Chapter Seven: Flashback
Break Up

"Explain something to me."

Madeleine banged open the door of the college dorm room, casting her boyfriend an accusatory glance. "Did we or did we not have plans last night? And did you or did you not blow me off to go off campus and hang out elsewhere? Luca, you told me you had an urgent assignment...why the hell did you lie to me?"

Luca glanced up from his books, a frown crossing his face.

"You could knock." He said mildly. "Clay might have been here. Or I might have been changing."

"I don't give a damn." Madeleine banged the door shut behind her to illustrate her point. "Luca, we've been together almost six months now. What in hell were you doing? I thought we knew each other better than that. Where were you last night? Because you weren't here and you weren't studying. Assanti saw you leave campus, and when I called your phone it was off."

"Maddy..." Luca looked pained, setting his books aside. "Please. Don't yell at me. It was short notice and I didn't know what to tell you."

"The truth, that would be nice." Madeleine said bitterly. "You've never lied to me before...or have you? I start to wonder. I thought you loved me...or was that a lie too, huh? Did you make that up to get me into bed with you? I thought you were the good guy."

"Woah, girl." Luca got to his feet, coming to put a hand on her arm, but she shook him off.

"I don't want you touching me. Not till you explain what the hell is going on." She said in low tones. "You blew me off and you lied to me. I want to know why. Now."

Luca eyed her apprehensively for a moment. Then he sighed.

"I went home." He said simply.

"Home?" Madeleine echoed. "Is that the best you can do?"

"Yes, because it's the truth." Luca told her frankly. "I'm sorry I lied to you, Mad, but there was a situation and I had to go at short notice. It was family business and I didn't know exactly what until I got there. It seemed easier to tell you something that wasn't true rather than telling you nothing...which is what I knew."

"You could have told me your Mom called." Suspicion and hurt flashed into Madeleine's dark eyes.

"I could, but that would have been a lie, too." Luca said slowly. "Maddy, it wasn't my Mom. Or not exactly. It was Stef."

"Your sister?" Madeleine raised an eyebrow. "Wasn't that the same sister who got thrown out of school for fighting? The one who runs round the town at all hours, and seduces substitute teachers when she's bored in class? Am I thinking of the right girl, or do you have another sister I don't know about?"

"That's harsh, Mad." Luca's brows knitted together. "Sure, Stef can be difficult, but she is my sister and I love her. She needed my help last night. So I went."

"And how many times are you going to bail the brat out before she learns she can't get big brother to fix every little problem she has?" Madeleine demanded. "Luca, she's an adult now. She shouldn't run to you all the time."

"And now you know why I didn't tell you anything." Luca sighed. "Because I know how you feel about my sister. You've barely even met her. All you know is from what Clay's said, and I honestly wish he'd held his tongue, because he's far too sharp and it does noone any favours. If you'd seen her last night..."

"Don't you get it?" Tears filled Madeleine's dark eyes. "Luca, I love you. You made me fall for you in a big way...and I don't like being lied to by someone I care about. Especially not by you. It's not about Stefana. It's about trust between us. We've known each other since I was a freshman and I thought we were closer than that. I thought..."

She faltered.

"I thought you loved me, too." She whispered. "And people who love each other don't lie. No matter what the reason."

Luca glanced down.

"I deserved that." He acknowledged. "And I care about you a whole load, Maddy. But listen to me. I didn't think things through last night...when I got Steffi's call, I knew it was a big deal. Mom's kicked her out. No notice, nothing. Just randomly threw her out onto the street and let her fend for herself. I found her at Dad's grave this morning...she'd cried herself to sleep there, or something. I know your impressions of the kid haven't been helped by what Clay's told you, and I'm sorry for it. But I'm not going to abandon her when she needs me."

"And when I need you?" Madeleine asked softly. "What then?"

