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Manhattan's Song

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The day spent at the hotel patio was eventful for Rose. She had spent most of it with Bianca and she was able to make friends with Carla Spinietta and Gina Drago who all gave her telephone numbers so that they could go out together. While she sat with Bianca she learned a few things, one of them about Liliana Sartini, Catarina’s sister-in-law and closest friend. Liliana had had a raging crush on Luca since she was just a teenager and she was more than hostile to the situation that Luca had come back to Manhattan in. Liliana had glared at Rose the entire time, no doubt talking to Catarina about what a mistake Luca was making in marrying a foreigner while she was there and available.

Bianca couldn’t help but snicker at Liliana’s desperation. It was later in the evening when the sun began to fall on the horizon. A gunshot shocked Rose as she instinctively reached for Bianca. It was a muffled sound, but she knew a gunshot when she heard one, she was sister to the bloody Peaky Blinders after all. Bianca had told her to calm down, that everything was all right and nothing would happen to them on the patio. But Rose’s thoughts were roaming to Luca. Was he okay? Was he hurt? Or was he the one behind the gun? She listened to Bianca and had calmed down, noticing that the women gathered on the balcony-patio were staring directly at her.

She ended the night quietly, wrapped in Luca’s arms, worrying about the kind of life she was destined to have no matter what part of the world she was in.

The wedding planning was at it’s finishing touches, as it was only two weeks away. Bianca had been walking in and out of Rose and Luca’s apartment like she owned the place, yelling at Luca and asking for Rose’s opinions on different vase shapes, fabric patterns and which cake tasted best. As Bianca’s visits died down, Rose noticed something in Luca. He was quieter than usual. Rose knew something was on his mind, it had to be mafia business. Bianca would have told her not to bother him, but she couldn’t do that. The worry would always be there in Rose’s mind, no matter how many times people told her not to worry. Rose knew that as soon as Tommy told she and her family that she had to marry Luca, she knew she would never escape the life her brothers lived. She would always be around the violence, the guns, the liquor, and drugs. But as she continued living her life in Manhattan, living her life with Luca, she knew she had to understand what he did for a living and why he did. He did it for his family like Tommy had done for them. She didn’t want to be a burden and she knew she always had been one for Tommy and Arthur, but she wasn’t going to be that for Luca. She wouldn’t allow herself, she wanted to be better for him.

Luca was in his office, the door closed. Rose had been preparing dinner, as she finished with the tomatoes, she shut her cookbook, one of many in her new prized collection and went to call Luca for dinner. But she saw an opportunity then.

She opened the door to Luca’s office, trying to be as quiet as she could. He had his hands clasped together, an audible sigh escaping his mouth. Rose walked toward him, he hadn’t lifted his head to see her, but Rose knew that he had noticed her. Rose walked around his desk and placed her hand on his shoulder rubbing gently. He put his rough hand on hers, turning his body to look at her.

“I know something’s going on, Luca. You can tell me.” Rose looked at him carefully, she didn’t want to intrude but she knew that if Luca kept all the negativity inside he would continue to struggle later. She was willing to share his troubles. “What are you planning?” Rose slipped on to his lap, her hands around his neck.

“It’s not your burden, Tesoro.” He grazed the back of his fingers against her cheek, looking at her lazily. She knew he would say that, but she wasn’t going to give up on him so easily.

“It’ll make you feel better. I know you have a lot of weight on your shoulders, I just don’t want you to have to carry it all the time.” Rose placed a soft kiss on his cheek, her hands now on both sides of his face. Luca moved in to kiss her lips slowly. Rose adjusted her body to sit on him better, straddling his legs. She faced him straight on, her chest now toward his. Luca moved the papers on his desk before he looked back at her. He rubbed his thumb along his jaw and took a deep breath as he confided in Rose.

“Don Spinietta is going to retire soon… from this life” he waved a hand next to her as if he were negotiating with someone. His words were vague but Rose presumed that he meant he was going to retire from the Mafia. “He doesn’t plan on leaving the business to Carla. He’s going to pass it down to, y’know someone in the family.” He appeared more humble then he needed to be as if he weren’t expecting for Cristofano Spinietta to pass Manhattan down to him.

“He’s going to pass it down to you?” Rose gave him a sly smile, showing off that she was excited for him to achieve this, he was the underboss after all.

Luca was meant to be the Don of Manhattan. He was dripping with the fierceness and class that belonged to someone who could be the Don of any part of New York. He was all the things that made the perfect Mafia boss, but Rose had never wanted to be apart of that kind of life. But, here she was, trapped in it. She knew she would have to make the best of it because she wanted to be with him now. She wanted to be with Luca in every way possible, and if he needed a Mafia wife she would be that for him.

