When Kay Adams received her college degree, she took a job teaching grade school in her New Hampshire hometown. The first six months after Michael vanished she made weekly telephone calls to his mother asking about him. Mrs. Corleone was always friendly and always wound up saying, “You a very very nice girl. You forget about Mikey and find a nice husband.” Kay was not offended at her bluntness and understood that the mother spoke out of concern for her as a young girl in an impossible situation.
When her first school term ended, she decided to go to New York to buy some decent clothes and see some old college girl friends. She thought also about looking for some sort of interesting job in New York. She had lived like a spinster for almost two years, reading and teaching, refusing dates, refusing to go out at all, even though she had given up making calls to Long Beach. She knew she couldn’t keep that up, she was becoming irritable and unhappy. But she had always believed Michael would write her or send her a message of some sort. That he had not done so humiliated her, it saddened her that he was so distrustful even of her.
She took an early train and was checked into her hotel by midafternoon. Her girl friends worked and she didn’t want to bother them at their jobs, she planned to call them at night. And she didn’t really feel like going shopping after the exhausting train trip. Being alone in the hotel room, remembering all the times she and Michael had used hotel rooms to make love, gave her a feeling of desolation. It was that more than anything else that gave her the idea of calling Michael’s mother out in Long Beach.
The phone was answered by a rough masculine voice with a typical, to her, New York accent. Kay asked to speak to Mrs. Corelone. There was a few minutes’ silence and then Kay heard the heavily accented voice asking who it was.
Kay was a little embarrassed now. “This is Kay Adams, Mrs. Corleone,” she said. “Do you remember me?”
“Sure, sure, I remember you,” Mrs. Corleone said. “How come you no call up no more? You get a married?”
“Oh, no,” Kay said. “I’ve been busy.” She was surprised at the mother obviously being annoyed that she had stopped calling. “Have you heard anything from Michael? Is he all right”
There was silence at the other end of the phone and then Mrs. Corleorie’s voice came strong. “Mikey is a home. He no call you up? He no see you?”
Kay felt her stomach go weak from shock and a humiliating desire to weep. Her voice broke a little when she asked, “How long has he been home?”
Mrs. Corleone said, “Six months.”
“Oh, I see,” Kay said. And she did. She felt hot waves of shame that Michael’s mother knew he was treating her so cheaply. And then she was angry. Angry at Michael, at his mother, angry at all foreigners, Italians who didn’t have the common courtesy to keep up a decent show of friendship even if a love affair was over. Didn’t Michael know she would be concerned for him as a friend even if he no longer wanted her for a bed companion, even if he no longer wanted to marry her? Did he think she was one of those poor benighted Italian girls who would commit suicide or make a scene after giving up her virginity and then being thrown over? But she kept her voice as cool as possible. “I see, thank you very much,” she said. “I’m glad Michael is home again and all right. I just wanted to know. I won’t call you again.”
Mrs. Corleone’s voice came impatiently over the phone as if she had heard nothing that Kay had said. “You wanta see Mikey, you come out here now. Give him a nice surprise. You take a taxi, and I tell the man at the gate to pay the taxi for you. You tell the taxi man he gets two times his clock, otherwise he no come way out the Long Beach. But don’t you pay. My husband’s man at the gate pay the taxi.”
“I couldn’t do that, Mrs. Corleone,” Kay said coldly. “If Michael wanted to see me, he would have called me at home before this. Obviously, he doesn’t want to resume our relationship.”
Mrs. Corleone’s voice came briskly over the phone. “You a very nice girl, you gotta nice legs, but you no gotta much brains.” She chuckled. “You come out to see me, not Mikey. I wanta talk to you. You come right now. An’ no pay the taxi. I wait for you.” The phone clicked. Mrs. Corleone had hung up.
Kay could have called back and said she wasn’t coming but she knew she had to see Michael, to talk to him, even if it was just polite talk. If he was home now, openly, that meant he was no longer in trouble, he could live normally. She jumped off the bed and started to get ready to see him. She took a great deal of care with her makeup and dress. When she was ready to leave she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Was she better-looking than when Michael had disappeared? Or would he find her unattractively older? Her figure had become more womanly, her hips rounder, her breasts fuller. Italians liked that supposedly, though Michael had always said he loved her being so thin. It didn’t matter really, Michael obviously didn’t want anything to do with her anymore, otherwise he most certainly would have called in the six months he had been home.
The taxi she hailed refused to take her to Long Beach until she gave him a pretty smile and told him she would pay double the meter. It was nearly an hour’s ride and the mall in Long Beach had changed since she last saw it. There were iron fences around it and an iron gate barred the mall entrance. A man wearing slacks and a white jacket over a red shirt opened the gate, poked his head into the cab to read the meter and gave the cab driver some bills. Then when Kay saw the driver was not protesting and was happy with the money paid, she got out and walked across the mall to the central house.
