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A Faithful Choice

A Faithful Choice By Theresa Grant
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Theresa’s major influences have been her teachers from Long Ridge Writer’s Group, Universal Class, Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland and other published authors.
Chapter One “Ok, Sonny, it’s up to you. Me and your kid or your Aunt Virginia?” Sweat beaded Dolores’ upper lip. She radiated the tension and excitement of her challenge and feared that she was going to lose. “Decide now and decide fast. Sonny’s face flushed red and then darkened. His moth took on an unpleasant twist that contorted his ruggedly handsome face and he yelled, “Are you crazy? I’m all she’s got.” Dolores felt whipsawed, watching Sonny intently, her expression baffled, alarmed. She thought of their past life together, the deep closeness that had grown between them from teenage love to the passionate love of two adults, and the compatibility they shared in every way. They loved each other once. Why didn’t he love her now? Couldn’t he see that she was unhappy? “I can’t go on this way, Sonny, it’s unbearable living here.” Half the time, Virginia don’t know which way is up.” “Ok, she shoots a little heroin.” He lowered his voice. “Does that warrant leaving her?” Dolores picked her way across the room, sidestepping Virginia’s dope litter on the floor. “Syringes are all over the house.” She met his stern expression. “She’s fifty-two, should know better, and is not a good example for either of us.” He stared at her hard, his eyes piercing hers, gazing at her as if she’d lost her mind, then waving her away. “I can’t leave her.” “Then get her into some program.” Virginia, listening to their conversation, rose up from the sofa, where she’d lain all night in her persistent compulsive stupor. “Leave my boy alone,” her speech slurred. Dolores had to set her straight. Anger lit her eyes as she turned to face her. “Mind your own business, hag. You’ve interfered too often in our affairs.” Virginia swiftly rose from the sofa, her hair piled on her head like a gray mop, and her bloodshot eyes flashing. “You little parasite. Where’d you be if he hadn’t married you?” Dolores came back at her, “Not strung out somewhere on dope, that’s for sure.”
“You stupid little bitch.” She lunged her beanpole body at Dolores.
Sonny stepped between them, escorted Virginia back to the sofa, and turned on Dolores, glaring at her with reproachful eyes and heated words. “I can’t believe you. I work hard at the California Waterfront. Still this ain’t enough for you.” Dolores stood alone, her mind congested with doubts and fears. A glazed look of despair crept over her face and, realizing that there was nothing else she could do, she wanted to say something that may force him into reality. “Ok, Sonny, if you’re not man enough to do what’s got to be done, I’ll get a job and do it for you.” Gazing at Dolores, with hatred in her eyes, Virginia yelled, “You ain’t leavin’ that brat with me.” “Don’t worry. I’d never leave her with a junkie.”
Virginia started for Dolores again, and Sonny held onto her.
Dolores picked Michelle up and fled the house. “I’ve got to find a job. She was walking downtown with Michelle in her arms and passed the Holiday Inn. Something caught her eye and she turned back. Bellhops were rolling luggage for visitors checking in and out. Seems as though they’re goanna’ need help, she thought, stepping inside. She was directed to the manager’s office and seated comfortably. Ten minutes later, a short, bald man wearing glasses appeared. He gazed at her, then at Michelle, when she started crying. “I’m Mr. Michaela. What can I do for you?” Dolores shifted Michelle in her seat, shoved a cookie in her hand, and hesitated a moment, thinking how best to approach this sudden interview. When she didn’t answer, he grew impatient. “How can I help you, Madam?”
Dolores attempted to bring a smile to her face when she answered, “I’m looking for work.” “Type of work?” He weighed her with a critical squint.
What an asshole, she thought and was tempted to say, up yours and leave, but held her temper. “Anything __whatever you’ve got.”
“We need maids. Other than that, we got nothing.”
Dolores took Michelle to work with her everyday until she had made enough money to hire a sitter, and that’s when she decided to take business courses at Berkeley College. One evening, after school, Sonny met Dolores at the door with a drink. “Happy Birthday, college girl!” He took her in his arms to dance to Earth, Wind and Fire. As the night wore on, the liquor flowed, and Sonny wanted to make love. He kissed her passionately, then gently. It was the gentleness that got her. Time rolled back, and she felt as she did when they first made love: Seventeen, on fire, groaning at the sheer wonderful pleasure of making love and experiencing pure ecstasy when they climaxed. He sat up in bed, lit a cigarette, lay back on his pillar and crossed his hairy legs and thighs. Dolores admired his features; his face was bronzed by California sun, his teeth, even and white. She laid her head in his wide, hairy chest, placed one of his strong arms around her and smiled up at him. Thinking that she could talk to him after what had just happened between them, she asked hastily, “Ever dreamed of going to college?” His voice broke with huskiness, “I never had enough money to go nowhere.”
“You can go now. It wouldn’t cost much.”
