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A Family Affair: 2nd Story
The old reflexes kicked in for this story. It falls in the novelette range. I always heard authors say “write about what you know”, so, this story, like ‘2015 — Kiss me, you fool’, it’s set in the context of a trucking company.
As an experiment, I tried to use the commercial romance formula. I hope you’ll enjoy the result.
My thanks again to my editor, Valphund.
Moreno and Sons was a bit of misnomer. A fourth generation family company, it had gone from a single rickety old truck owned by Guiseppe Moreno, fresh off the boat in the immigration wave following WWII, to a successful logistics enterprise. From the beginning, the sons went into the family business while the daughters married and made more little Morenos.
Claudia was the first to break with tradition by going to College and joining her five brothers in the company.
At five ten with a voluptuous body, she was a magnet for male concupiscence, but she didn’t tolerate disrespect. Neither did her brothers, the smallest of which was six three and weighed two-thirty.
Brotherly protectiveness wasn’t the only reason the Moreno boys had their sister’s back.
The Moreno men sat in the living room, watching a hockey game while Mama was putting the finishing touches to Nana’s birthday supper.
When their sister came back from the bathroom, Matteo punched Antonio in the arm to make him move over. The good-natured melee was settled by Claudia who pulled him aside by twisting his ear.
Papa Moreno had to intervene to prevent bodily harm to his youngest son after he threatened to take his sister across his knees for a spanking. He knew how viciously Claudia fought when a man dared touch her other than gentlemanly.
They listened to the game in a convivial, if boisterous atmosphere, shouting at the referees, cheering for their team and booing their adversary.
At the intermission, Matteo asked his sister to join him on the porch.
“Do you remember Uncle Giorgio?” He asked her.
“The one who went to work in the oil fields of Texas and never came back?”
“That’s the one. I’ve kept in touch over the years and I visit when I travel that way. He reached out to me a few weeks ago. His daughter will be going to Cornell College in the fall on a full scholarship.”
“Bright kid. They don’t hand those out to just anybody.”
Matteo ruffled his sister’s hair which resulted in a friendly scuffle.
“Thought you were the only Moreno with a brain, did you? Well, he asked if we could take her under our wing, so to speak. You know, watch out for her.”
“How are we going to do that? Ithaca is 330 miles from Boston. We don’t have that big a wing.” Claudia laughed.
“Not quite, but I was thinking that we could hire her until school starts as a way for her to get used to our East Coast ways.”
“And you’re talking to me because you want to stick her to me. I don’t need another employee. All the jobs are filled.”
“Come on, sis. You’re always whining that you need a real assistant, not only a secretary.”
“First, I don’t whine. I submit business requirements for efficiency. Second, I manage quite well. I don’t need a useless brat to get in my way, and I certainly don’t have time to play teacher.”
“You make my point for me. You work twice as hard as anyone else. When was the last time you went out for a night on the town? Hell, Claudia, you haven’t even finished unpacking, and you bought that condo over a year ago.”
“I happen to like my work. I don’t need to go out to enjoy myself. Clubs are overrated anyway.”
Matteo pulled his sister in his arms.
“She was a bitch, and I told you from the beginning that she wasn’t good enough for you, but you have to get over her. You have to start rebuilding your life at some point.”
“I know.” Claudia held on to the comforting presence. “I worked so hard to give her everything she wanted, but it wasn’t enough. It was never enough.”
It broke Matteo’s heart to see his little sister in such pain. He wished he could do something for her. Maybe mentoring her cousin would help take her mind off the bitch who had treated her so poorly.
“Since she’s going to Cornell to study business, I thought seeing how the big boys and girls do it might give her a better sense of what the real world is like. You had that opportunity growing up and you told me it served you well.”
“I don’t have time…”
“Yes you do. Or you would if you delegated some of the work you shoulder on your own. You don’t have to do everything. Look at me, I run the damn thing. Do you think I could do it by myself?”¸
“That’s why you have me and Francesco and Riccardo.”
“And you’re the greatest CFO and VPs I could have asked for. The same applies to you. Starting Monday, I want you to start delegating some of your work. Have others do the actual work and supervise instead of doing it all yourself. That’ll give you time to train your new Assistant.”
