Velvet Roses Ch. 08byvirgofemme©
*Once again, sorry for the long wait between chapters, but I had a heck of a time getting a few of these scenes written. Anyways,thank you all for your continued interest, votes, and comments. :)*
At just past daybreak on Saturday morning, Jeneda awoke, yet instead of getting out of bed and starting her day, she chose instead to remain cocooned in the sheets. She hadn't even been awake for a minute, and already she wished that she were once again sleeping.
Not out of tiredness, but because she didn't want the thoughts to come. With consciousness came memory, and she didn't want to remember. It would only lead to her thinking about *him*, and once he began to occupy her thoughts, she'd feel the pain all over again.
Except for a sliver of light that seeped through the crack in the curtains, the bedroom was dim, and although she was safe and warm in her bed, the pervading silence and sense of loneliness that she felt left her feeling vulnerable.
There was a dull ache low in her abdomen, and her body felt heavy, as if her bones were made of lead. Her head ached from all the crying she'd done the previous night, and her nose was stuffy. Consumed by sadness, she was helpless to do anything except lay motionless, staring blankly at the wall. In her mind, she kept seeing Dane's face, and the heartbreaking words he'd spoken echoed in her head.
"I helped cover up his death...."
"....reason his body was never found is because I dumped it in the bay."
"It was just one of those things you never plan on, a stupid, tragic mistake."
Like a knife to the heart, the memory of his confession caused her body to react as if she were experiencing the moment all over again. The words clung to her like oil, filling her with disgust and rage and heart wrenching sadness.
An unsettled feeling spread through her stomach as she pondered her future, and knowing that serious decisions were looming only made her all the more apprehensive.
Hoping to relieve the unbearable heaviness in her chest, she took a deep breath, then shakily let it out. Glancing at the clock on her bedside tale, she saw that it was nearing seven a.m., and willed herself to get out of bed. Her body, however, seemed intent on staying put, so she remained immobile.
Minutes ticked on and she remained frozen in place, drifting in an endless sea of thoughts and images. Then when it became too much for her to handle, she shut her eyes wearily, and emitted a little sigh. Thoroughly exhausted and drained to the core, she felt herself slipping into unconsciousness, and as sleep claimed her, she released a drowsy murmur.
She woke to the sound of a familiar voice calling her name, and as her lids fluttered open, she saw that both Luna and Ethan were standing next to the bed, gazing down at her bedridden form with concern in their eyes.
For a few moments, Jeneda was certain that she was dreaming, but after blinking a few times and realizing that she was indeed in the waking world, she let out a groggy moan, then grumpily questioned them.
"What're you doing here, and how'd you get in?"
"We have keys to your apartment, remember?" Luna held them up for Jeneda to see, then took a seat on the edge of the bed. "You look terrible, are you sick?"
"No, I'm not sick."
"Then what's wrong?"
Luna's brows furrowed as she studied Jeneda. "Your face is all puffy and your eyes are red, so if you aren't sick, that means you've been crying. What happened?"
"Then why are you still in bed?"
Luna briefly glanced at the radio alarm clock before giving her response. "But It's almost noon, and you never sleep in past six a.m. How can you still be tired?"
"I didn't get much sleep last night."
"Isn't it obvious?" Ethan suddenly piped up. "She was with Dane."
Continuing to watch Jeneda with a worried look in her eyes, Luna said, "Speaking of Dane, thanks for blowing us off last night. You could have at least let us know you weren't going to show up."
"Sorry about that. I really was planning to come..."
"But then Dane came over, so naturally you chose him over us."
"I was with Dane, but not for the reason you think."
Luna and Ethan exchanged a glance, and then Luna once again spoke. "What do you mean?"
Knowing she couldn't fully reveal what had happened, Jeneda hesitated a moment before offering a curt response. "I invited him over to talk, and that's it. Nothing else happened."
"Sounds serious," said Luna. "What did you guys talk about?"
"It's kinda personal. I can't really go into it."
For a long moment, both Luna and Ethan stared at Jeneda. She could tell by the looks on their faces that they were willing her to spill the beans, but it was going to take more than an intimidating stare down to make her speak any further. So instead of talking, she simply returned their gazes. Finally, after what seemed like an endless moment of stillness, Luna broke the silence.
