From the Sky - Part IX

Honest to gosh, I don't know where some of that came from, but Joe reached over and squeezed my hand. I thought I'd covered every point, but Rae wasn't done: "See, Paulie. You're losing her. She is walking into a doomed marriage, and you'll have to watch her life fall apart from a distance. Are you ready for that?"

A hand slapped the table, slapped it hard. Something fell to the floor and broke. Daddy was standing, his face scarlet.

"I gave my blessing. I cannot …I will not take it back. Especially for some nonsense Sal dreamed after one too many white wines before bed."

"It is not nonsense!" cried Rae. "If anyone knows that, it is you Paulie. Remember the boy who used to bully you? Remember what the fortune-teller said?"

Sal spoke up: "There was a boy, a very big boy, and he used to torment your father, Renata. The fortune teller knew all about it, but we didn't. Not a clue! Madame Beatrice …that was her name, the fortune teller …she told him to punch the boy in the stomach and he would never bother Paulie again. On the first day of school Paulie slugged him in the breadbasket. Down the bully went! Paulie almost got expelled but no one ever bothered him again. Madame Beatrice knew, Renata. She had the gift."

"She had no gift!" Dad cried. "I was walking by her place one Sunday after church. And guess who I see coming out of the fortune teller's house? The school principal. That's how your Madame Beatrice knew all about the bully. And who was that bully? Tommy Winston. I play poker with Tommy every Wednesday night. It turns out he had his appendix out a month or so before I slugged him. Zia could have knocked him down with a pillow. And you know who else went to your fortune teller? Tommy Winston's mom. Junk. Junk! It's all a bunch of junk!"

"Paulie," Rae began, but Dad slapped his hand down hard again, and this time it was his knife that danced across the table and disappeared over the edge.

"Enough!" He said again. "This junk drove Papa and Uncle Gio apart. It broke Renata's heart after she fell from the tree. It ruined Gio. Poor Gio! His heart crushed by superstitions! When I look across the street I think of his honey locust tree and my heart breaks. It breaks for Gio. It breaks for Renata. Something beautiful was lost there. I won't let it happen again.

"Renata wants to marry Joe. So be it. I would gladly die a million times before I ever let anyone or anything hurt Renata again. She will marry Joe Byrne. She will follow her heart. She will take her chances, as I took mine. She is a woman now. Respect her decisions. If you can't do that …if you cannot love her enough to let her risk everything, then leave. Leave, sisters. There is my door.

"But if you stay, stay because you love her, and because you respect her wishes. Make your choice: stay or leave."

No one spoke for a long time and then Zia, the only one of us still in her seat, said: "Shit. My gelato melted. There's no more. I need a drink. Bring me a bourbon, Paulie."


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