Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Poppy - the Head of the Family

Before Anthony left, he took another look at Regina. She was just lying there, quietly breathing. It wouldn't take much effort, he thought, to place a pillow over her head as she lay there. She wouldn’t even see it coming. That happy thought lingered a bit too long in his mind; he could almost imagine it happening. He shook his head and convinced himself that it wouldn't be in his best interest, at least not yet, to give in to that desire. Poppy wouldn't be around forever, and then he’d have more freedom to do whatever he wished to his wife. He'd be free of her one day. He walked out to the front of the building where Mario was waiting. As soon as Mario saw him, he climbed out and opened the door for Anthony. When they were both seated, Anthony said, "Let's go. I want to beat the traffic before it gets bad."

Regina looked out the window and watched as Anthony drove away with Mario. The black stretch limousine was hard to miss even from the penthouse apartment. Anthony owned many cars, but he liked taking the limousine when he had to meet someone. It made him feel important. She walked over to the desk and opened the secret drawer, but the black book was gone, just as she figured it would be. Anthony always carried it with him wherever he went. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe tomorrow.

“I’d better get ready and see what is going on over at the restaurant,” she said out loud to herself. Sometimes in this hostile environment, the sound of her voice eased her nerves.

She was nearly dressed when she heard a knock on her bedroom door. "Who is it?"

"It's Vinny, Mrs. Cavelli. I just want you to know that Mr. Cavelli asked me to drive you to the restaurant. I'm ready whenever you are."

"Just a minute." Regina finished buttoning her blouse and then opened the door to find Vinny waiting for her. At six-foot-three and pushing two-fifty, he was absolutely Herculean, and it was pure muscle. He made her nervous, but she knew better than to let it show. She was the boss's wife and had to be self-assured, even if she didn’t feel it. "I'm ready." She paused a moment to get her thoughts. "You know, I'm feeling much better. I can drive myself to work."

Vinny smiled as he said, "Mr. Cavelli was very worried about you this morning and he wanted to make sure you got to work safely. He also wanted me to hang around and drive you home later. I’m at your disposal today.”

“Isn’t that nice.” Regina replied.

“Besides, you wouldn't want me to get into trouble with the boss?" Vinny smiled.

Regina realized this was a losing battle, so she relented. "No, I wouldn't want you to get into trouble with Anthony. Let's go then."

"After you, Mrs. Cavelli." He stepped out of the way to let her pass. He didn't mind the days he had to watch her. It was an easy way to make a living. She was usually pleasant and never caused any trouble. To tell the truth, he liked her. Why the boss didn’t trust her was beyond him, but it wasn't his job to ask questions, just follow orders.

After his mom died a year and a half ago from a heart attack, Anthony wasn't sure Poppy would ever recover from the loss. It was then that Anthony had taken over the daily business operations. But now Poppy wasn't in mourning anymore, and Anthony was afraid he'd want to come out of retirement.

He arrived at his father’s house right on time. He walked up the front steps, and before he could knock, Stuart opened the door.

"Good day sir. Your father is waiting for you in his study."

"Thanks, Stuart." Anthony said as he entered the house. He always thought it was creepy how Stuart knew someone was at the door before the doorbell rang. The man had been with the family since before Anthony was born. No one knew how old he really was. His English accent added a touch of class to his persona. Stuart's thin frame made him appear even taller than his six foot stature. Poppy trusted him, and as long as Stuart wanted a job he had one. Poppy offered him retirement, but Stuart refused. Since he had no family of his own, he enjoyed keeping busy. His loyalty had been proven on more than several occasions.

Anthony walked down the long hallway and found his way to his father's study. The door was open and his father was on the phone. Poppy motioned for Anthony to enter.

Anthony sat down on one of the leather back chairs opposite Poppy's large mahogany desk and looked over at the pictures to his left. There were framed, smiling faces of his mother, of him and some of Regina. It irritated him that his father seemed to care so much for his wife. Maybe that added to his hatred of her.

