Here is my tribute to my all time favorite character
As the final hours of wedding preparation ended, a romantic
sun had started to rise, the big day had truly arrived. Emilia, Jessica, and
Natalie were all in their bath robes giggling and helping Maria into her wedding
gown. They had about an hour before guests started to arrive and roughly forty-five
minutes from then until Maria was Mrs. Frank Castle. The four of them were
recounting memories long past, toasting to Eric and wishing he were with them,
thinking about how life had changed around them, but they always had one
another. Their laughs and tears died down when Emilia’s phone buzzed.
“That would be our queue to get ready ladies! Let’s get you married Maria.” They all cheered, embracing in one last group hug before each going to their dresses and finishing their make-up. Before Emilia could slip away, Maria grabbed her wrist.
“Do you really think I’m ready to get married?” Maria whispered nervously.
A soft smile reached Emilia’s lips and she nodded, “Maria, the entire time that I’ve known you, you have always been the one that was prepared for this life. Married to a good man, children that you love like no other mother has, and surrounded by people who love you.”
Maria’s eyes softened, the last of her worry dissipating, though she was careful not to let any tears fall and ruin her makeup. She gave Emilia’s hand a soft squeeze, “Thank you Eve. From the beginning, long before we were friends, you were there for me. Supported me, had my back. I wouldn’t be able to do this without you.”
“Darling you wouldn’t be getting married without me, I introduced you, remember?” Emilia said cheekily.
The two of them burst into laughter, “This is the only time I’ll ever say that I’m glad you saw him first.”
Emilia rolled her eyes, “He’s not my type, too brooding.”
Maria gasped and smacked Emilia’s shoulder, “Eve! Just because you like them pretty.”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about,” Emilia stuttered.
Maria rolled her eyes, “I asked you and Billy to help with wedding preparation, not start planning your own.”
Emilia felt her stomach knot but pretended to gag, “Maria, B-Billy Russo, is far from my type.”
She nodded, a look of teasing disbelief across her face, “Whatever you say Emilia. Just be careful.”
As Maria walked away, Emilia stood there lost in thought for a moment. Did she? There was no way, no one had told Maria about what had happened yesterday at the jewelers, only that she and Bill had gotten drinks afterwards to “celebrate”. Emilia didn’t have time to think about Billy, she needed to get dressed and focus on keeping Maria happy. Thankfully a majority of her morning sickness had subsided, but Emilia had made sure to set aside a few club sodas for her just in case.
The groomsmen were all men that Frank served with, so they would be wearing their dress blues, thankfully they went well with the off-white and periwinkle theme that Maria had decided on. The bridesmaid’s dresses were long, off-shoulder and grey with periwinkle ribbon around the waist. They each had on a white necklace with a white and blue bouquet to match, Maria’s was the only one with a splash of yellow in it. While they looked relatively similar, Maria had insisted that as maid of honour Emilia add a dash of lavender. In order to fulfill her wishes, Emilia had asked that instead of a grey dress, the bodice of her dress be made lavender and she wore a grey slip underneath. The colour combination really popped amidst the rest of the neutral setting. Maria had been overjoyed when she’d seen it complete.
Natalie and Jessica finished dressing and went to meet with groomsmen they’d be walking the procession with, while Emilia lingered to check on Maria.
“Nan should be in any moment. She was saying hello to the Castles.” Emilia smiled.
Maria nodded, “This is it.”
“How do you feel?”
“Nervous,” she said bluntly.
“Frank loves you Maria, and you’re about to have a real family. If your child is anything like you, there’s nothing left for you to worry about.” Emilia smiled.
“I love you, Emilia. You’re my
sister. Blood or not,” Nan entered the room with a huge grin on her face.
Kissing both of Emilia’s cheeks before hugging Maria. She had whispered something
to her in Italian that made her giggle then nodded.
“I’ll see you soon,” Emilia said before grabbing her bouquet and going to meet Billy. She didn’t have to search far, as the music from the chapel began, he was waiting outside of the procession with a smirk on his face.
“Well well, I’m surprised you’re not hung over from the shots we had last night.”
“Good to see you too Bill,” Emilia rolled her eyes before taking his arm.
Billy chuckled, “You drank me under the table, I just want to know how your head isn’t pounding like mine.”
“Women are just better at holding their liquor.”
“Or maybe,” Billy insisted, “you’re keeping secrets from me.”
Emilia laughed, “I would hope that after yesterdays events you would know that I’m full of surprises and secrets.”
“Hey, I saved your life,” he snapped.
“To which I’m eternally grateful.”
Billy scoffed, “You know because of that I didn’t have time to get a date.”
“Poor you,” Emilia said pitifully.
Billy crinkled his nose, she couldn’t tell if it was out of anger, spite, or something deeper but it made her laugh.
“I was thinking,” he started to say as the doors opened.
“Oh boy,” Emilia announced. “Look out everyone Lieutenant Russo is thinking.”
Billy chose to ignore her, “Since I didn’t have time to find a date, which technically is your fault.”
“You owe me a dance,” it wasn’t a question.
Emilia almost stopped in her tracks, halting the procession. It was only the slight pull from Billy’s arm that kept her from falling.
“I beg your pardon,” she whispered rather confused.
Billy exhaled, “I couldn’t find a date and I would naturally assume that that means you didn’t have time to either. So, we already have to be here as maid of honour and best man, what say we take it a step further and you save me a dance later?”
Emilia didn’t answer right away, she was mechanically smiling and nodding to the familiar faces she saw as they entered the chapel. But before they reached the altar and separated, she looked to Billy.
“What I do in my spare time is my business,” She hissed, “I could have had a date planned for weeks and you’ve just been incredibly inconsiderate to them.”
“Well, do you?” He asked with a raised brow.
She let out a guilty sigh, “Fine, one dance. But you’re buying my drink.”
“Done,” he said cheerfully. Just in time for them to split up.
There was a moment of silence before everyone stood to face the door that Maria was going to come through. As she and Nan entered everyone stood and Frank’s jaw dropped, Emilia could’ve sworn she’d seen a tear in his eye. She hoped one day to find a love like theirs. It reminded her of her parents. The ceremony went by in a haze as Emilia was trying to process her interaction with Billy in the procession. She felt bad for keeping him from finding a date, not that it was purposeful, but she still had a twinge of guilt. Aside from the moment Billy had given Frank the rings, his eyes were on her the entire time. It had been like the two of them had held a conversation without ever saying a word.
Before she knew it, the priest named them man and wife, the reception began, and Frank and Maria were having their first dance. As Paul Weller’s ‘You do something to me’, started to play Frank and Maria had a spotlight on them and close friends and family in the reception hall were cheering every time they spun and shared a kiss.
Bellies full of food, hearty laughs echoing from drunken lips and the clinking of silverware exploded after the cake had been cut. Billy stood up and whistled to get everyone’s attention.
“Alright everyone, what say we toast to the happy couple huh?” He lifted his glass and winked at Frank who flashed him the bird and rolled his eyes. “Frankie, congratulations. You’re my best friend, my brother, my comrade in arms, and the baddest son of a bitch in the Marine Corps.” A sea of applause and cheers from the brothers in their platoon followed. Billy chuckled, “I remember the first time you brought Maria to our house and introduced us. I honestly never thought you were the type to like Catholic girls, but here you sit.”
“Fuck you Bill,” Frank laughed. Maria and Emilia shared a look before rolling their eyes.
Billy waved his comment away and continued, “All that aside, I see how happy Maria makes you. I see the light she’s brought to your life, and how you would do anything to keep her and your found family safe. You’re my brother Frankie and that makes you my sister Maria.”
The crowd ‘awed’, Maria clutched her chest.
“I love you both, you’ve always been there for me and you introduced me to a side of life I never would’ve thought possible where I grew up. Congratulations brother. To Frank and Maria!”
“To Frank and Maria,” everyone raised their glasses and drank.
Emilia smiled at Maria, taking a swig of her champagne and then stood, “Thank you for your words of affirmation Bill. I think that’s the most eloquent I’ve ever heard you speak.”
Everyone laughed, Billy just stuck out his tongue.
“Like Billy, I lost my family at an early age,” Emilia said slowly. “Growing up on my own until one day when a girl running late for her morning lecture caused me to be late for a morning rehearsal.”
Natalie, Jessica and Maria giggled.
“Little did I know that a few short hours later, that same girl would quickly become my best friend, but also my sister.”
