Seven Days Ch. 06bysoular©
The next morning, Victoria stared up at Antonio's ceiling. On a poster, looking back at her, was a half naked Latina who held the smile of a seductress on her face. She was wearing cut off jean shorts that looked more like panties, and a short wet, white shirt that was torn just right below her nipples. She was sitting on a counter by a cash register counting money and below her the caption read 'Sex sells'. 'It most certainly does,' Victoria thought sadly as she stared at the young woman. She wondered if the girl had a family who would look down on her for taking these photos. Did she have men degrade her for the decisions she had made? Victoria continued to stare at the pretty girl on the poster as she heard a knock on the door.
"Hey Vicky, are you decent?" she heard Antonio ask through the door. Decent. There was that damn word again.
"Yeah," she croaked out and sat up in the bed as Antonio entered.
"Coffee, dear?" he grinned, while handing her a cup.
Victoria smiled, "Thank you. Just what the doctor ordered."
Victoria took a small sip and glanced up at Antonio. He was dressed in tan cargo pants that were a little baggy, and a blue Best Buy shirt with a black long sleeve shirt underneath. His hair was still wet, giving him a little boy look.
"So you work at Best Buy?"
"Yep. Home theater department. It's not much, but it helps pay the bills."
Victoria nodded. "Yeah, I wasn't saying anything bad about it. Hell, it's more than what I have. So what do you do for...him?" She couldn't even say his name just yet.
"Oh, well, I'm...uh, I guess you could call it a runner. I pick up things and drop them off, no questions asked. He pays really well too, it's just that there aren't always drops to be made, so that's where the part-time job comes in handy."
Victoria thought about that while she took another sip of her coffee.
"But hey, my shift ends at six and I can bring home some dinner. Do you like Thai?" Antonio asked.
Victoria nodded her head. "Hey, if it won't make you too late, can you tell me about some places here that I could waitress at?"
Antonio scratched his head. "Hmm, well your best bet is probably Calamity's Bar and Grill. It's at the corner of Turner and 45th street. It's...well, it's a step up from Hooters, but just barely. I mean, the girls have to wear these short black outfits, but they're not so bad. I used to bartend there and one of the managers is my friend. I can give him a call on my way to work. You're hot, Greg will hire you in a second."
Victoria didn't know if that was good or bad. "Um, thanks. That would be great. I'll just hop in the shower and take the bus over."
"Hey, do you want a ride? It's on my way. If you can get dressed in twenty minutes?" Antonio asked, hopeful.
Victoria hopped up. "Yep," she said grabbing her bag and running to the bathroom. She quickly scrubbed and pulled her hair into a messy, massive ponytail of curls. She wrapped the towel around her body and ran out of the bathroom, crashing into Antonio. He grabbed her as she almost lost her balance. She quickly tightened her hold on the towel. When he released her, she noticed his eyes quickly drink in her appearance before settling on her neck.
"What the fuck?" Antonio said, as he leaned in closer towards her neck. "What happened?"
Victoria touched the small purple bruises that were located at the base of her neck and her left shoulder. Her constant reminder.
"Oh, it's fine. It doesn't hurt."
Antonio lifted an eyebrow. "Are those...bite marks?"
Victoria was so embarrassed. "Uh, yeah. He, um. Yes, they are."
Antonio grinned, "Hehe, someone's a freak!"
"Shut up!" Victoria said, trying to conceal her own smile. "I am not."
"Well, he's Italian, alright. Mark your woman any way you can," Antonio laughed. Victoria swatted him on the shoulder and pushed past him to the room. She walked over to his mirror and looked at the marks. Two small dark purple bruises caressing her neck and shoulder. Suddenly images of Nic's predatory grin and piercing blue eyes came back to her. She thought of the way they always looked right before he would bury his face into her neck, and how she would run her fingers through his soft black hair. That picture seemed burned into her eyes. She shivered and quickly dressed. She would have to remember to put makeup over the bruises.
When they pulled into the parking lot of Calamity's, the outside didn't look so bad. Antonio had called his friend on the short drive over, so at least she had a leg up.
"Hey, I would go in with you, but Greg can talk forever and I'll be late. But see you later tonight with Thai. You're cool getting back by yourself?"
"Yes, daddy," Victoria laughed, getting out of the car.
"Oooh, she called me daddy. Knew you were a freak!" he laughed, then sped off before she could tell him to shut up again.
