City That Never Sleeps
Mack boarded his flight to Manhattan after work the next day and arrived right on time. Right after he touched down, he went to the car rental place and picked up something that he could use to get him from one place to another while he was in town.
He peeked down at his watch and saw that the time read 10 PM. Damn, not enough time to pay that visit, he thought. He settled on the idea of heading into the city and stopping by a diner in Hell's Kitchen for some late-night grub. He had to rearrange his schedule a bit and decided to drive to Jade's apartment in the morning and Brie's place right after that.
He was greeted by the cook behind the counter and the waitress beside the coffee machine upon entering the diner. There were only three other customers in the restaurant: an elderly couple in a booth with both of their own cups of coffee and a young girl by the counter with a slice of chocolate cake.
He took a seat at one of the booths, not looking to start a conversation with anyone in particular. He was feeling tired and a bit anxious because of what responsibilities he now had.
He didn't know how Donnie's niece would react when he finally got to her place and stood face-to-face with her. He also didn't want to even think about how his own niece would respond to seeing him for the first time in years.
"You're a new face," the waitress behind the counter greeted, bringing by napkins and utensils for Mack. "You just passing through?"
He folded his hands on the table before carrying on the conversation. He was mesmerized by her thick New York accent: the way she dropped the final consonants in some words, the way she disregard the letter 'R' in 'you're', and so on. From his experience, not many people in Manhattan were actually from New York, so it surprised him.
"Yes, I'm in town for a few days for some off time. Heard this place had great food and wasn't too crowded, so I thought, 'why not?'" He flipped open the menu and began skimming through what they had to offer.
The waitress smiled, causing her pastel pink-colored lipstick to stretch across her face and the slight wrinkles forming around her mouth to appear more noticeably. "What will it be for you today, son?"
"I'll just have a steak panini and a coffee." He folded up the menu and handed it to the server with a smirk. It had been so long since he had gone somewhere other than his home city of San Francisco, but he was beginning feel like he belonged in the outside world again.
He peeked up towards the wall at the end of the diner and caught sight of a bulletin board. There was a section that had the photos and names of a few honorary employees, past and present. He scanned the board just to pass the time, but his eyes stopped on a photo of a smiling young woman. To his luck, her name turned out to be "Jade Bennett", as it was listed under her picture.
That's her, he thought. Donnie only had a few photos of her to show Mack, but they weren't recent ones. Now, he had a better idea of this girl and what she looked like.
Her hair was jet black, long, and straight, and it was pushed to one side of her head and tied with an elastic. Although the pictures were in black and white, it was evident that her eyes were of a darker color. Her open-mouthed smile was one that reminded him of a light and happiness that he didn't have the privilege of being in the presence of for a long time.
"Here you go, son. Made that coffee decaf for you so that you won't lose any z's tonight." The waitress set the sandwich plate and coffee mug in front of him and walked off once he said he was good to go.
He picked up his cell and phoned his niece, hoping she was still awake.
"Uncle Mack?" A voice on the other line wondered.
"Brie, it's me. I just wanted to let you know that I made it safely to Manhattan, and that I will see you tomorrow."
She sighed heavily before continuing. "I tried calling you this morning, but you didn't pick up."
"Is something wrong?"
"I have to do some abroad work for my boss, and I have to leave tomorrow morning. I know it's last minute, but it's either this or I'm gone. I'm so sorry. I should've called sooner."
"It's okay, sweetheart. Sorry to wake you."
"I'll do my best to plan something for next time. Love you."
"I love you too. You take care, honey."
And with that he hung up and brought his hands up to his face, rubbing his eyes. Unbelievable, he thought.
The restaurant was calm and serene. There was only the sound of "Ain't No Sunshine" coming from the jukebox and the laughter of the elderly couple a few feet from where he was sitting. The place was tidy and spacious, just as he liked it. It was a warm welcome into a city he hadn't seen in so long. A city he never thought he'd be alone in.
Donnie had set Mack up with the Heaven Over Hell's Kitchen Suite at the Ink48 hotel. He wasn't exactly sure why he needed a nice, expensive hotel if he was only going to stay for a few days, but his friend insisted that he enjoyed New York while he was there.
When he walked through the doors of the hotel, he was met with a still atmosphere and multi-colored decor. The setup was unique and sophisticated, and he knew that Donnie had an idea that this was something he was into.
He checked in and made his way up to his room. Saying that it exceeded his expectations would have been an understatement. It was an 1100 square foot penthouse with all of the components of a comfy home. It was roomy with an upper level and a balcony. Out of every single tall, glass window was a luminous view of Manhattan.
