A tale of weddings, betrayal, murder, and revenge. He never really liked the comparison of knots with marriage. It always made him picture someone tying a noose and hanging themselves. Marriage is ...
"Make yourself at home," Scarlett invited, showing Ray where to leave his shoes.
"Wow," Ray sighed, still taking in the beautiful insides of her peach-colored house.
"Do you really like it?" Scarlett asked, not used to having any visitors besides family.
"What do you do for a living?" Ray asked.
Scarlett frowned. She always hated being asked that question. She hesitated briefly before Ray mistook her shame as offense.
"I'm sorry," Ray apologized. "It was rude of me to ask."
"No," Scarlett persisted. "It's alright. I'm going to college in the fall."
"Oh," Ray replied. "That's good. What do you want to major in?"
"My parents want me to take medicine. Well, actually it's expected of me to," Scarlett sighed.
"Is that what you want?" Ray asked.
"I don't know," Scarlett admitted. "I don't feel like it's my passion or anything. It was more of Annie's. But I don't even know what I really want."
"It's good that you're going to school. Better to work in an office than outside in the scorching sun carrying boxes twice your weight with your bare hands," Ray said, not meaning to say so much.
Scarlett stole a glance at Ray's arms and knew why they were so toned. They were the arms of hard work and sacrifice. She was embarrassed to let him to know that she was only a student still living off her parents' dollar. She was afraid for him to see the over privileged dependent girl she was. He shed his own sweat and blood for his small apartment. All Scarlett had to do was make a phone call for her parents to send money.
"Sometimes, I feel like I'm a little late with everything," Scarlett revealed..
"What do you mean?" Ray asked, a sincere concern evident in his tone.
"I'm 23 years-old with no job," Scarlett said with a harsh laugh. "My first two years after highschool revolved around alcohol, pot, and cocaine. And I was the valedictorian of my class."
She was hugging herself tightly staring at a blank wall. She let out a nervous laugh before shaking her shameful past back behind her. When she turned back to face Ray, his expression was only one of great care.
"You're not too late," he said. "You're straightening out your life while you still have the chance."
Scarlett wasn't used to the unique softness of his voice. It was nothing like she had ever heard before. His body had the rough features that could endure hours of labor, but the look in his eyes and the sound of his voice were as gentle as a mother holding a newborn. He had the strength to survive and the tranquility to comfort. Scarlett felt a sudden longing to hear him sing.
"Can I get you anything?" Scarlett offered.
"No thanks," Ray declined.
"Well, let me show you the guest bedroom," Scarlett said, motioning for him to follow her upstairs.
The guest room looked more of a hotel room than something in a real home. It was large enough for at least three people. It had an emerald theme to it; the curtains were a deep shade of green decorated with pink floral print. The bed, though the largest piece of furniture in the room, didn't even take up a lot of space. There was a small television set in front of it with a stereo on the side.
"Is this alright?" Scarlett asked.
"Yeah," Ray said. "It's more than alright."
He couldn't remember a time sleeping in a room as glamorous as this.
"The bathroom is the room to your left," Scarlett explained. "If you need anything, just tell me. I'm in the room all the way toward the end."
"Thanks," Ray said with a yawn. He almost forgot how tired he was.
"Well...goodnight," Scarlett said with a friendly smile.
"Goodnight," he said, returning the smile.
He wasn't sure if he hadn't noticed before, but Scarlett looked even lovelier when she smiled. Then he realized that it was the only time that day that she really smiled. Misery loves company, he thought as he made himself comfortable on the bed. He could smell the freshly washed sheets and almost instantly fell asleep on the softest pillows he'd ever slept on.
Scarlett trudged downstairs in her usual "morning mood." She lazily passed by the bathroom mirror and started to brush her hair but gave up after five minutes. Her mother always told her to cut her hair so she wouldn't have to worry about messing it up, but that was something she always refused to do. Scarlett loved her hair, no matter how messy it got.
She was halfway through washing her face, when she smelled something out of place. It seemed to come from downstairs; it was a strange but familiar scent. At first she thought nothing of it, perhaps it was her neighbors having a barbeque. But when she checked her watch, she knew it was too early for such a thing. Besides, it was a weekday and her neighbors would've been at work. When she headed toward the stairs, she knew that whatever it was she was smelling came from the inside of her own home.
In a panic, she rushed down the stairs with the worst scenarios running through her mind. Had she left the stove on overnight? Was the house on fire? Was it an arson? It was so early in the morning that she had forgotten that Ray had slept the night.
Scarlett barged into her kitchen to find Ray cooking. She let out a sigh of relief and suddenly felt a wave of embarrassment. She was still in her sleeping gown with her hair in large tangles, falling in heaps over her face. She suddenly regretted not brushing her hair.
"Good morning,"Scarlett called out.
"Oh you're awake," Ray said, turning around from the stove. "I hope you don't mind. I wanted to fix you something for all of your trouble."
"No, I don't mind at all," Scarlett said stepping closer. "Is that bacon?"
"You had a whole bunch of it in your freezer," Ray explained.
"Yeah, because of my failed attempts at cooking I gave up on them," Scarlett sighed.
"Well, I'm no chef either," Ray warned.
He hurriedly flipped the strips of bacon on a plate that already contained a large portion of scrambled eggs and a tall stack of pancakes. Scarlett almost drooled at the sight of it. It's been awhile since she'd had a home cooked meal. It was only when her mother came over or when she persuaded Bob to cook that she got to savor such a breakfast. She wished she had the family culinary skills. It seemed as if she were the only one who couldn't cook.
After a good twenty minutes of indulgence, Scarlett felt like she was going to burst. Ray lied about not being a good cook, she thought. She hasn't tasted anything like that for too long. She wanted to thank him some more, but she thought that if she opened her mouth she might explode.
"I'm glad you liked it," Ray said with a laugh.
"Mm-hmm," Scarlett managed to say with a nod.
He took her plate and gathered up all of the silverware into the sink. Immediately, he began washing her dishes including the ones he didn't even use. Scarlett stood up to help, but he wouldn't let her. She felt bad, but saw that it was just in his nature to do such favors. She decided that she needed more Ray Toro's in her life.
Suddenly, the loud ring of her phone echoed throughout the room. She cursed to herself for forgetting to turn off that damn ringer again. Or at least to lower the volume. But, since she was in a good mood, she got up to answer it.
"Hello?" she said, holding back a burp.
"Scarlett, it's Linda," said a panicked voice.
It was Frank's mother. Scarlett couldn't fathom why she would be calling so early in the morning.
"What's wrong?" Scarlett asked, she could hear the nervous breaths from the other end of the line.
"It's Frank," Linda sniffled before erupting into tears.
Scarlett held her breath for fear of what was to come.