Excerpt 144


The frigidity stung her skin as she slapped handfuls of water against her face. Some of the water got into her eyes, which caused rapid blinking. What Arlene said couldn’t matter after everything that had happened.  After all, she could’ve been planning to take the wallet herself, if Danno hadn’t first.  Ala never had asked him how he got her wallet, most likely because she didn’t want the answer to be that he stole it.  He should have told her about it, of course.  And then she wouldn’t have had dinner with him.  And she certainly wouldn’t have him now.

She blubbered loudly, realizing she hadn’t even filed the report with Arlene and now the little boy had no chance of escaping his rotten mother. It was all her fault, but she couldn’t face Arlene again.  It made her insides shake to think of speaking to anyone right then.

Grabbing a brittle paper towel from the overstuffed dispenser forced it to tear out in pieces.  She rubbed the paper against her skin until her nose and cheeks were inflamed, then stepped back from the mirror, smoothed down her hair and left the bathroom.  She walked across the promenade toward the clubhouse, wondering if she had unplugged all of the gadgets in Emmanuel’s house and also if she’d turned off the lights.  She had left most of her things at her parent’s house and would have to decide if she wanted to go get them and risk seeing them in the middle of another unnerving gathering.

The bar was empty, besides Glenny wiping down the bronze cash register. She spotted Danno sitting at a patio table on the terrace.  The wind had picked up, forcing the petals of the gardenias in the arrangement on the table to flutter, along with his hair.  She could see that he had ordered a drink, and was halfway through it as he watched the horses trot around the circle with his back to her.  A chill invaded her, as she considered turning and leaving, without saying anything to him.

Her ankles felt heavy and the ceiling seemed to be lowering slowly to eventually press her into the ground.  She wobbled to the closest booth and climbed into a fetal position to rest.  Glenny either didn’t see her or didn’t care. She assumed he would have had to learn to mind his own business working at a bar in a racetrack.  She tried to keep her eyes closed to invite the illusion that she was getting rest.

She could hear several pairs of footsteps coming over, then bodies shifting into the booth next to the one she was trying to nap in. There were a few male voices discussing money, women’s bodies, who was going to win Friday’s fight and other topics that seized Ala’s interest enough to keep her from sleeping.

Her phone began to ring and she heard the men pat their pockets to check if they were getting a phone call.  She sat up and dug her phone out of her purse. Danno was calling her from the terrace outside. She ignored the call and climbed out of the booth.

“Hey,” a ruddy faced man wearing a pinkie ring said, “We didn’t know you were in there.  We would’ve watched our mouths.”

“Oh, no, it’s fine, I must have fallen asleep,” she said, pulling her bag over her shoulder.

“Well, now that you’re awake,” the other man with hair plugs said, “come have a drink with us.”  He motioned her over by cupping his hand and wiggling his fat fingers.

“No, that’s alright. Thanks though,” she was hoping Glenny was watching the interaction, but his head was down as she swept behind the counter.

“Come on, one drink won’t hurt. Let us get to know you. You seem like fun,” the first man said, wiping sweat from his forehead with a cocktail napkin.

“It’s the hair,” the second man said, “That’s a hot, wild look.”

Her face burned with detestation for them and she turned to walk away. She thought of the man throwing clumps of hair he hacked off as she trembled in her underwear.

“Guess we won’t find out if the curtains match the drapes,” one of them said, causing his friend to erupt with laughter and hit the table.

“Hey, don’t walk away when we’re talking to you.  Mangy slut.”

Before her next breath, Ala was back at the table, and in what seemed like a second, had picked up a full glass, smashed it against the booth and was holding the serrated based near the ruddy man’s neck.

White light flashed in front of her as someone was pulling her away from behind.  She turned to see that it was Glenny, whose frail frame was surprisingly strong.  Danno must have rushed inside when hearing the commotion because he was now covering his eye with one hand and examining the bloodied knuckles on his other hand.

The scene was quiet except for the piggish man, now on his feet and screaming in Danno’s face, with dark blood running from his nose.   His friend was on the phone, most likely with the police. Ala dropped the glass and let Glenny walk her away toward the bar.

“I would suggest leaving,” he said.  She watched as the man wound up to punch Danno, who hit him in the stomach before he could, causing him to fall back into the booth.

Rushing over, he took several hundred-dollar bills out of his wallet.  Glenny shook his head in protest, but Danno shoved the money into his apron.  He grabbed Ala’s hand and jerked her out of the bar.

“I just,” she stuttered.

“Don’t talk right now,” he said.  Her whole body was quaking with adrenaline.  She nearly slit the man’s throat or at least could have cut him severely.  They ran through the parking lot to the car.

