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By Deborah Blumenthal
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2014 Deborah Blumenthal
All rights reserved.
The white plastic Jesus dangling by a string from the rearview mirror is rocking in time to the music as Ro barrels up the Henry Hudson Parkway singing "Stop in the Name of Love."
Without warning she lurches into the middle lane then floors the gas so Mr. Trailer Trash in the pickup with the God, Guns, and Guts bumper sticker riding our tail and doing disgusting things with his tongue is left behind like roadkill.
"Do not fuck with a Porsche 911," Ro says, extending her middle finger.
It can go 197 mph, I'm about to add, then think better of it because our little Jesus is shaking his head and doing figure eights. Or it's me because we've shared a six-pack and haven't eaten except for the Ritz Bits that Dante—whose car we have stolen—left behind in the glove compartment along with Trojan Extended Pleasures and half a joint.
"Where are we going again?" Ro asks.
"The outlets. Looking for Louboutins."
"Why didn't we program the GPS?" she says, punching her head. "I don't, uh, really know where I'm going." She blinks hard as if that will clear her brain fog.
I tap tap tap on the GPS, only "outlet mall" doesn't come up and neither does "Louboutins" and I can't remember the actual name of the mall and I'm starting to feel queasy and wondering if this was really such a hot idea since I have two quizzes tomorrow that I haven't studied for. But that doesn't matter because right then we hear a siren in the background that starts out low and grating, like the buzz of a bloodthirsty mosquito circling your ear, and then it grows louder and louder—and in case you're deaf there's a row of red.
Flashing. Lights. In. The. Mirror.
"Mofo," Ro says. "First time we cut school and we get ..."
"PULL OVER TO THE SHOULDER," booms the loudspeaker.
"No way," I mutter.
Ro shoots me a look of disbelief. "Gia, remember whose car is this?"
I do remember. She slows down and makes her way to the shoulder while I study the font on the can of Bud between my knees deciding if I think it really works with the design.
Bodoni, that's the name of the font I like. Bodoni.
"Don't say anything," she says.
"Don't say anything unless he asks you something."
"What do you think I'm going say, 'do you want a hand job?'"
Ro and I start to laugh because right then that becomes the most hilarious thing in the world. Then the cop struts up to the driver's window and we are not laughing any more. No. I stare straight ahead.
"You were doin' eighty."
"Oh," Ro says. Dead silence. One one-thousand. Two one-thousand. Three one-thousand.
"License and registration," he says, which will be a problem.
Ro hands him her license, which isn't a license. It's a goddamn learner's permit. She leans across me and fishes around in the glove compartment until she finds the registration or maybe it's the insurance and accidentally knocks the condoms to the floor. Ro hands him the registration. Dante's registration.
"So you don't have a license and it's not your car," the cop says. "And you were speeding and drinking."
Ro doesn't answer, but she's breathing like an asthmatic.
"You," he says. "ID."
I turn to look up at him and he looks back at me and something like the wattage they must use for the electric chair shoots through me from head to toe. Because the cop is about the hottest thing on the face of the universe, and I am ready to roll on my back—but I mean, a cop? So I uncurl my middle finger at him.
"Gia," Ro hisses.
"What exactly is your problem?" he asks.
He stares at me for longer than he has to and I stare back at him, never mind the heat and the shock waves. I refuse to look away first.
"ID," he says again, pointing to my bag in case I don't understand English.
I scratch the side of my nose with my middle finger, then hand him my learner's permit. "Here, hottie."
Another intense look before he examines my permit, looks back at me in surprise when he recognizes the name, examines my permit again, and then hands it back to me.
"Shit," he mutters.CHAPTER 2
What's in a name? E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g—if you have my name. Everything if instead of working in a law office or a bank or maybe the IRS, your dad hangs out in a social club that's probably bugged by the feds.
Everything if he's been perp-walked in front of the TV cameras more times than I can remember.
Everything if he's the one whose last name they whisper when people disappear.
If you haven't caught on yet, I'll bring you up to speed. My dad doesn't have a boss, he is the boss. The capo di tutti capi. Translation: boss of all bosses.
There. Now leave it alone.
And me? His seventeen-year-old daughter who half the boys in school are afraid to walk near, and the other half swoon after for their own sick reasons, which gives me the dubious distinction of being the most hated/loved girl in school.
Not that I care.
They call me Gia. Just Gia. Even the teachers taking attendance. Never mind my last name with the operatic mouthful of syllables and vowels. Unless you need a dinner reservation in a place that's booked, then doors open and you get comped with antipasti and fritto misto, and after the main course when you're stuffed, Napoleons and cannoli appear when you didn't order dessert, and then we act impressed and my dad overtips.
Aside from the name buzz though, my dad and mom insist that, after all, we are just like everyone else. A normal, middle-class Italian family that goes to church, raises money for the nuns in Palermo who run the children's cancer hospital, helps the neighbors when they fall on tough times, but most of all, minds its own business.
