It was a cold, windy night in a cruel, worn out city. Every night was the same. Every single night.
It didn't matter how your day was or who you spent your hours with. You could go to the pet store, buy a new puppy, then marry the love of your life all before the sun went down, and still, the night would feel the same way it always does. Different characters, but the same old setting. The same old feeling of boredom mixed with desperation for something more exciting that always spikes up in your gut at the end of a terrible, terrible day.
That pretty much summed up how she felt walking along the cracked brick alley way.
The same way she feels every night.
Except tonight, she also felt quite hungry. Of course, running away from home the night before and not eating since, tends to do that to a growing teenage girl. She never worried about the ever-rising crime rate, she didn't have to. All the crooks and lunatics seemed to keep their distance. They had to... if they knew what was good for them. Her stomach rumbled and the sound of roaring laughter could be heard just feet away. She looked up and gazed at the sign beside an old, beat up hang out where she worked on the weekends. Lucky Lucy's Lounge is what it read in faded green letters. She sighed heavily, both in relief and regret. This was the place where just about everyone down in the slums went to unwind. killers and average Joe's alike. Today was a Saturday and she was about to start her shift.
"Hey, girl! Where you been?" Called the familiar voice of her boss, Donavon, from behind the counter. He went by Donny, as it was much more his style.
"Hey, Donny. You know, I've been around.."
He simply dropped his gaze and shook his head in annoyance, motioning her to the back of the lounge just beyond the kitchen. She simply followed, knowing there was sure to be a lecture in store. There usually was.
"How's your mother?" He asked cleverly, falling into a chair behind his desk. She remained standing, body half propped against the door.
"She's fine, I guess..." was her only reply, barely loud enough to even be registered, with an uncomfortable lack of eye contact.
"Okay, how 'bout I be more specific? When was the last time you saw your mother?" Now his voice was a bit louder, filled with aggravation.
"Can we not talk about this? Honestly, I'm just over it...I'm going to -"
"You're just over it? Cammi-girl, you can't be wanderin' the streets like some hooker with no where to go! How are ya grades, huh? Do you even go to school, or are ya over that too?"
She didn't respond, but looked down at her feet. While every other employee would get called back to the office when they slacked off or were rude to a customer, the kind of trouble she got into mostly involved personal troubles. Donny was like a father to her. Not too long ago he was kind enough to give her a job as a waitress. Although he normally wouldn't hire anyone under 18 for the job, due to a variety of reasons, including the whole law against minors serving alcohol and inappropriate attention from male guests, he figured she'd be old enough in a year anyway, so it wasn't a big deal. Besides, at Lucky Lucy's, you could get away with breaking a few laws. He was always looking out for her and she got along great with the staff and most of the regulars.
"I tell ya what, you're lucky that father of yours has gotta soft spot for ya. You walk around these parts all alone and pull the kinda bull you've been known to in any other neighborhood, and you'd be bumped off in a heart beat!"
Donny was very blunt, always had something to say. Sometimes she wished he would just shut his big yapper up. Especially with things concerning the 'family' she was so kindly blessed with. She was hungry and really would rather be anywhere at that moment...yes, even table 4 where Johnny A-little-too-friendly always had something to say about the way her uniform draped her body nicely. And sometimes, if she was really lucky, after 4 or 5 drinks he'd even be so bold as to comment on how he'd rather see her in nothing at all. Boy, did that make her feel like a million bucks..
"Givin' Donny the silent treatment, are we? Ah, just go bust some tables...I don't know what I'm gonna do with you, girl. I'll stay here and think over it for a while."
He didn't have to tell her twice. She swallowed the growing ball of mixed emotions that felt like it was lodged in her throat and slapped on a forced smile for the adoring customers.
"Hey, Cam! Table 9 needs some love! Let's move it, baby doll!" The high, booming voice from the kitchen was Paul, one of the cooks. Not particularly interesting, just some middle aged bachelor from Manhattan whose physique would suggest he never eats the food he cooks.
"Comin' at ya, Paulie!" She raced to table 9 only to find one of her more difficult customers tapping his finger impatiently on the table top. As if her life couldn't get more difficult, Mr. Sidney Pistler was always there to remind her that a long walk off a short pier was always an option. Still, she decided to grin and bear it. It was all part of the job and sarcasm aside, she was somewhat thankful for people like Sidney. She had quickly learned to tolerate schmucks like him on a daily basis without making any sort of scene.
