Archive for June, 2012

Excerpt 107


he stalled by the window, waiting for Bruno to drive away and rubbed her arms to get rid of the goose bumps that had developed during their conversation.  She walked into the kitchen to look for the pouch. Where had he been in the house and why? Danno came into her view.

She pulled an open bottle of wine from the cabinet and poured some into a juice glass. He came up behind her and gripped her shoulders, easing them back into his hands and rolling them forward.  He put his mouth to her ear and she could feel the moisture in his breath.

“What are you doing?”

“Drinking wine.”

“You didn’t take a pill?”

“None of your business.”

He spread his hand across her throat and stroked it.

“It will all be back, I promise. It will never happen again.”

“I’m aware of that,” she said, turning away from him.  “I can never trust you again. I should never have trusted you in the first place.  I don’t even know you.”  She turned and went into the living room, finishing the wine in one gulp and feeling the burn trail down her throat while lowering herself into an armchair.

“Do you think that matters?” He said, squinting at her. “Do you think what we have goes away just because we don’t know each other on a surface level?”

She didn’t want to look at him.  She didn’t find his face to be attractive, but it interested her.  She was drawn to whatever he gave off and she knew he could tell.

“Maybe not, but trust means something.”

He knelt in front on her, forcing his chest between her legs and stretching the dress across her knees.

“You’ve already trusted me in the most important way. Don’t dumb all of this down.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.”

“Don’t lie to me about how you feel. You know how I make you feel.” He brought her trembling hand to his mouth and kissed it.  She leaned back against the chair as his hands worked her.  She saw herself far away, slipping into another dimension that holds versions of people after they change.  Gene was right.  Anyone who heard about this would agree with Gene.  And it just didn’t matter. She leaned in to catch his kiss Soon after, he stood and she and allowed him to carry her into the other room.

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Excerpt 106


His hand slammed against the back door, inches away from her face, closing it tightly. In a matter of seconds, she had made it through the kitchen, with her purse, and had unlocked the door with the intention of running out.  She had snapped out of whatever effect the pill had, and was now wondering if she could make it back to the front door before he could catch her.

“Stop,” he said calmly.

“Let me go,” he said.

“You don’t have clothes on,” he said.  Taking her forearm, he lead her back into the living room.  He picked up the towel and wrapped it around her.  Sitting on the ottoman, he lit a cigarette. “Why are you trying to run out of the house?”

“Because I just realized that you’re crazy,” she said, looking straight ahead.

“What’s the definition of “crazy”?” He said, letting smoke seep from the corners of his mouth.

“Stop,” Ala said, shaking her head.  She headed for Emmanuel’s bedroom.  Danno followed her, grabbing a water glass off of the coffee table to catch ashes in.

She turned on the light and crouched at her suitcase, pulling out a dress.

“Don’t you think you should know what the word means before using it to describe someone?” He took her arm and pulled her up so that their eyes could meet. “Well?”

“I don’t know.  But there should be a dictionary in the study,” she said quietly. “How could you do this?”

“Don’t you think the bigger issue is how you reacted without letting me explain?”

She sat on the bed, knowing that allowing him to explain was giving him power. She was humiliated because she did not want him to leave and was going to hear what he had to say.

He crushed the cigarette into the bottom of the glass and set it on one of the bookshelves.  He sat on the edge of the bed and faced her.

“Everything is safe and in one place.” She froze her face to not give him the satisfaction of seeing her relief.  Her eyes searched her toenails, finding chips and spaces in the pretty purple nail polish, avoiding his stare. “I needed collateral.  The money is taking longer to come in than I thought.”

“What does that have to do with me? How dare you!” She said, storming into the bathroom.  She whipped the towel off, throwing it in the tub and pulled the dress over her head.  Danno lit another cigarette.  “I am not going to be involved with some compulsive gambler.”

“I’m not a gambler.  I promise.  It’s one of my shipments that got backed up. Everything will be fine tomorrow morning.”

“Shipments?  What, drugs?” She heard herself scream and could not lower her voice.

“No, Ala.  I’m not a criminal, okay?  I told you, I’m in textiles and this deal got too big too fast. I would never lie to you about this.”