“Maybe. It’s me… or Anthony… I don’t think Anthony would take this.” He looked at her carefully, as if he was still truly ruling out every possible outcome of the situation. He was being overly modest, but Rose understood this as indecisiveness, once he became the boss Rose and Luca would constantly be a target.

“We’ll be alright. If it happens or not, everything will be ok. Alright?” Rose shook his shoulder slightly to get him to look at her. Luca gave her a smooth smile, the one she loved so much. But his expression soon changed.

“It’ll get dangerous around here.”

Rose hummed before she spoke. “Well, I am marrying a gangster, aren’t I?” Rose grinned at him in amusement. Her toothy grin sent shivers down Luca’s spin.

“I know you’re afraid.” He spoke quietly as if he didn’t want to tell her that he knew how she felt. She had made her skittishness obvious since the moment they met, but they never spoke about it. She wasn’t ready to speak of it anyway, she didn’t want to tell him why she was always so afraid all the time, it was something in her past she wasn’t ready to relive. She sighed and looked away from his face.

“I know what you do, and even if I’m afraid it doesn’t matter. I know something can happen to me… or to you at any time” She looked back into Luca’s eyes. “But I’ll be here, and I’ll do as you say. I can’t change what you do like I couldn’t change what my brothers do. But I’ll be here for you.” Luca placed a slow loving kiss on her lips. The stress he had decreased ten-fold as Rose sat on his lap. He wanted to tell her that he loved her, but he bit his tongue.

“Dinner’s ready,” Rose removed herself from Luca’s body and took hold of his hand, motioning for him to get away from his desk for a while.

Bianca had been in a frenzy the two-weeks leading before the wedding as wedding guests from afar and overseas began to enter the Manhattan city limits. Bianca had been taking quick photographs with a new machine Rose had never seen before. She took pictures of Rose, of Luca and then of them together. Rose had enjoyed the moments and couldn’t wait to see the developed photos.

Catarina came by the apartment as well to discuss guest arrangements, and if Luca had done all his duties as groom yet. Catarina chastised him for a while for not taking her seriously, before Bianca had told her that everything had already been dealt with. They had taken some liberties in making the wedding less traditional than usual, though there were was still some traditions Bianca couldn’t get passed.

Catarina was still slightly hostile with Rose, but she had spoken to Rose far more now. It seemed to Rose that Catarina had come to terms with the fact that she couldn’t change her brother’s decision to marry Rose.

Luca left after being pestered by his sisters and the trio went over all the things that would need to be done on the day of the wedding and the few days before it. Bianca had received an RSVP from Polly, Linda, and Ada but no one else from Rose’s family. Bianca had assumed they were all coming anyway, and that Rose’s brothers simply didn’t know that they needed to send confirmation of their attendance. Catarina went over their relatives coming from Italy and others from Philadelphia and San Francisco. There were easily over a hundred and fifty people on the guest list, and Rose only knew a handful of them. Bianca had promised Rose that, she, Catarina, and Audrey would deal with the guests, as many of them only spoke Italian.

Rose then began to practice basic phrases in Italian with Bianca, as Catarina would mock her pronunciation. Words like “Thank you for coming”, “Thank you for the gift”,  “It’s nice to meet you” and so on. Rose had learned how to address Luca during the day as “Sposo” and had been practicing her pronunciation continuously. Except she kept the word Sposo away from Luca’s ears as she wanted to catch him off guard when it was time for her to finally say it.

There were now four days before the wedding and Rose and Bianca were waiting away from the pier as the Shelby’s were expected to arrive that day in New York. Bianca was smoking from a silver cigarette holder, as her hat covered the top half of her face, she looked like a Hollywood actress, amongst the smoke and bustle of the people leaving the pier. The pier was chaotic, many people pushing or bumping into each other as they left customs. Rose had never seen Bianca smoke before, she expected that it had become a new habit. Luca didn’t smoke cigarette’s, he only smoked cigars but never in a place as public as the pier, he always stuck to his toothpick, or if he had the need to appear more menacing he would use a match. Rose smiled to herself as she noticed her thoughts began to move away from her task and towards Luca. Bianca huffed under the sun, it was about midday and the ship had already docked several hours ago.

Rose recognized her Aunt Polly first and pulled Bianca with her as Bianca sloppily tried to discard of her cigarette. As Rose made contact with Polly she hugged her tightly before even saying a word to her, she breathed in her scent.