"What can I get you, Mr. Pistler?" While most regulars always got the same thing every time they stopped by, this guy liked to switch it up and she learned to never assume she knew what he wanted. He hated that. Almost like he was terrified over the idea of someone getting inside his head. So, he would change his mind every time, hoping no one would catch on. She had heard around that he was easily paranoid, but she had just recently thought that maybe this had something to do with his unpredictable taste buds. Today, however, he seemed different. The man had a nasty habit of raising his voice unnecessarily high and throwing in some borderline obnoxious, passive aggressive jabs from time to time. Not to mention he is always so incredibly nagging. But today, he was quiet. She even noticed that he was trembling a bit. Almost as if he was scared of something, but she dismissed it and assumed he was just having some sort of anxiety attack.
"Something to drink, perhaps..?" Nothing. Not one word. He didn't even seem to acknowledge her presence. There was a lot of commotion going on around her, the place was packed tonight. Maybe he didn't hear her? He wasn't in his 40's anymore, after all. She raised her voice louder.
"Mr. Pistler?!" This time he looked her right in the eyes.
"I-I gotta get outta here..." was his only response as he fiddled with the lock on his suitcase that had been sitting on the floor by his feet. He managed to get the thing open, but he was shaking so much that the leather handle slipped out of his hand and money - lots of it - came pouring out. The expression on his face read panic. Big time.
"Oh, wow..." She wasn't at all surprised. The city was packed full of criminals of every type and this was the place they all came to hide from the law. She bent down to help him as he frantically struggled to push all of the rolls of bills back into the briefcase. She was tempted to sneak some of the money into her apron. Pistler was stingy when it came to tips and she thought she was well deserving of a couple hundreds after the many nights she busted her butt for the ungrateful man. Nonetheless, she held back.
"Th-thank you." Did he just say thank you? Yes, he did! She froze, lower jaw ajar at the man's sudden politeness. Just then, the front door swung open, the windy night sending cool air through the crowded lounge. She whipped her head around to see the silhouette of a tall man standing by the door. There appeared to be two or three other men standing behind him. They were shorter and didn't have the same chilling presence that he gave off. A sharp, gut wrenching feeling seemed to poke at her stomach. Suddenly, the entire place was in dead silence. Even the band stopped in mid tune. Pistler had managed to gather up most of the money, hurriedly shoving the last two rolls into her hands and making a run for the emergency exit.
"Stop that idiot." The man ordered his two henchmen and they nodded before taking off in the same direction. The lounge remained uncomfortably silent and she quickly ducked underneath the table top of table 9, heart beating fast as she peeked around to watch the man stroll over towards his usual table. He was sharply dressed in a pinstriped suit and black fedora. As he sat down, he lit a cigarette in the non-smoking area and from the light of the flame you could see the color of his piercing blue eyes. She swallowed hard in her throat and felt tears build up. Those eyes, she hated those eyes. They looked just like her own and every time someone told her she had beautiful eyes, it secretly made her feel like finding a sharp piece of glass and...no, enough of that.
"Ca-can I get you somethin', m-mister Lombardi?" Candy, one of the waitresses, nervously asked the man as he puffed smoke rings into the air. He then shifted his gaze upwards towards the woman and eyed her up and down.
"Heh, surprise me, babe. And get that old man Vinny out here, will ya? Tell him Adrian Lombardi dropped by to say hello."
She remained stiff underneath the table, hoping he didn't notice her there. She knew he didn't. Most likely he was too busy striking seductive grins at all the waitresses and staring angrily at some unlucky schmo now and then just for kicks. She wanted so badly to walk over to him and do everything in her power to humiliate him. She didn't know how she would, she just thought he deserved it. At the same time, there was something inside holding her back. Like the feeling any other teenage girl would get when she likes some guy and wants to tell him, but is just too shy. The feeling was sort of like that, except for the teenage crush part. He was a con man. The city's most notorious gangster and crime lord. He had a certain charm to him that women couldn't seem to resist. Probably because he tweaked his own personality to appeal to whomever he was in the mood to mess with at the time. She hated him. As a couple waitresses, Tracy and Morgan, sat down and latched on to him by either arm, she darted for the kitchen door, barely making a sound. She bumped into Donny as he was on his way to talk to Mr. Lombardi, nearly knocking the large man over.
