Natalie reconnects with her best friend...and gets herself into more than she can handle
Sunday morning I’m alone in the house. Tyler is out with some friends doing God knows what so I’ve got the house to myself. Somehow, even though the peace is comforting, I wish I wasn’t alone. Then I think of something I’ve avoided for far too long now. Forcing myself to pick up the phone, I dial a well-memorized number.
“Hi, you’ve reached Samantha Blue, I’m not available at the moment, but your call is very important to me. Please leave a message and I will call you when I am free, thanks!”. The tone for a message rings in my ear and it goes silent. I take a deep, shaky breath. Suddenly I’m nervous, guilty, and sad.
“Um…hi Sammy…it’s, it’s me, Natalie……um, I guess you’re probably at – at church right now…I was just hoping…maybe we could talk?...” I pause for longer than I mean to. “…so, if you wanna, please call me back…….um, but if you don’t want to….I understand….” I hang up the phone, feeling lonelier than before. Apologizing has always been a hard thing for me to do. I go into the bedroom to my little makeshift bed on the floor. I fluff the sleeping bag and pillow so they’re a little less flat, but it’s not much softer. Reaching into the pocket of yesterday’s clothes, I find Taurus’s number still folded neatly. I look at it for a minute, but nothing excites me. I actually kind of feel bored. I take the number and pull a little safe out of the closet. It’s no larger than a jewelry box and the little key is hidden in a pair of my shoes, hit it keeps my possessions that I don’t want Tyler getting into.
I unlock the box and place the number inside, but I don’t close the safe. Instead, I look at the little things concealed within. I pull out a small, crumpled picture of a young women. The lady in the picture can’t be any older than very early twenties. She has straight, blond hair and deep green eyes…like mine. The woman in the picture is my mother, but I don’t recognize her as so. She left just after I was born and I have absolutely no memories associated with her.
My earliest memory is from when I was maybe five or six. I can still see it vividly, maybe because it’s one of my happiest memories from early on. Dad’s sitting on the sofa with his legs up on the coffee table. He’s in a white t-shirt and faded jeans. His black hair is curly and thick and his brown eyes sparkle. The TV is on with old wrestling videos playing. Tyler is there too. He’s only 11 years old with a shirt that was way too big and pants that were way too small. He I climb up on the sofa in between them. Dad turns and starts tickling me. We’re laughing hysterically as I unsuccessfully attempt to fight him off. Tyler joins in, trying to wrestle Dad off me so he can have his turn. Then we’re all involved in a wrestling match, trying to pin each other. Dad falls over with a pretend desperate cry and we pounce, using teamwork to pin him. Tyler counts three and Dad flops over in defeat. Then we sit back up and watch the TV, cheering for our favorite wrestlers.
A tear rolls down my face as I pry myself from the memory. A few years later, my world is turned upside down. My suddenly alcoholic father is gone all day and comes home late at night just to disappear again the next day. Tyler is quiet and sullen when he’s around and when he goes out with friends, nobody ever knows what he’s doing. And there’s, me…bullied in school and bullied at the babysitter’s house. It’s only a year or so after that starts that Tyler is arrested for drug abuse and thrown into rehab and Dad starts coming home sober and edgy. Tyler gets back, Dad goes to jail, and we end up here. I’ve been a passenger to all disaster and misfortune all my life, sitting back and watching the people I love fall apart and destroy each and every one of our lives.
I shove the photo back into the safe along with my parents wedding rings which I never saw worn and a little stone cross one of my best friends gave me before they died of cancer. I shut the safe and lock it, hiding the key once more in a shoe and closing the closet.
The phone rings and I run to answer it. Relief, excitement, and fear flood throughout me as I hear Sammy’s voice.
“Natalie, I thought you’d never call,” Sammy exclaims. How can she sound so happy?
“Sam, I’m so sorry…”
“Nonsense, let’s talk over some ice cream,” she interrupts me. I agree to meet her at The Blizzard, our local ice cream shop. Then we hang up. I pull a sweatshirt on over my tank top and race out the door. I’ll have to keep a hefty pace if I wanna get there in time. It’s closer to her house than mine.
I jog down the development and along the road until I get too winded. Then I continue at a swift walk. I reach the shop about fifteen minutes later. Sammy is already there adjusting her glasses as she sits at one of the picnic tables. I sit down across from her.
“Now…talk.” She orders.
“Sammy, I’m really sorry I treated you how I did and I’m sorry I didn’t have the guts to apologize before.” My throat tightens around the words but I force them out.