“Oh, Rose.” Polly touched her face happily as she moved away to look at her. “Have you been well?” All Rose could do was nod in response or her tears would threaten to streak her cheeks. Michael was behind her then and Rose pulled him in for a hug. Finn came next, looking a foot taller from the last time she had seen him. Rose had even chuckled as the tears finally began to fill the corners of her eyes.

“Finn! You’ve grown so much” Rose hugged him tightly and pecked him on the cheek.

“You look like a true New Yorker, Rose” Finn grinned at her, she could tell that he had missed her as much as she had missed him. Rose took her orange cloche hat off her head smoothing out her hair. She was wearing a white blouse and a grey overcoat. Her skirt reached past her knees and was a darker shade of orange from her hat. “I’ve missed you, Rosie.” Rose hadn’t heard Finn call her that in ages. As she looked at her little brother she noticed how much he looked like Arthur now that he had grown into himself. John had always looked a little more like Tommy then anyone else, but Finn was different. As her thoughts rambled on, Ada came out of customs clutching her son Karl tightly by the wrist. He seemed to be fussing over his mothers strong-will. Rose smiled as soon as she caught Ada’s gaze. As Ada neared the group, Rose embraced her big sister tightly, pecking Karl on the head soon after.

“I’m really happy to see you,” Rose sounded as she looked her sister straight on. Ada laughed, she seemed to be in such a delight to see her sister again. Ada rubbed Rose’s back as she hugged her again.

Arthur came bustling out with Billy on his hip and Linda close behind them. There was a wide grin on his face as he saw Rose in the crowd.

“Aw, look at you!” Arthur was her favourite and would always be. Rose ran to him holding onto him tightly as Arthur quickly passed Billy to Linda.

“I’ve missed you so much!” Rose sounded through sobs, she was full on crying now.

“I’ve missed you too. You’ve been doing alright then?” Arthur still looked at her with a grin as Rose nodded her head at him as she wiped the tears quickly off her face. Rose then moved over to hug Linda and kiss Billy on the cheek.

“Where’s Tommy?” Rose added as the tears waned and the disappeared.

“He’s not coming. He didn’t want to leave Birmingham alone, he kept your Uncle Charlie and Lizzie with him.” It was Michael that spoke. Rose was disappointed but not surprised. As they all huddled together, Rose introduced Bianca to her family. Bianca was respectful even though she knew that Arthur had killed her father. She shook his hand and made no comments, Bianca was too good to be true, and Rose knew that Arthur thought the same of her.

The Shelby’s were staying at Hotel Astor, where the party was meant to be held for the wedding. Rose hadn’t known they were meant to be staying there, but she had notified Bianca that it would be difficult to get them to leave the party at the end of the night because of it.

Rose had spent the days before the wedding either catching up with her family at the hotel or being told by Bianca which superstitions she was meant to follow. Luca hadn’t gone to the hotel or even asked whether the Shelby’s had settled in well at their hotel the week leading up to the wedding. But Rose didn’t pester him, she had no idea if he was planning on avoiding them or not. She’d lay next to him every night before the wedding with this on her mind, and whether she really was ready to marry someone at all. Was she even wife material? She’d never really had to take care of anyone before. She watched over Finn every once and awhile but they were close in age and that hardly counted. She knew that the Italian women had a standard for the way families were run. She’d have to be a mother sooner or later, and that scared her to pieces. She loved children, but could she really give birth to one, could she really call one her own? With all these thoughts in her mind as she laid in bed, she would wake up tired every morning until Bianca chastised her and told her that she would need to go to bed earlier so that she wouldn’t look like a ghost in her wedding photos.

It was three days before the wedding, and Rose was sitting in Polly’s hotel room. The entire family had gathered in the room. There weren’t enough chairs to seat everyone. Arthur, Finn, and Michael were stood by the cold fireplace smoking cigarettes while the rest of the family were around a small table close to the four-poster bed. Polly was holding on to Rose’s hand.

“He hasn’t hurt you, has he?” Polly was scanning Rose with her eyes, “You’re okay to go through with this, are you?” Rose had gotten used to the questions. Ada had asked her twice that day and even Linda asked her if she was okay with spending the rest of her life with Luca.

She never answered them excitedly like any normal bride would, all she could say was “Everything will be okay,” Rose felt it would be. She didn’t need to be afraid of Luca, he was always kind to her and he never made her do something she was uncomfortable with. He was heaven sent to her, but she wasn’t going to tell her family. She couldn’t, Luca had this reputation that appeared on his face whenever he came in to contact with strangers or people he wished to be feared by. Rose knew that to her family, he needed to appear this way, as much as she wished he wouldn’t need too.

“Don’t worry Aunt Pol, everything will be fine.” Rose put her hand on Polly’s shoulder reassuringly, but Polly looked back at her quizzically.

