Archive for July, 2012

Excerpt 113


She flexed and clenched her entire body, trying to wiggle out of the hands that were holding under her armpits and another set holding her feet.  It did no good.  The hands squeezed tighter, making her tired.  She wanted so badly to rest but needed to keep fighting.  No one was helping her.  No one was out, most likely, because it was still so early in the morning.  She thrashed her head back and forth, trying to see through the impenetrable cloth.

Both bodies that were carrying her halted. A fleeting moment allowed her to think that they had realized they had the wrong girl and that this was all a mistake. Sweat dripped into her eyes and the sack made her skin crawl with its itchy fibers. She heard metal sliding against metal, like a door was opening.

It was a vehicle door.  She thought of the rules she was taught in the self-defense class she and Gertrude had taken at the library; never let them take you to a second location.  She sprung with all her might and managed to kick one foot out of the fierce grip.  Just then, a hard object smacked her across the face. She had never experienced such a dull pain that exploded into all of her senses. Her ears rung lowly and she wondered if her nose was misaligned, as she tasted blood running into the corners of her mouth. Whatever hit her was very heavy and she thought it might be a gun.

She felt rope wrapping around her ankles and hands at the same time. There were more than two people involved.  The hands swung and heaved her body onto a hard metal floor.  She landed on one knee and the agony made her fall face first.  The door closed.  Some strident notes rang out from what must have been the car radio. She couldn’t recognize the song but it sounded of Middle Eastern origin.

An engine started and rattled as they left the beach.  She struggled to roll herself onto her back, but hand no success.  The sharp turns made her slide face first into the corners under the seats. It took a lot of concentration not to scream.  She knew it would waste her energy and worse, that no one would hear her. She wondered where they were going.  They could have passed her parent’s house.  Her parents, post coital from their block party, had no idea their daughter had been abducted.

She heard the familiar ringing of her phone.  Her bag must have made it into the car.  It must be Danno calling, saying that he had finished breakfast with Rainbow.  It was time to talk about where they could run off to together. He would think that she was ignoring his phone call.

She flayed about the compartment, trying to get the sack off of her head again to be able to identify who was responsible.  She felt the rope rub against the skin on her wrists, savagely scratching.  She decided it was too soon to cry and, making that very decision meant that shock had set in.  Still though, crying would make her more helpless.

“Please make the car stop,” she whispered. “Please let this be a mistake.”

“Shut up back there,” a low, crackling voice roared. She felt tiny hairs all over her body spring straight up. “I’ll cut off that pretty pink tongue and stuff it down your throat.”

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Excerpt 112


There was an inexplicable quiet among them.  She considered dialing the police, but wasn’t sure what to tell them. She couldn’t register what she was seeing or who was even in the room.  She knew, without directly recognizing them, that her parents were involved and tracked a few more familiar faces.  No noticed her.  No one stopped.  She became angry that there were no precautions taken to make sure she did not walk into this.  She was still a member of the household, even though she did not pay any of the expenses.

The condition of the room was jarring.  All of the curtains were closed tightly. Her parents eight hundred thread count sheets were twisted and balled up across the bed. There were pieces of costumes from different time periods flung everywhere.  Someone moaned, forcing Ala to quickly turn around and made her way downstairs to the living room, where she sat in an armchair, her arms wrapped around her legs and rocked slowly back and forth. She thought of a Fendi painting she had stumbled upon in college.  All of the round, open bodies, different shades of peach, in the water each taking to one another.  The lines were so smooth and the bodies were depicted as so approachable, because the eye had a difficult time deciphering where one began and one ended.  She tried to think of the naturalness of the act and could not find a way.

She awoke to the sound of a loud engine rumbling down the street and looked out the window.  A truck was backing up into Emmanuel’s driveway.  She watched a wiry man hop out of the passenger side and motion for the driver to keep easing back, making sure not to run over any of the plants.  It must be all of the artwork and cash being returned.  She felt her upper back droop slightly with relief as the driver turned off the ignition and the wiry guy opened the back door.