Tears welled in Maria’s eyes.
“Maria, I’ve known you and Nan a long time. From all of our ups and downs as a family, to that summer’s day when Frankie came into our lives. You ever finish learning that song mate?”
Frank blushed and waved her away, the crowd chuckled.
Emilia took in a deep breath, “You and Frank are two of the most important people in my life and everyone’s life in this room today. We celebrate your love, because in some way, you’ve shown that love to all of us. I have no idea where either of us would be if I hadn’t asked you to join us that night at the bar.”
“Or punched that guy in the nose!” Jessica yelled.
“Jessica!” Natalie hissed.
Everyone laughed once more.
“Maria, you and Frank deserve every happiness. I am blessed to bare witness to your story, as are we all. I wish you and Frankie every dream, every beautiful moment that life can offer you both. You are my family and your love, is something we should all hope to find one day.”
Maria, Mrs. Castle, and a few other women in the room started tearing up as Emilia raised her glass.
“To Frank and Maria!” Everyone shouted.
Emilia took her seat and downed her champagne, not knowing why she started to feel tense. As the night went on and people started to leave or dance with their dates, Maria and Frank had slipped off to be alone and talk about the baby. Jessica and Natalie were each in some corner making out with their dates and getting a little too handsy. It was only after the third time he called to her that Emilia registered Billy’s voice.
“What?” She asked looking up at him confused.
He chuckled and shook his head. “You still owe me a dance,” he repeated.
“Oh, right. Sorry.” Emilia stood. Billy held out his hand and led her to the floor. The DJ had changed it to something a little slower and more romantic once they’d stepped onto the floor, but Emilia was far to occupied by her thoughts to notice. As Billy placed his arms around her waist, she jumped slightly.
“You’re a bit scattered tonight, what’s the matter?” He asked looking her over.
Shaking herself out of it, Emilia shrugged. “I’m fine.”
Raising a brow Billy disagreed, “We don’t have to talk about it, but could you at least try to have a little fun?”
“You see Bill, you only asked me to dance. If you wanted me to have fun you should’ve put in a request with my assistant yesterday.”
“You mean while I was busy saving your life from the mob?” He teased.
“I’m sorry, that was inconsiderate. Are you alright?” His tone soft and concerned.
She nodded, “They can’t do anything to me now can they?”
Billy shook his head and smiled.
“Then I’ll be okay, just trying to shake what happened I guess.”
“Have you told Maria yet?”
Her face went white and she started shaking her head violently, “Absolutely not. I probably won’t tell her until after the baby is born.”
“She’s not going to like that,” he admitted.
Emilia sighed, “I know, but she’ll have to understand.”
The song finished but they didn’t separate.
“When did you become such a poet?” Billy asked.
“What do you mean?” Emilia asked, her arms still laced behind his neck.
He motioned his chin to the head of the table where they saw Frank and Maria return.
“Your speech, I didn’t know you were such a poet.”
She chuckled, “Oh, that. I was just telling the truth.”
“Well, I like it.” He smiled.
“No more ideas from you Bill. I can only take so much,” She exhaled exhaustively.
Billy laughed, “So you are willing to take things from me.”
Billy sighed in defeat, “Fine.”
As the songs ended and people had said their goodbyes, Billy offered to walk Emilia to her car. After some time in silence he spoke up again.
“Thank you, Emilia,” he rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “You know, for tonight. I enjoy your company.”
“You know Billy, I hate to admit it, but I had fun. You’re not as lousy a dance partner as I assumed you’d be.” She laughed.
Billy clutched his chest in shock, “Hurtful.”
“You can call me Eve by the way,” she said blankly.
He raised a brow, “Oh yeah?”
Emilia nodded, “I guess we’re friends now.”
They both laughed, he cupped her hand in his and kissed it. Emilia blushed but couldn’t find the strength to pull her hand away.
“Planning this wedding really got to you didn’t it, Eve.” He smirked.
“Goodnight Bill,” she hissed. As she got into her car and closed the door, she could still hear the faint sound of his laughter. The last 48 hours had been horrifically eventful. Emilia needed at least twelve to herself to recover and then she remembered that Maria needed her help to plan their going away party.
“Fuck!” she cried, hitting the steering wheel.
More time with Billy. Great.
Her thoughts betrayed her. Maria told her the very same when Frank had proposed. They were a family now not just her and Frank, but Billy also. She was going to be seeing him a lot more and she needed to accept that quickly. As she lost herself in thought once more about the wedding and the week of planning to come, she could still feel the tickle of his beard on the back of her hand. Throwing her keys into the bowl by the door and making her way up to her bedroom, Emilia didn’t realize that she’d been caressing the spot the entire way up the stairs.
It was just so neither of you had to be alone tonight. That’s all it was. He’s practically your brother. It was nothing.
But the thought that kept her up that night disagreed. Billy wasn’t her brother, not in the slightest. The knot in her stomach growled like a wounded animal, she tossed and turned into an uneasy sleep. Billy’s touch being the last thing on her mind.
The air on Friday was different, anticipation, joy, but also
the scent of change, had seemed to thicken it. As if the density of the
sky was longing to share a secret with every mouth who breathed it. There were
exactly twenty-four hours until the wedding. Maria and Frank weren’t allowed to
see each other during that time, as it was seen as taboo, which meant that as
Maid of Honour and Best Man, Emilia and Billy had to take care of the last-minute
“So, we have the napkins, the bouquets, the gift bags for the wedding party… What are we missing?” Billy asked with his mouth full of hot dog.
Emilia playfully shook her head, “Swallow Bill, if you choke, I’m not giving you mouth to mouth.”
“Dammit,” he exclaimed. Pretending to snap his fingers in defeat, “I was really hoping that Frankie wasn’t going to be the only one sharing a kiss with a twelve this weekend.”
“Come off it Russo! We don’t have time to muck about.” Emilia rolled her eyes, attempting to hide the summersault her stomach had just done.
Patting her on the head, Billy laughed, “You’re just as worked up about this as Maria. Maybe you two really are sisters.”
“The only reason why I’m ‘worked up’,” She hissed, moving his hand. “Is because you almost forgot the cake. We can’t forget to pick up anything, there isn’t time to fix it.”
He let out a disgruntled sigh, “Fine, fine. I was being serious though, what’s next on the list?”
Emilia wiped her lips, the last few crumbs of hotdog falling away. As she rummaged for the list in her purse, she made her typical thinking face, where her tongue stuck out to the side. Billy stifled a laugh.
“I’ll never get used to that, and I’ve seen it a lot today.”
She glared at him, her hands finally clasping the list, “All that’s left is the rings and the pillow for the ringbearer.”
Hurriedly shoving the rest of the dog into his mouth, Billy stood up, “Right, let’s get this over with so that you can be Maria’s hero, and I can head to the bar.”
“Alri-, HEY!” After taking a moment to process what he’d said, Emilia punched him in the arm.
“Oh, come on Eve! You know I’m kidding.” He shot her his wide puppy dog like eyes and blinked for dramatic effect.
“I’ll never understand you Russo.”
They rode to the jewelers in silence, thanks to how much time they’d been having to spend together, it was no longer as awkward. Though just as the silence was becoming a bit much, Emilia’s phone rang.
“Yes, Maria?” She answered calmly. Maria seemed to be rather frantic, her breath heightened.
“Yes, we got the napkins, gift bags, and the cake…Yes the periwinkle one. Alright. We’re going to pick them up now. A hoagie? Really? Mayo, mhm… Okay Maria, I’ll bring that back too. We’re pulling up to the jewelers, so I’ve got to get off now. Don’t worry I won’t forget, I love you too.”
“Is she panicking?” Billy teased as he put the car in park.
“She just wants us to bring her a hoagie, the baby has one hell of an appetite.”
Billy raised a brow, “Sure, the baby.”
She tried to hide her smirk, but she couldn’t help it. Between the wedding preparation and the food runs she’d made these past few weeks it did start to feel a bit overwhelming. The jewelers that Frank and Maria had picked was in a quaint little area upstate. Frank had spared no expense, after the doubt Maria had with him being okay with the baby, Frank was trying to do everything he could, to prove how much Maria truly meant to him. Billy held the door open for Emilia as they entered, who pretended to be shocked by his manners.
“Well, Russo. I never thought I’d see the day.” She mocked.