Mrs. Corleone herself opened the door and greeted Kay with a warm embrace that surprised her. Then she surveyed Kay with an appraising eye. “You a beautiful girl,” she said flatly. “I have stupid sons.” She pulled Kay inside the door and led her to the kitchen, where a platter of food was already set out and a pot of coffee perked on the stove. “Michael comes home pretty soon,” she said. “You surprise him.”
They sat down together and the old woman forced Kay to eat, meanwhile asking questions with great curiosity. She was delighted that Kay was a schoolteacher and that she had come to New York to visit old girl friends and that Kay was only twenty-four years old. She kept nodding her head as if all the facts accorded with some private specifications in her mind. Kay was so nervous that she just answered the questions, never saying anything else.
She saw him first through the kitchen window. A car pulled up in front of the house and the two other men got out. Then Michael. He straightened up to talk with one of the other men. His profile, the left one, was exposed to her view. It was cracked, indented, like the plastic face of a doll that a child has wantonly kicked. In a curious way it did not mar his handsomeness in her eyes but moved her to tears. She saw him put a snow-white handkerchief to his mouth and nee and hold it there for a moment while he turned away to come into the house.
She heard the door open and his footsteps in the hall turning into the kitchen and then he was in the open space, seeing her and his mother. He seemed impassive, and then he smiled ever so slightly, the broken half of his face halting the widening of his mouth. And Kay, who had want just to say “Hello, how are you,” in the coolest possible way, slipped out of her seat to run into his arms, bury her face against his shoulder. He kissed her wet cheek and held her until she finished weeping and then he walked her out to his car, waved his bodyguard away and drove off with her beside him, she repairing her makeup by simply wiping what was left of it away with her handkerchief.
“I never meant to do that,” Kay said. “It’s just that nobody told me how badly they hurt you.”
Michael laughed and touched the broken side of his face. “You mean this? That’s nothing. Just gives me sinus trouble. Now that I’m home I’ll probably get it fixed. I couldn’t write you or anything,” Michael said. “You have to understand that before anything else.”
“OK,” she said.
“I’ve got a place in the city,” Michael said. “Is it all right if we go there or should it be dinner and drinks at a restaurant?”
“I’m not hungry,” Kay said.
They drove toward New York in silence for a while. “Did you get your degree?” Michael asked.
“Yes,” Kay said. “I’m teaching grade school in my hometown now. Did they find the man who really killed the policeman, is that why you were able to come home?”
For a moment Michael didn’t answer. “Yes, they did,” he said. “It was in all the New York papers. Didn’t you read about it?”
Kay laughed with the relief of him denying he was a murderer. “We only get The New York Times up in our town,” she said. “I guess it was buried back in page eighty-nine. If I’d read about it I’d have called your mother sooner.” She paused and then said, “It’s funny, the way your mother used to talk, I almost believed you had done it. And just before you came, while we were drinking coffee, she told me about that crazy man who confessed.”
Michael said, “Maybe my mother did believe it at first.”
“Your own mother?” Kay asked.
Michael grinned. “Mothers are like cops. They always believe the worst.”
Michael parked the car in a garage on Mulberry Street where the owner seemed to know him. He took Kay around the corner to what looked like a fairly decrepit brownstone house which fitted into the rundown neighborhood. Michael had a key to the front door and when they went inside Kay saw that it was as expensively and comfortably furnished as a millionaire’s town house. Michael led her to the upstairs apartment which consisted of an enormous living room, a huge kitchen and door that led to the bedroom. In one corner of the living room was a bar and Michael mixed them both a drink. They sat on a sofa together and Michael said quietly, “We might as well go into the bedroom.” Kay took a long pull from her drink and smiled at him. “Yes,” she said.
For Kay the lovemaking was almost like it had been before except that Michael was rougher, more direct, not as tender as he had been. As if he were on guard against her. But she didn’t want to complain. It would wear off. In a funny way, men were more sensitive in a situation like this, she thought. She had found making love to Michael after a two-year absence the most natural thing in the world. It was as if he had never been away.
“You could have written me, you could have trusted me,” she said, nestling against his body. “I would have practiced the New England omerta. Yankees are pretty closemouthed too, you know.”
Michael laughed softly in the darkness. “I never figured you to be waiting,” he said. “I never figured you to wait after what happened.”
Kay said quickly, “I never believed you killed those two men. Except maybe when your mother seemed to think so. But I never believed it in my heart. I know you too well.”
She could hear Michael give a sigh. “It doesn’t matter whether I did or not,” he said. “You have to understand that.”
Kay was a little stunned by the coldness in his voice. She said, “So just tell me now, did you or didn’t you?”
