Balance of Power, 6

Sabrina sat perched on the narrow windowseat and stared blindly down at the scene below. Young, burly men seemed to wander aimlessly around the courtyard. There was, however, no randomness involved. The men were in her father's hire, and they crisscrossed the expansive estate in patterns designed to protect every square inch.

She did not actively notice them. Her mind whirled with the same unanswered questions she'd had the last time she reviewed the document that lay in her lap. It was the letter she had stumbled across that fateful day eight years ago.

The young woman fingered the folded sheets of linen paper. How like her mother to use such elegantly refined paper. She was always about appearances, most of them deceiving. The unprepossessing sheets Sabrina held within her fingers were a perfect example. Anyone spying them would not give them more than a cursory glance.

But they were more than just words on fine parchment. They were a bombshell, generating fragments that pierced every aspect of her life and being. The pages were her mother's final act of cruelty toward her.

Oh, Sabrina had not thought so at the time. She recalled reading the first lines and feeling a joy that finally she would know her father's identity.

How ironic, the letter began, that the thing that brought me no peace of mind during my life would be the key to you finding yours. I put this letter containing your father's identity in between the pages of the Bible as a test. A way, I suppose, to see if it was just me that God had it out for. The fact that you are reading this is my answer.

You want to know about your father? Here is the whole ugly truth…

Ugly, indeed.

A shyly smiling servant tapped on her door and distracted Sabrina from her dark thoughts. She announced that the family had just begun to sit down to breakfast. Somberly Sabrina thanked the young woman, who backed from the room and closed the door behind her.

No matter how hungry, Sabrina was not prepared to sit cordially across the table from him . She was still smarting from the previous day's reprimand and had no desire to pretend that she was anything but furious at Michael Corleone's treatment of her. With an angry snort, she directed a very traditional rude gesture in the general direction of the breakfast room. It gave Sabrina a sense of satisfaction that was not dimmed by the fact that its recipients did not see it.

Sabrina carefully folded the letter and slid it back into the Bible for safekeeping. The black leather-bound tome was the single remaining tie she had to her mother. Cassandra DuMonde had been the only child of an only child, a fact which seemed traditional in their family. As a result, Sabrina alone remained of the DuMonde family line.

Perhaps that was why he found it so easy to uproot her from all that she knew. Sabrina had been on her own since her mother's death nearly five years earlier. Truth be told, the young woman had been left to fend for herself since the age of twelve. Sabrina's mother had moved from place to place and man to man. Always in search of the next meal ticket, there was no place for Sabrina at her side. So the young girl had relied on the kindness of a neighbor, an independent single woman.

It had been a nearly perfect arrangement. She was free to come and go at will, having proven over time that she was capable of handling the responsibilities of self-sufficiency. Sabrina, grateful for the steady home environment, was always careful not to cause any problems for the kind neighbor who was not much older than she was. In return, her mentor had instilled within her a sense of self-pride and worth. She had not discouraged Sabrina's stubborn streak, saying, “I've got quite a bit of that myself.”

All in all, it had been a nice life. But everything changed when her mentor fell in love. With the arrival of the new man there was no longer any room for Sabrina in the small apartment. But she was only months shy of her eighteenth birthday and bound for college anyway. So with a grateful heart for all she had done, Sabrina bid goodbye to the woman who had been more like a big sister than mother to her.


Balance of Power, 7

Michael Corleone pored over the day's news in silence. His starched white shirt was unwrinkled; his suit coat lay folded on the arm of a nearby chair. An empty plate sat before him, despite the fact that dishes of food covered the table. He did not partake of them. A single cup of steaming black coffee was Michael's lone concession to ritual.

Breakfast together was a Corleone tradition. Michael's father, Vito, had insisted on the family gathering around the breakfast table whenever possible. Don Vito was a great believer in family. That trait was first and foremost among the things he hoped to leave his children.

His father's example played a major role in molding Michael Corleone's character. The current head of the Corleonesi held the reins of both his business and his family with an equally tight fist. No one was exempt from Michael's authority, not his sister Constanzia or his older brother Santino.

That fact put his current power struggle with his daughter in perspective. Sabrina dared do what no one else in the Corleone family would – openly and continuously defy Michael.

“I see it is just us two today.” Connie's comment interrupted Michael's thoughts. In what had become almost ritual for her, Connie passed behind her brother's chair and let her hand trail along his shoulder. "Good morning, Michael." She placed a kiss upon his cheek before taking a seat. “Sabrina off sulking?”

Michael did not react to the provocation other than to meet his sister's eyes unblinkingly. There was no need to comment on her words. Connie had gotten her little jibe in. She would not press her luck further.

Born Constanzia Corleone, she was the only daughter of Vito and Carmella Corleone. As such, she had been allowed far more latitude of behavior than the average young Italian woman. Because she was female, her father had not insisted upon the very strict code of discipline that Santino, Frederico, Michael and Tom Hagen were expected to follow. It was an even stricter code than normal because of Vito's position as the ‘Don'.

Connie was accustomed to being indulged by the men in her family. In the past she had not been above using to her advantage her status as the lone female in residence at the Corleone compound. The presence of Michael's newfound daughter threatened her autonomy.

“She is too spoiled. That was a priceless antique vase,” Connie observed in an offhand reference to the unfortunate victim of Sabrina's ire. She looked over at the empty chair. “She should learn to control her emotions.”

“She will.” The two simple words reverberated with certainty. Coming from Michael's mouth, Connie knew they were not a prediction, but a promise.