Only how do I explain Frankie with the Glock who drives me to school every day in a Cadillac Escalade and then waits in front of the hydrant for me at three o'clock, and Vinnie—aka "the Nose"—who routinely sticks his into my life so he can snitch to my dad about who I'm hanging out with? Fortunately Vinnie is such a dick that he has no clue that the cop with the electric green eyes ...
But I'm getting ahead of myself.CHAPTER 3
It's not that I mind being driven to central booking in the back of a grungy patrol car that reeks of vomit, it's just that I so have to pee and Officer Hottie is getting on my nerves because he is driving at an excruciatingly slow speed, every now and then glancing at us through the barrier between the front and back seat.
"What's your name?" I say, to make convo. Ro slides her foot over and kicks mine, but I ignore her.
"Cross," Officer Hottie says.
"Are you or is that actually your name?"
"Michael Cross," he says with a smirky smile.
"So are you like a good Catholic with a name like that?"
Our eyes met in the rearview mirror. He doesn't answer. "Well?"
"Where are we goin' with this?"
"I was just wondering if you pray," I say.
"You think I need to?"
"Not for my sake."
His eyes meet mine and he looks away.
"So do girls find you hard to talk to?"
Ro kicks me harder.
"What?" he asks in disbelief.
"Well you don't seem to actually talk."
He shakes his head, refusing to get into anything.
"I mean it's too bad," I say, unable to leave it alone.
"Gia," Ro says softly, treading carefully. "Can you stop?"
"What?" I say, holding my hands out helplessly. "I'm just trying to lighten things up here by making con-ver-sa-tion, or at least trying to. But Officer Hottie doesn't want to talk to me, which is too bad."
"You have quite a mouth," he says.
The convo ends when he pulls up to the front of the station and opens the back door to let his juveniles out. We're walked up to the front desk where we wait while the cop behind it makes a point of looking up and then ignoring us.
"What ya got?" he says to Officer Hottie.
"Two under, DUI, speeding, no license, possibly stolen vehicle, resisting."
"We. Are. Fucked," Ro whispers.
"Yeah," I whisper back, staring at Officer Hottie. "But it was so worth it."
Don't get me wrong, it's not like we ditch school and go joyriding and get picked up by hot cops on a regular basis. This was singular. They were doing construction on the new library and the work filled the air with flying soot, which we were convinced was asbestos, and it was seventy-five degrees in October and what better weather to declare it a mental health day, never mind the chance to avoid some of the cockroaches perpetually dissing me. All other days, Ro and I do a fair job of acting like the A students we are at the Morgan School on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
And no one takes that lightly.
Only now? With a police record? How much hush money would my dad have to fork over to—
"GIA!" my mom shouts, making the walls vibrate as she bursts into the station with Ro's mom and my brother, Anthony. She runs up and hugs me. "You scared me to death. You know I hate trouble."
"Sorry, Ma," I say because I can't think of anything brilliant.
"Do you know what this is going to fucking cost us?" Anthony says under his breath.
That's Anthony. Not I'm glad you didn't get your head split open in the Porsche while going eighty. Not how are we going to keep this out of the papers? But I'm in the middle of a police station and what is the point of getting into an argument with my stupid guinea brother. I look at him and look away.
"Rosemarie," Ro's mom says, shaking her head. "What were you thinking?"
"I didn't think, I—"
"Right," her mom snaps, her mouth in a tight line. "You didn't think."
We all stand around until my dad's lawyer, Mario Della Russo, aka Super Mario, strolls into the station in his million-dollar chocolate-brown Armani suit with a cream silk shirt and his trademark alligator loafers.
"Theresa, Maria," he says, kissing my mom and then Ro's mom. "Always something, eh?"
He moves on to me. "My beautiful, beautiful Gia," he says, leaning back and admiring me before kissing me on both cheeks. "Are the boys still killing themselves if you won't look at them?" he says with a laugh.
"I'm still holding out for you, Mario," which he loves me to say so I say it.
He throws back his head and laughs the way he always laughs because old guys love to hear things like that and anyway we need a lawyer who totally loves us to bail me and Ro out of this total fucking mess.
"I will take care of it," he says with a wave of his hand like he's about to talk to the first-class reservations desk at Alitalia for an upgrade instead of the low-life cops at the stinking ghetto precinct we are stuck in. He speaks to the desk sergeant. There is a discussion, paperwork, more discussion although I can't imagine what there is to keep talking about because we're so friggin' guilty even though it's a first offense for both of us. But then I see him uncover his gold pen and sign some papers. Finally he turns to us.
"Come," he says in his soothing tone. "It's getting late. We don't want to miss dinner."
Super Mario is cool. Perpetually cool, cool, cool, no matter how hot the water someone may be drowning in.