"Wow, wow, Cammie! Shouldn't you be out there on the floor, baby girl?"
"You've gotta be kiddin' me, right? I'm not going out there until he's gone!"
"You can't be afraid of him your whole life. I know it's not like you to be a coward, Cammie."
She was silent and tears started to stain her cheeks as Candy flew through the door to deliver Mr. Lombardi his first round of drinks.
"Fine, okay, you stay put" Donny said in a caring tone. "I want to talk to you when I get back."
"Vinny!" Mr. Lombardi exclaimed when the man emerged from the kitchen door.
"Tracy! Morgan! Get the hell outta here and do your job!" Donny, or Vinny shouted at the two adoring dames on either side of the criminal.
"Still got that temper of yours I see, Vinny. It's been a while...months. How's that wife of yours doin', huh? What's her name? Lucy?"
"She's no longer with us, Lombardi. It's been that way since this hell hole opened up. You're not funny."
"ah, a guy can try, can't he? Doesn't sound like you take a whole lotta pride in this place, though." He took a long sip of his drink before continuing.
"So, how you holdin' up without that nifty piano player of yours? I gotta admit, the new one ain't much."
"You don't like him? Not like it was my choice to let the old guy go."
"Hey, he was stickin' his nose in stuff that didn't concern him. Anyone wanna start playin' hero and they gotta deal with the villains."
"He was 19."
"What's that gotta do with me?" He finished off his first round of drinks and snapped his fingers at the nearest waitress.
"Hey, toots! Get daddy some more suds, will ya?!"
"The point I was tryin' to make is that, well, don't you gotta daughter who's about that age?" Lombardi paused in the middle of lighting another cigarette and stared blankly up at him.
"You think I care about age, Vinny? Some lousy brat comes at me with empty threats and I'm supposed to lie down and take it just 'cause he's young enough to date my daughter? What you don't seem to understand is that I demand respect. Ain't nobody ever got anywhere pleasin' anyone but themselves. I ain't lettin' some little punk try and act like his is bigger than mine. I don't care if he's 50 or 15."
"Thanks for clearin' that up." Donny started to walk away as the waitress came back with more alcohol.
"Ya know, Vinny...you used to be a lot more fun to talk to. I feel like we've drifted apart. Something's come between us.."
Donny simply ignored the man's obnoxious remark and walked back into the kitchen.
She was sitting at the edge of the dock behind the lounge. It was still very windy and she had pulled her pony tail holder out of her dark hair. As her tears soaked her long, wispy locks, she thought about her mother. Donny always tries to convince her that her mother is doing her best. While deep down she knew this, she couldn't help but feel a great deal of resentment towards the woman. She didn't understand how anyone could take so much abuse and betrayal from a man and remain compliant. If it was her, she would stand up for herself. She hated her mother so much for that...and she felt guilty for it. She had confronted him once. After finding out where he was hiding, she gave him a piece of her might. He refused to pay child support and her mother wouldn't do anything about it, so she took matters into her own hands.
"Look, Cammie, I loved your mother. I still do. But she made her choice. Back then, I had fallen hard. I swore I would never con another woman in my life, I would never even look at another woman! I was done with the womanizing thing. And boy, I really meant it. If she chose to be with me, join my lifestyle - like the very Bonnie to my Clyde - she'd be the only woman in my life."
"She said you lied to her...she never even knew who you really were."
"Yeah, I'm always the bad guy. I never meant to hurt her. Not EVER. Sure, maybe I didn't tell her the whole truth, I was scared. But we told each other we'd always love the other no matter what. I trusted her, so eventually I did tell her what I really did for a living. And what does she do? She leaves me! You tell me who the liar is now, baby doll!"
"I want the money! You owe us the money!"
"I told you, I ain't got no money!"
"I hate you!"
He had told his guys to escort her out then. He made sure they didn't hurt her and she left with no money, but just more hatred towards him than ever before. She didn't want to be an angry, hateful person. No, she always tried so hard to be happy. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't shake the disturbing thoughts that ran through her head. Sometimes she even almost acted on those thoughts...whether it was by starving herself, banging her head on the wall several times, or just jumping out her bedroom window, the outcome would always be the same and it was something that ran through her head too often for comfort. And it was all because of him. While she would sometimes blame her mother for things out of rage and just needing some way to vent, she knew it was all his fault. She hated him. And it was just then that all those thoughts bubbled up in her brain. She stood up just at the very edge of the dock, gazing down at the dark, cold water below. Tears continued to decorate her face and she was about to do it. She was going to jump. She was going to take one last dive and forget to hold her breath. She wanted out and it became harder to control those urges every day.
