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Chapter 2

  • Maria chuckled, a slight smile on her face as felt the tension in her shoulders ease. She had never met her father, but her mother, Edna told her everything about him. Miguel was one of the members of a notorious Latino gang in New York. He was on the run when he passed through their small town. Her mother fell in love with him and his dangerous life. He fell in love with how innocent she was. He stayed around for three months before he left, saying it was for her safety. Maria however didn’t believe that. She believed he just cut his losses and left. It was too convenient that he left so soon after Edna told him she was pregnant. All men thought of number one first.
  • She picked up three menus for the three guys who had just walked in, “Jane, not all Latinos are gangsters and besides I’m half Latino.”
  • Jane picked up her tray, “You inherited a lot from your dad, especially those green eyes I’m so crazy about, but what you should have inherited was the gangster part. Whoop his stupid ass to the next decade.” She turned and walked away.
  • Maria smiled at the thought of giving Ricky a taste of his own medicine as she walked to the trio this time with a genuine smile on her face.
  • “Hello and welcome to JJ’s diner. This way please.” Her smile suddenly died when she caught the lustful eyes the guys were giving her. She pulled her hair over her chest, trying to hide her cleavage.
  • Eighteen minutes to go she thought to herself as she led the way, so sure that their eyes were stuck on her ass. She fisted the apron in her hand fighting the urge to turn it around and hide her ass.
  • Maria was a beauty, courtesy of Edna and Miguel, and she knew that. She didn’t need constant reminding. In high school, it was fun having all the guys look at her and some even did her homework. But it also got her into trouble, Ricky being the trouble. He bought her chocolates and flowers, wrote her poems, and walked her to and from school. He went as far befriending the two most important people in her life—Jane and her mother. To Maria, he was a dream come true, her own romantic interest in a romance movie, until she got pregnant. And once they moved in together, she was completely wrapped around his little finger. He hated the fact that other men looked at her, and he was even more reviled believing she liked the attention. When Michael turned two, Jane threw a birthday party for him at her house. Tom’s best friend Ned helped Maria decorate, since Ricky didn’t want to do anything to help. He was very friendly, and no one was immune to his jokes, except Ricky. He saw it as Maria and Ned’s way to blatantly flirt in his face. After the party, they got into an argument when they got home about his misplaced jealousy and he punched her, warning her to stay away from him. Edna had insisted she leave, if she didn’t want to be a punching bag, but when he came begging for forgiveness pointing out how it was her fault he lost his temper she took him back, foolishly apologizing. After that day, Maria never spoke to Ned again. Worst of all, she was hooked to Ricky, with no way out.
  • He hit her more, practically on a weekly basis, determined to disfigure her face and her body so that men would find her repulsive. When people began to notice, he hit her everywhere and anywhere else that could be covered by clothes. She tried to leave, but he kept threatening to take their son away from. She couldn’t risk not seeing Michael ever again, so she did what she thought she had to do. She stayed and took the beatings for two years. Maria thanked God every day that Michael wasn’t a girl and wouldn’t bare the curse of having an abusive, useless and absent man in her life. But she was equally scared that her son may turn out to be one of those bad men.
  • She froze when she felt something trail up over her long hair, leaving a tingling track of cold fear. She hated being touched and if Ricky walked in and spotted her, she would hate it even more with her bruised body all over.
  • Please don’t touch me, please don’t touch me, she chanted in her head unable to utter a word or move her paralyzed limbs.
  • She managed to inch her head away and swallowed a whimper when the warm hand stroked her hair on the side of her head.
  • This couldn’t possibly be happening. Couldn’t he read the sign on the wall, no touching the waitresses? That’s what it said and yet he was doing the exact opposite or was he a selective reader!
  • She felt her chest tighten and her breath shorten as her mind kept chanting the four words engraved in blood and fear in her mind and on her body, please don’t touch me, please don’t touch me.
  • She heard him draw in a deep breath and prayed it wasn’t what she thought it was.
  • “You smell as good as you look.” the hoarse, scratchy voice whispered wetly in her ear and it echoed repeatedly in her mind, tightening every muscle in her body in terror.
  • She forced her legs to move and took a sidestep away from him counting the fear away as she took deep breathes to wake the rest of her body.
  • “Please take a seat.” She managed to whisper with a shaky voice. She didn’t dare turn to look at him, she couldn’t. His voice was enough to torture her.
  • She’ll always hear his wet, hoarse voice uttering those words everywhere she went and with every man she was forced to speak to. She wasn’t going to make it worse by putting a face to it.
  • The man chuckled, taking a seat opposite his friends. Maria kept her eyes on the table away from her new tormentor. She clutched her fingers in a tight fist as a spark of anger simmered inside her.
  • Great! He just had to laugh. That’s going to haunt me too! Why don’t I just look at him and complete the package.
  • She blinked back her tears and bit her lips together. The anger inside her was quickly turning in to self-pity. She hated her life and herself even more. She was such a coward for letting herself get to this point. A spineless cowardly chicken too scared to get out of the hailstorm thundering down on her.
  • Maria drew in a deep breath then took out her notebook, pulling herself out of the pity hole she so often spent most of her time in, long enough to put on a fake smile and take their order. “What would you like to have?”
  • One of the men looked her over, undressing the little clothes she had on with his eyes. “You.” he blurted out.
  • “I’m not on the menu.”