He moved her away, his fingers biting deeply into the flesh of her shoulders. “Get real! How can I?”
“Get a second job,” she answered, hoping to persuade him.
He quickly sat up and pounded the end table on his side of the bed. “Damn, you’ve managed to ruin a perfect evening.” He hopped out of bed.
She whispered as she turned away, lay back and pulled the covers around her, “My mistake, thinking you’d even care to pull this family forward.”
He got his clothes from the chair, where he had discarded them, dragged his trousers, and stormed out of the room.
Dolores slept alone till midnight when Sonny crept back into bed and proceeded to put his arm around her. She snatched his arm away and moved closer to the edge of her side of the bed.
The next day, everything was as before, but they were not speaking to each other. One month later, after breakfast, she felt nauseous and passed it off as nervousness, until she missed her period, and she wanted to sue someone for the failure of her birth control device. Here she was, pregnant and stuck in her situation with Virginia. When Baby James was born, she left him with the sitter and went back to work.
Several days later, Dolores had another fight with Virginia and she was ready to leave. “I’m taking this no longer, Sonny. Come with me now.” Anger spilled over in her voice. “Let’s get a place of our own.”
Sonny gave her one of his usual looks, when he thought she wasn’t making sense, and after a long audible breath, he angrily asked, “Why go someplace else? You and Virginia aught to learn how to get along.” “If you can’t see the impossibility in that, there’s no use in me explaining it to you. I’m out of here.” Dolores got a room at the Holiday Inn and paid the baby sitter to come there. One day, while cleaning the rooms, she happened to glance at the morning paper. Her stepfather’s picture was in the obituary section. “Mama Kate must be frantic,” she murmured, and hurried to the phone to call her. What was she going to say? They had not spoken in three years. Nevertheless, she had to see her. She dialed the number and Mama Kate answered on the fir ring. “It’s Dolores, Mama.”
“Thought you were dead,” Mama Kate said, sounding distressed and sarcastic.
Dolores took a deep, painful breath to prevent an argument, and tried to sound sympathetic. “Sorry about Jake.”
“Are you? That’s a switch.” “I mean it Mama, I didn’t hate him. Not even after__” She stopped, again not wanting to argue. “I’m married, Mama. You’ve got two grandchildren. May I come over?”
“Come ahead,” she said as if she didn’t care one way or the other. Dolores took the children from the sitter and drove to Mama Kate’s. When she pulled into her driveway, she was tending her flourishing garden. She took one look at her grandchildren, wiped the sweat from her smooth, deep suntanned face and smiled, revealing alabaster dentures with a gold tooth. The sight of two beautiful children suddenly overwhelmed her. She called to them, “Come here my sweetie pies.” Baby James, just learning to walk, waddled along behind Michelle, giggled and fell upon Mama Kate’s breast. They clung to her, flattening her breast, which seemed to spread from her chest to her waist, and as she wrapped her arms around them, her cotton sundress strained against her stout round hips. She set the children down and gazed at her tall, lithe daughter whose skin glowed in deep shades of golden tan under the bright sun. “Come inside outta’ this sun.” Dolores and her children followed Mama Kate into the house, and she got her to talk about her life, away from home, and she ended up telling her everything about her marriage, about Virginia and Sonny’s refusal to leave Virginia. “I was living on the street until Sonny took me home to live with him; remembering that night when she first met him at a dance at the MLK Youth Service Center. Sonny came over and asked her for a dance, and she looked up at him, a huge, six foot boy, just a little taller than she, with deep tan skin, a strong square featured face, closely-cropped black hair and sideburns that gave him an air of strength. “You know what you do to me?” he whispered, his hot breath penetrating her inner ear.
She met his gaze and the suggestive gleam in his eyes. “Let me guess. You’re talking about sex, right?” Her voice was low and silky. He didn’t answer just smiled and tightened his arms around her waist, and drew her closer to the point where their bodies seemed as one. They talked and he found out that she had no place to stay. “Let’s get outta’ here. Got a place you should check out.” He took her home and asked Virginia to let her stay. Virginia was nice until she came home, one day, and found Sonny and her making love. “I was seventeen and pregnant when Virginia made us get married.” “I wouldn’t have married such a no-good man,” Mama Kate said with a smirk on her face. Her words were barbed and hurtful. Anger swept across Dolores’ face and she couldn’t hold her tongue. “Get off it, Mama, Daddy left you and mean Jake used you.” Mama Kate’s eyes took on a pained look as if someone had stuck her with a knife. Dolores didn’t relent, but continued, “He was skipping work, in bed watching television all day, while you were working.” Denial flew from Mama Kate. “You’re lying. Working at Sokol’s Furniture store ruined Jake’s back.” “Hah! He fooled you,” Dolores retorted, in cold sarcasm and laughed. “He wasn’t hauling furniture. Most likely humping some woman.” Her eyes darkened with pain and she said, “That’s always been your problem, Dolores, a smart mouth.” That didn’t stop Dolores, and she thought while they were rehashing old truths, she may as well declare another. “You never believed Jake was coming onto me.” Fire now burned in Mama Kate’s eyes and she lashed out. “You were a liar then and you’re one now. Didn’t I whip you enough?” “Oh, you did!” she exclaimed, tears welling her eyes, remembering that night when Jake came into her room, held her down and kissed her neck with his wet lips. His breath smelled like a pigsty and she wanted to puke, instead she bit his face. He yelled and let go of her, and she ran to Mama Kate. When she told her what had happened, she whipped her with a belt. “Why didn’t you comfort and shield me, Mama?” “Don’t pass the blame, Dolores. You were a problem child. You know it. I could never get through to you.” “Did you try?” Her voice quivered. “It was humiliating and a deflated feeling. When you brought Jake home, I knew he was trouble.” Mama Kate waved a hand as if to shoo the idea of Jake being a threat out of her mind. “I needed
a husband, and you, a father. You should’ve been happy ‘stead of running away.”
