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How amazing can life be? Coincidences, would they be situations devised by fate, or just consequences of human actions? Ellie lives on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro with her mother Amelia and sister Lia. After being abandoned, “with one hand in front and the other behind” by their father, with one sister being a teenager and a weakened mother, there is no other alternative for her than to take charge of the house. A decent job is all you need... But that need, day by day, seems more and more impossible... until two months after starting his desperate search, a great opportunity arises... Traveling to another country, leaving his family behind, would not be considerable even in his worst nightmares... In his head, still as much as a dreamer, at most, they would get a house of their own in a better location. But it wasn't like she actually had a choice... Faced with so many noes, bills and more bills piling up and unexpected situations, she cannot consider giving any other answer than yes... And it's far from home that Ellie will realize that the world she's been embedded in is much bigger and more dangerous than she can handle... that she is, quite literally, irrevocably, in the hands of THE MAFIA.
♥ | Chapter One
it is necessary to lie with imagination
to entice needy brains
—PAULO RICARDO ZARGOLIN
I try to focus on the slides past on the screen, and what the professor of Tax Law says on the platform in the college auditorium, but it's impossible, my mind scrambles, and of the various things he says, if I pick up two words it's a lot, and that's not all, my mind simply travels over and over again to the discussions I've been witnessing more frequently since the beginning of the week. My parents have been fighting daily…
Mom complains about how long it takes him to come home after work, about the money that is barely enough for the bills, since a good part of the sum mysteriously disappears, without explanation... Dad pretends not to hear her, and even tries to ignore her, but eventually because of insistence of my mother in search of explanations, he attack verbally talks about how much of a bloodsucker she is, and the worst possible things... I always risk brokering a peaceful settlement, lessening the screaming that always gets triggered, but she asks me to stay out of the discussion, and he ends for telling me to shut up, then throw in my face the money you have disburses for my books, meals, and college bus… and then there’s my sister, who, so she doesn’t have to go to the precarious school nearby peripheral where we live since I understand myself by people, mommy enrolled her in the center college… although both my sister and I have full scholarships, they really have to shell out a note to send us, and we have everything we need. We need to class, so at the end of it all, my head hangs down, my voice dies and when dad sleeps or leaves for work at the plant, which is almost two hours away, i try to console my desolate, tearful mother... who is pretty sure dad has an extramarital affair... she blames herself, defends him... says with the problem with her back she can't help at all, nor can she give the attention that my father as a man, her husband needs… I've never felt so impotent as I've been feeling these last few days, I hate my dad for doing so much harm to her, I hate her for depending on him so much and the charity he seems to do for us… but I hate it more, for not being able to hate him enough to love him… he is my father, and before all this mess set in I remembered him as a good father, a good husband… today he is not the worst, but he leaves a lot to be desired.
—Then?—Sérgio's voice snaps me out of my trance, I blink a few times to focus on him.
—What did you say?—Question, he arches his eyebrow.
—You want to go home…—His voice still seems far away, I blink a few times to come back to me, Sérgio frowns—What planet are you on today?—I laugh, I force a laugh too.
Sérgio has been my boyfriend since the first year of college, although there is a world of difference between us, I love him very much, and it is mutual. He lives two blocks from the college, in a university condominium, heir to a law firm in the interior, he came to the capital exactly three years ago, to graduate from the college that both his father and grandfather formed... Family tradition, he said.
—Is the class over already?—Confused question, blinking a few times, looking towards the teacher who sat at the table, messing with something on the computer, routine posture to clear up doubts from the students… I usually walked past him with one or two questions, today I certainly won't, after all, I have no idea what your class was about today, maybe you continued last week's subject, I don't know...
—What's going on with you?—My boyfriend questions with a confused, suspicious expression. Because I lived a reality very different from his, I spared him as much as I could from the drama that surrounded me. Of the almost three years we were together, it was rare that he came to my house, don't get me wrong, I wasn't ashamed of my family, the simple house where we lived or anything like that… I just knew that Sérgio lived in a world very parallel to mine, my reality would be a blow to him, I knew it... While he got a mustang for finishing high school, I didn't even get a license... His father owned a law firm, my father was an assistant in production at a plant… My mother has always depended on my father in unimaginable ways, while his mother is a renowned, recognized plastic surgeon… that we wouldn't work out… but I was too stubborn to break up with him… and he was good… for some reason he loved me…—Ellie?—He again catches my attention…
—Migraine… I woke up feeling these unbearable pains in my head, and I can't focus on anything…—I lie, he believes in the same instant. As much as Sérgio was a very smart and meticulous man, he was the easiest person I have ever dealt with in my life.
—Why didn't you stay home? Didn't you tell me anything?—I make a face, he forces a laugh—I'm talking too much… I'm sorry, honey!—I make another face, feeling bad for lying to him like that, but it's okay. Out of the question to say anything about my parents' quarrel… as helpful as he is, he would try to help… and if he knew about my family's financial situation, he would certainly try to shove money into me, just like he did when my sister got sick and my father's salary didn't come out… I denied it with everything in me, but when I realized it, he showed up in front of my house with countless things… that was one of the crucial factors in keeping him very oblivious to everything around me, I didn't I wanted to take advantage of him for a second—Let's go to the pharmacy, then let's go to my house, I'll take care of you…—He kissed my cheek, I smiled.