'Fucker,' Victoria thought as she walked toward the restaurant. Calamity's definitely had a cluttered atmosphere about it. There were pictures of James Dean and Frank Sinatra everywhere, mixed with football and baseball paraphernalia. A pair of panties hung from one photo of Joe Montana and Betty Boop stickers were plastered on anything that was still.
She walked up to the hostess stand and noticed a guy and a girl arguing. The girl glanced at Victoria then back at the guy. She took off her small black apron, threw it at him and walked out.
The guy sighed and turned to Victoria.
"How many?" he asked, placing the apron behind his back.
"Oh, I'm looking for Greg. Is he here?"
"I'm Greg," he said, giving her a once over. "You must be Veronica."
"Victoria, actually. Nice to meet you," she said.
"Hostess or waitress? Bartender is full"
"Um, waitress, but I'll take whatever is available."
"You're hired. Follow me," Greg said, turning his back and walking quickly through the restaurant.
"So, do you have any experience?"
"Yes. My dad briefly owned a restaurant, but I've been waitressing a long time," Victoria said, trying to keep up.
"Good. Here are the outfits, pick your size. We give you one free, but the other two outfits come out of your paycheck. I know it's black, but keep them clean and no lint."
Victoria leaned over the counter looking for the correct size shirt and shorts...very short shorts.
Greg leaned against the counter drinking in her figure. "So, are you Antonio's girl?"
"No, we're just friends." Victoria pulled the right size from the stack of black clothing and turned to Greg.
"Wanna start now? My ex-girlfriend just quit on me and walked out...well, you saw it. And as we speak, she's moving out of my apartment. So I'm staying an extra shift to avoid that headache...so, basically I'll be here all day. I'll place you with Tracy to train. Restroom is on the left so you can change," Greg said, then turned to enter the kitchen.
"Thank you!" Victoria called after him. A small smile formed across her face. Finally, she'd be making her own money again. She wouldn't feel useless. She grabbed her work clothes and walked into the bathroom.
Okay...these shorts were really short. But at least the black shirt was able to be tucked down inside them. The neckline was low, but whatever, it was an honest job and she was grateful. And at least she got to wear her Converse.
When she walked out, she saw Greg standing next to a woman with long brunette hair. She was laughing at something he was saying. He turned his attention toward Victoria.
"Whoa, hot. Good. Alright, this is Tracy, she's going to be your shadow today. But I'm pretty sure you can handle it," Greg said, placing his arm around Tracy's shoulder.
Tracy smiled at her. "Hiya sweetie. Come on, I'll show you the ropes," she said in a thick southern accent.
The day moved by pretty fast. It was basic waitressing 101. The customers were a little rowdy, much different than Victoria was used to. She had several ask for her phone number and one college kid that kept staring at her ass. But all in all, the day went pretty well. And Tracy even shared some of her tips with Victoria, even though, technically, there were supposed to be none during training. When the day was done, she said goodbye to everyone and rode the bus back to Antonio's. On the bus ride, she couldn't help but think of Nic. She wondered what he was doing right that moment. Was he hanging out with that girl Kim? Was there any part of him that missed her? Did he care?
Victoria had reached the house before Antonio, so she grabbed the key from underneath the mat and let herself inside. She quickly changed out of her outfit and into a large shirt and jeans. She came back downstairs and realized how messy his house was. She started picking up different plates and bottles in the living room. She quickly washed dishes and straightened the kitchen. She went back into the living room and picked up his articles of clothing, magazines, and sports equipment. She emptied out ashtrays and organized his dvd's that were piled on the floor. One in particular caught her eye. When she was done cleaning, she placed the disc in the dvd player and sat down.
She was halfway through the movie when Antonio entered.
"Honey, I'm home," he said, shaking off his hair. "Shit, it's raining hard out there. Oh, hey, you cleaned up. Sweet."
"Hey. You alright?"
"Yeah, just wet and cold. Did you get the job?"
Victoria smiled up at him. "Yep, I certainly did, thanks to you."
Antonio snorted. "Nah. That was thanks to your ass...I know my friend."
Victoria laughed. "Well, he seems nice enough. I already made some tips tonight. So, I can pay you back for the food."
"Vicky, stop trying so hard. Jesus babe, you've only been here for a day. Chill out. I'm not totally broke, you know. It's fine," Antonio said, pulling off his coat and setting the bag of food on the coffee table.
