Life Before Damaged, Volume 5

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Life Before Damaged, Volume 5 Page 6

by H. M. Ward

  No wonder why people don’t change. Even if they want to, it’s incredibly difficult to actually do it. At least it is for me. Pete, on the other hand, jumped into his new role as heir pretty quickly. The media is going wild with this information, trying to poke their noses into Pete’s personal life, getting all the gritty details behind the man who is now the newest, most eligible wealthy bachelor.

  My mind bounces back to the other night with Pete and all those warnings to stay away from him and his mother. He said to keep a low profile and not get myself tangled in their mess. Maybe he meant this stuff with Sean?

  I’m not certain, but I can’t help but feel sad for Pete in light of the news. He is like a wild animal, uncaged and untamed to the point that I envy him. To become the heir of such an enormous fortune has its responsibilities. It’ll be like putting him in shackles. I know because I’ve been wearing mine every day since the day I was born.

  My mother almost died giving birth to me and it was clear after that traumatic experience that my parents would not be able to have any more children. I think that my dad was secretly hoping for a son, so he could pass down the family name—Reginald Granz the fourth—who would eventually run his company. Instead, he had to settle for a Regina. Being a single child had its perks. I was always Daddy’s little princess, got all their love and attention, and was spoiled, but I was also overprotected. What would become of the family line should something happen to the sole heir? Massive bickering as family comes out of the woodwork like snakes, decimating what remains of the estate. It’s every father’s nightmare, but now it’s Pete’s nightmare too since Sean left.

  I fake a smile at my mother. "Hello, Mother. What can I do for you?" She walks into my room and has a worried expression on her face.

  "Your father would like to see you downstairs in his office. He said it was urgent.” She squeezes her hands once before loosening her grip. She’s nervous and doesn’t want me to see. “I think you better get down there quickly. He has important company with him so it’s best not to keep them waiting."

  The pit of my stomach goes into a freefall as I try to swallow past the lump in my throat. They know. They know about the fire and the party. They know I let people in and ruined everything. After I find enough air to speak, I nod and say, “Tell Dad I’ll be down there in a minute.”

  As I go to stand up, my mother takes a seat next to me on my bed. She puts a hand on my knee. Her eyes search mine and I know she sees everything. My mother has a way of seeing through me. It’s insane how well she knows me. “Gina, darling, that man the other day, the one on the motorcycle? It was Peter Ferro, wasn’t it?”

  My heart lurches and jumps off a cliff too. Great, where is this conversation going? I don’t look up. “What does it matter?”

  “It matters because you care for him, don’t you?” Her tone is soft but cautious. She tips her head to the side, trying to catch my eye.

  My answer is equally cautious. There’s no point in entertaining the what if’s. Pete’s message was clear. He doesn’t want to see me again and in light of recent events, I’m starting to understand why. “It doesn’t matter much, but I might care about him. The thing is, I think there’s more to him. He’s not the bad person people think he is, Mom. He’s a good person with a bad rep.” I’m picking at the diamond on my engagement ring as I talk.

  They don’t know about all the times he’s stepped in to help me. They just see the surly, angry young man who leaves a path of destruction everywhere he goes.

  Mom is silent for a while before she replies. “Just remember what I told you before.” She strokes my hair and puts her hand under my chin, lifting it up so I can look at her. “The Ferro boys can be intensely captivating, but when it comes to trying to get them to love you back, it’s like trying to catch lightning in a bottle—highly dangerous and nearly impossible. I know you and Anthony are going through a rough patch, but if you stick with him I think you’ll be happy. He’ll be a steady husband.” She smiles and lets out a small laugh. “And if he’s not, you’ll whip him into it, I’m sure. Now, get ready and come meet us downstairs in the office.” She gives me a comforting smile and a kiss on the cheek before getting up and leaving me alone once more.


  August 17th, 2:29pm

  I’m standing just outside the door to my father’s office. My hand is on the doorknob, trembling. When my mental countdown gets to zero, I take in a deep breath and open the door.