“When güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri will she arrive in Bean Town? Late June?”
“Tomorrow. I’ll pick her up at the airport and drive her to your place myself.”
“WHAT? I may agree that I could use her to get coffee for a couple of months, but I don’t need a kid invading my space. And why isn’t she still in school?”
“She has a room reserved at the dorm for the school term. What would be the point of renting an apartment for six months? We all have families while you have an extra room. She graduated in December. You said it yourself. She’s a bright young woman. She’s been hanging around the house, so Uncle Giorgio thought she might as well get a head start.”
“You’re a sneaky son of a bitch, you know that. Couldn’t you have given me some advance notice?”
“And allow you to come up with all kinds of reasons why you couldn’t do it?” Matteo laughed. “You’re the one who taught me that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
“At least put her in a hotel for a couple of days while I get the place ready.”
“You take all the time you want. We’ll be there around 1:30pm.”
Walking in the arrival waiting hall, Matteo cuffed two young bucks who were leering at a sexy woman who had taken off her coat in the heat of the crowd and revealed a gorgeous hourglass figure encased in tight fitting jeans and top. Her auburn mane flowed over strong shoulders to the middle of her back.
When they turned in outrage, they looked up and up to see a six foot six giant smiling at them.
“That’s my sister. Get it?”
“Yes sir. Sorry sir.” They walked away quickly.
Matteo sighed, remembering the night he spent in lock-up because the cops couldn’t believe the young teenage girl had done all the damage on the grown man the ambulance had picked up off the sidewalk and rushed to the hospital. It had been much easier to arrest the young mountain of a man for the assault.
He saw the two punks had moved further away, but kept an eye on Claudia. They had no idea what they were getting into if they made a move on her.
“You should change your cologne if you want to sneak up on women. And I saw them.”
“I know you did, sis. Maria would have my nuts on toast if I dared look at another woman.”
“They’d only be out of the sack when she ate them that time.”
“You’re not much of a lady, you know.”
“I’m your fifth brother in the wrong body. I thought you’d have figured it out by now.”
Matteo wrapped his arms around her neck.
“Your body is perfect, little sister. We all love you just the way you are.”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Despite her protestations, she liked herself too. It had taken her a long time to make peace with the fact that she wasn’t a boy. When she did, she decided to make the best of it. Life was too short for useless regrets. “You could have told me she connected in Chicago. I was here for the Atlanta flight.”
“I thought you’d be home making it presentable for your new roomie.”
“Do you remember your first day in the dorm? She’ll take my place as is and make the best of it. It’s not like she’s moving in permanently.”
“You’re right. There she is. Damn, she’s grown since I last saw her.”
A young woman was coming their way, pulling a huge suitcase on rollers. She was wearing two inch heel black snakeskin cowboy boots, tight jeans with a beautifully sculpted turquoise belt buckle and a white camisole under a denim shirt unbuttoned far enough to emphasize a pair of fine breasts. She carried a jean jacket over her shoulder.
“Cousin Matteo!” She jumped in his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and her arms around her neck. “It’s been such a long time. I thought you didn’t love me anymore.” She bussed him thoroughly before looking at Claudia. “Who’s this? Maria will kill you for bringing your squeeze to pick me up.”
“And she’d spank you on the spot for this display. You’re not a kid anymore.” Matteo extended his arm to block his sister’s advance. “This is my sister, Claudia, as you well know. And I suggest a little respect. You’re going to live at her place and work for her starting tomorrow. Sis, this is formerly little Sofia. The last time I saw her, she was fourteen.”
Things went downhill from there.
Sofia barely nodded to her cousin before grabbing Matteo’s hand and walking away with him. Claudia looked at their retreating backs, at the suitcase, and back at them. When they all arrived at the sidewalk, the girl asked where her luggage was.
“Where you left it.” Claudia told her with a wicked smile.
“ARE YOU NUTS?” Sofia ran back in the airport.
“She was such a nice little girl.” Matteo sighed.
“Well, she’s a bitch now. Your bitch. If she gets in my car, I might as well drop her off at Boston General right away, since that’s where she’ll end up before the day is over. It’ll save the cost of the ambulance. And, by the way, tomorrow you can send her güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri to the docks. I don’t want to see her in my offices. That’s where adults work. We’re not a daycare.”