“Get in the back,” he yelled.

“No!”

He grabbed her arm.

“Get in the backseat and lie down.  You’re going to have a heart attack,” he said, opening the door and shoving her in.  She folded herself onto the hot leather seat, like she had in the booth, and checked her arms for any blood.  She was clean. Danno sped out of the lot, swearing under his breath. She heard the click of the automatic locks.  He thought she was insane and was going to throw herself out the moving car.  She felt like a caged animal and wanted to claw through the interior. “We’ve got to get cleaned up,” he said.

“Can’t we just go?”

“No, we’ll get too much attention.  And I still have work to do. I wasn’t planning on running out of there.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You’re not sorry.  You’re not yourself. Just rest back there.”

She was herself.  There was nothing wrong with what she had done.  She tried to be polite, but those men had tried to rape her with their eyes and words. And she couldn’t let that happen.  One by one, she bit all of her nails off and spit them onto the tattered car rug.  The car stopped and she sat up to look out the window.

They were at The Daschund, a five star hotel Ala had been to only once for a luncheon during her mother’s charity work.  The carport had an ornate gold fountain with stone cherubs that spouted water.  Danno took one suitcase from the trunk, opened Ala’s door and handed the keys to the valet.  He handed her a plastic key card.

“Go up to room 530. I have to make a phone call.”

“Don’t we have to check in?”

“No,” he said as he headed toward reception. The lobby housed a giant chandelier and lounge with plush ivory armchairs.

She found the elevator bank and went to the fifth floor. She walked slowly down the hallway, looking both ways, with the feeling that someone was going to kill her.  She bolted the door behind her and got undressed. She didn’t even bother looking at the accommodations, which was always her favorite part of staying in a hotel.

The hot shower brought such instantaneous comfort that she let go and sobbed again, startled that she could feel so melancholy without any medication.

Heavy pounding on the door made her heart pulse swiftly, and she left the shower running and went to the door without a towel. It could be one of the men from the bar. It could be the man from the house she was locked up in. It could be Bruno. It could be Emmanuel. It could be Gene. It could be her parents.  She crouched into a ball on the carpet.

“Ala, it’s me,” Danno said coolly. “You bolted it.”  She used the knob to pull herself up and opened the door.  He wrapped his arms around her.  “Don’t answer the door without clothes on,” he said.  “I made you an appointment downstairs.”

She walked back into the shower and finished washing the cold sweat away.  She got dressed and helped Danno clean the cut around his eye with the corner of a damp washcloth.  Remarkably there was no discoloration, only some swelling.  She didn’t want to know how many times he had been hit.

“You don’t sell tapestries or whatever,” she said. He kissed her hand.

“No.”

After he showered, they lay in bed under the sheets not talking until it was time for her appointment.  Then he walked her down to the lobby.

“I’ll be right out here waiting,” he said, which made her smile.

The stylist, Raffi, was petite and talked with his hands, which interrupted the work her was doing on her hair, stretching out the appointment and her patience.

“So was this a dare?” He said.

“A dare?”

“Did someone dare you to let someone cut your hair?”

“No,” she said.

“So, you’re in a band?”

“Yes.”

He laughed and coiled pieces of her hair in between in fingers before letting them fall.

“So, what are we doing?” He asked, grinning.

She looked at her whole face in the mirror, turning her chin every way her neck would allow.  She looked terrible, like she had been wrung out and beaten with a paddle.  Her skin was sallow and her eyes were muted, like she was waiting to die.

“Do whatever you think will help,” she said.

“Girl please, you’ve got great features,” he said, squeezing her shoulder.

“Good. Then use them,” she said.

She kept her eyes closed during most of the appointment, but still answered all of Raffi’s questions, mostly with lies.  She could tell her was coloring her hair when she felt the warm globs nearly run into her eyes.  He talked about being from the West Coast, following a man here, being broken hearted when the man had a child with a woman, and now was ultimately grateful because it led him to his dream career.

The whole charade sounded exhausting and Ala sucked in breaths to keep from yawning. She supposed that her stories about the men in her life sounded the same way. The sleepless nights she had because of Jase’s behavior. The confusion and self-doubt she felt because of Gene.  She couldn’t even think about her father’s contribution to her distrust at this point.  And of course, to a traditional person, the relationship with Danno would sound preposterous and completely out of control.

The difference was, that she was choosing every step with him. She couldn’t blame him for anything that she wasn’t happy about. Even if he wasn’t honest about everything, she didn’t feel like he was trying to manipulate her emotions.  Her reactions were very real and didn’t require the drama usually injected into relationships to keep them exciting.  She didn’t want to question everything about him. She didn’t want to think about the whole of her future.  She was just happy to be with him.