“Okay, you’re forgiven!” she chirps. She never ceases to amaze me with her unconditional forgiveness. I think she would have forgiven me eventually even if I didn’t apologize, but I impulsively stand up and hug her. “Let’s get something to eat,” she suggests and I follow her to the little grey building.
“How may I help you girls?” the lady asks as she leans over the counter.
“I’ll have an order of fries,” Sammy begins and looks to me.
“Could I just have an order of mozzarella sticks?” I ask. She nods and writes down our order.
“Will that be all?” the lady asks.
“For now, we’ll be back for ice cream,” Sammy answers. We walk back to our table and Sam sits down.
“I’m gonna just use the bathroom real quick,” I tell her and head around the side of the building to the bathrooms. Just before I step in, I get a text. Flipping open my phone, I see it’s from Alex, which is a surprise. He never texts me.
Could you pick up the drugs for this week? Lonny already spoke with the guy all you gotta do is pay him and bring them in tomorrow
I should have known it would be drug related. It sounds simple enough though. I already know the corner where the guy deals and paying is easy enough. I just gotta watch my back. The police work a street nearby and usually the dealers are on edge.
I send the text and forget about having to use the bathroom. Heading back to the table I see the food is already there. Sammy’s already dipping her fries in ketchup and she looks surprised to see me back so soon.
“Everything alright?” she asks me.
“Yeah, changed my mind,” I say with a giggle.
“So, long time no see, how has everything been?” Sammy asks.
“Can’t complain, but I’ve been lonely. It’s no fun without a best friend.”
“I thought you and Jay were awfully close,” she gives a wink at me, although I know she couldn’t possibly suspect the things he and I have done. She wouldn’t dream of having sex already. She was far too goody goody and her religion wouldn’t support such a thing.
“It was just a friendly thing, not serious. Besides, what would I want with a senior bad boy?” I ask, knowing I there was some truth in it. I really wasn’t ‘looking’ for sex, I just wanted some affectionate security, but it seemed that wasn’t a real thing.
“Well guess who’s been noticing me lately?”
“Who?” I’m surprised Sammy even cares whether guys notice her or not, she’s got her whole life planned out, including the college and career she dreams of. That and she has high standards for her husband whoever the lucky guy may be.
“Richard Poland,” a huge smile beams across her face, making me smile too.
“You’re kidding,” I tease. Richard is a sophomore and shares most of Sammy’s classes. He’s one of the jocks; a great football, basketball player and well-known in our grade for his drop-dead looks. I’ll admit I occasionally fantasize about him. Despite the fact that I could never picture Richard and Sammy together, I can’t help feeling proud of my best friend and sad for how much of her life I’ve been missing.
“No such kidding!” she looks off into the distance with a dreamy look.
“Sammy, I approve,” I tell her with a real serious look, but it leaves just as quickly and we nearly fall over laughing. Despite the fact that Richard could have any girl he wants, including the sluts who’d fuck with him in a second’s notice, he’s never been overly flirty nor has he shown any interest in sex. He’s all in all a good kid. Although I don’t really know him, he seems like a great guy.
“Thanks for your support, I think I might be serious this time. I’ve already briefly thrown it into the air around my mom and she’s not flipped out yet, so we’ll see what turns out,” she looks happy and content, something I wish I could be. Even though I don’t really believe in any God, I send my own little prayer up that she finds her true love. I don’t want her to have to go through what I go through. She could never hold up to it.
That afternoon I decide to run my errands before it gets dark, starting with the drug pick-up. The last place I wanna be is on the corner of No and Way Out when night rolls in. I take my time walking through the town, so not to look in any hurry, but I keep up just enough of a pace to beat the setting sun. As I reach the edge of town and start heading down Scoter Avenue, I immediately notice the more than occasionally police car driving by and undercover cop drifting around the sidewalks. Immediately I feel my body tense up, stiffening my stride and increasing my pace. I don’t mean to look suspicious or draw attention, but it’s not long before a police man walks over and stops me.
“Can I help you, little lady?” he asks, a slight southern drawl rolling his words.
“No thanks, I’m just fine,” I reply a little too hastily. He’s blue eyes search mine and I instinctively cross my arms.
“Might I ask what you’re doing out and where you’re headed?” he asks. I can tell he knows I’m up to something, but he can’t prove anything…yet.
“Taking a walk, I’ve got a friend who lives just up further,” I reply simply.
“I’m sure you do, what’s this friend’s name?” he inquires further. My breath catches in my throat and I hesitate, panicked as I search desperately for a name.
“Marco…” I blurt out. It’s obvious he doesn’t believe me, but what is he gonna do? Arrest me for being stiff?
“Well don’t let me catch you out alone on this side of town again, got it? It’s dangerous,” I nod swiftly and continue on my way, more anxious than ever.