“Something’s changed in you Rose.” Polly continued to scan her. She looked Rose straight in the eyes and then at the boys by the fireplace. Rose knew that Polly had figured something out with her second sight, but what Polly had seen Rose did not know.

Rose quickly changed the subject, she mentioned to Ada how much Karl had grown and how he was almost her height. The evening ended quietly, and Rose meant to leave before the sun had set completely. As she made her leave from Polly’s hotel room as the rest of the family retreated to their rooms or to another part of the hotel Polly caught Rose by the arm before she could exit the room. Polly watched as everyone left before she spoke to Rose.

“You care for him don’t you.” It wasn’t a question as Polly looked at Rose with a blank stare. “I can see it, you don’t have to lie to me.”

“Well…” Rose’s tongue got caught in her mouth. “I have to care for him, don’t I.” Polly gave Rose a knowing smirk as she stopped Rose in her tracks, she had lied to her. And it was incredibly obvious. “I’ll be okay, I promise.”

“Words, are just words, Rose. But, I can’t stop you.” Polly tapped her cigarette against the door frame. She looked at Rose sternly then, like she had once done when she was a child who had gotten into trouble. “Tommy wants this done, so I can’t tell you too come home. But, I see a lot of trouble in you now, a lot of hurt.” Rose’s steady expression turned sour. It was easy for her to believe her Aunt Polly’s words.

“I really don’t know what I’m doing Aunt Pol, but I have to do it. Because I want to now. Don’t tell Arthur, Don’t tell Tommy either, but I need him. And I think he needs me too.” Polly gave her a sad look as if Rose were walking into her own misfortune.

“Alright… alright,” Polly added. She pulled Rose in for a hug. “Be safe, don’t stick your head anywhere it shouldn’t be. If anything goes wrong down the line, come home where its safe. Tell Luca if you have too, I’m sure he’ll understand.” Rose nodded at her aunt before she took a heavy breath to steady the threatening tears in her eyes. “Go on home, I’m sure he’s wondering where you are.” Rose hugged her aunt one last time before she left the hotel room, and walked down the brightly lit hallway, of cream coloured walls and grand mirrors. She steadied her breathing, Polly had always been a mindful person, not always a rationalist but she was dependable when she needed to be. Rose believed every word she had said to her, like the obedient child she had once been to her.

She walked out of the hotel alone, the sun was setting in the sky leaving the sky in a purple and pink haze. The New York streets were just as dangerous as the streets in Birmingham, but there was less space to run to here, the streets were narrow and the buildings tall. But Rose made haste wrapping her thin shawl around her shoulders tightly. The air in the month of May was no different to the air in March in New York. Rose took the main road to reach Tessa Tower, and headed straight up the elevator she had now grown used to using.  When she got inside the apartment, she drank some water and then headed to her closet to strip herself of her day clothes. Luca still wasn’t home but she was completely drained by seeing her family that evening. She got into the soft silk blankets and pulled the comforter on top of her. She stuck her arm out of the sheets to touch Luca’s side of their enormous bed and she fell asleep with ease.

She woke up to Luca sliding his tall frame into bed next to her. It was pitch black outside their enormous window. Luca placed a kiss on her forehead before Rose snuggled into him.

“Is everything okay? You never come in this late.” Sleep was still in Rose’s voice and her eyes were closed.

“Just had to deal with business, everything’s fine Tesoro. Sleep,” Rose tangled her legs between his and wrapped her arm around his chest, her long hair draped out behind her. She thought about telling Luca about her visit with her family, but she decided not too as sleep engulfed her again.

Rose woke up on the day of her wedding in absolute fear. All the emotions she had been holding back couldn’t be contained anymore as she cried in her bathroom connected to her walk-in closet. How could she know if she was ready to be a wife? How could she know if she could bear and raise Luca’s children? How could she know she would be enough for Luca?

Was she enough?

Luca had been sent out of the house early that morning by Bianca, and Rose had been grateful that Luca wasn’t there to witness her in this state. But Bianca was waiting with Polly and Ada outside her bathroom door, sending consoling words through the painted wood.

When she left the bathroom after a few minutes of tears, Polly grabbed her cheeks with more force than necessary. She looked her dead in the eyes as Bianca watched on with a confused expression on her face as Ada began to prepare Rose’s things to dress her for the wedding.

“You listen to me now. You make the best of this, If you love him the way you do, you can do this. Be brave, girl.” Polly let go of her then, and Rose nodded at her. She had never said that she loved Luca out loud to anyone, not even to herself, but Polly already knew it. Rose held in her breath, pretending she hadn’t heard the word love, she wasn’t ready to admit it, not even on her wedding day. She knew she was being foolish anyway and she was glad Bianca, Ada and her Aunt Polly were there or she would have ended up falling asleep before the wedding could even start.