She heard laughter upstairs and remembered the horrific scene that she for sure had seen, and had not dreamt.  A group descended the staircase.  Two of them were the Neely’s, with Mrs. straightening her wrap-around skirt as Mr. zipped up his pants, smiling. She saw Jeanne and Peter, faces red and smeared with one of her false eyelashes dangling from her eyelid.  There were others she was sure she had either seen at the library, or the grocer or the drycleaners or any other mundane errand mecca.  Was the whole village involved?

Her parents were the last to come down, both wearing robes, they stopped at the front door to hug the last couple to leave and her mother whispered something Ala could not make out.  The door closed and Ala cleared her throat.

“Ala,” her mother gasped and held the robe closed across her chest.  She was not aware that Ala had most likely seen her breasts and some man, other than her father, attached to them.

“What are you doing home?” Her father said.

She stood and felt tears falling out of the corners of her eyes.

“What the Hell was that?”

“What do you mean?” Her mother asked.

“This is what you do now!” She screamed.  It was too much.  The haze from pills and sex had lifted and she was very alert and terrified of the situation.  “I saw both of you!  Upstairs in my own house.”

“Ala, you’re not supposed to be staying here,” her mother said.  “You’ve been coming and going all week as you please.  You can’t expect us to not live our lives.”

“Since when is this your life?”

“Let me try to explain this to you, Ala,” he father said very calmly.  “Let’s go outside.”

“Coffee?” Her mother said.

“Yes, please,” he said and opened the door.  Ala followed him onto the porch and sat a distance away; eyeing the truck outside of Emmanuel’s to make sure she had not imagined it.

Her father crossed his ankles and sat straight up on the porch swing.

“I can understand how this may be strange for you, but your mother and I have enjoyed swinging for most of our adult lives.” Her mouth opened.  She had thought, or hoped, that this was a one-time experience having to do with major mid-life crises from all parties involved.

“What do you mean?”

“We met at an event for swingers about forty years ago,” he said plainly.

“What?”

“It’s true.  We were both had other partners at the time.”

She was certain she would be sick if he kept talking, but also that there was too much she did not know.

“You might not even be my father,” she said.  He chuckled and shook his end, as if addressing an idiotic child.

“Ala, of course I’m your father.  Once your mother and I married, we decided to put the lifestyle on hold to have a family. We bought this house for you, of course, and have been inactive ever since you were born.”

“I can’t believe this.  I don’t know either of you at all.”

“Of course you do.  This isn’t everything we are, you know. We’ve just happened to find people in the community who have the same interests we do.” She couldn’t let herself imagine how the conversation even came up with the neighbors.  “I know you may not want to believe it, but these practices have been going on since the very beginning of mankind.”

“I have to go,” Ala said, rushing down the steps.

“I don’t want you leaving upset. We’re here if there’s anything you want to discuss.”

“I’ve heard enough,” she said, as she rushed toward Emmanuel’s house.

She was sweating heavily and had cold chills racing throughout her body.  She closed her eyes and tried to clear the imagery, but could not.  She did not want to go back to the house without Danno, and did not want to be anywhere near her parents or anyone else who lived on the block.  She began to run and hoped the men unloading the truck would not see her.

Her shoes began to hurt and squeeze her feet, but she kept going.  That was the reason her mother did not want her to work for Emmanuel.  She did not want her to find out that they all participated in these parties.  This explained the strange clothing and toys.  How long had this been happening?  She assumed since she had left for Boston.  Her parents seemed so traditional, but that must have come with the money they had acquired and status over the years.

She thought of how she had gone to bed with Danno without even knowing his name.  It was possible she could inherit the same sexual appetite as her parents.  The water up ahead was enticing, but she did not want to walk home wet, and hopped onto the wide cement slab that ran along the shoreline instead.  She was huffing and panting, but did not stop.  She didn’t know how long Danno would be with Rainbow, but needed to speak with him as soon as possible to tell him that she would go with him no matter where that was.

