Gloom coveted the passionate love Grace shared with Frank last night and possessed it with fury. She fought fiercely to hide it, yet ruthlessly to save it. Will she ever experience the innocence, the calmness and the purity of a love they once shared? Grace felt spoiled, decayed and rancid inside. She felt maimed for life…She wasn’t the same. She was living a lie! Joe loved Grace and Grace loved Frank. That was the reality of her life.
She wondered if the truth of her adoption would have placed Joe, Grace, and Frank on different paths, had it come out when she was still a young girl. Would Frank have even been in the picture at all? These are questions Grace will struggle with and wonder about for the rest of her life. These are questions without any answers. What was once a blessed life had now become a cursed life. Grace felt like she was living in hell.
… Frank yelled out, while running down the stairs adjusting his tie and clumsily slipping on his suit jacket, “Grace! I’m running late. I have time for a quick cup of coffee, but that’s it. I’ll grab a bagel on the way to work.” Grace jumped! She was thankful Frank couldn’t see or hear her thoughts, as she nodded with a smile, and handed him fresh coffee in his favorite “I love Dad” mug. Frank poured that coffee into a stainless steel, two-cup thermos, and kissed Grace good-bye on the cheek. He said, “On second thought, I’ll take it with me. Love you Grace. See you tonight…miss you already. Hang in there kid.” Grace glanced down at her gold filigree wedding band, which hugged her left ring finger beautifully, then closed her eyes tightly. She shook her head sadly as tears streamed down her face. She wiped them away quickly with a brush of her hand, as the kids made their way down to the kitchen table for breakfast.
Gina stated, “I guess Dad had to rush out again…he’s always running late.” Grace replied, “That’s your Dad. Late sometimes, but always reliable. You gotta love him.” Gina quickly ate her eggs and drank her juice while Vito asked if he could eat his Dad’s portion. Grace served Vito the remainder of the eggs. Gina laughed and commented to her brother that he eats too much and is starting to resemble the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Vito responded, “Shut up Gina, because it’s just baby fat and it will all come off in a couple of years. That’s what Mom told me.” Gina chuckled and said, “Yeah right.” Then she looked over at Grace and stated, “Keep telling him that Mom. He’s like a vacuum cleaner. He just keeps sucking in food.” Vito flung his last piece of toast at his sister as Grace screamed out, “Enough you two! Time for school!” Vito licked his fingers pleasurably, then grabbed his books and followed his sister out the door. Today, Vito went his way and Gina went hers, as they walked down the block in opposite directions to their respective schools.
“Alone at last,” Grace muttered. “Alone with the agony of my own thoughts.” Grace cleaned up the breakfast dishes. All was silent except for a loud knock at the front door. She was alarmed. “Who could this be so early in the morning?” she asked herself. To her surprise, it was Joe. He was standing there looking as handsome as ever in his perfectly fitted designer suit of charcoal gray. Grace asked, “What are you doing here, Joe?” Joe replied, “I couldn’t stay away Grace. I had to see you.” Grace grabbed his arm, pulled him into the house, and slammed the door shut. She said, “You can’t just show up like this! What’s wrong with you Joe? I have a husband and a family. What are you doing?”
Joe just stood there silently and a bit embarrassed for a minute or two. He then took a seat at the kitchen table. Grace poured Joe a cup of coffee, then poured one for herself before joining Joe at the table. She peered at him while waiting for an answer. Joe said that he was so sorry for showing up like this, but after the way they left off yesterday and after the things they discussed, he had to see her. He confessed that he was waiting outside until Frank and the kids left; adding that he wasn’t that stupid to just show up out of the blue at the risk of running into Frank and the kids. He stressed that he had to come by and see Grace this morning, mentioning that he had a sick, empty feeling inside and needed to make peace with her. Grace told Joe he should have just called her on the phone. Joe disagreed, stating that he couldn’t sleep all night thinking about Grace, and he couldn’t wait for morning to come so he could speak with her in person. Grace said, “This can’t go on Joe! I’m married to Frank and, as far as I’m concerned, you are still my dear cousin; even if not biologically.”
Joe looked at Grace and laughed sarcastically. He asked, “Are you for real Grace?” Then said, “Now that you’ve learned the truth about the family, the adoption, the burden I carried all these years, and the fact that I love you and always have, how can you still look at me like your dear cousin? I’ve looked at you for years like the beautiful woman that you are. I watched you marry my best friend and have his children, knowing that you were not my biological cousin like you thought all these years. I’ve had to live with the fact that I couldn’t have you. – But things certainly have changed now Grace. You know the truth. How does that make you feel?”
Grace grew upset and angry with Joe. She yelled, “Jenny forced you to keep her secret and live this lie between us. That saddens me Joe. Yet, you played with my life too when you brought Frank into the picture. Part of your little plan to keep me close…So as the story goes Joe, Frank and I fell in love, married, had a family, and made a good life together. If your plan backfired on you and you got hurt by it, I truly am sorry Joe. You were still always part of our life through those years, the way you had hoped. How dare you think that I might walk out on my marriage because I now know that you are not my cousin – and that you have feelings for me! You brought Frank and I together for your own selfish reasons! Now you have to live with that. Frank is your best friend, Joe. How could you betray him like this? You have to leave. I’m begging you to please not come into my home and destroy my life now. You have to move on.”
