A tale of two families caught in a whirlwind of life's forces, fueled by hate. Now the innocent must seek in the past to uncover family secrets. As the secrets unwind, both families must come to grips with the past and what they have become
A tale of two families caught in a whirlwind of life’s forces, fueled by hate. Now the innocent must seek in the past to uncover family secrets. As the secrets unwind, both families must come to grips with the past and what they have become. Both must find a way to deal with discrimination, death, and emotional traumas, not only from outsiders, but also from within their families.
In the end, the weak must find courage and the strong must learn to release control, and life’s lessons are learned. Realization: all anyone can seek is dignity in how we end life.
Jill’s shop was located on the corner of Bay and Canal Streets in Staten Island.
Outside her shop was an old carousel horse mounted to the base of a wooden block. Children passing by often stopped, begging their parents to allow them to sit on it.
Jill found this to be a great way to draw the parents into her shop. They would
often stand looking into the windows while their children pretended they were
riding off into the sunset or hearing the music of a carnival come to town. Some would even come in to browse, leaving the riders outside. Across the street from her shop was a small park filled with shoppers and people walking their pets. On a clear day in the summer, when it was too hot for people to stay in their apartments, the park would fill up with all kinds of people.
On one of these days, as the last of the summer filtered bright sunlight through the
trees, a man walked into Jill’s shop. He was tall and dark. Even though the shop was dim
and filled with shadows, he did not remove his sunglasses.
Jill watched him closely. He did not look like a shopper to her. He would stop in
front of a table and look at it, then lean down, look under it, and sigh. The man walked
deeper and deeper into the shop until he was at the back, with Jill still watching him from
behind the counter.
“May I help you?” she asked. “Are you looking for something special?”
“No, thank you. I’m just shopping, which is not always buying.” He laughed.
Jill did not like his voice, yet she couldn’t put her finger on the feelings she was
having. He seemed to be watching the other browsers as much as he was looking at
things in the shop.
Much too soon, the last of the other shoppers left and Jill and this man were alone.
Her feelings of uneasiness escalated. She wondered if this man was going to try to rob her.
If so, he was a real fool. Anyone should know that there would be little money in the shop, except to make change. The bank was across the park and Jill could get any money she needed in five minutes. So why would she tempt fate by keeping more than what she needed to make change for the day?
Jill took a stab at talking to the man again.
“I’m going to close for a half hour for a lunch break, so if you don’t mind...”
She waited to see if he would make a move of some kind.
Removing his sunglasses, the man stood on the other side of the counter.
“I really did not come in here to buy anything. I think you know that. I did come with a message for your…” Here he cleared his throat. “I came with a message for you to take to your boyfriend.”
Jill held her tongue, her brown eyes turning darker by the moment. With an
arched eyebrow, she asked, “Boyfriend?”
His mood seemed to change immediately. Whereas moments before he had been
calm and even wore a small smile, now he placed both hands on the counter palms down. Jill looked down at the well-manicured fingers, then back to his face. His lips were now a thin line between clenched lip.
He said in a low voice: “Don’t fight this. Don’t fight us.”
Jill just stood blinking back into the now cold-looking face.
“Fight who? Who is us?”
Slowly the man lifted his hand from the counter, put it in his coat pocket, and,
much too fast for her to follow, pulled something out and threw a warm liquid in her face.
Jill’s eyes were stinging. She was sputtering, having sucked in some of
the offensive stuff. Before she could react he was gone, and Jill was left with urine dripping down her face.
Walking slowly to the bathroom, Jill’s legs felt like they couldn’t hold her up. Then her fear turned into white-hot anger. Pulling her blouse up over her head, she dropped it to the floor, turned on the taps full force, and put her head under the running water. Standing back up, she looked in the mirror at her face. The longer she looked, the angrier she became.
Talking to the face in the mirror, she made a vow: “If I ever see that son of a bitch again, I promise he will have no balls.”
Then she thought, What if he had some kind of disease? She thought she better clean her face with more than water. Looking in the cabinet under the sink, she found the alcohol and washed her face with that. Her face was red when she left the bathroom and her anger had not subsided.
I need to call Red, he needs to know things are getting dangerous, she said to
herself as she locked the door to the shop, placing the “CLOSED” sign in the window. The smell of dank urine lingered in her nostrils, and now and again a wave of nausea would make her gag.
Leila answered all of Red’s incoming calls. Most times, she and Jill took a few
minutes to chat before Leila switched the call to his office. When Jill called today, she said she needed to talk to Red right away. Leila had never heard Jill sound so out of
control. She seldom called Red at work, and the tone in her voice sent immediate signals that something was very wrong.
Jill, hearing the concern in Leila’s voice, tried to calm down. She did not want Leila to tell Red that it was an emergency call.
“Leila, I’m sorry, that was rude of me,” she said, taking a few deep breaths.
“Is he free or in a meeting?”
“He is just ending a meeting. I will buzz him and let him know you’re on the line.”
“Thanks, I will hold.”
Leila hit the intercom. The blinking red light told Red he had an incoming call. Red knew Leila would not disturb him unless it was a call he should take. Picking up, Red said, “Yes?”
“It’s Jill on the line and she sounds sort of strange.”
“Put her through,” he said, his face showing worry. The men in the room
with him were struck by his change. Red seldom, if ever, showed his emotions at work.
Leila said to Jill, “Connecting you.” Then there was a buzz and she heard Red’s
voice and all her resolve evaporated. She started crying softly into the receiver. He
was safe—no one had harmed him. She did not know how she could go on if something
ever happened to him.
“Jill, are you there? Is that you?” He had only seen Jill cry a few times in their
relationship—when her fish died and when they had watched a sad movie. Her crying rattled him to the very core of his being.
“Red,” she said between sniffles. Looking around the counter for a tissue to
blow her nose, she saw something she had not seen before. The piss throwing man had
left behind a note. Jill forgot all about the tissue and picked it up.
Again Red spoke to her: “Jill, are you there? What’s happening? Jill, answer me!”
Opening the note, she saw printed on the white paper, “She is…”
No other words, just a picture of Red’s mother looking very old and frail. Beside her was the man in sunglasses. There was no doubt in Jill’s mind that it was the same man, even if he wore a hat and no sunglasses. Jill gasped at the implication of the
note and picture.
Red’s mother Rita now lived in a private nursing home, well cared for and only visited by the family. She had Alzheimer’s, and Royce and the rest of the family felt it best that she be cared for by professionals. The family kept quiet about Rita’s condition and where she was living. How had these people located her?
Jill collected herself. She now knew that what had transpired that afternoon was something she could not tell Red about over the phone.
“I am closing the shop early. I need to see you right away.”
Red knew Jill would not close her shop and come to the office unless something serious had happened.
“Take a cab from the Island. I will clear my calendar and be waiting.”
Jill smiled to herself. She knew Red would know what to do. He would make it all
go away. She might be the Mistress in their private life, but when it came to business Red was a man in complete control. Before hanging up, she said, “I love you and will see you in a few.”