Running with the Boys
When Daniela Vongola was young she would imagine that her life was a fairytale. She, of course, was the Princess, her father the King, and their mansion the Castle. Her father's Guardians turned into Knights in her daydreams, and Flames turned into Magic. All that was missing was a Prince come to sweep her off her feet, and maybe a white horse.
But little girls don't stay little girls for long, they grow up and they notice things. Like how everyone wears the same black suit, and carries the same black handgun, everywhere. Or how the men (with their interchangeable suits and interchangeable guns and interchangeable personalities) sometimes go off somewhere and never come back. Or how conversations go still when she walks around the corner. Or how neither she nor her father can step one foot off the estate without a veritable battalion of interchangeable men surrounding them.
She isn't quite sure when the realization of Mafia hit, but it's sometime after her twelfth birthday and before her thirteenth. It snuck up in all the tiny little things and then beat her over the head with the sheer obviousness. It strikes her that she really is a princess, a mafia princess, but this is no fairytale.
She's fourteen when her father begins training her to take over the Familgia. She's fourteen and she wants nothing to do with any of this. She wants to have tea parties with her friends (the daughters of Made Men). She wants to go shopping in Milano, and Firenze, and Roma. She wants to spend summers at Cinque Terre and winters in Salento. She's fourteen, and she's selfish, as all children are.
She's fourteen and she's aware. Aware that no one else wants her to be the next boss. They want her father to remarry, to have a son. They want him to designate one of her (distant, distant) cousins. One even mentions the other descendants of Vongola Primo, the ones from his second wife, the ones no one ever talks about.
But her father will never marry again, and Vongola tradition dictates a direct line of succession, and no way in hell are any of those damn orientals taking over the great Vongola.
In the end no one but her father is happy with the decision. There's nothing new about that.
It's been five years, two months, and sixteen days since her father announced she would be the one to take over the family, and now she finally has. There's nothing easy in it. She's married to a man her father picked out, her guardians she got to choose from a carefully edited list, nobody will take her seriously, and she still doesn't want to do this. But she is capable, and the ring choose her, and not a single mafioso in the world would nay-say against that.
But they still don't take her seriously.
Because this is a man's world, and girls aren't allowed to play. Daniela's not quite sure what she thinks about that. Part of her wants to wash her hands of them and play the pretty figure head they want, another part, that stubborn little girl part that when she was five caused her to climb trees thirty feet high, wants to prove them wrong, wants to take over, wants to dominate, wants to show them that she too has a will powerful enough to drive this family and shoulders strong enough to carry it.
She has to be careful though. Her father's dead, and gone with him is his protection. Attempts on her life are common enough without causing her own family to try to do her in. She's slow with her orders, stingy with her ultimatums. She bows to others in the family more than she likes. She caters to more of their whims than she's honestly comfortable with. And she slowly, so, so slowly, amasses power behind their backs.
She's charismatic, and perhaps more important she's desperate. She's smart, and she's determined. It isn't too long before she starts getting not just the power she needs, but the power she wants.
And then she becomes pregnant.
A woman can't fight when she's pregnant, because suddenly it's not just her own life she's risking, it's her child's, and even if it's just a little parasitic fetus, she loves it more than she ever expected.
Daniela doesn't love her husband, but she loves this child inside her. Even if it is inconvenient.
She's forced faster than she liked into taking a back seat when it comes to the family. Especially when the pregnancy proves a difficult one and she sometimes can't go ten steps without fainting.
Still, she's happy. She's so happy, and she's not sure when she ever felt this happy last. So she doesn't mind as she attends fewer and fewer meetings, sees less and less paperwork, and slowly stops getting reports.
She's seven months pregnant and the baby is the center of her world.
Right up until she miscarries.
That miscarriage changes something inside her. Snaps a part of her into tiny pieces that she doesn't have the motivation to put back together.
She becomes hard in ways she never was before. She wrests back every bit of power she had before the whole miserable affair with a ruthlessness she never showed previously. There is no joy in it, no satisfaction, but it's something to work for, total domination of this family that never saw her as worthy. And she's afraid if she doesn't have something to work for, she'll just let herself fade away.
