previous: The Remains of Angelo ch2
I rolled over in bed, ready to start my day. “I think I want to quit smoking,” I said as I lit up near the bedroom’s only window. It was another beautiful day in San Francisco; just cold enough to wake up early, with the hidden promise of sunlight after a few hours.
“Then quit,” Angelo groaned, burying his face in his pillow.
“Would you quit with me?” I asked. I made my way to the bathroom, splashing water on my face before walking to the coffeemaker.
“Nah,” Angelo said from his place in the bed. “Next thing you’ll want me to go sober.”
It wasn’t abnormal for him to want to sleep in, but all it usually took was some breakfast to get him going. I took a seat on the bed, enjoying a long sip of my hot drink. “Are you saying you wouldn’t get sober for me?”
Angelo sat up, stretching his back before reaching for the cup I’d been holding. “Let’s see how sober you are after the re-opening.”
I leaned in close for a quick kiss, while I attempted to retrieve my coffee. Angelo chugged the rest of the mug before making a quick dash to the only bathroom.
“You mean the ‘Grand’ reopening!” I shouted behind him. “And it’s going to be freakin’ awesome!” I added with a hint of youthful, sarcasm. We had enough supplies to open at noon for a lunch rush. The majority of what we served was premade and heated in individual orders. All I would have to do was make fresh pizza’s whenever someone ordered an entire pie.
The plan was for me to prepare orders while Angelo ran the register. I felt I was mentally prepared, until I looked down from the apartment window and saw the line going down the street. This had to be the work of our local mafia queen. I scanned the line looking for Ms. Dragon (or any of her colorfully dressed friends.) That was when I saw the local news van. ‘Are you kidding me?’
I called out to Angelo, who took his sweet time getting dressed. I grabbed a box of granola bars, needing to put something in my stomach before encountering whatever the hell was happening down stairs.
I was staring out the window when Angelo reappeared. “Huh,” he said with a nod.
“Is this the work of Dragon?”
“Emma Rose.” He took a granola bar, eating half of it in one bite.
“You know her real name?”
“Yeah, ever since she first moved here.”
I asked no further questions. We had a café to open. “Let’s get going.” I followed Angelo downstairs and watched as he opened the door to the public. He greeted people with a smile, acting like he was so honored by the attention. Needless to say, he wasn’t a great actor.
“This neighborhood means a lot to me,” Angelo spoke with a nervous stutter. His hand caressed the scar on his face, drawing attention to the injury. “I’ve grown up here, seen it’s good and bad days, and with the blessing of God I hope to continue to be a part of this community for years to come.”
While Angelo gave an interview, I started to set up the to-go boxes. I knew most of the people here were going to order something small or just to look around at the newly renovated restaurant.
“Stoick’s place?” asked a familiar female voice. “He let you change the name?”
“Not officially,” I replied, hoping that the voice belonged to who I thought it did. “Hello Ms. Dragon, or should I say Emma?”
“You named the café after a ‘How to train your dragon’ character?”
“And your walls are covered in dragon related fanart?”
She wasn’t wrong. I painted murals of random dragons, including a few from the famous movie. These were of course European-style dragons, not the Asian kind that I assumed Emma had named her self after. “What can I say, I’m a huge Dragon fan.”
Dragon tilted her head, looking at me like a disappointed school teacher. “Just get me a slice of vegetarian combo, extra olives.”
“Or what, your highness?” I asked sarcastically. I was already reaching for her slice, prepared to toss some extra canned black olives on the side.
“You don’t want to know.” With her food in hand, she disappeared into the crowd.
I could see a tall older man, someone who looked old enough to be her father. The man glanced in my direction and nodded with an approving smile. I had too much on my plate to attempt a greeting, so I just watched him leave with his Dragon queen.
Food was selling out and soon we were running low on canned drinks. Part of me assumed this was because thieves were taking full advantage of the fact that no one actually had an eye on the self-serve refrigerator. With that in mind, I was in no rush to leave my post in the kitchen. If we ran out of drinks, we ran out of drinks.
“Yo, Jeff,” said a young, aggressive female voice. I looked up, expecting to see a foreign tourist, or maybe a student from the local art school. Instead, I saw Ms. Rainbow herself. With her usual colorful hair and impeccable makeup. She was sitting on the counter, helping herself to a coke. “Got any more drinks? how about something a little stronger?”
Her voice sounded slightly more southern than usual (clearly mocking me, as she pretended to be an ordinary customer.) As a result, I did not feel like engaging her. “I’m a little busy here, kid.”
“Who are you calling a kid?”
I could hear her moving closer, but I made no attempt to meet her gaze. “And this place does not have a liquor license.” There was a moment of silence. My focus shifted to the next set of order tickets.
“I can box orders for you,” Rainbow offered.
I was surprised she was still waiting on her drink. “You?”
