Noemí by Katia N. Ruiz
See Part 1
Story sent: 03-04-03 (revised/rewritten)
Author Comments at the end of this Part
By Katia N. Ruiz
That same night, Noemí sat in her dark living room by the window, a bottle of Brandy in one hand, and a full glass in the other. Sipping silently, she stared out the window into the moonless night and listened to soft music playing from a tape in her stereo. The lights from the streets beckoned her hypnotically as she mused and thought of Terri Bledsoe. She grimaced and frowned. Judging by Anthony's reaction, they now knew that there was a great possibility that the child was his.
He had decided to forsake his family, to get his money and never come back, just because he didn't want to get married. She knew that her father gave up on him too easily, that he should have given him more grief; she said as much to him as they discussed the situation.
Her father had replied pleasantly: "It is our fault your brother is this way, it is about time he learned responsibility, and if that means leaving him alone out in the world, then thats what its going to be. When he runs out of money, and I'm sure he will, he'll come back and decide to take over his responsibility. When he does, hell have to work in the company and win my trust. In the mean time, we have to take care of that young woman."
Noemí didn't think it proper to force Anthony to marry the girl; he'd make her so unhappy, and that was obvious. And that girl seems to have already had enough unhappiness to last her a lifetime, she thought.
Taking another swallow of her Brandy, grimacing only slightly at the burning in her throat, she forced herself to think of something else. A slight painful throbbing in her right thigh, signaling since she'd acquired the scar, that fall was coming. The pain, dulled slightly by the Brandy, reminded her of her nightmares. She dreaded going to bed, because that meant that sleep would undoubtedly come, and the nightmares would begin. Her parents didnt know about this, but restful sleep had eluded her for more than three years. Nightmares, memories, turned her sleep into frightening reality, taking her back three and a half years.
Taking a larger swallow from the glass, she tried to force herself not to think of it, tried to veer her thoughts from that route. But as usual, she sat helpless, as the images possessed her, like they did every time she sat alone in her house. Flashes of light, incredibly loud metal-tearing sounds, pain, such incredible pain
She hadn't always been like this, so tightly reined, so controlled. She once laughed, once smiled, felt something other than just anger. She loved; she was loved in return She was not the same Noemí of four years ago. She was now an emotional void, her feelings bottled up inside, festering. She could sense them, somewhere inside her, burrowing, hiding from the outside world. Only anger made a rare appearance, and more of it had come out today, with Terri. Back then, when her heart was not a rock weighing her down, she had Amelia. Amelia loved her, took such good care of her, desired her like no one else had. They lived together, bought this house together, and loved in this house together.
She'd met her at a party. Victoria, her best friend, had introduced them at her house, where the party was held. It had been love at first sight for Noemí, whod only had passing fancies before. The longest relationship shed had, of four years, had been a high school sweetheart thing and had faded when College had started.
Amelia Lee had short black hair cropped right above her round ears. Her brown eyes were so dark when in the throes of passion. Her lips were pink, and her skin a creamy color. She was tall, like Noemí, but her body was not muscular like hers, it was more feminine and shapely. That first night, they'd made plans to get together again. The very next day, they spent together the whole afternoon; and after that, they were inseparable, first as friends, then as lovers.
Three years of bliss were brought to an abrupt halt when the accident occurred. Driving home from Noemí's house in Providence Town, they were shoved out of the road by a careless truck driver. The car fell down a fifty foot decline, killing Amelia almost instantly and leaving the pinned Noemí to look at her dead face for more than two hours as the emergency services fought to save her from the wreckage. The images of that dreadful night haunted Noemí since.
She sighed, and polished off her drink. Placing both the bottle and the glass on the coffee table, she sat back down on the couch. She felt looser, the alcohol running through her veins warming her. Raking her fingers through her hair, she looked through the darkness at the reflections of the outside lights on the wall. She was trying to figure out what she should do to deal with the situation with Terri Bledsoe. Shaking her head helplessly, she reached for the phone, deciding to exercise after she finished with her call.
Victoria picked up on the second ring; she sounded out of breath, like she'd been exercising. "What have you been doing, woman?" Noemí asked, knowing very well that Victoria didnt have an exercising bone in her body.
Victoria shushed someone in the background. "Shut up!" She said when the woman huskily insisted on knowing who was calling at this 'blasted hour.' Into the phone, Victoria said without real bite: "This better be good."
"Oh, I think you'll like this." Noemí said, and closed her eyes, leaning her head back onto the couch back. "It looks like Anthony has gotten some girl pregnant."
"What?" Victoria said in shock, and then she recovered and was exultant. "What did I tell you?" She said in an 'I told you so' tone. Noemí could hear the woman speaking again, reminding her of Anthonys companion in Aruba. She heard Victoria tell the woman in her bed to shut up or leave, and the woman's voice ceased to interrupt her. "Damn it, I knew you spoiled that kid rotten. Now look what he's gotten himself into." Victoria returned to the phone, then stopped and thought. "Isn't he in Aruba?"
Noemí blew out air through her lips. "Yep, that seems to be the reason for his sudden trip to Aruba." She answered.
"Damn, I can imagine how your parents are feeling." Victoria said sympathetically. "Tell me about the girl. Who is she? Is she high society like us?"
"You sound snobbish, Victoria." Noemí admonished with affection.
"Oh, rubbish! You know what I mean." She said in an 'I dont care voice.' "Tell me about the girl."
Noemí sighed. "She's only twenty-two years old, Vicky. She was a virgin before Anthony." She said softly.
"What?" Victoria exclaimed and whistled. "A twenty-two year old virgin? Jeez, that is the one true miracle in America!" She breathed, clearly surprised, as Noemí had been when she heard her age. "Are you sure that she is telling the truth."
"I'm sure." Noemí said. "She slept with him alright."
"Your brother is a whore, my dear friend." Victoria said. "I'm sorry to say that, but you and your parents spoiled the shit out of him, and look how he is paying you guys back."
"Well, he wasn't very grateful to me about the arrest a few months back, thats for sure." Noemí said. "So I told mom and dad about that little escapade you and I had to go through that night."
"You didnt!" Victoria breathed, clearly in shock. "Oh God, your parents must hate me now."
Noemí couldn't help but laugh. "Oh no, I think they're too angry at Anthony to be thinking of you." She said. "Besides, they're probably grateful that the press didn't find out anything. Can you imagine the papers? Heir to Leone Pasta enterprise in jail for possession of Cocaine and disorderly conduct? I think hes out of the will for sure now."
