe, why don’t you show Gabi your painting?” Melanie asks, saving the day because Gabe gets a proud smile on his face and a moment later, I’m looking at a large canvas of mostly smeared paint in all different colors.

“It’s modern,” Gabe says.

“It’s beautiful,” I say. I think about what Alex said in his last message about wondering if he’ll ever be able to talk to Gabe without breaking down afterwards. I wonder the same thing.

“This one is for Alex,” he says, as if reading my mind. “But I’ll make you one next.”

How am I going to tell him that Alex is gone?

“I can’t wait to see mine!” I say, my enthusiasm overdone.

We talk for another five minutes, but I can see Gabe getting distracted as he picks up his paint brush again and, after a promise to FaceTime him again the following day, we disconnect the call.

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