“I’m resigning,” I said to Alice and she pouted in disappointment.
“Can I ask why?”
“Waitressing isn’t my thing,” I lied. Smiling to soften the blow, I passed over my uniform. “Had no intention coming back but…”
“It’s fine. Small towns aren’t your thing, huh?” She winked, heading back to her office whilst I turned around to scan my surroundings. It wasn't crowded yet it wasn't deserted. There were enough people that at least two, or one, waitresses were able to handle them. I was going to miss this place, mainly because it was the only place in Le Corbeau I liked. Caitlin was off to the side, chatting with some customers as another waitress wiped down the counter. Billy wasn’t in the kitchen; maybe he didn’t have a shift? From my perplexed expression, Jace jerked his head to the back door.
He’s out back.
I imagined I could read his mind. Like I said before, he didn’t speak much but he spoke enough where I could imagine his voice. Walking to the back, I opened the exit door and a burst of sunlight streamed into the darkened corridors. On my right Billy was staring at an unknown distance, dragging in a breath with his cigarette before releasing a wind of smoke. He noticed me and grinned.
“Care to join me with a cig?” He thrust his hand in my direction with the cigarette between his fingers.
“I don’t smoke,” I shrugged.
“I wouldn’t want you to, not that you look like you do,” With one last inhale, he dropped the cigarette, squashing it with his feet. Strangely, the smell of smoke clinging to his clothes soothed my nerves.
“I quit,” Breathing my words, I dug my hands into my pockets. “In two days, I’m leaving town,”
Slanting his head to the side, his questioning look compelled me to explain. “I told Alice waitressing wasn’t my thing but something important came up,”
“Damn, first your mama now something else?” He rasped and clicked his tongue. “Luck isn’t on your side is it?”
“Call me misery,” My smile was tight. “But this isn’t too bad, just something I need to resolve,”
“Will you be back?”
I was on the fence with this question. If I did return to Le Corbeau, it’d be because of my mother, only her, but other than that, there wasn’t any reason. Not for birthdays, not for Christmas and especially not for Bruce Atlas. You shouldn’t be here. This is your first mistake. My father's words rung loudly in my mind. I wasn’t completely at fault coming back. I learned from this mistake. Not wanting to disappoint Billy, I gave him an answer that left a glimpse of possibility.
“When I’m needed, I’ll be back,” I answered vaguely. It wasn’t a direct yes or no. He was smart enough to realise this and his dark eyes dimmed further and he tucked in his lips, smiling awkwardly.
“I understand but we’ll keep in touch,” Reaching for his back pocket, he pulled out his smartphone. “We’re gonna be besties,”
I laughed, getting my own phone. “Forever!”
We exchanged numbers and together, we entered the building. Hugging Billy for the last time, he went back into the kitchen whilst I continued to the front door. New customers arrived in the short time of my absence but my eyes were glued to two men I didn’t anticipate. Mikey was out and was getting better. Yet, he slouched forward to find a comfortable position, easing the ache of his wound. He talked to Wolf who sat on the other end of the booth but the conversation around the bar was too loud to hear them. He eyed me, conspicuously nudging Wolf and nodded once my way. Wolf glanced over his shoulder and our eyes locked. Sheepishly, I looked at anything and anyone but them. From their faces, they were aware of the situation between Bruce and me.
The entrance door opened and with a customer posing as a distraction, I scurried towards the door but Wolf kept his keen eyes on me. He clasped my upper arm before I could step outside, pulling me off to the side as another customer walked in. Tensing under his hands, he gave a hard stare. His eyes were void of warmth and he nodded to the booth he sat in with Mikey.
“Gotta minute?” He asked but it seemed he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Wolf ushered me forward as he fell behind. For a second, I thought he was blocking any possible way for me to escape their company yet, a part of me was curious about what they had to say.
Mikey’s dark eyes followed my every movement as I shuffled closer to the window. Wolf caged me with his large frame and alas, all eyes were on me. From the judgement they exuded, they made it seem like I did something wrong. Cooling the annoyance rising, I waited for either one of them to speak up. When none of them grew the balls to do so, I decided to speak.
“Is your recovery going well?” Mikey leaned forward, not displaying his agony.
“It’s fine,” He said monotonously. Both men exchanged glances, communicating with their eyes. “You’ve spoken to Bruce since…”
My reply was instant. When I caught Bruce with Gladys, I cut all contact with him, meaning, to the point where I haven’t spoken to Salice at all. She called a few times but I sent them to voicemail. Even those I haven’t listened to.
“We know what happened,” Wolf confessed, leaning forward so our eyes connected. “I was surprised when he told me you were playing around with another guy but I didn’t think you were that type of girl.”
The wheels in my head halted at ‘playing around with another guy’. What the fuck was that about? I held up my hand, commanding his silence. As he held his tongue, I narrowed my eyes as I shook my head in confusion.