After determining that all of the art was in the right place and that the cash was replenished, she would leave Emmanuel a long letter apologizing for having to break their arrangement and telling him he did not have to pay her for any of her time.  She would leave a key for Bruno so that he could look after the house, since he was so concerned and nosy.

She felt a tug on her ankle, which sent her falling to the ground face down.  Scrapes on her knees, elbows and face immediately began to sting as she felt herself being pulled from the cement down below to the sand.  Her vision went blurry as her hair was pulled, and she screamed before a black wooly hand clasped over her mouth.  A scratchy sack was forced over her writhing head and she tried to twist and turn while being picked up and carried away.

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Excerpt 111


Ala instinctively crouched down, planting her hand on the railing in order to peek up.  Had the gardener seen Danno leave?  Perhaps he knew she was alone.  There was no reason for him to be back after she told him his things were not in the house.  Fear curdled deep in her stomach.  His figure enlarged as he walked toward the window, closer to her.  She crawled on her hands and knees under the sill, trying to get to the back of the sofa.  She could not remember where she had left her phone.  Most likely on the kitchen counter.  If she got up now, he would see her going to the kitchen.

The house phone began to ring.  She looked up to see if the gardener was calling, and he was gone.  She crawled toward the kitchen and plastered herself against the back door before slowly inching up to look out of the kitchen windows.

She did not see him in the backyard, but saw that all of the dishes had been left out from the early morning breakfast.  She would have to wait to clear the table because Bruno could be lurking.  What did he want from her?  Perhaps she should call Emmanuel to let him know that a member of his staff was harassing her.  He would probably inquire about how everything else was going, and she wasn’t sure that she could adequately lie over the phone.  

Her stomach began to spin and she did not feel safe in the house any longer, at least not by herself.  She tiptoed to Emmanuel’s room and found a pair of her shoes, that did not require she wear socks, and slipped them on.  She retrieved her purse and phone and slowly made her way toward the front door.  There were no cars in front of the house, not to say Bruno hasn’t parked far away to throw her off.  She positioned the house key firmly in her hand and stepped outside, quickly locking up, then bolted down the porch steps.  She jogged, looking behind her frequently, to her parent’s house.  The porch light was turned on, welcoming her and she had never been so relieved to be going back to this house.

She let herself in and locked the door behind her, peering out to see if she had been followed.  The street was clear.  She sunk down on the bottom step to catch her breath and ran her hands through her hair.  The air was stiff and she fanned herself with a magazine from the end table.  The house has not been this hot the last time she was there.  She heard a whack, a quick high-pitched whip, coming from upstairs.

Her parents were surely still at this hour.  She heard a thump and then laughter.  She stepped carefully, not wanting to disturb the noise, or let her parents know that she was home.  Her parent’s bedroom door was open slightly, and purple light spilled out onto the carpet.  She approached and looked inside of the room, then stepped back quickly.  

A dozen naked bodies, all moving and squirming, were coiled together in a heap in the middle of the bedroom floor.  

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Excerpt 110


She put her hand on top of his.

“No,” she said. “This isn’t about me.  Go.”

He kissed her mouth. “Everything will be fine.”

“I know,” she said.  Going to a business breakfast at dawn, where she would have nothing to say, was not something she was interested in.  Danno was right in saying that not everything was always going to be perfect, in her opinion, all of the time.  Jase was so aggressive and quick to be mean. And she would fall apart whenever they disagreed or wanted two different things.  Danno was confident because he knew that he would not always be able to make her happy. Because it was not his job.  “I’ll see you when you get back.”

“What are you going to do?” He said.

“I’ll straighten up around here and sort through my things.”

“Sort through how?”

“Fold clothes, make sure everything is organized.”

“How many things do you still keep at your parent’s house?”

“Quite a few. It hasn’t been that long since I came back from Boston.” She thought of  the piles of boxes and stacks of books that were flooding the basement.  “Why do you ask?”

“We may want to come up with a plan to get everything out of there soon.”

