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Authors: Tareka Watson

Addie Combo

BOOK: Addie Combo
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I can’t believe this is happening. I’m walking across a quiet courtroom in Downtown Los
Angeles, all eyes on me as I cross to the stand. My stomach is turning with nauseous nerves, my
knees are actually shaking. I almost feel like I’m going to collapse, but I steady myself.
Just keep walking,
I remind myself,
keep moving forward.
But I have reason to be nervous.

Twenty to thirty years
,” I remember Quinton saying, his voice ringing in the back of my
I’ll be over forty or maybe fifty years old when I get out,
I think to myself.
This can’t be happening!
The room is chilly and smells of disinfectant and wood polish. The faces looking up at me
make me want to burst out in tears; my father and brothers, Randolph MacLeish, reporters and
spectators and even Emily Barrish, my old roommate. They all have different reasons for being
here, and my feelings for them are each a good match for their intentions.
After all this, one thing I’ve learned is who my real friends are.
Another thing I know for sure; this
happening. It’s a nightmare come true, the very worst-
case scenario. It’s a comedy of errors, a tragic tale; and I’m the star. There’s no way out but to
stand up (or in this case, sit down) and face these charges, answer the questions; and have faith
that the truth, and justice, and the United States judicial system will prevail.
If not, my life is pretty much over; just as it’s getting started.
I sit down on the chair behind the railing (known collectively as
the stand
) and the bailiff
puts a big Bible in front of me. I put my left hand on the book, my right hand up, and listen
respectfully as the Bailiff asks me if I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the
truth, so help me God.
I do.
I feel dizzy, flush with a cold wave of fear that shakes my body, sweat collecting along the
ridge of my spine. I clear my throat and take a sip from the glass of water that is placed there for
Approaching from our table on the other side of the courtroom, Quinton James is every bit
the attorney; tall, handsome, clean-cut, his black hair welltrimmed. He says to me, “Please state
your name for the record.”
I lean in a bit toward the slender microphone on a gooseneck stand in front of me. “My name
is Addison Danielle Compo.”
“No, Compo, with a P.”
Quinton nods, pacing slowly in front of the stand. “Please describe, in your own words, Miss
Compo, the events leading up to your arrest on the 7th of February, 2014. And be as specific as
you can.”
I wonder. I look back to the rocky road that led me to this place, this room, this
Well, here goes ...

A year before, I’m graduating from University of Boulder. I sit with the three hundred other
students in our blue gowns and hats, the words of our keynote speaker echoing in the football
field around us.
“And as you step into the world, so full of youth and promise,” television actor and U. of B.
alumnus Morris Mitchell says, “please stay out of Hollywood; we’re filled up with that out there.
And frankly, I don’t need the competition.”
We laugh, but it feels more courteous than it is truly amused.
I sit, thinking about how long and hard I had to work; not only to get through school, but at
The Muffin Top
to help pay for it. I can still hear the customers’ voices ringing in my memory:
“Can you help me with directions?” I always did, even if I was often tempted to reply,
put a piece of the muffin in your mouth and chew.
“Can you break a hundred?”
I wanted to reply,
would you like to open a checking
account here at the muffin shop?
“Do you have anything without gluten? I’m gluten intolerant.”
Gluten? This is a bakery,
was once tempted to say.
If flour were gold, we’d be Fort Knox.
But at least the customers spoke to me, and I have to admit that most of them were quite nice
and friendly. We did a lot of repeat business during my time there.
Meanwhile, at home, things were much worse. Mom died when I was about ten in a car
accident. She wasn’t even in the car when it happened, she was o
n the street corner when the
driver took a left turn too quickly and skidded out.
But since then I hardly spoke to my dad at all, or my brothers. Not that I don’t want to, or try
to. I asked them for help with my homework. I tried to spend as much time with them during
my birthday dinners as I could; it was the one night they’d stay at the table with me to eat.