Billy scoffed at her, “When are you going to see that I’m not the savage you see me as Valentino?” He rolled his eyes and let the door slam behind them, briefly forgetting this was an upscaled joint. He looked to the man behind the counter and apologized.
“Smooth Russo.” Emilia punched him in the shoulder lightly.
“Ouch!” He yelped pretended to whimper.
This time it was Emilia who rolled her eyes, “Picking up a set of wedding bands for ‘Castle’.”
The jeweler looked between the two of them, “So you like
them fierce aye?”
Billy gave a sly smile and winked. When Emilia finally understood the exchange, her jaw dropped, she immediately tried to refute his comment.
“Oh no! Not us, his brother is the one getting married. We’re just the currier service.” Her voice quivering.
“Seems like your girlfriend ain’t ready for ya to propose pal. I’d wait her out a bit longer.” He teased, skimming through his files to find the rings for Frank and Maria.
Before Emilia could comment, a second pair had entered the shop. However, this pair was not a hopeful bride to be and her fiancé…no. They were two men, appearing in their late fifties, black suits, you could obviously tell they possessed concealed weapons. A chill as cold and empty as the winds in Canada surged down Emilia’s spine. In her distraction, she never heard the jeweler ask for payment. In that moment, one of the men caught a glimpse of her, eyes widening, rage enveloped his heart.
“You’re supposed to be dead!” He exclaimed. As this man reached for his gun, the other man tried to lung at her.
“VALENTINO! That’s not possible.” He shouted, eyes hot with rage and fear. But there was no denying who she was.
Emilia was frozen, her eyes wide, face white as snow, hands like ice. She had become a wall. She knew these men, the one on the left was Hector, he’d been one of her father’s associates while they were in Italy. The other man, she could only assume, had been his replacement.
Everything in the next moment happened faster than her mind could process. Billy seemed to have caught on to the commotion, because he picked Emilia up and tossed her behind the counter not shortly after withdrawing his own concealed piece. Emilia didn’t see what had happened, she was too caught up in the sound of gunfire. For a moment she was nine years old again, smoke choking her every breath, her parents screams drowning out every other sound nearby. Emilia had pulled her knees into her chest, was trying to muffle her tears. Billy seemed to be dealing with the second man, because Hector had found her. Face bruised and covered in blood, he lifted her up, a firm hand grabbing her chin. Emilia’s eyeliner visibly streaking her cheeks, body quivering.
“When will you learn to die?” Hector hissed.
Emilia didn’t understand what had come over her, but she let it in. Before she knew what she was doing, she looked Hector dead in the eyes, stomped on his foot with her heel and pushed him away. While he was reaching for his foot, Emilia picked up his fallen gun, cocked it and shot him between the eyes.
“I died the day you took my papa from me,” her voice cried. Emilia’s hand began shaking violently as realization hit her, the gun fell, and she dropped to her knees. Billy seemed to have finished with the second man because as she began to black out, the last thing she remembered was feeling him catch her.
“Emilia! Emilia!” When Emilia awoke, she was back in the car, an ice pack on her head, and Billy knelt in front of her.
“Holy shit! I thought I’d lost you,” he opened a bottle of water. “Here, drink.” Billy held up the water to her lips and she tried to drink slowly.
After a long pause, she wiped her lips and looked into his eyes, “Where’s Hector?”
Billy frowned, “You don’t remember? You, you killed him Eve.”
Emilia’s face was horrified, “K-killed him. How…”
He squeezed her hand, “It doesn’t matter, Eve…who were those men? What’s going on?”
She couldn’t find the strength to say, she just started to shake her head frantically, eyes welling with tears again.
“Okay,” Billy said softly, “how can I help?” His deep eyes dazzling in the sunlight, Emilia tried to lose herself in them. Anything to take her mind off what just happened.
“I need Frank.” She whimpered. “Please…I need Frank.”
Billy nodded, “Alright, Frankie it is. Watch your feet.”
He closed her car door and ran around the other side. He’d parked the car a few blocks away behind a pizzeria. As he started the car, Billy took out his phone and dialed Frank.
“Hey man, yeah we got the rings, but that’s not why I’m calling.” As Billy explained that he and Emilia were on their way to see him and Nan needed to bring Maria a hoagie, Emilia was blankly staring out of the window. Tracing the lines on the palm of her hand, her mother would often do this to calm her after she’d had a bad dream. But she hadn’t been asleep when Hector died, all she knew was that she couldn’t tell Billy alone. Frank needed to know. New York was no longer safe, they were going to find her, everything she had worked for, all these years trying to be overly careful… She was kicking herself for getting too comfortable. Her new life, her friends, her family, all gone.
“Emilia…” Billy called to her a third time.
“W-what?” She blinked, coming out of her trance.
“I said we’re here.” He looked at her with deep concern.
Billy sighed under his breath, walking around the car and helping her out.
“I’m fine.” She hissed.
“No, you’re not, just let me help you.”
When she tried to stand, her legs gave way, Billy caught her again.
“Thank you…” she mumbled.
Frank was standing in the doorway, confusion and worry all over his face.
“What the hell happened?”
“Not here,” Billy said. “Let’s get her inside first. Put on some tea for her?”
Frank nodded and rushed inside. Billy led her to the couch and grabbed another ice pack. Emilia sat in silence, tracing her palms and shivering. Frank reappeared with a hot cup of tea as Billy took a spot beside her on the couch. Handing her the mug, he sat across from her in the reclining chair hands folded in thought observing her.
“Did Maria get her sandwich?” Emilia asked after a while. The sound of her voice breaking the silence made both Billy and Frank jump.
“Yeah, I had Nan take it to her. Told her you and Bill needed to get the cake in the fridge and didn’t want her to have to wait.” He smiled softly trying to reassure her.
“So, she doesn’t know we’re here?”
Frank shook his head. Billy tilted his, in thought, trying to understand her.
Letting out a sigh Frank spoke slowly, “Eve, I need you to tell me what happened.”
Her hands clasped around the mug began to shake again, “Frank…” Billy spat.
Frank put his hand up, “Emilia, who did you see at the jewelers.”
Emilia gulped, “It was Hector…”
“De Costa?” Frank asked, his face deepening with anger.
“Who’s Hector De Costa?” Billy asked, still not understanding what they were talking about.
“He’s a very high-level prick in the mafia…well, was a high leveled prick in the mafia.”
“Wait, why is the mafia coming after Eve?”
Emilia and Frank shared a glance, then she nodded.
Frank sighed, “Bill, not everything I’ve told you about Eve has been entirely accurate.”
Billy raised a brow, “Who are you?”
“My name is Emilia Víolette Maríe Valentino, my mother was Evangeline Rose Dubois,” she paused, taking a frantic gulp of her tea, “And my father was Thomas Giuseppe Valentino…”
Billy’s eyes widened, “Wait, the Evangeline Dubois, the actress who was rumoured to have been caught in the crossfire of a gang fight while on vacation with her family?”
Both Frank and Emilia nodded, “Bill it wasn’t an accident…”
Emilia shook her head, Billy turned back to her, “My father was deep on the payroll of the Italian mafia, third to the boss kind of deep.”
“Holy shit!” was all Billy could say.
“To my understanding, the last mission papa had taken had gone horribly wrong.” Emilia began to think back on the year before her parent’s deaths, she hadn’t a reason to until now. “My father began storing money left and right, anything the boss didn’t need. All I knew was that we were going to have to move again. That was all I was ever told when they started to do that.”
Frank had gotten up to get more hot water and a blanket for Emilia. Billy’s eyes were wide with curiosity, but also sad.
“The public was told that my mother had been caught in the crossfire, but the real story is that the boss had sent Giovanni, his right hand, Hector, and a few other men to ‘deal with’ my father.” Her voice was bitter as she made her air quotes.
“Someone framed my father, so the boss believed he was hiding information from him. We all know how the family deals with snitches.”
“My father had arranged for my mother and I to come to America, live in the safe house…where I stay now. Only mama didn’t make it.”
“Do I ask what happened?”
Emilia sighed, “It wasn’t crossfire. My mother tried to reason with Giovanni, convince him to spare my father. But rather than listen to her pleas, he used her as bait to lure my father out. Before he left, he’d told me to run. To take the money and go…” She shivered, closing her eyes, trying to drown out the sound of their screams as they called to her once more.
“Even though my father appeared to them and tried to reason for my mother’s life, Giovanni shot her in cold blood.”
