Leaning against the wall of the house across the way was Tim; he came towards her before she could duck back inside or find some other means of escape.
“Hello!’ she said grudgingly, as he came toward. “What are you doing here?”
“I was waiting for you to come out, Annabelle,” he answered. She looked at him quickly. “I don’t have time this morning Tim I have to get to work. Mom already held me back.”
“I’ll walk you to the bus stop.” He walked in step beside her and she felt odd after what she’d said to him last night. With each step she promised to never put herself in this uncomfortable position again.
“So, you gonna be here for the block party this coming Saturday?” Annabelle barely restrained herself from making an unappealing sound. No wonder they thought she was stuck up, but no way she was hanging out with those thugs.
“I don’t think so Tim, you know that’s not my scene.”
“I don’t see why not, you live here you know.” Don’t remind me she thought, but didn’t say it out loud.
“Na, I can’t.”
“Why not? You got a date with that guy with the car?” There was a hint of resentment in his tone and she looked at him sharply.
“That’s really none of your business is it? Besides I don’t have anything to wear.”
“Wear that dress you had on the other day.”
“I don’t think so.”
They’d reached the bus stop and she was grateful to see the trolley coming towards them. He tried reaching for her hand but she pulled it out of his reach. “Look Tim, I can’t go on being your friend… after what happened last night.” It hurt her to say it, but it was for the best. He just didn’t seem to be getting the message.
“That’s bullshit, I told you I won’t try to force anything on you.”
“I think it’s for the best Tim, besides, if you’re not hanging around me all the time maybe you will find someone else. Someone that you really like and would really like you.”
She nodded to him, and stepped on the trolley when it pulled up. She felt like the most awful person, but what was she supposed to do? Pretend to have feelings for him when she didn’t?
To take her mind off of him and the nasty feeling in the pit of her stomach she took out her phone and called Kimberly. She hadn’t spoken to her friend since the party.
Kimberly answered the phone laughing. “Girl I thought you ran away with my brother, no one has heard from either of you since Saturday night.”
“What? Why would you think that? You know your brother doesn’t feel me like that.” She didn’t want to give too much away lest things went south and nothing came of her and Chase’s flirtations. So as much as she would’ve liked to share with her friend, she wasn’t quite brave enough yet. “So you say, I beg to differ.”
Her room is on the second floor, and there might be an easier way to do this, but I wanted to relive at least part of our childhood. From the way she’s been acting I guess she thinks I forgot the way we used to be.
I don’t see how she could think that, unless she never knew me at all, which I refuse to believe. I think it’s that stubbornness, that tough shell that I myself had helped her to grow that was the culprit.
I looked up at the balcony that had seemed like climbing Everest to the boy I used to be. Once, when she was very sick, I think we were eleven then. I’d climbed the big magnolia tree outside her window onto the balcony outside her bedroom and snuck in.
I’d stayed up almost all night, listening for the door as I laid on the floor next to the bed, watching over her. Now I’m back to do the same with a few slight variations.
She’s not sick, but her heart and mind are in turmoil. And this time I won’t be sleeping on the floor next to her bed. But just like last time, she won’t even know that I’m there. Just as she hasn’t for the last six years.
Her rooms had changed since those days. Nana had kept me up to date on the happenings over the years, so I knew that though I could still reach the balcony from the tree and the bedroom was relatively the same place, there had been walls knocked down and other rooms added.
So instead of the cute frilly room of the preteen, it was the bedroom suite of a budding adult. I’d seen pictures of course, but had never set foot inside until now.
The wind had already started picking up outside when I made my way back to her house in the dark. It had been easy enough to walk my bike partway up the driveway, staying to the shadows. And hide it around back where it wouldn’t be found by the wrong person.
Now here I stand for the last leg of this ill thought out plan. It’s been years since I climbed a tree and I stood beneath the old magnolia now, looking up in the moonlight before starting my trek up the trunk of the big old tree.