"We've been friends for more than a decade. How can you not feel comfortable talking to us?"
"It's not that I don't feel comfortable. It's just complicated."
"How? In what way?"
She gave a little sigh, sat up in bed, and then rested her back against the headboard. She then shifted her eyes towards Ethan, and after looking at him for a brief moment, she allowed her gaze to once again rest on Luna.
Knowing her friends as well as she did, Jeneda knew that they would relentlessly press her until she gave up the information. So in an effort to appease them, she began to recount the events of the previous evening.
They listened intently as she told them about Dane's criminal past, and how heartbroken she'd been that he'd chosen to keep it a secret during the whole time they were dating. She also told them how he'd seemed increasingly troubled during the days leading up to his confession, and how she suspected that something very serious was going on in his personal life. What she didn't tell them, however, was how Dane had been involved in Vincent's death, and how he'd been instrumental in disposing of his body.
She couldn't help feeling shame about omitting such pertinent information, but there was something within her that felt unsettled about disclosing the grisly details of her ex-lover's past. She longed to tell them, and knew that failing to reveal such a big secret would only create distance between her, Luna and Ethan, but she just couldn't bring herself to.
It wasn't out of fear that her friends would contact the police, but rather the certainty that they would wonder why she hadn't yet informed anyone, and that would only lead to her feeling even more guilt-ridden.
As she finished telling the story, both Luna and Ethan stared at her in silent, stunned amazement. Then finally, Luna spoke.
"Wow, I never would have guessed he'd been involved in something like that."
"And the fact that he kept it a secret..." Ethan shook his head in dismay.
"It pretty much makes him a liar," said Luna.
"I don't think it makes him a liar...," retorted Ethan.
"He just withheld information."
"Same difference." Clearly upset about the whole situation, Luna directed her attention back to Jeneda. "You dumped him, right?" Her eyes seem to plead for an affirmative answer.
Jeneda nodded her head, then averted her gaze and swallowed back the growing lump in her throat.
"Good. Because you deserve better."
"So that's it? You're not gonna give him another another chance?"
Whipping her head in Ethan's direction, Luna asked, "Why should she? If he kept this a secret, who knows what else he hasn't told her?"
"I just think she should think it over. I mean, I understand that he kept this part of himself hidden, but It's in his past, and he didn't kill or hurt anyone, so basically he's still a good guy."
"He robbed people, Ethan. The last time I checked, that isn't the definition of a good guy."
"But he changed his life around, and now he has a legitimate career."
"Once a criminal, always a criminal."
"Can you guys stop talking about this like I'm not in the room?" Jeneda suddenly blurted out. "I'm sitting right here, I can speak for myself."
"You're right, that's rude of us. Sorry," Luna softly said.
"It's okay. I know you guys mean well, I just really don't wanna talk about this anymore."
"Then we won't." Ethan headed to her closet, and upon reaching it, opened the slatted doors, then began to look through the garments on the various hangers.
"What are you doing?" Jeneda asked.
"Picking out your clothes for the day."
"Why? I'm not going out."
"Yes you are. We're treating you to lunch."
Taking a cue from Ethan, Luna got up from the bed. Then she walked over to the window and drew back the curtains, allowing the afternoon light to stream in.
"I'm not going out you guys, so you can just stop," said Jeneda.
They both ignored her, and as Ethan retrieved a pair of slim cut jeans and a black scoop neck shirt from the closet, Luna approached the side of the bed where Jeneda was sitting.
"You're getting out of that bed."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are. We're not allowing you to lay here all day feeling sorry for yourself."
"What if I refuse?"
"You see this bottle of water?" She grabbed a jug off the bedside table, then said, "If you don't get up in the next ten seconds, I'll dump it over your head."
"You wouldn't dare."
Not wanting to test Luna, nor risk having her pressed hair frizzed out, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and rose to her feet. Then with an irritated look on her face, she stared directly into Luna's eyes.
"Fine, I'm up. Are you happy?"
"No, I'm not." Perhaps seeing the pain in her friend's eyes, Luna gave her a look of deep sympathy. "And I know you aren't, either. That's why we're here."