Billy shook his head in disbelief, looking to Frank who only nodded.
“Cowards.” He swore.
Emilia nodded, “After he killed my mother, he tossed her body aside, looked to my father and shot him. I saw the whole thing…because I was too scared to run until it was too late. Giovanni and the others had no idea about the safe house…papa had done a few favours for the Vatican back in the day, so they upkept the house and saved it for us until it was time. My uncle helped me find safe passage to America and I’ve been here ever since. I met Maria in university, and the rest you know.”
She let out a sigh, looking Billy over, trying to get a read on his reaction.
“So, De Costa and the other guy?”
“Everyone else seemed to assume that I had died some time thereafter. Not many nine-year-olds could survive alone in the Italian slums.”
“So, it was like seeing a ghost, I bet.” Billy added.
Emilia nodded, “As far as they know, I resemble my mother enough that it could be a problem.”
“You know, now that you mention it,” Billy gave Eve an obvious once over, “It makes sense where you get your looks from now. A miniature Evangeline Dubois.”
Emilia rolled her eyes, Frank socked him in the shoulder.
“What the hell man, I was joking.”
“Thank you Frank,” She smiled softly. “You’re right about me seeming a ghost to them. But I fear what will happen with the boss learns that they’re dead. Or worse, when Giovanni finds out.”
“Sounds like Giovanni is worse than the boss.” Billy said slyly.
Emilia nodded, “At least in temperament. He’s an excellent detective, can catch wind of anything.”
“Well it’s a good thing I chose to get the rings upstate then.” Frank piped up.
The three of them laughed.
“But their search may lead them hear after all. There isn’t another safe house for me to go to and I’ve all but exhausted my relationship with the Vatican when I chose not to go through catechism.”
“Naughty little catholic girl, nice.” Billy smirked, licking his lips.
“OH KAY BILL!” Emilia said throwing her hands up, “I know Maria is the pregnant one around here, but that might actually cause me to vomit.”
Billy caressed the back of his neck, “Was just trying to lighten the mood.”
Frank and Emilia both shook their heads.
“Lighten it without using your dick, Bill.” Frank, snarled.
“I’m sorry.” His voice sounding rather sincere and eyes pitiful.
Emilia licked her lips, “I like the way pity looks on you, it’s almost attractive.”
Frank started to laugh Billy’s face flushed.
“Hang on, how come she can say things like that?” He pouted.
When Frank stopped laughing, he turned to Billy, “She earned that one and you know it.”
“So, what now?” Billy asked.
Emilia shrugged, “I don’t know… I guess after the wedding I have to pack.”
“Hang on,” Frank shook his head, “The only two assholes that discovered you are dead. Did the jeweler wipe the security tape?”
“Said with all the shit that happens around there with the mob, he doesn’t keep one.” Billy said.
“Well there you go then!” Frank exclaimed clapping his hands together. “No one knows you’re alive Eve, you’re safer here with us. They’ll probably just think another gang got the drop on them and dismiss it.”
Emilia nodded, “Are you sure?”
Frank and Billy smiled both seeming to be in agreement.
“Had you told me the truth sooner, I would’ve acted faster today. I’m sorry Eve.” Billy frowned again.
“Don’t be, I’ve known Maria and Frank a long time. He just kind of found out. When all of this is over, I’ll be the one to tell Maria. No sense having her go into labor from stress.”
“Thank you for bringing me to Frank, Billy. I appreciate it.” She smiled softly.
Billy smiled, “You’re welcome.”
“I should probably get back to Maria before she starts to worry, and you should probably get the cake in the refrigerator.” She teased.
Billy shook hands with Frank before helping Emilia to the car.
Frank gave her a hug and whispered in her ear, “It’ll be alright Eve. We’ve got you, nothing is going to happen to you while I breathe.”
“Thank you, Frank, we’ll see you tomorrow.”
Billy closed her door and started the car when they were a bit down the street he turned to her, “So now that we’ve had a really intense moment together, do you wanna grab a drink sometime? You know, as friends?”
Emilia laughed, a long hearty laugh that she hadn’t felt all day, “You know what Bill I’ll take you up on that. On one condition.”
Billy’s heart rate increasing with excitement, “Name it!”
“Since we’ve had such an *ahem* intimate conversation about me, you have to tell me something deep rooted about your past now.” She winked.
Billy hissed and sucked his teeth. After a moment he sighed, “Fine, but you’re buying the first round.”
“Deal.” They shook on it. The two of them talking nothing but nonsense the rest of the way back. For what it was worth, she was glad Billy had been there. Glad that he got to see that side of her. It really made their little family seem bigger Emilia was starting to really feel like she’d won the day. Despite everything, Billy Russo and she had bonded. If everything was going to change anyways, she was glad to know that he had her back at the end. All that was left was for her stomach to stop summersaulting, but she had no idea what the cure for that could be. She just really wanted to put her feet up and have a beer.
The rest of the week went by in a haze of laughter and late nights,
Maria had sat in on almost every rehearsal that Emilia had, just so they could
talk about the wedding afterwards. Frank had brought over coffee Thursday
morning and asked what time Maria’s grandmother would like to join them for
“She got back from her trip a few hours ago, so I’ll have to ask when she wakes up. But,” Maria looked to Emilia for support. “Does six-thirty work?”
Emilia nodded, “Tomorrow night is our day off before tech week, so I’m available.”
Frank squeezed Maria’s hand and gave her cheek a small peck, “Alright then, I’ll let Bill and my parents know.”
Maria and Frank smiled at one another before turning to Emilia with a shared expression, “We’re going to a nice place tomorrow, so I don’t want that to deter you from wearing something appropriate…but do try to not take anything Bill says too seriously. I’ve told him to lay off, but I doubt he’ll listen.”
Emilia raised an eyebrow, “I still don’t understand why I’m the one that has to behave. If he’s such a womanizer, shouldn’t he just have a leash or something?”
Her tone was quite serious, but the three of them couldn’t help but laugh. Frank’s eyes started to water, “The thought of Billy wearing a dog collar, he wouldn’t have it.”
Maria shrugged, “I don’t know, he might be into that sort of thing.”
After their laughs died down, Emilia let out a sigh, “If he’s truly that much of a heathen, I suppose I’ll change what I was going to wear."
Maria kissed Frank goodbye, closing the door behind him. Turning back to Emilia she had a devilish smirk from ear to ear.
"Care to share with the class?” Emilia eyed her.
"Truth be told, I like the dress you picked to wear tomorrow. Don’t change.“
Emilia raised an eyebrow, “I don’t understand.”
Giggling, Maria wrapped an arm around her best friend, “Who cares if it’s a little revealing? You look stunning, and I know how much you like the dress anyways. You seemed upset enough already about having to ‘behave’ around Billy. The least that could be excused is you wearing something that makes you feel confident.”
“Thank you, Maria. You don’t suppose Frank will be too pleased though?”
“I will deal with him, besides, if it comes down to it, I know that you’re fully capable of breaking Russo’s hand.”
They shared a laugh, Maria’s change of mind providing Emilia with a much-needed confidence boost. Though she didn’t want to admit it, Maria was right. She was quite fond of the dress that she’d picked out, and she regretted having to keep it for another occasion. She had handled a lot over the years and wasn’t going to change herself now, just to appeal to a man’s desire.
“No, this doesn’t look right…this doesn’t either. Bloody hell!” Emilia was pacing her room trying to make adjustments on her outfit, again. Her eyes darting to the clock on her bedside table every few minutes. Time was creeping very slowly, she’d been watching it so long, she thought time started to reverse.
“I’m taking another shower, maybe that will help!” she decided after another bout of pacing.
Maria came back into the room, her hair half done, “Emilia, you’re still deciding? It looks great. Dinner isn’t for another hour, just put it on.”
“No, this doesn’t match, I have to start over.” Emilia said frantically.
“Eve you’ve taken three showers, I’m pretty sure you’re clean. Unless you’re trying to scrub your muscle fibers, I think you’re okay.” Maria couldn’t help but chuckle.
Emilia stopped dead and turned to Maria, “Now is not the time for jokes Maria, this is serious.”
“Oh yes,” Maria began in her most imitative Frank voice, “extremely serious.”
Emilia’s lip started to quiver until she finally started to burst into laughter. Taking a few short breaths, she flopped onto the bed and let out a sigh.