"Wow," Victoria breathed. "So tell me more about the girl!"
"Her name is Terri Bledsoe, sounds like she is from a low class family. Told me four brothers and a father, mom unknown." She said as much as she knew, and waited for Victoria to respond.
"Thats it?" Victoria asked, clearly curious. "Is she pretty, is she ugly? No details?"
Noemí sighed loudly. "Only you would think of pretty and ugly in a situation like this." She said.
Victoria laughed. "Thats why I dont look old, my friend." She said as if that were the answer.
"You're only twenty seven, woman!" Noemí exclaimed. "You're worrying about looking old?"
"No, but I dont worry about the big things so much. I worry about the little things, and that is what keeps me young. So, is she pretty, ugly? What?" She said, all in a rush.
"You should know my brother's taste by now." Noemí pleased her by answering. "She is gorgeous, if only she'd dress better. But I guess she can't, she's poor. And that is where I come in."
"Uh?" Victoria sounded confused, and it pleased Noemí to shut her up for once.
"Well, I'm going to propose to her to move into this house with me. I have plenty of space, and she needs a better environment for herself and the child. If she doesnt want to, then Ill rent an apartment for her. She's already four months pregnant; she needs to start getting comfortable." She stopped, and took a deep expectant breath. When Victoria didn't immediately answer, she asked: "Well? What do you think?"
"Well," Victoria prolonged the word noticeably. "We dont know that this is your brother's child, Noemí. Got to think about this more."
"There's nothing to think about, I want to help her, even if she hadn't made the stupid mistake of sleeping with my brother and ended up pregnant." Noemí said, suddenly angry with her friend. "This house is too big for me, and I can't get rid of it. So what is one more person here again. It would be like old times."
"She won't be Amelia, Noe." Victoria said carefully.
"I only want to give that girl a better place to stay in until that child is born." Noemí said firmly. "My father agrees with me."
"Well," Victoria said, suddenly flippant. "If Thomas says it's okay, then it is, isn't it?" She was a firm believer that Thomas word was law.
"Yes." Noemí answered. "Im going to see her tomorrow. Want to come with me?"
"Are you sure?" Victoria asked doubtfully. "Isn't this a family thing?"
Noemí shifted uncomfortably. "Well," She said with a small cough. "She can be a little feisty."
"You're afraid of this girl?" Victoria guffawed, seeing right through her.
"No, its just that yesterday I almost lost my temper with her. She can be so damn infuriating. She hit me yesterday, and scratched the shit out of my hand." Noemí stopped abruptly, and she could hear Victoria giggling. "Well? Do I pick you up at eleven or not?" She grew annoyed.
Victoria stopped giggling with a deep breath. "Er, yes," She said. "I want to meet Miss Feisty." She broke into laughter. "Eleven then. Let me get back to this girl."
"This girl? This girl?" Noemí could hear the voice in the background. "You were not thinking this girl a few minutes ago." She could hear Victoria trying to shush her again.
Noemí laughed. "Who is she?" She asked.
"Oh, just this-" There was a scuffling sound, and the woman's voice came over the line.
"My name is Michaela Cavanaugh, of the Cavanaugh horses, nice to meet you." She said into the phone, and Noemí could hear Victoria demanding her to give her back the phone. "May I ask who you are?"
Amused, Noemí answered: "Im Noemí Leone, of the Pasta Leone's, nice to meet you. I am Victoria's bestest friend in the whole wide world."
"Don't believe whatever she tells you, Michaela." Victoria said loudly.
Michaela pulled the mouthpiece from her mouth, and she said to Victoria: "Dont believe that she's your bestest friend in the whole wide world? Then who the hell is she?"
"Uh, I thought she'd say something stupid." Victoria stuttered. "Can I have the phone back now, please?"
Michaela said into the phone: "We'll have the pleasure of meeting sometime soon, Noemí, nice talking to you." She handed the phone back to Victoria.
"You actually said please?" Noemí teased when she spoke into the phone. "She must already have you in check then."
"Shut up. No, not you, baby. Stay here with me, I'm getting off!" Victoria said into the phone again. "At eleven, woman! You're lucky she didn't leave, I'd be at your house bugging the hell out of you."
"I wouldn't want your adorable self bothering me. See you tomorrow, then. Eleven on the dot." Noemí said, and hung up, a smile playing at the corners of her lips. Terri Bledsoe had caused her deep anger, and at a certain time, deep amusement. Amusement came easier now, and she smiled into the dark night.
Terri secured her door, shoving a chair under the doorknob. She could hear the couple next door arguing, very loudly, and the banging about that signified he was beating the shit out of her again. The woman sounded as pissed though, and from his sporadic little cries of pain, Terri could tell she was retaliating. Every night finished the same way, a gradual quieting down, and it would then rev up into wall-slamming sounds of sex. Psychos, she thought as she sat down on her bed. She touched her hardening belly; a smile touched her lips, but not her eyes.
In a way, aside from her art, her neighbors were a way to take her mind off her problems. Her money was running out for the month, and she didnt have anything much in her fridge or cabinets. Food was so expensive these days, and her social worker wasnt helping much by way of WIC checks and food stamps. She grimaced in disgust with herself. At least at home shed been eating, though she was practically a slave.
She ran away from home almost a year before, unable to take any more. The youngest of her brothers, born exactly two years before her, had been the one to push her to the limit. When she was thirteen, hed begun to touch her in ways that were not appropriate of a brother. Kevin had been nice to her up until that point. He always defended her when her dad or her brothers tried to beat on her, which almost always got him beat too.
Obviously, he expected something in return. The first night hed gotten drunk with his brothers, he had come into her room and tried to force himself on her.
"Terri?" He knocked on her door and opened before she could answer. She scrambled to sit up on her bed as he quietly shut her bedroom door, stumbling towards her bed. He sat down on the bed beside her and stared at her.
"Youre drunk." She said, feeling like crying. From that moment on, hed start to become like their father. It had happened with the others too.
He pressed a hand to his forehead and swayed. He pushed messy dark hair away from his face and looked at her again with bleary eyes. "I love you, Terri," He slurred, and moved towards her, sneering angrily when she pulled away. "What, you dont love me anymore? Just because Im becoming a man like my brothers and dad?"