They’d sit quietly, muttering and mumbling their conversation until after the meal, just waiting
to get up and go to the TV. Daddy’s hair seemed to get grayer just being there, their broad
shoulders stooped, thick torsos bent forward in silent misery. I finally cancelled that tradition
when I was seventeen because I knew they couldn’t stand it. And in general, they just kind of
gravitated away from me, physically and mentally and spiritually. At the time, I figured it was
because of my mom’s accident; that it was too painful for my dad to be reminded of her by
looking at me, that loving me was too difficult for him after losing the love of his life. And as
went Archie Compo, so went his twin boys, Jared and Jesse, two years older than me.
It still makes me sad to think about. I cooked and cleaned for them every night; they worked
me like a maid. And then I’d sit at the kitchen table and eat a
lone while they sat on the couch in
front of the television, watching a football game. And they didn’t just watch it, they lived it;
yelling at the screen, standing up and high-fiving each other, bumping chests, hollering out
beverage orders like I was some kind of livein cocktail waitress. Well, I don’t mean to
generalize or exaggerate.
Sometimes it was hockey, sometimes baseball or basketball. Never soccer.
Or I’d be dropped off by some boy I was dating, which I didn’t do often because I didn’t
have the time; and they’d be in the living room watching the TV, yelling and shouting and
Real romantic, right?
And I had to live at home because we couldn’t afford a dorm or an apartment, since the
family’s extra money went into the twins’ new Compo Brothers construction business. Even
some of the money I earned at the bakery was ...
into their business.
Without my knowing.
At graduation, I look up at the stands of our university football field, searching for them
somewhere in the hundreds ofsupportive but terribly bored families. But they aren’t there.
The Bears are playing the Cubs, or some such pairing. So when I finally graduate, I buy
myself a little present.
A train ticket to Los Angeles.
I decide to go without saying goodbye. I don’t want any dramatic scene and I’m sure they
don’t either. So I write them a little note telling them how to run the laundry machine and
wishing them luck on their lives and their business and their television.
Sitting on the Amtrak as it crawls west through New Mexico’s red deserts and purple skies, I
can’t help but be nervous and excited. I’m abuzz with apprehension and anticipation; I’m sure
that if the train weren’t gently rocking me in my seat, I’d be bouncing around a bit just from
nerves alone.
What kind of roommate will this Emily be?
I have to wonder.
What kind of roommate will I
be? I haven’t lived in the same building with another woman in twelve years! Is Emily even
real, or is this going to be one of those internet scams one hears about, where I’m tossed into a
van and wind up a drugged-out sex slave in Hong Kong?
What about a job?
I ask myself for the millionth time.
Shouldn’t have made this plan
without having a job lined up.
I have to contradict myself,
there was no staying in that house, in Boulder, even in
Colorado. I had to get out, and get out now!
That’s fine,
my inner skeptic replies,
but ... Los Angeles?
Should be as many jobs there for a business major as anywhere,
I tell myself.
Sure ... none.
I try not to think about it. I think about Jesus, one of my personal heroes. He sent his
apostles out to different places, after all. That’s part of a complete and fulfilling life. And as a
Christian, I do believe that there is a just God, and that I have some measure of protection, of
But it’s too late to change my mind as the train rolls into Union Station in Los Angeles.
Even the train station is huge, art deco design meets old Spanish charm; a perfect example of the
city’s past, present and future.
I pull my blue Delsey rolling garment bag out to the front of the terminal and look around.
One of the biggest and busiest cities in the world stretches out on every side, dark and
intimidating. The air is thick with a brown haze, so unlike Colorado’s clear blue skies. The
people have hardened faces, tired and shabby clothes, some wear shoes with no soles.
But I can’t deny that I’m excited.
I can do this,
I tell myself.
I’ve got just as good a shot as
anyone. Somebody has to succeed in this town, it might just as easily be me.
So I look around
again; with a keener eye to find the sense of possibility, the thrush of energy that pulses in this or
any town, here perhaps more so than any other city in the world.
This is Los Angeles,
I remind myself,
the Land of Dreams. This is where countless brighteyed hopefuls come to make their fortunes!
But I can’t deny the ugly truth that stares me down from every tenement window along the
dank downtown streets, filthy drapes or even newspapers hiding the sin and degradation behind

For all the would-be’s who come, how many go home crushed, disappointed, defeated? How
many fail to make it out of the city alive?
