Balance of Power, 60
For the past couple of weeks they had all been immersed in plans for the upcoming fundraiser to be sponsored by the Corleone family. Though listed as a charitable event designed to generate much needed funding for a local children's charity, for the Corleone family it was a valuable opportunity to gather the last of the supporters needed to independently fund Michael's proposed sports stadium.
Sabrina picked up a typed sheet of paper from the group on the table. It read like a virtual who's who of movie actors and professional athletes prepared to contribute generously to the children's charity Michael Corleone had chosen to patronize. Celebrities and officials that were not comfortable openly supporting another expensive sports arena could still show their allegiance to the family under the guise of performing a humanitarian gesture.
It was the other list, the one Tom Hagen slipped into his briefcase unseen, which held the true targets of her father's interest. The names on that list – men and women of influence - would not only contribute monetarily to the fundraiser, but they would provide Michael with the intangible assets that only incredible power could wield. Sabrina wasn't naïve enough to think that the people on that second list would gain nothing from helping her father achieve his goal. One hand washing the other was a way of life in big business. The ‘Family' aspect of that only served to intensify that practice. Still, as far as Sabrina could see, in business matters, a Michael Corleone endeavor was a good horse to back. She had discreetly googled his business ventures and been impressed at the scope of companies in the Corleone portfolio. That kind of business success – legal or not – did not happen by accident. It took a singular vision to amass and grow.
The time planning the fundraiser had given Sabrina the opportunity to observe her father in action. The man had a mind as agile as any of her college professors at Dartmouth. He anticipated the nuances of business moves yet to be made and gently revealed them in conversations for Sabrina to consider. He asked her opinions and then genuinely listened to what she had to say. Occasionally he responded with rare flashes of quiet humor that never failed to leave her momentarily dumbstruck.
Michael Corleone wasn't so bad when he wasn't focused on world domination – or her. Maybe if she'd met that man first, Sabrina thought, they would still be in Italy. She'd be getting to know her new family voluntarily and her kidnapping would never have happened. Sabrina forced her thoughts from the subject of her kidnapping. The less she obsessed about it, the better. Her nightmares had begun to fade; unguarded moments waylaid her far less frequently with recollections of fingers that touched her almost everywhere. In her mind, those fingers were the unseen face of her kidnappers.
She sometimes thought that closure might come more quickly if she knew what happened to the fingers after her rescue, but Uncle Sonny made it clear to her that she would never know the details about her kidnappers or their fates. Sabrina figured she had a pretty good idea what that fate was, though. While searching for information on her father, she'd read enough articles to know that such an affront against Michael Corleone could not go unanswered. Her father had to send a message to everyone else that they should not even consider another action against his family.
He must have done so. Emphatically. That much was obvious in the casual way Michael suggested the other day that Sabrina travel to a nearby deli for what he declared was ‘the best prosciutto' in the entire United States. As a matter of protocol, the guard Gavino would accompany her. Sabrina didn't think her father would have made the suggestion if security matters hadn't been settled completely.
“You are dissatisfied with the numbers of the proposal?” Sabrina jumped even though her father's voice was almost a whisper. She'd been so deep in thought that she hadn't heard him re-enter the room. “I am sorry.” Michael Corleone laid a comforting hand on his daughter's shoulder. “I did not mean to frighten you.”
Sabrina shook her head. She carefully put down the sheaf of papers she'd been blankly staring at for the past few minutes. “It's alright, Papa.” The title had grown more comfortable to her lips. “I guess I'm still just a little … jumpy.”
Michael pulled out a chair next to his daughter. “Would you like to talk to me about it?”
“About the kid-, the thing?” Sabrina gave a quick shake of her head. “I'm not supposed to talk about that. To protect you,” she hastened to add. “I don't want to be the one to bring you any more trouble.” She quickly swept up the papers from the tabletop. “Besides,” Sabrina deftly changed the subject, “I've put that in the past. It's over and done with.”
Balance of Power, 61
Sabrina shifted the first of two brown paper bags of groceries so that she could inhale the scent of the fernlike herbs protruding from the top. She had just been driven to a nearby market for some tomatoes; everything else in the bag had been purchased on impulse. Donatella, the cook, was teaching her how to pick produce. After each lesson, Sabrina liked to try her hand at what she'd learned. Today's purchase was fennel.
