Authors: Susan A. Bliler
Draken made to follow her, but was prevented by the detectives blocking his path.
“That’s not what I meant!” He growled after her, but she was gone. “Excuse me!” He barked at the detectives blocking his path, as he forced his way out the door, “Excuse me, ‘scuse me…MOVE DAMN IT!”
He got to the front door just in time to see Lucia leaving the estate in the back of a cop car. He turned and grabbed the nearest officer, “Where are they going?”
“Uh…who Sir?” The young rookie looked around confused.
“My fiancé!” Draken clenched his jaw trying to control his temper.
“I-I don’t know.” The young rookie’s voice cracked.
A second police officer stepped in through the front door, “She asked Jennings for a lift back to town. Didn’t say where though.”
Draken dropped his hands from the rookie and shouted through the house, “PATRICK! Have the car brought round.”
“Yes.” Patrick acquiesced from somewhere in the jumble of detectives, police officers, and wedding guests as all milled about the foyer.
In the back of the police car, Lucia stared out the window without seeing.
“You alright ma’am?” The officer asked, eyeing her thoughtfully in the rearview mirror.
“Fine,” she bit out without turning her head. “Could you please drop me at Ashton Street?”
“Sure thing.” The officer dropped his eyes from the rearview mirror and they drove in pensive silence.
She didn’t want Draken trying to find her, so she wanted to be dropped off in as vague an area as possible, and the busy metropolitan area of Ashton Street was as vague as it came. The bustling streets full of shops, vendors, and apartments would keep Draken from discovering her true whereabouts regardless of how great a detective he hired.
The cruiser eased to a stop at a red light just off Ashton Street. As the officer drummed his thumbs impatiently on the steering wheel waiting for the light to change, Lucia threw the door open and sprang from the car tossing a hasty, “Thank you!” over her shoulder.
She heard the officer yell, “Wait! We’re not there yet.”
Ignoring him, she hiked up her puffy wedding gown and raced down the street amidst the stares and questioning gazes of the people that milled about the street.
She zigzagged her way through several blocks before she stopped in front of a small redbrick Italian restaurant nestled on the corner of a busy down town street. Small black wrought iron tables surrounded by chairs dotted the boulevard in front of the restaurant. Lucia lifted her chin and walked haughtily into the restaurant, while the diners seated outside stared at her in wonder.
An old-fashioned bell that hung over the front door tolled her entrance. Stopping at the front door to scan the restaurant, she could feel her face flush red as every table turned to stare. She was just about to bolt from the establishment when she heard in a thick Italian accent,
“Honey! How you been?”
A squat dark skinned woman with pitch-black hair piled neatly on top of her head quickly crossed the restaurant, arms already open.
“Maria!” Lucia sobbed the name, losing all control and rushing to crush into the shorter woman’s embrace crying uncontrollably.
“Honey, what happened? You gettin’ married.” The shorter woman rubbed Lucia’s back as she continued to cry with the entire restaurant watching the show. “Come on, we go to the back.” As Maria led Lucia through the restaurant she barked at her customers, “What you lookin’ at? Eat, eat, eat!” The tables all turned back to their food and Maria ushered Lucia past the cook line, where the chef looked up, did a double take, and yelled, “Lucia! Looking good.”
“Oh you shut up you stupid!” Maria bit out as she pushed Lucia into her small office in the back of the restaurant and closed the door.
Maria sat on the edge of a desk that was piled high with a disarray of paperwork. Lucia crumbled into the chair that sat in front of the desk, wiping at her tears and sniffling. Maria handed her a box of tissue and waited for Lucia to blow her nose before she began her interrogation.
“H-okay honey, you tell me what happened.” Maria continued without giving Lucia a chance to answer the first question, “I can’t believe you gettin’ married and you no tell me. Did you husband leave you?”
Lucia shook her head, resting her forehead in her hand, “No! He wasn’t my husband. He was going to be, but…well he wanted to marry me but he doesn’t love me. Oh God Maria, I don’t even know where to start.”
“Why you gonna marry a man that you no love?”