  I’m not surprised to see my father sitting behind his desk, scowling, and my mother sitting in one of the chairs. She’s twisting a handkerchief in her hands.

  I am surprised, however, to see that my father’s guests aren’t the cops at all. They are none other than Mrs. Ferro and...


  Was this why my mom was asking me about him? Wanting to know how I felt about him? I was so certain that I’d never see him again. Hope rises up in my chest as I imagine all the different reasons why he would be here with his mother.

  My hopes fade quickly when I look at him. Pete is standing by the window, looking disheveled and beautifully unkempt. He also looks tired, with dark circles under his very cold and unfeeling eyes. Something isn’t right, which makes my blood turn to ice.

  Mrs. Ferro looks between the two of us and starts to talk with a strictly business, no-nonsense tone. "Wonderful. We don’t have to pretend that you don’t already know each other. That'll make everything so much easier. Now if we can get down to business. Please, Miss Granz, why don’t you have a seat so that we can get started?”

  I look over at my dad, who is leaning back in his chair, arms crossed and forehead vein pulsating. Crap. His face is red and he’s totally pissed. Again. I’m going to give him a coronary. Maybe it’s not me this time, but I have a sinking feeling it is. Daddy doesn’t like to have someone else overstep his authority in his house, especially not a woman. Seeing as Mrs. Ferro has the seat of power, you know the chair that everyone else faces that’s a little higher and bigger than the rest—that’s where she’s sitting. Daddy is across from her, not liking it. We all know that messing with Mrs. Ferro is like taunting Satan. Everyone wants to know her, but no one actually wants the woman in their home.

  Yet, Daddy sits there, brooding, with Mrs. Ferro in his chair. This is going to suck.

  I slowly make my way to one of the chairs and sit down quietly next to my mom. Ankles crossed, tucked back, hands placed lightly on my lap, spine straight, plastic smile. Gina is ready for this high society face off. Sometimes I think it’d be easier if we just bitchslapped each other—like now.

  Mrs. Ferro jumps in. “Let’s not skirt the matter and make this more drawn out than it needs to be.” Pete’s mom sneers at the tea cup in her hand, grimacing as if it were made from cow patties. It’s a vintage Tiffany’s pattern from the turn of the last century and cost more than a car, but apparently that’s not good enough for her.

  She’s making it clear that we are not her peer group. None of us are good enough for her. She continues, “Mr. Granz, I realize you are a busy man but I have important matters to discuss with you; matters that will have great impact on both our families. I understand that you are waiting upon the arrest of the culprits responsible for the fire that occurred at your warehouse a couple of months ago. I also heard the final witness passed away.”

  My dad shifts in his chair, obviously annoyed. “I am not at liberty to discuss such matters, Mrs. Ferro. All the information is in the hands of the detectives. A public statement will be issued when the time is right, until then—”

  “No, that is where you are wrong, Mr. Granz.” Mrs. Ferro interrupts my father and opens a designer leather briefcase that’s resting by the foot of her chair and pulls out two thick file folders, each held closed by thick elastic bands. “All the information is in my hands, not the detectives’. I have here the files for two of the suspects that the police were going to arrest. You may find this one particularly enlightening.”

  Mrs. Fer
ro hands one of the folders to my father and my heart stops beating. I don’t see what is written on the papers, but I’m pretty sure I know the contents. My palms get sweaty and my gaze travels over to Pete, who is still standing, expressionless and cold.

  Soon he’ll know what I’ve done. They all will.

  Poor Pete. Will he regret having saved me when he finds out that it was all my doing in the first place? Another question bubbles up to the surface.

  Why does Mrs. Ferro have my file? How’d she get it to begin with?

  Dad’s face goes white, but he doesn’t say anything. That freaking vein is enough to tell me that he knows. He puts the contents back in the envelope and wordlessly hands it to my mother. Dad looks at me with knives in his eyes. I glance away, to my mother, who is examining the contents of the envelope.

