For the rest of the year, Raphael didn’t get into any more problems. He and Johnny always ate their lunch together and sometimes other kids would join them. They never discussed pulling any stunts in front of other classmates. They came up with ideas to spark a reaction from a teacher or another student between themselves; all the while maintaining their innocence.
Periodically, Johnny would show up with some new item he ‘procured’ from somebody when they weren’t paying attention. Raphael always seemed amazed when Johnny showed off a new wristwatch, a yoyo or several gold coins from his collection of goodies. In classes, Raphael continued to be a good student, passing his finals with a B+ average. Sometimes, he would catch sight of either Sammy or Mitch in the hallways, but they never talked; only glared.
Raphael created no major issues at home either. Sylvia let Raphael go outside of the alleyway for short periods of time. This became kind of exciting because Raphael now went into the city landscape. Here small shops, delicatessens, and offices peppered the streets. Outside the confines of the alley, a whole new world existed; even though this new world needed to end by 4:00 o’clock. At 4:00 o’clock, Sylvia returned home from work.
Raphael took advantage of this new freedom by visiting a new place every day. Not being a paying customer didn’t matter. When someone asked to help him, he would say something about being new and ‘just looking’. Because of his ‘just looking’ status, the clerks ignored him. The dark side of all this became that Raphael’s idea of ‘just looking’ in reality meant ‘just stealing’.
With Johnny’s influence, he made a point of taking a souvenir, every time he found something interesting. This wasn’t merely a candy bar or a pack of gum. He might snag a pair of scissors from the local dress shop or a package of golf balls from a pro shop. He’d grab a new comic book. He didn’t consider this to be wrong because being a local boy; he should be entitled to a ‘five-finger discount’.
The summer months flew by and soon, Sylvia dragged him out to buy new clothes for the coming school year. His metabolism took off on him lately, because by the time shopping day came, he weighed in at a robust 175 pounds; and only 4 foot 9 inches in height. Since being not 10 years old, Raphael’s measurements technically would be called ‘husky’.
The goal was to get clothes and other items he would need. Clothes seemed to be the big thing because Raphael grew like a weed; but not necessarily taller.
Sylvia worried he might suffer some metabolism imbalance. She took him to the doctor for his annual check-up. The doctor assured her some young boys naturally gained a lot of weight as they grew.
In Raphael’s case, he appeared more roly-poly than anything. The fact Raphael would be 10 years old on his next birthday caused the concern. He stood a towering 4 foot 7 inches and weighed over 135 pounds. Raphael conceded he probably would wear ‘husky’ sizes of clothing all his life, because of his chubby build.
Despite this, Raphael kept a fairly positive attitude.
“My how you’ve grown Raphael,” Sylvia remarked. “You’re going to be bigger than your daddy soon.”
“Do nyou think I’m fat Mommy?” Raphael wondered. “Some kids at nschool sometimes call me ‘Fatso’.”
“No, Honey,” she assured, “I don’t. They are jealous because you get fed good food. Natasha is a good cook and we don’t let you eat a lot of junk food. You ignore them if they say anything about being fat. Realize Daddy and I love you so much. Even the doctor thinks you are healthy.”
Raphael didn’t think he appeared fat either. His mother was right and he ignored the comments of the other kids when they treated him mean. Irritation came easily to him but because his mom and dad both acted so passive, he decided they must know best.
“As soon as we get done shopping today,” Sylvia offered, “let’s stop by Daddy’s office and surprise him.”
“Why does Daddy work so much?” Raphael inquired.
“Your Daddy is a hard worker,” she continued, “and he wants to make a good life for us. Everybody works during the week, but Daddy works on weekends to make lots of money and buy us things. He said someday, we might move out of the city and buy a house on Long Island. I think you would like a house away from the city, wouldn’t you? ”
“If nwe moved to Long Island,” Raphael asserted, “nwould nyou nmake nme change schools?”
“Yes, Honey,” she confirmed, “but we may be able to get a pet. Wouldn’t you like a pet?”
“Do nyou think nwe might get a horse?” Raphael suggested, “I like horses.”
“Perhaps,” Sylvia mentioned. “But let’s not think about moving now. We can discuss the possibility later.”