Lucia shook her head again than laughed, “I didn’t say
didn’t love him, I said
Maria’s warm face crumpled into a scowl, “Well if he no love you than he a stupid. I find you a man honey, a
Lucia stood and squeezed a still seated Maria, “Oh Maria, you never change.”
Maria pushed Lucia away, “Well, I know lots of good man for you.”
Lucia flopped back into the chair and changed the subject, “Do you have something I can change into?”
Maria smiled down, “I got you a shirt, but you no fit my pants.” Maria nodded, “I get you some pants anyway.” Maria left the office, returned several minutes later, and dropped off a pair of faded blue jeans that were too big in the waist and too short in the legs. Luckily, the black long sleeved sweater and black canvas shoes Maria brought back fit.
Lucia bent and rolled up the bottom of the pants to make them into pedal pushers and she grabbed a pair of scissors from the penholder on Maria’s desk to snip off a few inches of one of the shoelaces. Standing, she used the shoestring to tie two belt loops together in a make shift belt.
Maria watched with her brows hiked high. “Girl you so crazy.”
Lucia tightened the knot and pulled the hem of the sweater down to cover her handy work. She was relieved to have one person in the universe that was always there for her. When she’d first moved to England, her first job had been as a waitress in Maria’s Italian restaurant. The two had grown close and had stayed that way over the years.
Maria gave her a look of concern before asking, “What you want me to do with you dress?”
Lucia snagged a rubber band from on top of the desk and started pulling pins and combs from her hair as she bit out, “Throw it away.”
“No! Don’t worry. You honey come find you and you still get married.”
Lucia rolled her eyes as she walked past Maria who was bent over shoving the flowing wedding gown into a large garbage sack.
“I save this for you baby.” When Maria finished tying a knot in the bag she exited her office and found Lucia munching on a bread stick and pouring herself a cup of coffee in the dimly lit waitress’ station.
Lucia opened the fridge and grabbed some creamer before pulling the half-eaten breadstick from her mouth, “Umm, Maria? I could really use a job.”
Maria eyed her quizzically, “You got a place to stay too?”
Lucia lowered her eyes, “No, I’ve got nothing.”
Maria puffed up, “Well, you get you old job back. You start tonight and you stay with me upstairs.”
Lucia’s eyes glistened her appreciation as she set the breadstick down and hugged the shorter woman, “Thank you Maria, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Maria hugged her back before shoving Lucia away, “I tell you, you can always come back to me. Now get to work.” Maria smiled at Lucia and hesitated before she left, her eyes shifting down Lucia’s face to her throat, “And tonight you tell me how you get burned, h’okay.” With that Maria ducked into the kitchen.
A couple entered the restaurant and Lucia picked up two menus and went out to greet them, eyeing the sign over the cash register that declared the daily special. “Welcome to Maria’s. I’m Lucia and I’ll be your waitress. Our special today is spaghetti and meatballs for eight dollars. Can I get you a drink to start?” She barely heard the couple as they ordered a coke and water.
It’s like I never left.
As the dinner rush hit, Lucia was lost in the monotony of taking orders, bringing out hot dishes, and filling drinks. She’d never been more grateful for such a busy night in her life, but even with a packed restaurant, the two or three seconds when she found time for a break, her thoughts wandered to Draken and the game he’d played with her and at her expense. When she wasn’t angry she was hurt, and she didn’t want to feel either, so she kept herself busy checking too often on her tables and refilling anything that looked remotely empty.
The next few months passed in a haze. Lucia worked day and night to keep her mind from constantly drifting back to the day she’d last seen Draken.
Because she wasn’t paying any rent staying with Maria and because Maria fed her all she wanted, Lucia quickly had a nice little nest egg saved up. She’d taken some of her tip money and purchased some clothes and toiletries straight away, but other than that she had saved every dime. Her plan was to find a small apartment and start anew. She’d been scouring the papers for weeks considering whether she’d prefer one room flats, or bunking with a roommate. She quickly decided it’d be best for her to be alone. In the end, she found a quaint little duplex.
The day the landlord had given her a tour, she’d met the woman renting the adjoining apartment. Ronnie, a stunning 6’3” model, was as nice as they came.