Matteo watched his sister walk away. He couldn’t fault her. He should have done his homework. His cousin would never have made it past the first interview of the hiring process. (If she made it that far at all.)
He was still standing there, trying to come up with a solution when the young woman rejoined him, out of breath, disheveled, but grinning with satisfaction.
“She’s…” Matteo looked at his cousin. “What happened to you?”
“Two jerks thought they could steal my suitcase. One of them won’t walk for a while and the other must still be running.”
“Not another one.” He groaned.
“What? I showed my ID to the cops and my name matched the tag on my suitcase. When they asked the guy on the ground if he wanted to press charges, he saw all the people around us laughing and asked to be taken to the hospital or jail, anywhere away from me. That’s all. So, where’s Cousin Claudia?”
“Why are you here, Sofia? I mean, here in Boston, now.”
“Because dad didn’t want me around the house anymore, and I didn’t want to work at his office. It would have been too weird. Also, I figured I worked hard enough that I deserved a break before College.”
“You knew you were coming here to work, right?”
“Well, you were always so nice to me that I thought I could wheedle a quiet job in the mailroom where I would goof off for the next six months.”
Matteo looked silently at the brat his uncle had shoved at him for a long time.
“Cousin?” Sofia began to have an inkling that she may have overplayed her hand. “It’s not a big deal. Let me apologize to your sister. We can start fresh.”
“That ship has sailed, kid. I’m trying to decide whether to put you on the next plane back to Dallas or in a hotel for the night until your dad decides what to do with you.”
“You can’t mean that, Matteo? I’m your little cousin, Sofia. You used to take me on your knee. You said I was your nicest cousin.”
“I said that to a beautiful, well behaved, little girl. I’m not sure I want anything to do with the bitch you’ve become. The first thing you did when you got here was to act like a whore, then you disrespected your cousin. Now you tell me that you expect to be coddled until you go to College.”
He took her elbow and walked her forcibly to the taxi stand.
“Your father gave you some money, right?”
“Yes, I have a credit card.”
“Take this taxi to the nearest hotel. They’re all good ones around here. Then call Uncle Giorgio and ask him what he wants you to do. I don’t care. I have to catch up with my sister and hope she’ll forgive me for trying to foist you on her. Goodbye, Sofia.”
He turned and walked away without waiting for an answer.
Family came first with the Morenos.
Four hours later, Claudia was in good spirits as she waved her brothers goodbye. It had been a no-brainer for Matteo to find her at their usual bar. The rest of her brothers had joined them soon after. Francesco came over with Antonio so they could drive her and her car back home. They knew their sister didn’t have their tolerance to alcohol.
She hummed a happy tune all the way to her floor. It died on her lips when she saw Sofia sitting on her suitcase by her door.
With a sigh of resignation, she squared her shoulders and made her way to her place, fully intending to avoid a confrontation if at all possible. She stepped around her cousin and was unlocking her door when Sofia spoke.
“I don’t suppose your old man ever sent your mother packing with only the clothes on her back and shacked up with a twenty two year old skank. I doubt they fucked all day and night around your house, or beside the pool, right under your open bedroom window. Cousin Matteo asked why I was here. It’s easy. The cunt gave him an ultimatum. Either I went or she did. Or course, the fact that she was sucking him at the time may have influenced his decision in her favor. I’m sorry, Claudia, for treating you badly. I didn’t use to be like this. I was actually happy to come to Boston and see you all after the great stories Matteo told me about your family.”
When she was finished, Claudia walked in her condo without a word.
Ten minutes later, Sofia wiped her tears on her coat sleeve and got up to find a cheap motel within walking distance. She had lied about the credit card too. All the money she had was the little she managed to squirrel away from her cheap allowance, and the bus ride from the airport had been more expensive than she thought it would be because she failed to get a transfer and had to pay full fare twice.
When she took a last look at what could have been a haven for her, she saw that the door wasn’t fully closed. Surely people in Boston were more careful than that, even in mid-town condos.
She güvenilir bahis şirketleri looked in but didn’t see Claudia. She didn’t hear her either. Hesitantly, she pushed the door.
“Lock it behind you. You’re not in Texas anymore.”