"Don't make me choose." Luca bit his lip. "It's not fair, Mad. You'd not turn your back on your sister if she needed you. Don't ask me to do that to mine. She's not always an angel, sure...but she's still my flesh and blood, and I did still promise my Dad I'd keep an eye on her. She's had it rough, and if she's gone off the rails, that's why. She doesn't have anyone else. Just me. You have Clay, Assanti, more friends than I care to name. You have a mother and a sister who love you very much. Stef has one screwball big brother and a Mom who's head is on backwards. And I am sorry I lied to you, I really truly am. It was wrong and I apologise. But I knew you'd freak out at me. And I didn't have time to deal with that last night."

Madeleine sank down onto Clay's bed, and for a moment she didn't speak. Then, at length,

"She cried herself to sleep?" She asked quietly. "Out there in the cemetery where anyone could've hurt her?"

Luca nodded.

"Why did your Mom evict her? What did she do?"

"Dropped out of High School." Luca said sadly. "I know, she probably should have stuck it out till finals. But Stef was never the best student and her grades fell apart after Dad died. She's already a grade behind, and she told me she couldn't face failing and having to resit with kids two years younger than her. She plans to find work and everything, but Mom's not having it. She just turfed her out and that was it. When I went over to speak to her, she was all for tossing Stef's belongings, too. I had to talk till I was blue in the face before she'd listen to me and stick them in the garage till Stef could come back get them. As it is she's shacked up with her friend Marissa and her family for the time being. But..."

He hesitated, then,

"She's upset." He added. "She feels abandoned. I don't see her cry often, Maddy, but this has really got to her. She needs me to be there for her and if I'm going to do that and graduate, I'm gonna be...well...distracted. A lot."

Madeleine blanched as she read the meaning in his words. She wetted her lips, then,

"Are you saying you won't have time for us any more?" She whispered.

Luca looked troubled.

"I love you." he said slowly. "More than I've loved anyone in a long time. And it hurts me, Mad, to even think this way. But she's my family. My flesh and blood. And right now she doesn't have anything much to cling to but me. I have to put her first."

He glanced down at the duvet, and Madeleine felt the tears begin to slide down her cheeks.

"I promised her I'd go back tonight." He added. "And stop a couple of days with the Youngs. If I get my studies together for finals it will be a miracle. I'm sorry, Maddy. Please understand. Please forgive me."

Madeleine eyed him long and hard for a moment. Then she swallowed hard. Without a word, she turned on her heel, heading back down the corridor. Her tears blurred her sight but she did not turn back, not even when she heard him call her name.

At the end of the corridor, her emotions got the better of her and she sank down against the wall as her tears overwhelmed her. People stared at her as they passed, but she was oblivious to all of them. Her mind in a whirl, she tried hopelessly to get a grasp on what had just happened.


His voice, just when she didn't want to speak to him. She turned away, but he put his hand on her shoulder.

"Maddy, I'm sorry." He sounded almost as heartbroken as she felt, and despite herself she did not pull away from him.

"Just leave me alone." She managed. "Please. You've said enough. I'm not stupid. I get it. Now leave me alone. Please."

There was silence. Then,

"I am sorry." And the touch was gone from her shoulder.

Knowing she was alone, she closed her eyes, fighting to regain control of her emotions. As she did so, she felt a stab of irrational rage rush through her at the thought of Luca's younger sister.

"I'll never forgive her for this." She muttered, clenching her fists. "Never!"

Prologue: Flashback: University of Connecticut, Winter 2009
Chapter One: Starcrossed
Chapter Two: Tante Regine
Chapter Three: Flashback: University of Connecticut: Winter 2011
Chapter Four: The Poem
Chapter Five: A Shock
Chapter Six: Nancy Confesses
Chapter Seven: Flashback: Break Up
Chapter Eight: Blackmail
Chapter Nine: Conflict
Chapter Ten: Flashback: Assanti Meddles
Chapter Eleven: Pay Off 
Chapter Twelve: Stefana Gambles
Chapter Thirteen: University of Connecticut: Finals Week
Chapter Fourteen: Cracks
Chapter Fifteen: A Tiny Piece Of Truth
Chapter Sixteen: Flashback: Forever Changed
Chapter Seventeen: Secrets Will Out

Chapter Eighteen: Fall Out

Chapter Nineteen: Flashback: A New Life

Chapter Twenty: Darren Admits

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