By Vincent Baker
As I turned the door knob, I heard scrambling throughout the apartment. As I walked in, I saw my mom holding a tray. I smelled the whiskey aroma mixing with the sweet, warm scents from the cookies. “I made your favorite!” I heard her say enthusiastically.
“Did you finally decide to sue dad or something? What’s going on?” I muttered to her in a confused tone.
“No, I wish. I do have news though. Gia…” She paused for a moment then continued. “We’re moving. I didn’t tell you until now because I was nervous. Mi dispiace. Please forgive me. I just didn’t know how you would react and so I kept putting it off.”
My face dropped. “What do you mean moving, mom? My birthday is in two days. You couldn’t wait just one more month? It was supposed to be a special birthday. You promised. I even took off work.”
She pushed the tray into my arms and spoke with sympathy. “We will be leaving the day after your birthday, sweetie.” She moved her hand onto my shoulder. “The plans will stay the same. You’ve been working full time just to help us afford this rundown place. But I got a job offer and I took it.” I saw tears starting to form in her eyes as she continued speaking. “You can finally be a normal teenager. You can go to a regular high school and have actual friends. No more full time jobs. You can make this senior year special, il mia amore.”
“Marco’s still here. We already made the plans. Nine months. Now what?”
“Gianna, darling, please. Have your bags packed by Friday. I love you, and deep down I know you understand.” She walked out the door. Tears dripped down my face as I watched the car pull out.
I ran to my room and pried open the door. I grabbed my backpack which I used for my night classes, and dumped all the contents onto my bed. I saw my mobile phone and dialed. “Hello?” I spoke into the phone.
“Hey, what’s up?” he responded cheerfully.
“Nothing, we just need to talk.” I stopped short and started to hold back the tears I could feel coming. I could feel little whimpers escaping through my mouth.
“Are you okay?” He let out his breath. “I can tell something is up. Talk to me.”
“Can I come over? It’s important.”
“Of course, see you in a minute.” I then hung up the phone, went out the door, walked fifteen feet, and knocked on his door.
The door opened and there he was. His lucious dark hair that had fallen into his face and his ocean blue eyes. He was shirtless.
“Sorry I was just getting changed for work, but come-” I grabbed his tall body and gave him the tightest squeeze. He put his face near mine. I knew I had to tell him.
“Marco, we should sit down.” I lead him to the old burgundy sofa in the living room as he put his blue shirt on and tears rolled down my face.
“Speak to me. Tell me what’s wrong.” He kissed my forehead to comfort me. “You know I love you. I would never judge you.”
“Ti amo anch’io so, I’m just gonna say it. My mom accepted a job offer and…” Why was this so hard for me to say. I loved him, I should be able to talk to him. “We are moving away, Marco. We’re leaving in three days.”
His eyes looked heavy, droplets started falling from his eyes onto his shirt. The spots where the tears fell turned into a darker blue. “What’s going to happen to us?”
“Bello, I honestly don’t know.” I can’t lose him. He’s one of the only people who knew me. We’ve known each other since we were six, have been dating since fifth grade. He’s been through almost everything with me. “I love you, I wish we could just run away and be together,” I said hopelessly.
A moment of silence fell over us, until he gave me a look. I broke the silence with a laugh. “Why are you laughing?”
“I mean, I wasn’t being serious. We can’t actually run away, ragazzo stupido.” I kissed his forehead. I thought to myself how much I’d miss this.
“Gia,” he started with a mischievous smile, “what if we were to actually run away?”
“Marco, that’s crazy.” I paused and then continued, “Think. Think about all the actual details. It’s-it’s unrealistic.”
“I have my savings, I’ve been working part time after school and summers since I was 14 and you’ve been working full time since you were 14.” He smiled. “We have a lot of money in savings, Gianna.”
My mind went blank of everything except the possibility of us and our future. “But where would we go?”
He stood up and suggested, “We could run away and leave Maryland and go to Sicily. Go to Mazara del Vallo, your hometown.” He walked to the cabinet across the room. “When was the last time you’ve been there? Think about how romantic that would be.” He pulled something out of the drawer and put it in his back pocket. I couldn’t make out what it was, perhaps a box? “I have a passport, you still have your dual citizenship. Book a cheap flight, stay in a hostel until we could find a place.” He started walking back to me. “We could find new jobs.” He was now in front of me. He took my hand in his and he got down on one knee.
I spoke abruptly, “Oh mio dio, dio santo.” He’s crazy isn’t he.
He pulled out the box and started, “I know we were planning on getting married after my senior year ended and you finished online school, but why not run away with me to Mazara del Vallo and elope with me there.”
Before I responded he let out one last thought, “Remember, you’re 18 in two days and I’m already 18.” Tears began to fall from his eyes again. “This is all legal and possible. This is your decision.”
“Yes, I’ll marry you.” Tears started to fall from my eyes. “Sì, l’amore della mia vita.” I kissed his lips. My smile was so wide, I could feel my teeth shine like in the movies. He slipped the ring onto my finger and I kissed him again.
“Buy your ticket tonight, we’ll get a midnight flight to the Vincenzo Florio Airport. Once in Sicily, we can drive the rest of the distance.” He stood up as the big hand of the clock hit 7 and walked towards the door.