“Remind me why I’m panicking.” She said bluntly.
“Because you haven’t met Bill and you’re anticipating tonight being a disaster.” Maria said with a raise of her brow.
“Eve, tonight is going to be great, don’t worry. You look beautiful in your dress and it doesn’t matter how you decide to wear your hair. It might be my rehearsal dinner, but you’ll definitely have everyone’s eyes on you.” Maria laid a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Emilia buried her face in the nearest pillow and huffed, “They’re not supposed to be looking at me. This is about you and Frankie.”
Maria let out a sigh and took a seat beside her, “I was trying to make you feel better, moron. I need my sister tonight.”
Emilia clasped her hand as she emerged from the pillow, “I’m sorry Maria, I don’t know what has gotten into me.”
“Don’t worry about it, just promise me that you’ll shamelessly look
amazing tonight.” She smiled, giving her hand a small squeeze.
“For you, I’ll burn down the restaurant.”
Maria smiled, as they started to laugh, she added, “I know you would, but not tonight. Nan will be there.”
“Right! No burning down the restaurant.” Gathering up her strength, Emilia walked back into the bathroom and picked up her dress. She eyed it for a moment before slipping her silhouette into it. Maria helped her to zip up the back, before returning to her own outfit needs. As Emilia styled her curls, adjusting their natural ringlets, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. For a moment, she thought she saw her mother looking back at her. The navy blue off-shoulder cocktail dress brought out the glow of her complexion and made the hues of her eyes sparkle. She added some crème coloured pumps and light mascara before doing a small spin in front of the mirror. The caress of the dress on her body outlined her physique with poise and stature. Emilia was having a difficult time recognizing herself, until Maria returned and placed an arm around her.
“Wow! You look magnificent. Your parents would be extremely proud of the woman you’ve become, Eve.”
Turning to Maria with tears in her eyes, they embraced. “I wish mum and dad could be here, but I want you to know how grateful I am to be your family.”
“Always, you’re my sister,” as they parted Maria changed the subject, “Nan is finished and it’s about that time. Are you ready to go?”
“Well, this is it. I’ll meet you in the car.” Maria left once more to help Nan into the car. As a final wave of nervousness overcame her, Emilia looked back into the mirror, only this time it wasn’t her face that smiled back.
“I’ll make you proud mum. Your butterfly has grown so much, I miss you every day.” She blew a kiss to the old photo on her mantlepiece and turned off the light before joining Maria in the car.
The evening air was brisk, one of those early spring evenings that cut the skin like a winter’s chill. They found a spot close to the entrance, so Maria could help Nan, they went in first. Emilia let the door shut behind them unintentionally. She had become short of breath and suddenly nauseous. Her hand was outstretched for the handle, but she was unable to convince herself to open it. When Maria noticed she wasn’t behind them, she stepped back outside. Noticing her stature, Maria let out a soft giggle and put an arm around her friend, seeming to snap her out of her trance.
“W-what?” Emilia stammered.
“You’ve got to lift the handle to open the door.” Maria said sarcastically.
“I-I right, sorry,” Her face still flushed in peril.
“It’s okay to be nervous. You’ve heard so many things about him.”
“I’m not nervous Maria,” she tried to shake off the feeling.
Maria pulled her in for a hug, “Right. That’s why you couldn’t open the door.”
“It’s a complex mechanism, these handles.” She stated seriously.
“Uh-huh,” lifting it with ease, Emilia gasped.
“She’s a witch! BURN HER!”
They began to laugh, Emilia squeezed her hand, “Thanks.”
Nodding without another word, they entered the restaurant. It was a very nice place, typical old Italian style, the kind of place neither Nan nor Frank’s parents would object to. The hostess led them to a back room where Frank was waiting for them at the door.
Frank kissed Maria on the cheek, then hugged Nan and Emilia before speaking, “Thought you’d never find us back here, my old man was starting to think I’d imagined you.”
They laughed, “I hope you weren’t waiting long.”
Frank shook his head, “Nah, everyone is just anxious to meet you all. Come, sit.”
He led them through the doors, as they filed in, everyone at the table had stood up. Emilia was still standing behind Nan and Maria as Frank began to introduce them.
“Mom, Dad, Bill, this is my fiancé Maria.” Maria hugged Frank’s parents as they exchanged ‘how do you do’s’, then Frank went on.
“This is her grandmother, though we all just call her Nan. Behind Nan, come on out,” Frank teased, Emilia placed one of her curls behind her ear before moving to the front. “This is Emilia, Maria’s sister.”
Frank winked at her before she shook the hands of his parents. When she and Bill locked eyes, the room went quiet. He seemed to be giving her the ‘once over’, before taking her hand.
“It’s nice to meet you finally, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
Emilia shook it, “All good things I hope.” She snaked her brow as she shot a glance to Frank. He shrugged unapologetically.
“Naturally.” Billy smirked.
“Well, I’m starved. Let’s order some wine.” Frank’s mother and Nan said almost in unison.
As dinner and wine were served, pleasantries started to dissolve. Nan and the Castle’s were chatting about old Italy while Frank and Maria were talking about the colour scheme she and Emilia had picked out earlier in the week. Emilia seemed to be so interested in her dinner that it took a moment to realize Billy was staring at her. When she finally noticed, she could feel her cheeks start to flush.
Quickly trying to think of something to say, she stammered, “Do I have sauce on my face?”
Billy laughed and then shook his head, “No, I was just admiring your dress.”
Biting his lower lip, she noticed his eyes starting to wander again. Emilia wiped her face anyway, then shook out her napkin before speaking.
“I can let you borrow it sometime if you like it so much. Might bring out your eyes better.” Her eyes narrowed.
Emilia was always very keen on reading others, and though Maria told her to be careful, she failed to mention what caliber of man he was. Playboy she knew, military man she knew, but what Emilia seemed to discover was that Billy Russo liked to play. Maria and Frank had stopped talking when they heard Emilia speak for the first time since dinner started, both sharing equal looks of concern. That’s when Billy started to laugh.
“Frankie! You didn’t tell me how feisty this one was, I like her.” He clapped a hand on his shoulder, and the tension evaporated.
Maria laughed along nervously then shot a glance to Emilia.
“You okay?” she mouthed.
Emilia nodded silently, not taking her eyes off Billy, it was her turn to look at him. There was no doubt that his looks did half of his work for him. Emilia remembered Maria telling her about the various consorts she’d seen leaving their house when she would stay with Frank. He was attractive, but they had given him too much credit. He and Frank had a similar haircut, their sides were both faded leaving a bit on the top, but Billy let his run a little long so he could slick it back. Since they were home, he’d let his stubble turn into a short beard, and his eyes were almost as dark as his hair. He was a bit thinner than Frank, but Emilia assumed no less strong. From what Maria had told her, the two of them were a big deal among other Marines. She realized she’d been staring too long, when they locked eyes again.
He shifted in his seat as to open his chest and bit his lip, “See something you like?”
Emilia pretended to gag, “On you, not a chance, this glass of wine however…” She topped off her glass and took an elongated sip.
Billy’s lip started to curl, “Oh yeah, I like her.” He whispered for only Frank to hear. The four of them shared a laugh before Mr. Castle started a toast.
“We love you both, welcome to the family Maria. We are so glad you and Frank have found each other.”
“Cheers to that!” Billy drunkenly exclaimed.
Maria smiled with tears in her eyes, Frank raised his glass before planting a kiss on her lips.
I’m so very proud of you,” Nan added, her eyes also welling with tears.
Couldn’t be happier for you both.” Emilia beamed, “You’re my best friend, you became my family when I had none, if anyone deserves a love like this, it’s you Maria. Glad you and this old man got together when you did.”
“Old man?” Frank grumbled.
Maria and Emilia started to laugh, “You know I’m joking, but you’re my brother now. You’re going to have to deal with it.”
“Yeah, you’re her brother now, you’re gonna have to deal with it,” Billy slurred.
Everyone eyed the drunken Billy and laughed even harder, “And now I’m cutting you off.” Frank snickered before making his glass unreachable.
As everyone shared in their laughs, Emilia took a moment and looked around the table. Even though they couldn’t be there with her in that moment, her parents were still working in her life. They’d given her a new family to love and cherish her. She couldn’t be happier for Maria and Frank. Weddings were always important in her family, but this one was even more special. The family she had gained when she thought the world had left her, was expanding. Tears welled in her eyes and she squeezed Maria’s hand, this is where she wanted to stay, in this moment. Surrounded by the faces of loved ones, laughing and making memories, yes, this was her new life. She could live with that.
