Chapter Two: Growing Up is Hard to do
"So, my dear, have you thought any more about calling your father?" Lawson pulled a chair up beside his wife's bed.
"Yes, I've thought about it Lawson, and just as before, I decided against calling him." Antonia handed her lovely bouquet of roses to Lydia who left the room momentarily and returned with a vase for them. "I really do wish you'd stop bothering me about this. I do not want to call him and you can't make me!" It was times like this when Antonia put on her most dramatic pout, stuck her bottom lip out as far as it could go, and wrinkled up her bright gray-blue eyes, they were so bright that at times they almost looked silver, and made her nostrils flare in and out, Lawson just couldn't say no to her.
"Okay, I'll stop bothering you, for now, but I'm not promising that I'll never bring it up again." Lawson smiled at her and stood. "I've got to make a call for work, but I'll be back in a minute, alright?" Antonia nodded. He walked past Lydia on his way out and whispered to her. "Maybe you can talk some sense into her. Her father would want to be here, no matter what she says."
Lydia nodded to him and waited for him to leave before returning to her patient. "No one's life is perfect, Antonia, and you may have had a few mishaps with your father, but surely he wasn't all bad?" Lydia couldn't drop the conversation of Mrs. Mattise's mobster father that easily. She was so surprised to hear the pregnant woman's confession about her family's past and now she was beyond intrigued.
Antonia sighed. "I know some people may think that having a filthy-rich mobster for a dad could be kind of fun, but I never really saw it that way. I mean, I never really saw him at all. It wasn't just on the day I was born that he wasn't around, but he was hardly ever around. And when he was around, life wasn't exactly normal..."
1986. The school year was finally over. It had been a long year, Antonia had completed kindergarten, a giant accomplishment for a young girl. It was an exciting time though because now she had the whole three months of summer to look forward to and she planned on taking advantage of every second of her vacation. She had a long list of things she planned on accomplishing over the months ahead and anticipated nothing hindering her success.
One of her first goals was to learn to ride a bike. All her friends knew how to ride bikes and Antonia thought it wasn't fair that she didn't. After all, her daddy had a garage full of bikes. They were much bigger bikes than her friends had and they probably had cost a lot more money. Everything her daddy had seemed to cost more money. He did have a lot of money though. She had plenty of toys and dresses as a result. The garage had plenty of cars too. One day Antonia planned to drive each and everyone of her daddy's cars. Especially the pretty blue one. It was shiny and bright, almost turquoise. That was her favorite.
The first morning of summer break, Antonia woke up full of excitement and with the plan to hunt down her daddy and force him to teach her to ride a bike. It was a foolproof plan. Her daddy had already planned to take her to the zoo that day so convincing him to change their plans wouldn't be hard at all.
She leapt out of bed, dressed hurriedly, and bounded out of her bedroom and down the stairs in search of her daddy. He was located in the kitchen conversing with the cook, Becky. Becky was new. She had only been there three or four days. Antonia wasn't really sure how long she had been there, it was hard to keep track. Her daddy was very finicky about his meals and if one of his cooks messed up even the amount of oregano in his marinara sauce she would be fired within the minute. Antonia had to learn not to become attached. The nanny, Elise, however, had been around since Antonia was only a week old. As Antonia was growing up Elise was often around more than either of Antonia's parents. Even though Maxine loved her daughter very much and tried to take care of her as well as she was able, Elise had become like a second mother to Antonia.
This morning, Marcus was arguing with Becky about how his scrambled eggs were not fluffy enough. Antonia waited impatiently at the doorway for a only a minute before cutting into their conversation and rescuing the terrified cook.
"Daddy!" She ran to him and jumped into his arms. He welcomed her by swinging her up above his head and carefully returning her to the floor.
"How is my angel this morning?" He kissed the top of her head.
"I'm fine daddy," Antonia was too eager to entertain him with chit-chat. "I need to talk to you about something very important, daddy." She put on her most grownup look. "About the zoo..." She began but he interrupted.
