Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chapter 29

At around nine o' clock Carmie called to let them know she was on her way and to remind them to have fresh clothes packed for their parents and brother.  

"Do the babies need anything?"  'Deo asked.

"No sweetie, they're all set.  The hospital has been keeping them in diapers and Bethie packed more than enough clothes for herself and them to come home in."

"Are they coming home today?"  he asked hopefully.

"No hon, not today, but Doc Franz says within the next few days."

"Carm?"  he inquired tentatively,  "Nathan?  Any word?"

"He's getting the best care possible, honey.  He's the only baby there so he's getting lots of attention and care, and Zia Julia is there with him.  They've actually let her in to be near him even though it's against hospital policy.  She's really charmed everyone there."  she said with a smile.
(Zia - aunt)

"How'd she do that?  Zia?!"  he asked as the word sank in.

"She and mom told the doctors that Mrs. Di Marco... I mean, Zia Julia... is her sister, so while usually it's just immediate family; parents, and grandparents who are allowed to be with him, she's been allowed as well.  Right now the nurses don't want her to ever leave.  She's the only one so  far who has been able to stop him from crying for any length of time.

"What about..."

"Hold on little brother, OK?  Let me get home and changed and we'll get all of the stuff together.  I'll tell you all everything I know on the way back to the hospital."

" 'K, Carmie.  Thanks.  I'll get right on it."

"Don't do it all yourself, Dae.  Delegate!"

"Yes'm."  he grinned.  "See you soon?"

"Within a half hour.  Give me a chance to shower and change and we'll head right out.  Make sure you boys have all showered and eaten breakfast."

"Sounds good, Carm. Thanks." Dae said, hanging up the phone with a thoughtful look on his face.  He was alerted to the presence of someone else by the sound of shuffling feet.   He looked up to see Paul and Angelo.

"G'mornin guys.  I won't ask how you slept,"  he smiled, "But I want to thank you for staying with me last night.  Carmie said she's headed home soon to pick up me and Con and Gabe soon and I have a few things to get for them.  Are you guys hungry?  Thirsty?  Can I get you something for breakfast?"

Angelo stepped up with a grin.  "You go get the stuff, then sit back and relax.  I'll take care of breakfast,"  he said, gathering up pans and utensils while directing his older brother as to what ingredients he'd need.

Amadeo grinned back and turned to take a quick shower before everyone else woke up, after which he'd gather the required clothes.  He ran into Gabe and Con as they came out of their rooms, rubbing sleep from their eyes.

"Guys, Carmie called to say she's on her way soon, she needs us to get clean clothes for mom, dad, and Dan.  Maybe something soft and comfy for Bethie.  I need to use the bathroom real quick," he said, doing a familiar little dance, "And then I'll come and help, OK?"

"Gotcha little brother, go take care of business."  Gabe said, doing an about face and heading for his parent's room which was strictly off limits except in times of an emergency or with permission.  He figured he'd use their shower before gathering their clothes, sure that they wouldn't mind this one time.

Con turned toward Dante and Beth's room and began to rummage for their luggage and a smaller carry case.

Amadeo turned into the bathroom, took a quick hot shower and ran to his room with the towel wrapped around his hips.

"You better not'a done what I think you did, Dae, cuz if you did you're cleaning it!"  Con said grumpily, standing in the doorway of Amadeo's room as his brother dressed.

Amadeo grimaced and laughed,  "Nah, Con, that's your thing, not mine."  he joked, laughing a little as Con walked into his bedroom and gave him a hard finger flick to the head.

'Deo playfully swatted his brother's hand away, "Hey!  Delicate merchandise here, you break it you buy it."  he said, pulling a polo on over his still damp hair, which was growing out quite nicely.

Con raised an eyebrow and looked at his little brother,  "Uh, God no, why would I want to own something that ugly?" he said, smacking 'Deo on his jean clad rump instead.

"Hey!  Hands off the goods!"

The two laughed and wrestled, each trying to get a clear shot at the other's backside until 'Deo got Con down in an awkward position at which point the little brother began to smack the daylights out of the elders rump.

"This is SO unfair!  You're younger than I am!  Where's the respect?  Where's the big brother adoration I'm entitled to?" Con protested, red in the face and squirming unsuccessfully to free himself from the wrestling hold 'Deo had on him.

"You got it, Con."  'Deo reassured him, "I'm just making you work for it a little, that's all."  he grinned.

