- 2. Carnival Town
There are too many leaves upon this grey plaque. My feet nervously step towards it. I try not to trip. There is no one to catch me if I do. I stay on the outside of the square. I am dirty, but respectful of his space. The grass is cold on my knees and I am going to be dirtier, but it's worth it. My hands push the leaves away and reveal my name. His name. I want to cry, but I just smile.
He doesn't speak back.
My hands cup my face and I just stare at it.
Yeah, I just stare.
The food is good. The atmosphere is elegant and posh and so far beyond me, but no one notices. I am dressed appropriately and there are pins holding my hair back. I get no sauce in it as I bring the fork to my lips. Mike looks pleased. He hates to be embarrassed. A foot rubs mine under the table and smiling eyes meet mine as he sips slowly at his wine.
"How did truffles taste for the first time, Isabella?" He inquires.
I wipe my mouth and place my napkin back into my lap. I am a fucking lady, tonight. I smile and finger the rim of my glass. My foot gives a rub to his.
His eyes are pleased and he refills my glass.
"Stay with me tonight?" His voice is low and he doesn't look at me.
"Can we get dessert?"
Mike settles the bottle of wine down and reaches for my hand. His gesture is not unlike any other mans would be for his lover. The table across from ours; there is a couple doing quite the same. His lips press into my fingers.
"Anything you like."
His generosity won't go unnoticed tonight.
I hold my purse snug, as though it has a million dollars in it, not three hundred. I try to remember all the things I needed. I should have made a list. My lip is sore from the constant chewing on it. Chapstick. I need chapstick. I pace the aisle nervously, trying to get in and out of here as fast as possible. The owner still remembers me and I am not welcome, but it's the closest store to my motel and I need things.
There is only a small selection of items in the refrigerated section. Cheese, hot dogs, milk and some other things people will buy at 2am from a convenient store. They'll have to do. I drop them into my basket and walk towards the end of the aisle, reaching for a few bottles of shit that will make the other shit taste dull and not matter and head towards the front.
There are three people in front of me; one of them is having an issue with finding their ID. Fucking kids. I tap my foot nervously and shift the heavy basket on my hip. I feel weak and hungry and eye the display of candy bars, but reach for nothing.
He's arguing with the clerk and I can't take it. I need to go. The money in my purse makes me nervous. The bottle of shit is getting warm and I want them to be cold. A wave of shakes rolls over me and my sugar is low. It's hot and I am sweating and this kid has no idea how lucky he is that someone is stopping him from ruining his life.
"Fuck! There are others here, you know!" I scream and it is like someone else's voice. The people in front of me - men – turn around and stare. The kid at the counter is pissed. It's clear. He was already embarrassed and I just made it worse.
"Fuck you, Bitch. This is America and I have a right to do whatever the fuck I want." He's pointing and I am shaking. I cannot control my mouth.
"You also need to be twenty-one to buy alcohol," I raise my basket and look at the clerk, "I have ID, can I just fucking pay?"
"Hey, I'm next not you," The guy in front of me argues. "If this guy will ever move."
"Fuck you, Bro! I'll take my time."
Great, now there was mass chaos.
I drop my basket and walk out of the store, leaving them to argue. I'll just grab something off the street vendors to eat. Fuck, I needed chapstick. I pause and debate for a moment, but never look back. Fuck, the bottles. It was a long walk to a liquor store. I clutched my bag and walk quickly, trying to make my way back towards my motel. I could hide the money under the mattress or….Mike will be so angry if I lose it. I should just stay in tonight. But I'm hungry and…
Someone grabs me from behind and I spin quickly, slapping and backing away.
"Don't fucking touch me! Don't fucking touch me!"
He holds up his hands. "Whoa. Whoa. I was calling for you, but you didn't hear me. Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
I clutch my bag and take another step backwards.
"The kid left," his thumb points back towards the store. "It seemed like you needed these things." A plastic bag is extended to me. I look at it and then him and then it and then him. My hand snatches it away and I shove it inside of my shoulder bag.
He is still standing here, but says nothing.
"What do you want?" I ask.
"Oh, it was just twenty bucks," he shrugs.
"I mean, what do you want?" I move my body in a way that men understand.
"No, no. I'm not….I'm married," he stammers.
I laugh. "You're all married, Sweetheart."
He shakes his head. His hands shove themselves into his pockets. I eye him, noticing his clothes are rather nice. His shoes are even shiny.
"I just didn't want you to be hungry….or thirsty," he smiles slightly.
This fucking town. Full of goddamn crazies. I swear.
I dip my hand into my bag and tug a twenty from the roll of cash. "Thanks for the curb side delivery, Freak." I stuff it into his palm and turn away, heading back towards my motel.
"It was my pleasure," he calls from behind. There is amusement in his tone.
I hold up my hand and give him the finger as I cross the street.
In my room, I dump the contents of my bag on to the bed and quickly open up one of the bottles, chugging and not stopping until I need air. The package of cheese is next and I devour three slices before my eyes notice something I didn't pick out.
A candy bar.
It's a little foggy outside. I open one of the packages Mike left me. There are boots and a new coat. A warm-looking, blue cashmere sweater. I hold it to my face and smile. It is so soft. I place it down on the bed gently and go to wash up. I make sure my body is clean and smooth before I put on the pantyhose. I say it's out of style. He says only real woman wear them. He wins. The sweater is on and I am in love. It hugs me and smells wonderful. I can't stop touching it.
I do as his directions tell me and meet him at the train station.
I don't know where we are going.
I can't find it.
The bouncer is pulling him off of me. I am screaming and cursing and following them out the back door. James is usually better behaved. I don't know what his problem is tonight. Emmett is working it out of him, though. His fist is on his cheek, his gut, his jaw. James is bloody and slumped against ground. Emmett stands over him for a moment, then spits.
"You take that shit to Forty Six and Bluffington; where they don't give a fuck, Asshole. Not in my club."
My eyes are thankful as he passes me in the doorway.
I stare at James and shake my head.
He yells for me as I turn around. The door closes and Forty Six and Bluffington isn't the only place that doesn't care.
It was in the zipper of my bag, buried under old receipts. I am grateful.
My hands are clearing the leaves again. I don't shake as badly this time. The sun is out and it is warmer. I sit on the grass and trace the letters of his name. The date. Words of how heroic he was. I reach in my bag and pull out his badge. It shines under the sun. The brightness hurts my eyes and I settle it down onto the plaque, beside the words.
"I heard Mom married some dude. He plays baseball, Daddy. Baseball," I laugh. "Not even Major Leagues. You really messed her up, you know. You and your love of sports." I smile, closing my eyes and remember him sitting there, watching the games. His chair is old and withered and smells like leather from his police jacket. Sometimes he just couldn't take it off when he got home.
Hell, he could never take it off. That's why I am here.
Motion caught my eye and I look to my left. A few yards away there is a man, crouched down, holding flowers in his hands. He stands and takes a step back, then squats again, then stands. The flowers shift hands and he rubs his face and then squats back down again. The flowers are tentatively placed and he presses his fingers to his lips, then beside the flowers. Imagine there is a plaque there.
I mimic his gesture and leave my father with a kiss and his badge.
The man walks towards me as I head for the exit. He is mumbling something to himself and pulling out his car keys. I eye his suit and tie and where the lights flash when he presses the button on those keys. A Mercedes. Figures. I look back to his clothes and silver watch and well-pressed pants.
As he opens his car door and climbs in, he leaves one foot on the pavement while reaching for papers in his visor.
He has shiny shoes.