A half-full bowl of cereal was tossed onto the table so that some of the milk spilled out. “You’re cleaning that up,” the woman, who had tossed the bowl, said even though her cigarette was about to fall out the corner of her mouth. Some of the ash from the cigarette had dropped into the bowl, so bits of dark grey were swimming on the surface of the white milk.
Before eating, the girl did as she was told. She picked up a rag and cleared up the milk before eating her cereal, not wanting to anger the woman. She had to hurry up, because her father would be there to pick her up for school very soon.
When he arrived, she was told to wait in the car while her parents had a conversation. Well, I say conversation. It was really a full battle inside the cramped trailer. She didn’t know what her mother was so upset about, but one thing was certain. If her mother hadn’t passed out by the time school let out, she’d be paying for whatever it was that her father had said.
Father looked angry when he emerged from the trailer. She could still hear screaming and bottles breaking from inside her home. Obviously mother wasn’t satisfied.
Don was visibly stressed. He had looked ragged for as long as she could remember, but recently he had began to look even more so. Perhaps it was just the aging. She didn’t know old he was exactly, but he wasn’t young. His wrinkled face got darker every time he got to pick her up.
Without even glancing at the girl, Don started the car and drove off down the dirt road, throwing rocks out from under the vehicle. She stayed silent as well. Not because she was scared of him like she would’ve been of her mother, no, father never hurt her, but because she sensed he wanted the silence at the moment.
“I’m not sure how much you heard,” Don started wanting to know exactly how much.
“Not much,” she replied. Her voice was quiet, audible enough to hear but not any more than that. She hardly spoke around her mother. Mother didn’t like it when she did. Mother hardly even wanted to know her daughter was present. Most of the time she was so drunk she didn’t even see her, didn’t care to look, even.
“Just don’t worry about it, okay?” Don said, trying to give her a smile that was supposed to fade all her potential worries away. “Your mom and I just couldn’t agree on something.”
“What was it?” The smile didn’t work.
Don hesitated, and then he finally sighed. “Just, money.”
Ah, money. It was always about cash with mother.
“So how have things been? How’s school?” Don asked.
“Good. No problems, then? With your mom?”
She shrugged. But he saw past the indifferent attitude when he glanced at her and saw the way she was rubbing a spot on her head. It was hurting from her mother pulling on her hair, or at least he supposed so. It wasn’t exactly the first time. At least there didn’t seem to be any other bruises, or perhaps there were but they just weren’t visible. He pulled up to the school’s parking lot where he usually dropped her off, but she didn’t get out of the car yet.
“Dad?” she asked. “Will I become like her?”
“What do you mean?”
“Everyone says I will,” the girl said quietly, ashamed of herself for asking such a daring question. She was looking down to her lap, but the cracks in her voice made it obvious that she was upset. “I know what mother does. And she says I’ll do the same in a few years. I don’t want to.”
Don sighed. Just the fact that she even thought that... He knew it was wrong of him to leave his daughter with that woman. And it made what he was about to do even worse. “Hey, that won’t happen. And no one will force you to do anything. You’re not your mother. You can be whatever you want to be.”
The girl didn’t reply, so he knew his attempt at assuring her didn’t work at all. She opened the car door, but before she could go out, he stopped her. “Hey, wait a second. I have something for you.”
Don reached to the back seat that was filled with junk, dug around a bit and took out a wrapped box. “I was going to give it to you on your birthday but...” Her birthday was coming up in just two weeks, but she seemed to be so down that he couldn’t help but give her present to her now.
She took the present, and carefully tore off the wrapping. Inside there was a soft panda toy, which she took out of the box.
“I don’t really know what you like or if you’re too old for that kind of stuff,” Don said when she didn’t comment on the present.
“Thank you,” she said with a small smile, petting the faux fur. It felt soft under her hands. “I love it.”
“Good. Now, go. You’ll be late.” He ruffled her dark brown hair before she left the car and hurried to her first class of the day.
“Would you stop undressing her with your eyes?” Mikey said, groaning. He nodded to the bartender who set a pint of beer on the bartop for him.