After that night at the
bar, Maria had been more than true to her word. She, Natalie, Jessica, and
Emilia had become very close that night, Emilia being their “oh so powerful
leader”, though she never felt like one. Maria had never missed one of their
performances either, it seemed wherever the four of them could be together,
they were. As they’d grown closer in time, each had experienced their own
turmoil. Eric had been hit by a car shortly after graduation, it had torn
Natalie apart. They had been planning their wedding for the following summer. A
year or so later, Jessica’s mother lost her battle with breast cancer.
No matter the situation, the four of them loved and supported the other. They really meant everything to one another. Over time, everyone’s careers seemed to have changed, everyone except Emilia. She was currently the rising star on Broadway, and every director was trying to cast her in something. Jessica was now running her mother’s flower shop, Natalie had become a nurse, and Maria was currently working at a preschool.
One afternoon, they had decided to meet for lunch and walk through central park to talk about their latest escapades. The summer breeze was warm and there were birds everywhere. As they continued laughing and talking, they’d noticed a guy sitting beneath one of the big trees fiddling with his guitar. Emilia had grabbed Maria by the arm and raised her chin, trying get her attention, they stood there watching for a few moments. He was singing out loud and messing up rather badly, that’s when Maria stepped forward.
“Hey buddy, you, uh, you know anything else? Because we’re sick of hearing you butcher this one.” As she started to laugh, Emilia and the others joined in. They couldn’t help it, since the night at the bar, everyone seemed to grow much bolder.
The guy looked up at the four of them laughing, his face had turned beet red. Trying to play cool he smirked at her, “Sorry, I don’t take requests.”
They stopped laughing, looking between one another noticing their banter, Emilia nudged Maria closer to him and winked.
“No requests? What kind of guitar player doesn’t take requests?” Maria asked flirtatiously.
“If you want a request, it’ll cost you. How about I play for you over dinner instead?” He snickered, glancing back at Jessica, Natalie, and Emilia who were grinning eagerly.
asked, looking to her friends for support. They were all nodding furiously. “I
could do dinner, I’m Maria.” She said extending a hand.
He stood up and took it, “Frank.”
“Frank, these are my friends, Jessica, Natalie, and that’s Emilia.” Maria introduced the girls to Frank who all waved. Emilia seemed to be studying him, noticeably giving him a once-over, she was quite good at reading people. Finally, she smiled at him and said hello.
“So, Maria, Friday? I’ll pick you up around 6?” Frank smiled at her.
Maria acknowledged excitedly, “Sounds great.” Quickly writing her phone number on a piece of paper from her purse, she handed it to him and said goodbye.
As they walked away, Emilia placed an arm around her, “He really liked you! You’ll have to tell us everything.”
The sound of a phone ringing echoed throughout the house, it was in the early hours of the morning, Emilia stumbled out of her bed to find the source of the noise. After tripping several times in the dark, she groggily answered.
“Maria? What time is it? Have you been crying?”
“Can I come over? Please, I need to talk to you.” Maria was sniffling, it seemed like she’d been crying for hours.
“Absolutely. Let me find pants, the door will be open. Maria, be safe please.” Adrenaline took over Emilia’s body as she frantically switched lights on around the house and found some clothes.
Things had been relatively alright lately, she was working a lot, going out with Frank some nights. Had something happened with Frank? Was it her grandmother? Fear and confusion were coursing through Emilia’s bones as she made her way downstairs to unlock the door and put some hot water on the stove.
About twenty minutes later, Maria was sitting on the couch with a box of tissues. Emilia had poured them some tea, and as she passed Maria the mug, she sat beside her.
“Maria,” She finally said after a few moments, “what happened? Did you and Frank break up? Is your gran alright?”
Maria shook her head, trying to calm herself, Emilia had wrapped an arm around her.
“Did you get into a fight?”
Again, Maria shook her head. Slipping from her grip, Maria reached into her pocket and pulled out something white.
“It’s the second one I’ve taken.” She handed the strip to Emilia, who gasped.
“You’re pregnant! Oh Maria!” she hugged her friend.
“Have you told him?”
Maria averted her gaze, blowing once more into the tissue.
“I-I just don’t know if he’ll want it. He’s a marine and doesn’t strike as the settling type.” She whimpered, her voice cracking slightly.
“Well that’s bullshit,” her words caught Maria off guard. Emilia smiled, “He loves you, more than life. Tell him. I’ll go with you if you want.”
Hugging her, she grabbed a fresh tissue and dried her tears, “Maybe just come and wait in the car?”
She nodded, “I can do that.”
“And…if he says he doesn’t want it, promise me you won’t break his face like the guy from the bar.”
“I won’t do anything without the proper merited response.” Emilia chuckled.
Maria smiled weakly, she could always trust Emilia with anything, sure Natalie and Jessica meant a lot to her, but she and Emilia had become inseparable, they were more than friends. They were sisters.
Grabbing her keys, Emilia offered to drive so that Maria could tell Frank they were coming. When they reached his house across town, Emilia promised to wait in the car and watched Maria knock on the front door. When Frank opened it, he seemed just as groggy as she felt when Maria called. He poked his head out and nodded to Emilia, acknowledging him, Maria gave her one final panicked look and the door closed.
The morning air was cold, but Emilia’s body heat and the cider she was drinking caused the windows to condense a little. Two water droplets started to form at the top of the driver side window, Emilia shifted in her seat and watched as they crept downwards. They transcended a while, until about a third of the way to the bottom, they met, formed an awkward shape, and dissipated.
Checking the time, Emilia had been waiting almost an hour, the morning darkness faded as the sun started to rise. Shifting again to get a better view of the door, she started to worry. Just as she was getting ready to go knock on the door, it started to open, she was relieved to see Maria kissing Frank before coming down the steps. Frank looked to her in the car and waved. Nodding to him, she anxiously waited for Maria to report.
“What happened?” she questioned as Maria sat down.
Her cheeks bright red, eyes puffy, but she was smiling. Once she settled into the car Maria held up her left hand, “He asked me to marry him!”
They both squealed and hugged tightly.
“He loves you very much Maria, as he should!”
“Thank you for coming with me, lets go grab breakfast! We’ve got a wedding to plan.” Maria admired her ring finger, she was going to marry the love of her life.
They stopped for magazines on their way back to Emilia’s and picked up some breakfast, as they were pouring over the magazines on the couch Maria spoke up.
“So, before we get married, Frank wants our families to meet.”
“That makes sense to me, we can tell your grandmother when she gets home from her trip.” Emilia smiled.
“Well yes, but, Eve,” Maria cupped her hand, “You know that you are just as much my sister as she is my grandmother.”
Tears now filled in Emilia’s eyes, “I see you as my sister too, Maria. So, you want me to go with you to meet Frank’s family?”
“Yes, his parents, and his best friend Billy.” Maria’s tone changed at the mention of Frank’s best friend.
“Frank and Billy serve together, see. Billy is as much his brother as you’re my sister.”
“What’s the problem?” Emilia raised a brow.
“Well, that being the case, Frank asked me to ask if you would be okay to walk down the isle with Billy. Maid of honour and best man are often together.”
“Maria, answer the question.” Her tone was slightly irritated.
“It’s just that, Billy is a bit of a flirt, and well, I don’t want him to get the wrong idea.”
“So, you’re telling me this to keep him at arm’s length?”
“Yes, because Frank said, and I agree, that once you see Billy, you both may find it hard to keep your hands off of one another.”
Emilia started to laugh, “You can’t be serious? Maria, an hour ago you asked me not to break his face if Frank didn’t want to stay with you and the baby. Now you’re saying you’re worried about me? I’m sure Billy won’t be a problem.”
Maria had set down her mug as Emilia tried to make sense of why Billy would be a problem, the porcelain had fogged up slightly and began sweating to the point that when she reached for it again, she’d almost lost her grip.
“You say that now, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. I asked Frank to keep Billy in line at dinner. No footsie under the table.” Maria winked.
Pretending to gag, Emilia rolled her eyes, “We’re not in secondary school. I do hope that you think better than that of me.”
