Only a beginning.
They were so careful, so careless with this child. Spoil her, ignore her. Abuse her, revere her. Reina is a grown-up person now with a checkbook and a TV set in her living room. The company she keeps is too crowded for her appetite, so she locks her door with a dead key. I knew her once, and she took me in.
We met at a dark, fading restaurant. It was built in the 1920s; Al Capone's blood was on the walls. Reina liked the place, felt at home with little reason, while I sat awkwardly in my chair, ready to spring up on a moment's notice.
Reina was there the night we met on mistake. Serendipity. We were seeing the same man, on separate, mutually unknowing occasions. He was an old thing with a dead gleam in his eye and a taste for instability. I hated him, but the dinners were nice- Reina didn't feel anything for anyone. The old man was lost on us the moment Reina slide herself into the seat across from me, dark eyes flashing predatory behind heavy glasses. She was beautiful in ways that I never could be: I am a simple thing, colored lightly and built waifish. Reina was my polar opposite.
"And who are you?" Her mouth moved slowly, savoring the words as they fell out coolly. The old man seemed amused, telling her that I was his niece, while groping my leg under the table. She nodded, also amused. "I assume you have a name?" she asked, eyes never dropping the thread of mine. My long-dead voice resurfaced. "Yes. Eleanor. And you?"
"Oh, I also have a name. Reina. A pleasure to meet you, Eleanor."
Free of regret, I left the restaurant with her. The old man was no longer amused, leaving dinner's bill to me; Reina threw the slip of paper on the ground, where it remained, unpaid. Her arm entwined mine and she led me to her car..
"I can't imagine why a smart girl like you would go around with him," she said. "I have an excuse; I'm devoid of any inhibition at all." She smiled, casually letting go of the steering wheel. "We could end up anywhere tonight, Eleanor. Are you prepared to follow me?"
My head was spinning with trepidation. "Yes," I answered simply.
She shook her head. "You really have no idea what you are getting yourself into, do you?"
"No and yes. I don't care anymore. I would guess that you don't either."
Reina regained her grasp on the wheel. "No and yes." Her eyes stayed fixed on the road ahead, smirking to it smugly. "I have this silly little notion, Eleanor. I want very much to show you my home."
I watched passing building and structures out the window. Reina's neighborhood was old; as old as the city itself. People who could afford to live here got a special sort of pride out of building or purchasing extravagant, vintage-styled homes. I was surprised then when Reina pulled into the misplaced-looking parking lot of a large cube of white cement. Whoever had commissioned this building had a sadistic sense of irony to place it amongst such a flourish neighborhood.
One side of the structure was broken by slanting, windowed ramps that lead to the topmost floor. A small stoop transitioned street to building. Reina waited there, beaconing me to follow. My mind took a snapshot of that moment, forever burning her coldly beautiful image into my psyche. This picture would haunt me for the rest of my days, and surely into my next life.