The Monster : A Mafia Romance by L.J. Shen


“Maybe we were never meant for each other. But that night at the carnival, when you showed me who you were, I figured out who I wanted to be.”

The most important thing I’d ever read was scribbled on the door of a portable restroom, engraved into plastic at a carnival on the outskirts of Boston.

Lust lingers, love stays.

Lust is impatient, love waits.

Lust burns, love warms.

Lust destroys, but love? Love kills.

Maybe it was always my destiny to fall in love with a monster.

When other kids stayed awake at night fearing the pointy-toothed beast hiding in their closet, I longed to see mine.

I wanted to feed it, domesticate it, understand it.

Sam and I were only allowed to love each other in the dark.

Once our story unfolded, and the truth came to light, I was the one to cut the cord.

My name is Aisling Fitzpatrick, and I have a confession to make.

Sam Brennan is not the only monster in this story.

To monsters everywhere, and to sword-yielding Pang and Jan. Thank you for storming into my life.

“You Are in Love with a Psycho”—Kasabian

“Rock & Roll Queen”—The Subways

“I’m Not in Love”—Kelsey Lu

“Good Girls Bad Boys”—Falling in Reverse

“Wow”—Zara Larsson

“Listen Up”—The Gossip

“The End of the World”—Skeeter Davis

“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.”

—Werner Herzog

Age 9

This is the last time you ever cry in your life, shithead.

That was the only thing that went through my head when the woman who gave birth to me punched the doorbell five times in a row, clutching the back of my shirt like she was disposing of some punk who’d TP’d her house on her neighbor’s doorstep.

The door to Uncle Troy’s penthouse swung open. She shoved me past the threshold.

“Here. All yours. You win.”

I flung myself into the arms of Aunt Sparrow, who staggered backward, pulling me to her chest in a protective hug.

Sparrow and Troy Brennan weren’t really my aunt and uncle, but I spent a lot of time with them—and by ‘a lot’, I mean still not enough.

Cat, AKA the woman who birthed me, was giving me away. She’d made up her mind tonight when she’d passed by me, on her way to her bedroom.

“Why are you so small? Pam’s kid is your age, and he is, like, huge.”

“Because you never fucking feed me.” I flung my joystick to the side, giving her stink eye.

“You’re, like, ten or eleven, Samuel! Make yourself a sandwich.”

I was a nine-year-old and a malnourished one at that. But she was right. I should make myself a sandwich. I would if we had the ingredients for it. There weren’t even condiments in our house, only drug paraphernalia and enough booze to fill the Charles River.

Not that Cat cared. She was blind with rage because I stole her cocaine and sold it to some wiseguys down the street then used the money to buy four McMeals and a Nerf gun, when she left me unattended tonight.

Grandma Maria was the one who did the heavy lifting when it came to raising me. She lived with us, working two jobs to support us. Catalina was in the background, like a piece of furniture. There, but not really. We lived under the same roof, but she moved out whenever her boyfriends were whipped enough to let her stay with them. She went to rehab centers, and dated married men, and somehow had money to buy expensive bags and shoes. Kids at school kept telling me their dads said Cat knew the curve of every mattress at our local Motel 6, and even though I wasn’t sure what it meant, I was sure it wasn’t good.

I once eavesdropped on Uncle Troy telling her, “He is not the fucking Hamptons, Cat. You can’t visit him periodically, when the weather allows it.”

Catalina had told him to shut his trap. That I was the worst mistake she had ever made while she was high.

That day, I got expelled. Beat the shit out of Neil DeMarco for saying his dad and mom were getting a divorce because of my mom.

“Your mom’s a slut, and now I have to move to a smaller house! I hate you!”

I’d given him a different reason to hate me by the time I was done with him, one he would always remember because it changed his face.