I didn’t have to worry about being seen because she had this whole wing of the house to herself with the others on the other side. Nana’s place was just behind hers but there was still no visibility from there either. I just had to worry about waking her up, which was not a problem. The girl sleeps like the dead.
I jumped from the branch onto the balcony lightly before tackling the lock on the door. Every other time she’d have this open. Even when she doesn’t plan it she’s giving me trouble.
Annabel took extra special care with her dress that morning, something she hadn’t done in a while; not since long before the party. Usually for work she’d throw on some old jeans and a ratty T-shirt.
Nothing too horrible, at least passable, but today she took time to do her hair and makeup just in the off chance that she might see him.
She didn’t even know if he knew where she worked, but remembered vaguely that she might have mentioned it once long ago. She heard her mother doing her usual mumbling and moaning from down the hall in her own room and rolled her eyes.
Mornings were never fun in the Scacci home. It always seemed that Ms. Scacci saved up all her woes and sorrows to greet the new day.
Annabel, once she finished getting dressed for the day, took a deep breath before leaving her room to go face her mother. She wasn’t sure what this morning would hold, but she was hoping that the feeling that she had from the conversation with Chase would last at least until she made it out of the apartment. She should’ve known better
She tiptoed into the kitchen being quiet in the off chance her mother wouldn’t hear her movements. She proceeded to get breakfast ready for both of them since her mother had been out late the previous night, hanging out with her friend.
She could make out more of the grumbles and was only slightly perturbed to hear her mother complain about a headache. She knew what that meant.
If her mother had indeed gone to Ms. Agnes’ she hadn’t spent all her time there. Only one thing makes her complain for headaches in the morning and it’s cheap liquor and beer.
When the noise just kept growing Annabelle knew it was her mother’s way of getting her attention and resolved herself to going into her room to see what it was she really wanted. If there’s one thing Annabelle knows it’s that her mother’s remedy for headaches is more alcohol.
“Oh, my head!” she was saying, as she pressed her hands to either side of her forehead, rocking back and forth on the bed. “I’ve got the worse fucking headache again, and I’m supposed to be going in to work any minute. What am I gonna do? I don’t know why I always get these damn things first thing every morning.”
Annabelle could’ve told her how but knew that would only lead to an argument, which she wasn’t in the mood for. Instead she decided to play along so this new drama could play itself out and she could get on with the rest of her day.
“You’d better go to the hospital mother.” She rolled her eyes as she said it because this was not the first time those words had left her lips, in much the same scenario. In fact, she’s been playing out this same scene in some variation or another for as long as she could remember.
I wish she wouldn’t drive around so late, but I was glad her friend wasn’t staying the night. That might have complicated things a little. It’s harder following her after dark than it is in the daytime for obvious reasons.
I kept my distance but watched the tracker I had on her car as it lit up in the dark night. I’d begged her grandmother to let me buy her that car. It’s something the two of us had been discussing ever since her daddy had bought Emma hers for her birthday.
I wasn’t afraid that her dad wouldn’t do the same for her, that didn’t seem to be the problem. The problem is, that he’s easily swayed, by the two new females in his life, and for the better part of the last year or so, my Lola has been getting the shaft.
My fear was that she’d either get the same, or something a little less than the other girl’s, because that seemed to be their thing. Anything they can slight her on it seemed like, they went for it. But only when it came to her daddy of course, her mom and grandma weren’t as gullible.
So, Nana and I as usual when it comes to her birthday had put our heads together and came up with a plan. I used part of the interest from the trust fund granddad had left me because the damn thing cost a mint. That’s why she thinks her Nana was the one who’d bought her the car.
Like I said, I was sure she would go for the pink, but her choice of color told me everything I needed to know about what was going on in her head. It was a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that I was partly to blame.
I might’ve thought that it was long enough for her to get over her mad, but I’d forgotten how stubborn she is and how she gets once she digs her heels in. That would’ve been fine if that was all that was going on here.