No, stop it,
I tell myself.
Stay positive or you’re already beaten! This is life, right here and
right now. Stay focused, be alert, and keep moving forward. That’s what got you through school
and out of the house, and it’s going to take you even farther than that.
If you don’t blow it.
So, convinced by my more-committed and determined secret self, I check the nearest
terminal map to determine where the closest subway station is. An hour later, I’m ascending to
street level once more, but the surroundings have changed.
Now I’m in Hollywood.
I have preconceptions about Hollywood, of course. It’s so famous and infamous, one can’t
help but have some kind of impression going in. Mine is somewhere between the old black-andwhite movie premiere footage of the classic era, and the drug-ravaged ghetto streets that
everyone else in America
just knows
is the actual truth. So climbing up from the subway station
and onto Hollywood Boulevard, I’m not sure if I’m going to be swept into a limousine or gutted
in some back alley.
A good look at Hollywood Boulevard reveals the amazing mesh between my two mental
images. It’s a crowded, modern city; old brick buildings, streets rank with urine and filth. But
amidst the tenements and flophouses are buildings that are either very old and grand, like the
Roosevelt Hotel, or buildings that are meant to look that way. The Mann’s Chinese Theater still
has that Old Hollywood feel, a giant pagoda in the heart of the city. And several blocks down,
the new Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex features stone statues of elephants on
pillars. Based on props from movies by early film director Cecil B. DeMille, the mall is filled
with modern shops;
Louis Vuitton, Boutique Italia, Carmen Steffens
. Old world clashes with
new, the eagerness of youth and the stubbornness of age.
It’s a classic combo, and I doubt whether any other city does it quite as well as Hollywood.
But I don’t want to linger on the streets too long. I’m holding every item I own in my right
hand, and I know I’m tempting fate by lugging it down Hollywood Boulevard. And I don’t want
to be seen standing around, gawking at the buildings like some tourist.
But I can’t afford a cab, so I don’t have much choice but to keep my head down and keep my
feet moving.
Keep moving forward.
I check the directions from Mapquest. The apartment building on N. Sycamore is actually
quite nice,contrary to my gathering doubts. But it’s big, three stories high and what seems like
seven units across. I type in the security code on the intercom box, the burst of crackling static
taking me by surprise.
“Addie?” The voice is thin, metallic out of the little speaker. But I can still detect a feeling
of excitement in her tone, a quickness that tells me she’s been waiting.
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“Come on up!” More static initiates an even louder buzz. I pull the door open, grab the
handle of my bag and take the next few fateful steps that will change my life forever.
I’ve barely knocked on the apartment door before it swings open in front of me. On the other
side stands Emily Barrish; small and cute and blonde, with bright blue eyes and a button nose.
Her mouth is open in a silent scream, her brows high on her pale forehead. She looks like she’s
just found a long-lost sister; though with my taller height, long chestnut hair and slightly more
olive complexion, we don’t look at all alike.
,” she says, holding her arms out for a hug.
I enter, her apartment and her embrace. She hops just a bit while she hugs me, making the
picture of our happy reunion complete, even though we’ve never set eyes on each other.
The apartment is nicely decorated, with scarves hanging from the framed posters; a
ballerina’s feet, a Persian cat in a basket of yarn. Not to mention the tall, handsome young man
just standing up from the egg-cream couch. With wavy black hair, strong, manly features
(powerful chin, high cheekbones) and sparkling green eyes, I have to admit I’m a little taken
aback at first.
Oh nice,
my internal skeptic chides me,
ten seconds and you’re already hot for your
roommate’s guy.
No I’m not!
I silently insist.
I wouldn’t do that, I’d never do that! I’m just ... it’s been a long
trip, and I’m tired and ... he’s cute, what can I say?
Say nothing,
I offer in my mental rebuke.
“Addie Combo, this is my boyfriend, Quinton James,” Emily says. “Just graduated from law
school at U.C.L.A.”
“It’s Com
, actually.” I smile and nod. “Anyway, congratulations, Quinton. Any job
“I had one,” Quinton says, “but the firm’s under investigation for breach of fiduciary duty
and fraud, so it turns out I’m still a free agent.”