“What are you talking about?” Gerard asked, looking away from the young lady he’d been staring at.
“You guys are so fucking high school cliché. It’s disgusting.”
Gerard glanced at Penina, who was sitting at her usual table, and as usual, she was accompanied by a gang of ugly gorillas. Her boyfriend slung his arm on her shoulder, which she swiftly removed from her person, looking bored. Gerard really didn’t get what she saw in him.
Frank and Ray joined them by the bar and ordered beers. “What is disgusting?” Ray asked, having heard Mikey’s comment.
“Gerard is. He’s pining again.”
“Fuck off,” Gerard scoffed.
Frank, however, had downed his first beer and was karate-kicking the air. “I’ll kick Wes’ ass for you, Gee,” the short man announced.
“Calm down, tiger,” Gerard told him and grabbed him by the back of his shirt when he tried to dash towards Penina’s boyfriend to kick some buttocks.
“Hey, if you’re gonna fight, take it outside,” the bartender said. “Fight here and you’ll get banned. Besides, you may want to go out anyway.”
“Your landlord just came in.”
The four men’s necks snapped when they glanced at the door. It was true; their landlord had just stepped into the bar, but luckily he hadn’t seen them yet. So they all went down on their knees, crawled to the back door, and slipped out before they could be spotted. Having not paid rent in at least four months had it’s downsides, especially since they regularly went to the same bar their landlord liked to hang out at. It really was such a hassle to not have any money.
Don was starting to get a bit desperate. Two days had passed, and he hadn’t managed to get that much money. Not even nearly enough. Not even enough to keep Ike and his goons satisfied so that he could buy more time.
Two days left. Two days, and he didn’t even have a proper plan. Oh, he did have a plan, but it wasn’t legal or smart, and he wasn’t prepared to go to jail for something like this. No, he would get that money some other way. A lot could happen in two days.
Except, pretty soon Don found out that he didn’t have many options left.
“Don, you asshole!” cried the woman the second Don picked up his phone. His daughter’s mother, Sarah, didn’t call him much. In fact, the two of them hardly communicated unless Don was even a second late on paying her the weekly pile of cash. This particular conversation, however, wasn’t about money.
As Sarah was shouting profanities at Don via the phone, calling him all kinds of colorful things, he managed to pipe in a question: “Is something wrong?”
“Yes something’s fucking wrong! The son of a bitch you sent here is what’s wrong! I’m not some fucking free mule, Don!”
“What the hell are you going on about?” Don asked. The woman was probably drunk again, nothing new there. Sarah spent about 99% of her day either drunk or with her legs spread and up in the air, and usually at the same time.
“Your friend just fucking raped me! Yeah! Said he didn’t owe me anything, and that you were the one to blame! So thanks a lot, you sick fucker. Oh, and I wasn’t aware we were pimping out Olivia now.”
Now, Don didn’t care that much about Sarah, and her idea of rape was that she had sex willingly, expecting money for it, but the client refuses to pay afterwards. It didn’t matter whether the client even knew he was doing it for money or not. But the mention of Olivia brought chills down Don’s spine, and suddenly he was afraid. Very afraid.
“Is Olivia okay?” he asked. He was dreading that there might be a day when Sarah decides to start selling their daughter to strangers in the same way she sold herself, or that one of Sarah’s clients might take matters into their own hands and do something to Olivia.
“What? So it’s just ‘is Olivia okay?’ and not even an apology to me? Fuck you too, Don!”
“Is she alright?!”
“Yeah the little bastard’s fine. Not for long, though, if she doesn’t stop howling.”
“Sarah, who was it? What was his name?” Don asked, but he feared he already knew the answer. She only needed to confirm the name.
“Said his name was Ike.”
Don hung up, and closed his eyes. He rubbed his temples as if he had a headache, and made a decision. Ike had gone too far. But he could go further. Ike had made it very clear that he could get to Olivia. Sarah was just a warning shot, but next time Olivia would Ike’s victim. And to stop that from happening, Don had to get that money somehow.