Posts Tagged tea

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 148


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.

Best regards,

Emmanuel”

 

 

 

 

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Excerpt 96


Ala received a call while Jase drove them to the hospital.  She noticed he was cutting through neighborhoods by using alleys and figured he did not want to face any stop and go traffic. She answered in a whisper.

“There you are,” Gene said with a nervous flick at the end of “are”.

“Hi.”

“I called you and didn’t hear back.”

“I know.  I meant to call.”  She could see the light bounce off the of the corner of Jase’s eye.  He was watching her talk and did not want her to know it.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine.”  She couldn’t stand talking on the phone using half of her voice. It felt like her throat was being squeezed shut.  She didn’t like lying to Gene.  Even though she hadn’t yet, she could tell it was coming. Jase sped up just as the light turned from a rusted amber to red.  He nearly collided with a car that had the right-of-way.  The brakes screeched as the car lurched forward. Ala clasped her chest as the strap from the seatbelt dug into her collarbone. “Jase!”

Panicked, Jase looked both ways and behind them.  He was breathing heavily.

“You’re with Jase?  Is he is town?” Gene said.

“No, I’m in Boston actually.”

“Boston? What for?”

“I had to come visit for a little while.”

“I’m mixed up.”

“It was a quick trip.”

Jase pulled over and got out of the car, slamming the door behind him.  Ala saw him pacing on the sidewalk.  

“Are you there?” Gene sounded irritated.

“Yes.  I just am in the middle of something.  Would it be alright if I called you back?”

“Sure. If you remember.”

“Gene-” He had hung up.  Ala shoved her phone back into her bag and let herself out of the car.

Jase stopped pacing when he saw her.  

“Why don’t you let me drive?”

He nodded.  She climbed into the driver’s seat and adjusted the height.  He closed the car door and put on the seatbelt. He put his hand on her wrist.

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

She shook her head and they pulled away.  Slamming on the brakes and cutting off her circulation with the seatbelt, while knocking the wind out of her, didn’t hurt as much as them splitting apart had.  

Fortunately, they were only a few blocks away from the hospital because Ala could not take the severe depression oozing from Jase.  They had nothing to say to one another and the silence was thick and smothering.  

When the elevator door opened, a lady who Ala recognized as one of family neighbors stepped out. She wore a large red hat with pink roses dangling from it and a tight cream suit that zipped up the back. She hugged Jase and patted his cheek.  Ala stepped away to avoid hearing what they talked about.

Jase stepped into the elevator and Ala followed.

“Stupid cow.”

“Jase-“

“Please.  Do you know she’s sleeping with my father?”

Ala looked down and the dented scuffed linoleum.  She heard recognizable voices as they made their made down the long hall.  She averted her eyes from looking inside of the rooms. 

The room Jase’s mother was staying in was bright and sterile.  There were large pink and purple floral arrangements on every surface, along with all of the latest magazines, paper coffee cups and half empty water bottles.

Jase’s sister-in-law, Coffi, sat bouncing a fat infant on her lap while his brother talked business on his phone, while looking at the parking lot out the window. Jase’s younger sister was wedged on the bed with her legs half dangling off next to his mother.

His mother’s silvery blond hair was twisted up in a tortoise shell clip.  It was flawless along with her light makeup.  Her green brocade robe was placed over her shoulders, as if she had the slightest draft and her satin slippers hung from her tiny feet.

“Ala,” she said, her eyes turning a brighter blue as she held out her tan hand. “My dear.”

Ala walked over slowly and touched her warm hand.  She bent to kiss her cheek and noticed that her skin felt more dry than she had remembered. 

Jase’s sister smiled up at her.  They hadn’t been close, mainly because she had spent years in rehab while Ala and Jase were dating and they never really were able to form a relationship.  Jase’s brother looked over and nodded.

“Abigail, I brought you Jasmine,” Jase’s father said while entering the room.  He nearly let the cup of scalding hot tea fall from his hand when he saw Ala.

“Hello,” Ala said and got up quickly to greet him.  He wrapped his arms around his waist and gave her a strong hug.

“I’m glad you came back,” he said into her ear. 

 

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segment 20


She tried to force a normal voice.

“Dad, it’s Ala.”

“Is everything okay? Where is your phone?”

“I forgot it, I just wanted to tell you—” She heard the phone rustle against his shirt.

“Pearl, pick up, it’s Ala.”

Ala could tell her mother picked up from their bedroom, where she was probably packing for the cruise they were leaving on the next day.

“Ala? Hi.”

“Hi mom.

“Is everything okay?”

“Well, yes. I wanted to call because I’m coming home.”

“What happened?  Is it Jase?”

“It’s everything. I can’t stay here.”

“What about your job?”

The questions of course, Ala was unprepared for, because she assumed they would be thrilled at the news.  Her mother wept when she told her she was moving. And her father didn’t want her to live with Jase unless she was engaged.

“I’ll find a new job. I just have to come back.”

“Okay, just calm down. We’ll fix this.”

She wanted them to drive to Boston in their luxury car and pick her up.  To tell her not to worry about her things, they could be sent. She wanted to leave that very minute. It then occurred to her that they perhaps didn’t want her to move back into the house.

“I’ll find an apartment. I promise”

“Oh Ala, don’t be silly. We haven’t touched your room. When would you like to come home?”

“Today, tomorrow. Please, anytime I can.”

“Alright, we’ll book you a ticket.  Why don’t you go back, pack up whatever you can and have some tea. You sound terrible.”

“Thanks.”

Everything of course had been fine for the two weeks she’d been back, but something definitely had changed that she couldn’t put her finger on it.  She had always been the center of their world.  Having no siblings, she assumed her parent’s lives depended on her and her alone.  She even felt pressure to have children so her parents wouldn’t be bored.  All of this apparently was an illusion though.

 

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