"I know, I'm sorry. I just...I don't know, thank you though."
"You're welcome. What are you watching? Is that Dracula? Fuck, that movie sucks," Antonio said, sitting down.
"No it doesn't. I love this movie. I had never seen it before. I didn't realize so many stars were in this movie. And Gary Oldman is so amazing as the count," Victoria said, barely able to take her eyes from the film.
"He acted like a fucking pansy over a girl. I mean, he's supposed to be the fucking bad ass of them all. Dracula! He should have been killing people left and right, owning shit. Not harping over some girl," Antonio said, stuffing a bunch of noodles in his mouth. "That dvd is Sean's by the way. I would have never bought that shit. Give me Blade or something."
For some reason Antonio's assessment of the movie was unnerving for Victoria. She looked back at the screen and got chills at the way Dracula would stare at Mina. How she tried to struggle away from him in the theater, but he held her tight and she caved to his whim. This invisible power he held over her. Victoria gave a slight uncomfortable laugh.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing. I mean, I just always kinda...well, Nic always reminded me of a vampire. Watching this is...nevermind. Just strange."
Antonio looked at Victoria. She was picking over her food, obviously thinking about something. He placed his carton of noodles back on the table and wiped his hands. "Did you love him?" At first Victoria was taken aback. She immediately shook her head 'no', but then she slowly nodded and put her face into her hands.
Finally she looked back up at him. "I know you probably think that's loony due to the nature of our relationship. Trust me, I think that myself. I don't know, the whole thing was just crazy."
Antonio nodded his head then asked, "Do you think he loved you?" Victoria shrugged. "Sometimes I thought...just maybe there was something on his side. But in the end, I guess I was wrong. I mean, there was always something in his eyes. Like he was in war mode at all times, but every now and then...I would get that small glimpse of peace. It was usually fleeting, but when I saw it, it was beautiful. It was like catching Dr. Jekyll right after Hyde had disappeared. I don't know. I know it sounds crazy, but that's the only way I know to explain it. And yes, I do think I'm crazy," Victoria laughed and then sighed.
"Did he ever...you know, did he ever force you?" Antonio asked.
Victoria shook her head. "No."
They both sat there in silence thinking over the conversation as Bram Stoker's Dracula continued to play in the background.
"So, enough about me, why don't you have a girlfriend?" Victoria asked, picking through some cashew chicken.
"Well, I did up until about a month ago. She wanted me to do the whole suit and tie and get a job working at a bank or something. That is sooo not me."
"But at least it's legal, and you don't have to worry about getting arrested with anything illegal in your car, Antonio. Perhaps you should have listened to her."
"Yeah, but getting a job like that, it will be years before I actually start making any dough. Working for Mr. Andretti, I can move up the ranks and retire in no time. I mean, my moms has been working all of her life, and I'd love to see her just sit back and relax. That would be perfect. And Nic, hell, he could retire tomorrow if he wanted to, and he'd be set for life. So would his kids and grandkids."
Victoria had to admire Antonio's intentions, in a way, but she couldn't imagine him going down Nic's path. She felt there was more hope for him than that.
"You admire him, don't you?" Victoria asked, picking up a dumpling.
"I mean, I don't know. Well, I'm twenty-five, and he's what, thirty-two. That's only seven years older than me, and he's done so much. He's Italian-American like me and when he walks into a room people listen. He commands respect and he always gets what he wants. People just do what he says."
"You know if you're nice and just ask, people will usually do what you say too," Victoria stated.
Antonio shook his head and chuckled. "It's a guy thing, Vicky...you wouldn't understand."
Victoria smiled, "I guess not."
"And this is the last one, Nic. It's to make sure that the bartenders at the club...Nic?" Eddie asked. He slowly waved his hand in front of Nic's face.
Nic's eyes followed Eddie's hand before they locked on his eyes. "Yes?"
"Um, I was just saying this is the last one you have to sign," Eddie sighed.
Nic leaned down, glanced over the document and then signed his name. Eddie scooped up the papers and stuffed them in his briefcase. He gave a small smile to Nic before he quickly exited.