“Look, Uncle Sonny!” Out of the corner of her eye Sabrina saw someone seated at the kitchen table. “Look what I picked up!” She skidded to a stop when she realized that the man seated at the kitchen table was not her Uncle Santino. He was not any of the Corleone men. This was a total stranger, and automatically her heart began to race. For an endless moment, all she could do was stare silently.
“Forgive my poor manners.” The stranger swallowed a mouthful of food and dabbed his lips with one of the pressed linen napkins the housekeeper Donatella placed on the table each morning. “Here, let me take those.” He stood and rounded the table. His movements were graceful, but there was nothing soft about him. At just under six feet tall, the stranger gave off a definitely male vibe.
As he drew closer, of its own volition Sabrina's body took a single step back. She immediately regretted the defensive action and forced herself to stand still in the face of the stranger's advance. “Thank you,” she murmured, proud at how steady her voice sounded. Sabrina carefully moved the bags out away from her body. “Here you go.”
Though his eyes were filled with curiosity, the stranger gently removed the bags from her grip and placed them on the counter. “May I ask what it was you were so proud to show your Uncle Santino?” He looked down into the bags he'd taken from her. “Not these, I hope.” He pulled the stalks of fresh fennel from the bag.
Sabrina frowned. “What's wrong with them? I picked them out myself.” She had, in fact, taken quite a few minutes selecting the lush green vegetables.
“On purpose?” The stranger's lips curved into a smile at her reaction. His brilliant white teeth gleamed against the smooth tan of his skin. It was a tan obviously created by hours spent outdoors. “I am teasing you,” he laughed.
Sabrina took in the tiny lines that formed about the stranger's eyes as he smiled. Whoever he was, he was a truly handsome man. Not some perfectly coiffed smiling model, but a real man whose crooked smile lit up his face. "They are a bit older than they should be,” the stranger explained, “but they will do in a pinch. Perhaps one day I will accompany you to the market and show you the tricks I have learned from my older sister Carmella. She is a wonderful cook. As a boy, I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen with her while my older brother Francisco was off with our father.”
Sabrina felt herself respond to his charm. She had a weakness for crooked smiles. “You are awfully presumptive for someone who hasn't introduced himself,” she retorted.
The stranger lightly slapped his forehead with his hand. “I am GianFranco Privete,” he replied. “Your Papa and my own have a very dear friendship, as did their papas before them. Even now they are in there,” GianFranco gestured vaguely toward the direction of Michael Corleone's study, “speaking of business matters. Business ,” the wryly spoken word was accompanied by air quotes, “with a capital ‘B'. When they are finished, I imagine I will be summoned to discuss legitimate things.”
“You aren't a part of the… business ?” Sabrina imitated his gesture. She was intrigued. GianFranco was the first person to even hint at her family's line of work, much less come right out and say it.
GianFranco shrugged, took a seat at the table and gestured for Sabrina to do the same. “No. Much like Don Michael, over the years my father has legitimized our family's business holdings. My older brother will handle those things that cannot be cleaned up, but I am the youngest. My father is determined that his business not touch me.”
Sabrina decided that GianFranco Privete would be a welcome addition to her life among the Corleones. Unless he was a consummate actor, GianFranco seemed like a very straightforward and plainspoken man. That openness was a nice change of pace, Sabrina thought. Sometimes staring into the expressionless faces of her father and uncles was a lesson in futility. Tom and Sonny did not reveal anything they did not intend to. And her father, well… he simply revealed nothing at all.
“Since we are discussing introductions,” GianFranco said, “ you have not introduced yourself. Oh,” he correctly read Sabrina's skeptical expression, “I am not saying that I do not know who you are; you would be difficult to miss under any circumstances. I am saying I don't know how I should address you. I imagine that calling you ‘ Don Michael's daughter' would get tiring after a while.”
“Oh.” Sabrina gave a sheepish grin. “You can call me Sabrina.”
“Very well, Sabrina Corleone. It is a pleasure to meet you.”