Posts Tagged cigarette

Excerpt 149


She slammed the pages down on the table.  Both hands shook uncontrollably and she feared she might lose control of her body.  She picked the letter back up and skimmed for keywords, tried looking it over to find where she misread.  The words stayed the same. Danno knew Bruno before he ever knew her.  He knew Emmanuel. He knew where he lived. He never would have come to her town if it weren’t to try to get Emmanuel’s money.

She stood, letting the papers fall to the floor.  Everyone was still working on their computers or talking on their phones.  Men were drinking beer with their suit jackets on the backs of their seats.  There was no earthquake happening except inside of her.  Everything inside was pushing her to go.  Every thought she had was prefaced with “Go now. Take your bag and go.”

If she left, Danno would be worried.  She knew he loved her, which was the worst part.  She knew he didn’t care about the deal or the money. She knew he would die if anything happened to her. She knew their time together changed him, as it had changed her.  It was the worst part because there was love.

She slumped back down in the chair.

“More tea, Miss?” a server asked meekly.

“No, thank you. Just the check.”

“It’s on the account Miss.”

“Yes, okay, thank you.”

He ran his world by signing his name.  His name took care of everything. He lived differently than people who had to apply for credit or hope they could save enough money to retire. He risked a lot, but the reward was living a life that wasn’t confining day after day.

Her chest tightened as she folded the pages and shoved them back into the envelope. She knew Emmanuel was telling the truth, but felt better trying to find holes in his explanation, to prove him wrong.  Why would he still pay her when he knew something, anything, had gone wrong?

She could confront Danno and ask him to tell her the truth. He o course would know that she already knew what the truth was to even ask in the first place. He would know she knew about all of it. What did he do to people who knew too much? Did he kill them or have someone else do it? He wouldn’t actually kill her if he loved her, she thought. The again, she had nearly forgotten that a man burned to death because of her. Self-defense or not, she had taken a life.

He could be the only kind of person with the only kind of life that she could actually build something with. They both did things the way other people didn’t do them. They both felt connected to one another. She wouldn’t be able to find anyone who made her feel that way he had. And he meant the most to her since she was left the country with him and didn’t tell anyone she knew that she was going.

She held her hands out and tried to steady them. When this didn’t work, she did her best to dry her eyes by waving them rapidly.  People began to look at her.  She was the most underdressed in her sundress, damp with sweat,  sandals and sunglasses. She took another cigarette out and lit it.  This time the smoked entered her lungs easier.

“Get up and go. Leave,” she whispered.  She zipped up her bag and swung it over her shoulder.

“Hey, are you smoking?” He said, coming up behind her.

She jumped, sending ashes all over the armchair.

“Just one,” she said, stubbing it out next to the first cigarette she had smoked.

He sat on the coffee table in front of her and took her face into his hands.

“This flight is not going to be as long. Just have a nice dinner, read a little and I’ll be at the gate in no time.”

She nodded and let tears slide down her cheeks, into his hands. He hugged her.

“Come on.  Everything is going to work out.”

He signed the check and took her hand, walking her out with his arm around her.

“I have to use the restroom,” she said.

“Sure. To the right. I’ll wait.

“Do you want to come in with me?” She asked, winking.

 

 

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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 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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Excerpt 89


Ala chose the door handle to focus on and kept her eyes there.

“Bad?” She almost whispered then waited.  

He made a smooth left and kept the same speed.  

“Yes.”

“Like what?”

“When we were asleep, my wallet was stolen.”

“What?” Her eyes darted to his face. He stayed composed. “Stolen?”

“Yes. I woke up and it was gone from my pocket.”

“How could that have happened?”

“We slept for around two hours.”

“And someone just came by and took your wallet?” She was terrified and felt her pockets, which had nothing in them to begin with.  

She hadn’t felt violated before.  The thought of someone she didn’t know so close, watching them, touching them while they slept made her nauseous.  She took a deep breath.  Her overreacted was not going to return Danno’s wallet. 

“No one was around.”

“Apparently, someone was and we just didn’t see them,” Danno said.

How could someone have been following them when the trails were completely empty?  She thought carefully and couldn’t remember a car or any sign that anyone had been there. 

“How did they know we were asleep and not just lying there?” She said, near hysterics.

“They took a guess,” he said.

“This is too bizarre.”

“I’m sorry you’re frightened,” he said, putting the back of his hand against her cheek, comforting her, when his wallet had been stolen.

She turned and faced him, crossing one sore leg under the other.