“Actually, I meant for me,” I say with a chuckle they share. “But I guess not.”
I sit down on the matching chair as Emily and Quinton sit on the couch. Emily leans close to
Quinton, sliding her arm under his and holding on tight. She says, “You’re in business or
something, right?”
“I’m in business or
at the moment.” We share another chuckle; Quinton enjoying it
a bit more than Emily. “I’m not sure what I’ll be able to find.”
“Oh, you’re so pretty,” Emily says, waving me off with a casual flip of her hand, “you’ll find
“Something?” Quinton says (just to be nice, I’m sure). “This is the twenty-first century, no
reason you can’t have it all; thriving career, healthy home life -”
Emily says, “Maybe you really are Addie Com
after all!”
“Well, it’s very sweet of you both to be so supportive.” Emily shoots Quinton a look, like
she’s waiting for him to say something, but he’s smart enough not to. Hoping to disrupt the
sudden tension between them, I add, “I’m sure it’s not that easy anyway.”
Emily turns to me and smiles, her white teeth shining. “Don’t worry about it, Addie. I know
you’ll find a good job soon, and who knows where that’ll take you? Meanwhile, I’m sure we’re
gonna be best friends!” She turns to Quinton. “Addie saw my ad on
Craig’s list.

“Well, that is classically how most best friendships start,” Quinton replies, turning to me.
“How about I take us out to dinner to celebrate?”
I’ve been on the road a long time, and a nice dinner out does sound tempting.
And to not
accept would be rude
, I reason.
“That sounds great,” I say, “thanks. Give ma little time to freshen up?”
Emily says, “Take all the time you need, Miss Combo! Bathroom’s at the end of the hall,
your bedroom’s on the left.”
“Great, thanks,” I say, standing and picking up my bag. “And thanks again to you both, for
making me feel so welcome.”
“Glad to have you,” Quinton says. After enduring another glare from Emily, he adds, “Here
in town, glad to have you in town. Welcome to Los Angeles, is what I meant.”
Emily turns back to me, her pressedon smile suddenly seeming a bit flimsy. But I don’t
linger to think about it. I really do want to freshen up.
About an hour later, we’re sitting in
, what they call a
Cal Asian
restaurant in the
Hollywood Hills, overlooking the incredible Los Angeles basin. It’s like an ocean of city lights,
multicolored specks caking the inky darkness and stretching out further than one can see and
perhaps more than one can imagine being possible. It just goes on and on.
The spicy Asian barbeque baby back ribs are saucy and delicious, and along with the garlic
green beans and jidori chicken breast, the presentation makes it pretty clear what California
Asian food is all about.
The chardonnay is perfect with the flavorful food, crisp and cold and bracing.
Quinton and Emily find an easy flow of conversation that promises good things to come. I
was a little worried about Emily at the very first, but now I’m beginning to feel like we’ll find
our stride and become, if not best friends, at least a pair of roommates who don’t want to tear
each other’s heads off.
Emily asks me, “You don’t have a boyfriend back in Wyoming?”
“Colorado, but no. I dated a few boys, but didn’t find anybody really special.” I can feel
Quinton’s gaze on me as I explain. I try not to make eye contact, knowing what may happen.
Be smart, Addie,
I tell myself,
stay focused!
But my line of sight finds Quinton’s all the same, just as I add, “If I’d found true love back
home, I don’t think I could have torn myself away.”
Emily says, “You’ll find love someday, Addie. Maybe if we do something with your hair.” I
never really
anything with my hair. I mean, I keep it clean and brushed, of course. Other
than that, I just sort of let it be. Emily adds, “And we’ll go shopping! I mean, of course you
wanted to be comfortable for the trip, but you can’t go around L.A. hunting for jobs in ...” She
looks over my denim jacket, Tshirt and blue jeans. She simply adds, “Shopping!” in an even
happier, shriller tone, clapping a little from excitement.
I say, “I don’t have any money to spend on -”
“I’ll loan you. Trust me, Addie,” Emily rolls her eyes, “it’s worth it!”
I say, “You’re an actress, right, Emily?”
