Seven Years Since The MotelbyLettersFromTatyana©
Alessandro sat back, stunned. This could not be happening. Maisie, who had been laughing at Carolina, stilled. The tension in the air was palpable.
"Look, Carolina, I don't really want to talk about it." He was quiet but firm. If there was one person he didn't feel like talking about Isabella in front of, it was Maisie.
"But you haven't wanted to talk about it for months, to any of us. You may live far away, but that doesn't get you out of the fine Conti tradition of knowing everything about everyone in the family. You should talk about it; you probably need to talk about it, and there's no substitute for family. It's bad enough that you didn't even tell us about the break up—we had to find out reading about it on some Italian gossip site."
"Well, it's good to know you check up on me online. Good to know that my own family drives traffic to the gossip sites, and that my own family loves to look at all those wonderfully invasive pictures they took of my private life with Isabella." His voice was low and angry, and his fists were clenched on his lap. "I've already apologized to mom and dad about not telling you guys personally. You're right; I should have told you we broke up. But I have no obligation to tell you why. Besides, when was the last time you told us anything of substance about your life?"
"Oh come on, Alessandro! You know we only look at those sites to make sure no one is saying anything untrue, that no one is saying or doing anything that could hurt you. You know that. But don't you dare try and deflect my questions. We're worried about you, and have been for months."
"Look Carolina, it's complicated." He stared out the window again and hoped that this would end the conversation.
"But didn't you love her, Alessandro?"
His head shot up to look at her again in the mirror, and he could have sworn he heard Maisie gasp.
"Please Carolina, don't make me answer these questions."
"But I don't understand, Alessandro. How can you—my own brother—be with someone for over five years and not be in love with them? You went on vacations together, you spent holidays together, and we met her family so many times. You even bought places in London and New York together. I liked her so much, and you seemed so happy with her," she cried, and for the first time Alessandro realized that she was angry with him.
When he didn't reply, she pressed on.
"Was it just sex for you? Was that what it was? Were you just using her? She loved you, I know she did. Were you really that cruel?"
"Enough!" he shouted, losing his composure. "Drop it, Carolina! It's none of your business!"
There was silence in the car for several minutes.
He looked up into the mirror and saw Carolina staring ahead at the road, a look of fury in her eyes as she gritted her teeth. After a few minutes, he took a deep breath and tried to explain.
"Leena, I'm sorry I yelled. Okay? I just don't want to talk about it. We're still good friends; really, we are. It just wasn't going to work out long term. And it was mutual. There was no super dramatic break-up, nothing like that. We're both fine, really. Don't worry about me, or her."
He stared out the window and watched the scenery slide by. They were passing the exits to Freeport, and the summer traffic around the outlets was already clogging the roads. He glanced to his left; the traffic heading south to Boston was awful. He was glad that today was a Sunday and not a Friday. He would have been surrounded by those cars going north had he arrived two days earlier.
As he stared at the stopped cars on the southbound lanes, he thought back to his break-up with Isabella. It had happened on vacation, the day that damned picture of them emerging from the beach had been taken.
After returning from the beach and having several rounds in bed, they had laid side by side, panting as they stared up at the ceiling. As their breathing had slowed she had turned to look at him, her eyes trailing up and down his naked body. After a bit of playful bantering, she had asked him the question that had ended it all.
"Do you want children?"
He remembered that she had asked with a bit of a giggle, and that he hadn't been sure if he had heard her correctly.
"I asked if you want children. With me, actually," she had asked again, though this time she had been serious.
He had paused for what had seemed like a very long time. "Are you telling me you're pregnant?"
She had snorted at that. "No, I'm not. But I'm not exactly getting any younger you know. True, women can have children when they are older, but in terms of fertility I'm getting old. My career as I know it is coming to a close. No, don't argue with me on this one. I can feel it, Alessandro. I've been in this business for over fifteen years, and I'm sick of it. I want out, and I want children—lots of children. I want a big family, like the one I had growing up. If you don't want children with me, then...."
He remembered that her voice had risen as she trailed off. She had looked scared but determined, like she wanted the truth, and he had wondered if it was some sort of ultimatum.
His first thought had been that having children wasn't something twenty-five year old men usually thought about. Well, maybe they thought about it abstractly, thinking of themselves as middle-aged men with a couple of kids, but that was all. Right?
He remembered closing his eyes and trying to imagine these future children. It had been hard at first, but then he had broken into a grin as an image of a boy and a girl entered his mind. They both had dark brown hair—like his hair, and, he supposed, like Isabella's hair. They were ahead of him, running through fields of grass, shrieking with laughter as he chased after them.
But when the children—his imagined children—had turned to face him, his grin had vanished. Their eyes were not his medium-brown eyes, nor were they the dark chocolate-brown of Isabella's eyes. Instead, each child had a pair of deep blue eyes, with outer navy rings and olive-green cores.
Each child had his hair. And Maisie's eyes.
He had realized with a jolt that they had been running through a field that lay between Maisie's family farm and his parents' house.
He remembered jerking his eyes open and staring ahead of him in the hotel room, eyes wide with shock, the smile on his face long gone. He was sweating and struggling to control his breathing, partly from their earlier activities but also due to a rising panic in his chest.
He had always tried to avoid thinking about Maisie. When he did think about her, it was usually nothing more than a passing thought he pushed out of his mind as quickly as possible, as if it were from another life, one that he had screwed up.
He had forgotten where he was until Isabella spoke.
"You don't want children," she had whispered.
"What? No. I mean, yes, I do want children. I saw them, or rather, imagined them. My future children, that is."
She had turned to face him with a questioning look. "Then what? Why do you look like you've see a ghost?" She had stared at him, searching his eyes; it had felt like she was seeing inside him. "Oh, no, Alessandro, please no. Please tell me... please tell me it isn't what I think it is."
"You saw children, but they were not with me."
He would never forget the look on her face at that moment: a mixture of heartbreak, anger, and a firm inner strength. She had always been good at reading him; he had met her when he was nineteen and she was twenty-four, and she had watched him grow from a boy into a man. She knew him better than almost anyone.
He felt sick even thinking about it now. How could he have thought about children with another woman as he lay next to his naked girlfriend? A woman who had meant so much to him for the past several years, who had taught him so much?
Part of him had wanted to lie to her—to tell her that he loved her and wanted to be the father of her children, that she was the most beautiful woman in the world, that she was his best friend, and that he never wanted to leave her.
Another part of him—the part that ultimately won—knew that she had deserved the truth. Lying to her wouldn't be fair.
They had made love once more that night. She had initiated it—he remembered he had felt guilty the entire time—and when they finished there had been tears in her eyes.
They left for home the following morning. He had moved into a hotel when they arrived in London, and moved out of their apartment the next week. He had gotten over her and considered her a friend, but had kept his distance, at her request.
Alessandro was roused from his depressing thoughts as he felt the car slowing again; they were leaving the interstate and turning onto Route 1, which they would take almost all the way to the Stalton peninsula.
He had spent less than an hour with his sister, and he was already on edge due to her probing questions.
He had spent less than an hour in Maisie's presence, and already he couldn't look at her without imagining himself buried inside of her.
How the hell was he going to get through the next week?
Thanks to PennLady and sillypanda for their suggestions and editing. If there are mistakes, it's because I made some changes after they looked at the text!