"I needed to talk to you about that actually," He lifted her in the air and set her on the edge of the counter. "Toni, I know I promised to take you to the zoo today, but you know how busy daddy is..."
Antonia's lower lip began to quiver. Her whimper was an act, but it tended to work on her dad and most of his friends. "Daddy! You're not going to change your mind are you? You promised to take me today!"
"Well, you know I would never want to cancel, angel, but daddy has to work today. It's very important and if I have to miss my work today it would be very bad for daddy's job. You do understand don't you?" He looked into her bright round eyes, which were threatening to spill over with forced tears. "Come on Toni, don't put me through this. I've got to much pressure on me today as it is! I don't need your sorrow on top of it all."
"But daddy..." Antonia had moved past fake sadness when her daddy had started to raise his voice and onto genuine self-pity.
"Now don't start begging, Antonia," Marcus sighed loudly and left his daughter's side. "I don't have time for your dramatics this morning!" He retrieved a bottle of a most expensive champagne and poured it into glass for his after-breakfast desert. "Understood?"
Antonia knew better than to argue with her daddy while he was having his morning champagne, or his afternoon margarita, or his evening rum and coke, and especially not his midnight tequila shots with the guys! She wisely bit her lip, holding back any tears that might deceive her silence and watched her daddy with disappointment as he left the room, champagne in hand. Antonia was left alone on the counter, she may as well have been forgotten. Her thoughts went through all sort of traumas, but she didn't pity herself and she didn't hate her daddy. She couldn't do either. She was too used to this sort of thing to feel any irritation towards her daddy. It's just the way things were with her daddy and his job. Unpredictable. Unordinary. And sort of selfish.
After only a minute one of her daddy's business friends came to her rescue. It was Donny Hudson. Out of all her daddy's friends, Antonia liked Donny best. He was one of the youngest in the group, not much older than twenty probably, and he was fun. Antonia had heard her nanny call him a 'pretty boy'. Antonia wasn't exactly sure what that meant but she knew enough to know that he dressed nicely. She had never seen him in casual clothes like jeans and especially not sweatpants. He usually wore perfectly ironed khakis or dark slacks with dress shirts, usually only half-buttoned so that just an inch or so of his sparse chest hair was visible. His dark brown hair was always spiked with a scented gel and his bright green eyes were usually covered with dark, designer sunglasses. Antonia had met a lot of women through Donny. Well, a lot of girls anyway, young women. He was always bringing his girls home with him. Home. Sure, the Stoltz's mansion wasn't exactly Donny's home, it wasn't any of the guys' home, but they all tended to stay there, often. There sure was enough room. Also, Marcus was their boss, their leader, sort of a father-figure to them and they liked being around him. So, since the day Antonia was born, basically, she had been raised by not only her mother and father, but by her father's group of business friends.
Donny strode into the kitchen with his shades over his eyes and a cigarette between his lips. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and held it casually in his fingers. "How's my Princess Catrice?" Donny always called Antonia that. He had never called her by her first name, he always called her Catrice; it was her third name. For some reason her mother had chosen to give her three names and for some reason Donny chose the third, and he always rolled the 'r'. She was his Princess Catrice, she had been since she was only three-years-old.
"Well, actually, I'm not very good Uncle Donny." Antonia pouted. "Daddy broke his promise to me...again."
Donny went to the refrigerator and brought out the bottle of cranberry juice. He poured a glass for Antonia and handed it to her. "What did he do this time, Princess?"
"He promised we would go to the zoo today but daddy has to work today, again." Antonia crossed her arms over her chest bitterly. "Daddy always has to work!"
"Catrice, you know how important your daddy's work is," Donny picked up the girl and swung her around in his arms. "But, you know you are still his number one!"
Antonia rolled her eyes. "Uncle Donny, do you have to work today too?"
"Actually, Princess, I don't think I do. Would you like me to take you to the zoo today?"
"No," Antonia shook her head. "I don't want to go to the zoo anymore and I was going to tell daddy so but he has to work anyway so it wouldn't make a difference." She kicked her legs signaling for Donny to put her down and he did so.