Lucia introduced herself to the much taller woman who squealed with delight and bent to hug Lucia, “Oh my gosh, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have you as a neighbor.” The taller woman released Lucia and beamed down at her, running perfectly manicured fingers through silky blonde curls, her blue eyes glistening like radiant sapphires. “I’ve gone through dozens of neighbors, but never a single woman. It’ll be so much fun, we’ll be like sisters!”
While Lucia doubted they’d ever be like sisters, she did feel an instant kinship towards the woman who was so immediately friendly.
Two days later, Lucia was moving into the duplex. The cab she’d taken from Maria’s pulled to a stop in front of the apartment and Lucia was pulling her two garbage sacks of belongings from the trunk when Ronnie came squealing from her apartment, “Oh great, you’re finally here.”
Lucia looked up from the trunk to see the statuesque blonde approaching. She wore form fitting blue jeans and a loose-necked sweatshirt that hung sideways, revealing one smooth shoulder.
“I asked the manager when you’d be moving in and he told me, so I took the day off to help you with the move.”
Lucia scoffed at Ronnie’s moving attire and paid the cab driver before bending and hauling up her two garbage sacks, “Uhh…thanks but…”
“Well where’s the moving truck.” The blonde’s perfect face cracked with a scowl as she eyed the street confused.
“This is it.” Lucia held up the two bags as she passed the blonde.
“Well, all you could fit in the cab, but when does the moving truck get here?”
Lucia shook her head, fighting to hide a smile at the other woman’s misunderstanding, “No. This is it.” She turned to Ronnie dropping her two bags to the ground. “Ronnie this is all I’ve got. There is no moving truck. There is nothing else to bring. This is all I own.”
Ronnie’s bottom lip pouted and her eyes actually appeared to flood with tears. “You mean you don’t have
Lucia smiled her gratitude at the woman’s apparent distress over Lucia’s situation as she grabbed Ronnie’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “It’s okay Ronnie. I’m all right. I’m just starting over…starting fresh is all.”
Ronnie bit her bottom lip, “Well, it’s not fair.” She turned and left Lucia standing on the sidewalk staring after her as she retreated into her apartment.
Lucia stood waiting for several moments before deciding that Ronnie wasn’t coming back. She hiked up her two sacks and used her key to let herself into her new apartment. Entering the front door, she dropped her two sacks in the living room and was standing looking around when the front door opened behind her. Ronnie came in, arms full of towels, blankets, pillows, and a lamp swinging by its cord that was wrapped around Ronnie’s wrist. “Where do you want this stuff?”
Lucia rushed to help her overwhelmed neighbor. “Oh Ronnie. You don’t have to do this. Honestly, I’ve got the money to get started I just need a chance to shop.”
“Well tough, because I’m not taking any of it back.”
Lucia carried the supplies over to the kitchen counter and set everything down. “Well, thank you, but you truly didn’t have to do this.”
“Well, that’s what neighbors are for, and if we’re going to be like sisters one day we might as well start acting like it now.”
Again with the sisters
. “Well, thank you again.”
“You’re welcome.” Ronnie smiled pleased with herself for her good deed, “So, do you wanna go shopping? I have a car and I took today off to help you move in and since we’re done doing that…”
Lucia took advantage of the gracious offer, “I’d
to go shopping.”
A few hours and few hundred dollars later, Lucia was back at the duplex unpacking and setting up her new apartment.
That night in her own apartment, sleeping in a newly purchased sleeping bag on the floor of her empty bedroom, Lucia finally felt like she was taking the first steps to getting her life back. She smiled as silent tears slid down her cheek.
Confident and terrified, even my emotions are in turmoil
. She drifted off to sleep fighting to think of anything, anywhere, anyone, but Draken Shatan.
Over the next few weeks Lucia’s apartment slowly filled up until the rooms actually resembled liveable space. One warm fall day as she was in her small kitchen baking a gooey butter cake from a recipe she’d cut out of a magazine, Ronnie danced through the front door without knocking. The two had become extremely close and much to Lucia’s earlier protestation, she actually did feel a sisterly connection with Ronnie.