Ever since I put eyes on her computer, what little activity there is there, had grown more sullen and almost dark in the last year and a half. It had been gradual at first, but only someone like me, someone who knew her well, would’ve seen the change.
Her Nana, though she lived so close, wasn’t in the main part of the house where she was. She had her own separate wing that was barely attached to the house. So though she saw my girl almost every day, and all the time when she was spending the week with her daddy, she didn’t have eyes on her once she went back to her rooms.
I got the feeling that the shit was going on there or at school, but I couldn’t get eyes in either of those places, so had to suffice myself with following her online activity and reading her personal diary which I’d hacked into, until the time came for me to be here.
I knew the second Emma came into view, because my Lola looked away from me at that precise moment. Like the sun being swallowed up by the clouds. And I wasn’t too far away to see the sadness and hurt that came across her face that time.
I clenched my fists and bit back my anger when I felt Emma’s hand on my arm. I had to play it like I was just waiting for my order to be filled, like I hadn’t been scoping out my beauty.
Or who knows what hell this insecure nut would put her through. It was her week at her dad’s place and I noticed her tension goes up, way up when that happens.
That’s something that’s been bothering me a lot, but I’ve come up with the solution. Starting tonight, I’m not going to have to worry about her sleeping in that house alone.
My heart rate picked up just thinking about it. I barely spared a glance for the girl tugging on my arm as I turned away. My gut hurt knowing that this must look like to her. And it was all I could do not to say fuck it. But she needed time.
I hadn’t planned for us to be on the outs this long. I thought I’d explain things to her my first day back and she’d forgive me the way she always did when we were young. But little did I know that without me here, she’d gone and let the world fuck with her head.
I took the unwanted ice cream cone and couldn’t help letting my eyes pass over her one last time. No matter how many times I see that face, it will never be enough. If not for the bi-monthly photos being delivered to my hard-drive I would’ve lost my mind for the sight of her by now.
“Oh geez, just look away Lola huh. It’s not worth it.”
“Old dogface skank. I hope she gives him rabies. Let’s go.”
“Harsh.” I gave Jacks a glare and barely restrained myself from punching her lights out as she stepped back out of harm’s way.
Poor thing, she’s been slapped black and blue since that steaming turd moved back here. Even when she wasn’t defending him in some way she was still getting the brunt of it. That’s my new thing, talking with my hands. And right now I’d like to talk them right around slutopia’s neck.
I ignored the two of them; in fact, I avoided them, altogether by going down the outside steps instead of heading inside to the restroom, which I really needed. “Lola, why in the world are you walking like that?”
“Because I have to pee.” I did the pee walk all the way to the car with this fool laughing her head off behind me. “Why didn’t you just go to the bathroom? You’re being ridiculous you know…”
“Why don’t you come stay with me for a week huh? It’ll be fun…” I stopped in the middle of packing to look at Jacks. Bless her heart, she’s muddle headed.
“Jacks, I’m going to be near Nana, what’s going to your house going to do?” I tapped my temple with my finger and she pouted. I know she’s nervous about me going back to my family home after the way I left the last time, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
“Stop worrying I’ll be fine.
“I don’t see why you can’t just go visit nana and stay here…”
“That was my idea two years ago but the court ordered me to.”
That was the only thing my parents could hammer out when it came to the separation leading up to the divorce. To make their only child suffer.
“Besides, I’m glad they did. I wasn’t always but now…” I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t bother telling her that lately I’d found a new purpose for staying there. That knowing how much it was getting under Eleanor and Emma’s skin was giving me new reason to breathe. Knowing her she’d lecture me unto death about taking the high road.
If she knew what road that pastor of hers down at that Baptist church she goes to every Sunday takes from Monday to Saturday she’d have all kinds of fits. That’s why I’m not telling her, or anyone else for that matter.
“Well promise me you won’t get into any more fights. Just stay in your room like always or go hang out with nana.”