“Actor, actually,” Emily says, nodding and curling her nose up like an insulted chipmunk.

is kind of a racist term here.”
After a confused moment, Quinton clears his throat. “It is a little
, some would say.”
“See?” Emily says, nodding and pointing at Quinton as if he’s just proven her point. “That
Quinton says to me, “Emily just got raves for her work in a local production of
Little Shop of
“Really?” I say, wanting to add,
which one of the horrors did she play?
Instead I add, “Have
you done any TV?”
“A nationwide spot for Vagasil,” she says, nodding and smiling with even greater
excitement. “I was the girl who had feminine itch!”
“Oh, well, um ... congratulations.” I return to my dinner, which is suddenly less appetizing.
The wine’s still delicious though. I order another glass and turn to Quinton. “So, what kind of
law are you interested in?”
“Contracts!” Emily says excitedly. “Rock stars, athletes; hey, it’s all law, right?”
I glance at Quinton and he barely manages to return it, offering half a smile for my trouble.
He says, “Might try contract law for a while, see how it goes. But I’ve always pictured myself
doing ... grittier stuff; civil rights, that kind of thing.”
“So you can represent rap artists,” Emily says, rolling her eyes. “What-evs!”
The next day I start looking for work. My laptop is the only thing I bring from Colorado,
except clothes and toiletries, of course. I also carry along a little framed photo of my mom and
me when I was just a year old. We’re sitting on a park bench, I don’t even remember where.
But it doesn’t matter; I remember
I remember her.
She was so kind and gentle, so loving. She used to call me
, and she kissed me on the
forehead every night before bed. I used to love when she’d smile at me, with those brown eyes
sparkling; almost looking like she was ready to start crying at any moment, though she never did.
She was so pretty, every time I look at the picture I can’t help but smile. And then I want to
cry too.
Mommy’s little girl,
I think to myself with just a tinge of regret.
But I don’t think about it for too long. She’d be much happier to know I’m busy getting
things done and finding the job I need that will propel me further on this wondrous journey. It’ll
also keep me from being chucked out into the street.
So I spend the entire day making a list of possible leads. Emily forgets all about her plan to
take me shopping, which is just as well; I’ve brought some decent Tommy Hilfiger skirts and
blouses (among other affordable but perfectly suitable names) from Colorado.
I didn’t much care for Emily’s tone when she suggested it anyway.
So after another good night’s sleep I get up the next day, put on my red Anne Klein Jersey
swing dress, Nine West Margot dress pumps, and get a jump on pounding the pavement.
My first interview is at a small customer relationship management company. CRM
companies like these trace email campaigns for their client companies, tracking what works and
what doesn’t for that company’s clients and/or customers. If you ever get an email from any
service provider or retail chain, they probably have either a CRM software platform, or a
company on their payroll that provides it.
But as I walk into the reception room at SalesPace, I’m floored by how many other
applicants there are. The room is literally filled with them, and I arrive at just twenty minutes
past the hour.
These people must have been lined up waiting when the office opened
, I presume,
or else came in at a rate of one per minute
. While I’m standing thinking about it, another
applicant enters the office behind me.
They’re all very good looking, well dressed; both men and women, some younger than me
and some older, though none by very much. I begin to regret not reminding Emily about her
promise to take me shopping, but I put it out of my head and start filling out the application. The
woman at the desk takes it and my resumé, thanks me, then reassures me that they’ll be in touch.
“Oh, I see,” I say in a very demure voice, “I thought I might get an interview today.”
The receptionist, a pouchy woman in her thirties (I’d guess) and a blonde bob that makes her
look a little like a woman golfer, offers me a curt and insincere smile. “Honey, if you waited
your turn and we started interviewing right now, you’d be here for six hours.”
“Right, of course,” I say, hoping I don’t reveal too much ignorance right off the bat. “I was
wondering how you were going to manage,” I add, trying to do a little damage control. “Good,
good thinking, you’ve got it all worked out.”
I fill out five more forms that morning, all of them in packed reception areas like the first.
By lunch I’m exhausted, and I sit on a bench at a small park near downtown and try to relax.

BOOK: Addie Combo
2.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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