My anxiety peaks as I listen to the sorority girls gossip about Vincent and his stunner of a girlfriend, Daniela. Vincent’s past words ricochet around my mind… “One foot in one world, one foot in another.” The doors of realization are now flung open, and there’s no stopping the onslaught of truth. This man is Vincent Borignone, a member the largest crime family on the East Coast. He is also a student at one of the best colleges in the country. “My entire life is duality,” he said. My head throbs. I try to calm down by focusing on my immediate surroundings—starting with my table in the dining hall.
Claire, who I just met at the activity fair, sits on my right. With golden brown hair in a messy high bun, a light dusting of freckles on her nose, and a blue floral dress falling around her shoulders, she looks effortlessly beautiful. Her sorority sister—who I’ve nicknamed Preppy-in-Pink because I can’t remember her name—sits on my left. The collar of her rose-colored Polo shirt is popped and a string of white pearls sit around her slender white neck; she blends in seamlessly with the blue-blood crowd of this Ivy League University.
The conversation gets loud again, and I can’t help but listen in. My heart pounds into my stomach as the girls take a poll about whether or not sex with Vincent would be hot or scary as hell. They’re likening him to a sexy vampire; a man everyone lusts after, but who may or may not take a vein. My mind is in overdrive as they all crack up with laughter. I need to get the hell out of here and look him up.
Ms. Levine’s warnings ring in my ears. I should have done my research, but instead chose to stay in the dark. The truth is banging on my brain, echoing through every organ in my body. I jump out of my seat, interrupting their conversation with my unexpected movement. Claire and her friends stare at me in confusion.
“Sorry guys, I, um…uh…forgot something in my room,” I blurt the excuse, trying not to stutter. I swivel my head to Claire. “Sorry, but I need to go.” I turn to the rest of the group, my ponytail swinging. “It was nice to meet you all.” I smile, but I’d bet it looks more like a grimace.
I drop down to the floor to grab my black backpack. Standing up too quickly, I smack the top of my head on the corner of the table. My eyes screw shut as I wonder what hurts more, the embarrassment or my skull.
Finally getting the nerve to reopen my eyes, I see the girls staring at me, trying not to laugh.
“Are you okay?” Claire’s biting the side of her cheek. I resist the urge to rub the top of my head.
“I’m totally fine.” My voice sounds higher pitched than usual.
She lets out a little chuckle. “Listen, we’re all going out tomorrow night, maybe you wanna come with?”
I shuffle from one foot to the other, itching to go. “Um, sure. Text me?” I don’t take another glance at the girls as I pivot, running to the front door like my ass is on fire.
At this point, I couldn’t care less what they think. I just found out the man I thought I loved is Vincent Borignone, son of the biggest mafia Don on the East Coast. There’s got to be some mistake. I get to the steps by the dining hall’s entrance. Just as I’m about to leave, I pause.
Maybe I saw wrong.
Maybe that Vincent they’re talking about isn’t my Vincent.
I turn my head to get one last look. Even sitting down, I can see how much bigger he is than the boys around him. My eyes cover his ink-black hair styled in an undercut, his chiseled jaw beneath his high, widespread cheekbones, and his slight slant in the eyes, making him appear broody. The girls weren’t wrong; he looks dangerous as all hell. I let out an involuntary groan as I spin back around, hightailing it out the door.
I’m jogging to my dorm room as my mind runs in circles. Sliding my backpack from my left to my right shoulder, I plunge my hand inside the small zipper pocket, searching for my phone. I pull out the first hard thing I feel, and it’s a tube of Janelle’s coconut lip balm. Shit! I stuff my hand back inside again and pull out my cell. I’m about to open my browser when I realize I need to calm down and do my research in the privacy of my room. I don’t want to open this can in public, which will most likely be full of something worse than worms.
I know that what I’m about to see will probably annihilate me, but there can be no more hiding my head in the sand. Vincent’s here and it’s time I face the truth. I drop my phone back in my bag, trying to walk the rest of the way calmly. A few extra minutes won’t mean anything.
