Angelo was what his family called him. His friends called him Angel for short, and that was the name he preferred.
His full name was Angelo Mario di Lombardo. He was the second born son of Don Domenico, the head of the Lombardo mafia, the first generation of his Italian immigrant family born in America. His older brother's name was Enzo. They never liked each other. His father never liked him either.
The only one who ever liked him was his mother, and she died of cancer when he was only 8.
For these reasons, Angel had his own place by the time he was 18. He had to work with his family's enterprise to earn money to live off of, but that didn't mean he had to put up with their crap when he didn't need to.
Angel always knew they hated him, but it took a certain day to realize just how deep that hatred ran.
He could not remember the exact day, but he remembered that it was in October of 1928…
Angel had just arrived home. He went straight there after a particularly grueling family meeting.
As was his habit once he set foot in the door, Angel lit a cigarette and sat down on the couch with his mail. After sorting through some bills and advertisements, he found something that made him smile. It was a letter from Maggie.
Maggie had been a close friend of his since high school. They bonded over their brains and their…alternative…interests. He was a year ahead of her and graduated before her, but they still talked through letters since most days Maggie was too busy with secretary school to talk on the phone.
Angel smiled as he opened the letter and began to read its contents, but soon, that smile disappeared as his green eyes grew wide in shock and his cigarette fell out of his mouth fizzling out on the floor without his notice.
In his shock, Angel grabbed his coat, bolted out the door, and drove straight to Maggie's house.
When he got there, he entered through the back lot and opened her back door to find Maggie eating a sandwich at a small table in her kitchen.
Out of breath, Angel said, "Maggie…I got your letter…Is it true? Are you really…?"
Maggie's lips curled into a sad smile as she stood up from her chair and turned sideways. Her belly was poking out underneath her purple dress. She was pregnant.
Angel almost fainted where he stood. Maggie helped him to a chair and tried to get him a glass of water, but he stopped her.
"Don't, Mag," Angel said standing up and gesturing for her to get back in her seat. "You're carrying a baby. You don't have to wait on me."
"Thanks," Maggie said in relief as she walked back to her table. "This extra weight is killing my feet."
Angel grabbed a glass from her cupboard, filled it up with water from the sink, and chugged that glass as quickly as he could. After placing the glass in the sink, he sat down at the table in the other chair while Maggie continued to eat her sandwich as naturally as she could under the circumstances.
"Maggie, I really hate to ask, but are you sure it's mine?" Angel asked after a moment of awkward silence.
Maggie looked back at Angel sadly and replied, "Yes, I haven't slept with anyone since our 'experiment.' Besides, you were my first."
"Really? So, you mean for all that flirting you did in school, you never actually got any guy to…?"
"Nope, you took my virginity. I didn't tell you that before cuz I didn't wanna make you nervous."
"And here I took ya for a baby vamp," Angel said smiling briefly before his face sank again. "Oh, my God…Mag, how long have you known?"
"I found out about a week ago," Maggie said with her brown eyes staring sadly at the food in front of her. "I mean, I had noticed that I wasn't bleeding as much and that I'd been gaining weight, but I didn't think anything of it until I started upchucking in the john every morning. Last week, I finally went to see the doctor and he told me that I'm over four months pregnant…"
"I did ask him about an abortion. He said that officially such a thing is forbidden, but unofficially, it's too late. It's alright, though. I'm Catholic. I don't believe in abortion anyway. Besides, I've started warming up to the idea of being a mom…"
Maggie looked up to see the dark brown hair of Angel's head lying on top of his tan arms on the table and not responding.
Maggie got to her feet, reached her hand over to Angel's bushy head, and said, ""Angel, I'm so sorry…"
Angel suddenly sat up causing Maggie to recoil back into her chair and said, ""What do you have to be sorry for? Your body is just doing what God intended. I'm the stupid queer who didn't use a condom and got ya knocked up."