"So, what is it you want to do today instead of the zoo?"
Antonia smiled mischievously. "I want to learn how to ride a bike!"
"Oh, is that so?" Donny grinned. "Well, are you sure you are old enough to ride a bike?" She nodded emphatically. "Do you even have a bike, Princess?"
"Well," Antonia frowned. "No, I do not have a bike yet." She quickly cheered up. "Daddy will buy me one though! All I'll have to do is to ask him! Let's go and find him now and ask him!" She took Donny's hand and started to run from the kitchen. "When I get a bike, will you teach me how to ride it?" She looked up at him imploringly. "Please, Uncle Donny! I have to know how to ride a bike! Everyone at school knows how to ride one, and if I don't learn I'll simply die!" She added with an overly-dramatic flair.
"Catrice, I don't think you're going to die if you don't learn to ride a bike," Donny grinned. "But just the same, if your dad doesn't have a job for me today, I'll teach you. Fair enough?"
Antonia nodded and continued her search for her dad.
An hour later Donny and one of Marcus's other young business associates, Wilson, brought Antonia to the garage in preparation of her bike riding lesson. Antonia didn't like Wilson half as much as she liked Donny. He was newer than Donny though, so perhaps she just didn't know him well enough yet. She had met him only six months ago but on the very first day she met him she had decided that Wilson was a pill. He dressed only in designer suits with brightly colored, silk shirts and he never wore a tie. That bothered Antonia. She hated it when rich men like her father's business men wore suits without ties. And his hair! He had long, brown hair, but it wasn't scraggly, it was perfectly straight and always tucked behind his right ear. And his smile...yuck...she hated his smile. It was fake. That's the only way to describe it. Antonia knew he hated children, she could tell whenever he was forced to watch her. He would pat her gingerly on the head and force out sickly-sweet phrases like "aren't you a doll" and "what a little angel" and he never meant a word of it. Antonia didn't like him much either but she put up with him because he was Donny's friend.
So, here was Antonia with two mostly-reliable guys who were entirely prepared to train her to ride a bike. It would have been a great memory for this hopeful seven-year-old, except...she still didn't have a bike.
"Uncle Donny, how can I learn to ride a bike without a bike?" Antonia complained.
"Well, you never specified what kind of bike you wanted to learn to ride!" Donny shrugged. "Your dad's got plenty of bikes, Princess." He motioned to the large array of motorcycles lined up against two long walls in the garage. "Which one do you want to ride?"
Antonia took her time gazing at each of the big bikes, each one beautifully shiny (she loved things that were shiny) and no doubt very expensive. The bikes, as well as the cars, were her daddy's treasures. Well, he had lots of treasures, a lot of expensive things anyway, but he especially cherished his vehicles. Antonia was excited to have the opportunity to play with her daddy's bikes.
"Can I really truly choose any of them?" Antonia wandered down the aisle of bikes with sparkling eyes. "Daddy won't get mad will he?"
Donny glanced at Wilson who shook his head. Both of the guys knew that Marcus wouldn't want his daughter messing with his bikes, but neither of them wanted to take the time to buy her one of her own.
"Yea, go ahead Princess, choose whichever you like. He won't get mad." Donny lied with a practiced smile.
Antonia drew her lips tight in deep contemplation as she took her time picking out one of the bikes. She finally stopped walking and pointed to one of the motorcycles. It was one of the shiniest in a bright crimson color. "I want to ride that one, Uncle Donny!"
"Alright Catrice, we'll ride that one!" Now Donny wasn't a complete idiot. He wasn't exactly an Einstein either, but he had enough sense about him to realize that he couldn't let a seven-year-old girl drive a motorcycle. That is, of course, enough sense when he hadn't already had his three morning beers and half a package of cigarettes. He pushed the bike out of line and lifted Antonia into the seat.
"Uncle Donny, this isn't the sort of bike my friends ride!" Antonia pointed out.
Wilson chuckled. "That's because they can't afford it."
