Archive for category friendship
Ala awoke with Danno sleeping with his head on her shoulder. They had landed in Seoul safely. Her head was tender from the stress of the turbulence and the sleep she managed to get was not restful. She unbuckled her seat belt and gently climbed over Danno’s seat. Her legs nearly gave out when her feet hit the floor and she headed toward the restroom.
“Ms., please sit down,” the weary stewardess said slouched in the seat she was still strapped into. Her jacket was off and her eye makeup was smudged.
“I really need to stretch. How much longer until we’re off the plane?” Ala said.
“A few more minutes, when we get word from the captain.”
“We’re on the ground. I don’t understand the hold up,”
Danno woke up and immediately registered the exchange going on between them. He got up and took Ala’s hand.
“Let’s just sit down,” he whispered.
“Stop acting like I am crazy. I have every right to stand up after a whole day on this plane.”
“I know. We’re almost done. Let’s sit.”
She let him pull her back to their seats. He took her hand into his hands.
“We made it through the plane almost crashing. The last thing we need is for you to be detained in South Korea for mouthing off to a flight attendant.” He kissed her.
She took a compact out of her purse and ran her fingers through her hair, which looked better after she had slept on it. She turned on her phone, even though she knew the staff would take issue with this if they saw her. She had missed eleven phone calls during the flight and could see the most recent three were from Jase. Her face grew hot and she leaned forward, afraid she was going to be sick.
“Ala,” Danno rubbed her back. “We can get off now. Are you okay?”
She nodded and made sure she had all of her things. Their luggage was still in tact there a sense of relief among the passengers that the flight had come to an end without the use of an emergency slide Some of them even thanked the stewardesses while leaving the plane. Ala walk straight past them without making eye contact.
The waiting area was very hot. The smell of people who had been on planes and in airports for multiple days overwhelmed her. She and Danno held hands tightly and squeezed through the crowd.
“Are you hungry?” He asked.
“No, I’m fine.”
“Let’s go the lounge, so I can have a cigarette.”
She wondered how soon into their relationship she could mention that his smoking bothered her. It added to his sex appeal, but now she was concerned about both of them being alive and healthy for years to come.
Danno took out his membership card and showed it to the pretty hostess who was wearing a sea green kimono. They took two armchairs away from everyone else and ordered some tea. He lit a cigarette and, leaning back in his chair, winked at her.
“Do you think anyone else has had a crazier time than we have?”
What she had learned for sure this summer was that there were crazy people everywhere and that there was no reason to believe that she, or anyone else, was ever safe.
“I’m going to make a phone call,” she said, walking to the window that overlooked the tarmac. She didn’t know what time it was back home, but knew that Jase wouldn’t care when she called even if it was the middle of the night. The phone only rang once.
“Ala?” His voice was badly broken like he had been walking through a blizzard with bronchitis. She knew he had been up drinking.
“Hi. Did I wake you?”
“No, I’ve been up. Where are you?” He said with urgency in his voice.
She bit the side of her cheek. She always got really honest when she felt like he needed her help.
“Jase, what happened?”
“My mom died.”
She pushed the phone against her ear, picturing Abigail’s face.
“I’m so sorry.”
“She was alone. I don’t know how, but she was all alone when the hospital called. My idiot brother.”
“Oh Jase, I-” She felt her throat constricting, trying to hold back tears.
“Can you come home? Or here? I need you.”
She looked back at Danno who was also on a call. Panic flowed through her aching legs. They were not together anymore, but she knew this day would come and couldn’t imagine not being there.
“I can’t come right now. I’m sorry.”
“Tomorrow then? Please Ala, I’ll never ask you for anything again.”
“I don’t think so, Jase.”
“Where are you that’s so Goddamn important?” He yelled. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Look just please; let me get you a ticket. We can talk when you get here.”
She shook her head.
“I just can’t.”
“I’m always going to be waiting for you,” he said starting to cry. She hung up the phone.
She walked back to Danno, wiping both eyes with her fingers, as he was putting his phone away.
“I love you,” she said, sitting on his lap.
“Are you crying?”
“I just love you.”
“I love you,” he said, pulling her mouth to his mouth. “You’re going to have to board soon. Finish your tea. I’m going to use the restroom and then I’ll walk you to the gate.”
