York City - June 20th 1986
“I can’t wait to get the hell out of here,” Star
called to a skinny teen flipping burgers, “This job sucks.”
She opened the dented metal door of her locker and reached for a pack
of Beech-Nut gum. A small mirror scotch-taped inside shifted her attention.
She stared at her reflection; taking in the loose blonde curls framing
crystal-blue eyes and chiseled cheekbones. The visual reminder of
her beauty always ignited hope deep in her chest. It was the only
asset she possessed to escape her grungy neighborhood, but it wouldn't
Double doors closing
off the dining area burst open. “I’ve got a real jerk
in my section tonight.” A full-figured waitress appeared and
banged a dinner plate on the side of a plastic trash container to
knock off a half-eaten tuna melt and soggy fries. “Like I’m
gonna go out of my way to get this guy ketchup when he can just reach
over and get it from the next table like everyone else.”
Star glanced at her
Timex. “Hey, Jenny. I need you to cover the rest of my shift
for me. I still haven't packed and it's almost nine.”
“Are you kidding
me?” Jenny walked up to the food counter, hit the order bell
and hooked two more slips of paper on the rotating wheel. “I’ve
already got more customers than I can handle.”
Jen. You can keep the rest of my tips.” Star removed a handful
of crumpled dollars from the pocket of her uniform and stuffed them
into her duffel bag.
you need that money for your trip tomorrow? And what about your paycheck?
Eddie’s not gonna give you a dime if you take off early.”
“He can keep
it.” Star thought about the sixty dollars she had skimmed from
the register earlier that evening. “Besides, I’ve saved
almost four-hundred dollars, so I'm cool.”
Jenny removed three
plates from the serving station and balanced them along the length
of her arm. “Knowing you, you’re gonna leave anyway, so
take a hike and don’t come back until you’re a famous
model. I’ll manage somehow.”
time you see me, I’ll be treating you to lunch at the Plaza.
We’ll let people wait on us for a change.”
Star grabbed her bag
and exited the cafe', letting the back door slam shut behind her.
Raindrops splashed across her face and trickled down the leather jacket
she had recently purchased from the Salvation Army. She joined elbow-jabbing
pedestrians along the wet sidewalk and then entered a liquor store
behind a weary-eyed woman dragging a small boy. Once inside, she approached
a magazine rack and scanned the glossy covers until she saw the one
she wanted. With her back squared to the security camera, she inched
closer to the rack, picked up an Elle magazine and slipped it under
her jacket. To avoid suspicion, she picked up a Vogue and began flipping
through the pages.
“Hey, put that
back!” The owner’s footsteps thundered down the aisle.
Her heart lurched.
“I know what
you did, you little thief!”
Star jammed the Vogue
back into the slot while calculating the distance between her and
the front door. Damn-it, she thought, I’m too far away to make
a run for it.
sick to death of you punks ripping off my store.”
Releasing a pouty
smile, she turned, ready to flirt herself out of a trip to the police
station, but she was not the suspect in question.
“Who you callin’
a thief?” The woman who had entered the store in front of her
pulled the small boy closer.
The owner held out
an empty cardboard container. “Your kid snatched a water pistol.”
took nothin'. I seen him the whole time.”
chin raised a fraction of an inch. “I ain’t no liar and
my son ain’t no thief.”
Star noted the child’s
guilty expression. She also saw fear in his eyes.
want no trouble, mister.” The woman set down the bread in her
hands. “I got enough of that in my life already.” She
pushed her son toward the exit.
The owner blocked
Star walked up the
aisle and stood in front of the boy. “He didn’t take the
gun. I saw the empty wrapper on the floor when they came in.”
For a moment, no
one spoke and then the man’s dark eyes narrowed into a threat.
“Get out of my store. I don’t want to see any of you in
here again, especially that brat, got it?”
Star raised her middle
finger as she sashayed out of the store.
Twenty minutes later, she
arrived at the apartment she shared with her mother.
“Hey, Ma. I’m
home.” She tossed the magazine on the couch. It bounced off
the cushion and landed on the floor with a thud. It was the only sound
in the apartment.
Grease on the bottom
of her work shoes stuck to the hardwood slats as made her way down
the hall. The last door on the left was ajar, narrowing her field
of vision down to a pile of dirty laundry and empty beer cans. She
hesitated a moment before walking inside to see her mother passed
out on the bed. The drinking had started a few years ago after her
father disappeared without leaving so much as a note. As the list
of her mother's daily miseries grew, so did the use of alcohol to
numb the pain. Sometimes the tedious hours spent listening to cranky
customers at the local post office led to a six-pack. A backache from
having to stand behind a counter all day usually went away after a
bottle of wine. Problems with the loser boyfriend, Darren, always
brought out the vodka. A few nights ago her mom took the subway to
his place only to be blown off for a better deal. That little incident
was good for a two-day bender. The fucker.
Star sat on the edge
of the bed and gently brushed a strand of hair away from the deep
lines etched into her mother's once-flawless complexion. “I'm
gonna get you out of here, ma, just like I promised. I'm gonna make
so much money in Milan, you'll be able to quit your job and finally
be able to live a decent life." She stood and let the words sink
in. Damn. This is really happening. I'm one flight away from leaving
all this crap behind. I'm one day away from getting exactly what I
© 2011 Lori Jones. All Right Reserved
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