ROSES ON FIRE
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"You bastards! You’re worthless! How can you not bring me that woman?” I shouted nervously looking around me at how pathetic my people were Everyone was silent, and that made me even more pissed off. I had already exited through the back door of the auditorium, so nothing stopped me from spilling my guts on those who disobeyed my orders. So, I punched in all directions and I knocked down whoever fell victim to my fury of blows to the ground. I punched until I was literally tired. “I must have this woman! Do you understand? You will bring her to me whether she wants it!”
SHE WILL BE MINE!
“Relax baby and give it to me as you always do. You are a God at this. What is happening? Is everything ok with you?”
I heard the woman next to me speaking and instead of calming me; it left my blood boiling. What the hell was wrong with me? Without thinking, I pushed her off me and got out of bed.
I didn’t need this additional burden right now. I had been feeling like a zombie, going through the motions with no energy. As Maura took in her surroundings, she noticed something was amiss.
“Get dressed and get out of my house!” I ordered her without a thought for her emotions. I had no regard for any woman, and I showed it through my actions. None of them could pry the beast out of me, no matter how hard they tried.
She knelt on the crumpled sheets, her gaze heavy-lidded as she stared at me.
Out of nowhere, a wave of darkness filled my mind. No one ever asked anything of Riccardo Serratore, least of all a w*ore.
I couldn’t control anymore and hit Maura across the face. As her eyes brimmed with tears, she searched in vain for a shred of compassion.
“Get the hell out!” I shouted again, pointing to the door.
Maura shuffled her clothes together from the floor and stepped out, the sound of her footsteps echoing in the hallway. I was alone, the only sound being the gentle whisper of my thoughts. The persistent noise must have prompted Aida to come upstairs. My mother’s sister was like a second mother to me; I could always count on her for her advice and unwavering support. The one who was aware of my secret, but also the one who encouraged me the most to seek help.
“Riccardo, is everything all right?” Aida marched through the door without a care in the world, not stopping to knock, as if she owned the place. Out of all the people here, she was the only woman to do it, and it didn’t bother me in any way. When her gaze swept around the room and she viewed the disarray, she realized what difficulty I was facing. “Another misfire, huh?”
My face grew hot and I could not bring myself to look her in the eye out of shame. Aida made her way towards me. The gentle touch of her hands, toughened from much labor, had a reassuring and healing power. “My dear, change this face. I know sometimes it’s hard to accept, but maybe you just haven’t found the right woman yet. You haven’t found the one who will cure you from this condition”
She was trying her hardest to motivate me to find peace within myself, but unfortunately, this strategy was no longer successful. I was fast losing my patience.
“I’m sick and tired of screw-ups, Aida! I’m sure I don’t have any medical problems... I don’t know and I don’t understand why it doesn’t get hard when I see a woman like Maura”
“These things take time, Riccardo. You just need to be patient. A tall, handsome man like you with these sparkling blue eyes won’t take long to find a woman you would truly fall in love with.”
Aida had been with me for such a long time and her insistence could be quite irritating at times, which I didn’t appreciate. But I was too damn polite to tell her she could be wrong. I was sincerely thankful for her always being there for me and the support she provided. She was always there to remind me to be true to who I was and to stay genuine.
She always accepted my decisions without judgment and never made me feel like it was my fault. Even with my tendency to be short-tempered, she didn’t hesitate to speak her mind and tell me what she honestly thought.
“You should take a break.” She told me with a motherly smile on her face.
“It could be a good idea… I will be at the pool…”
I angrily made my way outside and out of the front door before heading to the outdoor pool. Here I was by myself again, engulfed in my own thoughts. I would often wish that I could start over and have a fresh beginning. Start from scratch. Alter something in order to make a difference. The music was the best part, however. Music was the one thing I didn’t want to change.
Even if the apocalypse were to be unleashed, music would stay. It would be the priority item I would preserve. The cello was my haven of rest.
It was regrettable that I was not aware of how to play that marvelous instrument, but I had other methods of savoring its enchanting notes. Thus far, no artist, not a single one, had been able to probe the depths of my disquieted and tormented soul.
Every other night I would go to a concert, the lights flashing and the room shaking with excitement. But the monotony of the experience remained unchanged for me. Boring and pointless. The beautiful harmonies that women created at concerts mesmerized me. They turned me on and I would force them home and have my way with them. None could resist my charm, my demonic smile.
I kept pushing my limits until I felt like I was about to burst, and I knew that when I did, I wouldn’t be recognizable. Their silly smiles would suddenly change and fear would immediately take the place of pleasure.
But somewhere along the journey, something would break. Something so fucked up that I would go out of my mind and they would fall victims of my unleashed rage.
I needed to relax, so I took a dip in the pool, the water caressing my body and making me feel whole again and vigorously swimming from one end to the other. Doing the exercise helped me to forget my worries and find a sense of calm.
But in the pool’s vastness, it was just me and my thoughts. I had so much on my mind that I was losing nights doing nothing.
I had so much business awaiting enemies that wished to see me dead and buried. They were actually living only to cause me losses and enjoyed every second of it.
The Italian July sun was friendly in the mornings. Every morning without exception, I would finish the pool laps, and I was doing it until I was out of breath. And then, as Aida used to tell me, I emerged like a god from the water.