The others of the Familgia can't complain. She's expanding the family's holdings. Forcing through good alliances and obliterating threats at a pace that's almost worrying. Some comment that she's a real Don now (because there is no term for a female boss), but there are others who worry.
Daniela doesn't realize it, but she's not so alone in this family after all. And, even if she doesn't love him, her husband loves her.
"It's alright." He told her once, hand on her shoulder as she sat behind the big, imposing desk that once belonged to the First. "You don't have to be this strong. You can cry."
She doesn't though. Not until he's gone. She's unsure how to share this deep, ragged hurt inside her, even with someone who might feel the same.
Two year's later, she's pregnant again.
This time she's even more careful than the last. She leaves her family in her husbands hands, who she might love more than she's willing to admit, and she heads to Tuscany.
The villa is called il Castagno. It's in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields of sunflowers. She can breath here.
Some of the best doctors in the world have been hired to look after her, and a midwife or two for good measure. Daniela follows their advice with all the fervor of a devotee following the bible. She eats what they tell her, sleeps when they tell her, exercises how they tell her.
And after nine months she has a beautiful baby boy who has her hair and his father's eyes. She names him Timiteo.
She's different again, when she comes back to the Vongola estate. There is a calm in her that seems to drift through all her actions. A sense of well being that pervades every move. Daniela is nicer.
Until someone put a hit out on her baby.
She's beyond furious. She's apocalyptic. She's so mad when she finds out she loses control of her flames for a moment and nearly kills the messenger.
When she finds out who it was that ordered this she leaves the house in a whirlwind, anger wrapped around her like a cloak, a gun in her hand and orders on her lips for twenty men to follow her. She has no patience to allow another to drive, and so takes the wheel herself for the drive into Roma.
She parks illegally outside the restaurant her sources tell her the utter, complete, fool is dining in. It's a mafia run (Family run, a hysterical part of her mind snickers) outfit, and the place is full of goombahs and made men. Daniela doesn't care.
She marches right up to Don De Luca and takes the seat opposite him.
"Do you know who I am, Don De Luca?" She asks with deadly civility. Her men stand in a half circle behind her, imposing in their identicalness.
"Can't say I've had the pleasure." The Don replies. Daniela isn't surprised. Few actually know what she looks like.
"I'm Don Vongola, and I hope you have all your affairs in order." She says nothing more as she whips out the gun and puts a bullet right between his eyes. It's not as satisfying as it would be if she used her crossbow, but it gets the job done. She turns to the rest of the room of shocked mafioso, who don't dare try to retaliate with twenty men pointing guns at them. "Next time someone threatens my baby boy I'll destroy their whole family, crush it into the ground until the only things left are the rumors, capiche?"
She sweeps out the door with all the grace of a dancer and all the fury of a storm.
No one dares to ever again threaten her son. At least not until he's well into his teens.
Daniela Vongola dies young. Not too young, but fairly young. Young enough it doesn't seem quite fair. She's less than forty when it happens, not a hit, not a fight, not an accident, but the flu, running rampant around the country.
Daniela has lead her family through two World Wars and more than half a dozen Mafia ones, but she can't fight something like this.
Her soon is old enough to take over now, just a little younger than she was, and it will be far easier for him than for her. She shouldn't have any regrets.
But she does.
She tried so hard to gain enough power to force the respect of her family. She never tried to see if she could earn it. She knows so little of the people in her family. So she tells her soon.
"Love them. Whole hearted. Maybe they'll love you back."
Daniela Vongola dies young. Her funeral is a sad affair, but her family will move without her. She made sure they could.
Author's Note: A Made Man is the term for someone who's proven their worth to the family. Your typical mafioso. A Goombah is a low level mafioso thug. Milano is Milan. Firenze is Florence. Roma is Rome. Cinque Terre is a collection of five towns on the west coast of Italy, right where mountains back up to the ocean. It's only accessible by boat or train and lovely. Salento is in southern Italy, where the weather is mild during the winters. Il Castagno is a real villa in Tuscany. I stayed there during my visit to the country.