“What? Do You think I’m going to rob you blind?” Without waiting for a response, she jumped the counter, landing with a noticeable clack.
“Are you wearing heels?”
She ignored my question, maintaining focus on the orders. “It’s downright shameful what he’s doing.”
I glanced at Angelo, he was speaking to people, laughing, smiling. He seemed genuinely happy.
“Motherfucker, acting like a damn social butterfly.” Rainbow said as she checked the order numbers against receipts.
I watched in awe as she arranged the boxes in to neat piles, keeping each order separate. Even with her long-manicured nails, she was actually pretty good at keeping everything organized. Clearly, the girl had worked in foodservice back in Missouri. “Did you just call my man a social butterfly?”
Rainbow chuckled. “Sorry, not sorry.”
“Who talks like that?”
“Just go refill the damned fridge.”
“Yes, Miss Katie.” She stuck out her tongue like an immature child, but I had to admit Katie/Rainbow was a great help.
The café only stayed open for five hours before we ran out of food. Even just working the register, Angelo struggled to keep up. So, it came as no surprise when he went straight to bed passing out from exhaustion.
I took the opportunity to take a shower, washing off the layers of flour and sweat. Today had been fun; the first day of the rest of my life, but out of all the moments all I could think about was his smile. Although I didn’t know Angelo prior to his injury, the grand re-opening seemed to bring about a level of joy powerful enough to hit the reset button on his very soul. (Unfortunately, it couldn’t reset his weary, aging body.)
At first it started with pain in his legs, back, and hips. He justified it by assuming he was out of shape (and too busy to properly exercise.) Next came shortness of breath; Angelo couldn’t stay on his feet for more then a few minutes at a time, even without setting foot in the kitchen.
After the third day of me attempting to run the cafe on my own, I decided we needed to have a talk. “I think you need to see a doctor.” I said over a midnight snack of coffee and cigarettes.
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Can we hire more staff?”
“Absolutely not.” he said with a chuckle. “Unless you can find someone willing to work for free.”
Katie had not been back, and although she had been willing to work for free (and all the food she could eat) I doubted she would be willing to quit her day job. “Will you at least let me give you a massage?”
“Yeah, whatever.” The bitterness in his voice was palpable.
“Whatever?” I asked, hoping for clarification. I was not about to allow him to fall asleep on the sofa.
“Go take your damn shower.”
“Fine.” I resisted finishing the rest of that thought. Getting undressed and stepping in the filthy low-flow bath, I reflected upon the fact that I was the one carrying the entirety of the work, and not just in the café.
I angerly made my way to the bedroom, fully expecting Angelo to take his sweet time finishing his cigarette. But much to my surprise, there he was, laying naked on his back, his body illuminated by the soft moonlight.
Any rage in my heart instantly subsided. I approached without words, tracing my hands along his Lymph nodes. I started with my fingertips under his jaw, massaging down his neck to his collarbone. There was a noticeable tension; tenderness and swelling. I worked my way to his sternum, applying even pressure. Only when I reached his stomach was, he able to take a deep breath. It was obvious he was in immense physical pain.
“If I make you an appointment with a doctor I trust, will you go?”
Angelo silently shook his head. He rolled over on to his stomach, burying his face. Was this to avoid a response? Or to avoid the subject completely? Either way, anger was not the answer.
I placed my hand upon his, massaging his wrist. “You won’t be alone.”
“For how long?”
His choice of words took me by surprise. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing,” he muttered under his breath.
“No, you need to tell me what the fuck you meant by that?” I’d been angry, now I was enraged. Did he see me as a fuckboy who just wanted a place to live? I found myself on top of him, with my hand gripping the back of his neck. “You know what I’ve been through.” I had told Angelo about my past; my hateful parents, my fake friends who sold me into sex work. The night I chose to hold Angelo’s hand I’d put my heart on the line.
“I’m just afraid,” Angelo said into his pillow. His voice was breaking. I could tell he was crying but he still refused to look at me.
“Afraid of what?” I released my grip, giving Angelo the opportunity to turn his head.
“Look, I know I’m sick. I spent my youth as a damn junkie and now I’m in my fifties, coming into the second half of my life with an addiction to alcohol and painkillers. I feel like shit every day; mentally physically. It’s only a matter of time before I die in my sleep.”
“Even more reason to seek help.”
“Fuck that,” he muttered again, as if assuming I could not hear him. “That’s how they get you.”
“I don’t understand.”
Angelo grumbled. “My mother was perfectly healthy, happy, with more then enough energy to make it through the day. And then she went to the doctor. She got all the tests that a woman her age gets, and let’s just say she failed.”
The was the first time Angelo had spoken about his mother’s death. I quickly realized his fear. “She died alone.”