Rose was dressed in a white gown with long fitted lace sleeves, with a boat neckline. The dress was relatively simple, but elegant all the same. The lace above the satin truly made her look like she was worth a million dollars. Bianca fixed Rose’s face, trying to hide the swelling that came with the crying she had done earlier. She put on all her silver jewellery as well as a ruby hairpin in her hair to hold her dark brown mane behind her. When she was ready she looked at herself in the full-length mirror in her walk-in closet. She’d never get to see herself like this again, so she memorized every detail. Once she was ready to step out Ada handed her a bouquet of deep red roses. It had become Luca’s custom to comfort her with roses and she knew it had to have been his idea to use roses for the wedding. Rose found comfort in the gesture and made way to leave her apartment.

Luca had been greeting guests at the main doors of the church with his mother and best man, Anthony Drago. He was getting restless, but he kept the strong look on his face. Luca’s easy smile glided on his face as his elders addressed him. Anthony had already complained about standing so long in the sun, so they all moved inside St. Andrews Church. Luca took his position at the front of the altar and Anthony stood next to him, talking about how he had just spotted a pretty woman with long legs. Luca looked at him carefully, making it known to Anthony that he should watch his mouth in the church, but all Anthony did was snicker at him. It had progressively gotten harder for Tony to share banter with Luca after he had gotten in engaged, but he found that he enjoyed making Luca annoyed far more.

Luca looked to the left side of the church. In the second row Michael Gray and Rose’s youngest brother Finn had already taken their seats. At least they cleaned up well, Luca thought. He corrected himself quickly. He knew Rose would have been disappointed if he had said it out loud. He watched Michael for a second and caught his gaze. Luca gave him a simple nod of acknowledgement and Michael returned the gesture. Soon both Polly, Ada and her son sat down next to Michael and Finn, along with Arthur’s wife Linda and their boy. Arthur was going to walk his youngest sister down the aisle.

He looked to where his mother sat, she had a solemn expression on her face now that no one but he, Anthony and the priest could see her. Catarina and Paulie were sitting next to her, and Luca watched as Bianca made her way down the outside aisle to sit next to them. Rose had to be there by now, waiting to walk down the aisle with her brother to be handed to Luca. He truly couldn’t wait to see her.

Luca had never been nervous before. He had never dreamed that he would be nervous on the day of his wedding either, but he wanted to marry Rose. Two months ago, marriage had been out of necessity to save his mother and his sisters. But Rose was nothing like he thought she’d be. She was the one for him, he couldn’t see his life without anyone but her anymore.

The traditional wedding bells began to play in the background and the doors of the church swung open to allow Arthur and Rose to step inside the church. Luca breathed in deeply as she came into view. Her veil still over her head. She looked petite next to her brother, but she looked petite next to anyone. Luca couldn’t help but let a grin cross his face as she was getting closer to the altar, he hadn’t shown this much emotion all day and he knew that the crowd and his family had become interested in the girl behind the veil by Luca’s reaction to her. As Rose got to the altar Arthur handed her over to Luca, a stern nod from Arthur had made everything clear to him. Arthur had come to terms with Rose and Luca’s marriage even if he didn’t like the idea. Luca didn’t care too much anyway, he had his Rose with him now. Arthur lifted the veil from Rose’s face so that they could see each other before the ceremony could commence. Arthur took his leave to sit next to his family, as Luca looked at Rose in awe. He had always known that she was beautiful, but in her white gown, with her bouquet of red roses, and the soft smile on her face as she looked Luca in the eyes, he could just melt into her. She was as beautiful as ever.

The ceremony commenced with a couple of happy tears shed, and a lot of cheering and clapping. Audrey couldn’t contain her discontent in the front row, her frown had grown from the beginning of the ceremony, but she couldn’t do anything about it. It had been Luca’s choice to save his mother from the possibility of murder, but Luca knew that she wouldn’t protest his actions long, as he was the head of the family and good things were coming his way.

At the end of the ceremony the priest, motioned for Luca to kiss his bride. Luca turned to Rose noticing how flustered she had become with all the eyes watching them, and the anticipated public display of affection they were about to engage in. Luca leaned down into Rose’s small frame and pecked her lips affectionately, but still chaste. He watched as the sincerest smile graced her face, and he held onto her hand as the wedding bells commenced again for the party to leave the church. Rose and Luca stepped out of the church into the sunlight as Rose and Luca’s family tossed rice into the air to shower them with good fortune.