I started the car and followed her directions to her house, which turned out to be on the same side of town as the party I'd rescued Vi from earlier this year. I pulled up outside as I noticed a man face down in the yard of the house opposite, panic seizing me briefly.
'That's Odd Frank. Don't worry about him, he's fine.' Veronica commented upon seeing my worried expression, pulling the door open and walking towards the house, mesmerising me with the walk that she owned so well. She disappeared into the house and I glanced around the street, noticing for the first time how many people were actually outside. It was a pleasant day and all, sure, but these people were in their bed clothes for crying out loud. A woman stood to the right of Odd Frank, watching me with a bored expression on her weathered face, as she leaned on her garden gate. I smiled in acknowledgement as she glared back at me, venom in her eyes. I jumped when the door opened and Veronica slid in.
'Ha, you met Blanche? She's hilarious. I once saw her smack a guy with a frying pan for trying to sell shit at her door.' She sniggered as she waved, Blanches face remaining impassive as I quickly pulled away.
'Sounds delightful, remind me not to pop round for sugar if you run out.' I commented dryly as I caught her gazing at me.
'What?' I frowned, turning into the highway that would lead us to the fair.
'Ace. As if you will be at my house anytime soon. I'm never taking you in there.'
'Why?' I shrugged, changing lanes as the car gained speed.
'I don't want you seeing that part of my life. I'm trying to get away from it myself.' Her voice was quiet as she spoke. I knew she wasn't proud of where she came from, but it didn't matter to me. What mattered was where she was going. We finally reached the fair, after she told me off for parking too far away.
'Where to first my lady?'
Her eyes lit up as she snaked her arms around my neck, her tongue slipping into my mouth suddenly. We kissed briefly before she pulled away, holding me close.
'It's got to be the coin machines.'
She looked like a little girl at Christmas and I laughed.
'Lead the way.'
The scent of candy floss filled the air, squeals of delight from children echoed around us as we walked towards the arcade machines, her hand in mine. I noticed the men staring at her hungrily, as they always did, jealousy flowing through my veins. One man in particular watched her a little too carefully, his disrespect for me all too evident. He wore a tattered black jacket over a faded green t shirt, his ripped jeans pushed into scuffed black boots. But it wasn't that that unnerved me. It was the dangerous glint in his eyes, the way he cricked his neck almost unnaturally as he considered us. His electric blue eyes met mine as he made his way over, his voice deep and rough as he spoke.
Veronica jumped as if she had been slapped, her eyes wide as they focused on him.
'Hey! How you doing?'
She sounded overly chipper. Forced. Who was he? He gave her a crooked smile as he nodded at the pot in her hands, filled with coins.
'You earn more than that at Lollis don't ya?' It was meant as a joke, but I stiffened anyway, which he noticed immediately, his eyes coming to rest on me.
'I don't think we've met. Who might you be?'
He lifted something from his pocket, offering it to Veronica first. She declined and he arched a brow with interest.
'I'm Ace. You?' I snapped, already disliking the guy. Veronica shot me a look that warned me to be nice.
'That's a big name. I've got one like that. Its not in the name though is it? It's how you carry yourself. You could be called Reginald and run an empire, or be called Thor and piss your pants when you see a pretty lady.'
I was so fucking confused. What was he on about? He seemed to sense my confusion as he lifted a lighter to the cigarette that dangled from his full lips.
'Ace what?' He asked as he dragged on his cancer stick for what felt like a painfully long time.
'Sorry, who are you?' I snapped again, beginning to lose interest in this loser who just seemed to want to chat about names all day long.
His mouth curled into a smile as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
'Where are my manners? I'm Red. Got myself one of them names you see.'
Red? What the fuck was he doing out of jail?
I felt the rage in my stomach as Veronica squeezed my hand, as though begging me not to speak.
'You know my sister.'
He gazed at me with interest as he smoked.
'Do I? Who's your sister?'
Veronica stepped in between us as she glared at me with fear in her eyes.
'Ace, we should go. '
'Ronnie, let the boy tell me who his sister is.' His voice commanded, and she closed her eyes in defeat.
She said softly, and I noticed his eyes change, a flame of emotion that wasn't there before suddenly alight. He seemed to lose his composure slightly as he coughed, before nodding at me.
'How she doing? I've alot of time for your sister. '
'Funny way of showing it.'
He blinked, clearly astounded that I didn't care about his reputation thst preceded him. Veronica looked like she was going to kick my ass into next week as she spoke through gritted teeth.
'Ace. Please. For me, stop talking.'
She held my face in her hands as I watched Red stare into the distance, seemingly lost in thought.
'Are you saying I disrespected her?'
Veronica pleaded with me, and I ran my hand through my hair as I blew out an irritated sigh.
'Well, you treated her like she was a whore for hire at your party. Pushing money into her clothes?'
His eyes narrowed as he walked towards me, and I actually felt the first sliver of fear drip into my bloodstream, but I refused to back down.
'I never meant to cause her any disrespect. I was drunk, high and low all at the same time. I apologise.'
I was stunned. I blinked as Veronica trembled beside me, her eyes fixed on Red.
'Just a correction for you though, Ace.. even if you pay a woman to strip, that doesn't make them a whore.' His blue eyes ran over to Veronica, who stared at the floor. 'A whore is someone who fucks for money. Isn't that right Ronnie?'
I froze as he nodded thoughtfully, stepping away from us, a smile on his face.
'Send my regards to your sister. Y'all have fun now. '
Without another word he moved away, leaving me standing very still as I considered his words. I didn't want to turn to see her, but I knew I needed to.
'You need to tell me something?' I asked quietly, my voice shaking and my stomach churning.
I'm so sorry Ace.'
Her face paled and tears fell out of the sea green eyes I had fallen into so many times. My body went numb as I tried to breathe.
'You need to say something else right now Veronica, because I'm hoping to fucking God I've got this wrong. '
Her face answered me, and I felt anger ripping through my body.
'You're a hooker?'
I struggled to breathe as I felt tears prick the back of my eyes.
'No. No. I'm not a hooker, I'm not. '
The words fell out of her mouth as she spoke, my brain turning to mush as I realised what she was saying.
'What are you telling me Veronica? Who did you fuck for money?'
Suddenly everything stood still as she choked back a sob, her mascara streaming down her face.