"Yeah. Well thanks."
"Anytime." Luna gave her a weak smile.
Jeneda tried to return it, but found herself unable, so she simply gave a little nod. Then with reluctance, she headed off to take a shower.
* * * *
It had been years since Dane had passed through the Tenderloin, but it was just as seedy as he'd remembered. Populated with drug dealers, addicts, prostitutes and mentally unstable street people, it was one of the last districts in San Francisco's continually expanding gentrification trend.
Earning its name from the days when policeman were given higher pay to work its hazardous streets, thus allowing them to afford better cuts of meat, the Tenderloin consisted of gritty, squalid blocks.
Catching sight of a colorful neon sign which proclaimed the establishment beneath it as 'The Clover Room,' he pulled into the parking lot, then cut the engine. Upon reaching the door of the bar, he pulled it open, then slipped inside.
The dim interior stank of cigarettes and alcohol, and as he took in his surroundings, he noticed that the establishment was full of all sorts of unsavory looking people. He briefly considered having a seat at the bar, but as his eyes landed on an empty booth in the back, he made a beeline for it.
He could feel the patrons intently eyeing him as he walked past their tables, but he paid them no mind, only continued along his way.
Once he reached the curved booth, he took a seat, resting his back against the tufted leather. A waitress with raven black hair and olive skin promptly approached his table, and after jotting down his order of a rum and coke, she sashayed off to the bar.
Glancing around at his surroundings, Dane noticed that the establishment was just as he'd remembered. The rich red walls, dark wood interior, and dim lighting hearkened back to its past life as a speakeasy during Prohibition, and it seemed that the establishment was striving to retain the ambience of a classy lounge, but due to the sleazy patrons who frequented it, the bar had more of a sordid atmosphere.
It had been eight months since his last visit, and he really didn't have the faintest clue why he'd picked here out of all the other bars in the city, but he supposed it was because he didn't know where else to go.
That and the fact that ever since Marla's death a week ago, he seemed to be gradually slipping back into his old bad habits. First, he'd revived his cigarette addiction, and now he'd started revisiting his old haunts; places he knew he'd be better off staying away from. So why exactly had he come back to such a dump?
As he pondered the answer, the waitress arrived with his drink. After setting it down on a napkin, she offered him a flirtatious smile, then turned on her heel and headed off to another table. He knew the look she'd given him, and was aware that it had been a signal to let him know that she was interested, but he was in no state of mind to make an advance.
Still emotionally wounded, all he could think about was Jeneda, and although he knew that reconciliation was impossible, it didn't stop him from obsessively thinking up ways to win her back. He didn't just want her, he *needed* her. He physically ached to be with her again, and the thought of living life without her made him sick to his stomach.
The ice cubes clinked as he brought the glass of alcohol to his lips, and after taking a generous sip, he set his drink back down. Despite the knowledge that his thoughts were taking him to a place of torment, Dane willingly allowed himself to be drawn in. He'd always been a bit of an emotional masochist, and as his mind began to concoct images, his chest tightened.
Now that he and Jeneda were no longer together, he knew it was only a matter of time before she met someone else, and once that happened, she would eventually end up in a physical relationship with them. His heart rate quickened at the thought, and as he imagined some faceless man touching and kissing his ex-lover on her most private places, his hand clenched into a fist.
So lost in his thoughts, he barely took notice of the fact that his nails were digging into his palm, and as the images grew more vivid, he tightly closed his eyes and did his best to force the bad thoughts out.
Not long after he shut his lids, did he sense someone in his presence, and as his eyes popped open, he caught sight of the waitress standing next to his table.
"Were you praying or sleeping?"
Thrown off by her sudden appearance, he hesitated before giving his response. "Neither."
"Then what were you doing?"
"You always think with your eyes closed?"
"Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. Depends on what kind of mood I'm in."
Her brow slightly crinkled and she gave him a funny little smile. Then she placed her tray on the table and sat down across from him.
Making no attempt to conceal his annoyance, Dane asked, "Shouldn't you be working?"
"I'm on break." She then quickly added, "I'm sorry. I should have asked before sitting down. You probably wanna be alone, so I won't bother you."