Maggie sat up in her chair and began nervously, "Angel, I really hate to ask this cuz I know you ain't the type to get insured, especially not to a girl, but I need some help here. I'm scared. Mom's still workin' as a nurse, and Daddy still works at that bank. They know, and they've told me I don't need to worry about nothin', but I know that's a lot of bushwa. Money's been tight lately, and the baby will make it harder. I've been asked to leave school since I'm showing, and I can't go out again until after the baby's born. I don't know what I'm gonna do once the kid gets here. I've thought about moving away eventually to make things easier on my family, but I can't do anything without cash. Look, I don't wanna be a burden or nothin', but I need some help here…"
"Say no more," Angel replied with a sigh as he leaned back in his chair. "This happened because I needed you to help me discover myself. I'll help ya out."
"Thanks, Angel, you're a real pal," Maggie said biting into her sandwich in relief. "Just let me do some calculating and I'll find out how much we need a month to support the baby. I'll get back to work as soon as I can, so you don't have to keep bearin' the burden by yourself. Oh, my folks will be so happy…Hey! Where are ya goin'?"
Angel had gotten up from his chair and opened the door heading to the rest of the house. He knew what he had to do, and it hurt like hell.
"Angel?" Maggie asked again.
"I'm goin' to call my Dad, Maggie," Angel said with pain behind his voice. "I'll tell him we've eloped so our family will support ya."
"What?!" Maggie yelled as her pupils dilated in terror. "Why?! Angel, you can't! You told me your Dad was…"
"A horrible and evil man?" Angel said turning back and lingering by the door. "Yes, he is, but what choice do we have? Neither of us has money on our own. He'd find out about you and our child eventually. It's better that I tell him now and get it over with. Besides, we both know how the world is going to treat you if you remain an unwed mother. At least, this way, you'd be taken care of. After all, you could be carrying his heir."
"Angel, you don't have to do this," Maggie said getting up on her feet and walking over to him as quickly as her swelling feet would allow. "You don't love me, and I don't love you. You don't need to lie to them. Forget about it. We'll do somethin' else. I don't want the mob involved…"
"Maggie, the mob got involved as soon as the kid was conceived," Angel said in resignation giving her a sad, exhausted look with his weary green eyes. "There's no way around it. We can't keep this a secret. If I start wiring money to you often enough, my Dad will start asking questions. And if I don't tell him, someone else will. Hell, depending on who else you've told, he might already know."
"He's part of the Commission, Mag. He has sources everywhere. If he hasn't, it's best if he hears it from me and if I tell him we've taken care of it already. I'm sorry."
Maggie's face sank as she stared at the ground and tried unsuccessfully to conceal a few tears.
Angel reluctantly went to her living room, picked up the phone, and told the operator to call his Dad. He felt his stomach turn.
Fortunately, Maggie came in and sat next to him on her couch for emotional support. Maggie took her hand in Angel's and gave it a squeeze.
Unfortunately, Angel's brother answered the phone first.
"Hey! Who is this?" he asked.
"Enzo, it's me," Angel said tersely. "Give the phone to Dad."
"That's none of your beeswax, Enzo. I need to talk to Dad."
"What did you do? Did you fuck up and get arrested again?"
"Like you're one to talk. Look, could you stop futzing around and just get Dad please?"
"Hold on. Dad, it's Angelo…"
Angel heard his father's voice on the other line. Maggie gripped her hand in his while he told his Dad his version of what had happened.
The conversation was brief. His Dad was shocked and upset, as expected. Oddly enough, he wasn't that angry when Angel said he wanted to support Maggie, but he acted suspicious when he said that they had eloped already. He wanted to see them both.
A few hours later, Angel and Maggie pulled up to his father's house. They both got out of the car and stared for at the building for a while. He knew he was in for something terrible. She knew all the horror stories he told her and every story rumor she had ever read or heard and quaked in fear while holding onto his arm.
"Maggie, are you alright?" Angel asked with a sad smile. "You're kinda cutting the blood pressure to my arm here."
"I can't do this," Maggie said in a panic. "Talkin' to you is one thing, but I'm talkin' to Don Lucchese. He could kill me if I do anything wrong."
"Welcome to my world," Angel said with a sad smile.
Maggie kept shaking and started breathing hard, so Angel tried to swallow his own fear and took her arm in his.
"Hey," Angel said trying to sound as confident as he could. "We'll be okay. We just have to pretend we're married. That shouldn't be too hard. Just let me do the talking, and if that doesn't work, at least, we go down together."