I make it to my dorm room and fall into the chair at my desk. Flipping my laptop open and clicking on Firefox, I type in: Vincent Borignone. There are hundreds of photos of him with his girlfriend. Holy shit. My belly drops like a sack of cement.
I move my mouse through the images.
The first photo I see is Daniela in a tight white nurse’s jacket, tits pushed up and pouring out. Her thin arms wrap themselves around Vincent’s strong neck. She makes a kiss face to the camera, showcasing high cheekbones and full, blood-red lips. Vincent looks a bit rumpled like he hasn’t shaved in a few days. Dressed in green doctor’s scrubs, he’s the sexy doctor to her overly styled nurse.
I continue scrolling through photographs, clicking on another one that catches my eye. The caption reads: WINTER WONDERLAND GALA. Daniela is in a long, pink sequin gown that pools by her feet. Vincent wears a gorgeous navy tux. It’s dawning on me that they are socialites.
The next photograph is of the two of them at an event for poor inner-city children. The irony that I’m that poor inner-city child isn’t lost on me. I continue to surf the internet, weirdly feeling like I’m researching a complete stranger.
After looking at hundreds of photographs, I enter the world of YouTube and click on a video of Vincent wrestling at Tri-Prep Academy. He’s wearing a black singlet with a yellow lion on the front. I swallow hard, staring at every perfectly defined muscle in his body as he takes down his opponent. Raising my eyebrows, I take a look at his gigantic…package. My body immediately flushes. Why the hell did I never know how hot it is to watch guys wrestle? The crowd is going berserk when he wins. He looks up for a moment, and I can immediately tell that he was younger here. But still gorgeous.
My stalking knows no bounds as I read and watch anything and everything I can get my hands on. Columbia seems to have a gossip column of its own, High and Low, and Vincent and Daniela are on it weekly, spotted around campus like celebrities.
The first story I find is titled: “Vincent and Daniela, They’re Just Like Us!” I assume it’s a satire of US Weekly gossip magazine. Photo one shows them drinking coffee at a local cafe. The second shows him holding her hand, entering the mathematics center. The third has them at a back table of the library, books scattered around the desk while they study. The fourth has them in side-by-side photographs at the gym. On the left, he’s bench-pressing a barbell. On the right, she’s jogging on the treadmill. Her workout outfit is a white sports bra and matching white leggings with shiny stars.
Finally, I find a photo of Vincent with an older man at a charity. My throat tightens. He’s with Antonio Borignone. They look so much alike; I can barely believe it. His father’s eyes are electric blue, just as I remember from that day at the pawnshop. In fact, their physical similarity is so strong that it’s almost ridiculous I didn’t notice right away. Vincent is taller and more muscular, but he’s his father’s son.
I drop my head, forcing myself to see the truth. Vincent is the son of Antonio Borignone, the most notorious gangster on the East Coast. And his girlfriend looks like she’s got the beauty of Grace Kelly and the brains of Einstein. I kick out my garbage can from beneath my desk, feeling like I’m going to puke. No. I’m stronger than that.
I move my hand back to my computer, staring at the most recent photo of them on High and Low. They’re in the science lab conducting an experiment. Even with huge goggles and in front of a Bunsen burner, they look like perfection.
Finally, I pull out my cell phone and open up my Instagram account. Searching for his name, it’s not difficult to find. His profile isn’t private. I click on the first photo and see him drinking a beer on a yacht in Capri—tan chest and low-slung blue swim shorts. The next photo shows him training at a boxing gym in Bali with his shirt off. My body feels numb as I scan picture after picture, but when I glance at my fingers, I notice they’re shaking. Moving back to the first picture, I see the last time he posted was a little over a year ago.
I check how many followers Vincent has. Two hundred thousand! And he’s been silent for a year? Like a tempest, I feel a rush of anger and depression move through me. Clearly, I’ve been played. How could I have been so stupid to think that he would ever want me? And…how could I be even more stupid not to realize who he is?
