The second Gerard sat down, a pint of beer was set down on the bar, and the bartender moved on to the next person before Gerard could even thank him. Across the room, Penina was leaning on the pool table, checking the ends of her dark hair for split ends when she spotted him. A smile spread on her face, and she headed towards the bar.
“Hello stranger,” she said, leaning her back against the bar next to Gerard’s stool.
“Hey,” Gerard replied, feeling a tiny bit better. “Where’s Wes?”
“Playing pool,” Penina sighed, nodding her head slightly towards the back of the bar where her boyfriend was. “It’ll keep him entertained for a while. And I’m so bored. You wanna go outside for a moment?”
Gerard shrugged, but got off the barstool and followed her out of the bar. They headed straight for the first car they saw, and sat on the hood. Penina made sure to wipe off all the dirt first, though.
“How’s Don?” she asked, refusing the cigarette he was offering her.
Gerard lit one for himself, and took a drag of it before replying. “I dunno. Haven’t gone to see him yet.”
“How long has it been?”
“A month.” Yeah, a month since Don got convicted to two years in prison for robbery. Gerard still couldn’t wrap his head around it. None of them could. Frank would spontaneously burst into tears, Ray, who had always been the calm one, had joined the rest of them in the drinking and fighting, and Mikey walked around like a ghost, not really speaking much. And it had been two weeks since the threat from Ike. His words still haunted Gerard. If they didn’t pay up, people would start dropping dead... But time passed and Gerard felt like he was just flowing through it. He didn’t know how to even begin collecting all that money. They didn’t have any. And he was too scared to go visit Don. He feared how beaten up his father would be, and though he wanted to ask him something so badly, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer. And that question was, who the hell is Olivia.
“How are the guys?”
Gerard shrugged. “Not too good, to be honest. Everything’s a fucking mess...”
“Could I help?”
“If you happen to have a time machine stashed up somewhere, then yeah, that would help.”
“Sorry no,” she said. “I meant I could maybe come over and talk to the guys or something...”
“Yeah Frank would probably shit his pants if there was a girl in the apartment. No offense.”
“Really? I thought you guys would have like crazy sex orgies with twenty girls at once now that there’s no adult supervision.”
Gerard laughed. It felt pretty good to laugh for once. “Any girl who would be willing to enter that apartment has to be clinically insane.”
The bar’s door opened, and Wes and his gang of gorillas came out, talking very loudly. Penina immediately hopped off from the hood of the car.
“I don’t understand why you’re still with that dickface,” Gerard said to her before she could hurry off.
“Don’t,” Penina said with a frown. “When you go see Don, tell him I said hi.” And with that, she ran to Wes, shrugged off the arm he slammed on her shoulder, and headed to their apartment.
Gerard was in no hurry. He leaned back on the hood of the car, watched the dark sky and finished his cigarette. He couldn’t stop thinking about Olivia. No, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know, but it was more the fact that Ike knew something about Don that Gerard didn’t that bothered him. She had to be significant.
Olivia sat on the narrow bench she slept on, wearing a summer dress and an old denim jacket that was far too big for her, as it used to be her mother’s. She didn’t get a lot of new clothes. The panda bear she got from father was on her lap, and every now and then she glanced at her mother. The woman was sitting on her couch, leaning to the couch table and writing something. Olivia didn’t know what it was, but she had been told to pack up what little stuff she had into a plastic bag, so her hopes were high.
Mother stood up, marched to where Olivia was sitting, and slapped the sealed envelope and a ten dollar bill into her hand.
“Get out of here,” the woman growled, going back to her couch.
“What?” Olivia asked, shocked. She realized she was being kicked out, something that she’d been hoping for, but now the reality hit her. How foolish was she to wish to be homeless? What was she going to do?
“You heard me! That son of a bitch won’t be able to pay for you anymore, so I’m not keeping you here! Now leave!”
“But... Where will I go?”
“There’s an address on that letter. You can find your own way. The ten bucks will pay for a bus.”
Olivia looked at the money, and didn’t move. Her heart was racing. Mother was getting impatient.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” the woman shouted, slapping her hard. Next she grabbed Olivia by her arm, dragged her to the door and tossed her out. The door was slammed shut, but for a long time Olivia couldn’t get up from the grass. Her knees were scraped from landing on the grass that had some rocks in it, as the dress didn’t protect much. It was still morning, and it was cold. Too cold to be wearing a summer dress. The denim jacket had gotten so thin that it didn’t block out much cold.
For a long while she didn’t move. She could hear the TV from inside the trailer, and suddenly she wished she was inside. But at the same time, a new kind of excitement arose in her. She didn’t know where she was going, and the Belleville address on the paper didn’t look familiar at all, but she got up, and with steady steps she started to walk away from the dimly lit, somewhat warm trailer, clutching the envelope and the ten dollars in one hand, and the plastic bag that held all her worldly possessions in the other.