Nic leaned back in his chair. He slowly ran his hand over the top of his desk, thinking about the time he and Victoria made love on top of it. The light blue lingerie had hugged her curves, causing his manhood to stand at full attention. God, what was it about that girl? He would never admit it to anyone, but he dreamt about her. It had only been a couple days, but he kept feeling a tightening in his chest. He wanted her back. A part of him wanted to make up for the night he called her a slut and ruined everything. But another part of him thought, how dare she leave him like that. And he was still trying to figure out where she had gotten the money.
The day after she had left, Nic had wanted to go over to his loft. Just maybe, she would be there, waiting on him like she had been for the past few weeks. But he knew she was gone. She would not be sitting balled up on the couch reading her book or watching one of those sappy Lifetime movies. She was really gone. Funny, all of the things he'd worked so hard for in life...a large house, several cars, and many other material things could not make him happy. Nothing could cheer him up. At the end of the day, those things didn't smile back at him. Those things didn't make him laugh. And those things didn't hug him back while they made love. Only one thing made him feel that way. He had to have her back. He would figure out a way to handle Victoria and business. But something told him, eventually he'd have to make a choice if she were back in his life.
His men had gone to her parents' house, expecting her to be there, but after a day of sitting outside of their apartment, she never came or went. So, she wasn't staying with them and Nic wondered why. As he was thinking about where she could be, Jimmy came in.
"Hey Nic, we found her," Jimmy said.
Nic immediately sat up. "Where is she?"
Jimmy hesitated for a second, and then said, "She's staying with that kid, Antonio."
Nic clenched his jaw.
"What do you want me to do?" Jimmy asked.
Nic sat for a moment thinking. He then looked up at Jimmy. "Bring him in."
Jimmy nodded his head and left the room.
"Screw you, fucker. I'm about to go home to some good cooking and a sweet little lady while you're jacking off in the bathroom on your break. Peace," Antonio said grabbing his jacket and gigging his friend and co-worker Freddie.
"Right back at ya, punk!" Freddie yelled and then laughed.
Antonio flirted with a cashier, until a customer tried to ask him a question. He quickly zipped past them and out of the busy store. It was pouring down rain, so he pulled on his hood and whistled while walking to his car. He reached into his pocket to retrieve his cell phone. He was about to dial his house phone when he halted in his tracks. Leaning up against his car were Jimmy and another of Nic's men. Fuck!! He knew he was in trouble. It wasn't every day that Nic's main guy came to visit you. And it was never a good thing. He slowly started to walk toward them.
Jimmy was holding an umbrella and sipping a fountain drink through a straw. When he was done, he tossed it aside. "Hey Antonio. I need you to come with me," he said.
Antonio knew this wasn't a negotiation. He nodded his head and followed the two men to another car and got in. Neither Jimmy nor the other man said a word to him on the ride to wherever they were going. Antonio started thinking about his mother. He thought of her wondering what happened to her son once they killed him. The little bit of money he did send to her would stop, and she would be all alone in this world. He thought about his ex-girlfriend, Shauna. She had told him to get a fucking desk job. Then he wouldn't be riding in the back of a car that might as well have been a hearse to his inevitable death.
When they reached Nic's home, he got out of the car and they escorted him inside. Funny, Antonio had dropped several packages off at Nic's house and served as a waiter at parties, but he'd never actually seen the inside past the ballroom area.
Jimmy guided him up stairs and into a large room. Antonio saw Nic sitting behind a desk. When Nic noticed them enter, he got up from his chair and walked around to the front of the desk and leaned against it, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Have a seat, Antonio," Nic said.
Antonio sat down in front of him. He didn't like being at such a disadvantage. Nic was already a tall guy, and now he was leaning over him while Antonio was forced to sit.
"I guess you can probably guess why you're here, right?" Nic asked, staring at the scared kid.
Antonio nodded his head. "Yes, I can."
Nic's heart fluttered at the mention of her name. None of his men ever said her name. They said, 'she' or 'her' or even 'Ms. Davis', but never just 'Victoria'.
"Yeah, Victoria," Nic repeated. He watched as Antonio wiggled in his seat. "Did you sleep with her?"
Antonio's eyes bulged out of his head as he stuttered, "N-No! Absolutely not, Mr. Andretti. I haven't touched her, I swear to God."
Nic stared down at the young man. "You haven't touched her, though she's staying in your house...even after I warned you? How does that work?"
Antonio felt like he couldn't breathe. He glanced down at the floor praying he could talk his way out of this. "Antonio?" he heard Nic say. He quickly looked up at him.