Michael sat up on his pillow and in the darkness a light flared as he got a cigarette going. “If I asked you to marry me, would I have to answer that question first before you’d give me an answer to mine?”
Kay said, “I don’t care, I love you, I don’t care. If you loved me you wouldn’t be afraid to tell me the truth. You wouldn’t be afraid I might tell the police. That’s it, isn’t it? You’re really a gangster then, isn’t that so? But I really don’t care. What I care about is that you obviously don’t love me. You didn’t even call me up when you got back home.”
Michael was puffing on his cigarette and some burning ashes fell on Kay’s bare back. She flinched a little and said jokingly, “Stop torturing me, I won’t talk.”
Michael didn’t laugh. His voice sounded absentminded. “You know, when I came home I wasn’t that glad when I saw my family, my father, my mother, my sister Connie, and Tom. It was nice but I didn’t really give a damn. Then I came home tonight and saw you in the kitchen and I was glad. Is that what you mean by love?”
“That’s close enough for me,” Kay said.
They made love again for a while. Michael was more tender this time. And then he went out to get them both a drink. When he came back he sat on an armchair facing the bed. “Let’s get serious,” he said. “How do you feel about marrying me?” Kay smiled at him and motioned him into the bed. Michael smiled back at her. “Be serious,” he said. “I can’t tell you about anything that happened. I’m working for my father now. I’m being trained to take over the family olive oil business. But you know my family has enemies, my father has enemies. You might be a very young widow, there’s a chance, not much of one, but it could happen. And I won’t be telling you what happened at the office every day. I won’t be telling you anything about my business. You’ll be my wife but you won’t be my partner in life, as I think they say. Not an equal partner. That can’t be.”
Kay sat up in bed. She switched on a huge lamp standing on the night table and then she lit a cigarette. She leaned back on the pillows and said quietly, “You’re telling me you’re a gangster, isn’t that it? You’re telling me that you’re responsible for people being killed and other sundry crimes related to murder. And that I’m not ever to ask about that part of your life, not even to think about it. Just like in the horror movies when the monster asks the beautiful girl to marry him.” Michael grinned, the cracked part of his face turned toward her, and Kay said in contrition, “Oh, Mike, I don’t even notice that stupid thing, I swear I don’t.”
“I know,” Michael said laughing. “I like having it now except that it makes the snot drip out of my nose.”
“You said be serious,” Kay went on. “If we get married what kind of a life am I supposed to lead? Like your mother, like an Italian housewife with just the kids and home to take care of? And what about if something happens? I suppose you could wind up in jail someday.”
“No, that’s not possible,” Michael said. “Killed, yes; jail, no.”
Kay laughed at this confidence, it was a laugh that had a funny mixture of pride with its amusement. “But how can you say that?” she said. “Really.”
Michael sighed. “These are all the things I can’t talk to you about, I don’t want to talk to you about.”
Kay was silent for a long time. “Why do you want me to marry you after never calling me all these months? Am I so good in bed?”
Michael nodded gravely. “Sure,” he said. “But I’m getting it for nothing so why should I marry you for that? Look, I don’t want an answer now. We’re going to keep seeing each other. You can talk it over with your parents. I hear your father is a real tough guy in his own way. Listen to his advice.”
“You haven’t answered why, why you want to marry me,” Kay said.
Michael took a white handkerchief from the drawer of the night table and held it to his nose. He blew into it and then wiped. “There’s the best reason for not marrying me,” he said. “How would that be having a guy around who always has to blow his nose?”
Kay said impatiently, “Come on, be serious, I asked you a question.”
Michael held the handkerchief in his hand. “OK,” he said, “this one time. You are the only person I felt any affection for, that I care about. I didn’t call you because it never occurred to me that you’d still be interested in me after everything that’s happened. Sure, I could have chased you, I could have conned you, but I didn’t want to do that. Now here’s something I’ll trust you with and I don’t want you to repeat it even to your father. If everything goes right, the Corleone Family will be completely legitimate in about five years. Some very tricky things have to be done to make that possible. That’s when you may become a wealthy widow. Now what do I want you for? Well, because I want you and I want a family. I want kids; it’s time. And I don’t want those kids to be influenced by me the way I was influenced by my father. I don’t mean my father deliberately influenced me. He never did. He never even wanted me in the family business. He wanted me to become a professor or a doctor, something like that. But things went bad and I had to fight for my Family. I had to fight because l love and admire my father. I never knew a man more worthy of respect. He was a good husband and a good father and a good friend to people who were not so fortunate in life. There’s another side to him, but that’s not relevant to me as his son. Anyway I don’t want that to happen to our kids. I want them to be influenced by you. I want them to grow up to be All-American kids, real All-American, the whole works. Maybe they or their grandchildren will go into politics.” Michael grinned. “Maybe one of them will be President of the United States. Why the hell not? In my history course at Dartmouth we did some background on all the Presidents and they had fathers and grandfathers who were lucky they didn’t get hanged. But I’ll settle for my kids being doctors or musicians or teachers. They’ll never be in the Family business. By the time they are that old I’ll be retired anyway. And you and I will be part of some country club crowd, the good simple life of well-to-do Americans. How dote that strike you for a proposition?”