Angelo finally turned to look at me. “You’re young, damn gorgeous. Someone like you doesn’t need to be stuck…”
“Acting as a caretaker?” I crossed my arms in annoyance. “You think that’s something I’d be unsuccessful at?”
“Let me finish.” Angelo sat up placing his weight on his arms. “Someone like you wouldn’t choose to stick by someone as pathetic as me.”
I climbed into bed, removing my shirt, and then my sweatpants. I laid on top of him, like a cat looking for a place to sleep. Unsure of what to do, I rested my head on his chest, listening for his heartbeat.
“What are you doing?”
“Skin to skin contact.” I kissed his neck, then his earlobe. I buried my face in his shoulder, taking in the sweetness of his natural smell. It was all I could do not to cry. And then I felt it; my necklace.
It was a long, silver chain that I kept hung on a nail behind the bed. It was a collection of sorts. A cross from my grandmother, a scorpion shaped charm from my road trip through Las Vegas, and Angelo’s gifted ring. With no thought to the consequences of my actions, I violently yanked the chain, causing the metal to snap. I grasped the ring in my palm, saying a silent prayer. ‘Please, God. If I have to leave, I don’t know where I’ll go or what I’ll do.’
With all the courage I could muster, I spoke the words directly from my aching heart. “You gave me your daddy’s ring, where I come from that usually means something.” I knew I was grasping at straws. (He gave me the ring because it was a horrible memory from a horrible man, not for any reason of love.)
Angelo squinted his eyes, highlighting the lines and wrinkles of his exquisite face. “You’d marry me?” In that moment he appeared so innocent, so pure.
I cupped his face, my fingers caressing his scar. “I’d marry you in an instant.” I leaned into kiss his lips over and over. With a rush of passion, I traced my tongue down his scar; the lines where the surgeons sewed his jaw back together. Some would see it as a hideous wound where no facial hair would ever grow again. To me, it was the most beautiful imperfection in the world.
Angelo started to kiss my jaw, sucking hard on my neck. Every touch sent a rush of intense pleasure. He was marking his territory. Soon he had me on my back, begging for a release. That was the first time Angelo sucked me off.
I could feel his mouth on my shaft. He worshiped every inch of me with his tongue. Working from my sensitive, throbbing tip, down to my balls.
I wanted to grip his scalp, pull his hair, to hold him in place. But I couldn’t stop climaxing all over myself. My stomach was covered in lakes of precum, as Angelo’s mouth moved to my taint. His lips and tongue tasted every part of me until I was nothing more than a quivering mess.
“Where’d you learn how to suck cock?”
“Only from the best.” Angelo kissed my stomach, making no effort to clean me off. He sucked my fingers licking my knuckles as he held my hand. When Angelo turned towards the nightstand, I assumed he was going for a condom or a bottle of lube.
I closed my eyes preparing to feel him inside of me, but what I felt instead was the sensation of him placing the ring on my finger. “With this ring I be wed?” I asked, looking into his blue eyes.
Angelo kissed my lips, chuckling softly. “Just for as long as we never wake up from this beautiful dream.”
I fell asleep in Angelo’s loving embrace. I figured I could shower bright and early the next day. After the best night of rest, I awoke to the bright sun cutting through the darkness of our bedroom. I stretched my back, searching for Angelo’s body, but I was alone. ‘Angelo? Babe where are you?’ I put on a pair of boxers and went in search of my partner.
I could smell a fresh cheese pizza. Downstairs was a brand-new chalkboard sign. ‘Daily special; A New Jersey boy’s wet dream: alfredo sauce, chicken, topped with salsa and cool ranch Doritos.’ I looked around to see if this creation had been brought into reality.
There was a freshly made pizza with cheese, chicken, and white sauce, with the listed toppings on the side. I was about to reach for a knife when Angelo put his arms around me.
“Taste,” he said handing me a precut sample loaded with salsa and chips.
The flavor was salty and sweet, with strong notes of fresh cream. “Is that what I taste like?”
“I imagine that’s what all men from New Jersey taste like.”
Needless to say, we had a great time introducing the new product. Dragon even came by to tell us how insane we were. Although her husband (whose name I had yet to receive) greeted the idea with a smile. I kind of missed Katie/Rainbow, although after the first month the café was not abnormally busy.
Life was good until it wasn’t.
‘Medical records of Angelo Marcus Desilva.
Fifty-one-year-old male, presented with chest pain, shortness of breath, and several preexisting conditions related to past drug and alcohol use.
Recommendation: Chest x-ray
-Results: suspicious growths located in the aortic tissue. Further testing is required.
Recommendation: surgical biopsy to determine the nature of the foreign material.’
“They want to stick a needle in my heart, to figure out my shortness of breath?” Angelo crumpled the letter, hurling it across the room. “This is bullshit, you know that right?”