"Cameron! Cameron Lombardi, what the hell are you doing?!" Donny's voice made her jump and almost lose her balance. She flailed her arms, trying to remain upright, but fell backwards onto the dock. She gave out a sigh, relieved that she once again didn't follow through. Thank the heavens for her boss.
"Cammie, what's going through your pretty little head, huh?" He helped her up and gave her a sickeningly sweet look of concern.
"I-I don't know..." He for once didn't have anything to say back, but simply pulled her in for a tight hug. She hugged back and cried into his shoulder. The silence was a relaxing change from the noisy, crowded lounge. The wind was still blowing strong and the waves remained calm.
"Ya know, no one ever got anywhere from carrying around so much hate." His words were not judgemental, but caring. "You can't let him control your happiness, Cammie. So you got a lousy father, so what? This is not the end of your life. You're not checkin' out just yet. You've got a lot of love ahead of ya."
"Can you do something for your old pal, Donny?" She looked up at him with curiosity.
"Can you go clock out and go home? To your mother, I mean. She loves you and both of you ain't got no one else."
"I got you, right?"
"Yeah, well besides me." She couldn't help but smile beneath her tears.
"She needs you, Cammie. So, are you gonna listen to me or are you gonna make your life harder and hurt her even more?"
He was right. Her mother needed her. She knew the things she said to her mom were not fair. She didn't respect the woman because of the choices she made. But...then again, she was the one about to jump off a dock and leave all her problems behind without even a goodbye. So who was she to judge? Sure, Adrian Lombardi was her father, but her mother was in love with him at one point. She thought of the heart break and how it must have felt when the truth about who he really was came out. From what she was told, her mom was pregnant with her at that time and leaving him really was the best thing to do for the baby. And she figured then that it would probably break her mother's heart even more to see his face again. As she thought about all this, she realized that she never put herself in her mother's shoes. She never thought about how much harder life was on her mom than it was on her. At least she had her mom there who tried to love and take care of her. No one was there for her mom when she had to make the choice to leave her man. Forget that she had no money and no place to stay. She left anyway. And she did it for her. She did it all for her daughter.
"You're the best, Donny."
"Yeah, yeah...I know" he patted her back and pulled her away a little. "Now let's get back inside."
The two walked through the back door and after she had clocked out and was headed for the back door again, Donny stopped her.
"Oh, no! You're going out the front door!"
"No, come on! I'm going home, but you can't make me do this!"
"You gotta face it sometime! You don't even have to say anything."
"Please, I don't even wanna look at his face..."
"What did I tell ya, girl?"
She took a long look at Donny's face and knew he wasn't going to let her get away that easily. She couldn't help but smile, knowing that he was looking out for her.
She took a deep breath and walked through the kitchen, into the noisy lounge. He was sitting there drunk out of his mind with two or three girls sitting around him that probably wandered off the streets. She made her way past table 5, 6, 7, and finally 8 where he was sitting. She only peeked at him through the corner of her eye, managing to keep a smile on her face so that he didn't see how much pain he really had caused her. She didn't think he would notice anyway. But she was wrong. He did notice. He was having a good time laughing, drinking, flirting, smoking...when he saw her come through the kitchen door, his smile fell downwards and suddenly he felt the urge to shove the girls beside him off of the booth. When she finally exited out the front door, he stood up and threw one of his empty glass bottles at the nearest unlucky face. The girls that had been all over him shrieked in fear. His face seemed angry and confused all at once. One of the girls was stupid enough to stand up and try and comfort him, thinking she could make some kind of difference. She started rubing his back and he violently shoved her onto the floor.
"Get off me, tramp!"
Everyone around him froze and tried to pretend they didn't notice. He stomped out of the building fuming, cigarette still in hand.
As she walked down the city's dirty roads back home to her mother, she put her hands in her pockets and felt the two big rolls of money that Mr. Pistler had left behind. She figured Sidney was probably in the bottom of the ocean by now. The feel of the paper brought back another painful memory.