Angel was never that good at being comforting. Maggie was on the verge of hyperventilating, so he hugged her sideways until she started breathing normally.
When she started to calm down, Angel's green eyes locked with her brown eyes as he said, "I swear to God I won't let either of them hurt you. Okay?"
Maggie smiled, nodded, stood up, and gasped in surprise.
"What's the matter?" Angel asked.
"Angel, the baby just kicked," Maggie said. "He's never done that before."
"Really?" Angel asked putting his hand on her belly until he felt the kick. "Oh, my God. I feel him. Dammit, he's still goin'. He could be a fighter."
"Or, she could be a dancer…" Maggie said before they both heard Angel's brother talking.
"How much longer do you plan on keeping us waitin', little brother?" they both heard Angel's brother say.
Angel and Maggie looked up to see Enzo posed against the open door.
He looked like Angel with his olive skin, but his eyes were icy blue and crueler and his Italian face was twisted into a frown that almost never left his face. His clothes were plain and ordinary, not colorful like the green tie and green jacket that Angel wore.
"What the hell are ya doin' anyway?" Enzo asked spitefully.
Angel smirked, squatted on the ground, rubbed Maggie's abdomen, and said, "Not much. I was just thinkin' about givin' my new wife a hand job on the sidewalk in front of all your neighbors. I know how little action you get, so you can watch if ya pay me."
Enzo's face contorted in disgust while Maggie snickered quietly.
"So, that's the girl?" Enzo asked without moving from the door. "She's just a kid."
"She's my wife," Angel said retorted. "And her name is Margaret. You ought to treat her with respect. She's carrying your future niece or nephew. She's quite mature for her age."
"Sure, she's far too cute for ya," Enzo said with a smirk. "How much are you paying her to be seen with you, Ethel?"
"Up yours," Angel retorted standing up and wrapping his arm around Maggie's shoulder. "Where's Dad? He's the one who wanted to see us."
"Inside his office," Enzo said as Angel took Maggie's arm and they walked up the stairs onto the front porch and into the house. "Let me take her coat."
Maggie looked at Angel who nodded to show it was okay, and she let Enzo take her worn coat and looked around the ornately-decorated home Angel had told her so much about.
While Angel took off his coat, Enzo slowly hung Maggie's coat on the rack while staring her down mercilessly.
Angel knew what he was doing. Enzo was studying her and sizing her up. He always did the same thing whenever he met someone new. It was usually just annoying, but now that it was being used on his best friend, it was infuriating.
"Take a picture," Angel said throwing his coat on Enzo's head and walking over to where Maggie was. "It'll last longer. Alright, hon. Let's get this over with."
Enzo tossed the coat on the floor, walked past them into the office down the hall, and said, "I'll just let Dad know you're here."
Maggie and Angel finally let themselves breathe once he was gone. He immediately noticed that she was shaking.
Angel rested his hand on her shoulder and said, "You're doin' really well, Mag. Don't worry. We just have to talk to my Dad, pretend we're married for about ten more minutes, and then we can leave and get you something you want. Just remember. Let me do all the talking."
Maggie turned to him with a sad smile and said, "You have a really nice house. It's so big and beautiful. It's hard to believe that you had such a miserable life here. I suppose it's like what Jesus said about the white-washed tombs."
"That's one word for it," Angel said lighting a cigarette.
"Angel, will our baby grow up like that?" Maggie asked turning around to face him. "How involved do you think your family's goin' to be? Because if the baby's goin' to have to endure that, I feel like I should attempt an abortion."
Angel paused while puffing on his cigarette. That was a question he was afraid to answer.
Nevertheless, Angel pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and said, "From my experience, it depends on what the baby's gender is. If he's a boy, my Dad's gonna groom him for a life serving the family like he groomed me and my brother. But if she's a girl, I imagine he'll just throw money at her and ignore her like all the other bastards in my family do. Women don't work for the mob, so he doesn't have much use for them. Wish I could give you better news. If he's a boy, I hope to God he isn't a fag like me or his life is gonna be hell. Lord knows I've had a hard-enough time hidin' it from my family. I don't wanna know what they'd do to him…"
Maggie snatched the cigarette from Angel's hand and started puffing on it herself. Angel sighed and looked away.