I stayed silent, opting to allow him to make the decision for himself. If he wanted to stop, he could stop. (I’d like to think he continued for me; to know just what our future would hold.)
The procedure was meant to be a quick process, but during the surgery, Angelo spiked a fever. He had suffered cardiac arrest, causing him to have to spend an additional week in Facebook General Hospital’s ICU. (At least that meant we were able to get the results before leaving.) It came as no surprise that the growths were cancerous and due to the location, chemotherapy was the only option. Angelo and I were allowed to go home and contemplate the next step.
It was three days later when all hell broke loose. The cafe stayed open late that night, well past three. Angelo and I were prepping the dough, when the screaming started, followed by gunfire and random crashing sounds. I wanted to call the police but Angelo convinced me to mind my own business.
“If it’s necessary someone else will call,” he said from the kitchen. “Trust me on this.”
I agreed only because I couldn’t see anything worth telling the 911 operator. The rain had started to come down, blending everything together; the shadows, the sounds. And then, like a rat from a sewer, she emerged.
Katie entered through the unlocked door. Her hair, soaking wet, hung over her face like alien tentacles. She wore a hoodie, but only when she got inside, did she pull it up over her face while sitting at a table. It was clear she was attempting to sleep. I looked at Angelo who emerged from the kitchen and proceeded to lock the front door.
I walked over to the drink case, without knowing her current condition I decided that a water would be the best way to go. “Katie?” I gently took a seat beside her, sliding the cold plastic bottle into her hand.
“They call me Rainbow.” Her hair was no longer in braids and the once vibrant colors were now a muted red. “Do you know why? Because I sparkle and shine, motherfucka.” She laughed like a cartoon villain. Her eyes were red, and her mouth appeared to be bleeding.
I had a feeling she needed a hospital, but I was also too afraid to speak on the matter.
“I want some food,” she grumbled, crossing her arms over her stomach. “Where’s that shitty Jersey boy pizza everyone’s talking about?”
Angelo laughed politely as he reappeared. In one hand he held a plate of cheese pizza cut into small, bite sized squares. In the other was a bottle and two plastic solo cups. He poured an inch of strong, unlabeled alcohol into each cup, before drinking straight from the bottle.
I drank mine down in a single gulp, and then did the same with the second cup.
Katie glared at me. “That’s a little fucked up, ya know.” She stuffed her face with pizza, puffing her cheeks out like a blow-up doll. She then stood up, making her way on to Angelo’s lap. “Can we go someplace more private?”
I did not want her anywhere near our apartment, but with how high she was it was a non-issue. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was unaware of the location of the staircase.
There was a storage room on the first floor, next to the industrial fridge and freezer. Angelo led her inside the small dimly lit room (all while she tried to grope him through his clothes.) Once inside, they disappeared. I waited a while, listening from the opposite wall, inside of the fridge. I could hear them talking. Although Katie was focused on flirting, he was attempting to draw out information.
From what I could hear, the apprentice from Missouri had a falling out with Dragon. Basically, Katie was shooting up and snorting more profits than she was bringing in. She was given the option of working as a prostitute (to supplement her work as a drug dealer.) This led to a fight where Katie attempted to trash one of their headquarters while screaming profanity. And then, with nowhere else to go, she came to the café.
When I was tired of just sitting in the fridge, I went back to the main seating area. The rain had let up, and in the distance, I could see the face of Dragon’s husband. He was staring through the window. I was tempted to invite him in, but when I approached the door, he politely smiled and bowed his head. And he walked backward into the shadows like something out of a movie. (I guess he was leaving the situation in my hands.)
I was distracted by the sound of laughing. Angelo emerged from the office/storage room. He carried Katie’s sleeping body upstairs, placing her on the sofa. “Jeff, can you give me a hand?”
“Um, sure.” I fetched a spare blanket and covered her. I knew she had done stuff with Angelo (although I knew better than to look for evidence on her sleeping body.) But when Angelo headed straight for the shower, my suspicions were confirmed.
I opened the unlocked door, to the sight of Angelo naked, washing himself under the water flow. “What did she say to you?”
“She needs a place to stay for a while.”
“What do you know about Dragon’s husband.”
“He’s perfectly safe.”
Strange choice of words. “Is ‘he’ mafia connected?”
“Tomas is a good guy,” Angelo said casually. “We have nothing to worry about.” He grabbed a towel and walked to the bedroom in the nude.
I wasn’t worried until he said that. ‘Were Dragon and Tomas going to come after Katie?’
Angelo reclined on the bed, resting the towel under his wet hair. “I think I want chemo.”
“Why?” For Katie, I assumed. She brought out something in him; something paternal perhaps. I rested by his side, reaching for his hand.
“I need to try fighting for something.” It didn’t matter what or who had inspired him; Angelo was going to be strong, and attempt to face cancer head-on, without fear. And I would be by his side every step of the way.