They finished their shopping and Sylvia hailed a cab and gave the direction to Raul’s office. Traffic moved at an light volume today and they arrived by 2:30 P.M. Sylvia hoped Raul wanted to leave the office and take them to dinner.
She grabbed the door handle with her free hand and turned the knob, finding the door locked. This didn’t surprise Sylvia because of today was Saturday, and Raul said he never greeted clients on the weekend. She put down her packages and held her hand above her eyes; peering through the glass into the office.
The front part of the office appeared dark, but she identified a light coming from one of the offices down the hallway. She rattled the door knob again, to make sure the door remained locked. Once again, she peered at the light coming from the offices. From her point of view, shadows seemed to move around inside; perhaps her imagination played tricks on her.
Sylvia remembered Raul usually got home about 5 o’clock when he worked on a Saturday, so he must still work. She reached up and knocked on the heavy glass door panel, and peeked inside again. She expected at any moment to be surprised by Raul peeking his head out of the office, wondering who knocked on his door. This never happened, however. She knocked one more time to no avail and decided he must be gone for the day.
“I guess Daddy has gone home already,” she sighed. “Are you hungry?”
“Sort of Mommy,” Raphael recounted. “I nhad a bowl of cereal and a banana nthis nmorning for breakfast, but now I’d like to eat again.”
“Well let’s walk down this way,” she proposed, “and perhaps we can find a restaurant.”
The hair on Sylvia’s neck tingled because she could swear she saw sort of movement inside Raul’s office. Nobody checked, to her dismay, to verify anyone banging on the door. She had suspicions about Raul’s Saturday activities before today, but ignored them. Now she couldn’t be so sure. She reasoned that if she and Raphael stopped for lunch at a local restaurant, perhaps Raul would show up too.
She remembered Raul once admitted going out for drinks one Saturday afternoon with his co-worker. Possibly the same thing happened today. While walking down Avenue C, they came to a place called ‘The Wayland’. The establishment represented a cafe in the front, but also offered a bar area in a separate section. Sylvia led her son in through the double doors, where a hostess greeted the two .
“How many are in your party?” The Hostess .
“Only the two of us,” Sylvia informed her.
The hostess led them to a small table along the wall, gave them menus and told Sylvia someone would be right with them.
“This is a nfancy restaurant Mommy,” Raphael mused. “What are those things on the ceiling?”
“Those are called Chandeliers Honey,” she answered. “They used to put candles in them back when they first built this place. Now they only light up with electric bulbs.”
This restaurant was a new adventure for Raphael since he visited no place exotic like this before. Whenever the family went out to eat, the venue always turned out to be a pizza shop or a deli. He kept looking around and in a flash his eyes focused on something amazing.
Behind the bar, taking up about 15 feet across, stood a huge aquarium filled with colorful fish. The tank itself became a massive built-in structure, with its thick glass side. I contained about 30 varieties of Angelfish, Guppies, Loaches, Bettas, Swordtails and others, all swimming around.
“Mommy,” Raphael shouted. “Check out all the fishes.”
Sylvia followed Raphael’s gaze towards the aquarium built into the wall. She missed focusing on the large glass tank her son stared at. Instead, her eyes locked onto the couple sitting at the end of the bar. It was Raul, sitting attentively with an attractive young woman in tight pants and an NYU sweatshirt.
Sylvia somehow sensed this woman talking to her husband represented no client. She thought about the situation and decided she would take advantage of Raphael’s request to get a closer view the fish.
“Sure Honey,” she agreed, “Let’s go take a peek.”
She left her packages in the booth and walked into the bar area with her son. Raul’s back faced the doorway so he didn’t catch them walk in. Sylvia and Raphael gazed at the aquarium for a moment. Sylvia’s eyes, now completely filled with fire, kept flashing between the aquarium and her husband’s companion. If looks could kill, this young companion of her husband would lie on the floor. She took hold of Raphael’s hand and led him back to the booth.
“Let’s not eat here Honey,” she noted, “I think we might find a Burger King down the street. Let’s go check and try to find one.”