"I'm sorry, Mag," Angel said sadly. "I've screwed you in more ways than one…"
"It does no good to cry about it now," Maggie said handing him back the cigarette. "We'll have plenty of time for that later. Let's just focus on getting out of here alive. But if we make it, you owe me a real hand job and a night on the town."
Angel chuckled quietly under his breath and said, "Mag, if we make it out alive, I'll treat you like a goddamn queen."
Enzo finally shouted down the hall, "You lovebirds can come in now!"
"Finally," Angel said snuffing out his cigarette on an ashtray in the hallway and taking Maggie's arm again. "Buck up, sister. Here, we go. Whatever you do, don't let him see you scared and don't let him see you cry."
The two of them walked down the hall into Don Lombardo's office at the end of the hall. It was a luxurious office complete with paintings, a fireplace, bookshelves, a large desk, large office chairs, and the whole shebang.
Angel hated that place, and he hated the brawny, 42-year-old sitting smugly in his red leather chair even more. Don Lombardo stared at Maggie and her growing belly with sick delight while Eric gloated from his spot leaning against the wall next to the desk.
Maggie looked away and fidgeted uncomfortably while Angel wrapped his arm around her shoulder to try to calm her down. It was all he could do to hide his disgust.
"You wanted to see us, Dad?" Angel asked to get his attention off Maggie.
"Of course," Don Lombardo said reaching his open hand out towards Maggie. "Why wouldn't I want to meet my daughter-in-law? What's your name, dear?"
"Margaret Walters," Maggie replied cautiously handing him her hand.
Once the Don had kissed her hand, he let go of her hand and said gently, "Sit down, Margaret. You look exhausted. You too, Angelo."
The pair looked at each other and quickly sat down in the chairs in front of the desk.
Angel placed his hand on top of hers and said, "We eloped this afternoon. I'm gonna find her a nice place to stay and look after her and the baby, with your blessing, of course."
"Of course," Don Lombardo said. "But I have a condition of my own."
Angel felt his heart drop and Maggie grip his hand more tightly, but he maintained his composure.
"What kind of condition, Dad?" Angel asked.
"Well, you actually have to get married," Don Lombardo started.
"Dad, what are you talking about? We are already married."
"Then how come none of my judges and lawyers in the judiciary office saw you two come by?"
Angel was stunned into silence, so Maggie blurted out, "It's a common law marriage."
"Maggie!" Angel chided.
Don Lombardo chuckled under his breath and said, "Can't say I'm not disappointed. I've come to expect this from you by now, Angelo, but this time, I'm not letting you futz it up for the rest of us. After all, you may have sired my next heir. That's something your brother can't even do."
Enzo averted his gaze to hide his shame. That movement wasn't lost on Angel, but he felt no sympathy.
"The Commission will look down on me for having an illegitimate child as my heir, even if he is half-Sicilian," Don Lombardo continued. "I'm not losing my standing now that we're all organized. So, you two have to get married."
"A common law marriage is as good as any," Angel said crossing his arms in annoyance. "Why do ya care?"
"To my colleagues, it's the same as living in sin," Don Lombardo replied. "Besides, you two haven't even lived together. Why did you lie to me about eloping in the first place? Are you hiding something, Angelo?"
"It's my fault," Maggie interrupted.
"Maggie…" Angel tried to interrupt.
"That's what he's tryin' to hide," Maggie lied. "I'm a working girl and I've been working for a while because I wanted to save up for a proper wedding. But today, I was asked to leave my job and don't have enough funds for it. Don't be hard on Angel. He wanted to just elope. I was the stubborn one who wouldn't listen. He was just tryin' to save me the embarrassment. Lyin' about it was my idea. I didn't think you'd face us if we weren't already married."
Angel pleaded at her with his eyes, and she glared back.
Don Lombardo didn't say anything, but he reached into his desk and pulled out an official-looking document. Angel and Maggie looked at it more closely and realized that it was a marriage license.
"If that's the case, dear, why don't you two just sign this certificate?" Don Lombardo asked. "I had a judge sign it earlier, so all you two have to do is sign it and you will be considered married."
Angel and Maggie looked at each other again before Maggie said, "If it isn't too much, I'd still like a wedding…"
"That's why we were asking for money," Angel interrupted. "I want to have a small wedding with her."
