Ten ~ Caliste
“I truly did love that blonde wig, but this red one will do nicely. It will cover the scratches on my forehead. It’s a throwback to the old movie queens of the forties and fifties. I know what you’re thinking. That Veronica Lake wasn’t a redhead, but I adore this deep scarlet color.”
“That’s not what I was thinking at all,” Butch grunted as he watched me get ready for my meeting with Raphael. He was stationed behind my bedroom door, protecting me like a Doberman, in case anyone tried to force their way in.
“Were you thinking that my wig wall is beyond compare?” I waved a hand at the shelves of wigs that covered one long wall. My nerves were making me run off at the mouth and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop. “I love them all. This one is one of my favorites. The fall of the hair is incredible, and it feels so soft. Pairing it with a bright primary color dress will—”
“I know you’re talking because you’re scared, and I really want to be supportive, but I could care less about the wig or the dress. I care that you’re about to put your life in danger by meeting up with this bastard who, more than likely, was a distraction while someone rigged my car. I mean, this is insane, baby. Please, rethink this!”
If only he knew how many times I’d changed my mind over the past thirty minutes. I was not, by nature, a brave man. Oh yes, people thought I was because I left the toxicity of my family behind. That was not what I would consider bravery. Running away was cowardly. And I had done it all my life. I’d run and hid, found a pimp that would indulge my fussy ways, and stayed safe behind the walls of Gems. Kennedy was a prick, and far too happy to slap first and ask questions later, but his security was top notch. And of course, he was part of this whole terrible crime syndicate, so things never got ugly. Did I know that the men who courted and wooed and bedded me were local mob? Yes. I knew, and I lay down with them anyway because I was safe. Sleeping with the enemy. It gave me the perceived safety that I craved.
“I’m tired of being the one who skips off at the first sign of danger. No.” I shook my head, the long fall of red hair caressing my well made-up cheek. “This time I stay, and I fight for the only family that ever really loved me.”
He said nothing. I glanced back at him in my lighted make-up mirror. “I respect that. It makes my stomach cramp, but I respect it.” He glanced down at the beaten old watch strapped to his thick wrist. “I have to go meet up with Diamond. Do not leave this apartment until I’m back to guard you. Understand?”
I nodded and picked up a box with fake eyelashes. His hands on my shoulders startled me, a sure sign of just how tightly I was wound. I’d taken a Valium upon arriving home. It had yet to work, but soon, I prayed.
“Yes, I understand. I’ll be here when you return.” I turned my head to gaze up at him. Such a crookedly handsome man. He squeezed my shoulders, then bent down to kiss me. It was a soft, yearning kiss. I wished it would never stop. That we could tumble into my bed not four feet away and get lost in each other. Sadly, that was not to be.
“Lock up after me. Don’t let anyone in.” He stole one more taste of my lips. “I’m sorry I never said nothing sooner.”
“Oh, posh,” I replied with a light airiness I did not feel. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, as my Granny would say. All the wishing in the world won’t change a thing. We both were silly geese. But now, we have time. All the time in the world. We will have time, won’t we?”
“Yeah, baby, we’ll have time.” He cradled my cheek for a second, then left. Off to meet Diamond and his hateful father.
Would they be able to get any aid from the Senator? Or would he be waiting with the Colchester Police Department? Would they arrest them, or worse? I tried to lift a lash from the box, but my hand was shaking too fiercely. Tossing it all aside, I removed my wig, placed it back on its foam head, rose from the tiny blue stool and limped across the room, eying the bottles of pills beside my bed. Would one more Valium do the trick? Usually one worked, but today…well, today was a true howling bitch of a day. Twisting the top off, I dumped a pretty blue tablet into my hand, then popped it into my mouth, washing it down with cold tea from this morning.
Morning. It seemed a lifetime ago. In reality, it had been less than ten hours. I sat on the edge of my firm queen mattress and began rubbing my toes along the carpet. Back and forth I went with both feet, over and over, until I felt the tension staring to fade away. I liked to do the same thing in bed. Slide under the covers, then sweep my feet left and then right. It was soothing. Yawning widely, I laid down, just to rest my eyes and slip my toes over the fluffy teal cover of my bed. Head pillowed on goose down, I wet my lips, and let my lashes drop down. Just for a moment, just to help the anxiety that was bubbling away inside me. Breathing out through pursed lips, I willed my thoughts to kinder things. No more bombs, bodies, and blood. Perhaps, once this was all over, Butch and I could fly to Paris. Smiling a little, I drifted off to dreams of wet cobblestone streets, freshly baked macarons, and Parisian fashion. Gloriously wound in dreamy visions of stiff corsets, pink tulle, and high heels, I was reluctant to wake up. Even with someone calling my name while gently shaking my arm. I groaned when the rude person slid a hand to my elbow in an effort to aid me in sitting up.