Gently caressing her cousin’s hair as she lay on the couch, head on her lap, Claudia tried to imagine what it would be like to have her family torn asunder, then be discarded like so much unwanted baggage.
They had talked for hours as Sofia put away her clothes while they ate a New York-style pie from Ernesto’s Pizza, then on the couch after getting ready for bed.
She looked at the young woman’s long athlete’s legs — she loved track and field. They had shared a good laugh as they compared the merits of thongs versus boy shorts. Claudia told her cousin how she envied her breasts’ firmness when she unself-consciously took off her bra and put her camisole back on. “Enjoy it while it lasts.” She told her and showed her the effect of gravity on her own larger DDs.
For the first time, Claudia knew what it felt like to have a little sister.
Matteo was speechless when the two women came into his office, put a cup of his favorite coffee on his desk, and kissed him on the cheeks before walking back out, arm in arm, laughing.
Claudia had a couple of burly men move an empty desk in her outer office and called the IT guy to install a computer. She told her secretary, Kelly, to show Sofia the ropes and went to work.
An hour later, her new intern brought a refill for her cold coffee.
“How’s it coming along?”
“Kelly’s having me proof-read some letters for you. She’s good at writing them and really fast on the keyboard, but she says she has trouble with orthography.”
“I know. She does plenty of good work, but I have to spell-check everything that goes out. If you can take this off my desk, it’ll be a great help.”
“I had an A in English through high school. I’m sure I can take care of it. What’s next?”
“At lunch, I’ll introduce you to the department heads. I want you to spend some time in each with an eye on how their work relates to my office. My title may be CFO, but I do much more. If you can, I want you to be the buffer between them and me. I waste a lot of time on trivial questions. Unless it’s something urgent, I’d like you to summarize them in a single report so I can take care of them all at once when I have some free time, though it may only be at the end of the day.”
“Do you ever stop to take a break or something?”
“I wish I could.” Claudia laughed. “Most of the time, Kelly brings me a salad or a sandwich to eat it while I work. Today, I’ll make an exception and we’ll eat in the lunch room with the others.”
“That can’t be healthy.”
“It’s the business world, kid. If you want to move ahead, you have to put in the work.”
An hour after quitting time, Matteo drove Sofia home.
“Sorry I had to make you wait, Sofia. Maybe you should get a bus pass, or I’ll try to make arrangements for you to travel home with someone else.”
“It’s all right. It gave me time to catch up on some things Claudia wanted done… Matteo…?”
“Why does she work so hard? I mean, couldn’t you hire someone to help her? Some of the things she does… Isn’t she the CFO?”
“It’s her title now, but you have to understand that we’ve worked all our lives in the family business. When I started, I was picking up garbage the wind blew against the fences. I helped on the outdoor maintenance during the summer. I remember how proud I was when I got to drive the lawnmower tractor. Then I worked on the docks before I drove a truck. And so on. I liked school, so I went on further than my brothers. So did Claudia. Over those years in the office, some jobs she took for her own. She still does them. She thinks she’s the only one who can do them right and, in some cases, I have to agree. The problem is that she kept taking on more and more. Then…”
“The job became her life to the exclusion of all else. Her whole life revolved around work. Her last relationship… Well, it’s personal, and not my story to tell. Let’s just say that now it’s worse than ever. Last week-end, it was Nana’s birthday Saturday, then you arrived on Sunday. If it wasn’t for that, she’d have put in long hours at the office.”
“Can’t you do something? Hire someone to help. Force her to take days off… Something. It can’t be good that she doesn’t have a life.”
“In her mind she does, and I won’t take it away from her. When she’s ready, I’ll be there to support her. Until then, I let her do what she needs to do for herself. I suggest you respect her wishes.”
“I will. I remember what happened when I didn’t follow your suggestion at the airport. Still, I wish there was something I could do.”
“There is. Be there for her. Be the best assistant you can be. That way, maybe I can hire a real one when you go to College. That would be a first step.”
“I saw a market when I rode the bus to her place yesterday. Do you think we could stop? There’s nothing in her fridge.”
“But I bet she has tons of take-out menus.” He guffawed. “She’s great for the local economy.
“I’m sure she is, but I’d like to cook something for her for when she gets home.”
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