“Would you stop worrying? I know that Eleanor twit is the devil in drag, but if she starts anything, I’ll just grab her pitchfork and stab her in the ass with it.”
Her lips twitched even as she tried to keep a stern look on her face. In the end she gave up and ended up falling across my bed rolling with laughter. I soon joined her as I was in no hurry to leave either.
Mom had gone out with friends. It had only taken me half the day to talk her into it. I hate the thought of her sitting here all alone in this big old house by herself all week while I’m gone.
The court had wanted me to do two weeks with daddy and two weeks here, but I kicked up such a fuss the lawyers had to go work out something new. There’s no way I was gonna leave my mama alone that long, especially not in the beginning when I was afraid she might hurt herself.
“All kidding aside you call me the minute they start their foolishness. Calvin’s home for the summer I’ll send him over there to put the fear of Zeus in them.”
I snorted and rolled over on my side, holding my head up in the palm of my hand and looked down at her. Calvin is her older brother by two years and has been our protector ever since we reached dating age.
Damn, my baby can shop. She was in that damn place for almost four hours. At least she was smiling when she came out the doors. I watched as she and her friend laughed together while they packed her loot in the trunk of her little roadster.
I waited for her car to leave the lot before getting up from my seat at the little coffee place across the way where I’d been waiting for her to get done. I’d been almost tempted to go in after her a time or two, but it was too soon.
I put away my laptop in the messenger style bag and dropped it across my shoulders, dropped some bills on the table to cover the tip, grabbed my helmet and headed for my bike.
I didn’t want to ride too close behind her, but I knew where she was headed or where she was supposed to be headed. Plus the little tracker I’d slapped under her car would tell me where to go if she got away from me.
As long as I see her car in her mom’s driveway I’d know that she was home safe and that’s all I needed for now. The fact that I’m going to miss her the rest of the day was something I was getting used to now. I knew what my evening was going to look like. A long stretch of loneliness.
I’d lucked out finding a place to rent that was in between her mom’s place and her dad’s. So if she made any unexpected moves, I was never too far behind.
Though it was getting damn hard to keep from giving myself away. Not many bikers in town. Maybe it was time I invested in a car, but I hate to drive. Oh well!
Usually she stayed home most of the time, even though it’s summer and school is out. I’d followed her to Miami that one week when she went there with her friend and her family, but other than that, she’s been quiet, a home body. Like she’s always been.
But here lately, she’s been restless, can’t stay one place. I wasn’t sure if that had anything to do with me being back, or if there was something else going on.
The last time she almost ran me over I’d asked that crazy one if something was going on at home, pretending an interest in her wellbeing of course.
She’d given me a little more insight into the way things were in that house and it had only made me more determined than ever to get my girl out of there as soon as possible and get her the hell away from this town.
It’s not that the town was a bad place, but it wasn’t for her. There was too much chaos surrounding her here, and the girl I know was never too good with that.
“School’s starting in another week mom, did you get the money I asked for?”
“Your stepfather has been very busy Emma, I’m sure he’ll give it to you in a day or two…
“But mom! How come she gets to go shopping and I have to wait?” I flounced down on my bed with my face in a pout and my arms folded to let her know just how displeased I was with the situation. “I refuse to be second in anyway to that… that whale of a cow.”
“Shh, keep your voice down. One of the servants might hear you and you know they’re still not used to us yet.”
“Yes, because that bitch hired them all. I told you, you should’ve got rid of them and hired new people.”
“Arnold’s mother wouldn’t let us. Some of these people have been here since before your new sister was born.”
“She is not my sister.” I gritted the words through my teeth.
“And that’s another thing, maybe if you’d be nicer to her, her grandmother would loosen up the purse strings a little bit more.”
I gave her my best bitch brow, all the while vowing inside that I would never be as pitiful as she is. “I thought your new fiancé was loaded? Who bought that rock on your hand? His mother?”
“Don’t be crass Emma. Just give me another day or two and I’ll get you the money to go shopping. But you have to make do this time…”
“When daddy was alive I never had any problems going shopping.”