Without hesitation, she picked up her packages, grabbed her son and walked to the door. The hostess appeared and asked if some problem existed, but Sylvia explained she didn’t like the atmosphere. Mother and son left and continued to walk up the Avenue C until they came to 10th Street.
After turning the corner, they went into a place called Christine’s Deli and sat in one of the booths. Sylvia did the best job she could, of controlling her emotions. But the events of the last hour came crashing down on her like a hot fist. She broke out crying.
“Mommy,” Raphael protested, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing Honey,” she sniffed, “Mommy’s tired and sore and hungry.”
“Are nwe going to eat here?” he quizzed.
“Lets read the menu,” Sylvia said, “and decide if we want to stay.”
Hanging from the ceiling above the counter, a huge sandwich board sign listed every item the deli . Sylvia noticed other customers standing in a line to order and she assumed this place must be a self-serve deli. Raphael busied himself by reading the sandwich selections out loud.
“Roast Beef, Turkey and Chicken Gyros,” he read off. “Mommy, nwhat’s a Gyro?”
“A gyro is a sandwich with roasted meat, tomatoes, onions, and sauce,” she explained, “wrapped up in a piece of pita bread. Pita is like a little pocket filled with food.”
Eating a pocket instead of a sandwich in two pieces of bread intrigued Raphael. He said he wanted a gyro made with Chicken. Sylvia tried a Greek salad because she figured she would not hold down a meal.
She went up to the counter, placed their order and the clerk told her someone would bring the order out when ready. She paid for the meal, bought two Cokes and brought them back to the table with her.
Her mind whirred along like the rapid clicking of a camera shutter opening and closing. Visually, her imagination kept presenting her with pictures of her husband, locked in an embrace with a young college student. As she stared into the distance, she tried to form a plan of action on how to deal with the situation when she got home. Her concentration broke when Raphael asked her if they would take a bus or a taxi home.
“What would you like to do Honey,” she questioned.”
“I liked nriding the bus nwhen they took me home from school,” he reported. “Lots of other people nrode the bus too.”
“Well Honey,” Sylvia nodded, “we shall take a bus home.”
She went back into her state of deep concentration about the matters at hand. Raul always paid the rent, being the bread winner in the family. Sylvia couldn’t afford the cost of the Brownstone herself. She also knew in her heart, she couldn’t stand having her cheating husband around her either. How would she deal with this situation?
Her concentration shattered when a young teen girl of about 16 years old brought the food over to the table. Sylvia paid no attention to the girl’s hair wrapped up in an unattractive hair net. She didn’t pick up on the massive amounts of acne on the girl’s face. The only thing she stared at; the black t-shirt with the letters N Y U. spanning her chest. Her first inclination involved jumping out of the booth, to rip the young girl’s face off. Logic took over however and she came to her senses.
“Who gets the Greek Salad?” the waitress asked.
Raphael tore into his gyro like a pack wolf on a three-day hunt. Sylvia monitored him enthusiastically chewing on the sandwich with a huge smile on his face. What would she do about Raphael if she got a divorce from Raul? More than likely, Social Services would get involved and she didn’t want their meddling. Her mind ran through several scenarios as they sat eating lunch.
She thought of hiring a hit-man to put a contract on Raul. She would collect on his insurance policy and be set for life. Surely the money would be enough for her and Raphael to get by. Sylvia quickly dashed the idea because (A) she avoided being a violent person and (B); she didn’t associate with any hit-men.
She could ignore the situation, acting as if nothing happened, but this idea didn’t appeal to her either. Seeing Raul today with a young girl may have been circumstance, or it may be nothing . Traces of cologne she caught more than once and the lipstick stain she spotted on a previous Saturday still rattled in her brain. All these things convinced her Raul must cheat or having an affair; possibly more than one.
How about if I hired a Private Investigator? She thought. Assuming I got pictures of him in the act, I would be in a leveraged position for a good divorce settlement.
The last idea seemed plausible. She kept money put away for a rainy day which she might withdraw without Raul knowing about. Perhaps even Natasha might suggest someone reputable who may help. Yes; hiring a PI seemed like a valid plan. She would blow off current situation for the moment; at least until she got the goods on the unfaithful bastard she was married to.
And for the time being, she would have a lot of headaches at night.