"Drinking doesnt make you a man." She said softly, trying not to cry.
He growled at her, and moved to take her arms in his hands. "You must be a man-hater," He mumbled, staring at her with crossing eyes. "You must be one of those women dad talks about." His upper lip curled with disgust. "He says we can just cure them with a good f-" He didnt finish his sentence, staring at her with new eyes.
Terri could practically see what he was thinking; fear made her fight him. "No!" She exclaimed, scrambling off the bed away from him. He came at her again, stumbling around. "Im your sister!" She said pleadingly, avoiding his grasping hands. "Dont, please!"
He didnt seem to hear her, and came at her again. Out of instinct, she swung, and connected with his jaw. He dropped like a rotten apple from a tree, unconscious. Breathing hard through her teeth, adrenaline pumping through her, she stared down at him for a long time. When he didnt move and began snoring, she scrambled to open the door to her bedroom. She went back to him and grabbed him by the legs, pulling him out of her room.
Thankfully hed been very drunk, or he would have raped her then. The next morning, he had acted like nothing happened. She never said a word, knowing her father and older brothers would never believe her. Every time he got drunk, he tried again, and every time, she was successful in avoiding him. The last time he tried again, he almost did it, but she smacked him with her small vase of flowers on the side of the head. Lying unconscious with his pants around his ankles was the last vision she had of Kevin, her once favorite brother, before she left that house forever.
Anthony had finished what her brother had started. When she met him on the street, on her way home from a job interview, hed been sweet to her. She had grown to trust him, and trusted him even after hed gotten her drunk and did what he did to her. He was still nice to her after the first time it happened, and he still visited her. Even when he wouldnt take her many "NOs", she still allowed him to return.
He made her feel cared for, when he wasnt trying to screw her, literally. In many ways he was just like her brother; making her trust them to then turn on her. Bitterly, Terri punched her lumpy pillow into submission and laid her head on it. Her eyes moved around in the dark. She felt like crying at the dilapidated state of things; her paintings where the only supply of color and something fresh. She wouldnt be able to sleep tonight.
Terri woke up late, her dreams finally disturbing her into wakefulness. Her alarm clock said it was eleven in the morning, and she hustled out of bed. The previous night, before falling asleep, she had decided she would go to Jamaica Center early this morning and maybe sell some of her drawings. Shed made some money every once in a while when shed needed it. She was always loath to sell any of her works, she loved them so, but times were getting desperate. She had to have some food to feed her baby, if not herself.
She sighed as she entered her bathroom, turning the shower on and stepping under the sorry excuse for a shower. The spray was barely a trickle, and it always took her double the time it usually would to just take a shower. As she soaped herself, she thought about the events of the day before. Shed completely underestimated Noemí Leone. The woman was like a walking time bomb; she was all raw anger, lurking just beneath the surface and ready to explode.
From what Terri got while chatting with Anthony, Noemí was a formidable woman. Anthony seemed to be a little afraid of her, and at the same time he seemed to admire her. That she was a lesbian didnt seem to bother him too much; except when girls he knew and liked wanted to know more about her instead of him. That was as far as hed gone when referring to his sister; Terri perceived that there was something going on with her that he didnt want to talk too much about. She was sure the scars on Noemís arm had something to do with it.
Victoria climbed into the passenger seat, her dark curly hair looking unruly, her clothes wrinkled. She lived two blocks away from Noemí, at another one of those large houses that ruled the area. Noemí looked her over closely. "Had a good time?" She asked teasingly as she drove away. This was the first time ever that she had seen Victoria looking so rumpled and tired after a long night of lovemaking.
Victoria yawned. "Jesus, if I knew she'd keep me awake the whole night, I would have told you to forget it." She said, her voice groggy. "What impression am I going to make on this girl, you know?" Victoria was one of those firm believers in the fact that every single straight woman had to switch at some point in her life. So far, she had been mostly proven correct; almost every single straight woman that she had met had ended up in her bed at some point, doing things for her they would have never found themselves doing for any man.
"You are a pompous, conceited individual." Noemí said laughingly, reaching over and pinching her cheek. "Up until three weeks ago, this woman was sleeping with my brother."
"So?" Victoria countered, slapping her hand away. Then she looked at her suspiciously. "Who are you and what have you done with my best friend? Are you actually smiling?" She asked, and then hooted and slapped her thigh as Noemí smiled. "I haven't seen a smile coming from that beautiful face in so long; I forgot what it looked like!" She reached over and kissed Noemís cheek noisily and sloppily, despite the fact that the car swerved.
Noemí righted the car as Victoria pulled away from her and slipped on her seatbelt. "You look gorgeous, Vicki." Noemí said as Victoria twisted the rearview mirror and looked at herself. "And what's with this Michaela Cavanaugh of the Cavanaugh horses?" She asked, giving her friend a side-glance.
Victoria shrugged, as if it weren't a big deal; Noemí could see that it was. "I met her a few days ago. I'm her father's accountant. He owns a horse farm a few miles outside of New York City, very well known, plus he owns an incredible advertising company. She works for him, and he sent her into my office to review the books with me. He's planning on retiring from the advertising agency soon, and she's taking over." Her smile grew, took on a dreamy quality. "So the third day we meet, she sits there with me, and she looks so good, and smells like an angel. Estrogen is working overtime and I invite her to dinner at my place, and she says yes. The next thing I know, there we are for like five hours, non-stop." She looked accusingly at Noemí, but she couldnt help the fondness that showed through her eyes. "Until a certain important person in my life calls me." Her attempt at giving Noemí even a semblance of an angry glance was foiled, and she smiled fully.
Noemí nodded and smiled softly. "Shes a fast mover, looks to me, just like you." She said. "Looks like you found your match." She arched an eyebrow at Victoria, who laughed, dismissing her words as a tease.
Victoria fell asleep as Noemí drove to Terri's house, and jumped in her seat as Noemí shook her awake. "God, I didn't know I was so tired." She whined as they got out of the car. She looked around at the area, then at the building, and made a disgusted face. "Yuck, this is ugly!" She looked at Noemí, who was wearing a white T-shirt and thin gray sweats and white Nike sneakers, comfortable in the heat. "At least you match with our surroundings."
Going to the steps, Noemí didnt answer as she pushed the door open and walked through, followed by Victoria. She climbed the steps to the second floor and looked at the doors. There was an apartment on either side of the hall, running the length of the house. The hall smelled like old garbage and urine, and Victoria pinched her nose closed with a gag. Noemí slapped her hand from her nose and knocked on the door to their left.