The entire wall to his right contained floor-to-ceiling bookcases that held hundreds of books. His father, an avid reader, enjoyed collecting books, especially first editions. He had a separate library in another part of the house that contained even more books, but he kept his favorites in his study.

Finally, Poppy finished his call and hung up.

"Buon giorno, Poppy." He walked over to the back of the desk and greeted his father with a kiss, as was his custom. Poppy motioned for him to sit back down.

"So my son, two things I have to ask before we get started. First, how is that beautiful wife of yours? And second, am I any closer to being a grandfather?"

Anthony hated it when his father started conversations like this. How could he explain to his father that the marriage he arranged for him was not one of love. And as far as he was concerned, kids would never enter the picture. It would require more than he was willing to do.

"She's a bit sick today, but I think she'll be all right."

"Morning sickness, perhaps?" Poppy asked with hope in his eyes.

"So, Poppy, why did you want me to come by today?” Anthony was determined not to talk about Regina or having a baby. Both subjects made him ill.

"Can you only think of business?”

Anthony didn’t answer him; he just looked around the room.

“Very well then. Let's talk business. I want to discuss something with you." Poppy paused, then got up from his desk and sat in the chair next to Anthony's. "Since your mothers death, God rest her soul, I've been a little out of it. I mean, her death was so unexpected. That was why I needed some time off. I started to lose my edge. I became . . . complacent."

Anthony sighed. He did not like the direction the conversation was going.

"But I feel the time has come for me to get involved again in some of the daily operations. This is no reflection on you, of course. You've done a fine job. I don’t mean to take over the whole operation again, just . . . I would like to be kept abreast of different situations and deals that come up."

Anthony just kept silent. He could feel his blood start to boil. If the old man thinks I'm going to just roll over and play dead, he's got another thing coming to him. He enjoyed the power he now possessed and would not give it up without a fight. Poppy couldn’t just give him ultimate control and then change his mind again on a whim.

Keeping his true feelings to himself Anthony responded. "If it's not going to be too much of strain on you, then I think it's a great idea. It’ll be good for you to get involved again. I welcome all your experience." Anthony placed his hands over his heart and hoped he sounded sincere. "Look, Poppy, there's some things that need my attention back at the office. If there isn't anything else, I'd like to go."

"No, nothing else."

Anthony gave his father an awkward hug and kissed him good-bye.

When he was about halfway out the door, Poppy said, "I’ll see you over there later." This made Anthony stop in mid-step. Poppy continued, "I thought I’d look over the books and see where things stand."

"Sure thing, see ya later." Anthony said without looking back. He felt his heart start to beat faster.

When Anthony got back to the car, he took out his cell phone and called the accountant. "It's me. Did you finish?" He took a deep breath and yelled, "I don't want any more excuses! My father is coming to the office this afternoon and everything better be ready! If it's not, you and your family are going to wish you’d chosen a different profession."

Anthony snapped his phone shut, tired of all the delays. He took out his black book and flipped through the pages.

"Mario, when we get back, cancel all my appointments. Poppy is coming."

Mario, concerned asked, "Is he taking over again, boss?"

"Don't worry about it. I'm still the one in charge, and that's all you need to know."

"Sorry, boss. I don't mean no disrespect." The last thing Mario wanted to do was get Anthony angry.

The rest of the ride was spent in complete silence. Anthony still didn’t speak even after arriving at the office. He just marched in, grabbed his messages off Mary's desk, and slammed his office door.

Mary, a very pretty woman in her mid twenties, made a quite efficient secretary, which surprised most people, because her short skirts and high heels fed the assumption that she was just another pretty face.

"I guess it's not a good time to ask for a raise." Mary winked at Mario, and they smiled knowingly at one another.

© Nadine Z. 2007


Tina said...

Wow Nadine! What you are doing with your novel is amazing!

Jourdan said...

oh my goodness, Nadine! I just started to read the first chapter, and I couldn't stop reading!! I read the whole thing so far! You are amazing..much love.

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