Growing up BeautifilChapter 1

(Links to Chapters 2 and 3 at bottom of page)

New York City - June 20th 1986

“I CAN’T WAIT to get the hell out of here,” Star addressed 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 last forever.
         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 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.”
         “C’mon, 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.
         “Don't 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.”
         “Thanks. Next time you see me, I'll be treating you to lunch at the Plaza. We'll let people wait on us for a change.”
        “Sounds good.”
        Star grabbed her duffel bag and exited the café, 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 odds of beating her accuser to the front door. Damn it, she thought, I'm too far away to make a run for it.
         “I’m 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”.
         “He ain’t took nothin'. I seen him the whole time.”
         “You’re lying.”
         The woman’s 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.
         “I don’t 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 their path.
         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
she 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 deserve.

<Prologue <Chapter 1 <Chapter 2 <Chapter 3

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