  In a clear plastic bag, I can see my old cell phone, cracked and charred but the metal backing clearly engraved with my name and my fingerprints visibly marked all over. In another bag are a handful of pearls from my old necklace, also marked with my prints from all those times that I nervously rolled them between my fingers. My mother looks at the paperwork with my name in big, bold letters.

  After she puts the contents back in the envelope, she hands it back to Mrs. Ferro with confusion pinching her face. “I don’t understand, Constance. What does our daughter have to do with any of this?”

  When no one answers, I turn to her and take her hand. “Mom, Dad, I’m so sorry. I gave them access to the building for the rave. I had no clue things were going to turn out this way. It seemed so harmless at the time. Just a bunch of us having fun. I thought the warehouse would be safe.” My mom lets out a sob and covers her mouth.

  Dad completely disregards what I said and pretends like I’m not even in the room. He just stares at Mrs. Ferro through slitted eyes.

  “And what would you like from us?” My mother’s voice is cool and even. She’s playing the game, step by step, and I know her heart is breaking because of what I did. I want to blurt my heart out, but I can’t—not now.

  “I was hoping we could come to an agreement, seeing as we are both in the same mess.” She sends a menacing look over to Pete, tapping the second file in her hands. On the front it clearly reads “Peter Ferro.”

  I stand up abruptly. That can’t be right. Two and two slam together and I get it. "Wait, that’s not right! Peter didn't do anything wrong! In fact, he saved me. If it wasn't for him, I'd be dead! He risked his life to get me out of that building, and then he took care of me, made sure I was safe. He's a good man. You can't blame him for any of this. All this is my fault. All of it!" I’m frantic. I’m looking at everyone in the room but no one seems to be listening to me, not even Pete. I walk up to him and put my hands on his arm. “Pete. Tell them that you saved me. You ran into the fire and got me out. Tell them!”

  "Gina, don't." Pete shakes me off and offers a frightening look, like the bomb hasn’t dropped yet.

  They are holding something back. Something horrible. I can feel it.

  "How endearing. My son, the hero. Well, Miss Granz, don't hold your expectations of him too high. He may not be as valiant as you think." As his mother speaks, Peter looks at me waiting to see my reaction.

  Shaking my head, my lips curl into my denial smile. “There’s nothing you can say that will prove he didn’t. I know he saved me that night.”

  "He may have been the one to pull you out of that building, indeed saving your life. However he's the one who almost killed you in first place."


  August 17th, 2:41pm

  "What?" This makes no sense. My mind is going around in circles, trying to put pieces back together. I planned the party. Pete was there. Why would she even think that?

  I try to search his eyes but he’s closed himself off completely, so nothing can get to him. It’s only when Mrs. Ferro starts to talk again that I can look away from him and when I do, he walks away to the far end of the room, putting as much distance between us as possible.

  "Don't be so quick to defend him, Miss Granz.” Pete’s mother speaks with authority and certainty. There’s also an undertone that’s scary as hell, like there’s more to come and this isn’t the worst of it. “As commendable as my son’s actions were, I cannot overlook his sin.”

  “His sin?”

  “Yes, Miss Granz. Peter’s the one who set the place on fire."

  "No, he couldn’t have. That was that other guy. The one who passed away. He started the fire. I, I don't... Pete?" I stutter as my legs go numb and my cheeks start to prickle, like I’m about to faint. I have to sit on the edge of the deep windowsill otherwise I’ll fall over.

  Although I want her to shut up, to stop saying words that are destroying me bit by bit, Mrs. Ferro just keeps on talking, with a tone that's bordering on boredom and annoyance, while my father sits there in silence, nostrils flaring and looking at me with the most vile and condemning look I’ve ever seen.

  "There were multiple witnesses who saw my son having illicit relations with a woman. It appears that this woman was already spoken for and her other half retaliated. My son, being the gentleman that he is, beat him to near unconsciousness. He was the young man who passed away this week."

  “No, he didn’t.” I squeak, my voice too high.