“Not a criminal?  You just stole, I don’t even know how much. This isn’t even my house!”

“I wanted to talk to you before you got back so that you wouldn’t be scared.”

The doorbell made Ala jump.  It had not rung since she’d been staying at the house. No one was supposed to come by except for staff. She smoothed the dress over her hips and slowly walked to the foyer.

She saw Bruno through the screen and pulled the door open.  Danno stood in the living room, out of his sight.

“Hi, what can I do for you?” Ala said, crossing her arms in front of her unsupported chest.

“Everything okay, Ms.? I heard yelling.”

“Yes, everything’s fine. I was taking a heated phone call.”

Bruno stepped closer to the screen to try to see past her into the house.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, of course. I thought you had finished the yard hours ago,” she said, unsuccessfully hiding her annoyance. She could not pin down a solid thought and this gardener was causing further distraction.

“I left my pouch inside, I think,” he said, nearly pressing his nose into the screen.

“Pouch?  I haven’t seen it, and when were you inside?”

“Earlier today, Ms.”

She didn’t know if he was telling the truth, but she did know that letting him come in the house with Danno standing a few feet away, was not possible.

“Bruno, if I find your pouch, I will let you know, okay?”

“I need it,” he said, his eyes turning up in the corners with frustration.

“I’m not feeling well. I should lie down. I will see you tomorrow.”

“Ms.-”

She closed the front door and locked it. Bruno pressed his nose harder into the screen before turning and walking back to his car.

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Excerpt 105


Her wet fingertips touched the screen in order to accept the call.  She didn’t hear anyone on the line after answering, and hung up.  She called back and waited. He did not answer.  She dried off and let the towel fall to the floor.  Her hands shook and she tried to steady them, even when realizing that Emmanuel’s art and cash were still missing.  The whole nightmare had actually happened. She had not slept it off.  

Her skin felt sticky in crooks between her joints, from being in the same position for a long time.  She didn’t want to go into her mother’s closet because she was terrified to find anything else that she could never have imagined her prudish parents owning.  Her clothes were a foul smelling, stiff mess that she didn’t feel could be pulled onto her body without cracking.  She picked up the towel and wrapped it around her body, tucking the loose edge toward her chest.  It hung above her upper thigh and revealed more than any dress she owned.  She left her hair in the awkward half-wet knots that had developed and swung her purse over her shoulder.  Her brain nipped at her to drain the tub, and she swatted at the air to kill a fly she imagined to be buzzing in her ear.

She left the front door open and made her way toward Emmanuel’s house.  Her bare foot scarped against the warm pavement before she realized she did not wear shoes out.  She could smell charcoal burning in a neighbor’s yard and assumed her parents were close by, so decided to not risk going back inside the house.

Her pace was even, keeping the towel in place and allowing her time to think about what she would do when returning to Emmanuel’s house.  Piercing light struck her view very suddenly as a car pulled up in front of the house and stopped.  Danno got out and, seeing Ala, let the door close slowly on it’s own.  He approached, looking her up and down and seized both of her shoulders.

“Where are you coming from?  Why aren’t you dressed?”

The way he shook her made her brain tighten.  He pulled himself away to examine her.

“I took a bath. At my parent’s house.”

“Why haven’t you answered my calls?”

“I fell asleep in the tub.”

She could tell he was resisting screaming in her face.  She shrugged.

He grabbed her by the elbow. 

“Let’s go.”

She pulled back.

“No.” He shook his head and lifted her over his shoulder.  She let the towel fall and he clasped it over her bottom. “I can walk. Put me down.”

He ignored her and carried her into the house.  She could hear a car pull up in front as he slammed the door behind them.

“What are you thinking walking around that way?”

She let her body slouch down to the ground. Her chest was exposed and she sloppily tried to cover herself below the waist with the towel.

“I have more on my mind than that. The house was robbed.”

“It wasn’t robbed,” he said, turning on the foyer light.  “I took everything.”

 

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Excerpt 104


She turned the stopper at the bottom of the tub as the hot water spilled in.  She peeled the clothes that felt encrusted with dried sweat, first from the heat of the day and then from nerves, off of her clammy skin.  She rolled them up into a ball and shoved them into her bag.  She placed a pill on her tongue and sucked some water out of her hands, cupped under the faucet.  She pulled her neck to one shoulder and rolled it, her chin gracing her chest, to the other shoulder, forcing a deep stretch.