It’s only a few more minutes before I finally reach the little building I’m looking for. Nervously, I head up the steps. I’m about to knock but the door opens ahead of me and a burly black man greets me.
“Aye little miss, I’ve been expecting you,” he greets in a rough voice, shaking my hand and beckoning me inside. “You’ve got some guts, girl,” he adds as he shuts the door. The lights are all on and all the curtains closed. The first thing I notice is the heavy stench of alcohol and drugs. Then I notice the menagerie of black, Spanish, and even a few white people hanging around. The rooms are packed with drugs, drinks, and low lives living it up. I see some girl on girl action in corners too, accompanied by some clearly turned on dudes. Yeah, I’m in the right place.
“Wha?” I start to ask but his smile cuts me off.
“The 5-0, po-9, feds, po po, whatever you wanna refer to ‘em as.” Immediately I picture him watching through his curtains with a cigarette in his mouth as I try to deter to the police. I almost laugh, but then I remember my anxiety.
“Oh,” I answer nervously.
“I’m Joel, but you can call me Papa Joe, Big Joe, doesn’t matter, and you?” he says, pulling out a box of cigarettes from the pocket in his shirt. I knew it!
“Natalie…Lonny sent me as the mail man,” I state, wanting to get my business done as quickly as possible. He nods, taking his time to light the smoke and return his lighter to his jean pocket. I notice a pocket knife folded neatly next to it.
“She’s a serious bitch that one, no offense. I seen that girl crack down better than some of the niggas round here.” He said, shuffling through his pockets, seeming searching for something. “You got the paper?” he added.
“Yeah, how much?” I ask, feeling for the 50 dollar bill in my pocket. How I managed to scrape together that bill and how I decided to spend it on dope, I’ll never know. I expect Lonny to pay me back.
“One fifty.” I pause for a minute, unsure I heard correctly.
“Hundreds?” I ask to clarify. Catching on to my shock, Big Joe starts laughing hysterically, slapping his thigh as he tries to catch his breath.
“Baby girl, what do you think this is, a candy shop?” he laughs out. A few heads turn and I suddenly am self-conscious of being a fifteen year old girl in a house full of criminals and convicts.
“No, maybe if I’d had some warning I would have expected it, all I brought is fifty.” I reply coldly, a little angered at Lonny. I’m not here to mess around.
“No pay no play,” Big Joe says, shaking his head and giving me a look that concerns me.
“What am I supposed to do?” I ask, immediately regretting the question. More heads turn and when Big Joe smiles, a couple of young guys stand up, eagerly awaiting his proposition.
“Well, I take the fifty, and the other hundred has gotta be paid off somehow,” he says, looking up and down my body. If he thinks he’s gonna fuck me, he’s got another thing coming. I cross my arms again, planning how I’ll protect myself if he makes a move. His eyes glance over into the next room, hold for a second, then back to me. “I got some boys I’d like you to meet. Ronny, Nyle, how do you think a debt should properly be paid?” as he speaks, I feel a pair of arms wrap around my shoulders and a young Spanish guy pulls in close to me. Another black guy moves around so that he’s next to Big Joe, eyeing me with a devilish grin.
“B, is that something you really wanna ask us?” the black guy comments sarcastically.
“Natalie, meet Ronny and Nyle,” Big Joe introduces, gesturing first to the Spanish guy already hanging off me, then the black guy beside him.
“It’s real nice to meet you,” Ronny says real close to me ear, sending a cold shiver down my spine. Nyle’s smile only grows.
“I have an idea,” Big Joe starts. I can feel myself starting to back away…right into Ronny who’s positioned himself behind me and wrapped his arms tighter around my chest. “You can come along some time and entertain my boys here, that should be even,” he states.
“I’m no prostitute,” I reply with some confidence I didn’t know I had.
“Of course not,” Nyle moves in until he’s right in front of me, looking down into my eyes. He’s only a head taller than me, but it’s a very intimidating position. “…it’s just having fun with some guys and your friend gets to feel high afterward,” he makes it sound so simple. He’s inches from my face and I can’t bring myself to look him in the eyes, but I know his are locked on mine. Ronny’s arms slide down my body until he wraps them around my waist and pulls me tighter against him. My heart is in my throat, but strangely a feel an arousing tingle throughout my body. Despite the fact that I am being forced into prostitution and my life is potentially in danger, there’s a part of me that can’t deny I find this college-age guys extremely hot.
Big Joe moves over next to us and holds out a little envelope that looks like more than a letter is concealed within.
