Man In Chains
By Sara Allen
$3.70, 360, Kindle
$13.68, pp358, Paper
Available at Amazon
Man In ChainsGianni ‘The Diamond’ Marcello has one goal; to be the boxing champion of the world. It will take commitment, sacrifice, discipline and hard work, the biggest being love and a meaningful relationship. They won’t co-exist; responsibility for one’s family takes precedence. He’s prepared to leave one to achieve the other. In Shelley, he’s found the perfect girl. She understands his objectives. Until they’re married and every action proves him wrong. Disappointed, Gianni struggles to accommodate a situation he wasn’t expecting. Having one’s back against a wall makes freedom all the sweeter. But with love comes sacrifice, one that sends everything tumbling at their feet. Shelley is over the moon to wear his ring. However, living in the shadow of Gianni’s dream is more than she can bear. She must give up everything but is unaware of how much it may cost them both. Francis; scarred, scared, and damaged, erupts into Gianni’s life when he’s least expecting. The serious, strangely appealing woman, whose disfigured face and body hide a passion he never expected. She quickly becomes the rock he needs. Loyalty, love and a dream held close to his heart will be harder to fight for than anything he’d ever faced in the ring. But more than that, Gianni will have to break the chains to find himself and discover what matters most.
Glancing at my dad snoring, quietly comfortable in the narrow airline seat, I struggled to hold in my elation. We were heading home after our time at the Olympic Games, having stayed behind with the team for the final days, cheering on teammates and countrymen. Watching as flashing medals were awarded and being a general nuisance. Again, I fingered the two golds I’d taken a beating to win, a small smile curling my lips. I was proud of myself, defeating a string of contestants to wind up in the semi-finals, finally achieving victory in my two bouts.
“Don’t get cocky, son,” Dad muttered, sniffing and rubbing his nose. “You still have a long way to go.”
I smiled. “Way to go, Dad. Want to remind me how much better I could have done, like Yuri did?” My brow raised. “Or should I just throw myself from the plane now and save myself the trouble of thinking I’m good enough?”
“Oh, you’re good enough, son,” he replied. “I just don’t want you to lose that vision, or those goals.”
I shifted slightly. “What’s this about, Dad?”
He shrugged, and those sunken, deep brown eyes, so like my own, studied me. Inhaling, his chest expanding before he cleared his throat. “You have a chance to go all the way. I see how you fight like a man possessed.” He rubbed his grizzled chin. “There’s a drive in you, Gianni boy, that won’t let anything stop you-”
“Except a certain blonde who’s had her eyes on you forever .”
Dad chewed his bottom lip, finally soothing it with his tongue. “Don’t get me wrong, Gianni, I like her. She’s a decent girl.” He shrugged again, as though that was all the explanation I needed.
Breath exhaled in a rush. “She’s hungry- allowing others to push her into forcing your hand, and I don’t want to see you end up like…” His words cut off. “Don’t make the same mistake I made.”
“No, hear me out, boy.”
He rarely called me ‘boy’ unless he had something serious to say. I nodded, allowing him to continue.
“When I met your mother, I was like you- focused on boxing.” He moistened his lips again. “But before I knew what happened, she was pregnant with Vincenzo and I was delivering mail.” His eyes turned towards me from the view of the mountains below us. “That mail sack was a heavy load which I never intended to carry for as long as I have. But for one reason or another, it’s tied me down.” “Dad,” I didn’t want him to share this story that was too painful to hear. “You don’t have to tell me this.”
“I do, so shut up and listen.”
He threw me a strange look. “I love all of you, you’re my children and I wouldn’t want that any other way. But I wanted things in my life, things I gave up because of other people.” He gripped my forearm like a vice, and I couldn’t think of words to appease him.
“Don’t give up your dreams for anyone, Gianni. No matter what they tell you. If children come along, take it in stride, but don’t let those children be the reason you stop. I’m still around, boy, and I’ll always help you out.” His mouth was a grim line. “You just reach for the stars. Stretch your hand up and grab hold.” His eyes glittered with suppressed emotions. “You deserve a galaxy full, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, you hear me?”
“Dad.” I felt moved by what he’d said.
“Promise me, Gianni.” His eyes bored into me. “Don’t let any women who comes into your life push you along a road you don’t want to go.” He gripped my sleeve with his other hand, a grip so strong it frightened me. “Promise me?”
The determination to have at least one son follow their goal to the end- an end not designated by a woman, played across his features. I knew he’d watched those boys and seen them fall into the same trap, and I knew the hurt that must have touched his soul. A strong man: tough and proud as he was, wouldn’t let life get him down. And for my father, I’d be as driven as I needed to be. For Papa, I’d strive to do anything he asked, because I knew he looked out for me, always wanting the best.
My fingers snaked around his thick hand, the knuckles large and prominent, forced out amongst the corded veins that made his hands look like roadmaps. I prayed he’d still be around to watch me reach those goals.
“I promise, Dad,” I took his hand, “I’ll try not to let anyone destroy those dreams.”
He held my gaze so long that I thought he’d finished what he had to say. Until a smile cracked his mouth, and he squeezed my hand, still clasped around his own. Finally, he turned and settled back into his seat, closing his eyes again.
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