Fiction by Joan Dantes

Maria always marveled at there being any more blood in Peter’s body. Twice a week for the past year her brother would bring him into her bedroom, staining the floor and shaking her awake. Roger would dump Peter on her bed, sometimes he would fall off the bed with a rumbling ‘Oooh’ as he hit the floorboards but today he laid there like stones with no bouncing over the edge. Then Roger and Maria would rush to deal with their parents, praying to guardian angels that the parents they wanted to see would come through the door. Each of them eager to push one another out of the way to give excuses. Their mother was the more difficult of the two to deal with if Roger found her first.
If Maria was the one who found her mother first then Roger would duck back in the room and she would tell her mother that he was a boyfriend. Then with a wink and a finger to her lips she would shuffle back into her shared bedroom.
Their mother was no fool, she knew what Roger was up to with Peter, the fighting, gambling, and bootlegging. So the second she would see her son in her hallway, stinking up the home with his illegal smells she would break into her rehearsed lines. 
‘Dragging that poor boy,’ she would mutter over and over whilst grabbing the bad towels from her cupboard. The bad towels were ones she had bought only one year into her marriage when she had grown wise to her husband’s ‘family’ business. Each wife has a cupboard like this, one that is full of rubbing alcohol, bandages, extra cash, extra clothes in various sizes, a spare set of house keys, rope, tape, and anything else she could think of. Whatever hate she had she put into making this the best cupboard ever. She hated most of all that she had to make this, and second of all she hated that she had not thought to start a hope chest for Maria.
‘Pop!’ Roger would yell from the hallway while his mother piled his arms with towels and bandages, pushing down on his arms daring him to drop it all.
‘Tony, I swear if you bring anymore,’ she would say as her husband pulled her back into the bedroom by her elbow like a monster pulling a man into a cave. The door shut.
Towels in hand Roger would leave the stack outside his sister’s bedroom door and then rush downstairs, taking them by twos and sometimes threes. Rushing out the front door, half the time he would forget to close the door, into the night with a squeal of tires and the flush of tail lights.
Rain, shine, snow, police, girlfriends, friends, whatever he dealt with he would be back within an hour to take Peter home.
After trying to run interference but being beat by her brother, Maria ran back into her room as her father placated her mother, and she would listen for a moment. She would stand in the doorway with the moonlight illuminating her figure against the thin fabric as she waiting for the little click of the door locking.
Her face was invisible in the shadow. The white fabric floating around her body like the most tempting halo, the divots of her hips, the tender line of her breasts balanced out the wright of her hips. Measured, there was something measured about her figure. Balanced.
‘Might as well be naked,’ Peter thought to himself as he turned his head towards her, and she stood there a minute more.
It was their tradition that she look at him as though he had collapsed on her bed as though he had decided to stay the night, that the bruises he had were from their love making. Or else pretending that she was his nurse who was tending to the wounds of a soldier. A princess who was tending to the righteous body of her defender.
Then she would tuck into the room, turning on the light and tying up her hair. Smooth as the train time tables on a weekday morning she would put on her record player as her mother echoed the words that all cime wives know by heart. Words that someone somewhere else was saying, maybe even hundreds of someones, like a funeral mass for the lives they imagined.
‘I mean it, I’ll leave and I’ll take the kids with me too.’
But Roger and Maria were too old now for such a threat to be true, and those words were nothing but a squeak in the wind.
Frankie Valli’s voice wound through the room with the background flicker that all records have when they have been loved by imperfect hands.
My eyes adored you
‘Marie,’ Peter said propping himself up on an elbow.
Shirt buttons were missing, some were buttoned unevenly. He had not been wearing the button up when it had been torn, but then he put it on.
Though I never laid a hand on you, my eyes adored you
‘Oh Pete’ she said as she pulled her sewing kit from the windowsill where the storm clouds of the evening finally delivered on their promise. Little gray raindrops could be seen tapping against the window through the thin yellow icing of the curtains. She glanced out the window, no extra cars. Streetlamps looked luminous as the rain turned the heat of the sidewalks into steam.
From a million miles away you couldn’t see how I adored you.
So close so close and yet so far
Marie could hear her father’s rumble of a voice through the walls, the rain, the music. It all felt like a dream. Peter took up so much air that already the room was warm.
Headed for the city lights
Climbed the ladder up to fortune and fame
Despite this she slipped on her bathrobe, They were both disappointed she’d done so but she already owed the Lord so many hail marys she did not want to add ‘tempted a man to lust’ or heaven forbid ‘fornication.’