Almost a half hour later, Terri emerged from the bathroom, towel wrapped around her torso. She shook out her wet hair, going towards her bed, where a pair of worn shorts and a t-shirt lay. After donning them, she sat down on the bed and reached for her comb. A knock on her door stopped her from putting it to use, and she stood to open it.
"Who is it?" Noemí recognized Terri's muffled voice and smiled, looking at Victoria.
"It is Noemí, with a friend. We've come to talk about the situation." Noemí replied with her mouth close to the door. She pulled back and waited.
The door swung open, and Victoria released a low whistle behind Noemí. Terri looked attractive in worn gray shorts and a white T-shirt; her dark hair was wet and her long bangs were matted across her forehead wetly. She was barefoot. Her skin was flushed from her shower and she didn't meet Noemí's eyes as she stepped away from the entrance and gestured Noemí and Victoria in.
Victoria walked in and stood beside her, seemingly forgetting their surroundings. She extended her hand and grinned flirtatiously as she introduced herself. "My name is Victoria Terrence, and allow me to tell you that Anthony is a big jerk for doing what he's done to such a beautiful woman as yourself." She said all in one breath, and Noemí wondered at how much practice she got.
Terri shook her hand and smiled shyly. "Nice to meet you." She said in a low voice. "Im Terri Bledsoe."
"Well, Terri," Victoria said with a warm voice. "Let me tell you that it is a great pleasure meeting you-"
"Cut the bullshit, Victoria, this is serious." Noemí cut the banter off icily. Victoria lifted her hands in a peace gesture and as Terri turned to Noemí, she gave her a once over and shot Noemí a sign of approval. Noemí shook her head and looked around at the apartment. Terri stared at her, crossing her arms protectively over her chest.
She looked at Noemí's bandaged hand and felt embarrassed. She could see the long scar she'd spied in the car, and saw that it ran up her arm from her wrist to the crook of her elbow, and she felt even worse to have added the most minimal scar to her hand. Noemí saw her look and smiled reassuringly. "Dont worry about the hand, its fine. Now, can we sit and discuss this like adults? Without the charade of yesterday?"
"Yes." Terri gestured them to sit on her only chairs, two table chairs in the kitchen. The apartment turned out to be a studio; it was even smaller than Noemí thought. The bed was a twin size and it sat on a corner of the room, the kitchenette was on the other side. There was another door that presumably led to the bathroom. There were only three windows, one by the kitchenette, and the others by the bed. Terri seemed embarrassed with their surroundings and she looked down at the worn wood floor. There were paintings all over the walls and Noemí stared at them. "Mind if I look at these, Ms. Bledsoe?" She asked Terri, and was answered with a brief nod.
Victoria stood beside her and both women studied, with growing admiration, the works of art hanging with scotch tape on the walls. They were on regular white printer paper. Watercolors mixed and used so cleverly and beautifully to depict forests, people, the city.
Touched, Noemí turned to stare at Terri. "You are very clever with colors, Ms. Bledsoe." She said softly, knowing she guessed correctly by the pleased flush on Terri's cheeks. "My mother is an avid admirer of art, and she would enjoy looking at these works of yours. Are watercolors the only thing you use?" She was aware of Victoria's eyes still captured by the pretty drawings.
Terri blushed with pleasure at the compliment, and she shook her head. "It's all I can afford." She whispered softly, and continued to stare at the floor.
"Can you look at me, Ms. Bledsoe?" She asked softly, and Terri straightened to look into her eyes. Noemí noticed for the first time that Terri had beautiful eyes. "Good," She said, and gestured to the chairs. Terri hesitated and looked at Victoria, who was engrossed with every single detail of each painting. "Sit down, she's a big girl. You need all the comfort." Noemí reassured her, a hand on her arm. Terri sat and rubbed her hands together, staring down at her feet. "Look at me, Ms. Bledsoe."
"Terri is fine," Terri whispered, and met her eyes again; they were the brave gray-brown that Noemí had been remembering the whole night. "Have you spoken to your brother?" She asked suddenly, suddenly gaining valor. "Has he confirmed or has he lied?"
Noemí sat at the edge of the chair, and rested her elbows on her knees, forcing their eyes to remain in contact. "I spoke to my parents, we spoke to Anthony, and we have reason to believe you. My parents would like to meet you; they would like to know you. We know that your baby may be Anthony's, just because he slept with you without protection," Noemí said.
"I used the pill-" Terri said.
Noemí cut her off, waving her hand. "I know, Anthony seemed to think that was enough of a reason for you not to be pregnant. But my mother has first hand knowledge on accidental pregnancies." She said, and felt Victoria's eyes on them, though she remained politely silent, leaning against the wall. After a brief pause, she said: "Now, they'd like to meet you this afternoon, if that is possible for you."
Terri sat wide-eyed, staring into Noemí's eyes. "This afternoon?" She squeaked. "I dont have the clothes-"
Noemí lifted a hand to stop her, and smiled softly. "You dont need to worry about clothes with my parents; the smallest things impress them, like intelligence. Just be nice, not the person I met yesterday." Noemí said teasingly, and sat back on the chair. "What do you say?"
"What about Anthony?" Terri asked softly, ignoring the tease in Noemí's voice. She was totally unnerved by this Noemí, the one that was pleasant, and who smiled, even if it was only a tiny little bit; the difference from yesterday threw Terri off.
Noemí took a deep breath, and glanced briefly at Victoria. "Anthony has been cut loose, basically, and he will have to fend for himself." Noemí answered. When Terri looked guilty, she explained truthfully: "He has a good inheritance from an uncle, and he will live off it. He wants nothing to do with you or the child." She paused, letting the truth sink in. "He refused to even think about marriage, and that, in my father's eyes, did it."
Terri sat up. "I dont want to marry Anthony; hes irresponsible and a brat. And I dont feel anything for him." She blurted, and blushed at Noemí's surprised expression. "I'm sorry, hes your brother."
Noemí chuckled and shook her head. "I understand completely how you feel." She said truthfully. "I tell you, that if he were here, I'd break his filthy mouth. He denied having anything to do with you, and then eventually admitted it, when I told him what you knew about his anatomy."
Terri's skin flushed a deeper shade of red. "In- in front of your parents?" She asked meekly.