“Open your eyes beauty queen!” Raffi squealed.  She looked in the mirror and liked the black hair he had cut so close to her scalp.  Anyone who had known her for years would be very alarmed, and might even think she was a mental patient.  “Let me do your lips,” he said, applying a shade of red so bright that she looked like a ventriloquist dummy.

She waved Danno inside, who didn’t even look twice at the transformation. He paid Raffi, tipping him well over the cost of the makeover.

“Enjoy this one,” Raffi said, winking at Ala. She couldn’t tell if he had thought Danno was attractive, or if he was attracted to his money.

“I got the bags,” he said. “Let’s go.”

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Excerpt 143


After Danno wrote the license plate number on a slip of paper, he folded it into her hand and opened the car door for her. Being hot in the patrol car agitated Ala.  The windows in the back were broken and unable to roll down.  She, however, didn’t feel comfortable sitting in the front seat with Cliff. She watched through the back window as Danno retrieved the folder from the car and locked it.

On the grove, there was a wedding party mingling while a photographer set up to take photographs. The bride was swathed in white chiffon with a floral headpiece.  A plucky woman, most likely her mother, hurried and held a drumstick in front of the bride’s mouth, on which the bride nibbled carefully. The mother then blotted her lips with a napkin. A bridesmaid followed closely behind the bride, fluffing her gown. There was a trainer hooking up horse to a carriage that the groom was already sitting in the back of, smoking a cigar.

Ala pressed her head into the back seat and closed her eyes. She was nauseous from the excitement during the short day so far.  There was the plane she would have to board, filled with stale air, which would also make her queasy.  The car stopped.

“Well, here we are,” Cliff said, opening her door.

“Is this report even going to do any good?” Ala said.

“If the woman comes back here it will.”

The building smelled like heated tar and the hallways needed to be cleaned. Overhead lights buzzed and several flies floated along, seeming to bounce off the walls with no way out.  A woman sat behind a counter, writing out a list and blowing her frizzed blonde curls away from her eyes. There were curly cues of smoke climbing up from a cigarette in ashtray on her desk. 
Since she was the only person that seemed to be around Ala decided to approach.

“I’m here to file a report,” she said.

The woman kept writing for an extra second, hoping Ala would see that she was busy and not disturb her. She turned her head slowly, revealing a scar underneath her eye.

“Oh yeah, Cliff called over.  I’m Arlene.”

“Wow.  Hi, I’ve been meaning to call you and thank you for finding my wallet,” Ala said.

Arlene’s eyes widened as she pushed the notepad aside.

“So, you got your wallet back?”

“Yes. It was dropped off.” She remembered the pang in her stomach she felt when she saw Danno step out of the car for the first time.

Arlene nodded rapidly, picking up her cigarette and inhaling a little too long.

“Sure.  Yeah, of course.  Sometimes people around here will just go ahead and return lost items, if there’s identification.  Just to make it easier.” The last sentence sounded as if Arlene was trying to make herself believe it.

The tiny white hairs, Ala imagined to be on the back of her neck, sprung up.  Her wallet was stolen from this office. Arlene had forgotten, or hoped Ala had picked it up when she was off duty.  Either way, Arlene wasn’t sure the wallet was ever returned, which meant that Danno had taken it without permission.

“I think I left something in the car,” she said, backing away from the desk.

“Oh, let me call Cliff,” Arlene said, picking up the receiver.

Ala turned and left the office, and struggled for air down the hallway.  She saw a restroom and threw her weight against the door.  She turned on a creaking faucet, and made sure the water was cold, before splashing her face.

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Excerpt 142


She dragged her suitcase, which inched on explosion from the last pair of shoes she had wedged in, to the car and Danno lifted it into the truck.  She then walked back through the house, making sure windows were shut and that the back door was locked.  She threw away any foods with debatable freshness and made sure there weren’t any dishes in the sink.

This was all she had to do. This was enough. A note left to Emmanuel could incriminate her; at the very least he could bring it to her parents.  And she couldn’t handle any disruption in her plans to leave.  She arranged her hair the best she could, using a bobby pin to smooth away the cowlick that seemed to spring forth with the hacking off of her hair.  Her mind wandered into a trance as she wondered whether or not the man who cut her hair had had a family.

“Are we leaving?” Danno called through the screen door.

“Yes,” she said, doing one last scan to make sure she wasn’t leaving anything behind.