“I have to get going to work, but I’ll see you soon. I love you.” He turned the doorknob, opened the door and said, “Don’t forget to buy the ticket.”
I sat down by the computer and glanced at the picture of Marco and me. I remember when we first took that picture three years ago. A man had screamed at me earlier that morning and Marco attempted to break his face into two. It was in that moment that I had realized I loved him and that I wanted him to protect me for the rest of my life. I dragged the mouse over and clicked. My ticket was purchased.
The next two days went by fast I spent them packing up all the items I own. All the important things went into my single carry on luggage.
My birthday had arrived. When my mom got home from work she went towards the dining room table. She placed a small chocolate cake, and my favorite childhood soda, Cordino, in the spot at the head. I sat down as she placed a slice of cake in front of me and said, “Here you go, adult.”
I stuck my fork into the cake and began eating. As I reached for my Cordino, she stopped me. “I know the Cordinos are non-alcoholic, maybe we could spike them a bit. I think we’ll both need it for tomorrow.” She said, holding a bottle of sambuka.
“Mom, why do you let me drink?” I asked as I poured the two drinks together. My friends aren’t allowed to drink until they’re twenty one.”
She responded, “You’re more mature than them.” She took a sip of the mixed drink and continued, “Ever since your dad left us, you’ve been having to pick up the slack. I’m afraid I forced you to grow up too quickly.” Her eyes began to look heavy as she spoke. “You’ve had the mindset and maturity of an adult, so I treat you as one. A privilege of being an adult, is the ability to drink.”
“Do you think I’m ‘adult enough’ to survive on my own?” I asked.
“Knowing you, yes. You could easily survive on your own.” She began to smile and added, “But you won’t have to. That’s why I’ve accepted this job. You can finally be a teenager.” She took both cake plates and glasses and put them in the dishwasher. “Goodnight, Gia. See you tomorrow. We have a big day ahead of us.”
“Goodnight, Mom, I love you,” I said as she walked away.
As it neared eleven, I placed a letter for my mom on the counter and grabbed my suitcase. I walked out and went to Marco’s to find a note attached to the door.
I’m already at the airport. See you soon, my love. Our new lives await us.
The taxi cab pulled up in front of my building and I got in. I was filled with excitement. I love my mom and it hurts me to know that I might break her heart a little. I know she will come to terms with it. In a few years she could fly in to see our future kids, Giuseppe and Bellisa. Marco came up with such good baby names. He has our whole lives planned out.
The car pulled up at the airport. “Marco!” I called.
He turned around and responded, “Gianna!” As I got to him I gave him a kiss. Our smiles were as bright as the white lights in the airport.
“Are you ready?”
“Do Italians speak with their hands?” I responded with a wink. I started to walk towards security as I felt his hand stop me.
“Wait,” he softly started to speak, “our flight doesn’t leave until 1:30am, we don’t have to go through for another half hour.” He turned around and removed a small blanket off the bench behind him. “I brought your favorite. Why don’t we stay here for a little longer?” He handed me a bag of chocolate chip cookies and a water bottle filled a fourth of the way with whiskey. At first glance, thoughts began running through my mind. What am I doing? Am I really about to get on a plane and fly to a different continent. How cliche and naive could I be? I’m only eighteen. I’m not an adult.
“I can’t go with you to Italy,” I blurted out.
Confused, he asked,“What? That’s a joke, right?”
“No. I’m so sorry,” I told him. “I was ready to go to Sicily and start a new life with you, but when I saw the cookies and whiskey, I realized the mistake I was making.”
“Do you not like that anymore? I can buy you something else! Or we could just go in!” He pleaded to me. His eyes wide, silently begging for me to change my mind. “Please, Gianna, I love you.”
“It’s not that. It just made me realize that I’m not an adult. I’m still a kid. I can’t just pack my things and move across the Atlantic.” I began to cry as I felt my heart breaking. “I don’t think I ever told you the story behind cookies and whiskey.” I held his hands as I spoke. “When I was fourteen, I had gotten home from my first day working a full time job. I wanted to continue to be independent, so I decided to make my own dinner,” my voice cracked as I spoke. “I made cookies because I had never used a stove before and I poured myself a glass of Glen Grant Whiskey. My dad had bought it when we first moved to the United States because he got into American imported liquor.” The mention of my dad had always put a bitter taste in my mouth.“It had been aged 40 years when he bought it and it was one of his most treasured items. Yet, it costed him nearly $600. He didn’t make much and we actually really needed that money.” I sighed and then continued. “When he left, my mom was able to keep it. Just to spite him, I drank that whiskey. But also it made me feel like an adult. In fact I loved that feeling so much, that I poured glass after glass until I blacked out.” I held Marco closer. “But I’m still that dumb teen who doesn’t know how to cook. I have to go home to my mom.”
He continued to look into my eyes without saying anything.
“I’m sorry, Marco,” I said letting go of him. I grabbed my luggage and wheeled it behind me as I walked away.
“I love you and always will. I’ll wait for you, Gianna,” he told me in between moments of sobbing.
I didn’t want him waiting and holding on to us and what could’ve been. I looked back at him, and put on a strong face and knew it was for the best. “Don’t.”