She took her seat and made herself take a sip of tea. It burned her mouth. She took a cigarette from the pack on the coffee table and lit it. She inhaled and the smoke seemed to make tiny hatch marks down the back of her throat. She coughed violently. Several people dressed in suits looked over at her. She took another puff and eased back into the chair.
It wasn’t possible to go back for Abigail’s funeral. There would be too much pain and too many people who had known her as someone else. She would be uncomfortable the entire time and Jase would lean on her for more support than she could give. Years later, she could imagine feeling like a heartless person, and if that happened, she would apologize then.
She opened her bag and put her phone away. Emmanuel’s letter was crumpled toward the bottom. She smoothed the pages out on her lap and a smaller slip of paper flittered to the ground. It was a check for ten thousand dollars. She folded it in half and shoved it into her wallet.
She stubbed out her cigarette and continued to read.
“…I am still out of the country and, while I have received disturbing news about my property being disrupted, I am a firm believer in assessing a claim before reacting. This only has to do with the current company you keep, specifically Danno. As someone who has known his character well for years, I feel it is my duty to warn you that you are in danger.”
Sweat spiked up on the back of her neck. She wanted to reread, but had to keep going.
“When I hired Bruno ten years ago, I thought he was a lowly gardener who hadn’t had much luck. Being from my native land, I trusted him without any idea that he was acting as Danno’s informant. I am not going to delve into the kind of business we do, since I have a feeling that in your current situation, time is precious. I can only say that my fortune is spoken of often in my industry’s circles and that the two of them have been working for quite some time to drain my assets.
Apparently Danno and Bruno’s relationship has gone south, and Bruno was not paid what was promised to him. This is where you came in. There aren’t any known people or things in this world that would affect Danno’s decisions, but you apparently have done so. This is not something to be proud of. I am only relieved that you had enough fight in you to stay alive.
Please do whatever you have to and get away from this man. Even if he doesn’t kill you himself, his line of work will. You will have no way of reaching me once I send this letter. I hope that for you and your parent’s sake, you leave this unsavory character’s side and find safety.
She pressed the phone against her temple and went to the window. Gene was standing on the lawn, shielding his eyes while looking up at the balcony. Danno must have been in the backyard working.
“Yes,” she said and hung up.
She ran to find her comb and forced it through her wet, tangled hair. There was no time to put on any makeup. She wanted to get Gene away from the house before Danno saw him. Gene was most likely still upset with her and she didn’t want his hostility to be taken the wrong way by Danno. She found flat sandals and put them on while dashing down the hallway and out the front door.
Gene’s mouth hung open as she rushed to him and taking his arm began leading him away from the house. Grass clippings clung to her moist toes and the itch was unbearable so she stopped and shook each foot.
“What happened to you?” Gene said with a slight quiver of worry in his voice.
“I got a haircut. I know, it’s extreme, but it’s been so hot and I just needed it chopped off.”
“Not just your hair.” He took a step back to take in her whole frame. “Have you been starving yourself?”
“Me, starve myself? Stop it Gene. I’ve just been running a lot.”
“You look like you haven’t been in the sun in weeks.”
“I went swimming just this morning. You’re making me self conscious.” She began to speed up, hoping he would catch her hint to come away from the house. He took her arm and pulled her back. “Ow, what are you doing?”
“I’m supposed to believe nothing’s going on with you, come on!”
“I’m fine, stop it.”
Danno came from around the yard holding a pair of shears.
Without missing a beat, she grabbed Gene’s hand and tugged him over to meet Danno in he middle.
“This is Gene, one of my best friends. Gene, this is Danno.”
Danno hesitated, then wiped his hand against his pant leg and stuck it out for Gene to shake.
“Good to meet you,” he said.
“You too,” Gene said.
Ala felt sweat pooling under both of her arms.
“Gene just came by to say hello, I haven’t seen him in weeks.”
“Is that right?” Danno said, squinting at Gene’s face and playing it off to be squinting at the sun in his eyes.
Ala could tell by Gene crossing his arms in front of him that he did not like Danno. And she really could care less, except that if Danni could tell, she would have a problem.
“Well, actually no. Ala looks very sick to me and,” he looked Gene straight in the eye, “I’m worried. I haven’t seen her like this ever.”
“Do you feel sick?” Danno said, petting the side of her face.
