The Ice Queen, Murder of A Manhattan Diva PT.2
By: Karlton A. Armistad
[Before you begin reading this true labour of love, please read Part One of the same Title located in My Stories, Thank you]
1. Seek out Mamma Celeste’
The evening sky over the 4 quarters of Manhattan was a majestic blue & orange mix this Autumn evening, with the tasty and tender white clouds chasing the last of the day’s sweet rays making room for the arrival of a night sky.
The ‘Five Points Pond’ had a section covered in the Autumn leaves some red, orange and a mixture of brown and green splashed with burnt-sienna that glowed to make what was a painful and lonely moment for Loranda, as she sat remembering her dearly departed friend Dionte’ Sapphire; sad indeed. Dionte' who; only a few months before had been murdered in cold blood and left below the frozen ice of the Five Points Pond for all to see.
The Police investigating the death, had chalked it up to just another transgender prostitute that deserved what was coming to her for peddling her wares to the wrong punter. The two brothers from the Bodegga Mafia Family that been involved with Dionte’ were never interviewed, D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr. their father, saw to that. His minions in the Manhattan Police were handsomely paid off to ensure the boys’ names never came up as ‘potential suspects’.
‘This isn’t right, and someone has to make it right’ Loranda said, as she sat there, talking to herself. She was intent on getting her friend justice, and she was going to use her Jamaican roots and a little help from the spirits of her ancestors to make it happen.
As she got back to her apartment, she went to her address book and located details for Mamma Celeste’, a noted Jamaican Voodoo Priestess that lived in the Jamaican quarter of Manhattan and who many saw just as relevant as a Catholic priest to see to their spiritual and religious needs. Mamma Celeste’ was a portly woman who at 88 years of age looked about 35 with a pair of dark green eyes that glimmered like two priceless emeralds.
From the delivery of local babies to seeking help from the ancestors and those of the spirit realm, to getting an abusive husband to stop beating on his wife, people both feared, respected and honoured this matriarch throughout all of Manhattan. Even the all-powerful Bodegga Family paid financial tribute to her Jamaican Community Project Building twice a year (ensuring t was kept open). D’ Antonio Snr. himself made the journey from his palatial 25 acres three-storey Manhattan mansion, to kiss her hand and honour her presence.
If anyone could see to it that justice was done for Dionte’ Sapphire, it was Mamma Celeste’.
2. The Ice Queen Rises
Loranda gathered what she believed she would need to help Mamma Celeste’ reach out to Dionte’s spirit in the afterlife. Things she knew Dionte’ treasured and loved having with her as she went about her daily life. She took Dionte’s diary, her favourite pair of Louboutin red-bottom snake skin heels with the signature bow at the back and a beautiful Sapphire and Diamond BVLGARI necklace set in white gold (easily worth $20,000.00) that was a gift from D’ Antonio Bodegga Jnr. or ‘Baby-Tonio’ as he was known on the Manhattan streets.
Loranda couldn’t bring herself to sell it and didn’t need to as she had with a few of Dionte’s possessions which paid for her funeral and settled up stuff with her Landlord on the apartment. She did receive a Cheque for $10,000.00 which she knew without a doubt had come from Fayne Bodegga, the youngest son of the Manhattan Bodegga crime family around the time of Dionte’s funeral. Loranda cash it as well but couldn’t help feeling like it was some sort of ‘pay-off’ for what had happened to Dionte’. Wrapped in grief at the time, she focussed her mind and soul on giving Dionte’ the best send-off to heaven she could. It was elegant yet flamboyant, just like Dionte’; decorated with beautiful purple and white orchids and a light purple custom-built casket, the event only saw a small crowd gather to pay their respects, after which Dionte was cremated and her ashes returned to Loranda in a fabulous gilded Purple Urn with gold trimmings and the words ‘DS-TAKEN TOO SOON MY ANGEL’ on it.
The night air was stale for some reason as Loranda left her apartment with the gathered items she had put together for her visit with Mamma Celeste’, plus $5000.00 in cash, as no sane person would visit the Priestess and not bring a tribute for her services. As she drove to the meeting, her heart was racing slightly, and the care seemed to float along the moonlit Manhattan streets leading to the centre where Mamma Celeste’ lived and worked.