Donnie, you spoiled son of a bitch, Mack murmured with a grin that formed from one end of his face to the other.
He knew his best friend was a wealthy man, but he didn't think that the extent of that wealth being shared with him was going to stretch this far.
The clock read half an hour until midnight, so Mack hopped into the deep-soaking tub that overlooked the Manhattan city skyline to take the edge off of things. The city was entirely lit up, and it radiated its beauty for all to see. It was indisputably a sight for sore eyes.
He took a deep breath and gathered his thoughts. He didn't remember the last time things had been this low-key and tranquil. He was beginning to think that perhaps New York City was where his lost sense of happiness was stored.
Mack awoke to the sun shining through the curtains, blinding his sight. He began getting ready for his day immediately, giving Donnie a call in the process.
"Mack, how was your flight?" His pal accosted. The only background noise Mack could make out on the other end was the sound of running tap and Good Morning America on the TV.
"How was my flight? You should start by telling me what the hell this hotel room is all about," Mack jested as he let out a chuckle. He was still in total disbelief about the whole thing. "Why the vanities, Donnie?"
"Like I said, it's the least I can do to pay you back for your kind act of family mediation."
"Yeah, like you would just let all those earnings go to waste on a friend."
"We're family, Mack. It's doesn't mean anything to me if you're not living comfortably away from home. Now please, just accept the damn gift."
The two of them had an ongoing, but friendly conversation about who was right and wrong on this. Mack was not unaware of Donnie being a billionaire, but he didn't think he'd just use his money on just anyone. Donnie was generous, but he never knew that the generosity transcended beyond blood-related family.
"Anyway, I'm about to head off to your niece's house. Go through what you want me to say again." Mack slipped on his clothes while watching himself in front of a full-length mirror. The phone was resting snugly between his ear and his shoulder.
"I just want you to let her know that I want to get together with her once again and patch things up between us. Tell her I have a business trip coming up, and I'll be in New York City in a few weeks."
"That's it? If that's the gist of it, I don't see why I needed to get comfortable before heading off to where I was planning to go in the first place." Mack made his way over to the coffee machine, filled the reservoir, heated up water, and then placed in a K-cup.
"Hey, there's no catch to this, Mack. I'm just adding some spice into your trip."
"Alright, I'll call you when it's done."
He slipped his phone into his shirt pocket after hanging up and grabbed his coffee. On the way out of the hotel, he grabbed one of the breakfast pastries that was laying out in the lobby then headed out to his rental car.
The drive there didn't take long, being that she lived in the same city his hotel was in. He parked across the street from the apartment complex and reaccumulated what he was going to say before heading straight through the doors and towards the concierge's desk.
The room was steady as everyone simply went about minding their own businesses. A man in a dark, nicely tailored suit sat on one of the sofas with a bluetooth in his ear, conversing with what Mack assumed to be a business partner of some sort. There was also a woman trying to keep her child under control by the indoor fountain. Then there was a young man behind the front desk.
"Hello, sir. How may I be of service to you today?" The employee initiated. He revealed his pearly whites and showed a great deal of eye contact.
"Hi, I was wondering if I could go up and see a friend."
"I'll have to call up there and see if they're expecting you. Who is it you're looking to meet with?"
"Jade. Jade Bennett." Mack had to figure out a way to get to her. Donnie didn't tell him that his niece was wealthy enough to live in her own penthouse apartment.
The concierge got onto his computer and began typing, alternating between looking down at the keyboard and up at the screen. "I'm so sorry, sir. There is no one here by that name."
Mack stopped for a moment and took a step back. "Are you sure? I was informed to come here. Can you check again?"
The employee inspected the screen once more, but couldn't find someone by the name Mack specified. "I'm sorry. I don't see anyone with that name. Perhaps a full name?"
Mack didn't know what else to say after that, so he expressed his gratitude and apologized for wasting the time of the concierge. He then made his way out and sat in his car, pondering a question along lines of 'what the hell?'
He picked up his cellphone and phoned Donnie. "Donnie, there's no one at this apartment by that name."
"Hm. That's strange. I'll look up her past residences and workplaces. Maybe we'll have better luck then."
"Why do you have to go through all this trouble to find your niece? I'm beginning to think this is more than just about finding a girl."
"I told you, Mack. We're estranged. I haven't heard from her in years. I'll give you the new locations in a second."
Mack wasn't sure whether he wanted to go through with this anymore. He had to at least try for his friend, but at this point, things were getting strange.
"Okay, send them over."