Don Lucchese didn't answer, so Enzo answered for him, "Alright…Do what you want then…"
"Oh," Maggie said overdramatically moaning and rising from her seat. "I feel so ill. We'd better go home."
"Oh, yeah," Angel said catching onto her cue and walking with her towards the door. "Just put the check in the mail. I'd better get her home. We'll show ourselves out."
Angel wrapped his arm around Maggie to support her and whispered, "Maggie, baby, you were brilliant…"
Maggie smiled at him before Enzo slid in front of the office door they were about to exit.
"What's eating you?" Angel asked.
"Are you sure you don't want to just sign that document, Angelo?" Enzo asked.
"Of course, I'm sure," Angel said in annoyance. "My future wife wants a wedding, so that's what I'm gonna give her. Could you get out of our way now?"
"Are you sure that's the reason, little brother?" Enzo asked cruelly glaring through them while raising an eyebrow. "Are you sure it's not just because you don't only like skirts?"
Angel felt his heart stop in terror but tried to hold his composure as he said, "I don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"Yes, you do," Enzo interrupted pulling the manila envelope out of a pocket in his coat. "Or is that not you in these pictures?"
Angel swiped the envelope, looked inside, and saw the photos of himself dressed in drag and kissing men and women at different bars around Greenwich Village.
Maggie audibly gasped.
Angel's face fell completely, and he started shaking. It was all he could do to not start panicking.
"I've suspected as much for a while, little brother," Enzo said circling around, stopping behind Angel, and looking over his shoulder. "That's why I had you followed. Doctors would say you have a serious mental illness. But don't worry, I've read that it's pathological. It can be cured. You just need some serious therapy to convert you back to normal. We called some of our contacts at the sanitorium. They have a room waiting just for you and plenty of new treatments they could try on ya."
"You didn't…" Maggie said while Angel listened quietly and kept shaking.
"No…" Angel whispered pathetically.
"Dad and I signed the paperwork already, so a few men in white coats are waiting outside now," Enzo said with an even more twisted smile. "If you try to leave, they'll put you away forever, Angelo, and you'll probably never see the light of day again. But hey, at least, you won't be making us look bad no more."
Angel felt some tears forming at the corner of his eyes. Every emotion inside him both froze and raged simultaneously. His mouth fell open, but he couldn't form words.
"You're making a mistake," Maggie lied stepping between him and Angel. "You have the wrong guy. Angel knocked me up. He ain't no fag."
Enzo turned to her and replied, "Save the lines, doll. I know that my brother is a sexual deviant and that you're far from the only woman or man he's made love to. You think these are the only photos I have? I have more than enough evidence to put him away for a long time."
"You can't do this…" Maggie snarled angrily.
"Shut it, ya quiff," Enzo retorted moving his face close to hers. "Or, you go with him."
"I ain't crazy," Maggie retorted glaring back into his eyes.
"I'm sure we can make up a reason…" Enzo replied.
"Enzo, that's enough," Don Lombardo said. "You've made your point. We can't hurt her."
Enzo glared at Maggie one last time before backing away to resume his former perch.
Don Lombardo pulled out a cigar, lit it, put it in his mouth, and said, "I must congratulate you, Angelo. You've found yourself a good doll. I ain't seen many women willin' to stand behind their men like yours has. Especially not in front of us. It's a shame you ain't attracted to her. She's quite the livewire."
Angel was paying attention to everything even if he wasn't responding to it. He wandered over to the window and peeked out to see if his brother was telling the truth. He was. Just as Enzo said, there were men in white coats with a paddy wagon ready to escort him to the nearest sanitorium.
"You can't run away from this one, Angelo," Don Lombardo said. "Either you make yourself honest or you leave with the men in white coats and your girlfriend loses custody of your son as soon as he's born."
"You can't!" Maggie yelled.
"Pipe down, sweetheart," Don Lombardo said. "Either you sign the document, or you lose the kid. It's your choice. What's it gonna be?"
Angel lingered by the window staring at the white van in absolute terror, but he could hear Maggie walking to the desk and the sound her pen made when she signed the marriage license.