The Jamaican Community Project Building was a base for so many immigrants from the Caribbean to get many-many issues resolved; from sorting through and applying for welfare benefits, general health, dental and eye-care check-ups for adults. Even loan applications and baby-birthing classes and delivery rooms were there ensuring Mamma Celeste’ and her team of volunteer professionals could keep the Community going. Because of this there was not much crime in the area known as Little Jamaica, that and the fact that the local cops and City Officials were on the Bodegga crime family’s payroll allowing D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr. to launder millions of dollars through the facility while using 2 hidden safes at the top of the Building to stash some of his vast earnings.
The Safe was built below the 2 natural birthing pools located in the Suites set up for this purpose. Everyone involved in the construction that had any knowledge was killed so the only 2 people in the world with knowledge of the Safes and how to enter and leave them was Mamma Celeste’ & D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr. This ensured that should anything happen to either, the Centre could carry on long after they were gone.
As she approached the Building’s entrance, there was a looming gust of wind that carried with it the scent of Dionte’s favourite perfume and for a brief moment, Loranda felt that she was not entering this sanctuary alone and that somehow, Dionte’ was with her and wanted her here. She buzzed the small 2nd buzzer on the side panel away from the others as this one led directly to Mamma Celeste’ private quarters, as that was what she told her to do.
As she went in, and the doors closed behind her, she entered a side door on the right and followed the descending set of stairs 3 floors down. When Loranda got to the bottom of the steps, there stood Mamma Celeste’ dressed in all black ceremonial garments and a ceremonial yellow coloured head-wrap pinned securely at the front by the largest black Diamond Loranda had ever seen in her life.
A feeling of deep reverence fell over Loranda as she knew the woman standing before her guarded more power and secrets than any sector of top-secret rooms at the CIA’s Langley facility.
Mamma Celeste’ walked up to her and from a salt jar in her right hand, filled her palm with salt twice and through the contents over either of Loranda’s shoulders.
“Spirits of the After-life, Ancestors of the Slaves who paid with their lives to see Us free and surviving here in the land of the White Man; hear Me and come forward tonight. We seek to right a wrong and exact the just due on those that chose to take a Soul pure in heart too soon……Wallambehhh, awaken…Wallambeh awaken and give Us your verdict by the Ancient rights of the Maroons, the Yorubas and those of our Blood line that paid the ultimate sacrifice” chanted Mamma Celeste’.
Her body swayed backward and forwards as she recited the chant another 3 times and on the 3rd set of chanting, the lights in the Building flickered 7 times then the entrance to the area behind where she stood changed to a dark deep red colour, making Loranda's heart and general breathing speed up in both fear and awe.
“Do You know why You are here My Child? Mamma Celeste" she asked Loranda, in a voice that sounded so heavy, she knew this was no longer just Mamma Celeste’ speaking. “Yes, Mamma Celeste’ and the Ancient Ones; I come seeking justice for my sister Dionte’ who was murdered and left to wander the streets of Manhattan. I come to pay the sacrifice required and see her soul avenged and left free to join you in the afterlife” Loranda replied, her voice shaking but committed to the task at hand.
“Once you enter below, and pay the price know You will have no control over anything until the Spirit’s case is heard, and justice is done...... So think carefully as you enter, for there is no turning back” said the voices coming from Mamma Celeste’s body. Loranda was sure now she was speaking with the Ancestors directly.
Mamma Celeste’ turned and entered the room behind her followed by Loranda, they descended another 3 flights of stairs down, and as they got to the bottom, Loranda realised they had entered a ceremonial twin caverned space filled with incantations all over the naked red-lit rock walls.
The space was divided into 2 caverns; one that had Mamma Celeste’s ceremonial Throne decorated in the bones of dead manatees and goats heads. There were six ceremonial spears that surrounded the Throne itself and 14 tribal clay cast pots said to contain the 14 guardian spirits of Jamaica’s parishes. It is said their powers were limitless and was the source of the win against its British colonisers by Nanny, Jamaica’s only female National Hero in the 18th Century.
The second cavern had a large cast iron cauldron and 4 shelves filled with various potions and ingredients used for both healing and other various ceremonies performed by Mamma Celeste’. A side of the cavern walls had the splatter of dried blood from sacrificed animals which gave the room a strong potent scent of death and deliverance all at the same time.