"When you two are done shaking the house down around our heads, Angelo has breakfast ready for us.  Let's go!  Teeennnn'SHUN!  Fo'ooooorrd MARCH!"  Johnny commanded, laughing as his two younger brothers immediately jumped to attention and began marching out of the room and down the stairs.  He comically wiped imaginary sweat from his forehead as he followed them down.  If they'd decided to include him in the wrestling match, which had always been a possibility, he knew he could take Con down in minutes, but it would have been a close call between he and his youngest brother.

Carmie arrived promptly at nine o' clock and was greeted at the door with hugs, kisses, pats to the back and more questions than she could possibly answer in one day.  Amadeo had a stack of her clean clothes in his arms which he passed to her as soon as the others had backed off.  He had considerately tucked her underthings in between the shirt and jeans, so that only the clean socks were on top.

"Guys!  Calm down!"  she laughed.  "I know you want answers, but whatever's cooking smells amazing, and I'd be much obliged for a bit of it when I'm done washing up and dressing, if there's any left?"  she asked.

"Plenty.  Angelo was worried about food going bad so he's in the kitchen right now cooking up stuff to stock up the freezers here and at Bethie's house, so she won't have to do any cooking for a long time."  he chuffed a laugh, "There's so much, he said, that there'll probably be enough left overs that we can keep even Milo fed for a day or two."

"I resent that!"  Milo's voice came from the kitchen where he was washing dishes and utensils as soon as Angelo and Paul were done with them.

"Oh, I meant to warn you, Carm,"  'Deo called over his shoulder while still speaking to his sister,  "His ears are as big as his stomach!"

Carmella giggled and shook her head as Milo responded to her little brother's comment with a loud and juicy sounding raspberry.  

"Did you get everything ready for mom, dad, Dan and Bethie?"

"Yes'm, and I know you said you'd get Terri's stuff but there was a good pile of her jeans and things in the laundry room so I just grabbed some from there, so she's got stuff packed up too. OK?"

"You're a sweetie, Dae, you really are."  she replied, giving him a kiss to his forehead which she realized was getting harder since he was nearly as tall as she was.  She stood back and looked closely at her little brother.

Amadeo stood back a little more and looked back at his sister.  "Did I grow a second head or something?"  he asked with a smile, feeling around for said imaginary appendage.

"No,"  she replied thoughtfully,  "I just realized what a handsome guy you are."

She turned on her heel and headed toward the bathroom next to the laundry room, leaving a bemused Amadeo behind.

Paul, Angelo and Milo, being considered family, had been asked to stay to hear the story.  As the Rossi children and Paul sat around the table, sipping coffee, Carmella filled them in on the latest updates between mouthfuls.  Angelo and Milo had been restless and upset and had decided to use their excess energy to quietly wash the dishes that had been piling up.

"And I don't know how to say this delicately so I'll just come right out and say it, but you guys have to give me your promise that you won't go off on a tear, especially around Bethie."

The boys all agreed although they were a little annoyed that they'd had to promise anything before she would tell them anything.  Once she opened her mouth though, they understood why.

"When her parents came to visit... they told her that they'd know this was going to happen.  They said that they'd objected to her marrying Dante in the first place since our family isn't white..."

"What?"  asked Con, with a disbelieving, uncontrollable smile born of shock rather than amusement.

"Wait," she sighed, "It gets worse."

Gabe sat with his head bowed, shaking it slowly, as though the motion would make the thoughts running through his head settle into something resembling order.

Angelo and Paul glanced at each other, mentally comparing their duskier skin tones to the Rossi's somewhat paler ones.  Paul couldn't help but to wonder if his Moroccan great great grandmother and his considerably darker toned oldest brother would be held against him if people found out.  

Matthew, their oldest brother, had been born with dark skin, and had been classified as Black at first, despite his relatively pale skinned parents. Doctors and nurses had, according to the stories, given their mother 'looks' as they presented the black son to the white mother.  She'd been in tears until Joshua went to the nurses station and explained his Moroccan heritage.  That scene had played out again when it had come time to register him in school.

Martina said that she'd adored Matty from the minute she saw him, and that her parent's had loved him on sight.  Their two boys were mocha skinned and had had a few problems with new neighbors as they came in, but the old, established neighbors knew them, knew his history, and accepted them.  Some folks didn't consider Moroccan's to be Black, others said that Black was Black no matter where they came from.  Matty and Martina simply didn't have anything to do with those folks.