Wolf hesitated, and again, he looked at Mikey. Shifting in his seat, he scratched his forearm, hoping the distraction would diminish the uncomfortable atmosphere.
“Bruce said you were fucking around and you have been since you came back,”
“I’ve been fucking around?” The lid blew off and my anger spewed over my emotions. “Shouldn’t I be the one to think that way? He slept with my step sister. You don’t think that’s messed up?”
My voice rose an octave, catching the attention of the customers surrounding us. Mikey squeezed my hand to lower my tone but I snatched it away, staring at them both in disgust. Of course, they’d take his side. Bros before hoes, right? My laugh was colder than ice. I wanted to leave, not feeling the need to explain myself, but Wolf blocked my way. His ‘gentlemanly’ act was a trap.
“He’s a volatile guy. He should’ve approached the situation differently but can you blame him?” Mikey moved his dreadlocks away from his face. “I’d never seen him so vulnerable until you and everything blew up in his face,”
“Well, there’s no need for revenge is there?” My lips curled upwards, sadistically. “I want nothing to do with him. I’m leaving this godforsaken town. You guys don’t have to worry if I ‘fuck around’.”
His eyes softened and Wolf intercepted. “You’re leaving?”
“I just said I was,”
“He isn’t going to be happy about this,”
“Why should he care? What are you guys doing? Are you his spokesperson or something?” Turning my knees to Wolf, I tapped his arm frantically. “Let me out.”
He didn’t listen to me straight away. When he didn’t make any further movement, I lowered my voice to a deadly tone.
“I will scream my head off if you don’t let me out,” I growled and from the way his eyes widened, he believed my threat. No, it was a goddamned promise. My tolerance wore thin the longer I thought of him. He slid out of the booth, motioning for me to leave. Free from their interrogation, my eyes brushed over them one last time.
“We want to know the truth, I can’t believe you’d do something so…” He trailed off, tightening his bottom lip.
“I don’t owe you or him an explanation. Try not to jump to conclusions. I’m sure time would knock some sense into you,”
I left, not giving them or Bruce any time of my dim day.
"Are you busy?” I rested my hip on the car as John smiled timidly but nothing he’d do would ‘break the ice’ between us. I wondered what happened between him and my ma. A couple days passed without them speaking to each other; I pushed aside the guilt looming over me.
“Kind of,” I nodded to the flat tire. “Thought to be generous enough to change it,”
“Let me help you,” I didn’t protest. For the next few minutes, we worked together in silence until his deep voice broke through the barrier between us.
“I want to apologise for my behaviour the other day,” I took the tire from his grasp without looking at him. “I was out of line,”
“I appreciate that,” Finally, I gathered the courage to look at him. “Do you expect an apology from me?”
Good. If anyone else was in my position, I’m sure they would’ve done the same. Tony said there were consequences and coincidently, Mikey and Mrs Porters were caught in the crossfire. My logic was if I left, nobody else would get hurt. Twice, Tony denied his involvement in those incidents. At first, I was willing to believe his innocence but now, not anymore.
He sent a text for my first job in two years. My next stop was New Orleans which was convenient given my Aunt Betty lived in the French Quarter. It was the perfect spot, I wouldn’t be too far from my mother in case she needed me but it was far enough from Le Corbeau. It was six hours away to be exact.
“I wasn’t going to,”
“I know but… could you talk to your mother for me? I try to myself but she’s closed off,”
I shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know, what do you want me to say?”
“To apologise on my behalf as she will listen to you. It’s like I’m talking to a wall when I say ‘I’m sorry’,”
“I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it. I don’t think you understand the extent of the things we’ve been through,”
John cocked his head to the side curiously. “I understand perfectly,”
“But you can’t empathise. You only know what’s happening on the outside. For god sakes, you can’t see what your own daughter is doing. Whatever you think our bad blood is about, whether if it’s ‘sibling rivalry’, it goes far deeper than that. For once, why don’t you sit down and process the bad mom and I have been through. Then, you’d truly understand,”
His mouth was slightly ajar, delaying his response. “What is Gladys doing?”
“Why don’t you ask her to find out? You wouldn’t like what I have to say,” Taking a deep inhaled, I stepped past John for the front door. “If you want to grab her attention, get her lilies and chocolate. You can’t go wrong with chocolate.”
Not waiting for his response, I entered the house, my mind solely focused on my bedroom. Running up the stairs blindly - and surprisingly not falling face first - I kicked my door open as a gush of wind blew my hair in all directions. Dusk kissed the horizon as it gave a bright, tangerine glow, allowing enough light for my eyes to see what I’m doing. My sticky skin screamed for a good scrub and sluggishly, I unbuttoned my shirt, peeling the material away.
I was about to head to the bathroom but a deep, rumbling voice startled the soul out of my body.
“You gonna ignore me, princess?”