She turned the dial in the car quickly, trying to find jazz music on the radio in order to take her mind off Danno driving to the racetrack, which was the last place she wanted to be.  They hadn’t discussed going, but she recognized the route and knew it was better not to dispute the visit.  He had to go, and that was final.

Her parent’s house looked dark, even with the sun shining across the roof and front lawn.  She didn’t see cars in the driveway, but this didn’t mean they weren’t home. Her stomach constricted as they cruised past and she tried to take deep breaths and not think about how there was a good chance that she would never see them again. And there was a possibility that they wouldn’t care if they were out of her life.

She rubbed the back of Danno’s neck as he turned into the parking lot.  He pulled into a spot and left the engine running as he reached for a file in the backseat. A large woman with greasy long hair rushed two small children into a car across the lane.  One of them, a small boy, was crying and she grabbed his arm while stuffing a French fry into his mouth. The child coughed, gritty white potato pieces flying from his mouth, and the woman slapped his face. Ala’s cheeks grew hot as they did whenever she watched someone innocent endure violence on television. She reached over with a shaky hand and opened the car door. Climbing out, she screamed at the top of her lungs.

“Let him go!” She surprised herself by the volume her voice reached.

The boy looked at her with pink eyes as the woman cocked her head to the side.

“What did you say?”

“Let him go you awful cow.”  Danno was now out the car and rushing around to Ala’s side.

The woman grimaced and twisted the boy’s arm, making him scream in pain.  Ala ran over and grabbed the woman’s damp hair.  She twisted and pulled as hard as she could.  The woman let go of the child and elbowed Ala in the ribs. Immune to the pain, Ala stomped down on the woman’s foot as hard as she could. She had never laid a hand on anyone before being taken away and held against her will. It felt really good and terrified her.  She didn’t want to stop.  She wanted to kill this terrible woman.

Danno was now trying to break the women up as a security car that always circled the lot was now headed toward the scene.  The little boy climbed into the car next to the other child and slammed the door shut.

Ala blocked out the obscenities the stringy woman screamed at her and watched the spit fly from her crusty lips. She smiled.

“You’re an animal,” Ala said.

“It’s none of your damn business,” the woman said, scratching at her scalp.  The patrol guard stepped out of the car calmly and addressed Danno with a head nod.

“Is there a problem?” He said, pushing his sunglasses to the top of his head.

“Well…” Danno started.

“Yes, there is.  That woman was abusing that boy. I saw her nearly rip his arm off.”

“That’s not what I was doing,” the woman said. “She yanked my hair out.  I wanna press charges.”

“I can contact the police if you’d like,” the guard said, “You’ll both have to give statements.”

Ala looked at the small boy, who somehow seemed to be drifting off to sleep amid the chaos.  This was not the first time his mother had touched him, and she knew it wouldn’t be the last if she didn’t do something.

“Call the police,” she said.

“Ala,” Danno whispered, “What for?”

“That boy isn’t safe.”

“We’re supposed to be getting out of here,” he said, with his hand on her chin.  The patrol guard walked back to his car to get his phone.  Ala looked into Danno’s pleading eyes.  He did not want to even be going to Burma, but he was for her.  She could tell her was afraid, even though he wouldn’t admit it.

“Hello Arlene, it’s Cliff. Yeah, I’m going to need to contact the authorities,” he said into his radio. The woman leapt into her car and started the engine.

“She’s leaving! Stop!” Ala yelled as the woman sped away, leaving a cloud of dust. Coughing, Ala ran after the car, but had to stop to avoid oncoming traffic.  Danno had followed her and now took her hands.

“I got her plate number,” he said.  Ala began to cry, knowing that the boy would probably be given a severe punishment because of her.

“We can file a report in the office,” the patrol guard said.

“I’ve got a few things to take care of,” Danno said, relieved the woman was gone.

“I’ll go,” Ala said, climbing into the patrol guard’s car.

 

 

 

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Excerpt 141


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.

“Ala?”

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.

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Excerpt 140


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.

“Hello?”

“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?”

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Excerpt 139


After swimming for a half hour, Ala laid on a blanket sprawled on the grass.  The sun seeped into her skin and, smelling the coconut tanning oil baking, she felt reconstruction happening. Danno came outside and set a tray down next to her.  He removed his shoes and sat of the edge of the blanket.  She sandwiched a thick slice of salami in some French bread and, pressing it flat, ate slowly.  She wanted to eat the entire roll in one bite, but feared being sick.  She smoothed her wet hair back from her forehead.

“You look like a movie star like that,” he said.

She did not feel like one and looked like a different woman from the one he met.  And she knew he didn’t care and this made her chest twinge because he really did love her back, and she really could be hurt if something happened to him.

