Twisted Roses

Page 128

Things take their most twisted and savage turn yet.
The price we’re forced to pay will be so steep, we may never be the same…
prologue - stefania
march 1988
Awoman’s wedding day. The happiest day of her life. The first day of her happily ever after.
So they say.
Everybody leaves out the most important part. It’s only a happily ever after if the guy you’re spending forever with is the guy you’re in love with.
Nobody wants to talk about theotherkind of wedding day. The worst day of a woman’s life. The first day of many to come after that’ll be hell.
A given when you’re marrying the devil.
“You look gorgeous, Stef!” Marsia cries out, coming up from behind. She’s taller than even me, which says a lot considering I model. A big smile spreads onto her face as she stares at our reflection in the full length mirror. With both hands, she gathers my long blonde hair and twists it into different styles. “Just wait ’til we’re done with you. Most beautiful bride there is. Hair up or down?”
“Down,” I say.
Florina shakes her head from where she stands in the background. “Up. Mr. Mancino requested.”
My mouth pulls tight.
Marsia notices and squeezes my shoulders. “It’s okay, doll,” she says. “You’ll still be a ten. It’ll show off these cheekbones of yours. I’ll go check on the dress.”
I barely notice her wander off. The air seems to be running short, sucked dry from the hotel suite. It becomes a furnace despite the breeze blowing the window curtains and the ceiling fans spinning.
Which makes no sense, but it’s how I feel.
No air. No oxygen. Can’t breathe.
My skin’s feverish and rosy, like I’ve been baking under the sun.
Today is the day I have always dreamed of.
The positive affirmation echoes in my dazed head. Fake and meaningless and gone within seconds. It doesn’t help take my mind off the situation, or make it any more bearable. It sure as hell doesn’t help my lungs breathe.
So much for positive affirmations changing even the most negative thoughts and outlooks on life. Proof that self-help stuff is baloney.
I stagger over to the credenza where a tray of refreshments and appetizers have been laid out for us girls to nibble on.
Prosecco. Bruschetta. Antipasto. Among other things.
I grab a bottled water and chug. I drink ’til there’s nothing left. ’Til the plastic crinkles under my slender fingers.
All the while halfway across the room, Florina remains quiet. She shifts through a handful of wedding documents, my brains for the day. My brains everyday.
Probably stuff like guest lists, seating arrangements, ceremony schedules, and whatever else. Her round face is focused, so I think nothing of it.
…until an envelope slips free and floats to the floor.
My gaze follows it. She scurries to snatch it up, but it’s too late. I’ve set sights on it and seen the name scrawled on the back.
“Flo, what was that?”