Marco, his two boys, and the rest of the brothers had been born with dusky, though not outright dark skin, looking as though they had a permanent tan more than anything else, and had never had a problem. 

Everyone seemed to accept the the family well enough, but Paul wondered how the families of their boyfriends and girlfriends would feel if they were aware that they could give birth to dark skinned babies.  He decided to tell his Teresa more about his family as soon as he got the chance.  He didn't believe it would make a difference to her but it would be better to make sure they were cool with things before things went any further.  He was very much in love with the girl and hated the idea that she or her family might reject him if they knew that he wasn't technically 'white', whatever that meant, even though her family was Spanish.

"The Taylors were pleased enough with the girls, they looked like Bethie, with their light colored hair and skin, and they said they didn't mind the dark eyes.  Then they'd gone to see little Nathan.  They'd looked at him for about thirty seconds, turned around and left.  They told their daughter that his condition was punishment from God, for marrying out of her race." Carmie continued, breaking into their thoughts.  

"Is he dark skinned?"  Angelo asked timidly, pausing as he and Milo washed and dried the dishes.  He'd never worried before about having kids, since it just wasn't possible for him, at least if he stayed true to his own heart,  but he'd never considered that someone would object to their daughter marrying one of his brothers.  They were all good, honest, hard working men.  Certainly Martina, quite fair skinned as a result of her mixed French and Scottish heritage, hadn't objected to Mattie courting her.  He'd never considered how her parent's had felt.  Then he wondered, did Rosalia know?  What would she say if she knew that if she married Luke they might give birth to dark skinned babies?

"No, not particularly,"  she replied thoughtfully, "No darker than Dae, I'd say.  But he's tiny, and he's got a fine layer of dark hair on his face, shoulders, and arms.  The doctors said that would fall off eventually, if he lives."  she completed the sentence unwillingly.  

"The Taylors said that if he lived they should put him in an orphanage and just pay their penance for their sins and devote their lives to their two normal children." she continued, as though the words hurt as they left her mouth.  She looked as though she were about to cry and Amadeo went to her and enveloped her in a hug.

"Those... those... narrow minded... idiotic... *evil*..." Con sputtered.

"No, now Con, that's what I'm saying." Carmie said, recovering and hugging her little brother in return.  "After they said that they packed up their stuff and went back home.  Bethie has been distraught ever since, and we need to be upbeat and supportive.  No matter what those people... I mean, no matter what her parents said or did, they are her parents and she loves them, just as we'd love mom and dad if they ever said something like that..."

"Our mother and father would *never* say anything that vile!"  Con argued.  "How could they say something like that to their own daughter?!  She's already upset and crying and..."

Gabe went over to his brother and put an arm around him.  "I know, Con.  We all know that would never occur to mom or dad, or anyone in our family, but unfortunately, we might just be the minority who think that way."

"D'you think her folk'll come around?"  Amadeo asked, giving his sister a final hug and reluctantly returning to his coffee.

"I have no idea, hon.  I didn't even know about how they felt until they said it.  They were always polite to me.  I mean, they were always a little formal but I thought that was just the way they were with everyone.  I had no idea they felt their daughter was marrying beneath her or 'out of their race'," she said, feeling slightly sick to her stomach.

"Well," said Paul, breaking into their thoughts, "Angie and I are going to head home and get washed and changed," he winced as his little brother kicked him under the table, apparently for calling him Angie, but continued as though nothing had happened,  "And see if there's anything dad needs us to do on the farm.  Afterward, do you think it'll be all right if we come in to visit Beth Ann and Dante?"

"I'll give you a call from the hospital, OK?  I don't think she'd mind but I can't really speak for them, especially after everything that's happened."

"Good idea."  Paul replied, then he turned to his little brother, "OK, monello, lets head out.  Dae'll call us with news when he can.  Mi, I know you just live down the street but would you like a ride since we're headed that way anyway?"

"Sure," Milo replied, drying the last fork and putting it away.

Milo unselfconsciously gave his best friend a 'Patented Rossi Bear Hug', having been on the receiving end of it more than once, and then gave Carmella a gentler one accompanied by a little kiss to her cheek, which made her smile.  "See you guys later." he said as he followed the Di Marco's out of the door.

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