Max’s heart was pounding. He could hear the blood flowing through his ears, and he couldn’t think of anything coherent to say. So he just stood there, holding his glass, staring at the amber liquid in front of him.
Harvey and Gina stood up and walked over to Max. Tears inched down both of their tired, pained faces. Harvey placed an envelope on the counter next to the bourbon.
“Here are the documents regarding the bank account where Chloe kept the money. Everything has been changed over into your name. You may not want it now, but it is your money. Thank you for loving our daughter. We’re sorry that it came at such an awful expense for so many years. Hopefully one day happiness will find you…until then, we hope this helps.”
The man patted him on the shoulder, and then the soft click of the apartment door told him he was alone.
And that was exactly how he intended to stay.
Janie blew on her Grande Starbucks as she waited for her friend to arrive. Watching people order their complicated drinks and seeing the annoyed baristas roll their eyes at the incorrect ordering procedure always reminded her of the Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi. The thought made her smile as she sipped her cup of liquid energy. Even in a small shop just outside Philadelphia, the crowd was big and anxious.
The ease of the moment seeped out of Janie’s body only to be replaced with tension as a woman’s voice shouted, “Come on, kid, move! I don’t have time for your crap!” The only thing more upsetting than the sound of the irritation coming from the mother’s voice was the look of complete surrender on the little girl’s face. When her tear-filled brown eyes met Janie’s, Janie could feel her heartbeat quicken, and the memory crashed into her like a wave, pulling her under and keeping her there.
She was only eight years old when she watched the youngest of her older siblings happily pack the last of his belongings into his beat-up station wagon. Her mother had been in the kitchen, drunk and screaming about all of the sacrifices she had made for her “ungrateful excuses for children” and how they could all just go to hell. Janie had followed Evan around, watching him load up his odds and ends.
“Please, Evan, don’t leave me here with her. She’s so mean,” Janie’d begged. But Evan ignored her pleas, just like the three siblings before him.
As he was leaving the house for the last time, he’d looked at her—not in the eyes, never in the eyes. “Sorry, kid, you’re on your own. Take care.” And he left.
Janie had watched him drive away until she could no longer see his car. When she heard her mother’s voice, she reached up and wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Kid,” her mother had said, “get your shit and get out. I’m having company for at least a couple of hours. When the door is unlocked, you can come back in, but not before. You understand?”
Janie nodded, grabbed a blanket and her favorite book, and had left the house. At least it’s a hot day and won’t be too cold once the sun goes down, Janie remembered thinking.
“I don’t wanna see you too soon, kid,” her mother had shouted as she slammed the door.
“Why did they even bother giving me a name?” she’d whispered to herself as she headed toward the park.
Janie had sat on a park bench with her legs pulled up to her chest as she allowed herself to escape into the fairy tales she was reading. On that day, like every day before and all the days after, she promised herself that she would find someone who would love her someday. She would find someone who, unlike her father and her siblings, wouldn’t abandon her, and unlike her mother, would actually make her feel special and treasured. Someday.
“Janie, earth to Janie. You in there?”
Janie gasped at the sound of her best friend’s voice and took in a deep breath.
“Where were you just now, Jane?” Lyla asked.
“I was right here, Ly. Right here.”
Words, Janie, I Need Words
“Hey, Janie, the girls are lookin’ hot tonight,” Lyla announced as she leaned over to give a playful squeeze to Janie’s breasts.
“I know, right?” Janie laughed, the silliness familiar and comfortable. Janie could feel four pairs of lust-filled eyes glued to the breasts in question as a group of men stared at her and Lyla from across the bar. And then, as if by magic, another round of drinks appeared at their table, carried by two of the previously leering men.
It was Thursday night. And just like every Thursday night, Lyla and Janie were at Danny’s on Main, sipping cocktails and entertaining themselves—and their mostly male audience—by telling silly, sexy stories and sometimes-embellished tales. They found it funny, and maybe a little pathetic, how little it took to get a man’s attention. Just the mere mention of words like tits, breasts, or vagina and men would get pie-eyed. If the word pussy came out of either woman’s mouth, it was an all-out drool fest. Janie and Lyla couldn’t help themselves; it was a way to let loose toward the end of a crazy workweek. Plus, the responses were always priceless, and the free drinks certainly didn’t hurt.