“Butch, stop…hurts,” I muttered as sleep and wakefulness warred. I flopped a hand around in a weak effort to fall back to sleep. Perhaps taking two Valium hadn’t been a good idea. Someone cupped my chin and held me up, the smell of sweet wine on his breath as it flowed over my face. I blinked once, then again, the fogginess in my brain nearly as bad as the mist coating my vision.
“My beautiful Onyx, what did they do to you?”
The purr of Raphael’s cultured voice sliced through the mental muddiness. I gasped and coughed, my heart rate tripling as I tried to scuttle in reverse. He held my chin tightly, squeezing as I pointlessly tried to free myself. When his grip became painful, I stopped struggling. “I knew you were a smart man, as well as a beautiful one. Time to get up and get dressed.”
“Oh my, I was dreaming of a bad man,” I said, my words shaky. He stared at me, his fingers firm on my chin. “I see now that it is not a bad man at all, but my handsomest admirer!”
His vicelike grasp softened. “You were dreaming about that Butch asshole.”
“Mm, yes,” I lied as I tried to pull my murky thoughts together. “I do hate that man. He’s so course and unkempt.” I wet my lips and lowered my gaze. He led my mouth to his. The kiss was sloppy and possessive, but I moaned like a porn star, then meekly broke the kiss. “I do ache so. I thought to rest just for a bit before our date. Am I late?”
I tried to glance at the clock on the bedstand, but he kept my sight on him. Where was my phone? If only I could find it, I could call Butch. Damn those stupid blue pills!
“I was worried, so I came over early. Then when I knocked and no one replied, I grew frantic and let myself in. I dislike you looking this way. Please, get up and get dressed.”
“Yes, of course, I want to be pretty for you.” He released my jaw. I waggled it as I slowly slid from the bed, my feet sinking into the carpet. How had he let himself in? He had no key. And how did he know where I lived? We Gems never disclosed our home addresses.
“I’ll be in the living room. Stop dawdling and get dressed. Your hair is nappy, and it needs covered.” He walked out, leaving the door open. I heard a voice addressing him, a male voice. My heart thundered in my chest. Dear Sweet Jesus, he’d broken in, or had some muscle do it for him. And now they were waiting for me. To leave with them. Bile rose up the back of my throat. I would have run but there was nowhere to go. We were five stories up. “Onyx, stop standing there staring into space. Get ready. You have five minutes, or we’ll come in and dress you.”
“Sorry, yes, sorry. I took a few Valiums and I’m groggy.” I rushed to my closet, pulled out a bright yellow dress with big black polka dots and a wide black belt. On the verge of a teary breakdown, I wiggled into several crinoline slips to keep the skirt full and then eased the dress down over my head and arms. Shoes. I needed shoes. What was Raphael doing here?!
I found some black heels and slid my feet into them. Fuck him, he was not getting stockings and garters. Oh. Perhaps I should. That would give me more time to think of what to do next. I was at my dresser, rummaging through my stockings, when a large man I had never met before entered my bedroom.
“Times up.” He grabbed me by the arm and jerked me to the door. Out into the living room I was thrown, landing on my injured hip. I cried out. Raphael looked down his patrician nose at me. “Sorry, Ma’am.”
“Get up. Get him a wig. God, that hair. And find some stockings. Only whores go around without stockings and garters.” He was not at all the refined man that I’d had so many light and gay lunches with. I slowly got to my feet, hissing in pain. Muscle Man threw a black wig and some stockings with garters at me. I sat on a tiny foot stool and dressed my legs, burning with shame, cringing in agony every time I had to move my abraded leg. I pulled the short bob cut wig on.
“Can someone zip me up please?” I demurely asked as I wobbled into a standing position. The wall of muscle went to move. Raphael shoved around him.
“You don’t touch my beautiful Onyx,” he snapped at the lumbering dark-haired goon in the too tight suit. He cradled my face, his look rapturous. “Now this is my Onyx. I never want to see you without a wig again. It takes away from the glory of your demure colored fifties housewife vibe.”
My mouth fell open. He kissed me, then gently spun me around. Colored housewife? I’d not heard that word in years, thank God. My hands were now shaking in fear. Who was this man? What kind of bizarre shit did he have inside his head? Where was my fucking—
There it was. My phone. Lying on the TV stand. He pulled the zipper up then pressed his lips to my neck. I shuddered in revulsion. He sighed in pleasure.
“We have to go now, kitten. Things will be a little unseemly for a bit but then, you’ll be mine to keep.” He slid a hand around my middle. “I’ll make sure you have everything a woman could want.”
“May I grab a purse? I’ll have to freshen my makeup. I know how you like my face to be just perfect!” I thickened my accent and added a plaintive sigh.
“Yeah, sure, sweetheart, we’ll get you a purse and some makeup. Joe, go get the lady a handbag and a lipstick. You won’t need anything else. I have a whole house set up for you, honey. A little honeymoon bungalow just for the two of us.”
Ice ran down my spine. Raphael steered me to the front door, away from my phone. I glanced back once, at the busted lock on my door and my cell flashing with an incoming message, and then I was hustled down the fire exit by a certifiable maniac.