Posts Tagged black

Excerpt 147


Dear Ala,

Please read this letter in its entirety.  While I know your instinct may be to tear it up, or act as if you’ve never received it, please work against it.  It is imperative you know that I am not writing to you out of anger for what may or may not have happened. 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…

Her seat seemed to slump and began to shake suddenly.  Danno woke up and took her hand.  Their tray tables rattled, spilling her ginger ale on her legs, and the seat belt lights blinked incessantly. The stewardess wobbled toward the front of the aisle and picked up the intercom speaker.

First she spoke in Korean and then, Ala assumed, repeated, “Please everyone take your seats and fasten your seat belts. We are experiencing some turbulence and at the captain’s request, please remain in your seats.”

Ala had acquired the bad habit of never wearing her seat belt on flights.  She reached down to find the buckle and the plane shifted again, slamming her forehead against the tray table.

“Oh no, here sit back, let me see,” Danno said, rubbing the spot on her forehead that she knew would later erupt into a bump.

The vibration grew quicker and the stewardesses strapped themselves into the seats parallel to the rows in the front of the cabin.  Ala shoved the letter into her purse and zipped it, making sure all of the compartments were closed.  Her legs shook as she felt her stomach drop, as the plane seemed to turn in the opposite direction.

The intercom came on again and a man’s voice took over.  He spoke Korean in a calming tone, but Ala could tell there was vomit rising in the back of his throat he was trying to keep down.  The speaker cut out before her could repeat himself in English.

A drink cart came crashing down the aisle, slamming into a man’s elbow.  He screamed.

“Put the Goddamn brake on that cart!” He yelled.  A stewardess unstrapped herself from her seat and ran over.  Grabbing the cart handles, she struggled to push it forward. The man got out of his seat to help her.

“I’m sorry Sir. The brake was on.”

An alarm went off and the tension among the few passengers flourished, as the air seemed to tighten around them.  Ala pictured them plunging into the black water and being ripped apart by whatever unseen beings they would disturb.  She felt up and down her seat, trying to find the flotation device.  Danno took her hand.

“Calm down.  The plane isn’t going down.  It’s a storm.” He pointed to the droplets covering her window.  “Don’t waste your energy being hysterical.”

“But it might go down. Everyone is scared,” she said.

“Come here,” he said, wrapping his arm around her. He pulled the blanket up over both of their legs and put his neck pillow behind her back. Even with the awkward armrest jutting into her ribs, she began to feel better.

“Apple,” he whispered.

“What?”

“Apple.”

She looked at him.

“What are you doing?”

“Now you say a food that begins with the letter “B”.” The stewardess reached into the drink cart and pulled out a few ice cubes.  She wrapped them in a napkin and handed them to the man to hold against his elbow. The lights flickered in the cabin. Ala tried to hold in her urine. “Come on,” he said.

“Bologni,” she said. He nodded.

“Chicken Cordon Bleu. That’s two points for me.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I used the letter “c” twice.”

“Fine.  Dagwood Sandwich,” she said.

“What is that?”

“You know, from Blondie. The sandwich that looks like it’s twelve layers of meat and cheese.”

“What’s Blondie?”

“The comic book?  The sandwich enthusiast. My father and I used to read them on weekends.”

Her eyes filled with tears.  She had avoided her parents and now was going to drown in the dark before ever seeing them again. The pressure around her heart made her nervous to move any part of her body.

“Fine, the point is yours under the condition that this so called sandwich has been attempted by someone other than a fictional character.  Éclair.”

“Fettuccini.”

“Gazpacho”

“Haddock.”

“Ice cream.”

An overhead bin opened, tossing a trunk out that burst open when it hit the floor.  A lady screamed and made the sign of the cross against her chest.  Ala closed her eyes.

“Jell-O”

“Hardly a food, but fine.”

“You’re sort of a pain in the ass with this game.”

“I just play fair,” he said, rubbing the palm of her hand. “Kale.”

“Lemongrass.”

The plane veered sharply and straightened out.  The alarm stopped pulsing and the lights stabilized.  Ala was sure they had crashed and that she was watching the scene while dead. The stewardess tried to adjust her cap and walked back to the intercom.

“It seems that we are through the turbulent portion of our flight.  The captain asks that you please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened. We will come through with beverages offerings once we receive clearance.”

“We’re okay,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure I won.”

Ala pinched his forearm and then rested her head against his chest.  She drifted off just as the sun cut through the black sky.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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