Worked my fingers to the bone
Made myself a name
‘She never wears her hair in curlers,’ Peter thought to himself as she started the pattern that was so familiar to them both after he put his head in her lap.
Funny i seem to find
That no matter how the years unwind
First over the brow, checking the eyebrows and then the eyelids. Her thumbs lingered on his eyelashes, long and precious as a doll’s. A specific doll, Sally in the pink dress, who was a doll who opened her eyes when picked up and close them when set down. Peter did something similar when his head hit the soft pillow of her thighs, closing immediately. It was the only moment of control, the illusion of it, that she allowed herself to think she had over Peter. If she had any real control she would get him to stop this.
Still i reminisce about the girl i miss
‘How am I looking angel?’ he asked, his eyes still closed as he enjoyed the feather touch of her fingers.
And the love i left behind
If he weren’t so exhausted tonight would have been the night. It would have been the night where he flipped over in her lap, part the blue soft bathrobe, and gently push up the hem of her nightgown. Such a white virginal garment on such a womanly figure, a figure that seemed so balanced and measured. He wanted to throw her off balance.
My eyes adored you
She made her own clothes and he’d seen his fair share of womens undergarments. She could make herself something red and liquid to the touch. Something that gave a hint as to the woman underneath instead of the false promise of a white nightgown embroidered with green butterflies.
Though i never laid a hand on you my eyes adore you
The ridge of his nose was bent, but not more than usual. It had been set at a strange angle almost a year ago.
‘Hours to live,’ she said, turning his head this way and that.
No tears in his lip, no new ones. His ears were fine. Dejectedly the sewing kit was near her lefthand hoping to fulfill its purpose.
From a million miles away you couldn’t see how i adored you
‘More time than I thought.’
‘Yeah?’ She said distractedly as she tried to figure out why he was here. She let her hand drift over to his pulse, feeling the beat beneath it.
‘Enough time for a kiss at least,’ he said opening his eyes and sitting up. Breaking the spell.
So close so close and yet so far
She slapped him so hard that it opened up one of the stitches she had sewn up a week ago.
‘Jesus fucking Christ Marie!’ he shouted as he touched the tender spot of his lip with his tongue, tasting the now fresh blood.
‘What the hell are you doing here?’
‘I didn’t want to miss our weekly appointment.’ he said and could feel that the slap had not been as bad as he had thought. Marie was no heavy hitter and already it had stopped bleeding. He was a quick healer. 
‘Some apointment this is,’ she said with tears in her eyes as she put her sewing kit back in its place, ‘I would not be upset being stood up from stitching you up yet again. Go to the doctor for all i care.’
She tried to put it down gently but the sewing kit tumbled from her hands scattering pins, needles, threads, a tiny bottle of rubbing alcohol, tailors chalk, little scissors and all her composure on the floor. As though displeased with her clumbsiness the clouds outside thundered and it made her jump again.
‘Shit shit shit shit shit,’ she said as she got down on her knees to pick everything up. Peter started to laugh, he had never heard her curse so much. He stopped laughing when he saw she was crying deeply though.
‘Hey,’ he said kneeling to her level and picking up a thimble to
She knew how she should feel. She knew that she should not want to sit by the phone and wait for his call. Wait for any word of his. She knew that this feeling would fade eventually, that she would struggle to remember his name, at least that is what she told herself.
‘Shit,’ she said again as she pricked her finger on a needle that had fallen into the fibers of the little area rug and that now was drawing a big fat glob of blood.
‘Hey,’ he said again and brought the finger close to his lips, pressing the fleshy pad of it to his tongue as he sucked the blood from her finger.
The record player bumped again and again against the end of the record.
‘I should restart the record,’ she thought to herself when thoughts returned to her mind. His mouth was so warm, she wanted to be swallowed by him entirely now.
‘You came here for a kiss?’ She asked boldly instead of asking him to do the thing she knew she should have asked him. She should have asked him to leave. She should have asked him to let go of her hand, to get out of her room and never come back. She should have called for her father to escort him out. She should have stood up and walked with bare feet, not caring about the scattered needles, pulling her bathrobe tight around her and pointed out her bedroom door.
Instead she leaned forward and closed her eyes. Waiting for him. He smiled and looked at her, his hand still holding hers.
‘If i do this, i will be lost,’ he thought to himself as he leaned forward. He told himself, ‘Knowing yourself is overrated anyway.’