Victoria chuckled. "Trust me, Ms. Bledsoe, Mr. and Mrs. Leone are no saints." She said.
Terri looked at Victoria and smiled tentatively, and then her eyes returned to Noemí and looked anxious. "Now?" She asked.
"Yes." Noemí replied.
"Oh, come on," Victoria said, and kneeled beside Noemí, smiling up at Terri. "Her folks are not that bad, when they've managed to deal with me practically my whole life. And trust me; I'm definitely no saint myself."
Terri smiled uncertainly. "I might as well get it over with, right?" Both Noemí and Victoria smiled and nodded reassuringly. "Okay, can you wait for me downstairs? As you can see," She made a sweeping motion with her hand. "I have no place to change, but right in front of you."
Victoria rose and grinned playfully. "Oh, we wouldn't mi-" She began to say, but Noemí jumped to her feet and pulled her towards the door.
"We'll be in the car." She said over her shoulder, and they left Terri alone in the apartment, wondering what Anthony had gotten her into.
"Are you crazy?" Noemí demanded, glaring at Victoria through the rearview mirror.
Victoria sat comfortably on the backseat, her head resting against the arms, her legs resting across the seat. She yawned, and smiled lazily. "She doesnt look pregnant to me." She said.
"Well, she is. You just can't see it yet, you can feel it though." Noemí said to her, gripping the steering wheel.
"And how, my friend, did you feel her stomach?" Victoria asked with arched eyebrows.
"Well," Noemí was embarrassed. "When we had the fight, I had to drag her up the block to the parking lot."
"I see." Victoria laughed softly. "Feisty little thing, isn't she? Didn't seem that way to me up there."
"I guess she got it out of her system." Noemí said, leaning over and looking out the passenger window. "Whats taking her so long?"
"Well, buddy," Victoria said flippantly. "Think about this. She is the poorest of the poor, probably has nothing, nothing, at all to wear that she feels is dignified of a super rich family." She flipped her wrist. "You tell me why she's taking so long."
"I wonder what she lives off of." Noemí wondered aloud.
"Probably welfare." Victoria said with another yawn.
"That is not nice, Victoria." Noemí admonished. "I thought you were nicer."
"I am, baby," Victoria said smoothly, and leaned forward on her seat, throwing her arms over the front seats. "I'm just being practical." She paused. "She's gorgeous, Noemí. God, did you see those eyes? And that body?"
"Mom says pregnancy always makes women beautiful." Noemí said distractedly, leaning over again and looking out the window.
"No, my love, she is a natural beauty, the pregnancy has enhanced her beauty even more." Victoria corrected her, then sat back and mused with a smile. "I've never made love to a pregnant woman before."
"Victoria, stop it." Noemí said in a warning tone.
"So tell me," Victoria said, restlessly leaning forward again. "What do you know about pregnant women?"
Noemí twisted around to look at Victoria as if she were crazy. "What?" She exclaimed.
Victoria smiled and patted Noemí's face as if she were loosing her mind. "Pay attention, will you?" She said in a playfully impatient voice. "She is a very pregnant woman with a volatile temper. You want to take her to live in your house, where you will have to deal with her bullshit for God knows how long. We all know that Ms. Noemí Leone is not the most patient individual on this earth, hence her restlessness at this very moment. What do you know about pregnant women?"
Noemí turned and stared out the windshield, and remembered. "Amelia was pregnant." She said softly, sorrow burning her heart.
Victoria shifted over and wrapped her arms around her friends shoulders. "Oh, honey, I know," She whispered softly against her ear. "I know she was pregnant, but Amelia was always happy, God bless her soul. It was what you both wanted so badly. But Terri will not take the place of Amelia, honey. She is a straight pregnant woman."
Noemí nodded. "I know, Victoria." She said softly, holding Victoria's hands tightly in her own. "I just want to do for her what Anthony is not doing. I want to give that baby all it needs, so that it never needs anything in its life. Im convincing Terri to take my offer to live in the house; the other bedroom is so beautiful. Besides, it would be as if she is living there on her own, I'm hardly ever there as it is."
The passenger door opened, stopping Victoria from saying anything more. She sat back and slipped on her seatbelt. "Noe, take me home first. Michaela is waiting for me." She said with a little smile and a wink.
"Oh, is she?" Noemí asked with a smile. To Terri, she said: "We're taking a little detour."
Terri nodded, and Noemí drove off.
Thomas and Natalie were sitting outside, relaxing on their comfortable lawn chairs in their patio; each enjoyed a cold glass of lemon iced tea prepared expertly by Natalie. Saturday was René's day off and shed gone off as usual to visit some of her family.
They looked up at blue sky, which was partly shielded from the sun by the trees surrounding the house. Holding hands, they sat close together. Thomas, wearing a light blue tank top shirt and red swimming trunks, was feeling comfortable as they waited for Noemí to show up with Terri. Natalie wore white shorts with a white T-shirt, comfortable under the warm sunshine.
"Oh, honey," Natalie said sadly. "I wish Anthony would change his mind, and at least be there for that child. He thinks having children is like tying yourself down. We never taught him that."
"I'm sure plenty of his friends tell him that, he is so easily influenced." Thomas replied, and took a good mouthful from his iced tea. They heard the sound of a car door slamming, and they both sat up expectantly, suddenly nervous. "They're here." He whispered, and stood up.
Two minutes later, Noemí was guiding a very reluctant looking young woman up to them. "Oh, Thomas, she's beautiful." Natalie breathed close to his ear, and sighed as Noemí guided the young woman to stand in front of them.
Thomas stared down at the young woman with a smile on his handsome face. His eyes crinkled at the corners, a line forming on his cheek. Anthonys taste is immaculate, if not his morals. He thought. "Well, hello there, Ms. Bledsoe." He said, and extended his hand.
"Hello mom, dad." Noemí said as Terri reached to shake her father's hand. She leaned towards her mother and kissed her cheek. "Hi, mom."
"Hi, baby," Natalie said, kissing her back. Then Terri became the center of her attention, and the shy demeanor mixed with strong pride charmed her. "Hello, Terri, I am Natalie, and this is my husband Thomas. Come, sit down with us." She said and gestured her to sit on one of the chairs around the table.
Terri complied, and sat staring down at the ground in silence as they studied her. Noemí sat beside her mother and remained politely detached, letting them do their thing. "Tell us, Terri," Natalie said suddenly, and Terri's eyes snapped up to her. "Are you originally from New York?"