Mamma Celeste’ swayed over to her throne and sat down, as she did she lifted her Ceremonial Staf which was wrapped in threads of black, green and yellow silk all the way to the top on which sat the heads of three Jamaican John-Crow Birds, their eyes had been removed and replaced with 2 sets of gems in each, one set black as coals, the next green as fields of sprouting sugar cane on a plantation and the last burned yellow as the first rays of the morning Sun.
“Lay the items of the murdered pure One down at the foot of the Ancestors Child; each separately apart with the offering in the centre, then take 3 steps back and bow down with your Hands point to our earthly vessel” the voices instructed Loranda and she as she did, for some reason, there was no fear left in her. She knew she was no longer speaking to Mamma Celeste’ but 1000 x 10000 spirits of souls that spanned the power robbed from Africa over 4 centuries, so why was she not afraid?
The Spirits began to speak loudly as they raised Mamma Celeste’s body up from the Throne and floated it above Dionte’s items that were spread out in front of Mamma Celeste's Throne.
“ Spirits of Africa, America & the Caribbean; we seek to raise the pure soul of our loved one taken by an act of treachery before her time, robbed of her chance to fulfil the promises You so gravely paid for with your lives on the Slave ships, plantations and streets of theses trouble and blood-soaked cities. Grant the Spirit of young Dionte’ the Power of the 14, with all their strength, to bring her killer and anyone that played a part in her death, an end befitting the laws of vengeance as set out in the sacred scrolls…. Wallambehhh, awaken…Wallambeh awaken, and give Us your verdict by the Ancient rights of the Maroons, the Yorubas and those of our Blood line that paid the ultimate sacrifice”.
As the last words left the lips of Mamma Celeste’s floating and shaking body; the room went a dark and almost blindingly green and Dionte’s Necklace lifted from the floor where it lay and disappeared into Mamma Celeste’s mouth, then a bright beam of screaming yellow light fired out of her Body and the entire building started to shake as if an earthquake had been triggered and everything around Loranda and Mamma Celeste’ would collapse and kill them both.
“Protect me, oh Great Spirits protect Me” Loranda repeated and even though she was told not to lift her head, she did for a brief few minutes to witness what she believed was impossible – the true soul of her best friend Dionte' returning to the world, from the Spirit realm.
She made out Dionte’s face, but not as she remembered it, as Dionte's spirit was angry making the area where her beautiful eyes use to sit burn a scorched-coal red with an evil glow. Dionte’ not as Loranda knew her was back and all those that had wronged her and robbed her of her mortal life were in for the reckoning of the century.
The shaking slowly stopped once Dionte’s spirit shot up the stairs and left the Building, and as this was happening Mamma Celeste’s body slow descended down back onto her throne and the lights in Caverns returned to their blood-red glow. Her ceremonial staff returned to its place among the Spears, and after 5 or so minutes Mamma Celeste revived and asked Loranda to fetch her water from the cauldron, which Loranda did with great haste and care.
Once she was recovered and could speak she said to Loranda with a clean straight focussed stare “It has begun My Child, she is awakened and knows her purpose. Before the setting of the Moon on the 3rd day from today, you must return here, wearing nothing but yellow, ready to bid Dionte’ farewell. You have granted her access into this world, so you must return to see her find her peace with the Ancestors. Tell no one of what happened here tonight, and failure to return as instructed will see her come to take You with her. The Ancestors have spoken, Wallambeh….Wallambehhh ohhhh”.
“I will do as the Ancestors have instructed” Loranda replied, then gathered her things and made a swift exit from the building and what was the most life-changing experience she had ever been through since birth.
Loranda’s journey home seemed no ordinary journey, looking down streets that were part of her drive, she kept seeing faint faces where there was none or people crossing traffic stops, but there were no actual people there.
What she had experienced had changed her, how and how much she wasn’t sure, as she got through her apartment door and rested her bag and keys on the side, she went to her liquor cabinet, took out her litre bottle of Wray & Nephew Over-proof White Rum, poured herself a large glass that would usually see her on her ass, and swallowed heavily, feeling almost delirious as the 80% proof liquid attempted to scorch her insides.