“What else could I do?”
“You ought not have married. If you had to live with Sonny and that dope head, why didn’t you keep your legs crossed?”
“It happened. Ok? Life was rough on the street, but I’d have come back had I know Jake had died.”
Mama Kate gazed at her with disgust. “That’s just like you, Dolores.”
She held her tongue, avoiding her mother’s penetrating eyes. Here she was arguing with her and in the house she thought she would never see again. She apologized. “I’m sorry, Mama, I didn’t mean to sound nasty and hateful.” “I’m sorry, too, if I hurt your feelings. After all, you are my daughter.” After their tempers had cooled, they called a truce, and Dolores and her children stayed all day with Mama Kate before going back to the Holiday Inn. The phone was ringing when she entered the door. Dolores answered and the familiar voice sent a delightful shiver of wanting through her body. “You win,” Sonny said, in a low sugary tone. “I miss you, babe. I see your face in my dreams. I feel your body next to mine. I smell your perfume in the bed covers.” Reluctantly, she admitted to herself that this man was in her blood. She bit her bottom lip and a cry of relief broke through her lips as she confessed, “Every night before I get to sleep, all I can think of is you.” “I’m leaving town tomorrow. Come with me.” Her mind was a crazy mixture of hope and fear. A flicker of apprehension coursed through her. In her heart she had always been afraid that her family would be separated. The thought tore at her insides. “What about the kids?” “We can’t take them till we’re settled. Leave them with your mama.”
“I never been without them nor they without me.”
“You wanted me to leave Aunt Virginia. I’ve done it. I’ll wait for you at the airport.”
She hung up and fear clutched her heart. She was his. He knew it too. There was no way she was going to let him leave without her. Mama Kate would take care of the kids and they could join her and Sonny later. “ The next morning, Dolores drove the children to Mama Kate’s, after persuading her to let them stay, convinced that in the long run, it would be worth the sacrifice of being parted from them. Mama Kate was on the front porch when Dolores drove in the driveway and ushered the children out of the car. “Lands sake, you’ve brought enough clothing.” She took two large nap sacks from the car. “How long you plan staying?” “A couple of weeks.” Dolores wasn’t sure, but she couldn’t explain it to Mama Kate without her thinking that she was running off and leaving them. “Thanks, Mama.” She rushed outside and whipped the car onto the street. Sonny was waiting at the Municipal Airport. He was frowning and pointing to his watch. “What took you so long? Hurry!”
They boarded the Delta noon flight to Chicago, and after landing, took a limousine to the Hyatt Regency. “Look, babe.” He threw open the doors to their suite. “How’s this for class?” “It’s beautiful” And it was. The blue carpet and wallpaper with borders matched the spreads and draperies. Gleaming Mahogany furniture, two consoles and a built-in bar appealed to her. It was more than she had imagined. They got settled and ordered room service. “When was the last time you had a steak this thick?” He licked his lips. “Good huh?” He finished eating, slid out of his pants and sat on the bed in his briefs. He thrust one leg over the side of the bed and gazed over at her with lust. “Come here.” Dolores got in bed. His arms curved around her, and she nestled close to him. He gently stroked her back and whispered, “Foxy lady. Sexy babe.”
His voice lulled her to sleep, and when she awoke, it was dark. She flicked the night switch. Sonny had left a note. “Got business. I’ll be back. Order some champagne.”
From that night on, she stayed alone in the hotel while Sonny went out with associates to conduct business. Dolores wasn’t as happy as she had expected. During those long, lonely nights, she became homesick and longed to see her children. One phone call, she told herself. I have to’ see how they’re doing. Mama Kate answered and Dolores heard Michelle crying. Then Baby James started, and Mama Kate was trying to quiet them. “Hush y’all. Talk to your mom.” Michelle listened to Dolores’ promise to come and get her and Baby James, and she stopped crying. When Dolores had finished talking, she couldn’t hold back her tears, and she was still crying when Sonny came home. “What’s up” He gazed at her as if she had lost it. “I called the kids,” she said drying her eyes. “They miss us.”