I wave good-bye with my fingertips at Officer Hottie who stands ramrod straight and stares but doesn't wave back, then follow Super Mario out of the station into his Panamera.
"What did my dad say?" I whisper.
Mario raises his eyebrows and turns his upright fist in a circle.
Translation: I. Am. Screwed.
I set the table for dinner the way I always set the table, using the perfectly polished silver forks and knives and the lacy place mats that are really plastic lacy place mats so that you can wipe away the stains and pretend they never happened.
We all sit down and eat the way we always do without drama, at least for the time it takes to eat the stuffed artichokes and drink the first glasses of Chianti. Anthony wolfs down his dinner and my mom always says, "Slow down and enjoy your food," and my dad never says anything. His mouth just tightens.
Then I jump up to carry the plates with the mounds of artichoke leaves into the kitchen while my mom puts on her elbow-length oven mitts and brings the manicotti to the table. I serve my mom first and then my dad. He holds up his hand because I'm about to give him a portion for three.
"Basta, basta," he says, looking at me pointedly, which—knowing my dad—means not only enough manicotti, but also enough of everything I've put the family through. I put some of it back and he continues to x-ray me with his eyes because my dad gets most of the information he needs by reading people's faces, leaving them no space to hide.
I look back at him and mouth, "I'm sorry."
"Sorry," he says mockingly, lifting his chin. His mouth hardens and he looks through me until I look away. He's not going to ruin dinner by punishing me now. He'll think about it. Then after I go to my room and try to concentrate on homework, which I won't be able to do because I'll be waiting for him to come up, he'll open my door without knocking.
"Starting tomorrow, no more ..." he'll say and let me know my sentence. I'll listen and take it because when my father makes up his mind, if you want to live, you don't try to negotiate.CHAPTER 4
The next morning I'm sitting in my usual seat in English, but Mrs. Carter can't see me because she's nearsighted. I wave from the back and then come up to her desk and she hands me back my paper on Julius Caesar.
"Excellent," she says. "It breathes."
"It breathes" is Mrs. Carter's way of saying that you didn't just rip your ideas off Wikipedia or SparkNotes like a mindless asshole who'll end up in trade school or buy a paper off the website that Dante and others I know regularly frequent.
All of us at Morgan School are way above that. About the only things not required to get into Morgan are a DNA swab and an E.P.T. test. To seal the deal, they ask for a tuition deposit stiffer than a payoff to a Colombian drug cartel.
But bottom line, the green light depends on who your parents are or how much they make. In my case, it's a bit of both. When my acceptance letter came, inscribed in magenta with one of those calligraphy pens, we all knew that an affirmative meant that my life would change for better or worse.
So I work hard. And when Mrs. Carter says my paper "breathes," she means I put my soul into it and that it has depth, which might sound stupid except I know what she means, and anyway I like her and the transported look in her eyes when she reads Shakespeare. And it's fun to psyche out all the flawed personalities because IMO Shakespeare's characters are cool, especially Hamlet who's troubled and all, but brilliant and hot. And their motivations are no different from ours, because who doesn't feel strung out like a desperate loser?
I walk back to my seat making sure to hold my paper so Christy Collins sees it and dies because she's convinced the only reason I usually get As is that the teachers are afraid they'll get whacked if I don't, which is ridiculous. Christy has never gotten an A, probably not a B either, but if money could buy grades, she'd be in Mensa. But never mind that, she's stone-cold jealous of me.
"Typical," she spits out as I pass her and her eyes glom on to the A.
I glance over my shoulder feeling a rush of pleasure at her snarky face.
"Can I read it?" Clive asks.
Clive Laurent is this totally unique, asexual, standout person who looks, acts, dresses, and thinks differently from everyone else on the planet. I'm convinced he was born a thousand years ago and somehow time-traveled and ended up at Morgan because he took a wrong turn on his way home to Camelot.
Clive has long, wispy blond hair and pale skin. No one has ever seen him without the navy cashmere scarf he wears knotted around his neck no matter how cold or hot it is. I think he's hypothermic if that's a word or a medical condition or state of being or something when you walk around perpetually chilled.
In addition to the scarf, Clive lives in a vintage Burberry raincoat, which weirded me out the first time I saw him in school. But then I heard him answer a question in class and I realized that he's completely brilliant and doesn't have a mean bone in his emaciated body. He was so deserving of extreme niceness by someone who isn't put off by his strangeness that he became my closest friend, not counting Ro.
It's not like Clive is some poor soul who sleeps on a park bench and dump dives for food. His family is beyond rich and he lives in a ginormous ninety-million dollar duplex high up in the Time Warner Center, and when you're looking out the window it feels like you're in a plane hovering over a twinkling skyscraper fairyland.
Excerpted from Mafia Girl by Deborah Blumenthal. Copyright © 2014 Deborah Blumenthal. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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