Can It Be All So Simple

By: Paul Montuori

Writing Prompt: No

Date: 21st Nov 2021

“Paul? Are you OK?”

I blink. Looking around. Trying to find my bearings. I know this place, I’ve been here before. Many times. The Champagne Room at the Velvet Rabbit. But how’d I get here?

“Paul?”

I slowly turn my head to the sound of the voice. Standing in front of me with a worried look on her face is Anicka Swan. Behind are a couple of Does, looking completely frightened and worried.

“Ani?”

“Paul. You OK?”

My attention starts to focus on the necklace of one of the Does. On the charm of the necklace. A symbol. A weird symbol I’ve seen before.

“Paul,” I look up to see Ani shaking me.

“Oh uh.. Yeah. Sorry,” I say before seeing myself for the first time in the mirror across from me. I look disheveled, and that’s putting it nicely. My clothes, I don’t remember the last time I changed them. Or showered. I look down at my hands, seeing dried blood caked to my fists. Scattered around the floor are bills with what looks like blood on them.

“Come on,” she says, offering her hand out. I instinctively take it, not wanting to give it another thought. She leads me from the room, down a staircase and through a back door. I find myself in an office. “There’s a shower through that door. You’ll find a change of clothes in there. Take your time. Ani’ll be here waiting for you when you get out.”

Ani and I were always.. Cool. The chick I always wanted to bang but to be honest, was too scared too. Like the little bitch boy I am. I nod, staggering over to the bathroom. The room fills with steam from the hot water. I undressed and get in, my skin feeling like it’s peeling off. At the same time, therapeutic. I watch as the blood begins to rinse off of me, watching it swirl down the drain. Then it all starts to come back to me.

Venom #13. Me and Ricky Rodriguez. The poor kid never did anything wrong to me. He followed me blindly into Dynasty. He listened to every word I said, soaked up every pearl of wisdom I dropped on him. Always came to my defense no matter what, came to the defense of Dynasty. Even blindly came to the defense of that prick Joe. The kid bought in 100% to what I was trying to accomplish. What I wanted us to accomplish..

And just like that, I ruined it. The flashes of me grabbing the baseball bat. Of Vin stopping me from using it. Flashes of Vhodka, the look in her eyes so calming.. Flashes of me pounding on Ricky’s flesh. The blood. All for no other reason than my selfish own. The poor kid the receiving end of my rage and anger that’s been building in me since Ascension. All that rage and anger and frustration and self-loathing taken out on him. A victim of circumstance, an unlucky draw. It could’ve been anyone in that ring tonight. Except it wasn’t. It was Ricky. And he didn’t deserve it.

I finish watching the blood swirl down the drain of the shower. I turn off the water and get out. Drying myself and getting dressed quietly. Avoiding looking up at myself in the mirror. I didn’t want to face the person I’ve become. The person they’ve made me become. Person Joe has turned me into with his fucking lies. The person my paren..

I open the door to the office, seeing Ani sitting at a huge desk. I try not to look at her as I sheepishly walk to one of the chairs across from her. I sit down, avoiding her gaze. As if looking into her eyes will somehow allow her to see all the hurt and pain and hatred for myself. For everyone.

“Feel better?” She finally asks. I nod my head, still avoiding her gaze. I pick at the dried blood under my fingernails.

Have you heard anything about Ricky? Is he,” the shame in me not letting me finish the sentence. As if finishing it would somehow doom Ricky’s fate.

“He’s going to be OK. A little bruising from what Ani hears, but he’ll live. Nothing he hasn’t come back from before. How are you doing?”

“Me? I’m uh.. I’m good. Really good,” I reply, trying my hardest to convince her. I know she sees right through me. She always has, all of these years. Probably the reason she never took any of my advances seriously. She always knew I was all talk. Everything I said I would do to her, she knew I was, she knew I am an insecure fuck that used words to try and make myself feel better about myself.

“How are you really? I heard about your parents,” she starts to say.

“They’re not my fucking parents,” I say, cutting her off. My fists instantly clench, rage starting to burn inside me again. I know she senses it because she softens her tone.

“You don’t deserve any of it,” she says.

“Yeah, but the thing is I deserve it all. I always have. My entire life. I’ve deser..”

“Ani, you’re up in 5,” I hear a voice say. I turn to see a Doe standing at the door. She glances over at me, a look of sorrow and pity in her eyes. I quickly look away, for if I knew I held her gaze for one more moment, I’d lose it. I suck back the tears that are beginning to form in my eyes. I can’t let these broads see me like this.

“Tell Voo to find someone else, Ani’s busy,” Ani says.

“No, it’s OK. Go,” I say.

“No Paul, it’s OK,” she says. So fucking nice of her. She was always a sweetheart, no matter what people said about her over the years. In a different life, who knows.

“Go. I’ll be OK,” I say as I look at her for the first time. I try to sound reassuring, the look on her face says she doesn’t buy it. “Really, I’ll be OK. I’ll wait for you here. Come back when you’re done.”

She gives me one last look, unsure if she should leave me.

“Ani,” the Doe says, bailing me out from having to convince Ani I was good. Ani nods and walks over to me and leans over, giving me a kiss on the cheek.

“Ani will be right back. Don’t go anywhere,” she says.

“I’ll be right here. Do me a favor though, have them bring me a bottle. Anything.”

“Ani will make sure someone brings you some water,” she says, winking at me. She turns and leaves, closing the door behind her.