“Aw, come on, babe. They’ll be fine. Order some champagne. Business was great.”
“What’s this job, Sony?” She eyed him suspiciously.
A shadow of annoyance crossed his face as he answered, avoiding her eyes. “Selling.”
Not believing him, she questioned him further. “Selling what?”
“Hardware. I’m getting good at it.”
Dolores laughed. Joy bubbled in her laugh and shown in her eyes, and she became hopeful. “Does this mean we can go get the kids?”
He ran his hands nervously through his hair and said, irritably. “Not yet. I need a couple more weeks.”
All pleasure left her in that instance. They’d been there three weeks already. Dolores thought she had better do something to hurry things along. “I can work.” She viewed the want ads. “I’m here all day doing nothing.” “Whatever,” he said, with little attention, and dialing room service. When the champagne arrived, he drank it all and fell asleep. Early the next morning, Dolores got dressed, went outside and hailed a taxi. “Marshall Fields Department Store,” she told the driver. She got out, hurried inside and felt exhilarated mingling with the crowd of shoppers. This store is fabulous, she thought, going to the employment office. A short, stout woman peered at her over large, black-rimmed eyeglasses. “Have you any experience?” she asked, scrutinizing her head to toe. Dolores became uneasy under this scrutiny and her nerves tensed. Anxiety sputtered through her and she clenched her hands until her nails entered her palm. Hold on, she told herself. You need this job to bring the family together. She developed a stronger guard and answered, “I’ve worked three years in a hotel.” The woman gave her a long, cold stare and said, “I’ll give you a try. Report here tomorrow. Eight a.m.” Dolores left the store feeling self-confident and proud. When she arrived at the hotel, Sony was gone. He returned, later that night, in a jovial mood. He took her in his arms and danced around the room. “Let’s do the town. Wear that dress with the split up the leg.” I’ll be ready in two seconds,” she said shedding her clothing and heading for the shower. Fifteen minutes later, she slipped into a sleek, red dress, stepped into her black patent pumps, ran the comb through her hair, strode into the room and paraded in a modeling stance before Sonny. His catlike eyes watched her desirably as her curly, raven hair bounced gently around her shoulders, her shapely, slim legs moving in unison with the swaying of her curvaceous hips. “Miss D,” his deep, baritone voice said. “You’re goanna’ knock them dead tonight.”
Her face broke into a dazzling smile and she felt happy, light hearted and carefree.
“We’ll eat at the Rooftop Restaurant. Then it’s onto the town for dancing and anywhere your heart desires,” he said, kissing her.
Dolores proudly held his arm as they rode the elevator to the restaurant. They were given a table for two with a beautiful view of the city. Sonny studied the menu for a moment then asked, “What’s the catch of the day?” “Catfish,” the waiter answered. “Naw, bring me a thick T-bone, baked potato, and broccoli.” He turned to Dolores. “Give him your order, babe. Spare no expense.”
“I’d like the Catfish, grilled lightly, no butter, please.”
“Yes, ma’am, anything to drink?”
Sonny interrupted, “Bring two glasses of your best Chardonnay.”
“White Zinfandel,” Dolores said, smiling through her teeth. She stared at Sonny. “What’s your problem? You know I don’t like Chardonnay.”
His face wrinkled with a scowl. “You got the problem, babe. I’ll show you later.”
The waiter returned with the drinks. Sonny took his drink and held it to Dolores’ lips. “Taste this.”
She resisted. “No.”
“C’mon,” he insisted, his voice firm. “Just one sip.”
She stiffened and took a sip. “Ugh. It’s strong!”
“Sure. Everything strong makes you feel good.”
I can feel good another way, thank you,” she replied, wiping her lips.
He ran his hands up her thigh. “I’ll take care that later.”
She slapped his hand. “Behave. Somebody might see you.”
So what? They want the same.”
She laughed and shook her head. “Not everybody thinks of sex in a restaurant.”
“Yes they do. Look at “Big Daddy” in the corner,” he pointed to a heavy-set customer seated with a pretty companion.
They laughed, finished dinner, then went outside and Sonny led her to a red Corvette.
Dolores’ eyes widened. She jumped into the car and ran her hand over the red leather, bucket seats. “Where did you get this car?”