I knew just where to hit her with the guilt. My phone rang just then and I snatched it up right away. It was his special tone, Julian’s. Boy how things have changed. Used to be I wouldn’t be caught dead with a guy like him.
I’m more into the well-dressed preppy type with fifty-dollar manicures and capped teeth. He’s certainly not any of those things, but who he is, is a whole lot more important right now.
He’d started out as nothing more than a conquest, something to take because I could. But now… Now he’s fast becoming something else altogether. If only he had the money to go with those looks.
I can always talk him into dressing more conventional somewhere down the line. But I can’t just make money appear in his bank account. And that for me, is the cincher. Or it used to be. But like I said, who he is, is way more important than what he has at this point in time.
Once I started hearing the rumors when he moved to town, that he and Lola used to be best friends until he moved away six years ago, I moved in on that. It was just one more thing to take away from her, because I could and no one could stop me.
I get the most pleasure these days, from bringing her pain, ever since my mom stole her dad from her stupid mom. Any woman, who’d lose her husband like that, didn’t deserve him in the first place.
“Just what has gotten into you today young lady?” As if you didn’t know. Then again you’ve been so thick lately there’s a very good chance you don’t. I’ve been so busy battling the other two I kinda lost track of daddy there for a while. And in that time he’d gone and become a blithering idiot.
“I’ll tell you what got into me…” I had to stop and take a deep breath before I collapsed from sheer frustration. How could I have missed it all these years? The fact that my daddy is a complete and total boob?
I took another deep cleansing breath and tried to speak like a rational human being and not the out of control psych ward tenant that his new side twit and her flying monkey have been trying their best to turn me into.
Once I felt part human again I finally looked at him, but I still gritted every word through my teeth. It was the only way I knew to speak these days without losing my shit entirely.
“I’m not the one who started the conversation daddy, you did. Didn’t you teach me to be honest? Oh no, wait, that was nana and mama.” You on the other hand, have been nothing but a cowardly adulterous asshat. Oh how I wish I could say those words out loud. But there was still more left to be said.
“And since we’re being honest, I think you should tell Thing one and Thing two, to stay the hell out of my suite, and it’s none of their business who comes to visit me.”
“And while you’re at it, you should think about getting your hag a back brace for all those years she spent working on her back.” They should change this bitch’s name to stirrups because her legs stay in the damn air.
“Lola hush!” My friend Jackie tugged on my arm to shush me. Genuinely afraid daddy might hit me. He wish; him and his hag slut wife to be.
She is also petrified of being drawn into the middle of our little family skirmish, which had started because I overheard Manipulator-Dora harassing her in my room.
I’d left to go say bye to my nana and this home wrecking sea hag had snuck into my rooms, which were way out of her way I might add, to confront her. Jackie is my only fiend, so of courseshe, and her daughter would try to alienate her. But that’s not about to happen.
I gave my daddy the death glare before turning to make my exit. I heard trampy junior stomping her way towards the stairs and had no doubt her mommy had ran up there to tattle before coming back down to stir up some more shit.
“Well, until next week, enjoy hell without me.” I saved my last glare for the bitch before putting my arm through Jackie’s and going to the door. I couldn’t escape this living nightmare fast enough. And to think I used to call this place home.
Oh dear! My poor granddaughter. Sounds like she’s finally at the end of her tether. I tried warning my shiftless son a time or two here lately when I first saw the signs.
But, he hasn’t been listening to me that well in the last couple of years. Not since he lost his bleeding mind. And certainly not since he got tangled up with that woman.
My inborn and most natural instinct is to protect my girl. To stand in front of all evil for that little gem that’s owned my withered heart since she drew her first breath.
But this was a long time coming and I’m afraid not even I can stop her now. I could only sit here like a helpless old woman and let things play out. Sitting on my hands. But if they mess with my baby… “Moira, what…?”