Terri shook her head and took a deep breath. "No, I'm from Pennsylvania." She responded and met her eyes, then Thomas'. Suddenly, she felt flustered at having to be under their scrutiny, as if she was a lab specimen under observation. She felt intimidated by their beauty. Even Mr. Leone was a striking man, with massive shoulders like Anthony and thick white hair. Terri could see where Noemí got her extreme attractiveness from.
Terri continued in a rush. "Listen, I am sorry that this is happening this way, I never wanted to take advantage of Anthony's situation. I was taking the pill every day and I didn't stop. I was as surprised as he was to find that I was pregnant. I just dont believe in abortion, and if I did, I- dont think Id have the courage anyway." She met Noemí's eyes, giving her the reason she had almost broken her mouth back at the office.
Noemí acknowledged her reason, and smiled reassuringly, reaching up with her hand and rubbing the bruised spot of her jaw.
Thomas, charmed by the straightforward nature of this young woman, sat forward and rested his elbows on his knees like Noemí had done back at her apartment. Terri could see how alike their mannerisms were. She thought of Anthony, and of how his mannerisms were not at all gentle like his parents' and even Noemís. Thomas' gentle voice brought her out of her thoughts. "Noemí mentioned you had brothers and a father. If it is not too much, may we ask why you left them?" He asked.
Terri shook her head, meeting his eyes. "I prefer not to talk about the circumstances of my departure from home, sir, if you dont mind." She said softly, and was strangely comforted by the look of sympathy in his eyes.
"I Understand, young woman," Thomas said indulgently, smiling tenderly, already liking her honesty. "Maybe some day we can talk about it?" She nodded, and he smiled at her. "We need to know some other things, also." She nodded again, and he asked: "What physician has seen you about your pregnancy?"
"I go to the clinic with Jamaica Hospital. Its called Medisys, and they help you get medical assistance even if you dont have welfare." Terri answered truthfully, fidgeting in her seat. "They helped me get into welfare, so now I have Medicaid. But I dont see a regular physician, sir."
Thomas lifted a hand and smiled at her. "Thomas is fine, dear." He assured her.
"It seems like disrespect to you, sir." Terri said nervously. She was thrown for a loop; she had expected Anthonys family to be stuck-up and boorish towards her, considering their circumstances.
Thomas laughed softly, and then lifted a finger and wagged it at her. "Let me tell you something, Terri, just because we're rich, we dont ask people who are not as fortunate as us to call us by the words Sir or Madam. Makes us feel old." He said, and Natalie nodded her agreement. "Our maid, whom we've had for over twenty-seven years, calls us by first name basis, and we've never required her to call us any other way." He paused and looked her straight in the eyes, with those eyes so similar to Noemí's. "Now, about the doctor. You will see our family physician from now on."
"But," Terri stuttered.
Thomas cut her off gently. "Now, you have nothing to hide," Terri shook her head, her mouth hanging open. She looked at Noemí with wide eyes. Thomas smiled at his daughter, who was sitting there the whole time, very quiet, smiling at Terri softly, reassuring her. "And," Thomas continued. "Since there is a great possibility that child is Anthony's-"
"I dont want to be disrespectful, sir, er, Thomas," Terri said apologetically. "But I swear on my life and my baby's that I have never been with any other man. Please, believe me." Her eyes grew moist and her voice broke a little.
Thomas reached over and took her small hand in his, squeezing gently before letting go, touched by her sensitivity. "Okay, Terri, you have to understand how we feel. We want to be sure that this child is Anthony's. When that child is born, we'll know. In the meantime, just because Anthony committed the irresponsible act of having unsafe sex with you, we feel responsible to you." He said softly, and Natalie agreed with him. "We are going to provide for you and your unborn baby, as if you were part of our family. The money that was going to Anthony, will be coming to you, and we will pay for your medical expenses."
Terri stared at him, dumbfounded; her face was pale. "I-"
"Now," Thomas cut her off once again. "About your living arrangement." He glanced at Noemí, and she nodded softly. "Noemí has commented about the area you live in. We dont want you there any more. Noemí has enough room in her own home to provide comfort for you." He chuckled softly at her shocked stare, and watched as she looked from him to Natalie and then to Noemí.
"No," She said suddenly, her face tense. "I can't accept." She stood, and made a move to walk away. Noemí moved quickly and stood in front of her, taking a hold of her arms. "Please, let me go, Noemí. Ill take the train home, I can't accept this."
Thomas gestured to Noemí and she nodded. "Why dont we go have a drink somewhere?" She suggested to Terri.
"I can't drink, my baby-" Terri began to say, but Noemí smiled down at her.
"You can have orange juice, and I'll have a drink." She said, and winked at her parents, guiding her away. "We'll be back in a little while." She called over her shoulder, but her parents followed them around the house to the driveway, obviously reluctant to see Terri go.
Terri got into the car, and slipped on her seatbelt. She waited for Noemí to get into the car also, but Noemí was speaking to her parents, hands shoved into her sweats' pockets. She rocked slightly on the heels of her sneakers, and Terri could only hear the sound of their voices, their words undecipherable. Thomas said something to Noemí and glanced at Terri, smiling at her reassuringly. Terri nodded at him and smiled back, blushing in embarrassment. She crossed her arms protectively over her chest and stared down at her feet.
She wondered at their willingness to help her, even though they didnt know her. Obviously, they had been expecting this to happen for a long time. That they were even willing to support her surprised her even more. For all they knew, she could be lying, trying to get good money at their expense. They were so trusting that it was difficult for her not to like them already. She had had preconceived notions, by seeing the way Anthony was, that they were morons. Now she knew she was wrong, even though she still had her doubts.
I should have known better, I guess. She thought to herself. Noemí Leone is nothing like Anthony. She is so intense and serious, and intelligent. I can see that just by the way she talks, walks, and even sits. Obviously, Anthony's Parents did something right where Noemí Leone is concerned.
Suddenly, Noemí opened the driver's side door and leaned in. "Let's take a walk, there is a little place close by we can go to." She said, meeting her eyes.
Terri nodded and climbed out of the car. She looked at Thomas and Natalie, her expression apologetic. "I'm sorry." She said softly, and followed Noemí down the long driveway onto the sidewalk.