“It’s a rental, but a taste of what you can expect in the future. We travel in style.” He sped off, testing the speed and came to a screeching halt when he neared the nightclub. He parked near the Ambassador East Hotel. They got out and headed for the Buttery Discotheque Nightclub. They were seated and Sonny ordered drinks. Dolores was having fun until Sonny left to use the phone, and she sat alone almost thirty minutes before he returned. “Where were you?” She raised her voice. He flopped in the seat beside her and stared at her, his eyes strong with anger. “Don’t ask me about my business. Here, put this in your purse.” Dolores took the box and shook it. “Is this a watch?” “Never mind,” he whispered through clenched teeth. “Put it away. Hold the keys while I refresh your drink.” He came back with the drink and she sipped it until the glass was empty. A few seconds later, she started blinking her eyes, her heart palpitated, and she broke out in a cold sweat. She tugged his sleeve. “I’m sick.” “Yeah, you’re starting to turn pale.”
“I’m coming down with something. I feel dizzy.”
He helped her out of her seat. “C’mon.”
“My stomach is burning and I feel nauseous.” She jerked away from Sonny and ran to the ladies’ room, barely making it to the toilet before she vomited. Fear crept inside of her and ugly thoughts crowded her mind, as she sat beside the toilet. Did Sonny put something in her drink? She got up and walked, swaying back to her seat to find Sonny wedged between two burly cops. “What’s going on?” They said nothing, cuffed Sonny’s hands behind him and led him out to the police car. She ran outside to the Corvette, threw her purse on the floor in the back seat and followed them. “I have to’ know where they’re taking him,” she muttered, with conflicting emotions coursing through her. The cops stopped at the third precinct, and Sonny was unloaded at gunpoint. She hurried inside. “You’re making a mistake.” One of the officers turned on her. “Who’re you and what’s your role in this?”
Before she could answer, he said, “We’d better take you in, also.” He hustled her in with Sonny. “You don’t handle her that way, you ___” A baton across his back painfully cut off Sonny’s words. “Never mind. Where’s the stuff?”
“Stuff?” Sonny asked, sweat running down his face.
“The heroin, smart-ass and don’t lie.” He hit Sonny again.
Dolores screamed, “Stop! You’re hurting him.”
A policewoman entered, twisted Dolores’ arm and threw her in a chair. Dolores’ breath caught in her throat. Her mind was racing with indignation and embarrassment.
Sonny held out and wouldn’t admit to anything no matter how hard they hit him. “Let me call my lawyer,” he demanded, and moved toward the phone. He made the call and after talking on the phone for five minutes, an hour later, She and Sonny were out of there. Sonny took the box out of her purse and handed it to a man he claimed was his lawyer. Then he took her back to their hotel. Dolores was trembling. Tension made her temples ache and she felt dizzy. “I was scared. I could have had a record.” “C’mon, babe.” He held her gently. “I’d never let that happen.”
“Tell me the truth, Sonny, was heroin in that box?”
“Naw!” He lied and formed tight lips. “Those monkeys were fishing, trying to pin something on me.”
They went to their suite and Sonny pulled her into his arms. “I’m still afraid.” She laid her head to his chest.
“Relax,” he crooned, and started singing, “Angel. You’re my angel.”
The words of the song and Sonny’s soothing touch washed over her and she snuggled in his chest. He stroked her hair, kissed her temples, then her lips. She drifted deeper into the spell woven around her and she clung to him for a long while. They were taking their clothes off. He pushed her down on the sofa, handling her roughly, touching her breast with his lips, pressing his lips between the folds, exploring with lips and tongue, and holding her nipples with his tongue. Then with light strokes of his tongue, tasted her all over. Shock and delight pulsed through her and she shivered as he slid his hands between her legs, parting them. “Do you want this?” A helpless gasp escaped her throat, and then she moaned and answered, “Yes,” pushing herself underneath him. They made love until each felt their own wave of pleasure. They fell apart, and he swiftly got up. “I’ve got to go out.” “What’s this, Sonny? You’ve just got out of jail. Now you’re going out this time of night?”
“Got to take care of the mess I’m in. I’ll be back later.”
She pressed against him and rubbed his stomach. “Don’t go.”
“Don’t worry.” He gently pushed her aside, slid out the door and called back to her, “Everything will be fine.”
“What a bone head,” she muttered and got ready for bed.
Later that morning, Dolores went to her job at Marshall Field. In all the confusion last night, she didn’t get to tell Sonny about her job. She was assigned to the loungewear department. Several hours later, she was sorting delicate sheer apparel at her counter when a distinguishing looking gentleman approached her. Dolores kept her gaze on him. “What a good-looking man. His features were sharp: strong jaw line, deep set hazel eyes, thick eyebrows, salt and pepper hair cut into an English Squire haircut connecting to a slim beard and mustache. He’s so sexy, she thought and smiled at him. “I’d like someone to model these items,” he said, in a deep baritone voice. His voice sounded, like a deep base horn as she stared into his dark brown eyes. “The floor manager can help you with that, sir.” She dialed the code number for Mr. Bernard. When he appeared they talked for a minute and he beckoned to her. She hurried over and he asked, “Would you model Mr. Velasco’s selections? He’s an important customer.” Dolores was startled. Why would he ask her? “I’ve never modeled anything, sir.”