‘Do as Mamma Celeste’ and the Ancestors instructed Loranda’ she heard a powerful voice echoed across her spacious and minimally decorated living room. The voice and the image from which it came that floated above her plush royal purple velvet wrapped three-seater sofa terrified and comforted her all at the same time but was enough to send her warm blood racing at the speed of light to her already over-worked heart. The shock and alcohol mix didn’t kill her but made her faint & as she was falling to the floor, the last words to leave her lips was “Di…Dionte’”.
3. Vengeance Is Mine, Sayeth The Ice Queen
The views from D’ Antonio Jr.’s (Baby-Tonio) 7th Floor Manhattan condominium was mesmerizingly breathtaking. Located in one of the City’s most influential zones and on the palatial West 53rd Street, the 53 West 53 Building was designed by renowned architect and A-list socialite, Terrence Desparave and offered spectacular views over the Manhattan skyline while providing an opulent living to some of its most wealthy & desirable residents.
The property boasted 4 extra-large bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a massive kitchen, servants quarters, 2 parking spaces, private gym, spa, Olympic sized swimming pool and a concierge said to be 2nd to none in New York.
Lola Bodegga, Baby Tonio’s wife would have sold her kidneys and those of their 2 children to ensure they acquired this property regardless of her husband’s pleas that they needed to be living a bit more low key and not rubbing their ill-gotten wealth in the faces of these ‘high society assholes’ as he described his neighbours, which included, 2 Senior judges and a senior Vice President of Goldman Sachs.
So, Baby-Tonio caved and much to the surprise of most, made the best of living at the building while keeping a low profile. It was on one of these low profile starts to his day, that all was to change with such a major effect, nowhere in Manhattan and New York for that matter would ever be the same again.
Baby-Tonio couldn’t tell if it was the very dreary effect of the rain clouds hovering above the Manhattan skyline or Lola’s insistence to be a little more needy than usual and send the kids off to school early, and make him breakfast in bed, with the expectation of course of what past for a ‘passionate morning of love-making’ between them. He felt nothing other than routine when she was like this and his thoughts would drift to the ‘love’ he lost which took his heart with it when Dionte’ died.
He loved her, no matter what was said Baby-Tonio loved Dionte’ Sapphire, she had connected to the very soul of him, and when the time came to save her, he failed. He let his wife beat her up, he watched her take herself away from him and start seeing his younger brother Fayne and then finally did nothing when his Dad order her death for accidentally witnessing him shoot dead another rival mafia gang lord. Baby-Tonio had up until the very night the dirty cops on D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr's payroll; went and dragged Dionte’ out of her home and battered her within an inch of her life, then floated her body under the frozen ice of the pond to stop it but did nothing.
Dionte’s death pleased those who carried a grudge against her most, D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr. because she corrupted his sons and witnessed a murder she shouldn’t have, and Lola Bodegga, who despised the thought of Dionte' with Baby-Tonio more than anything, but it destroyed the Bodegga brothers, as both lost a piece of themselves the day she died.
Lola Bodegga made the fluffiest Blueberry Pancakes, dried and cured slices of Canadian bacon and served it with a helping of rich and luxurious maple syrup, all things she thought with freshly ground aromatic coffee, would get Baby-Tonio in the seductive sensual mood to pleasure her. Since D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr had authorised the death of that ‘man-woman bitch’ Dionte’, it was like her husband had given up on everything and started running on auto-pilot, but she was going to change this. She’d left him with enough time to grieve, now they were ready to move on stronger and more together than ever.
She was dressed in her sexiest set of Victoria Secrets' bright pink lingerie, with the French lace bows and lace revealing her voluptuous curves, sleek legs and washboard flat stomach. She couldn’t understand why even with having her to come home to, every night Baby-Tonio still chose to be with a ‘man pretending to be a woman’.
As she climbed the staircase to their Bedroom, a cold and almost heart-stopping chill came over her and the apartment went dark as if the building had suffered a major power-cut, followed by a gigantic flash of lightning outside in the Manhattan sky that seemed to rip a great scar into the Universe with the power it carried.
Lola ran up the stairs as fast as she could while trying to ensure the tray with Baby-Tonio’s didn’t fall. Even though her hands were shaking from the fright put in her by the lights going out and the deafening clap of the Lightning and thunder outside.