Thomas and Natalie watched them silently as they went, walking slowly down to Austin Street. "Why should she be sorry?" Natalie whispered at Thomas and he shrugged.
He turned and wrapped his arms around his wife, smiling down at her. "Maybe she doesn't want the comfort we can provide for her." He said softly, kissing her lips gently. "She'll have to take it, whether she wants it or not. For that child she's carrying."
Friday's was like any other restaurant, but like few, it had a bar also. Noemí had not been there in a few years, since Amelia passed away. But today, there were important matters to discuss, and this was the place that brought her peace despite its often-noisy crowds and her memories. Noemí, as they waited for the matron to greet them, studied Terri. "Do you want something to eat?" She asked, and thought she saw Terri's eyes light up at the idea of lunch. "Okay," Noemí said, smiling softly. "You'll enjoy the food here."
The matron, a short red headed woman was heading their way, and she smiled at Noemí in recognition. "Noemí! Long time!" She exclaimed, sounding very happy indeed to see her. Her brown eyes traveled the length of Noemí's body, and the heated look she gave her was not lost on Terri.
Noemí smiled at the woman, and moved forward to hug her. "Melanie. How are you?" She said warmly, giving her a kiss on the cheek. Then she looked her up and down. "You look great."
Melanie flushed with pleasure, pulling back and slapping Noemí's arm gently. "Fine, fine. Got a promotion since the last time you were here, as you can see." She replied, gesturing for them to follow her and guiding them to the back, where most of the eating area was. She looked Terri over briefly and then shot Noemí a questioning look.
Noemí smiled at her and shook her head in answer. Melanie's smile grew, and she handed them each a menu. "See you later, then." She said, and turned to go. It seemed she thought of something else, because she turned back to Noemí. "Does this mean you're back?" She asked in very suggestive tone.
Noemí smiled, and pulled out her business card from her wallet, handing it over to Melanie. "Give me a call Monday, maybe we can have dinner somewhere." Was all she said, and this pleased Melanie; she beamed as she left them to do her job.
Terri stared at Noemí curiously and Noemí met her eyes. "Old friend?" She asked.
"Yes," Noemí replied, and looked down at her menu with a heavy sigh. "Old, old friend."
Terri slightly pursed her lips and looked down at the menu, looking through the plastic coated pages. "I dont know what I should have." She said after a while, and Noemí smiled at her.
She looked at her own menu and then at Terri. "How about some steak?" She suggested, and Terri looked up at her with wide eyes. "With mashed potatoes?" She stopped and looked at the younger woman with concern. "Is something wrong?"
Terri looked away from her. "Uh, nothing." She stuttered. "I just rarely have any meat, thats all."
"Are you a vegetarian?" Noemí asked.
Terri flushed a deep shade of red, and braved a look at Noemí. Noemí was now studying the menu for something without meat. "I can't afford it all the time." She said with difficulty.
Noemí was speechless, and she felt like an insensitive jerk. "Sorry, I didn't think." She apologized just as the waiter came to their table with his little notepad and pen in hand. She ordered a steak and mashed potatoes with orange juice for Terri and a chicken salad with a Vodka mix for herself. He smiled at them and took away the menus. "It doesn't have to be that way, Terri," She said to her with a low tone of voice. "You can have anything you want, if you'd only put that pride to sleep for a while. Like it or not, you're stuck with us."
Leaning forward, her elbows on the table, Noemí pointed a slender finger down at her womb. "That child inside you is my parents' grandchild and my niece or nephew." She whispered fiercely. "You can't only think about yourself now. You have another life inside you now that you have to think about, and we can provide for you and your child what you can't right now." She paused and studied Terri's expression for a reaction.
The more Noemí spoke, the more Terri became afraid. What if theyre trying to take my baby? She whimpered very softly, and half turned away from Noemí, she could feel a light sweat break out all over her body. She trembled and wrapped her arms around herself. "I dont want you take my baby away from me." She whispered softly.
Noemí stared at her, at first confused, and then realization dawned on her. Feeling horrified that Terri had assumed that they would want to take her baby away from her, she shook her head. "No," She whispered softly, bending forward more. "No! Thats not what we want, Terri. We want to be there for this baby. We want it to know it has family, to have our last name. We dont want it to ever need anything. Dont you understand? Dont you feel the same way? Dont you want a family?" Terri met her eyes again, and nodded very slowly, almost imperceptibly, and Noemí sighed. "Then won't you at least think about it?" She asked softly.
Terri looked down at the table, and whispered: "I'll think about it." She twisted in her seat, and was sitting facing Noemí again, looking at her with guarded eyes.
Noemí sat back and met her eyes. "My mother wants me to go with you to your first visit with our family doctor." She said.
"It seems you discussed a lot about me without talking to me." Terri said defensively, narrowing her eyes. Now they're trying to control my life. She thought, feeling a little angry.
"No, no, you dont understand." Noemí said, sounding irritated. "It is only if you want me to go, if you want to get to know me. She likes you already, Terri, she believes you when you say that you are the mother of her grandchild."
Terri looked directly into her eyes. "You dont?" She asked.
Noemí sat back. "That will be proven when that child is born." She answered Terris accusation evasively.
Terri shook her head, and laughed softly. "What is it about your bloodline that will let you know who is a Leone and who is not?" She asked sarcastically.
Noemí leaned forward again, and moved a hand to stroke her hair by an area on the right side of the top of her head close to her forehead, which sent her hair slightly to the left side. "You see this little part here?" She asked, fingering it and eyeing Terri closely. Terri nodded; she'd seen the same part on the same area of Anthony's head. "This is the Leone hair part, not one child in our family is born who doesn't have this; unless for some reason or another that baby ends up not being a Leone. Call us foolish, but it is true. We haven't had a case like that in a long time, but you see "
Relaxing a little, Terri smiled. "But what if it comes out with my part?" She asked teasingly.
"Our bloodline runs deep in every Leone." Noemí said proudly, sitting back again. "We have beauty marks in certain areas of our bodies," She cleared her throat. "You would know."
Terri's smile faded, and she looked away. Their food arrived, and they proceeded to eat silently. Noemí hardly touched her salad, and nursed her drink carefully. By the time Terri finished with her lunch, stuffed to capacity, Noemí had finished three drinks. Terri noticed the way her eyes were slightly unfocused, and that she now blinked very slowly.
"Have you thought of my offer to stay in my house?" Noemí asked suddenly, her words ran together a little.