“But I live there.”

“Maybe not for long.”

She would live with him if he asked, even though she had no idea where he lived.  She hoped she would not get so desperate that she would actually ask if she could live with him. She couldn’t bare the thought of not being able to indulge in their every whim when she had to leave Emmanuel’s house.

She returned his smile.  He left through the front door and she could hear Rainbow’s car running in the driveway.  She walked through each room, gingerly folding clean clothes and laying them in her suitcase.  She gathered up wadded, dirty garments and began a load of laundry.  She had not done anything normal in days and it felt nice to be caring for a home.

The doorbell rang.  She flocked to the foyer; sure that Danno had forgotten something and was locked out.  She stopped short of the bay window and in the lower corner could see Bruno, the gardener, on the front porch.

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Excerpt 109


Ala stood there, with her hand shading her forehead, peering through the early light at the man’s face.  It was very wide and smooth looking with kind almond colored eyes.  The size of the man was what made her nervous with his arms, nearly as long as her entire body and his neck as thick as a coffee canister.

She looked at Danno. He nodded for her to do as he said, and she went inside.  She watched Danno shake hands with the man from the kitchen window, not taking her eyes from them as she searched in her bag for her phone.  She pressed 9-1-1 and waited with her finger hovering over the button that would notify the operator of her emergency.

She had no idea what they were talking about.  Danno kept his back turned toward her and gestured with his hands to the man.  The conversation seemed to go on for hours in her opinion, and she grew tired of waiting.  She went back outside and stood almost between them, looking straight at Danno.

“What time tomorrow for the truck?” He said and then, noticed her standing there. “Ala, this is Rainbow.”A thin smile spread across her face as she shook the man’s extended hand.  His name could not possibly really be Rainbow, she knew Danno was using a code name in front of her.  Glancing down, she saw that the man’s index finger was encircled with a rainbow tattoo.  It was thicker than a ring, extending all the way up to his knuckle. She smiled wider, relieved that she hadn’t been lied to. The man did not smile at her, but nodded.

“How about we drive up this time tomorrow?”

“Perfect,” Danno said, “Ala, come with me a second.” He turned and walked up the steps to the back door. She followed. “Do you think you could find something in the freezer to throw on for Rainbow?”

“We just ate,” she said, tilting her head and looking at him.  He stood with his arms crossed.

“And?”

“And there’s nothing left.  Who is he?” She said.

“Okay, we’ll go out,” he said and opened the door.  She slammed it closed and locked it. He turned the lock and opened the door again.  She felt tears well up in her eyes.  After the night they had, after telling the truth, he was going to leave with this stranger to talk about things she surely wanted no part of.

“What is going on?”

“Rainbow’s hungry.”

“How is that our concern?” She said, throwing the phone against the wall.  She began to sob, with one hand pressed against her eye, pushing on it, making it tender. “How could you just leave?”

He lit a cigarette and watched her, periodically looking out the window to see if Rainbow was still in the yard.  She hugged herself and cried harder.  Free-falling into a hole so far away from who she’d known herself to be, she could not gain control.  She sat on a stool and kept weeping, at that point not knowing if Danno staying would even help.  He stubbed the cigarette out in the sink and wake over.  Gripping both of her arms, he lifted her from the stool and stood her up.

“Not everything is going to be your way.  You don’t need to fall apart over this,” he said.  She tried to rip her arm out of his hands but he held on.  “Listen, It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, every minute, every day. Go put on some shoes and come with.”

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Excerpt 108


They were up all night, further defiling Emmanuel’s house.  Each time they moved to another room, Ala looked for the self that watching herself do so much wrong. She did not want to stop.  She knew she was plunging deeper into reparable damage, but could not pull herself from the tingling embrace to surface for air.  Danno was so highly effective at reading her needs that she felt part of the grand plan for the first time in her life.

She wondered if she was dead, drowned in her parent’s master bath. She kept correcting her thoughts because she knew she was still alive, but the ease of the idea was so tempting.  At one point he stopped and looked up at her face.