Tens of water drops were melting on my sculpted body, feeling them all the way to my underwear line. Already as a habit, I ran my hand through my dark hair and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Aida. I already felt a grimace in the corner of my mouth. I knew I was irresistible, and every time took advantage of this, as I always enjoyed teasing her.
My presence would make all women feel uncomfortable. Too bad nothing developed from there.
“So, you like what you see?” Another one of my grimaces, but this time I felt it warming my face.
“Oh please, Riccardo! You can’t be serious…”
We both laughed. I really loved her. This maternal love that had kept me a float. She always kept me afloat, rescuing me. But since all good things must end, and since until now I’ve tried to deny it, Aida had to go. And she had good reasons for doing it. The part that scared me the most was that I didn’t know for how long.
“There is nothing I could say or do to make you stay, Aida?”
She could already see the regret in my eyes, a feeling I never showed to anyone but her.
“Oh, my boy! You know that’s impossible.”
She cupped my unshaved cheeks with her hands and, with the deepest look in her already teary eyes, she spoke again. “My dear boy, in life, everything ends. So was my time here. You know I have another grandson that needs me. I have to be there for him, see him grow…”
“Yes, I know. But…”
The words just cut deep in my throat and I could not speak. Then, just like that, I threw my arms around her and kept this woman close to me, to my heart.
I felt like I was breaking in half. It was like time had stopped and for a few seconds there was no pool, no house, no nothing, just the two of us and our pure embrace. Finally, I released her and this time my hands covered her cheeks.
“Look Aida, I know you have to go. I’ve come to terms with the idea, even though I don’t know when I’ll see you again. But I just need you to tell me I’ll be fine. "
“But of course, you will be fine. You are Riccardo Serratore. You are always fine. Besides, there is your brother. You are not alone…” Hearing about my brother was like hearing about a stranger.
“I don’t even know where my brother is right now…” I took a few steps back, drying my dark hair.
“Oh, well, he will come visit you, don’t worry. He is just busy right now”
“I will go pack now. I have an early flight in the morning. "
“Do you need a ride?”
“No, thank you. You know I hate goodbyes”
And with that, my Aida said her farewell. It was going to be a long night. At least I could have filled it with that woman’s performance.
An hour until an event that would either blow my mind or piss me off even more. I was going to need my people, as this woman would get the same treatment as those before her.
The event room in the center of Sicily got packed to its full capacity. Thousands of cello lovers were cheering the headliner. Cello Clare, the definition of femininity and beauty in a woman. This time, it was something different. It was an international competition with cellists from all over the world. Cello Clare was one of the many contestants. And this time I got to choose.
I was not looking for a woman specifically, just an ordinary woman. They were all the same, and they all turned me in the same way. The important thing was to get past that point.
My anger never went beyond physical aggression, instead I spilled my guts on various men who were around me at that exact moment. It didn’t matter to me where I had her.
I always had the most stylish lodge reserved, perfectly positioned from where I could see who was performing. Artists held most of the concerts here, in the Diamond Hall, and the staff already knew me and my habits. And that’s because I was spending a lot of money organizing concerts and maintaining the business.
They also knew and didn’t question my decision to speak to the performer in person. What they didn’t know was that the artist was going to come with me whether she wanted to.
Then she came walking in. The woman who from the first steps and the first smile aroused something in me. As they all did. Only this time, it was all at a much higher intensity. It felt like I was exploding.
When she started her performance, I almost couldn’t take my eyes off her and the way she caressed the cello. With grace, with gentleness, with ecstasy. It was like she was playing for me. I made such insistent eye contact with her I had the feeling she had no choice but to hold my gaze for a few moments.
I enjoyed every second of it. And although she had a mask covering her eyes, she intrigued me even more to want to discover her. I watched her every move, every rebellious strand of hair. Cello Clare was a dream and that dream would soon turn into a nightmare.
But the time had come for me to own her. Right after the concert, I sent my men to bring her in, but to my shock and anger, this woman had slipped through their fingers.
“You bastards! You’re worthless! How can you not bring me that woman?”
Everyone was silent, and that made me even more pissed off. I had already exited through the back door of the auditorium, so nothing stopped me from spilling my guts on those who disobeyed my orders. So, I punched in all directions and I knocked down whoever fell victim to my fury of blows to the ground. I punched until I was literally tired. “I must have this woman! Do you understand? You will bring her to me whether she wants it!”
NOT UNTIL JUSTICE IS SERVED
“Oh, come on, girl! Come with us. All you do is work. What are you? Some kind of workaholic? You went to that competition in Sicily just for the pleasure of playing the cello. And for some reason, I won’t understand why you took part under your nickname. How are people supposed to know you? You don’t even know if you won.”
“I don’t even care, friend! You know why I went there” I rolled my eyes just for Hannah to see. We had been best friends since high school and I followed the same career in journalism as she did. I enjoyed what I did for a living, but Hannah was right.
Sometimes I was so addicted to my work but also my hobby, the cello. “Hannah, you know that I have to cover the biggest story ever. The magazine would not forgive me if I screwed this up. "
“Do you think I don’t know that? The big boss put you in charge of the story of your lifetime. I almost got jealous!”
“Don’t you go th
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