“At least we’re okay. I mean, at least you can get a new driver’s license and cancel your credit cards. Everything is replaceable.”

She could tell he still wanted a cigarette.  She got the pack from the glove box and took one out.  She placed it between his lips and reached into his pocket to find the lighter.  She lit it and rolled down the window.

“The thing is,” he said, puffing through his mouth.  “Not everything inside is replaceable.”

“Oh,” she said.  She looked out the window as the trees rushed past, making a kaleidoscope of browns and grays with light peaking through.

“There was a code card from the man I work for inside.  I was supposed to go to his safe this morning to take out funds for a supplier. And, obviously, I didn’t.”

Ala scrunched up her face.  She knew all of this was too good to be true.  Behaving as they had brought consequences and now she wasn’t sure she would be able to help him.

“When are you supposed to pay him?”

“Tonight,” he said, tapping the cigarette on the thin glass of the window, dustings of ash flying out the car. 

“Are you supposed to give him a lot of money?” She said, unsure of how to ask the question without prying.

“Not a lot, but money I don’t have on hand.”

“How much?”

He squinted in the rearview mirror.

“A hundred thousand.”

Her eyes flew wide open.  

“Dollars?”

“Yes.”

“Well, surely you can call your boss and tell him what happened.”

He smiled and looked at her out of the corner of his eye.

“He’s out of town for awhile.”

“The supplier can’t wait?”

“I’m afraid not.  I’ll think of something.”

That wasn’t enough.  She would be ill with guilt if she didn’t help him with this. It was her fault for being desperate this morning instead of letting him carry on with his day.

She thought of the measly ten thousand she would be getting for doing a lousy job of protecting Emmanuel’s house.  He had trusted her and she managed to break the biggest rule on the first day. She thought of all of his careful instructions. A solution arose and punched her with adrenaline.  She instantly felt better. Better than she had felt since she could remember.

“I know where you could borrow the money from,” she said with shining eyes.

 

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Excerpt 88


She could hear before she could see.  The sound of waves, but softer and more tangible, like paper being crumbled very slowly.  She turned her head to the right and felt the ache from sleeping in an odd position.  She turned her head all the way to the left to try and nullify the pain, which never worked. Then she opened her eyes.  The sound was the trees, the leaves rather, rustling and blowing while clinging to the branches. The sky was still bright, meaning she couldn’t have slept for that long, in less this was a different day all together.

She rolled over to her side and pushed up to sit.  She spotted Danno.  He was sitting on one of the slate rocks a few yards away, talking on his cell phone. His pants were still rolled up from the climb and his face had gotten color from being in the sun several hours. She wanted to kiss him. She  got to her feet and hobbled over, still weak from the climb and lack of water.

As she approached, Ala saw him pull the phone away from his ear and hold it so that the receiver was directly in front of his mouth.  Then he said something very loudly, but the wind made his words inaudible to her.  He tapped a button and put the phone back into his pocket.  He smoothed back his hair and turned toward her.

A thin smile appeared and he stepped off the rock and met her halfway.

“You were out cold.”

“I know.  I was so beat from the climb.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking her hand. “I thought it would be a nice way to spend the day.”

“Oh, it was, really,” she said, the fear creeping back that he may be looking for a way to leave her.

“Should we head back?”

“Sure.”

This time they walked the outer perimeter of the hill, which was more of a downward ramp, to take their time.  Ala could not imagine climbing back down in one piece.

She almost began to cry when the car came into view.  She wanted to run, but didn’t risk it, because the boat shoes were sure to fall apart with any added impact.

They got in and Danno turned the air conditioning all the way up.  He opened the glove box and took out a pack of cigarette’s that said Shepheard’s Hotel on the gold foil on the front of the pack.  He pulled a shiny lighter from his pocket and lit one while it dangled sideways from his lips.

Ala hated smoking more than anything she could think of at that moment.  She pushed the button to roll down her window.  He turned the air conditioning off.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” she said, trying to sound casual, while also trying to evaluate whether or not the smoking was something she could live with.  As if he had asked her to marry him.

“Does it bother you?” He asked, looking straight ahead.

“A little, yes,” Ala said.

She watched his face for a reaction.  All she could see were the tiny lines in the crevices of his eyelids raising slightly.  He opened the window and tossed the cigarette out.  Ala rolled her window up.  He turned the air back on.

“What if I told you that I only smoke when something bad happens?” He said, keeping his eyes on the road.

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