“You’re not happy,” he said.

“I am,” she said.

He locked his fingers between hers.  She gave him a weak smile.

“Then show me,” he said and continued.

She leaned back into the goose down pillow and took a breath, pushing and flushing the worry out.  She pictured they anxiety all flooding from her ears and around her neck, dripping down her back.  She quivered and squirmed, her fingers gripping his hand and pressing it down into the sheets.

She could not change any of her choices or any of his.  She loved Danno and had to believe that what he promised was so.  Everything would be returned in the morning.  Emmanuel would return from the business trip, not suspecting a thing about the art being removed from the house.

Abigail lying in a hospital occurred to her.  She would call tomorrow and see how she was feeling.  Ala would not allow Jase to be involved in the relationship between herself and his mother.  She would also not allow herself to let him make her feel guilty about his mother never seeing him have children.

Danno glanced up again.

“Show me,” he said.

She laughed and threw her head back.

Later on she wrapped herself in one of the sheets and opened the window, letting the smell of charred beef over charcoal seep in.  They began to salivate and tiptoed to the kitchen, like teenagers, to raid the refrigerator.  There was nothing except a few eggs and fine mustards, but in the freezer, Ala found a two-pound rib eye wrapped in plastic.  Peeling off the film, she examined the thin layer of miniature icicles, and ran her finger over them, revealing the purple meat.  She began to rewrap it.  Danno took hold of her wrist very gently.

“That looks great,” he said.

“It’s frozen through and I don’t want to wait for it to thaw.”

“We don’t need to do that.  I’ll start the grill. Want to fry some eggs?”

“Sure,” she said, shrugging and turning on the broiler. The maniac was going to grill a frozen steak. They’d be up for hours, waiting for it to cook.

She found a cookie sheet and buttered it, then cracked the five eggs on top, making sure to space them out.  She heavily peppered each one.

Danno came in from the yard and took the steak. Ala opened the oven door to slip the pan inside.

“What are you doing?” He said.

“Making eggs.  You like sunny side up, right?”

“In the oven?”

“Yes. Under the broiler.”

He laughed. “Are you serious?”

“Yes. This is how my father and I always make them.”

“Okay,” he said, going back outside.

Ala instantly smelled the meat when it hit the hot grate.  She poured some red wine and took a long sip.  When the whites of each egg were translucent and she removed the pan and transferred them to awaiting plates. She turned on the porch light and arranged a tray to carry out.  The house phone rang and she almost dropped all that she was carrying.  She had forgotten there was a landline and couldn’t imagine who would be calling at three fifteen in the morning.

Danno came inside.

“Steak’s done.  Are you going to answer that?”

“No,” she said and carried the tray out.  She arranged the table and he, carrying the steak on a salad fork, set it down on her plate and leaned in to kiss her.  She tasted charcoal on his mouth and smelled the juicy smoke in his hair.  She wanted to evaporate and float up to the sky, leaving all of her happiness to people who would never experience how she felt in that moment.

They began to eat with their knees touching under the table.  The sun began to lift, revealing how exquisite the food looked.

“This is the best steak I’ve ever had,” Ala said amazed by the char and amount of juice oozing out of it.

“I was going to say the same about the eggs,” Danno said, dipping the meat into the yolk, leaving a red trail in the center of the bright yellow sticky, delicious mess.

After they finished the wine, Ala cleared the plates as Danno skinny-dipped.

“Hurry up,” he said.

“I will. I don’t want to leave a mess, ” she said, before realizing how ridiculous the statement was based on the condition of the house.

While rinsing the plates, there was a knock at the front door.  Wearing only the sheet, she turned off the faucet and slowly went into the drafty bedroom to pull on a robe. She walked back to the yard.

“Danno, someone’s here,” she said, trying to whisper, and noticing her was under water.  The gate opened, and a very built man in a black suit walked through.

Danno surfaced and looking at him, begin to climb out of the side of the pool.

“Go inside,” he said.

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