Balance of Power, 3
(Note: In this timeline, Sonny Corleone is alive and well)
The familiar low hum of a vehicle traveling up the winding road caught the attention of the ever-watchful sentry. Even before the car entered his line of sight, the guard at the complex's gate radioed ahead that Vincent and the Don's daughter were on the way.
"You know, Michael . . ."
"Don't say it."
Sonny Corleone continued as if his younger brother had not spoken, "She's just like you. Hell, she is you." He walked over to the wall and stared at a photo of Vito Corleone. "Do you remember what Papa would say when one us tried to prove that we knew better than him?"
The current head of the Corleone family nodded in quiet amusement. "I have obviously spoiled my children too much," he quoted, his voice an uncanny duplicate of his late father's. "They talk when they should listen."
"Right," Sonny pointed out. "We didn't turn out so bad."
"Because we had our Papa's influence all around us. Sabrina has not had this," Michael explained.
"And that is why I say you should not be so hard on her," Sonny emphasized. Of all the people in Michael's life, he came closest to filling the role of confidant.
"You are wrong," his younger brother replied firmly. "That is why I must break her now. Too much time has already passed." Michael Corleone's eyes were shaded behind the dark sunglasses he wore. But his tone signaled an end to their current discussion.
As trusted advisor for most of Michael's life as 'Don', Sonny realized anew that there existed a line which even he could not cross. And though he was older than Michael, Sonny deferred to his brother's wishes. To argue with him about the handling of his newfound daughter would be fruitless. Michael was very much like their father in some ways. His decisions, once made, were irrevocable.
Soon the sounds of approaching footsteps could be heard. Sonny glanced curiously at his younger brother. Easily the most powerful man alive, Michael Corleone sat regally in the throne-like wooden chair. His chin was supported by his right hand while his left rested easily upon his crossed right leg. Behind him, even the sun seemed to acknowledge his supremacy, for sunlight streamed through the window and illuminated the place where he sat.
"Well done, Vincenzo," Michael Corleone praised his second-in-command as soon as he walked into the room. He seemed to ignore Sabrina's presence completely. "Was she any trouble?"
Her father's gaze bore into Vincent's, demanding the truth of him. Vincent was careful not to look at Sabrina. Her beautiful face was set in anger and he knew that it would not take much to cause her to explode. Please, he begged inwardly, don't let her make this worse than it already is. He cared for her in some strange way, and he truly did not wish for Sabrina to suffer the consequences of her father's wrath. "No, Godfather, Sabrina was waiting just as she said she would be."
Michael Corleone's attention turned toward her. The room became even more tense than before, and both Sonny and Vincent waited nervously. For what seemed a lifetime, the head of the Corleone family sat and stared impassively at his daughter. His body was motionless and his eyes unblinking behind the dark shades.
Even in anger, Sabrina was forced to admit that the sight before her filled her with something that she could only describe as trepidation. This man, her father, radiated power even as he silently commanded her obedience. Rebelliously, Sabrina returned his gaze. She refused to bow in this contest of wills.
"Leave us," was the single command Michael Corleone finally gave. Without protest, Sonny and Vincent departed the room, closing the door after them. Casually, almost nonchalantly, Michael rose from his chair and walked toward his daughter. He stopped before her, and slowly removed his sunglasses, maintaining eye contact all the while. "What have I done to earn your disrespect?" he asked, head tilted to the side. Wisely, Sabrina chose to consider the question a rhetorical one and did not respond. "Have I asked for more than your consideration of my wishes as your father?" His voice was deceptively soft.
"You did not know my father." The change of subject was abrupt and confusing. Michael momentarily turned from her to gaze at the row of portraits on the wall. "He had little patience for disobedience." Turning back to his daughter, he said flatly, " I have none."
Balance of Power, 4
"My father had little patience for disobedience." Michael Corleone continued flatly, " I have none."
Nonetheless, his voice gentled as he considered her. "Every Corleone child, including your papa, is taught certain lessons from the moment he leaves the womb. Over time it becomes easy to see the value of such instruction. It is how we protect ourselves, how we guarantee that each of us remains in a position of strength." Michael shook his head sadly. "You, my daughter, have been spoiled. Your mother-"
"Don't talk about-" Sabrina got no further. Moving so quickly that she did not see it coming, her father grabbed her chin within his fingers. The shock of the action silenced Sabrina, and she stared at him with eyes wide open.