She knew full well that the pill would not help her remedy the situation at Emmanuel’s house.  She walked to the cabinet and took the toy back to the tub with her.  Ignoring the entirely too hot water, she stepped in and let herself flump down.  Her skin turned red as she scooted so that her foot could be used to turn the water off.  She dunked the toy in water and, bringing it back up, watched the ripples run off quickly, like water drops scooting on a drying windshield in a car wash.

Her temples loosened and the sharp pulsing on either side of her head became weaker.  She ran her hands over her thighs to confirm that she was actually in the tub, and had not instead fallen while climbing in and, perhaps was now lying on the floor unconscious. Would she be arrested for the robbery if she were unable to recover what had been taken?  Emmanuel would have no way to know that she was not involved.

She rested her head against the porcelain lip of the tub and pulled her knees up and in. She had a hard time feeling anything because of the temperature of the water but could tell that the toy was very lightweight. Soon there was suction, a tiny mouth grasping.  The phone rang, causing a jolt and making her hand jerk.  Sharp pain bit through her numb skin.  She ignored it.  She worked herself into a daze, staring at the white spacing between the gray rectangles of tile on the wall.

A Charley horse shocked her system some time later and she awoke submerged in water up to her chin.  She could not tell how long she had been in the bath, short of her completely crinkled scar white skin.  The toy lay at the bottom of the tub.  She pulled herself up and, freezing, rushed to a towel.  The phone rang and she yanked her clothing out of her bag to find it.  She saw that she had missed nineteen calls in the time she was passed out and now Danno was trying to reach her.

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Excerpt 103


She went to the wall, and ran her fingers over the  nails.  She looked in between the sofa and the wall, knowing that the painting did not fall, but still hoping it did. She clutched her bag to her chest and walked into the kitchen.  Everything was as she had left it before leaving for Boston; accept for a plate in the sink, now covered in water with crumbs floating to the top.  She remembered Danno eating a slice of toast that morning.  The snipping outside continued, but she could not see the gardener through the window.

She checked the back door and found that is was secure.  She made her way around the island and down the hall toward the office.  The door was closed, and she knew she hadn’t closed it earlier.  She slowly turned the knob and let herself in.  The window across the room was wide open, the navy blue sheers blowing inward and tangling themselves.  She quickly went to the window to close it and the corner of her eye caught what was gone from the wall.  The painting of the bowl of fruit having sex was not there.  She knelt down and tried to steady herself.  She felt pressure in every orifice and tried to focus on breathing.

Ala crouched on the floor for several minutes before forcing her hand into the space in the wall.  She felt around for the magnet and grasped as soon as she felt the smooth circular disc.  She brought it to the pick sand and let it hover above until the biting shine of the key drifted up.  She let out a celebratory breath of gratitude. She grabbed it and unlocked the bureau drawer.  She found the birthday page in the book and looked at the combination.  It was strange that she had no recollection of it, even though she had read the numbers so recently.

She stubbed her toe against the desk leg and cried out.  The scorching pain whizzed all the way to her heel as she eased herself down in front of the slate box.  She dialed into the keypad and waited to hear the lock releasing.  She pulled the lever and swung the door so wide that it hit the back of the desk.  Kneeling forward, she stuck her hand inside the hole in the floor.  There was nothing there.  She leaned forward so that her top half was practically stuffed into the safe and stretched her arm further.  She frantically swept the filthy underpart of the house with her hand, trying the will the money to be there. One of her legs cramped up and she pulled herself out.

Emmanuel was robbed of at least two paintings and cash.  She had no idea how much had been in the safe, but knew it was a lot more than the ten thousand dollars she was supposed to be making this summer.  Vomit rose in her throat and she swallowed deep to push it back down.  She closed the safe and pushed down on it to lift herself up.  She took her phone from her bag and dialed Danno’s number.  She listened to each ring tone, letting them hypnotize her, the purring reverberating in her ear.  He did not answer.  She shoved the phone back into her bag and closed the door to the office.