They both began to laugh, of course Maria thought better, but Frank had painted such a vivid picture of Billy. The few times she’d seen him at Frank’s, he’d been escorting someone different out, she couldn’t help but worry about him trying something. Emilia had a unique appearance, and as far as she knew, Emilia hadn’t dated anyone before. Billy was sure to take interest in that.
They let some time pass between them, the ruffle of magazine pages being the only noise they made.
“It’s too quiet. Do you still have your vinyl records?” Maria asked.
“Over there,” Emilia pointed, “Maybe you could find your wedding song while you’re at it.”
“My same thought.” Maria shuffled over to the stack of vinyl that Emilia owned and began the search for her perfect wedding album.
“Elton John, Queen, David Bowie,” Maria mumbled off a few titles
under her breath, “Oh! Frank may like this Metallica album.”
Still at the couch, Emilia had a pen in her mouth and a pair of scissors in her hand. She looked up at the album that Maria was holding.
“I think one of the songs on there is the one he butchered the day you met,” she chuckled through gritted teeth.
Maria smiled, “I’ll take this one for him then, what else-”
“Maria what about this off grey and a maroon?” She held up an image of a bridesmaid dress in the maroon. “The groomsmen could have a grey tie and a red boutonniere, the bridal party, a maroon dress and a grey bouquet.”
Straining to get a better look, she hadn’t noticed the vinyl in her hand slip from its sleeve. Maria had bent over to try and catch it, but knocked the stand leg loose, both Maria and Emilia’s collection crashed onto the floor.
“I’m so sorry Eve!” Maria began to panic.
Emilia spit out the tea she was drinking and bellowed with laughter, eventually slipping off the couch and onto the floor. It wasn’t until she’d reached the floor that Maria had joined in her laughter.
“God we’re a mess, aren’t we?” Maria said between laughs.
“You’re Castle’s mess now sweetheart,” Emilia snorted.
A moment of silence passed as Maria processed what she’d said, then they both began laughing hysterically. When Maria was able to control her laughter, she started to gather up the vinyl’s and gasped.
“Sinatra? Eve, I never would’ve guessed!”
“Huh, oh, that was dad’s, he used to serenade mom once in a while” Emilia blushed. They hadn’t talked about her parents in about a year, the last time that they spoke of them, was on her mom’s birthday. They’d been out to lunch and Emilia had started crying at the table.
Maria could tell that it was still a rough subject, “Sorry.”
Emilia shook her head, “It’s a great album, please use it.”
Maria brought the albums over to the table and hugged Emilia, “Thank you Eve, I don’t know that I would be able to get through this without you.”
“That’s alright Maria, I’m not going anywhere.”
No matter how old Emilia
seemed to be, the death of her parents remained, haunting her memory. She had
been lucky enough that day to have Uncle Pietro there to send her stateside,
but it hadn’t been easy. The address her uncle had given her all those years
ago was to a nunnery, they knew her family well. After decades of dedication to
the catholic church, they had offered to build her parents a safe house if ever
they needed to flee somewhere without question. When Emilia had landed that
day, seventeen years prior, she had to find the nunnery and prove who she was
before they took her to the house. No one knew how to find it except her
father, the Abbot, and now Emilia, being that was where she resided from then
on. She’d lived a modest life, help of what money her father had cultivated
before their intended escape. When she was old enough, she made sure to work
hard as she was able, to ensure that she lived comfortably and didn’t run out
of her father’s savings.
Emilia was resting her head against the wall and had closed her eyes. She was trying to erase the pain she felt from her dream, hot baths always seemed to help. When she felt pruned and relaxed enough to get out, she checked the time. There was about forty-five minutes before she had to be at school. Emilia finished her hair and decided as she was grabbing her briefcase, that it would be better to pick something up when she got to school, no sense in making a breakfast she wasn’t feeling up to eating. It was a brisk autumn morning, as she descended the steps to her house, a few fallen leaves crinkled beneath her feet. She lived in a pleasant neighborhood, the houses around her already filled with Halloween décor. Turning down the street, she began to walk towards the subway station, her house seemed to be perfectly aligned with all major means of transportation, she never needed to travel far to get where she was going.
When she had gotten off the subway, she was about a block from the university she attended. She looked down at her watch again, twenty minutes. She made this trek every day, always punctual Emilia was, at least until someone had bumped into her. While checking her watch Emilia had felt something run into her, they knocked her briefcase from her grasp, and both collapsed.
“I’m so sorry!” a soft voice cried.
“No, it’s my fault, I was
checking the time rather than looking ahead.” Emilia comforted. When she looked
up, she noticed a face she recognized.
“Oh Emilia, I’m glad it’s only you,” it was Maria, a girl that was in her debate club freshman year, they hadn’t seen one another since. “I’m very sorry, but I’m late for my next class. Sorry, again.” In a blink, Maria was gone.
Emilia stood up, dusted off, then checked her watch, ten minutes. Panic overwhelmed her, today would not be the first day that she was late. She’d broken into a run and hurried across campus to the theatre building. Thankfully she reached the double doors in time.
As the day went on, Emilia couldn’t help but think about her encounter with Maria that morning. They hadn’t seen each other since that first year in debate club, even then, the two weren’t exactly close. Their professor had assigned them as partners once, but they hadn’t become friends over it. Emilia would see Maria around campus, but she had her own friends and they weren’t the kind of people Emilia normally associated with. Emilia hadn’t found any interest in debate after that year, so she hadn’t gone back, and do to that fact, she and Maria had thereafter not interacted. It had caught her by surprise that she’d remembered her name.
At the end of the day Emilia made her way to the black box theatre for rehearsal, they were about a week away from their first show, hell week as it was often referred to. There was a lot more to do this week than just running lines. Staging every scene, making sure there were back-ups of props present if there was a malfunction, the stage hands were just as busy as the rest of the cast, if not a bit more so, because they were the ones running sets on and off stage. The bustling life of a young thespian kept Emilia on her toes, it was one of the few things in her life that made her feel close to her parents. Her mother had been well known in the West End, her death had been played off to the public as an accident, ‘caught in the crossfire while on vacation with her family’. Emilia always found that to not bring justice to her legacy, she was murdered in cold blood. But she’d been forced to come to terms with that.
They were performing Phantom of the Opera, it had been Evangeline’s first major role, and Emilia felt a wave of honour when she’d been cast as Christine. She’d asked their professor to leave two seats in the front row to honour them on opening night. But that was all anyone knew about her, that she was the daughter of a renowned thespian in West End, and her father was some unknown ‘business man’. Her peers respected her for her mother’s sake, and that she was rather talented herself, but Emilia was almost always alone. None of her cast mates knew her outside those double doors.
The Friday before opening night, the other members of the cast had decided to go out for drinks, insisting Emilia join them. After a failed attempt to decline, they’d all found themselves at a bar close to the university. They’d found a table for the six of them near the billiard tables, as the guys went to grab a round, Emilia sat with some of the girls who seemed far better acquainted.
“So, Emilia, I’m surprised that you finally came tonight! We’ve been trying to get you to join us for months.” The curly blonde said.
“I was explaining to Jessica how you always seemed so swamped in work, that we could never convince you,” the brunette chimed in.
Emilia blushed, “You’re
not wrong that I have a lot of work to do Jessica.”
Jessica had one of her
curls between her fingers and smirked, “Work load or not, we really enjoy
performing with you. We may not be a family,
but I think we should be able to get to know our leading lady.”
Emilia paused and looked between them, “You both feel the same?”
The brunette smiled, “Hell yeah! You’ve really got your mother’s gift, I’d always looked up to her as a child. When you joined our program, all I thought about was getting to know you.”
When the boys returned with a round of beers, the tallest of them spoke first, “What were you gals talking about while we were gone? Anything interesting?”
Jessica shook her head, “Natalie and I were just telling Emilia how nice it was that she could finally join us.”
Emilia cupped up one of the beers and took a sip without making any eye contact.
“Is that so?” the guys smiled at her.
“It is really nice to have you finally with us Emilia.”
She smiled at him, Ryan being the only one she sort of knew, was playing opposite her as the Phantom, and with him were Eric playing Raoul, and Sebastien who was playing Piangi.
“I’m glad to have the time to do so, I’m sorry I haven’t really gotten to know you all. Seeing as we’ve been acting together for near of five years.” Emilia took another sip of her beer.
“Nonsense,” Natalie piped up, spilling her beer in Eric’s lap in her excitement. “oops.”