"Yes." Terri answered as the waiter came back around and removed her plate, and Noemí's barely touched plate.
"Bring the check." Noemí said and the waiter nodded. She looked at Terri, and closed her eyes for a second. "Yes, you've thought about it, or yes, you accept my offer?" She asked very slowly.
"I accept." Terri said recklessly, and looked down at the tabletop shyly. Noemí smiled.
The check arrived, and Noemí pulled out a few bills from her wallet and threw them on the table, standing up. She almost lurched away from the table, and Terri followed her out to the street. She followed Noemí back the way they came, and walked silently beside her as Noemí walked along, seemingly thinking deeply about something. She was a little drunk, Terri could see. They turned on the street her parents lived in, and Noemí took her elbow and guided her the rest of the way. She pulled out her key chain from her pocket and slipped a key into the hole.
As she walked through the front door, Terri's eyes widened in awe as she studied the beautiful interior. Everything was made of wood, a dark wood that shone brilliantly and cleanly. She stumbled over her own feet as she looked into the living room, and Noemí held her up. "Be careful." She whispered good-naturedly.
Terri looked at her with glassy eyes, her mouth parted slightly. "This is wonderful." She whispered back, and continued to look all around. Noemí chuckled softly, and called out to her father. He called back from somewhere down the hall and she guided Terri into his study. Terri couldn't hold back the gasp that came forth.
There were books, on shelves that covered all of the walls from floor to ceiling. Soft classical music came from hidden speakers around the room. Natalie sat on a large rocking chair by the large window; her knitting rested on her lap as her small hands did the work. Thomas sat behind his huge desk, leaning back on his chair, a large book sitting across his lap. He pulled off his glasses, and sat forward, smiling a welcome at Terri. "Hello there." He said softly, standing up and walking around the desk. He smiled down at her reassuringly. "You're feeling better now, I trust?"
Terri nodded, and was surprised when Natalie came to her and kissed her cheek. She'd never known such gentle mannered people in her life. Anthony doesn't know how lucky he is, she thought fleetingly, allowing their caring demeanor to take her in. "Sit down, sit down." Natalie told her and guided her to one of the chairs.
Noemí went to the window and stared out, sitting on the custom made seat right in front of it. "She has accepted the offer to live in my house." She said quietly, and Thomas seemed very happy, even going so far as to leaning down and hugging Terri with his big bulk.
"Smart girl." He said, and moved to sit behind his desk again. "Good job, Noemí."
Noemí smiled softly at him, and turned her face again to stare out the window into the beautiful afternoon.
Natalie sat on the other chair, and gazed at Terri with a gentle smile. Terri blushed, and she looked down at her lap. "What's the matter?" Natalie asked softly, leaning forward and touching her arm gently.
Terri looked at her, her eyes glassy with suppressed tears. She felt Thomas and Noemí's eyes on her and was uncomfortable. "I've never been offered this type of comfort." She said uneasily, trying to keep her voice from shaking.
Natalie scoffed tenderly, and leaned back in her seat. "This is only the beginning child. By the time we're done with you, you will never want us to go away." She said with a small laugh. "We're very lovable people, you know."
Terri believed her with all her heart, and she did her best not to find them irresistibly lovable. "It makes me wonder what happened with Anthony." She said suddenly, not thinking, and was met with a warm smile from Thomas.
"I often wonder that myself." He said reassuringly, and he looked at her stomach. "You're not showing much, yet." He continued, and she instinctively pressed her hands to her hardening stomach.
Natalie waved him off, and leaned over to touch her arm again. She whispered in a confidential tone, a twinkle in her eye: "He doesn't know much about pregnant women. I wouldn't let him near me when I was pregnant with my babies." Terri couldn't help but laugh, and covered her mouth. Natalie looked happy at having made her laugh, and said condescendingly to Thomas: "She's only four months along, Thomas. Wait another two months, and she'll be a balloon." Thomas broke out in laughter.
"Balloon?" Terri whispered, wide-eyed.
Noemí laughed softly, and stood behind Terri's chair. "Mom, you're scaring her. Stop it." She said in a mock stern tone, and Natalie laughed; her laugh was identical to Noemís, Terri noticed. "You should know, Terri," She said, placing a now gentle hand on her shoulder, unnerving her. "That it is only natural for a pregnant woman to blow up after some time. But once they give birth, most go back to their original look, with a few more enticing curves." She smiled down at Terri when she twisted to look up at her curiously. She lifted her eyes from Terri's and looked at her mother again. "She's a painter, mom." She said to Natalie, who smiled brightly upon hearing that. "Really excellent."
Before Natalie could say a thing, Terri was shaking her head and saying in a self-deprecating manner: "Oh, nothing big, Mrs. Leone, only watercolors."
"That is bull, mom," Noemí said with a low husky laugh. "She is good. As soon as you get the chance, mom, since you know all the painters in New York, I want you to get her canvas and whatever else painters use."
Natalie surprised Terri by saying: "Why of course, as soon as you get her settled into your house."
Terri stared at her then stood up abruptly. She looked at Noemí for a long time. "I'd like to go home now, please. I'm very tired." She whispered softly, her eyes watery and reddish. She looked like she was about to cry, but she made it past their already loving good-byes and out of the house. She sat pensively in Noemí's car, and waited for her to join her in the vehicle.
A few minutes later, Noemí came and got into the car, slipping the key in the ignition hole and starting the car. Her parents had already closed the door behind them, and Noemí sat quietly in the car. Suddenly, she twisted around and looked at her for a long time. She reached over and touched Terri's shoulder softly. "I know my parents can be overwhelming sometimes-"
"No," Terri cut her off with a husky voice, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening. "They're wonderful. I always wished my dad were like yours is, and that my mom hadn't died and left me with him. I imagine she would have been like your mother." She laughed softly, and it sounded like a half-suppressed sob. She pressed the back of her hand against her mouth, and a tear slipped out. She wiped at it, and said with an attempt at levity: "But it looks like our brothers were cut of the same paper, eh?"
Noemí joined in her laughter, trying to let her compose herself, and she straightened in her seat, slipping on her seatbelt. She twisted again, this time putting her arm behind the passenger seat. She brought the car in reverse onto the street. With a lurch, they moved forward down the street onto Queens Boulevard. Terri fell asleep as Noemí drove her home.
Continued in Part 3
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