When she kissed him she felt warmth flood the secret spot between her legs, she could feel her heartbeat there, could he tell? How embarrassing. She did not care. She felt the stubble pushing from his skin, the sharpness of it. Her feather touch made his dick hard, and without a word he took her hand with the pricked index finger and guided it to his trousers. It was a dream, she thought to herself, so what was the harm? It was hard, long, and veined in a way that made it seem to her as though an erection might hurt. Peter did not look hurt though, he looked pleased and he threw his head back in a way that made her nipples hard as she grabbed and stroked his dick.
They were quiet as he led her up to the bed, picking her up so as not to damage her precious little feet. His suspenders hung at his side like discarded wings. It did not hurt, she assured him, it felt good. They were quiet, but their faces moved with their passions and when he came, she placed a hand over his mouth. There were little whispers before that though, as she directed their encounter more than he would have expected her to but he loved it.
‘More’ she would whisper until he was fully inside her and then she said nothing else. She did not seem scared or upset, and she closed her eyes as though she were asleep aside from the way her lips pressed together and he could hear a moan in the back of her throat desperate to get out.
It only occurred to him after that she may not have been a virgin, it did not bother him but it did make him upset that she had not told him. He supposed that he had no reason to be upset.
No right to be upset. So why did he feel upset after, and why did he feel the need to tell her brother afterwards, ‘Did you know she is not a virgin? I mean before we had sex, i think she must have had sex before.’ It was not his place of course. He would not be able to tell Roger that he had been with his sister, so he did not. Though Roger was no fool and knew his sister had been in love with Peter since they were children. Hers was a deep rooted affection that would have been harder to dig out than any genetic bone cancer.
That was why before the night, before everything tomorrow he wanted to make sure that Peter said goodbye, however he saw fit.
The hand that was over Peter’s mouth was stronger than the one he remembered pulling stitches and once setting a nose right but of course it was hers. Passion made her strong. They were out of breath, the both of them when they stopped. His fingers intertwined with her own. They were hands that demanded to be felt against hers.
She wondered when she would see him next as she fell asleep to her hands idly touching herself on the spots that had just been plucked by his fingers. She tried to press his fingertips into her body deeper by touching the spots but she could not. She could not replicate those calloused swollen knuckled hands in her own little dainty hands. Both of her little hands could have fit into one of his big ones.
She fell asleep thinking it was a dream only to wake up and find a nightmare at the edge of her bed. Roger was there sitting in that way that he had inherited from his father, his elbows on his knees, looking off into the distance, and his lips moving as they tried to formulate an excuse.
‘Peter is gone.’
She knew last night had been too fragile, too ridiculous, too outrageous, to infuriating for it to be true. Instead of saying anything, of telling her brother that Peter should be ashamed of himself, she curled up into a ball and held herself. There she would stay, percolating in her own sorrow. Roger left only a moment after he had told his sister but not before turning out the lights. He knew better than to draw the curtains, she would want to watch the raindrops hit their window. He closed the door and breathed deeply as he pressed his forehead to the wood. Then he straightened himself up, and knocked on his father’s door three times. A sharp three times. After he took the stairs down slowly, one at a time, and waited in the front seat of the car to take his father to work.
He turned his collar up against the rain and looked both directions before walking, a habit he developed as a child that he could not quite shake. He glanced up at his sister’s bedroom window where the light stayed off. She would be in bed most of the day. He wondered if he should warn his mother, but he knew his father had probably already made up something to tell her and he did not like lying to his mother. He was not good at it.
‘Everyone has someone they cannot stand lying to,’ his mother always told him with a knowing look over her glasses and a pat on her son’s cheek. She always knew her youngest son hated lying to her and it brought immeasurable joy. 
There the car stood in the street, unmolested by any graffiti or an odd number of tires. Everyone in the neighborhood knew better.
Tapping his fingers against the steering wheel he looked into the passenger’s seat where he was expecting Peter to be picking at his teeth with a metal toothpick. He sighed. He turned on the car and watched the windshield wipers push the drops out of his field of vision again and again. He did not cry. Instead he let himself be entranced by the windshield wipers pulling over and over until he could not see any shapes, or rain.
Being the son Roger should not have been driving, driving was given to those as a task who needed to prove themselves, but even his father knew that he was best behind the wheel. He would turn on the radio and then be unstoppable. He may be driving everyone everywhere, but Roger Napoli always got to choose the music even if he could not choose the passengers or where they were going.

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