Chapter One: The Bleakness of Birth

"No! Absolutely not! I don't want him here...oww!" Antonia Mattise screamed out in pain as another contraction ripped through her body. Whoever said having a baby was the most beautiful experience of a woman's life, must have been a man, or someone who adopted, but definitely not someone who had ever gone through the unbearable labor process. The contraction passed, her eyelids closed, and her breathing slowed. "Please, trust me on this one, Lawson, he can not be here."

"Honey, come on, you can't seriously feel that way." Lawson Mattise held his wife's hand, trying to comfort her. "He is your father, after all."

"He is not my father!" Antonia declared, her breathing increasing with her frustration. "God! If he's what a father's supposed to be than I want you to divorce me before I have this baby. She will not be raised by a father like mine. Do you understand me? You will not be like him, Lawson!" She started to cry. "Promise me you will not be like him!"

"I promise, darling, I promise to be the best father I can possibly be!"

"But, how can you promise me that? You don't know that for sure!" Antonia was becoming exasperated.

"I know that because I know how much I love you." Lawson kissed his wife tenderly. "Now, I really think you should ask him. I mean what would be the harm in asking him? He might want to be here!"

"Why would he want to be here?" Antonia cried.

The nurse entered the room with a food tray. "What are you getting yourself all worked up over, Antonia? Is your husband giving you stress. Mr. Mattise, she needs to remain rested right now, so if you're going to give her a hard time, maybe you should let her have some space for a while."

"It's not him, Lydia," Antonia sighed as the nurse glared at Lawson.

Lawson tried to explain the situation. "I just think she should tell her dad that she's in labor, but she refuses! Maybe you can talk some sense into her. I'm going to get something to drink." He kissed his wife again and then left the room, leaving the nurse alone to talk to her patient.

"Why don't you want to tell your father? Usually, you know, births are family affairs." Lydia, the nurse, fluffed up Antonia's pillows.

"Trust me, family affairs aren't exactly my father's specialties. He's better off not knowing. Besides, even if he were to know, I really doubt he'd come. He has no reason to."

"But your baby is his granddaughter, don't you think he'd want to be here for the birth of his granddaughter?"

"Why? He didn't even want to be there for mine, so why would he want to be here for my daughter's birth?" Antonia's eyes closed slowly and she squeezed them tightly as if trying not to cry.

"Your dad wasn't present when you were born?" Lydia seemed shocked. "I'm sorry..."

"Don't be. He wasn't sorry, I'm sure. He was never sorry about anything. It was just one of those days and he couldn't help it..."

1979. It was a stormy night in mid-November, when it occurred...It was late, after midnight, and Maxine Stoltz had already gone to bed. The house was emptier than usual, but it wasn't surprising since he was out again. He was Maxine's husband, Marcus Stoltz. He was gone a lot, in fact more than most wives would approve of their husbands being absent. Maxine didn't like him to be gone as often as he was, but there wasn't exactly anything she could do about it. She knew what she was getting into when she married him and that hadn't stopped her, so in many ways she blamed herself for ever bringing herself into his life in the first place. Tonight though was different. Usually, Maxine could handle being alone but not tonight. She had been feeling tired all day and she knew that she was close to labor. She had recently realized that one of her biggest fears at the moment was delivering her baby alone. Unfortunately she didn't seem to have much of a choice in the matter. Around two o'clock in the morning, she woke up as an unbearable contraction hit her. She screamed out in painful shock. Her hands flew to her bulging stomach in concern. A moment later she realized that her sheets were wet and tears instinctively flooded her eyes. Her water had broken and her husband wasn't home. Of course he wasn't. She should have expected as much.

Luckily for Maxine, her husband made it a requirement while he was away, for there to always be at least one guard on duty at all times and so she was able to recruit the current night guard to drive her to the hospital. Maxine was not blessed with a short labor, in fact she remained in the hospital in labor for almost thirty-six hours and yet, her husband never showed. When the doctor finally held the little baby in his hands and announced "It's a girl", as the doctor placed the precious bundle in her arms, Maxine cursed her husband's name for leaving her alone on that day, and then she named their daughter: Antonia Lola Catrice Stoltz. It was only appropriate for the daughter of a mobster to have such a complicated and elegant name, of course.

So what was this so-important engagement that Marcus Stoltz had to attend instead of witnessing his only daughter's birth? It was something quite opposite actually. He was occupied witnessing the death of a business deal gone sour. Well, not so much witnessing as organizing. Marcus Stoltz, handsome Italian, less-than-dedicated husband, passionate lover, uninterested father, and oh yea, don't forget malicious and infamous crime lord. Who was Marcus Stoltz? The leading, very wealthy and very influential, Italian mob boss.

Then of course all these fine attributes would be enough of an excuse for his wife to forgive his absence at the birth of their child...only a week after Antonia was born, Maxine secretly got herself sterilized. She never told her husband. Even though he didn't care a pinch about Antonia, Maxine didn't think he'd be happy if she had made such a drastic change to their lives without informing him. Marcus Stoltz held a tight hand over his wife and every aspect of her life, a hand that would immediately spread over his daughter's life as well.

"Are you saying that your father is in the mafia?" Lydia stared with her mouth gaping. She hadn't expected that sort of confession from her pregnant patient.

"Yep," Antonia sighed. "Dear old dad, a mafia monster."

"That's possibly the most shocking, and depressing, story I've ever heard!" Lydia handed Antonia a cup of ice chips.

"Yea, well it's not all that bad. I mean growing up with a mob for a family had some benefits, I guess," She shook her head with a sarcastic laugh. "Of course I can't think of any of them!" She braced herself as another contraction began. When it had ended she resumed the conversation. "Lydia, please don't tell anyone! I mean, I guess I don't really have a right to ask for your secrecy, since it was my choice to tell you, but still, while I'm stuck here in this horrid labor, I'd rather not have my life spread around the nurse's lounge in gossip."

Lydia nodded with a smile. "Of course not Antonia, I'd never dream of abusing your confidence."

Antonia pushed herself up on her elbows, trying to see out the door. "Where did my husband go?"

"Probably down to the cafeteria." Lydia suggested.

"But he's been gone for so long," since she was young, Maxine Stoltz had told and retold to her daughter the story of her birth. It was as if Maxine believed the numerous times she told the story would be enough to create a hate in Antonia for her father, as strong as Maxine's hate was. No matter what her reason for telling the story, Maxine had been successful in creating a fear in Antonia. She had never told Lawson, but ever since she had discovered her own pregnancy, Antonia feared living out her mother's delivery night. She was afraid Lawson would leave her alone during labor.

Lydia seemed to be able to read Antonia's thoughts. "He is coming back, dear."

The expectant mother squeezed her eye, trying to hold back tears. "What if he doesn't? What if he leaves me?" She began to sob. "I don't want to be alone! I am not going through with this on my own!"

"Calm down, Antonia," Lydia held her hand. "Your husband is a good man. He won't leave you. I'm sure he'll be back soon."

Antonia probably would not have calmed down until after the baby was born if her husband hadn't have returned at that moment. Lawson strode into the room with a coffee for himself in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other. He hurried to his crying wife's side and laid the roses on top of her round belly.

"How are you, love?" Lawson kissed her nose and rubbed her stomach. "How is our daughter?"

Antonia smiled and instantly her crying ceased. "We're fine, honey. Thank you for coming back!"

"Well, of course I came back!" He grinned as if the idea of not returning was ridiculous. "I'm not going to leave you, ever."