I don’t take a breath before I click on Daniela’s name, tagged on one of Vincent’s photos. I know that what I’m about to see will hurt me, but I’m on a masochistic binge right now, knifing myself with truth. For some reason, I feel as if I need to see all of this. I want to make sure that my brain, heart, and body all understand that whatever I thought I had with Vincent is good and done.
Finally clicking on her name, I see she has one point four million followers. I look at hundreds of photos, dissecting each and every detail. Her entire feed is about New York City glamour and travel. Even the mundane shit she does is perfect. In one photo, she’s eating a hot dog in Central Park with her tiny little white dog on a leash. In another, she’s strutting across a New York City street in sky-high heels and a cropped fur jacket.
In another picture, she’s wearing a long, silver gown and hanging on the arm of the sexiest man alive—Vincent—for an event, Feed the Children. I read the comments.
BeachnSand472: Who makes your gown? LOVE!
PebblesnRox: You guys are perfect!
SheRaines: please grab his ass for me!
DocAllie: OMG! #GoalsAF
Jay_Har4572: DYINGGGGG. Love love love!
Candybaby999: OBSESSEDDDDDD need that dress, AND that man.
Fashon4more: He’s hot AF!
Another photo. Daniela dives off a yacht, her pink bikini sparkling under the sunlight. Her caption: ST. BARTHS WITH BAE. Vincent’s watching her with a smile on his face as if he can’t believe how beautiful she is. Did he ever look at me like that?
I move to another photo and see them at the Robin Hood Gala, raising money to combat New York City homelessness.
Enjoying a special night with the love of my life. #MileyCyrus #Coldplay #stophomelessness #lovemycity #bestmanever #heartofgold #goodcause #charity #giving #robinhood
I do a quick Google search and see that tables for this event start at over ten thousand dollars.
I move back to Instagram, staring at another photo of Daniela at the Robin Hood Gala. She’s posing with a girl who looks just like her, but with blonde hair instead of auburn. The girl’s name is tagged and I click, finding myself on Daniela’s sister’s page.
The first photo I check is in the middle of her feed. A group of friends smile around a huge white Christmas tree, decorated in what looks like hundreds of gold and silver ornaments. The caption: CHRISTMAS IN VERMONT! Enlarging the photo with my thumb and forefinger, I spot Vincent smiling in the background in a black sweater and jeans. Considering how tall he is, the tree must be over seven feet! My heart constricts; I’ve never seen a tree this perfect in my life.
I remember all the years Janelle and I would celebrate Christmas a week late, so we could take someone’s old tree from the dumpster. I’d string Fruit Loops on a colorful lanyard, while Janelle would put a knot at either end so the cereal wouldn’t slide off. And then I’d sit on her shoulders and scatter our stringed cereal around the tree. My eyes prickle with tears, remembering how beautiful and special I thought it was. Meanwhile, I was nothing but a poor gutter rat living in the ghetto with a big sister who tried to make it right. I swallow the thought as I read Daniela’s sister’s hashtags:
#après ski #sorrynotsorry #cheers #kissesunderthemistletoe #dontbejealous #lifeisgood
After finding myself on Daniela’s sister’s boyfriend’s page, I know I’ve gotten out of hand. I shut my phone off because I don’t trust myself not to go back for more. I sprawl out on my bed, shaking my feet until my shoes pop off. My eyes burn from staring at my phone for so long.
I should study. Read. I need to compartmentalize this and keep my focus on school. In fact, I should be happy all of this unfolded because it makes it clear that whatever we had is ancient history. Part of me wants to die, but another part of me wants to show his ass up. I never want to feel like this again. And I refuse to ever be that girl I used to be; I was naïve and stupid.
I spend the rest of my night with my eyes glued to my books, hoping if I just study hard enough, I can push the Vincent shit to the back of my head. I went through hell and back to be where I am, and I won’t let a man stop me from succeeding.
With the help of the school’s guidance counselor, I’ve already planned out my path to becoming an attorney like I’ve always dreamed. The possibility of a safe and secure future, complete with money in the bank, is so close I can practically taste it. As far as I’m concerned, nothing else matters. Vincent Borignone can go to hell.