She pushed the bedroom door open to see a sight that forced the tray and breakfast to fall to the floor spilling food and coffee all over the light grey Egyptian carpeting.
D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr was finishing his morning coffee in his Study at the Bodegga’s Mansion in West Manhattan, there was nothing significant about the day other than it looked like it was going to rain heavily, and he needed to visit one his ‘meth’ production labs and change the leadership there as the guy currently running it was skimming both product and money, and that is the very last thing you do to the Bodegga family before you die. Rats/ informants and thieves were not tolerated in his organisation.
It happened so swiftly that even if he could have predicted it, he was not able to escape it; the swift but real - chill filled the thick sheet of floor-to-ceiling glass in the study that overlooked the garden, then with the loudest clap of Thunder then a gigantic bolt of lightning hit the glass shattering it into several large shards one of which flew across the room with ‘bullet precision force’ slicing almost through a half of D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr’s head.
The blood and brain splatter went everywhere, and as he sat there bleeding out and living his last moments, he saw a brightly lit figure float into the room with its eyes burning bright red like fully lit coals. He could barely make out the face but once he heard the voice he knew in his final moments what was happening.
Dionte’s spirit floated in with the lightning striking giving her a majestic yet sinister entrance. As she floated above what was soon to be the corpse of the late D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr, she uttered the following words then disappeared “justice for the taken, justice for the damned, had you let Me love him, and not chosen to rob him of a love you could never have”.
Everything and anything that played any significance in D’ Antonio Bodegga Snrs'. played through what was left of his mind, from the birth of his sons to the moment he married his wife, to taking over one of the biggest crime families in Manhattan. Who would have thought he would have been brought down by a woman in the end, and here was the end with none of his family by his side just what would be classed a freak accident that robbed him of all he had worked so hard to hold onto.
Sergeants’ George McRafferty & Christopher Brakes were considered two of the Manhattan Police Department’s finest officers. George with 35 years of service under his belt and Christopher with 40 had been partners for the last 18 years and had been on D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr’s payroll for 10 of those years. Family men with children and upstanding men in their own communities allowed them to cover to carry out some of the most heinous crimes with no one ever suspecting they were ‘dirty cops'.
In fact, George over the years recruited another 15 or so cops to join them in the ill deeds and gains, making the Bodegga Family untouchable and forcing out any competition to their control on crime in Manhattan. The Bodeggas facilitated the needed crime busts to prop up the facade that made every Manhattan citizen feel safe and validated and enhanced the careers of cops like George and Christopher. But instead of accepting promotions, they asked to ‘remain with their ears to ground’ so they could be more effective with tackling the city’s crime. This only meant they were better able to carry out the vile and murderous deeds as instructed by their true boss D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr.
Their squad car was parked just across from the frozen pond where they had left Dionte’s beaten and near-dead body to die that morning as for some reason both George and Christopher felt for breakfast from the Café’ near there.
‘It’s been a while since we came by these parts G, nothing but nightmares exist down these sides I tell yah’ said Christopher to George, a pain blank look running across his tired and rough face. Nothing from that night when they murdered Dionte’ as per D’ Antonio Bodegga Snr’s instruction had felt good and while he struggled with what little conscience he had left, George felt absolutely nothing. As far as George was concerned, it was just another day on the job.
‘You think too much Christopher, what’s done is done, let’s leave it at that and get a nice greasy breakfast to deal with this shit looking day’ said George.
As George’s hand went to open the car door, the power thunder cracked followed pretty closely by the gigantic and life-ending bolt that ended both the Officer’s lives in a fiery inferno that made the vehicle burst into a massive ball of flames and set off every alarm within a mile and a half of this freak accident. Christopher & George’s screams could be heard a mile away as they were burning, both noticed a figure in the flames.
They couldn’t make her out at first but did once the face of the entity and flashing red eyes were visible, they knew why the next moments would be their last.
Dionte’s spirit floated easily through the flames and as she appeared to the Officers, stated clearly for them to hear as their last moments were imminent ‘Vengeance for the many innocent souls you have taken suddenly, a painful end you have met abruptly’ and with a haunting and frightening laugh she was gone, and the men were no more.