Antonia ignored his sarcasm, mostly because she didn't understand it. Money wasn't really a concept to Antonia yet. She was too young to understand that none of her friends' daddies made as much as her daddy, and she especially didn't understand that the way her daddy made most of his money wasn't entirely legal. She didn't think about why she had so many pretty dresses and fun toys. She just enjoyed them innocently.
"Uncle Donny, my feet don't reach the ground!" Antonia complained, stretching out her legs as far as she could.
Donny watched her struggle and grinned. "Come on, you can ride with me." He shifted her to the backseat of the bike and climbed on in front of her. "Ready to ride, Princess?" Antonia nodded nervously and wrapped her arms tight around his stomach. "Don't worry I won't go to fast!" He promised. He didn't really need to promise that though, because anyone who knew little Antonia would know how much she loved danger. For her sixth birthday, Antonia's daddy took her parasailing in the Caribbean. It was so thrilling that Antonia insisted to repeat the fun as often as possible. She had later watched a movie that involved bungee jumping and sky diving and she became determined to try both as soon as she was allowed. Of course, her daddy refused to let her try either until she was at least thirteen. And so, the opportunity to ride on the back of a motorcycle with her Uncle Donny gave her as much excitement as was possible at the present.
"No, Uncle Donny, go fast! Go as fast as you can!" Antonia squealed as he started turned the key that was already in the ignition and sped out of the open garage with a roaring start. Antonia let out a slight shriek at the surprise of his speedy departure but soon calmed down to enjoy the thrilling ride.
"Donny," Marcus spoke in a low growl. Antonia had never seen her father's face so expressionless and yet so upset. Not even the time when she was five years old and she accidentally broke her daddy's cherished porcelain miniature statue of Zeus. Marcus collected antique or any sort of special sculptures or works of art involving the Greek mythological gods. "Can you even begin to explain yourself, Donny?"
Donny hung his head with a feeling of pathetic or idiotic behavior. He looked like a little kid who had gotten caught torturing a neighbor's dog. He had no response. Nothing that Marcus would have heard or accepted that is. He stared at the floor, wishing that the mahogany wood would open up and swallow him into its recesses so that he wouldn't have to face the wrath of his boss.
"Donny," Marcus didn't have to say anything else. Donny knew what he had done and he knew the price he would pay for it.
The young man rubbed his sore arm gingerly, wanting to be dismissed to bandage his cuts but not daring to move his feet. "I'm sorry, Mr. Stoltz." He didn't know what else to say. He had screwed up. He doubted that he would be permitted to remain in Marcus's service anymore after this afternoon. He glanced towards the couch where Antonia was pitifully curled up, holding her arms across her stomach and crying softly, trying not to be a disturbance to her angry father.
"Being sorry is not an excuse, Donny, you know better than that." Marcus poured himself a glass of amaretto from the side bar. "You've been with me for a long time son, but remember that I took you in as a favor to your father when he died. You were young then, you still are young, and I'm afraid that you just haven't learned as well as some of the others. Perhaps I threw you into this business too quickly."
"No sir, not me! I'm ready for this business, I swear!" Donny pleaded.
"You don't show it very well. If you aren't even capable of taking care of my daughter for one afternoon, then why should you be ready for what we do?" Marcus slowly swallowed the thick, dark liquid while eyeing Donny with a raised eyebrow. "Maybe you should take some time off. Go on vacation, my treat of course, and when you get back we'll see whether or not you should continue in my service." Marcus looked to his injured daughter and rolled his eyes. "Not that she was much help in the situation, I'm sure." He pressed a button from the intercom on the wall and called for her nanny to come to Antonia's aid. With another glance at Donny and then at his daughter, Marcus left the room. He never even came to her side to check her owies himself. Antonia laid on the couch miserably while her daddy lectured her best friend and then he left without even a hug or a kiss to make her feel better. She cried harder as he left.
"Catrice, I am so sorry!" The second they were alone, Donny rushed to his princess's side and knelt beside the couch. "I am so stupid! I can't believe I let this happen!"