“No. Maybe I’ll lie down for awhile. Maybe I’m just tired,” she said, smiling.
“Well, I’m going to get back to work. It was nice to meet you, Gene.”
Gene nodded. Danno walked to the bushes in front of the house and began trimming them.
“We need to talk,” Gene said, in an irritable tone. “When we blew up at each other, it was stupid.”
“I think I really should rest. Do you mind if I give you a call later?” Ala said, for the first time in her life, lying to him.
He wanted to yell at her but refrained. Instead he took her into his arms and put his mouth against her ear. She was terrified that Danno would turn around and see and kept her eyes on him methodically snipping at a rose bush.
“I know you aren’t telling the truth. Are you afraid of him?”
“No,” she whispered.
“Well, I’m gonna keep coming back until you tell me what’s going on.” He kissed her cheek and walked away.
She went back inside of the house, ripped up the note she started to write Emmanuel and threw the pieces in the trash.
He didn’t flinch, but took her hands and nodded.
“I thought I wasn’t going to see you again,” he said.
“How long was I away?” She asked, and then stepped away. “Never mind, I don’t want to know.” Finding out the days she lost would make her angry and she had to focus. “Emmanuel could be coming back today for all I know. Let’s just get out of here.”
“Go get your stuff together. I’ll take care of everything else.”
Ala went from room to room, folding clothes she forgot she owned and stuffing them into her suitcase. She was so relieved to be leaving this house. Danno stacked all of the mail and left it on the kitchen counter. He then put on a shirt and started up the lawnmower, a cigarette dangling from his lips.
She left hot water steam the surfaces of the bathroom before getting in the shower. Even though someone had bathed her at Bruce’s house, she had not felt clean in what seemed like weeks. She coated herself in soap, scrubbed until her skin was red and lathered up for a second time. Her wet hair felt foreign in her hands, as it was a third of the length she was used to.
The lawnmower died down as she toweled off and dressed in clothes that hung on her svelte body. Her stomach gurgled and even though she wanted to go to the airport as soon as possible, she feared fainting in the security line. She also wondered if she should let Gertrude know her plan to leave.
She sat down at the dining room table to begin a note to leave for Emmanuel. She would have to say that someone in her family died and she was leaving town. But then he would inquire with her parents and they would all know she had lied. She needed another excuse.
Her phone rang in the bathroom and she answered without checking who was calling.
“Ala, it’s Gene,” he said quietly. It sounded like he was holding the phone away from his face.
“Oh,” she sat on the edge of the tub. “What is it?”
“I need to talk to you. Can you come outside?”
When Ala’s eyes opened again she could not see her hand in front of her face. Sweating from the warmth around her, she knew she was in in a different place than where she had fallen asleep. What made her doubtful for a sliver of a second was that she had woken up in so many places recently, that she could barely remember how it felt to wake up at home. The first alarming discovery was that she was lying horizontally and on something very soft. She had not had a healthy night’s sleep in awhile, so lying in a comfortable position, with proper support, felt very unnatural. She ran her hand over her chest and felt a plush cover wrapped tightly around her body.
She wanted to believe she was only dreaming that she was sleeping in a wonderfully comfortable, warm bed because she had been so sleep deprived. Unfortunately, her ear was throbbing, most likely from infection, indicating that she was awake and was getting sick from being run down. And also, that she was no longer in Bruce’s car. She sat up in bed and flailed her hands around in the pitch black, trying to find a way to turn on the light. She flipped a switch and saw that she was in a modest bedroom with wood paneling on the walls, a small wooden desk with a matching chair, and a nightstand with a glass of water. Aside from the cover, she was wearing a clean, white long sleeved cotton nightgown.
She climbed out of bed and went to the door, which was locked. Her throat tightened and she pounded with her fist until a tall round lady with gray hair revealed herself on the other side. She looked Ala up and down and smiled warmly, wiping her greasy hands on her floral patterned apron.
“I hope you slept well. I watched you for the first few hours, and then I had to get baking,” she said in a tinny voice.
Even with the residue from recent events fogging her thoughts, Ala was puzzled. She had been carried from the car to this room, exposed, dressed and tucked into bed to be watched while she slept. She had been taken somewhere against her will, again. Though there didn’t appear to be any immediate danger, Bruce still had not done what he said he would do. She was almost too tired to ask any questions.
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.”
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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