After he had refused to give her the money he owed, she was determined to out smart her father. She left home and decided she would just take the money herself. Why not? That's how he got it, right? She was successful, but ultimately it landed her in jail. Luckily, Donny came to the rescue and bailed her out, but it was her mother who asked him to. Before that though, when she came home with the big bag of money, her mother was suspicious.
"What's that you're holding, sweetheart?"
"Nothing, it's nothing! okay?"
"Stop lying to me! I've had enough of it, Cameron! I worry when you go running off and I don't know where you are."
"Fine! If you must know..." She had dumped the money out of the bag so that it covered the wooden coffee table with rolls of hundreds. Her mother looked up at her with a look of shock and her eyes were swelling with tears.
"What have you done? What did you do?!"
"I helped us! I got the money he owes us!"
"Cameron, you can't do that! You-"
"Why not, mom?! It's not like you were going to do anything about it! You just sit on the couch and let him fool around with our money! You're just gonna let us starve because you're too pathetic to stand up to him!"
Just thinking back on those words brought a stinging sensation through her body. How could she be so thoughtless...at that point, her mother didn't have anything to say. She left the room in tears. Thirty minutes later there was a loud banging on the front door and without waiting for someone to answer, he had barged through the door in a fit of rage. The lock was broken, so it wasn't hard. He emmediately saw all the money sprawled out on the coffee table and went to scoop it up when she came out of no where and shoved him away. She quickly scrambled to shove it all back into the bag and make a run out the front door when he caught her by her jacket hood and pulled her back.
"you little brat..."
"It's our money, not yours!" She had managed to get a hold of the lamp standing by the door and bashed him over the head with it, causing him to let go of her jacket and fall backwards onto the floor. The loud noise woke up her mother and she came running out into the living room in panic. He had slowly managed to get back on his feet, rubbing his forehead in pain.
"Cameron, what are you doing? Stop it! Just give him the money!" Her mother was in tears and really didn't know what to do. There was nothing she could have done.
"No! It's not his! He owes us!"
"Listen to your mother! Give it here!"
"Dammit, you've pushed it way too far, little girl!" He had slapped her across the face, sending her crashing to the floor. She was clutched to the bag and managed to stumble into the kitchen before he reached down and pulled it away from her. She refused to give up without a fight and pulled back. He was much stronger than her and easily yanked it from her grasp. In rage, she grabbed the nearest sharp knife and lunged it into his shoulder. He shrieked in pain and she took the bag from him and ran over to the fire place.
"Cameron!!" Her mother cried out in horror. He managed to yank the small blade out of his shoulder, blood falling everywhere around his side.
She should have listened to her mother. Why didn't she listen?
She had held the bag over the flames from the fire place, feeling the bruise forming on her cheek from the force of his hand. Her mother was on the floor crying hysterically. His features turned from pure rage to concern when he saw who he still considered the love of his life so distraught.
"Miranda...I-" He had reached out to touch her side, his other hand clutched his wound.
"Go, Adrian. Leave!" She pulled away.
She had stood by the fire place watching her estranged parents. She remembered how much hatred she felt towards both of them at that moment. She threw the bag of money in the fire and ran out the door.
As she came to the front door of her home, she wiped away a few last tears. She thought about what Donny had said. 'No one ever got anywhere from carrying around so much hate.' She decided right then and there that she was going to be happy. It didn't matter how many times people let her down or who her father was. She wasn't going to destroy herself over it. She promised herself right then and there that she would grow from it. She very quietly walked into the living room. She had almost forgotten how hungry she was. The house was dark and she knew her mother must have been sleeping. It must have been about 11 o clock at night. Tomorrow would be Sunday and then it was back to Monday. She wasn't going to skip school Monday. No, she was going to work hard. She had a lot of things to catch up on, it was her last year afterall. But she was going to do it. She slowly peaked into her mother's bedroom and saw her sleeping soundly. She didn't want to wake her, but she felt so guilty for all of the things she ever said to her, that she just had to give her a hug or something.
"mom?" She didn't respond.
"mom..." She shook her body slightly.
"Hhhmm?" She was half asleep, but sat up anyway and seemed surprised that her daughter had come home so soon.
"Cameron?" She threw her arms around her mother and hugged her tightly.
"I'm so sorry. I love you, mom."
"I love you, too."
And yes, I know, Tracy Morgan. Hilarious.