Maria was aware of her father's dominance from an early age. She had grown up witnessing how the residents of their area looked up to him, how they whispered when he passed by, and how they deferred to him in all situations. Although she had never completely grasped what it was that made him so significant, she was aware that it had to do with the mafia.
Her father had never talked about his business in front of her, but she had overheard enough conversations to know that he was involved in some shady dealings. She had seen the way men in dark suits came to their house at odd hours, the way her father would disappear for days at a time without explanation, and the way her mother would look worried whenever the subject of her father's work came up.
Despite all this, Maria had always felt safe and protected in her father's presence. He was a tall, imposing figure with a stern, but kind face, and she had always felt like he would do anything to keep her and her mother safe.
But that all changed one day when Maria was 17. Her father was arrested by the police, and the whole neighborhood was in shock. Maria and her mother were left alone and frightened, with no idea what would happen next.
It wasn't until a few days later that Maria received a visit from a man who identified himself as one of her father's associates. He was tall and thin with slicked-back hair and a permanent smirk on his face.
"Your father's in a bit of trouble," he said, his voice oily and insincere. "But we're going to take care of everything. You just need to do one thing for us."
Maria was scared and confused, but she knew better than to trust this man. "What do you want me to do?" she asked cautiously.
"We need you to come and work for us," the man said. "You're a smart girl, and we could use someone like you on our team. Your father's debts are substantial, and we're willing to overlook them if you agree to help us out."
Maria felt sick to her stomach. She had heard stories about what it meant to work for the mafia, and she knew that it was nothing good. But she also knew that her father was in trouble, and that she needed to do something to help him.
"I'll do it," she said quietly, her voice barely above a whisper.
And so Maria became a part of the mafia. She was put to work in a dingy basement office, answering phones and doing menial tasks. She hated every moment of it, but she knew that it was necessary if she wanted to keep her father out of jail.
As the weeks went by, Maria learned more and more about the mafia's operations. She saw the way they intimidated people, the way they made threats and followed through on them, the way they used violence to get what they wanted. It was a dark and dangerous world, and Maria knew that she didn't belong in it.
But there was one bright spot in all of it: a man named Marco. Marco was one of the higher-ups in the organization, and he was different from the rest of them. He was kind and gentle with her, always making sure she was okay and never asking her to do anything that made her uncomfortable. Maria found herself drawn to him, even though she knew that it was dangerous to get involved with someone in the mafia.
Maria saw that her disenchantment with the life she was leading grew with time. She was aware that she couldn't continue working for the mafia indefinitely, but she was unsure of how to leave. Then one day, everything started to shift...