“Don’t matter. Just try them and let him look.”
She was reluctant, but she needed the job. She took the apparel and headed for the dressing
room. There were a dozen pairs of silk pajamas, Peignoir sets, slips and corsets of different colors. “I refuse to wear these slips and corsets,” she mumbled, removing her clothes and getting into the pajamas. A few minutes later, she came out and did a few turns in front of Velasco, and over the course of an hour, she had modeled everything except slips and corsets. “That’ll do, thank you,” Velasco said. “I’ll take everything.” Dolores made a deep sigh of relief, had everything wrapped and handed the bags to a tall, dark chauffeur, who was standing by. Velasco handed her a hundred dollars. “Thanks for your help.”
Dolores gaped at the money and handed it back to him. “No, sir, it’s my job.”
“You’ve earned the money.” He shoved it into her pocket.
Dolores watched him walk away. He’s nice. Classy. Not like the men she knew.
That evening, when she got home, Sonny was dressing to go out. “Where you been?” he asked in a nasty tone.
“I have a job,” she said happily. “Didn’t get a chance to tell you last night.”
“Well, ain’t that sweet,” he said sarcastically, mimicking a woman’s voice.
“Why are you going out now?” She pulled at him.
“Business. Don’t concern yourself. I’ll return when I return.
“Dolores planted herself on the sofa and looked at television. Later, she prepared what she was going to wear to work the next day, and then went to bed.
The next morning, she got to the store early. Before lunchtime, Mr. Velasco returned to her counter. Her smile widened. “Back so soon?”
“Not here to buy,” he answered, gazing at her. “I’ve come to offer you a job.”
“Me?” She gasped and her eyes widened.
“You,” he said, looking serious. “Let’s have lunch and talk about the job.”
The ache in her tired feet eased a little, but a new one started somewhere inside her heart, and she became afraid. He wanted to hire her? Suppose she couldn’t live up to his expectations? The thought blew her mind, but something in his voice pulled her, and she followed him outside. His chauffeur drove up in front of them, Dolores reached for the door and he quickly put his hand on the handle. “Let me get that,” he said, opening the door and helping her inside.
I could get used to this man, she thought. She shouldn’t and she wouldn’t, but she could.
They went to Biggs Restaurant on the near north side of town. Sitting across the table from him didn’t feel natural at first, but when she caught his gaze, she forced herself to relax.
“I'm happy you came to lunch with me,” he said, not taking his eyes from hers.
“I couldn’t refuse this nice offer, Mr. Velasco.”
“Please, call me Leonard,” he insisted, taking the menu and acting pleased with himself.
Dolores let him order for her. They were eating and discussing business. “Don’t suppose you’ve heard of Velasco’s?”
“No. I’m new in the city. Berkeley California is my home town.”
“I knew there was something different about you.” He smiled and gazed at her for a long moment, as if he were studying her, not noticing the change in her expression.
“Different?” She felt insulted.
He dropped his smile and hurried to clarify his statement. “There’ a fresh, modest air about you, I haven’t seen around this town.”
“Is that good or bad?”
He laughed and patted her hand. “Believe me it’s good. How tall are you?”
“Have you ever considered modeling?”
New and unexpected warmth surged through her and sent her pulse throbbing. “No. I went to school for business and computer science.”
“You’d make a great model.” He reached over and took hold of her shoulders. “Lovely skin, a gorgeous figure. “ He turned her chin to the left. “You’re the ideal height to become a model.”
“You make me sound fascinating,” she said, not taking him seriously.
“You could be. Do you like excitement?”
“Never thought much about excitement. I just want to be somebody.”
“Work for me. You’d be one of a hundred and fifty models. I’m expanding in Paris.”
“Sounds exciting.” Her smile broadened with approval. “But I know nothing about modeling.” “You can learn,” he said, trying to persuade her. Dolores was shaking her head as he continued, “Two hundred dollars a day. That’s more than I pay the others.” She stopped shaking her head. The idea had begun to appeal to her, and she thought about her children, and then Sonny. He had been a great disappointment. She would be crazy not to take this man’s offer. “Ok,” she sang with delight. What can I lose?” They finished eating and he took her back to the store. “Here’s my phone number. Call if you have any questions.” After work, Dolores was bursting with excitement. When she got to the hotel, she rushed inside and froze. “What are you doing with that gun?” He jerked her arm and held her against him. “Shut up! They’ll hear you.”
“Who?” She asked, trying to catch her breath.
Before he could answer, a squadron of men burst through the door. “Don’t move,” one of them yelled, flashing his badge. “Sonny Brown, You’re under arrest for possession and dealing drugs.” Dolores gaped at them in shock. Then she swallowed hard the lump that grew in her throat that was taking her breath away, and she tried to think of something to say, but chocked back a cry. Frightened, electrified, hearing the sound of her heart thumping in her ears erratically, till finally she was able to speak. “Sonny, tell them they are wrong.”