“You know what you have to do,” he says simply, as if it’s my choice. I some up my guts and stare Nyle back in the eyes. I push Ronny’s arms off me with a sharp shrug and look over at Big Joe. It’s unmistakable that the fire in my eyes is evident and my fear is suddenly all gone. I’m frustrated, a little nervous maybe, and unwilling to comply, but the rebel in me is in control right now. I look Nyle in the eyes again as I take the envelope from Big Joe, but my final stare is directed at Big Joe.
“I’ll be ‘round,” I affirm coolly, and a dangerous smile creeps across Big Joe’s face.
I appear Monday during lunch, with my hands in my sweatshirt pockets. I’m not in the happiest of moods and I have a few choice words for Lonny. The whole gang is here, including Dylan, and Lonny smiles widely as I join. She reaches for the delivery but I step back, planning on making my displeasure evident first.
“Don’t you ever, EVER fuckin’ send me to that fuckin’ house again,” I never curse, ever, and I can see it takes everyone by surprise, including me, but I mean it. Lonny’s eyes darken and Alex bursts out laughing. I hand Lonny the envelope and she smiles, but a little less triumphantly.
“What the hell did she send you in to?” Austin asks.
“You don’t want to know,” I answer honestly.
“All you had to do was pay and leave,” Alex adds in.
“I gave him my fifty dollars,” I start to answer and Lonny’s eyes shoot up to me.
“Fifty…but it was more…” My threatening glare silences her and immediately I can see she understands. She shakes her head, mouthing the word sorry, but she’s not even heard the beginning from me.
The subject is dropped, but I can see Dylan glancing at me occasionally, always with a concerned look on his face. I make sure I make good use of my share, because I’m gonna need to do a lot of forgetting this week. I dread Saturday, because I know it’s my only day to ‘pay my debts’ before I’m hunted down. I don’t want Lonny in any more trouble because of the shit I seem to get myself into.
I get home Monday evening to find Tyler in a splendid mood. He’s all smiling, very busy making some sort of great-smelling dinner, and he’s so preoccupied he doesn’t notice me. I sit down at the little dining table suddenly decked out in a table cloth and neat dishes. Suddenly Tyler sits down next to me and waits like a little boy waiting for cake. But he can’t wait long.
“Well?! Aren’t you gonna ask me why I’m so happy?” he asks. I sigh and shuffle my feet under the table.
“Why are you so happy, Tyler?” I ask.
“Mel Blaine wants to go out with me!” he nearly shrieks.
“Mel Blaine? Are you kidding me, Tyler?” Immediately I clasp my hands over my mouth, scared I’ll be hit. But the blow never comes. I glance back up to see Tyler simply looking at me.
“I very much know she’s a slut and I know she isn’t seriously into me, but it’s my business, not yours,” he says, his voice deep and flat. What is he getting himself into? Then it occurs to me that maybe Tyler isn’t doing what he says he is. Is he having a relapse? Suddenly I realize it’d be all too easy for Tyler to get into drugs again, but what would happen if he got arrested? He’s not a minor, he’d be in jail, and for a long time since he’s already gone through this. What would happen to me if that happened?
“So is she coming tonight?” I ask. He nods just as the doorbell rings. He opens the door and my jaw drops as a slim, black haired Mel Blaine steps in. A scarlet red dress hugs her frame tight with a v-neck that comes low enough to show a lot of cleavage and the bottom of the dress just an inch or so below her butt. Her long legs are accentuated by her 6 inch stilettos. Damn if ever there was a pimp it was her. And she was dressed for sex tonight, hell she could be dressed for a gangbang if there were more guys here. And I could only imagine her refusing protection. Not that she would have an issue with getting pregnant. She’d just abort her child and keep going on.
“Tyler, how wonderful to see you, and who might this be?” she asks in her diva voice, giving Tyler a hug and looking over at me. Her blue eyes are brought out by her eye liner. Couldn’t I just trade her to Big Joe? She’d enjoy it! It seems like such a brilliant idea too, but no doubt her clothing would get her in trouble with the cops for prostitution. Not that I cared.
“I’m Natalie, Tyler’s sister,” I answer softly. She smiles at me and for a moment the warmth in it seems sincere, but her attention is immediately back on Tyler. They talk for a while as he finishes setting up dinner. I sit silently as we eat, feeling oddly out of place as the two talk and flirt nonstop. Somehow, Mel seems to manage to put some sort of innuendo in every sentence, and no doubt Tyler is turned on by it. As soon as supper is finished, I’m left to do dishes while the two disappear in the back. I finally finish the dishes and turn the TV on, but it’s useless to drown out the noise from the back bedroom. The disturbing noises that I know I’m gonna have to live with from now on.