  Pete's back is turned to me and he's looking up towards the ceiling, arms crossed in front of him.

  Mrs. Ferro continues her explanation, ignoring me. "According to witnesses, during the brawl, many candles were knocked over, some accidentally, some—” she looks towards Pete, “not entirely by accident. It didn’t take long for the flames to set fire to the nearby drapes and my brave son, seeing what was happening, up and ran. He’s no hero."

  “But, he didn’t leave. He saved me.” My voice trails off.

  It’s only then that Pete turns around and speaks up, his voice is as cold and unfeeling as his eyes. “Stop it, Gina. I did leave. It’s only when I got to my car that I remembered you were up in that storage room and do you know why I remembered?” I slowly shake my head, not certain I want an answer, but he gives it to me anyway. “I saw you run up those stairs after I caught you looking at us and I had every intention of going up there and fucking you up against a wall, just like you’d seen me do to that other woman. Don’t think it had anything to do with being brave or heroic. I knew you were up there because I sent you running. I didn’t want bodies.”

  “Yes, except for the poor son of a bitch you knocked out.” His mother smiles at him coldly.

  The world around me slows. I hear my mother gasp at the same time Mrs. Ferro spits out her words, but I can’t bring myself to react. A myriad of emotions whirl around inside of me. Sadness turns to heartbreak, which turns to anger and boils into utter hatred.

  My fists clench and I hurdle myself at him. “You son of a bitch!” Before I know it, my fist goes flying and connects with his jaw. Unfortunately, I’m a righty, not a lefty. That huge ass rock on my left hand could have caused some major damage to that freakishly pretty face of his.

  He doesn’t stop me from hitting him on the first punch but when I go for another, he grabs my wrist and tosses it back. Pete takes a step closer. We’re standing toe to toe. He’s towering over me, but my rage makes me feel ten feet tall.

  “All this time, you’ve just been easing a guilty conscience! How dare you, you sick, sorry excuse for a human being!”

  Pete looks down at me. “Yes, I am. But we all knew that from day one, didn’t we Mother?”

  “Do not blame me for your barbaric actions. It’s been bad enough dealing with your brother, and now this.” Mrs. Ferro keeps her tone level and lethal as she scolds Pete. “You have no one to blame for this except yourself and you damn well know it or you wouldn’t be here.”

  Everyone goes quiet and it becomes clear that my mother is crying into her handkerchief. My stomach twists. I want to make it better. This has to stop without ripping them apart. Pete is back to standing at the window, while my f
ather and Mrs. Ferro glare at each other like they are locked in a staring contest.

  My father breaks the silence. "Why are we all here if you already know about the arrests? He goes to jail where he obviously belongs, my daughter” he says daughter as if it leaves a foul taste in his mouth, “gets severe criminal charges laid against her and probably serves time as well. What’s your interest in all of this? What do you want?"

  Mrs. Ferro leans forward in her seat, like she’s been waiting for this moment for a long time. "The future of Granz Textiles is at stake. Before all of this," she motions to the stacks of police reports as if they were disease ridden, "came out, we were in the middle of a corporate takeover. I’m surprised that you didn’t see it coming. You should have listened to your daughter, Mr. Granz. You underestimate her capabilities. She had us worried there for a moment when she noticed our stockbroker buying into your stock but you completely disregarded her warnings.”

  My heart sinks further. I blurt out what I’d thought was happening. “You were planning a creeping tender offer, weren’t you? Buying enough stock to have management control of the company? That’s how you were going to do it.” I can’t believe it. I was right.

  I wish I’d been wrong.

  “Yes, Miss Granz. We want to own the rights to that new patent of yours and as we currently stand, we own enough stock to take over the company and do as we wish. Our original plan was to sell off Granz Textiles, bit by bit, keeping the parts that were of interest to us. Now, in light of everything that's happened, we have a different proposition.”

  The room is sucked into silence. All eyes are on Pete’s mom and she’s got that killer smile of triumph across her face. We’re all fucked.


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