Leaving me alone. Leaving me with my thoughts. I stand up and pace around the room. Trying to stop the worst moment of my life from creeping into my brain. Trying my hardest not to relive that moment. The moment where the truth was finally put out in the open. The truth that deep down, I knew my entire life. I knew I never belonged. I knew I was never really a Montuori. Everyone always looked at me with that look, that look that told me I wasn’t a part of their circle. My Aunts and Uncles and Cousins always treated me differently. Fuck, the help always treated me differently. The nannies always treated me like the red-headed step child. And I guess, I really was..

I try to snap out of that train of thought. I try to bury that memory deep down. The memory of the woman who I yearned to love me my entire life, the woman I wished loved me the way I thought I loved her.. The moment she, matter of factly and cold as fucking ice, told me I was..

With all of my might, all of my effort, the moment slowly starts to creep into my brain. No matter how hard I try, standing in that office alone, I start to relive it..

“Mom?” I’m somehow able to squeak out. She turns, and everything goes in slo-mo. I’ve always heard of time slowing down for people at certain moments. Always just thought it was a thing in the movies. But like legit the longest 2 seconds of my life. The moment had come, the moment I had wished for all these years. To be able to see my Mom again. To talk to her. To be a son again. To be loved..

And just like that time speeds back up and there she stands. The woman I thought was dead all of this time, two decades of time lost. She looks at me for a second, not a sign of any emotion on her face. Not excited, sadness, relief, nada..

“Hello Paul. How have you been?” She asks as she turns around to the bar. How have I been? After all this fucking time? How have I been?

“That’s all you have to say to me? Ask how I’ve been? Like I’m some random acquaintance you’ve just run into. You lead with small talk?”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” she says as she pours herself a drink. Don’t be so dramatic? Is she fucking serious?

“Are you fucking serious?!” I blurt out. The rage begins to burn inside me. “I thought you were dead. I thought Pops was dead. All this fucking time, I thought you two were dead. Your death.. Your fake fucking death completely changed my life, my outlook, my perspective.. My entire fucking existence changed when you die.”

“I see you haven’t changed,” she says with a sound of annoyance in her face. She crosses the room and sits down on one of the remaining chairs in what used to be my office.Always the victim. Always about you. Even as a child you’d cry, always blaming Joseph for things. Always so selfish. Have you ever stopped to think about me? How dreadful it was for me to live in that small village in Italy. I was used to a certain lifestyle before we had to go into hiding. All that ended the moment we left.”

” A certain lifestyle? A certain lifestyle?! I must be losing my fucking mind right now.”

“Oh Paul, enough with the theatrics. What’s done is done.”

“What’s done is done?”

“Have you become a parrot?”

“I was.. A kid. Left all alone. I thought you were dead. This entire time. And still,” I don’t even know what to say. After all this time, I thought this would have gone completely differently. I thought she’d burst into tears the moment she saw me. Completely beside herself, apologizing profusely. Apologizing for leaving me alone, apologizing for lying. Instead here I stand, looking down at her as she sips her drink, without a fucking care in the world. “You haven’t given me a hug or even said you’ve missed me. You haven’t even smiled, not one time. After all this time apart.. I’m your son. How could you do that to your own son? Just abandon him. Tell one but not the other. How could you lie to your own son like that?”

“I didn’t lie to my son,” she says. Wait, what?

“You lied to me,” I say. But then the expression changes on her face. That ‘I said what I said’ expression. I try and replay exactly what she said in my head. ‘I didn’t lie to my son.’

“It’s about time you knew,” she says as she gulps down the rest of the drink and sets it down. My race is fucking ready to burst out of my chest. I know she’s not about to say what I think she’s going to say. She stands up and looks into my eyes. “I’m not your biological mother.”

“The fuck you’re not.”

“I’m your aunt. Your mother, my dear sister, died not long after you were born.”

“Bullshit.”

“We adopted. Took you in. Raised you as one of our own. Gave you our name. Couldn’t have you running around with your father’s name.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s true. We took you in. We saved you from that orphanage. Even with all of the embarrassment and shame you brought our family, we gave you a home.”

“Embarrassment and shame?” What the fuck is going on right now? I must be hallucinating. But here I stand, shaking. Million thoughts and memories running through my mind all at once. “What kind of person are you? To lie all of these years. Even if you’re not my.. You abandoned me.”

“You’re one to talk about abandoning,” she says as she reaches over to the desk and picks up an envelope. She hands it to me.

“What’s this?”

“What’s that? That’s a court order for your daughter. Seems her mother was released early. She came looking for Madison only to find you abandoned her.”

“Abandoned her? I was gone for a couple of days.”

“Try a couple of weeks. More than a couple actually. Her mother gained custody on an emergency court order. Which court date you missed.”

“What?” I say as I tear open the envelope. I scan it, sure enough. I find my knees going weak as I sit down in a chair.

“It’s for the best. You? A father? That poor girl would never be able to live a normal life. Not with you as a father. Take it as a blessing that you won’t be around her life to ruin her. You know you would only do that poor girl harm. You’re not the kind of person that should be caring for a child. You know this,” I hear her say. I.. “And Paul, you have to be out by the end of the week.”

And with that she was gone..

I find myself back in the bathroom, tears flowing down my face, completely unable to control myself. I look at myself in the mirror, at the pathetic, sniveling little bitch who’s not good enough to beat Dickie. Not good enough to be a Champion. Not good enough to lead Dynasty. Not good enough to be a son. Not good enough to be a father. Even worse yet, not good enough to be a better parent than Machelle. I fucking lost the one fucking person who I truly loved. The one person I could be myself around. No tricks. No games. No fronts. The real me. I lost my fucking daughter. All because I was fucking selfish. Self-centered. A fucking loser.

And yet, she’s better off with Machelle than with me..