“Shh…” I put a finger to my lips to silence my gentleman caller as I strained to hear what was going on inside. I didn’t dare miss a word. Have to be on my toes just in case.
It wasn’t easy hearing anything from my side of the house, but since I’d seen the storm clouds brewing, I’d headed out to my private gardens which afforded me a better view and put me within hearing range if the pitch of the conversation was just right
“Why don’t you go on home Simon? I’ll see you a little bit later.” I shooed him away with my hand as I turned my ear towards the fireworks once again.
I had to fight myself to remain seated and not go running to her, to shield her, but my little girl was growing up. Some things she’s going to have to face on her own.
I always knew that her natural sense of propriety, of what’s right and wrong would one-day force things to come to this. My poor little mite has already faced so much in her eighteen years of life on this earth, that it was only a matter of time before she blew her top.
I took a sip of the whiskey that I kept in my secret stash and watched my sixty-five year old boyfriend make his way through the backyard gate that separated our places. Well, sort of. His house was still a good few hundred yards away from mine.
Through the wisteria covered gate out onto the green-green grass of the well-kept backyard lawn that ran between his home and mine. Onto the lake that ran the length of both our properties, and the little boat he keeps moored there when he comes calling.
I promised myself that I’d make it up to him later. He’d come all this way to see me after all. But right now my grand baby held all my interest. I was just waiting to hear the wrong thing from the other camp and then I’d get involved.
“Hi.” Her voice sounded breathless and giddy even to her own ears and she bit her lip to rein it in. Her hand went back to that twirling hair thing as she plopped back on the bed, the night outside her window long forgotten.
“Hi babygirl sorry it took me so long to get back to you, it’s been a long day. How are you doing, did you have a good day?”
She tried brushing him off and turning the conversation back to him but he wasn’t having it. “Did you go outside today baby?” She heard the strain in his voice and knew what he was thinking.
“No, I just hung around the house and cleaned up a little.” How lame, she thought. She couldn’t even think of what to say to him. She felt dumb as a stump.
“When can I see you?” Just like that he switched topics, even the tone of his voice had changed. Her heart raced and she jackknifed on the bed to a sitting position.
She’d love nothing more than to see him, but no way was he coming here now, not with everyone hanging around outside. She’d just die. Especially since she now knew that at least one person had seen him in the neighborhood.
Then she remembered she had his money. “I’ll try to come see you some day this week.”
“What’s wrong with tonight? Right now? Say the word and I’ll come get you.”
“It’s kinda late and I’ve got work tomorrow.” She knew it was a lame excuse, it was barely past eight o’clock, but she couldn’t think that quick on her feet, especially when he was turning her brain to mush.
She was surprised when he gave in and settled for another long phone conversation that lasted until well into the night and early morning.
He listened to the soft sounds of sleep on the other end of the line and wondered since when he found such things adorable. He could’ve gladly stayed up listening to her but he too soon gave in to tiredness and fell asleep.
When she woke the next morning and realized what she’d done, and that the line was still open, she held her breath. Somehow she knew that he was awake as well. “Good morning sleepyhead.”
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry I fell asleep. What time is it?” She spoke really fast so he’d not catch on to what his voice first thing in the morning was doing to her.
“Six o’clock.” Had he stayed awake all this time listening to her sleep? Can’t be.
“Tell me you didn’t sit there all night listening to me snore.” Oh please don’t let me have been snoring, she thought. “You make the cutest little sounds when you sleep.”
She groaned with embarrassment and tried to think of something funny to say but once again her mind blanked out on her.
She got lost in the scenery and unusual quiet of the evening. Maybe it was because it was Monday, but she didn’t remember it being this still outside no matter what day it was.
Whatever the reason, she was grateful that she could sit there like that for once. It was a nice change from staring at the four walls of the barren apartment.
She sat there for what felt like hours just watching the changing sky and letting her mind drift to Chase and what ifs. Her poor little heart ran the gamut from all levels of excitement to despair, and back.