Sonny’s eyes narrowed, darkened, his face twisted into a terrible scowl. “Wise up, babe, how’d you think we were paying for all this?”
Then her worse nightmare began. Sonny grabbed her without warning, pulling her back, lifting her off her feet. “Back off or I’ll kill her.” He backed her toward the door.
Her face went pale white. Sonny’s voice in her ear sounded mean, menacing, scary, and not like that of the man who had said that he loved her. Now he was squeezing her chest tighter. “Throw your guns on the floor.” Dolores quivered in outrage and pain as she asked, “How could you do this to me? The mother of your children.” Sonny didn’t answer. He wasn’t in a position to listen to her objections. “We’re leaving.” One trooper started to rush Sonny and he held the gun to Dolores’ head.
“I’ll blow her brains out. I mean what I say.”
“Cool it, men,” the officer in charge said. “Let them leave. We’ll catch him later.” Sonny pulled Dolores along like a rag doll till he got to his car. His breathing labored, he tossed her in the passenger’s seat. Then she got angry. “ You dirty bastard.”
“Shut your mouth,” he snarled, spit foaming in the corners of his mouth. “I couldn’t let them take me.”
“What about me? I could have been killed.”
“Quit squawking! You’re here in one piece ain’t you?” He took off, pressing the accelerator all the way to the floor.
Dolores felt a hot flush of fury rising within her. Her eyes blazing, she faced him furiously. “To think I left the kids for you, an evil, no good, bum. You’re worse than Virginia and not worth the hair on my kids’ head.” Sonny paid her no attention. Just kept speeding. “Let me outta’ this car," she yelled, shoving against his face with her left hand, then clawing his flesh with all the strength she had within her. The car careened toward the dividing line and hit a stop sign. When he backed up, Dolores reached for the door, her fingers tipped the latch and she tumbled out onto the street. Sonny sped off, peering back at her through the mirror, and she gave him the finger. She went back to the hotel, washed her
bruises, and called Leonard. “How soon can I start work?” “Dolores? I didn’t recognize your voice.
“It’s me.” She began to cry.
“What’s wrong?” She told him everything.
“You could have been killed.” He sympathized. “You’d do better to divorce that bum.”
“You’re right. But first, I’ve have to go home for my kids.”
“The job is in New York. I’ll have an apartment ready for you when you get there.”
“Goodbye and thanks.” She packed her clothes and went to the airport where she waited for a morning flight. While she waited, she thought about her children. After being away six months, she hadn’t known, hadn’t grasped the full implication of what she had done to them till now, and she prayed that it wouldn’t leave a lasting scar on their memory. When Dolores arrived, Mama Kate saw her through the window and opened the door. They gazed at each other. Then Mama Kate said, “You look like hell.” Her mouth was pulled tautly, but she observed the despair, the hurt and the bruises on her face. Dolores waited for the worse lecture of her life, knowing she deserved everything Mama Kate would say to her. “I’ve been a fool and too naïve to heed your warnings.” “Looks like you’ve learned a lesson. Come in. Your young ones are napping.” Dolores couldn’t hold back the tears. She buried her face in Mama Kate’s shoulder and wept bitterly. For the first time, since she was a child, her mama put her arms around her and cradled her. Dolores was happy to be back with her children. It was obvious that they were happy to see her. They jumped all over her, laughing and kissing her. That morning, she prepared breakfast for her children, and stared out of Mama Kate’s window. The sun was rising. It was going to be a beautiful day. Realizing how blessed that she was, she gave each of her children a kiss. The next day, after telling Mama Kate about her job offer, she packed their clothes, went to the airport and took a flight to New York. Leonard met her at Kennedy International. Dolores introduced her children. Leonard laughed and shook their hands. “I’ve ordered a car for you, Dolores. Wait till you see your apartment.” The heavy lashes that shadowed her cheeks flew up and her voice rose in surprise. “A car?” He winked and said, “You’ll be more accessible with wheels.”
“Pinch me, please. I want to make sure I’m not dreaming.”
He laughed and pinched her. “You’re not dreaming.” They rode through Central Park and Dolores and her children were happy. Then they arrived at her apartment on the east side of Manhattan. “Herman will take your bags. Let’s get the children inside.” When they stepped off the elevator and into her apartment, Dolores flipped. “It’s beautiful. I love blue and gray,” She felt the satin draperies at one of the large windows in the living room, and headed toward the bedrooms. “Brass poster beds? It’s everything I’ve seen in the House Beautiful Magazine.” “Come see the kitchen. I hope you like white. My decorator swore it’s the in-thing.” “This apartment must cost a pretty penny.” She sat in one of the chairs at the white oak dining table. “You’ll make enough money, as my number one model, to meet the payments.”
“What have I done to warrant this lavish apartment and Job?”