Antonia tried to control her tears. "It's not your fault, Uncle Donny. Daddy's a mean bully! He can't make you go away! Don't worry, I'll make sure that you're allowed to stay here! He can't make you leave me! You're my best friend, Donny! He can't make you go away, I won't let him!" She was quickly becoming hysterical, believing that she was the cause of his having to leave.
"No, Princess," Donny took her hand and kissed her fingertips sweetly. "This isn't your fault! I can't believe that I let you get hurt! I've always promised myself that I would never let anything happen to you, and now look at you." He readjusted the pillow under her head and brushed her wild hair away from her eyes. "If something worse had happened...if you had...I'll never forgive myself." He was now mostly mumbling to himself.
See, what had happened originated with Donny's brilliant idea to teach a seven-year-old to ride a motorcycle. Everything could have been fine, of course, if Donny had simply let her ride around behind for a couple of blocks and then returned to the garage and ended the session there. However, before they returned to the garage, Antonia had convinced Donny to let her ride by herself. Just for a few feet so that she could prove to herself and to all of her friends that she knew how to ride a bike, no matter what sort of bike. Antonia, however, could not quite reach the petals. Donny decided just to let her sit on it alone and he could push her a few feet and make her feel as though she were actually riding it by herself. And so all was going smoothly for a while. Antonia sat on the seat of the motorcycle, trying desperately to stretch her legs out long enough to reach the pedals, while Donny pushed with all his force just to make the bike move slightly. A minute later, Donny was trying to figure out what exactly had happened. Maybe if he hadn't had quite so many morning beers he would have had more sense and not let her on the bike alone. See, the street they were on didn't stay flat. It slanted, down. It turned into a rather steep hill rather quickly and unexpectedly and before Donny could react, the bike had sped away from him down the hill with Antonia on the seat, flailing her arms in the air and screaming at the top of her lungs. At the end of the hill the bike collided with a fire hydrant and the back wheel flipped up into the air and Antonia flew off the bike, crashing to the hard pavement a few feet away. Now she was lying on the sofa, cut and bruised in multiple place of her young, fragile body. Her wrist hurt especially and Donny was afraid that it was broken.
"I don't care what you or daddy say! You are not leaving! You can't leave me!" Antonia tried to sit up but her head was throbbing with pain and the sudden movement made her ache and she began crying again.
No matter how much Antonia pleaded and begged her daddy, he would not soften in his punishment towards Donny. Of course, some people may not see a completely paid for vacation in the Caribbean as a punishment, for Antonia it was. She assumed that her daddy was punishing her for wrecking one of his bikes. She never realized that he was punishing Donny for letting her ride it. In the end, Donny was sent away, the time undecided at the moment, but for a minimum of six months. When Marcus Stoltz made a decision about something he was resolute and nothing would change his mind. Not even his precious baby girl. As it turned out for the unfortunate Antonia, Donny stayed away much longer than they had planned, and did not actually return until a couple of months before her thirteenth birthday.
"I can't believe that your Uncle tried teaching you to ride a bike on a motorcycle! That does not seem very safe, or smart." Lydia commented once Antonia had finished her story.
"He wasn't actually my uncle, but he was the closest friend I ever had." Antonia reflected for a moment. "I suppose he wasn't very smart though, and he didn't exactly think about safety all the time, but he still took care of me though, better than my dad ever did." Antonia smiled and her eyes started tearing.
"What's the matter, darling?" Lydia found an extra blanket from a closet and covered her patient. "Well, since you won't invite your father here, why don't you call this Uncle Donny? I'm sure he would love to be here when your child is born."
Antonia responded immediately. "He can't come."
"Oh really? So you already invited him then? Well, I'm sorry that he..."
"He can't come because he's dead." Antonia explained. "He died last January."
"I'm sorry that I brought it up, Antonia, I didn't mean to bring up any of those sad memories." Lydia was flustered. "I just thought...I mean...I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Antonia sighed. "I'm past it now." Another contraction began and all conversation ceased as Antonia gritted her teeth against the pain.