—I really, really want this, but I have to go home…—grumble, shaking your hand. He twists his lips, visibly embarrassed, but doesn't press me.
—Let me take you home then, just for today…—He asks as if this was more of a favor for him than for me, I Sigh nodding, not wanting to give reasons for him to randomly show up there.
—I just have to go to the board to stamp the bus pass.—Warning, he nods. Then we packed our things and left.
—Promise you'll take care of yourself?—Asks Sérgio, already parked in front of my house. It's a two-story townhouse in a worn, peeling yellow, not the worst house in the neighborhood by far, but it used to be one of the best.
—Promise—smile for him and open the button that unlocks the doors—Call or text me when you get home.—I demand, he nods, then grazes our lips in a warm kiss, then I go down from the car, he waves, starting the car afterward.
—Give your family a hug for me.—He asks, I force a smile and wave, then he drives off with the car.
With a deep sigh, I lift my chin, noticing the routinely judgmental gazes on me. For some reason, there were few people who liked me and my family, I think that's why we always looked beyond the periphery, beyond the convenience of living a mediocre life... my parents not so much, I think that as time settled down, so they settled for living there for the rest of their lives… even so, they always looked for the best for my sister and me, mom especially… she didn’t always live here… she came from an upper middle class family, but she fell in love with the wrong person, not that falling in love with someone from a different economic level than yours, whether it was a mistake... and if it were, I couldn't judge... but dad himself was a mistake... he was always accommodating, he lived thinking only about the moment, and that's why he often judged both me and my sister for dreaming in excess… but he at least, although he thought differently, was never an obstacle for us… and if he did, would she recover? They were simple questions, but with scary, unpredictable answers.
I pass through the gate of my house without any familiar smiles, so I head inside, the first one I see lying on the sofa is my sister, she seems to be watching something related to biology on YouTube on the TV, since she doesn't have a computer. We use my second-hand notebook together, it crashes like a charm, but it has served our academic needs.
—Where's Mom?—I inquire, her gaze meeting mine.
—Hi, dear sister Lia, how are you? Ellie, I'm fine, thanks for asking.—My sister paraphrases full of irony, I roll my eyes.
—I'm serious, Lia, I'm worried about her and Dad…—I confess my fear with my sister. We have a difference of three years, our proximity in age makes us very close, I don't have her as my biggest confidant, but I have her as a friend, just as she has me. But unlike me, who has an almost zero circle of friends, my sister is very popular at school. I limit myself in her friendship, to Alicia that I've known since kindergarten, she lives on the outskirts too, more precisely right at the beginning of the neighborhood. Joana and Sérgio from college. I can talk very well, but I always preferred a short cycle…
—She's been locked in her room since I got home from school. I brought her lunch, but she's barely touched it…—My sister sighs, she tries to play tough, indifferent about our parents' relationship, but it clearly affects her, as it affects me—When Will they make up for good?—My sister questions, I shrug.
—I don't know,His, I just hope that soon, the stress tone leaves more debilitated…—I say with annoyance. My mother has had a problem with her back for a long time due to an accident she suffered when she worked in a restaurant… she was fine most days, although a little pain here and there, she was fine… but the situation with my father has triggered severe and constant pain, which every now and then makes us resort to the doctor who has been following her ever since, he is not cheap at all, he is one more cost on our list of expenses… she even used to going to one of the SUS, but usually the return took so long that mom couldn't wait... after I insisted a lot, dad activated the company's medical plan, but they only charge fifty percent of the costs.
—Sometimes I hope they break up...
—Lia! For God's sake…—I scold her, even though I have thoughts very similar to hers, my sister shrugs her shoulders.
—Where's the notebook? I need to do some work.—I sigh, indicating my bag on the couch.
—I'm going to look at Mom…—I warn, she nods, so I follow the stairs that lead to the two bedrooms on the top floor of the house.
♥ | Chapter Two
—Mom…—I knock on my parents' bedroom door, before pushing the old wood. Mom is in the dark room, tangled in her duvet, I sigh—Lia said she didn't leave in hours…—I mutter.
—Lia should worry about her studies, not the time I spend in my room.—Mutter sullenly, I sigh.
—We're worried about you…—I feel-me on the edge of her bed, looking at her profile. Mom is a young woman, she is only forty-one years old, but suffering gives her almost ten years more… the hair that I once remembered to be full of defined curls, will turn an untidy bun… the black skin so silky, smooth… nowadays, it was just a vague memory behind the many machines under them... you could blame your bad back, the endless pain... but it goes further.
At the height of her twenties, mom fought with her parents to stay with my dad, ran away with him from the countryside and came to the capital, thinking that she would live a beautiful love story, but when she got here, reality hit her, but it
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