Chapter One, Mikalo’s Fate
Even here in the dark, his body close to mine, the heaviness of his arm a comfort as it wrapped around my chest and held me tight, the back of my neck warm from his quiet breath, I couldn’t help but smile.
In a week’s time, I’d be Ronan Grace Delis.
I’d be his wife. My Mikalo finally officially mine.
In his sleep, he sighed, pressing against me as he dreamed.
It had been weeks since he had kneeled before me in the kitchen. Weeks since he had slipped the ring on my finger and, his eyes wet with tears, asked me to be his. To love him and spend the rest of my days with him. Weeks since, my heart full and happy, I had been unable to speak. Unable to utter that simple syllable. Unable to find that “yes” in my throat, my voice.
And so I had nodded. And that nod had become my answer.
With that my Mikalo, my Greek god in grey wool, had become mine.
In a few days we’d fly to Greece, the advanced age of his beloved Nona preventing her from coming to New York. It just made sense, the few friends I had easily able to travel. And, let’s face it, the sprawling mess of Mikalo’s family was much easier to corral in Greece than in the States.
I sighed, exhaling the thought of them away.
He and I had talked about this yesterday. And the day before that.
“And so she is not one you’d want to come?” he had asked, repeating himself, the absence of my mother obsessing him.
“Because,” I had said, snapping like a petulant child.
And he had knitted his brow, struggling to understand something he knew so little about.
But how could I explain the complicated relationship I had with that woman people knew as my Mother? How could I explain how she had left my father, destroying him in the process, trading a man who loved her and a child who idolized her for a wealthy Texan whose only interest in her was that she was still young and still pretty and eager?
And how to explain how, after that, she had forgotten us, choosing to recreate herself as someone new. Someone without a daughter. Without a family, a past. Without responsibility. How my last sight of her was her pulling out of the driveway, driving down the street, and turning left.
How could I explain any of that without feeling the familiar rage and crippling sense of abandonment?
And Mikalo wouldn’t understand. Or maybe he would. I don’t know.
All I did know was I wanted to leave her behind. Leave her in the past, fully aware that, with my marrying Mikalo, she would be more than happy to reclaim me as her own, my achievements ignored, but my marriage to a man of generous means embraced, celebrated, and, no doubt, bragged about to anyone and everyone who’d listen.
It was best to just move on without her. I had no need for her and, as I’d seen over the last fifteen years, she had no need for me.
“And your father?” he had asked.
With this, the tears had fallen.
“He died,” I had finally said.
And Mikalo, my Mikalo, had gathered me in his arms, tucking my head under his chin as he squeezed, holding me close.
This I did share, telling him how my dad’s heart was broken. How he had lost it all. A promising career, his pride, his sense of self, all of it extinguished by my mother’s, his wife’s, cruelty, the pain soon drowned in drink, his body eventually surrendering.
What I didn’t share, what I couldn’t revisit, was how this was how I spent my teenage years. That was a memory I needed to leave behind, I thought as I stared at the shadows on the ceiling, scooting back into the warmth that was Mikalo. When other girls were dancing and flirting and … well, whatever in the hell teenage girls did, I was eating cereal for dinner and then wandering from bar to bar to find my dad, walking him home, my arm around his waist, clutching him close so he wouldn’t stumble into traffic.
I had lost one parent. I wasn’t losing another.
No, my mother was not welcome at my wedding.
“You are not dreaming,” Mikalo now said, his voice almost a whisper, the words caressing the back of my neck.
He shifted, pulling me into him, and then sighed.
“I am still in sleep,” he mumbled.
His arm slowly moved from my chest, the palm briefly grazing my breasts, the hand sliding down my stomach, the fingers slipping lower to rest on my naked warmth.
He kissed the back of my neck as his long fingers pushed their way past my legs, opening me to him, his fingertips gently, oh so gently, rubbing me into wetness.