“Dammit! Every time.” Eric swore and got up from his seat in a huff.
Natalie started to giggle.
What’s so funny?” Jessica raised her brow.
“I just like the idea of him with wet pants, can’t hide the goods.” Natalie licked her lips as she watched him stomp to the bathroom.
“C’mon Nat! We’re in public.” Sebastien groaned.
Emilia giggled, because
Natalie had stuck her tongue out at him in rebuttal.
“You’re laugh is pretty
cute Millie,” Ryan winked.
“Millie?” Both Emilia and Jessica questioned.
Ryan blushed, “W-well seeing as we’re friends now, I just thought-”
“No one has ever called me that before, most people…” She paused, “People usually call me Eve, Emilia Violet.”
They shared glances between one another, then Ryan raised his glass, “Well, then cheers to Emilia Violet! You’re one of us now Eve!”
Their glasses clinked and they all took a swig. Emilia was happy to be around her peers for once, normally she’d just be at home reading a book or running lines. She felt safe.
Safe, something about that word became a poison, she felt her stomach turn. Eric had returned to the table, but time around her had stopped. She’d heard a sound nearby that was like a wail of discomfort in her ears. The others hadn’t seemed to notice because they continued to laugh among themselves. Natalie was groping the side of Eric’s pants when he settled beside her. Emilia scanned the room for the disturbance she’d heard, and that’s when she saw her.
Maria was sitting at the bar, with a drunk trying to hang on her arm. Emilia’s nose scrunched up and her nostrils flared, her body temperature rising with anger. Excusing herself, Emilia sauntered up to the bar beside Maria.
“Hey! There you are, we were wondering when you were going to join us.” Emilia had put a hand on Maria’s shoulder which caused her to jump. When she met Emilia’s gaze, tears and a sigh of relief were unmistakable.
“Emilia,” Maria said breathlessly, “I couldn’t find your table, so I waited here. I’m glad you found me.”
Emilia knew she wasn’t pretending, the drunkard still seemed to have a hand on her thigh.
“Hey buddy,” Emilia hissed, “why don’t you let go of my friend here and piss off?”
The man licked his lips, tightening his grip on Maria’s leg, making her wince.
“Y’all are friends huh?” He slurred, “You’re both rather pretty, how about you both come with me? Have a good ending to this shit night.”
Emilia gave Maria’s hand a comforting squeeze and switched sides to stand in front of him.
“I don’t think so, my friend has already asked you to let go of her, I suggest you do so before we have a real problem here.” The look in Emilia’s eyes would’ve made anyone run. Her stance was bold, head held high, not a sign of fear.
She bore into his eyes and reached for his arm, “I will say this, once. Let. Go.”
The man smirked, “You have quite a grip baby, why don’t you put it somewhere that can bring some joy-”
It happened so fast, he’d let go of Maria and reached for Emilia’s arm, in the moment he was off guard she swung her other arm around and punched him in the nose. Trying to stop the blood, the drunk went to grab his nose and that’s when Emilia shoved her boot into his groin. There was a loud smacking sound and he fell to his knees. Emilia had grabbed him by the hair and smashed his face into the side of the bar before he fell over, unconscious.
The bar had fallen silent, Emilia had spit on him and swore in Italian.
“Next time you try to put hands on a lady and she’s already told you no, I hope your cock falls off.” Turning around to face Maria, Emilia escorted her to the table with the others.
“T-thank you.” Maria whispered.
“Holy shit!” Ryan and Jessica declared in unison.
“Eve! Are you alright, you’re hand is bleeding,” Sebastien frowned at the sight of her.
“I’m fine. Everyone, this is Maria an old friend of mine.” She smiled at Maria who introduced herself.
“Nice to meet you,” Jessica said, nudging Eric to bring over another chair. “Eve that was badass! The way you kicked the shit out of him, woah.”
Emilia snatched up her beer and took a gulp, “I just don’t like men who don’t understand the meaning of no.”
“Emilia, I don’t know what I would’ve done if you hadn’t spotted me. The bar tender had run to the back and no one else seemed to notice.” Maria wiped tears from her eyes.
Just then the bartender approached them, “Some of the patrons said there was a problem?”
Ryan stood up and pointed to the drunk still on the floor, “That asshat was trying to grope our friend. Emilia here was only doing right by her and showing him that that isn’t how you treat a lady.”
Emilia waved for Ryan to take a seat, “Sir, if trying to grope a woman at the bar repeatedly after she’s said no is a crime, then by all means call the police. Just know, that by doing so you’re granting him and others like him the freedom to repeat that behaviour.”
Everyone watched in silence, they had never seen such aggression from Emilia before. Perhaps once in a more dramatic role on stage, but never had she said or done more than what was asked of her. It was like meeting an entirely different person. Jessica and Natalie’s eyes were twinkling in admiration, as were Maria’s.
The bartender let out a sigh, “I was actually trying to cut that guy off about an hour ago. Now that he’s out cold and I have your statement, I can have him escorted out.”
He nodded to Maria, “Are you alright miss?”
Maria nodded, “Only because I have such great friends.”
“So it would seem,” he paused before nodding his head towards the bar. “You guys can have a round on me for the trouble. Anything you’d like.” He smiled at Emilia, “Sorry again.”
Shaking her head, Emilia smiled, “I’m just glad everyone is alright.”
When the round of drinks was dropped off everyone raised their glasses.
“You are just one powerful mystery, aren’t you?” Jessica chuckled.
“Here’s to our elegant and powerful leading lady!” Eric said.
“Eve! Eve! Eve!” they chanted.
A tear rolled down her face, Emilia hadn’t felt this loved in a long time.
“I’m staying by your side from now on.” Maria giggled.
Reasons why The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) should be in Spider-Man: Homesick
When I heard that for the third movie of Spider-Man a new hero will enter the MCU to help him, I immediately thought that it should be Frank Castle and here are my reasons:
• It would help Peter learn to become independent from the Avengers.
It is a topic that many debate, the vast majority of viewers are irritated by how dependent Spider-Man has become on what The Avengers do or not do and also because of the help he receives from his friends (Happy, Ned, MJ ), I can very safely say that if Frank helps Peter with his current difficult situation, he will learn how to work alone as he did in the second season of The Punisher with Amy.
• Frank Castle is a very easy character to add to the MCU.
Why am I saying this? Because Frank is a ghost (not literally), he is always hidden in the shadows and only performs on the streets. The Punisher, being a controversial character in his own history, makes no one talk about him, everyone saw him, everyone knows who he is, what he did and what he is capable of, however, not even the FBI dares to look for it.
• Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal are friends.
They have made a movie together, they know each other and they clearly get along well, that is a great advantage when filming. They both helped each other when it came to playing their Marvel characters.
• Frank Castle tends to protect teens in distress.
You could see the previous said in the second season of The Punisher, since from the first chapter he protects Amy.
• Punisher would help the development of Peter Parker as an individual character.
By putting Frank Castle in Peter’s way, development and maturity as a character could be achieved by having to witness and experience the worst side of humanity, Frank would help him in his effort to survive and could even protect him.
• The Punisher is the perfect ally against Kraven the Hunter.
As the vast majority will know, Kraven was confirmed as the main villain of Spider-Man 3: Homesick, and honestly the best ally Peter can ask for is Frank Castle, Kraven is a man specialized in hunting and weapons, Frank would be it is very helpful since he knows military techniques, how to treat gunshot wounds and how to deal with a man specialized in weapons.
• Placing The Punisher would be the cue for dark plots.
What am I going with that? I say that since it is a serious crisis in Peter’s life with Frank Castle, a man who has gone through hell and has returned to take revenge, it can help when Spidey has to make difficult decisions, because if someone other than nobody knows about difficult decisions that is The Punisher.
Rewatching The Punisher S1. Franks utter panic at Karen’s life being threatened. Man JUMPS INFRONT OF ACTUAL BULLETS FOR HER. And Daredevil S3 really wanted me to believe Frank would let a maniac hunt her down and not even send a damn text? Frank would have killed Poindexter with his bare hands for her. SMH.
“Frank looked at me out of the corner of his eye and noticed I was holding my arms. "Are you cold?” He asked, I could tell there was slight concern in his voice, and the idea that this big handsome guy was concerned about me, even slightly, made my chest feel tight.“
- excerpt from chapter two of ’Opening up’.
A fanfic by me, Peaches Watkins
5 chapters available on my Wattpad :)