Could she truly take him at his word? She wondered. Or was she destined to end up like her mom? If she gave in to her own needs and his, what then? Would he just walk away after?
Always, no matter how hard she tried, she could never escape that question. It always found a way to seep into her psyche and plague her young mind.
But for the first time there was something else, something stronger growing inside her. It was hope. The hope that she truly could steal a little piece of happiness in life.
Somewhere deep inside she knew that she would give in to him eventually. She didn’t kid herself that she could hold out against him forever; not feeling the way she did about him.
Her body was already fighting her mind, and she knew it wouldn’t be long now before she succumbed. And with him being so nice and attentive, and saying all the right words. What hope did she really have of keeping him at arm’s length for much longer?
The thought made her happy and sad at once. She wouldn’t be the first woman to be dumped, but somehow she knew that to have someone like him and then lose him might be more than her starving heart could take.
Her heart already knew what her mind refused to accept, that it was only a matter of time. Her life was such that she was already mourning the end of the relationship before it had even begun.
She’d learned at a very young age not to put too much faith in happily ever after; that there were just some people in the world, who were destined for a life of hardship, and constant bitter disappointment.
Like her mother, and most of the women in the neighborhood. All of them saddled with a child, or two, or six. And no man to help out. That seemed to be the recurring theme. A theme she was desperate to escape.
She got so caught up in her thoughts she didn’t realize the curtain had left a small gap and she was now semi-exposed. Something she knew to avoid no matter that she was still relatively safe inside.
Suddenly a dark form stepped in front of the open window and she gave a little shriek and almost toppled off the twin-sized bed in her fright.
Even though he couldn’t see her, her face went up in flames. “Say something.”
“I don’t know what to say.” And she didn’t.
It was the first time he’d come right out and said it and she was at a loss for words. He was right about the other thing too.
She wouldn’t feel comfortable taking that kind of money from him, but still she found herself playing along. Caught up in the afterglow of what his words made her feel, and the dream of what-if.
“Vanderbilt isn’t that far.” She felt a warm flush infuse her body as she laid back on her bed, twirling her hair between her fingers. The way she imagined any young girl in love would while talking to her sweetheart on the phone.
“It’s four and a half hours, I checked.”
“You did?” That sent the warmth up a notch to incendiary and she got the biggest smile on her face at the thought of him going to the trouble to find that out.
His voice went soft and dreamy as if he too was feeling it. “Of course I did. I did everything but make a dry run, and I was even tempted to do that.”
For a little while she forgot about everything else and just let the soft monotone of his voice lull her into a dream state. She’d never had this before, never felt like she was someone else’s love interest.
And for it to be him, made it all the more special. As she listened to his voice the world around her disappeared. There were no broken down walls and cracked windows.
No drugs being dealt just outside her door and definitely no unscrupulous thugs threatening her with bodily harm. In her little cocoon there was just the two of them. And for that little while she let herself believe that anything was possible.
They talked about everything and anything and she found that it was much easier to talk to him on the phone than in person. She was a whole lot bolder with her questions, which he noticed and made mention of.
They spent a good two hours on the phone and she couldn’t believe how relaxed she felt by the time they were ready to hang up. She’d learned a little more about him and him her, but he could’ve stayed on the phone another two hours easy, if work didn’t intrude.
“I have to go baby, work calls. Promise you’ll call if you need me.” Baby, he’d called her baby. That one little four-letter word made her feel ten feet tall while suffusing her body with heat.
She swallowed around the lump in her throat, “I will.” They both breathed into the phone long after he was supposed to hang up. “Hang up babygirl.”
She felt tears tease the edges of her eyes and had no idea why. “You first.” She looked up at the ceiling and begged not to make a fool of herself by blubbering. “No you.”
Annabelle and her mother were having breakfast the next day. It was the only meal they ever shared together, and that rarely. In short, it was as much time as the two could stand to be that close to each other.