She grabbed her serving tray and made a move to stand up, but before she could, Dane halted her with a question.
"Where'd you get that bracelet?"
Glancing down at her wrist, she curiously studied the mermaid cameo bracelet, as if seeing it for the first time. Then finally she gave a response. "It was a gift."
"Why do you wanna know?"
"One of my regulars gave it to me."
"What's his name?"
"How'd you know it was a he?"
"Lucky guess. Now tell me who he is."
"You ask a lot of questions."
"I'm an inquisitive guy."
"I can see that." She gave brief pause before asking, "Why are you so interested in my bracelet?"
"I knew someone who had one just like it, and I think it may have been hers."
"So what are you saying, that it was stolen?"
She gave him a long hard stare, which he returned. Then after a few moments passed, Dane offered some words.
"Check the inside of the bracelet to see if there's an inscription."
She heeded his suggestion, and as she stared at the underside of the wrist jewelry, her eyes grew wide. "Well I'll be damned, you're right. The cheap bastard, he said he bought it just for me."
"M.J.," he said.
"Aren't those the initials carved inside the bracelet?"
"Yeah, but how'd you know?"
"I told you. It used to be my friend's."
The look she gave him conveyed her curiosity, and after briefly casting her gaze on the bracelet, she handed it to him. "Here. Since it belongs to your friend, it only seems right that she should get it back."
He took the bracelet from her, and although he knew it was impossible to return it to Marla, he still offered his gratitude. "Thanks, I appreciate it."
"So this guy who gave it to you. What's his name?"
"Why? Are you planning on going after him?"
"I just wanna ask him a few questions, that's all."
His tone, however, belied his words, and with a hint of darkness in his eyes, he willed the waitress to tell him.
"Normally I wouldn't give out personal information, but since he gave me a recycled gift, I guess he's got it coming to him." She leaned across the table a little so that the distance between them was lessened, then spoke in a lowered voice. "His name's Liam."
"You know his last name?"
"No, but he comes in here all the time. I'd say at least four days a week."
Dane nodded, took a sip of his drink and then asked, "What does he look like?"
"He has stringy brown hair, dark eyes, a goatee, pockmarked face..." She briefly glanced off into the distance, as if trying to recall more details.
"He ever come in here with a girl?"
"Yeah, a few."
"What did they look like?"
"Some redheads, a few brunettes. I don't think he really had a type."
"Nope." She allowed a moment to pass before questioning him. "Excuse me for being nosy, but why are you looking for Liam? Did he do something wrong?"
"He might have, I can't be for certain yet."
"Well if he did, and you catch up to him, please don't let him know that I gave you information."
"Don't worry, I won't." He finished the last of his drink, and after retrieving a twenty dollar bill from his pocket, he placed it on her serving tray. "There's your tip. Thanks for helping me out. Take care." He then scooted out of the booth.
"Wait, you didn't even tell me what your name is."
"No, I didn't," he said simply.
"Right. I guess you can't say." A downcast look came into her eyes before she added, "Well anyways, I'm Vada."
Dane shook her extended hand, then said, "Nice meeting you."
"Nice to meet you too. Will you be around again?"
"I don't know, maybe." He lightly shrugged.
"Okay. Well if you do catch up with Liam, be careful. He's a little unbalanced."
He nodded then said, "I will. Later."
Dane turned and headed for the door, and leaving just as he'd arrived, he kept his gaze focused directly ahead, pretending not to notice that all eyes in the bar were watching him.
* * * *
Jeneda didn't just dislike airports, she hated them. It wasn't just the anxious anticipation of seeing someone off, but the uncertainty of when she and the departee would once again be reunited.
That particular someone who had just boarded the plane was Riley, and as she recalled the sight of him exiting the visitor's lounge and being wheeled towards the baggage screening area, she felt her heart clinch.
After a five of dreading her brother's imminent departure, it was now final. He was really gone, and no longer would he just be just a drive away, but rather a plane ride. Thousands of miles would soon stand between them, and although she knew that his move was for the best, she couldn't help feeling disappointment. Saying goodbye was never easy, and the loss and separation that went along with it left her feeling deeply melancholic.