(Author’s note: Starting next week, I will be taking a social media break. It will not impact writing, but contact on Twitter, Gab, and Facebook will be curbed for one month. E-mail will be alright, if you need to. Here’s today’s Fictioneers…)
If you could see what I’ve seen, you’d swear I was not normal.
On one hand, I see like a child. Innocence, virtue, trust, all in one place. One another hand, I see death, vindictiveness, the decay of the world. And on the third hand, the one never seen, there’s pain, deception, and even love.
Every slap a betrayal, every push a declaration of love, every tear a cry for relief and comfort. And each time I am asked the same question: Is it all worth it?
For these children marked from substance abuse: You’re damn right.
Pia Nagala was incredible. No one who looked upon her would have doubted it.
Among the world of the urban man, she would have been called “on fleek”, or looking very fine. The air about her was captivating, and she held your gaze constantly. For any man, she would be considered as close to perfect as one could get.
The guy on her arm, however, would be another story.
Charles Trainor would not be considered “on fleek”. He was a good looking man, but unremarkable compared to Pia. A lot of people wondered why they ended up together, first in a touch-and-go relationship, then much more steady. Some even warned Charles to be careful, that he wouldn’t rush too far and be too focused.
“So, what do you plan to do now?”
The question from Darryl, one of Charles’s good friends, was pointed. It cut home quickly, without much of a fuss, and Charles shrinked down in his chair at it.
“Plan to do about what?” he responded.
“About Pia. You two have been dating for a while, and now there is full on, undisputed evidence that she’s been involved in some really nasty behaviors.”
“Yeah, but you’re the one who gave me that evidence.”
Darryl’s olive green eyes narrowed as he looked at Charles. He was correct, it was his investigation of Pia that brought up the evidence of her dalliances with tarot readers and illicit sex acts in places that Charles would never go to. He looked over at the manila envelope, sitting lazily on an end table, the contents of the package spilling out onto the floor.
The color photos that were visible had showed the chestnut haired woman with a blissful look on her face as she was leaving a tarot parlor. Another photo, laying on the floor and facing towards the ceiling, had the oblivious woman walking towards a warehouse door. She was wearing skintight clothing that showed off her endowments, uncharacteristic of the normally demure young lady commonly found on Charles’s arm.
“Pictures don’t lie, Chuck. She’s been playing you this whole time.”
“But, how can it be that she would do this? I mean, she was the one who helped get me straight with my father. She was the one who helped me get in touch with guys who were able to keep me accountable about my binge drinking. Heck, she was able to help me find you!”
Darryl’s face grew a slight bit more red, more from embarrassment than anger. Again, a true statement, as Pia introduced Darryl and Charles at a dinner party a few months back. They had become very close, due to their higher age and their similar tastes in music and food.
“C’mon, Chuck, you know me. You know my record, and you know that I wouldn’t lie about Pia.”
Charles ran his hands up his face and through his straight, thick black hair. The expression on his face was like a man who was about to crack up. His neck muscles tensed as the factoid bounced through his head like a small bouncy ball.
He sighed, his shoulders slumping down in defeat.
“You’re right. You wouldn’t lie about her.”
“I don’t like saying things like that, man. I know she was something very special and she made you feel really good.”
“You’re right. She did. But, I know that she has other…”
He stopped for a moment, shaking his head as he thought about the depravity of it all.
“Seriously? That warehouse was a sex club?”
“Yeah. The PI that went in there came back and showed me the video that was in there. I had to tell him to turn it off after the first minute…”
“Yeah, yeah. No need to recount those details.”
“So, as I asked, what now?”
“I am not sure what exactly to do about it.”
Charles looked around the beautiful living room that was part of his new place. He gazed at the crystal light that hung over the living room table, remarking in his mind about how beautiful it made the rest of the living room.
The new place was possible because of her help. A fact that Charles knew could be a big problem if things blew up.
“It might just be good to get it into the open and just break it off with her cleanly,” Darryl said, taking a sip of his dark Colombian roast coffee.
“But, that could mean trouble. Remember, she’s pretty influential among my friends.”
“Duh! I know that! Remember that most of them are my friends, too!”
As Charles started to stand, the screech of tires emanated into the house. Darryl looked at Charles for the briefest of moments, locking eyes with him, before he bolted from the chair to the pictures. As Darryl furiously scrambled to put all the evidence back into the envelope, Charles paced back and forth.
The slam of the car door lightly reverberated into the house. The wrinkles around Charles’s eyes became more pronounced with each second’s passing.
Charles’s heart panicked and quickened as he heard the keys slide into the door to the garage.
The door opened, and Pia walked in. As she closed the door, her green A-line skirt twirled around her, barely showing her knees. She turned around, her fuzzy white sweater covering her torso and arms, holding a bag of groceries.
She smiled as she looked at Charles.
“Charlie! You’re here! Can you help me with these groceries?”
Charles’s face froze in a look of petrified shock. He could not move, could not blink, could not do anything. When Pia looked him in the face, her infectious smile lessened.
“Charlie, are you okay?”
Charles blinked, then smiled bashfully.
“I’m sorry, Pia. I had some bad news come to me today that caused me some issues. I was just talking with Darryl about it when you came in.”
He walked over to her, picked up the bag from her hands, and started to unpack them. Pia just smiled and bit her lip as she walked back to the garage. After a few minutes, and putting the bags away, she put her hands around his waist. She pressed herself into his back.
“So, dear, what was the bad news?”
“Oh, you remember that job I applied for? The one at the newspaper?”
“Yeah, you were happy about that one.”
“I didn’t get it. They called me just before you got here, and told me that I had excellent references and information.”
“And other people were more what they were looking for, right?”
Pia turned Charles around with her hands and gazed into his caramel brown eyes. Her own deep, dark eyes showed sincerity.
“Don’t worry. God’s on your side, and you will get that job. He provides.”
“I know he does, Pia. I just hope that something comes soon. It’s really gonna be hard to deal with if I can’t find something here to provide for my living expenses.”
“He’s already come through for you before, right?”
“Yeah, he has. I just really wish there weren’t so many other issues to deal with.”
She laid her head against his chest, as Darryl carefully walked into the kitchen.
“Hey there, Pia.”
“Heya, Darryl. How’s everything been?”
“Eh, not much to say. Rita is doing alright, but she’s mostly home for now.”
Pia looked into his eyes, giving a solemn nod.
“I gotta run, Charlie,” he said, taking one last look at his friend. A friend who was locked in an embrace with a temptress.
He looked at Pia, sweet and innocent Pia, as the images of her in revealing clothing flashed past his eyes. His face became stony, and he quickly walked out of the kitchen. Neither Pia nor Charles did anything until the door slammed.
Pia was the first to break the silence.
“Is it just me, or did it seem like he had something wrong with him?” she asked, as she turned towards the stove.
“Nah. I think he’s just been under stress with the children at school.”
“I thought he liked his job.”
“They take a lot out of him and today was his first real day off.”
“That would explain it. So, what do you want for dinner?”
Charles was about to say something when she turned around and looked at him, with the usual and beautiful smile she always gave him. He worked his hardest not to show anything but an emotion of gratitude.
“Oh, whatever you wish. I am more interested in just resting than watching you cook tonight.”
“Aww,” she pouted, making herself look more enticing than before, “I was hoping you’d help me.”
Charles nervously laughed, looking everywhere for a way out.
“That news really took me hard. I think I’m just going to go into the living room and lie down.”
“Okay!” she beamed, “I’ll let you know when dinner is ready.”
As Charles left the room, he breathed a sigh of relief.
“I really don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up…”