The mother because she was wary of being judged by her daughter’s very lofty standards, and the child, because she was ever conscious of her fear of becoming a replica of what she saw sitting across from her at the table.
Stella Scacci looked older than her thirty-six years. She was short, and going soft around the middle, with a worn face, and greying hair, which she wore, pulled back in a ponytail.
She had been a real beauty once, but since her last boyfriend had ran off with one of her good friends a few years back, she’d just given up on life, and on herself. At least that’s how it seemed.
She’d moved with Annabelle to the dingy ground-floor apartment in the rundown old house when the girl was about eight years old.
Annabelle’s dad had been long gone by the time she was old enough to know what one was, and from an early age she’d pretty much taken care of her mother and herself.
Her mom had done odd jobs to make ends meet here and there as long as she could remember and in the old days usually made enough to keep them from starvation.
But, after the last guy ran off when Annabelle was about eleven or twelve, the older woman had just stopped trying. It was as if that last insult had been too much in a long line of life’s disappointments and she’d basically just given up.
These days she still cleaned other people’s homes and did little odd jobs wherever she could find them so she could earn a little extra to keep her well supplied with liquor.
It was the only thing she had any interest in and the reason she could never hold down a job for long. It was a vicious cycle that her daughter was desperate to escape from.
Annabelle was able to make her own living by working at a grocery store where she’d been lucky enough to get a job by lying about her age a few years ago. And though she hated lying and would rather chew off her tongue, it was either that or dying of starvation.
Though at the time she didn’t look any older than her age of fifteen, that was nothing a little bit of makeup couldn’t fix. And even though she’d been terrified that day of being found out, and even more of the repercussions she might face in the case of that happening, she’d had no choice but to try.
The family who owned the grocery had long since realized that she’d lied, but by then they knew about her home situation and was very sympathetic. Not to mention, they had a genuine fondness for the hardworking, honest young girl who showed a lot more promise in life than most of her peers.
He knew she was uncomfortable so kept his leer to himself, but it was hard. How long had he imagined her here like this? Too long!
The way she sat at the edge of her seat as if ready to take flight at the slightest provocation kept him from making any fast moves lest he spook her.
He might’ve been wanting her for the better part of a year, but who says she felt the same? The thought made him sit up in his chair and for a few miserable seconds he imagined the worst. Had he been fooling himself all this time?
She wasn’t exactly acting like a teenage girl in love. If anything she seemed more distant now than ever before. The sudden pain in his heart, brought on by his thoughts, was almost unbearable.
No! He shook his head inwardly. He refused to believe that. Hadn’t he sensed the same interest in her a time or two? Hadn’t he weaved dreams around the look in her eyes more than once?
It didn’t matter, he wanted her and he meant to have her even if he had to break down every last one of her barriers.
Besides, the thought of dating her was very appealing. It had been a while since he’d played that game.
It seems like once he left high school the world had changed. Everything moved faster these days, and not many people seemed to take the time needed to learn about the person they planned to spend the rest of their life with.
He liked the idea of wining and dining her, showing her the places he enjoyed and sharing more of who he was with her.
He’d been so preoccupied with her that he’d almost forgotten what day it was. “Oh shit, it’s Sunday.” He looked at his watch a little crestfallen.
“I have to go in a little bit. Please stay. I’ll try to hurry back…”
“No it’s okay I have to get going anyway.”
She said that as if she didn’t believe him, like she thought he was just trying to get rid of her. He was pretty sure that the only way to convince her that he was serious was by showing her, so he left it for now.
“I don’t think I like the idea of you going back there.”
“It’s my home, where else would I go?” She felt a little testy because, sure, the place was a dump, but it was the only home she had.
She reminded herself that he hadn’t meant anything by it and calmed down as she got up to get dressed.
He was torn between leaving her and taking care of his responsibilities or spending the rest of the day with her.
It was a hard choice to make but the kids who depended on him had to come first before his own needs. He was loyal if nothing else. But for the first time that loyalty was being sorely tested.