She walked through the kitchen and looked into the backyard.  Bruno was now on the other end of the pool, trimming the azalea bush.  She didn’t know if she should tell him what had happened.  She left through the living room, closing the front door and locking it.  She needed to be able to process what exactly had happened.  Obviously, art and money were missing.  But she had no idea how much. Calling Emmanuel at this point was out of the question.  Calling the police seemed to seal in that fact that a robbery had taken place, and that this wasn’t any kind of coincidence that she could easily make sense of.  Every decision at this point seemed so final, not to be taken back or undone with explanation.  And she couldn’t face that conclusion yet.

The porch light was on at her parent’s house and she walked slowly, the nausea still threatening her limbs.  The front door was open and she called out to see who was home.  There was no answer.  She considered that she could be losing her mind.  That she was the last person on Earth and that no on else existed anymore. She remembered Bruno in the garden and had a hint of relief, like putting an ice cube to a third degree burn.  She climbed the stairs, clutching the railing with both hands.  The job was so simple.  All that was expected of her was to watch the house and the possessions inside.  A child could have done that.  And she failed.

She went into her parent’s bathroom. It had been cleaned recently and smelled of the orange scented disinfectant her mother preferred.  She locked the door behind her.  Slitting her wrists was not going to happen.

“Cowardly baby,” she said in the mirror, realizing that there would be no suicide tonight.  She knew in her being, somewhere, that this would be ironed out, most likely with the help of her parents, because she was not brave.  She did not know how to correct her mistakes.  She only knew how to run away.  She decided on Demerol, that she knew her mother had in the house, and a bath.

She opened the medicine cabinet and amongst the mass of white, stood the hot pink sparkly toy.

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Excerpt 102


Weary from the disruptive bus ride, Ala walked from the train station.  She had called Danno again when she arrived, but could not reach him.  She was too tired, and aching for a shower, to think about where he might be and why he was not taking her calls.

A pebble bounced around in her shoe and she didn’t bother to stop and fish it out.  Instead, she let it get wedged in between two toes and then fall over and over, scraping the skin in the crevice between them.  She was going directly to Emmanuel’s house, but then decided she should stop in by her parents.  She hadn’t seen them in what seemed like months, and she thought they should know about Jase’s mother.

Approaching the house, she saw a figure sitting on the porch.  She sped up, the pebble now stuck  in the front of her foot and digging into her flesh, as she prepared to fly into Danno’s arms.  The man stood and she could tell, from his droopy posture, that is wasn’t Danno, but Gene.

His eyebrows rose upon seeing her, but he did not smile.  She smiled and dropped her bag on the lawn while removing her shoe.  Dried splotches of blood surrounded her toes and she could not tell which were actually injured.  Gene came over and picked up her bag, moving it to the porch.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes,” she said, walking to the other side of the lawn to find the garden hose.  She turned it on and the water sprayed, wetting her dress, before letting out an even gush.  She rinsed her toes and the coldness made her entire foot numb. “Hi.”

“Hi.  I thought I’d come by since I didn’t hear back from you.”

“I’m sorry.  I just got back from Boston.”

“You went for one day? Why didn’t you stay for the weekend?”

“Something came up with Jase, and I thought I should go. I was very wrong.”

Gene sat on the last porch step, letting his long legs stretch out in front of him.  Ala turned off the hose and sat in the grass.

“What happened?”

“It was disturbing.  Basically he’s mad at things he can’t control and he’s taking it out on me.”

“Oh?” Gene said this as if she was leaving something out, which she was.  She didn’t feel it was her place to discuss Jase’s family, or how he felt about her, with anyone.

“Yes. So I thought it would be best to leave.”

“That doesn’t explain why you haven’t gotten back to me.”  He picked the tiny blades from a bush, crinkling them into green dust and letting it fly from his palm.

“There’s been a lot going on. I met someone.”

“Really?”

“I did.” It was too much to contain her smile, so she showed her teeth freely.

“Where?”

“The race track.”  His eyes widened.

“At Dora’s party?”

“No. The next day.  It’s sort of a long story.”

“The day we had a drink?”

Ala had forgotten about the drunken advance after Flynn’s. She looked down at her red foot.

“Yes. I think you’ll like him.”