“Want to go back in?” She said, peeling another slice off the pile and shoving it into her mouth.

“No, let’s get some real food at the track.”

She bowed her head and began to cry. His smile dropped.

“Hey what’s wrong?” He said, taking off his sunglasses.  “What is it?”

As she shook her head, she raised her fingers to the corners of her eyes, scooping away tears.

“No, I just—I’m afraid.”

“Of what?  I told you I’d take care of this.”

She became paranoid that there may be a bug or cameras throughout the house. Emmanuel would know that his money and paintings were taken from the house, and she did not want Danno to incriminate himself on top of everything else, by saying he would kill anyone.

“No, no. I don’t want that.  I want to leave here. I want to get out.”

She got to her feet and ran into the house.

“That’s not going to fix anything,” he said. “What are you doing?”

She closed the door behind door and ran her hand along the baseboard.  She pushed herself into the refrigerator, moving it forward and forced her head behind it, searching for a camera.

“But that’s what I want.  And I want you to come with me. You said we could leave.”

He snickered as she pushed the appliance back in place.

“That was before this mess. Come on, let’s have lunch,” he said. She continued on to the office.

“Is the cash back?” She yelled behind her.

“Yes.”

Turning on the light, she saw that the artwork was in place.  She stood on the desk chair and searched along the border for a recording device. “Ala, what are you doing? You’re going to fall.”

“Listen to me,” she said, jumping off.  “I can’t stay here.  The whole reason I took this job was to get out of here. You don’t have to come, but I’m leaving.”

He pressed his face into hers, visibly stricken by her threat.  She could tell that before she had said that she would go without him, he had thought that she was just traumatized and was tiptoeing around her.

He kissed her.

“I meant what I said before about us leaving together.  I just don’t want you to leave because you’re scared.”

“I’ve wanted to for months.  I’m just glad it didn’t happen and I met you instead.”

Where do you want to go?”

“Burma,” she said.

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Excerpt 138


Her knees buckled and he held her around the waist, searching her eyes.

“Come on,” he said, wrapping his arm around her waist and leading her toward the house. “Watch the glass.”

She sidestepped away from a pile of broken shards and, making her way up the porch steps, saw what his nerves must have been in the crystal ashtray packed with butts.

The house smelled of smoke, but some  windows had been opened and a heavy-duty fan was on full blast.  Everything seemed in its place, and she decided to wait on looking at the office.  Danno sat on one of the side benches and pulled her onto his lap.  He ran her hair through his fingers and looked at the faint bruises on her arms.

“I lied to you,” he said.

Frayed emotions kept her from getting up. Instead she rested her head on his shoulder, pushing her nose into his collar.

“How?”

“I said we could go away together. You might not see me for awhile.”

“Stop,” she said.

“I mean it.” He tilted her chin up to meet her eyes.

“I’m okay,” she whispered.

“I’m not. And I don’t even want to hear about it.” He pushed her hair away from her face. “You look like a concentration camp person.”

“I just need to eat,” she said, standing up and going to the kitchen.  She shielded her eyes from the white light pouring in through the windows.  She took a nearly rotten banana and snapped off the top.  The smell made her stomach heave, but she forced some into her mouth.  Danno came in and lighting a cigarette, sat at the counter.

“I’ll be careful. I won’t get caught.”

She turned and faced him, the speed of the movement making her dizzy.

“You just said I wouldn’t see you for awhile.”

“It’s done,” he said, walking out to the pool.

She threw the banana in the sink and turned on the garbage disposal.  The sputtering reminded her of the fire crackling and she slammed it off. He was probably already sending people to kill the men who took her, even though he didn’t know who they were.  She went to the guest bedroom and found her bathing suit. Her skin was clammy and pale and badly in need of sunlight.  She peeled off the nightgown and threw it in the bathtub.  She carefully tied the straps of the bikini top across her back.

She found him with pants rolled up and his feet in the pool.  She lowered herself in and swam over.

“Let’s just start clean, okay?  I don’t think it’s sexy, you know.”

He laughed. She wanted him to make her quiet, but she knew he was too worried about her to be forceful.

“I’m not doing it for that.  Nobody takes from me.”

“Don’t you see how weird and lucky it is that we met?  Use your head. Tell yourself that me being okay is enough.”

“I don’t know if I can,” he said, stubbing the cigarette out. She rolled her eyes.

“Promise me you’ll try.”

“I don’t know if I can.  Look at what they did to you. Your hair…” his voice trailed off. She kissed him.

“It’ll grow back.  You know you belong with me.”  She hugged him around the waist and he let her pull him into the pool with her.

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