As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Serial: Down the River – Chapter Ten

I’m finally revisiting the characters from The River City Chronicles nine years after their original timeline. I’ll be running the series weekly here on my blog, and then will release it in book form at the end of the run. Hope you enjoy catching up with all your faves and all their new secrets!

Today, Carmelina and her family prepare for family dinner…

< Read Chapter Nine | Read Chapter Eleven >

Join my email list to get my weekly newsletter
with notifications of new chapters.

Down the River Header

Chapter Ten
Secrets, Lipstick & Matching Khakis

Carmelina stared at the blank screen, willing herself to type… something.

Her uncle, if he really was—she’d never heard the name Angelo Farelli from her mother’s lips—had sent an email address with his letter. Which was good, as she’d be in Italy in just a week, and she had to decide if she wanted to respond to his unexpected request.

Well, she was responding. Aren’t I?

She should tell Daniele about the whole affair, but it seemed so out of the blue. So unlikely. She wanted to be sure there was actually something to tell him before she broached the strange affair with her partner.

Never my husband. The strength of the thought surprised her. That had been her Arthur. She was convinced that she still caught glimpses of him from time to time, lounging in his favorite recliner or puttering around the back yard

She wasn’t sure she was ever going to want to cross that threshold again… not even for Daniele.

Taking a deep breath, she began to type:

Dear Mr. Farelli,

I received your letter. You say you’re my uncle, but I’m sure I’ve never heard of you…

Too confrontational? After all, she didn’t want to scare him away. What if he’s for real?

Dear Mr. Farelli,

I received your letter. How are you related to me? My mother never mentioned a brother. Are you on my father’s side? I look forward to hearing from you.


She stared at it for a moment, undecided. Maybe she should just let it all go. What secret could he possibly have to tell her?

“You about ready in there?” Daniele’s warm voice from the living room startled her out of her reverie.

“Yes. Be right there.” She hit send before she could change her mind and pushed away from her computer desk.

Your move, Mr. Farelli.


A couple cities east, in a new infill apartment building along the bustling Sunrise Boulevard in Fair Oaks, Marissa lifted her head to confront the woman in the mirror. She stared back at herself, tired yet defiant, like an unfinished sketch that some painter had crumpled up and thrown into the trash. She felt worn.

It was a perfectly serviceable apartment. Six-hundred square feet, with a nice if somewhat boring marble-and-tile kitchen, a narrow living room, an ample bedroom that looked out over a back alley with a dumpster and a series of mismatched fences, and a bathroom with a walk-in tub—apparently intended for someone with disabilities. It had been the only unit left in the complex when she’d been ready to move out on her own after college.

Marcos and Carmelina had offered to help with the rent, but things were tight for both of them.

Marcos and Dave were having troubles with their business—the internet wasn’t what it used to be, apparently, though it had always seemed like a bit of a hellhole to her. She still liked popping on TikTok to see what was new, but she mostly stuck to texting.

And Carmelina was opening her bakery and needed everything she had to pay for the renovation, the supplies, the advertising, and everything else that came with a new business.

Besides, I have a good job now. I can afford it. Still, $1800 for the little white box she now inhabited—lived inseemed a little too personal—seemed like a lot. Small wonder she’d never be able to buy a house.

And it was a good job. It paid well, everyone in the office was nice to her, and she could work from home—from apartment, anyhow—two days a week.

So why did it all feel so empty?

She looked out of her bedroom window at the alley. A stray dog was sniffing the fence across the way, and lifted his leg over a lonely dandelion as she watched.

She snickered. That’s the life. Free to go where you want, pee on whatever you want… though maybe the last part didn’t sound too appealing. Maybe I should just take a nap.

Still, it was First Saturday, and that meant Family Dinner.

She decided to go without make-up, save for a touch of lipstick. There was no one to impress tonight, just Marcos, Carmelina, and their husbands. Well, partner, in Daniele’s case.

Her nonna had something against getting re-married. Ghosts on the brain.

She brushed her blond hair back. It had been good to see Gio the other day, even if it had been hard. He’d seemed the same. Maybe a little older, a little wiser, but still his old sweet self. She’d screwed that one up badly. She’d almost told him, but then had chickened out at the last moment. Maybe one day…

In any case, it was time to move on.

She slipped out of the white box she called a home and locked the door behind her. Down a flight of concrete stairs, and her Mini was waiting for her in the early evening light.

The driver’s seat had slipped back a bit—she should have them look at that next time she took it to the dealer. Reaching behind the seat to push it forward, her hand brushed against a piece of paper. Curious, she picked it up and turned it over.

It was a white paper napkin, scribbled with someone’s name and number. Ainsley, the waitress. She’d thrown out of the window a couple nights earlier. Must have blown back in.

She knew a sign when she saw it.

She stuffed it into her jeans pocket, and resolved to message the beguiling waitress later. After dinner.

Her family was waiting.


“Are you wearing a tie?” Dave sounded hungry.

“For a family dinner? I don’t think so.” Marcos snorted. “A polo and khakis should be fine.”

“Gotcha.” Dave popped out of the bedroom wearing the mirror image of what he had on. “Dammit.” He turned to change.

Marcos laughed. “No, leave it. I like it.”

“You don’t think it’s too… matchy matchy?” Dave frowned.

“No. We look like a couple.”

“Yeah, one of those couples…” Dave’s voice trailed off. “You’ve lost weight.”

Marcos grinned. “Been trying. Not that tonight’s dinner will help.” It was much easier when he could count his calories and know exactly what he was eating. Though with Dave’s wonderful cooking, that too was a challenge… “You like it?”

“I do. But I like you however you are. Thick or thin. Bear or otter.” Dave’s thumbs slipped through the belt loops on either side of Marcos’s khakis to pull his husband closer. “Sure we can’t squeeze out a few more moments before we go?”

Marcos checked his watch. “Why? What did you have in mind?”

“First, getting this belt off of you…”

Marcos didn’t need any more convincing.

< Read Chapter Nine | Read Chapter Eleven >

Like what you read? if you haven’t tried it yet, check out book one, The River City Chronicles, here.

Join My Newsletter List, Get a Free Book!

Privacy *
Newsletter Consent *