As Baby-Tonio’s mangled body lay stuck against his plush grey fur and diamond head-board, and he struggled for the last gasps of air and life, he too saw what his father was seeing, as at the same time the thunder and lightning shattered the glass to his father’s study, so it did to the floor to ceiling patio doors that led out onto the balcony of Baby-Tonio’s apartment.
Lola Bodegga walked into this view of her husband’s body and as the figure of Dionte’s spirit appeared in the bright flashing of the lighting, it lifted her body from the floor with a deadly force, and she started bleeding crimson rivers of blood from her mouth, ears and nose staining the pretty lingerie and the carpeting at the same time.
In their final moments of life, they both heard Dionte’s spine schilling voice say, “ justice for the taken, justice for the damned, had you let Me love him, and not chosen to rob him of a love you could never have”.
The strong morning air fanned the flames of the apartment and set off the fire alarms, and eventually the evacuation of the 53 West 53rd Building that morning.
By the end of the Manhattan Fire Department brave efforts, the building was saved, but the Apartment belonging to Lola and Baby-Tonio declared a crime scene. There was little left to identify the couple other than charred teeth and bones. The hardest part of their deaths was, they left two young children behind who would never understand how such a freak and horrible accident was God’s way of balancing a terrible wrong done to an innocent soul.
Fayne Boddega sat on the black leather sofa in his office that afternoon trying and failing to come to terms with all that had transpired that unbelievable Manhattan morning. All of it was like a tragic nightmare from which he wasn’t sure he would awake from, and maybe didn’t want to.
His father, brother and sister-in-law dead in freak acts-of God incidents at the same time and the 2 cops he had suspected all along of murdering the woman he loved were also dead, what were the odds?
It was as if they had been taken out by the celestial mafia above, but even with them all gone and him now a ‘ward’ for his newly orphaned niece and nephew, that was not the pain that haunted his very soul.
Fayne’s heart never stopped mourning Dionte’s loss, as the day she died they had been making plans to leave Manhattan and move abroad where Fayne could practice law and Dionte’ set up to run her own upscale little Boutique selling handmade jewellery, fans and bespoke clothing lines.
A simple life for two meant-to-be souls. He’d fought his brother Baby-Tonio for Dionte’ and won and knew that somehow he could lose her if they didn’t leave as Baby-Tonio had never taken losing anything well a day in his life.
From the morning Dionte’s body was found under the frozen ice pond, Fayne sensed an intervention from his father, but couldn’t put all the pieces together. He did not speak to either his brother or father properly since then and kept avoiding them. Now he wished he hadn’t as though this seemed like closure, it was more death and grief and pain, none of which would bring Dionte’ back.
A warm chill filled the Office and suddenly through a beam of almost blinding light, there she stood. Fayne was looking at Dionte’ like he had just seen her yesterday but dressed differently in a white flowing gown that made the obvious fact that this was spirit all the more frightening and scary. ‘How….how…how are you hear D?’ he just about managed to mutter, whilst shaking like a leaf, and tears, a light but meaningful flow of tears streaming from his eyes down the rest of his face.
Dionte’ floated over and stroked his face, then gently pressed her lips to his, as she did Fayne body lit up for a minute and in that magical mystical moment and with that potent yet surreal kiss happening, she told all she had to say then disappeared. He laid on the opulent leather Sofa and sobbed with such openness and soul-crushing grief, that it made his secretary cry as well on the other side of the office door.
Dionte’ in her final act before going to Heaven, told him how his Father instructed the Officers to find her and murder her and that Baby-Tonio knew and did nothing to stop it happening or even warn Fayne, so he could leave with her and save her.
He saw how brutally she was beaten, tortured and then left to die an icy death at the hands of his flesh-&-blood, all because she loved him truly.
Dionte' showed him how she was granted the chance to exact justice and what he must do next with what was left of his life.
Most importantly in the rapturous magic of her heavenly kiss , she shared with him, Dionte’ and Fayne’s hearts re-joined in a beautiful unbreakable connection that would end his grief and see him enjoy another 35 years’ worth of life before joining her in Heaven.
The balance of Good & Evil had been challenged then restored because love conquers all.
About the author
Karl A. Armistad is the pseudonym for Andrew R. Little. I prefer writing under this as it allows me to look at any body of work I complete separate to my personal day-to-existence, and safe-guards my relationships and family.