Joe grabbed both Grace’s hands, held them in his, and apologized for this situation between them. He confessed that his love for Grace is pure, strong and real; adding that when it comes to emotions and matters of the heart, it’s not always easy to walk away. Joe stressed that this is killing him too. He hates himself for loving Grace all this time and longing for her in a way that he shouldn’t have, especially since she is married to his best friend. “Yes, the best friend I brought into your life Grace just to keep you close!” he cried. Joe tearfully said that he’s sick over the way things turned out. He went on to explain that he always knew this day would come, but he was never quite prepared for the reality of it until it actually happened now. He thought that they would all just go on as they have been, even after the truth came out to Grace. Joe added that he played the roles of Grace’s cousin, Frank’s best friend, and Vito and Gina’s uncle for so many years that he grew to accept those roles, giving up his true identity along the way. He convinced himself that he could continue to do that, while loving and admiring Grace from a distance. Joe further explained that, unfortunately, he realized yesterday he couldn’t live like this anymore. He was hoping Grace might have felt the same way about it after learning the truth – or perhaps, in time, she may.
Grace cried into her arms as she put her head down on the kitchen table. She was inconsolable. Joe got up from his seat and ran to her side, kneeling down in front of her. Grace turned toward him as he cried in her lap. She clasped her hands around Joe’s head trying to comfort him through her own grief. She begged Joe to get up off his knees as they both stood up in the middle of Grace’s kitchen. They joined hands staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Grace said, “This can’t be Joe. I might have been able to love you back, the way you would have wanted me to, if only I knew the truth sooner. Frank and my kids are my life, Joe. They’re my world. Too many lives are intertwined here. I will not give up Frank or my family. I can’t Joe. I won’t. Please understand that and don’t expect me to do it. They don’t deserve this! If you truly love me, then let things be as they were. You must!”
Joe nodded in agreement, but his selfish heart wouldn’t allow him to let go, and Grace knew it. However, he told Grace that they would both have to work extremely hard at keeping this facade up for the rest of their lives, so as not to destroy her family and Joe’s friendship with Frank. Grace said, “If that’s what it takes, then we have to do it. Even if you and I suffer in the process, Joe.” Joe then begged Grace to be honest, and asked if she had any romantic feelings toward him after learning the truth. Grace replied that all she feels is shock and fear. Shock at the fact that Joe is no longer her biological cousin; shock at the fact that Joe professed his love for her; and fear that this may destroy her family. Joe assured Grace that he will not let this destroy her family. He promised that he would keep this secret. They both promised to keep this between them no matter how much it hurt. Joe then begged Grace to please let him know one thing, however. That is, if she ever gets to the point where she feels any bit of love for him and can’t stand being without him, to just let him know. Grace looked at Joe and nodded shyly. She then asked him to please leave because she had so much to think about. He understood perfectly, and left quickly. Joe had some thinking to do himself. The last thing in this world he would ever want to do is betray his best friend Frank and hurt Gina and Vito. He was ravaged over this; but he just couldn’t fight his feelings for Grace…He kissed her forehead, walked out the door, and disappeared from Grace’s view. Grace ran into the bathroom and cried her eyes out.
…after a good soul-searching cry, Grace exited the bathroom with a fresh looking face, touched-up mascara, bright lipstick and nicely combed hair. She decided that she can no longer cry over this mess. She needs to muster up the courage to keep this secret from her family while continuing to live a life with Joe in it. She will not look at Joe in any other way than the loving cousin he has always been; the great family friend he has always been; the wonderful uncle to her children he has always been; and the dedicated Godfather to her son Vito he has always been. Despite what she has learned from Jenny’s recipe book, and despite what she has learned from Joe, including his true feelings for her, she will go on living as if none of this information was revealed. She will keep it all as far back in her mind as possible and, hopefully, leave it there to rest; a survival tactic she hopes will carry her through the rest of her life and keep her family together. Joe will need to do the same.
So she courageously walked herself over to the coffee table, picked up the recipe book, took a seat on the couch, and faced her fears. She read Jenny’s letter over again, this time going over every word, every line and every paragraph with a fine-tooth comb, hoping to understand Jenny’s thinking. She looked at the family photos over and over again, hoping to keep those memories alive in the context they were originally meant to be. She had to live her life as if nothing had changed. Yet, at the same time, knowing that everything had changed. This was now the cross Grace would have to bear each and every day.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Another “excerpt” from a “Novella” I wrote, titled “Secrets and Lies”. This “Novella” is a work of adult fiction (Adoption, family, secrets, lies, heartbreak, the mafia boss, the family priest, the love).
OCTOBER 2019 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
I am a freelance / indie writer (fiction, poetry, blog), residing in Brooklyn, New York. I retired from a Supervisory/Admin position with a Federal Law Enforcement agency in NYC, a few years back. Presently, I am pursuing my passion for writing, and most of my writing has that New York edge.