“I liked you from the beginning. You have potential to make a lot of money for me. But I want to warn you about one part of the business.”
Oh, here it comes, she thought, I knew it had to be a catch to everything. She held her breath and asked, “What’s my job?”
“Don’t be alarmed.” He gazed at the expression on her face. “My models sometime go out with customers, but I’d rather that you didn’t.” He had shown her right then and there that he was smitten with her.
Air expelled her lungs. “Maybe I’m wrong, but do you expect me to be more than a model? If so, I don’t want any part of this.” “No. I’m sorry if I gave that impression. Dating the customers is bad for the business.”
“I have two kids to care for and I don’t date.”
“Ok. I’ll explain everything tomorrow, but I want you and the children to have dinner with me tonight.”
Leonard left and after she had gotten over some of her fascination for the apartment, she phoned Mama Kate to tell her the good news.
“You sure that man’s not a dope peddler?”
“Mama please, I’ve been through all that. You think I’d get caught in that nightmare again?” “How you know? Most of them tell you anything.”
“He’s a respectable business man, Mama, and he seems a little lonely.”
“Be careful. You know how you are in choosing men.”
“Don’t rub it in, Mama. I have to go. Talk to you later.” When she finished talking with Mama Kate, she and the children got dressed to have dinner with Leonard. An hour later, Herman came to get them. They climbed into the long black Cadillac, and after an hour’s ride to the suburbs called Terry Town, they rode through a winding drive that seemed to be a maze before the house came into view . Dolores was impressed. Never has she seen a house like this. There were tall columns across the front, a veranda on the second floor between the columns and six windows each side of the veranda. Lush green foliage and beautiful evergreen trees surrounded the house. They got out of the car and entered the foyer, and then into a spacious living room with French furniture that sat on a beautiful Persian rug. Dolores stood mesmerized in the doorway. “How many rooms have you got here?” “Fifty-two. Want a tour?’
“You know that I do.”
Leonard walked over to the blue velvet draperies, separating the foyer from the living room, and yanked on a long silk tasseled cord. Within minutes, a tall, dark woman with a large chignon, and dressed in a maid’s attire’, hurried into the room. “You rang, sir?” she asked in a heavy alto voice. “Hattie, show Ms. Brown the house.”
Yes, sir. Come, Ms.”
Dolores followed Hattie up the staircase that curled up to the third floor. They stepped into the first room, which was a library with walnut shelves that reached the ceiling and lined all four walls of the room. Four round walnut tables sat next to two soft leather high-backed chairs. The floors were highly polished oak wood. Silk taffeta draperies of gold with bronze tiebacks of thick braided rope adorned the windows. “Sure love the colors and beautiful paintings,” Dolores said.
“Mr. Velasco brought them from Paris,” Hattie explained, and opened the door to the last bedroom on the second floor. “This here’s Mr. Velasco’s bedroom.”
Dolores stepped into the room and her breath caught in her throat as she imagined Leonard lying in the king-sized bed that was surrounded by large mahogany posters, reading under sparkling crystal lamps, and drinking his favorite wine. Dolores lie on the blue velvet chase lounge and reached down to feel the plush, blue carpet. “Luxurious,” she said and sighed. They came back to the first floor and entered the room that had a bowling alley, then one filled with exercising equipment of all makes and sizes and an indoor pool. Hattie led her to the kitchen. “Mr. Velasco restored this kitchen __modern appliances,” she said, pointing to the refrigerator, double oven and dishwasher that were installed in the wall. They ended the tour and joined Leonard and her children in the dining room. Two tables had been set with a standing rib roast, string beans with almonds, Caesar salad, chocolate mouse, strawberry ice cream cake, punch for the children and White Zinfandel wine for the grown ups. They finished dinner and Leonard talked about the business. They had more wine, and then he started telling her about himself. “My family was poor till my Mom’s father died and left us his fur business. My Grandfather was Native Alaskan. He started trapping furs as a boy.”

“Interesting life.” She regarded him with somber curiosity. “Tell me more.” “When Grandfather got enough money, he came to America. He raised Mink and Sable, married my Grandmother and left the business to my Mom.” Dolores sat across the table from him, studying his facial features and listening to him talk. When he smiled, she thought his teeth to be like the brilliance of pearls, his skin smooth as honey and his eyes the color of hazel nuts. His thick eyebrows and, salt and pepper hair gave him a distinguishing look. She couldn’t move her eyes from his as he continued to talk about his business. “Mom died and I became heir. My dream is to make the business bigger, better than its ever been.” He stopped talking and his quick responsive smile brought her back to reality. “I’m boring you, aren’t I?” He squeezed her hand. “Tomorrow, I’m giving you some modeling lessons. You’ll make a lot of money for me.” They said good night and she and the children were driven back to her apartment. Her thoughts were of tomorrow, and making a good impression. 

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