"Now, it's your turn, Angelo," Don Lombardo said. "Angelo?"
"The poor fag has lost his mind," Enzo mocked when Angel didn't respond. "It's a shame, too. She's a looker…I guess I'll do it."
"What?!" Maggie yelled sounding terrified. "But I don't love you either…"
Angel had enough. He walked away from the window and over to the desk with terrified anger behind his eyes. Don Lombardo saw him and didn't say anything.
"Darlin', can you really afford to say no?" Enzo cooed while he took the pen from Maggie's hand and wrapped his arm around her waist while she tensed at his touch. "It's alright, doll. I ain't all bad. I'll take care of ya. Just let me sign my name…HEY!"
Without saying a word, Angel snatched the pen from his brother and shoved Enzo off Maggie so hard that he fell on the floor.
"Angel…" Maggie said in surprise.
Enzo quickly got to his feet and started to lunge after his brother, but Don Lucchese held up his hand and made him back down.
Angel signed his name on the document, stuffed it in the envelope, grabbed Maggie's hand, and pulled her behind him as he tried to exit the room.
But before he could leave, Don Lombardo held up a check and said, "Wait, son. Don't you want your check? You'll need to find yourselves a place to live."
Angel let go of Maggie's hand and walked back to snatch the check from his father's hand. Eric was standing close by and glaring proudly. The check was for $50,000. He stuffed it in the pocket of his coat and returned to Maggie.
"Get somethin' nice for the poor dame," Don Lombardo called out as Angel grabbed Maggie's hand and exited the office. "For God's sake, you knock her up and can't even get her some decent clothes?"
Angel fumed angrily as he grabbed both the coats from the rack, threw open the front door, and pulled Maggie out behind him.
The men in the white van drove away as soon as they saw them exit the house together, evidently some previously agreed upon signal.
When the van drove off, Maggie asked, "Angel…?"
"Don't say anything yet," Angel warned quietly and fearfully. "Not while they can possibly hear us."
"Okay," Maggie whispered as they finally made it to the car.
Angel opened the passenger door and helped Maggie climb into her seat. Then once she was settled, he shut her door, opened the door behind her, and threw the coats and the envelope in the back seat.
Once he shut that door, Angel saw Enzo staring at him from the office window. He was still smirking proudly before he waved at him. It was nothing short of unnerving.
Angel turned away without responding, entered his car, and drove away as quickly as he could.
Everything was quiet between Angel and Maggie until they made it out of the neighborhood. The night was coming fast, and the streetlamps were coming on. Angel could feel Maggie staring at her, but all his focus was on holding everything together until they were a safe distance away.
Even so, Angel felt tears escaping the corners of his eyes as he finally reached downtown. When Maggie saw them, she started sobbing.
It was then that Angel parallel-parked the car next to the sidewalk. Maggie continued to cry as if nothing had changed.
Angel hesitated for a moment before he finally said, "Maggie, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I was stupid. I was so fucking stupid. I should never have dragged you into this. I should never have called them. Now, you're part of this too, and they'll never let you go. I should have known they'd pull something like this. Mag, I'm so sorry…"
"I ain't cryin' for me," Maggie interrupted between sobs. "Angel, I'm cryin' for you. I knew what you told me about them, but dear God…They were ready to throw you away in a heartbeat just because you wouldn't sign a damn document. This is what you've had to live with your whole life, and now, you're in deeper shit because of me…"
"No, Maggie," Angel interrupted slowly losing control of his tears. "I'm the one who knocked you up. I'm the reason you're now a Lombardo. I fucked things up for ya like I've fucked things up for myself my entire life."
Maggie stopped crying and just listened.
More tears fell before Angel said, "I thought I was bein' smart, Mag. I thought I was takin' care of everything. I thought I was protectin' myself. I thought I could keep myself from getting hurt. I thought I was smart enough to stay safe and get away, but it wasn't enough. No matter what I do, they always find a loophole. And now, they have me by my fuckin' balls…"
It was Angel's turn to cry, and he finally did. He cried harder than he ever had in his life up to that point.
Angel leaned on Maggie's shoulder and released the pent-up pain his heart had felt practically since the day he was born. He didn't know how long he sat there crying like that, but Maggie held him without flinching.