“I’m meeting him?” Gene said with thick disgust on his lips.

“I think you should. Things are moving quickly.”

“I’ll say.”

“It’s hard to explain.”

“I thought you’ve been holed up finishing that paper.”

Ala had forgotten entirely about her term paper.  She had signed up for the summer class to take her mind off of Jase and now most likely would not pass.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call you back.  I took a job too.”

Gene shook his head.

“I’m worried.  You look exhausted. And this whole thing with the guy sounds crazy.”

“I can’t explain it.  I feel different.”

“What do you even know about him?”

She hadn’t thought of that either.

“Gene, please don’t worry.  Do you think this is upsetting because maybe, you might have feelings for me?”

He scoffed. Ala nodded empathetically.

“Why would you think that?”

“Well, because you kissed me, for one.”

“Ala, I was very drunk. And you were flirting back all night.”

She felt her face getting warm.

“What?”

“It’s what we do, Ala.  Come on, we’ve always been that way.  Stolen glances, laughing, touching.  This time, I drank too much.”

She was embarrassed.

“Why would you ever do that?”

“Why would you ever let me hold your hand?  Even when you were with Jase?”

She stood up and crossed her arms.  She had nothing to say in that moment, but when coming up with something, raised her voice.

“This is ridiculous.  I met someone. I want to be with him.”

“Fine.  But I have a right to say if I think something is off.”

“Since when?” She said, pulling her shoe back on.

“Look, don’t call me crying and bitching when this guy fucks up, okay? Think about what you’re doing for once!”

She turned, picked up her bag, and stomped off toward Emmanuel’s house.  Her entire relationship with Gene had been built on superficial feelings. She was infuriated that he would kiss her without feeling anything for her. And if that were the case, why did he seem put off when she revealed that she met Danno the same day they had drinks?

She wanted to call Danno again, and secretly hoped she had missed his call while arguing with Gene in front of her parent’s house.  Why hadn’t they come outside to see what was happening?

As soon as she made it to Emmanuel’s front door, she let the tears drip loosely down her face.  She heard snipping shears coming from the yard and typed in the code for entry.  As soon as she crossed the first arch inside, her stomach jumped up high before hitting the ground.  The air smelled different or felt different, or both.  She struggled for equilibrium.

In the main living area, across from the bay window, was a piercing white square, surrounded by the slightly dim white of the wall.  A massive painting was removed, leaving only the two brittle nails sticking out.

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Excerpt 101


The bus ride back was very crowded with someone sneezing or coughing every thirty seconds.  Ala tried to wedge her bag between her head and the window to sleep, but she could not curb her nausea.  She thought about Jase telling his parents that everything had been her fault.  She knew that even though his parents adored her, he was their son, and that eventually they would side with him.  She didn’t want Abigail to die knowing that her son was in pain.  So many complications.

A child kicked the back of her seat.  She fought the urge to spin around, wrap both hands around his neck and shake him back and forth until her turned purple.  She had never had such a violent desire before. Now all of her actions and sensations were heightened.  She was fully awake and cognizant of every situation she was part of.

It was because of Danno of course.  He was the love of her life, if those were real.  He was the person who in some roundabout way, made her be who was really was.  She thought of his hands and the pleasantly rough knuckles he used to run down her back.  Her insides vibrated ever so slightly with the thought of being with him night after night.  It was now impossible to go back to any other arrangement.  She was fortunate that she met him at such a transitional phase in her life.

She crossed her legs tightly and used the rhythmic kicking of her seat as a rocking mechanism.  It felt good.  Of course it was not as powerful as actually being with Danno, but it was a distraction from the heinous discomfort this ride brought on.  She wondered if certain men had more interest in a full sexual experience, rather than only caring about their own pleasure, and if that was why some were less skilled than others.  She had heard disturbing stories from Gertrude about traumatizing sex since they were fifteen years old. So many in fact, that she was surprised Gertrude even bothered anymore.  Now she knew that Gertrude had never been with anyone who cared about her pleasure, only their own.   Her eyes wetted with overwhelming gratitude that Danno pushed his way into her life.

She was able to drift off as the bus rushed over the last bridge. She was relieved that she was home, or at least, on her way to someone she never wanted to be away from.

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