“Marvelous,” Kay said. “But you sort of skipped ones the widow part.”
“There’s not much chance of that. I just mentioned it to give a fair presentation.” Michael patted his nose with the handkerchief.
“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe you’re a man like that, you’re just not,” Kay said. Her face had a bewildered look. “I just don’t understand the whole thing, how it could possibly be.”
“Well, I’m not giving any more explanations,” Michael said gently. “You know, you don’t have to think about any of this stuff, it has nothing to do with you really, or with our life together if we get married.”
Kay shook her head. “How can you want to marry me, how can you hint that you love me, you never say the word but you just now said you loved your father, you never said you loved me, how could you if you distrust me so much you can’t tell me about the most important things in your life? How can you want to have a wife you can’t trust? Your father trusts your mother. I know that.”
“Sure,” Michael said. “But that doesn’t mean he tells her everything. And, you know, he has reason to trust her. Not because they got married and she’s his wife. But she bore him four children in times when it was not that safe to bear children. She nursed and guarded him when people shot him. She believed in him. He was always her first loyalty for forty years. After you do that maybe I’ll tell you a few things you really don’t want to hear.”
“Will we have to live in the mall?” Kay asked.
Michael nodded. “We’ll have our own house, it won’t be so bad. My parents don’t meddle. Our lives will be our own. But until everything gets straightened out, I have to live in the mall.”
“Because it’s dangerous for you to live outside it,” Kay said.
For the first time since she had come to know him, she saw Michael angry. It was cold chilling anger that was not externalized in any gesture or change in voice. It was a coldness that came off him like death and Kay knew that it was this coldness that would make her decide not to marry him if she so decided.
“The trouble is all that damn trash in the movies and the newspapers,” Michael said. “You’ve got the wrong idea of my father and the Corleone Family. I’ll make a final explanation and this one will be really final. My father is a businessman trying to provide for his wife and children and those friends he might need someday in a time of trouble. He doesn’t accept the rules of the society we live in bgcause those rules would have condemned him to a life not suitable to a man like himself, a man of extraordinary force and character. What you have to understand is that he considers himself the equal of all those great men like Presidents and Prime Ministers and Supreme Court Justices and Governors of the States. He refuses to live by rules set up by others, rules which condemn him to a defeated life. But his ultimate aim is to enter that society with a certain power since society doesn’t really protect its members who do not have their own individual power. In the meantime he operates on a code of ethics he considers far superior to the legal structures of society.”
Kay was looking at him incredulously. “But that’s ridiculous,” she said. “What if everybody felt the same way? How could society ever function, we’d be back in the times of the cavemen. Mike, you don’t believe what you’re saying, do you?”
Michael grinned at her. “I’m just telling you what my father believes. I just want you to understand that whatever else he is, he’s not irresponsible, or at least not in the society which he has created. He’s not a crazy machine-gunning mobster as you seem to think. He’s a responsible man in his own way.”
“And what do you believe?” Kay asked quietly.
Michael shrugged. “I believe in my family,” he said. “I believe in you and the family we may have. I don’t trust society to protect us, I have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men where only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them. But that’s for now. My father’s time is done. The things he did can no longer be done exeept wilt a great deal of risk. Whether we like it or not the Corleone Family has to join that society. But when they do I’d like us to join it with plenty of our own power; that is, money and ownership of other valuables. I’d like to make my children as secure as possible before they join that general destiny.”
“But you volunteered to fight for your country, you were a war hero,” Kay said. “What happened to make you change?”
Michael said, “’This is really getting us no place. But maybe I’m just one of those real old-fashioned conservatives they grow up in your hometown. I take care of myself, individual. Governments really don’t do much for their people, that’s what it comes down to, but that’s not it really. All I can say, I have to help my father, I have to be on his side. And you have to make your decision about being on my side.” He smiled at her. “I guess getting. married was a bad idea.”
Kay patted the bed. “I don’t know about marrying, but I’ve gone without a man for two years and I’m not letting you off so easy now. Come on in here.”
When they were in bed together, the light out, she whispered to him, “Do you believe me about not having a man since you left?”
“I believe you,” Michael said.
“Did you?” she whispered in a softer voice.
“Yes,” Michael said. He felt her stiffen a little. “But not in the last six months.” It was true. Kay was the first woman he had made love to since the death of Apollonia.