"This is your first lesson," he said, his voice low and menacing and his grip firm. "You never," he pulled her slightly forward in emphasis, " never interrupt me when I am speaking . . . Sono ho capito?"(Am I understood?)
"Si, capisco, Papa,"(Yes, I understand, Papa) she whispered cautiously in response.
"Molto buono."(Very good) He felt no satisfaction in seeing the fear come into his daughter's eyes. It was true that to his enemies he was a merciless foe. But it was also true that he loved his family with an equally fierce determination. Since he'd become aware of Sabrina's existence, the Mafia boss had moved heaven and earth to locate her and make her a part of the Corleone world.
But that world was a violent and bloody one. It was a world Sabrina did not fully comprehend, and there was no time to ease her gently into it. Her independence could well be costly not only to herself, but the rest of the family. Michael realized that if he had to break her spirit in order to help preserve her life, then he would. With no regrets. He released her chin and turned his back to her. Sabrina stood uncertainly for several moments, unwilling to assume that the conversation was completed. "Leave me," he finally dismissed her without turning.
She moved unsteadily toward the door, only to be halted by the sound of her father's voice. "Sabryn," Michael Corleone uttered softly as she moved toward the door, "Ricordarsi della lezione che avete imparato qui oggi (Remember the lesson you have learned here today) . . . I will not teach it again."
Balance of Power, 5
Sonny Corleone lowered himself gingerly into the spartan armchair. Certain movements provided him with sharp reminders of that fateful day. Folding up his lean frame in order to sit was just one.
Anyone gazing upon him would be hard-pressed to observe any physical effects of the ambush at the tollbooth. Sonny showed no visible traces of the barrage of gunfire that beset him that day. His face was unmarked and the years had been kind. Seemingly, his only concession to the ravages of time was the pair of glasses he wore on the tip of his nose.
He watched Vincent pace back and forth near Michael's study door. Every few steps he would pause and listen intently. What did he expect to hear? The sounds of a woman being struck?
"Why are you hanging around here?" Sonny Corleone asked his son. "Do you think Sabrina needs your protection from her own father? Or maybe you think Michael will ask your opinion on how to deal with his daughter?" He stared hard at Vincent. "Or maybe it's another reason altogether."
Vincent stopped pacing to consider his father's comment. The last thing he wanted was to give the impression that his concern for Sabrina was anything out of the ordinary. What he felt for her at the moment was the same thing he would feel for any family member called to task before the ‘Don'.
He straightened his shoulders. "If Uncle Michael needs me," Vincent told his father, "I'll be in the kitchen." Sonny did not bother to reply. He watched his son's departure through narrowed eyes. What he was seeing did not bode well for anyone, especially not Vincent or Sabrina.
The door to Michael's study opened and Sabrina walked out. Her face, still set in anger, now contained a trace of fear. Briefly she met Sonny's gaze. He shook his head in resignation. 'I tried to tell you,' his expression seemed to say.
A mask of cool indifference fell over her face. Inwardly seething, Sabrina turned away abruptly and began an ascent up the staircase. Her back was stiff and her hands trembled from the effort not to grab something, go back and fling it at his door. Crude curses in several languages waited at the very tip of her tongue. It was all Sabrina could do not to scream them out at the top of her voice. Who the hell did he think he was?! she railed.
As she reached the top of the stairs, Sabrina could not resist the impulse any longer. Grabbing a centuries old vase which sat on a small table nearby, she flung it down the stairs. It landed with a satisfying crash and then shattered into innumerable pieces. In a fury, she flung open the door to her suite. "Arrogant bastard!" she called out in her father's direction just before she slammed the door behind her.
Downstairs, Sonny Corleone heard the sound of something shattering, as well as Sabrina's furious curse. He smiled to himself. Sabrina was even more like Michael than he thought. Breaking her would not be as easy as his younger brother thought.
It would be interesting to see just who triumphed in the end.