The Beautiful: Chapter 4
Posted in: Words
Here is the fourth chapter of my novel “The Beautiful”. If you haven’t been following the series, here’s the first chapter.
As my father’s power and influence grew, his career blossomed. Through brute force, Henry Stephens became the man with the highest number of cases closed. He made captain by the time I was in fourth grade. That’s when he drifted further and further away from his old friends. That’s when my father told me that I should stop playing with Joey.
My mother, Tatyana didn’t like Joey O’ Callaghan too. She didn’t like Joey taking me out to play outside. She didn’t like him ruining the couch with his old, dirty clothes. My mother would scold at me when I told her that Joey came by to ask me to play outside. I would have to sneak out of my apartment window just to play with Joey.
Then I got bitten by a rattlesnake when we were out playing next to a scrap yard. My father was furious at Joseph O’ Callaghan Sr., even though it was never his fault or Joey’s. Even though it was Joseph Senior who took me to the hospital and cared for me.
The following week, he had Joe Senior transferred to some substation in the fringes, where all the outcasts ended up. The O’ Callaghans moved and I lost my best friend.
My father said it was good that I stopped playing with Joey. That I should play with his bosses’ kids instead. He even fought hard to get me into the same junior high as the sheriff’s son, maybe even buy or extort my way in. In his eyes, I was more of a tool to get more promotions instead of a son.
I hated my junior high. I hated the sheriff’s son. Just because his father is my father’s superior he thought he could go around and bossing me. He and his friends used to tease me for the outdated clothes I wear. In his eyes we were impostors, who didn’t belong with the rich and the powerful.
Things were easier for my older brother Nate. We went to the same school but it was me who had to share a class with the mean sheriff’s son. Nate also had the gift of sports so he never had a problem fitting in.
The only person who made my days at the school endurable was this girl named Vivian Tan. She was beautiful and smart and kind. Every boy at school had a crush on her at some point. Every teacher adored her and every girl loved to be around her. I only knew Vivian by name and reputation. Admiring her from afar. Not once dared to lock eyes or talk to her.
When we were in eight grade, we shared the same science class. Our tables were next to each other. I never had much interest at school. Always drawing instead of taking notes.
Vivian marveled at my doodle and asked what I was drawing. I told her I was drawing an abstract flower, embarrassed by the truth that I didn’t have a clue what I was putting on paper. I was merely letting my hand moved freely wherever it wanted to go.
Vivian asked what kind of flower. And I told her the most uncommon type of flower no one had never seen in person. I told her it was a drawing of a dahlia. She asked if she could keep it. So I ripped the page of my notebook and gave it to her. She said I should sign it. And I did.
Vivian and I became inseparable ever since that afternoon in class. Spending hours after school just talking about music and movies and books. We talked about our dreams, our desires. She wanted to be a doctor. To save people’s lives. I had no idea what I wanted. All I knew was I didn’t want to end up like my father. It was Vivian who first suggested that I should pursue a career in arts or design, making me believe that I was somehow gifted.
Vivian shared about her family. How her parents first moved from Los Angeles to Vegas to join Aunt Suzie and her husband Adam. Her parents gambled all they had to run a Chinese restaurant serving authentic Sichuan dish which slowly became a hit among tourists and gamblers from China.
I shared my loathing for my family. My crooked cop father, Henry Stephens. My Ukrainian immigrant mother, Tatyana. My obnoxious bigger brother Nate. I even told her about my buddy Joey. We shared our inner most secrets, our longing for each other’s company. We were in love.
Except for my brother Nate, no one in my family knew I was dating Vivian Tan. My racist father would flip had he known that I was dating an Asian.
Nate was a real womanizer, even as a teenager. He was popular, so he was banging girls left and right. Freshmen, seniors, cheerleaders, bookworms, goth girls. He even slept with a teacher once. Nate dated a college girl while he was still in high school.
Nate kept pushing me to take advantage of my relationship with Vivian. Told me that I should go for the home run and move on to the next girl. I wasn’t interested in finding another love but I was interested in having sex with Vivian.
We were both nervous wrecks. We had the whole house all to ourselves for the weekend. Vivian’s parents had to go back to Los Angeles to attend a funeral. I told my parents I was going to a party. The only question my parents asked was would the sheriff’s son be there. I told them that he was.
We locked her bedroom door despite being completely alone in her house. We kissed and caressed each other’s bodies. I took out my clothes and Vivian opened hers. I touched her breasts and out of love she offered me to kiss them. I did so gladly. She told me it was the first time she let anyone touched her bosoms. A way of letting me know just how much she trusted and loved me. I didn’t understand it then. I didn’t care. All I could think about was hitting the home run.
One day she told me she was with child. My own. I got scared and didn’t know what to do. I was fourteen at the time. We both were. And like the countless people who came to our house with their problems and grievances, I told my father what happened. I was too young to fix the mess I had created on my own.
I’m not sure how but my father made my problem go away. I never heard from Vivian again. She wasn’t at school. Her old house was empty. It was like she had vanished.
No amount of remorse was enough to appease Vivian’s friends. Everybody adored Vivian Tan. She was the sweetest girl in school. The nicest, the smartest, the most likely to succeed. There were rumors that my father had Vivian expelled. Or that my father had bribed her family to move. I was instantly the most hated person in school. Everyday there were hate mails in my locker. One threatening to kill me. Everyone stayed away from me so I stayed away from them.
I begged my father to have me transferred to another school. His excuse was always the same, that I should be grateful I don’t have my future ruined by the responsibility of a becoming a teen father. His real reason of course is the sheriff’s son. So our moms could keep hanging out and continue to become close friends. So his career was secured. So he could have more power.
My future would forever be shadowed by my past mistakes. I never asked for forgiveness from Vivian or her family. Thus I am forever tortured by the lingering question, would Vivian be kind of enough to forgive the terrible injustice I had committed. Some consolation would be to discover that Vivian was OK. That she finally found the love that she deserved.
It breaks my heart to know that Vivian had led a very bitter life. Denied of her chance for happiness. Only to be brutally murdered. Now her ghost has come back to haunt me. In the form of the blood-filled faces I see.
‘I need to know what happened to her Joey. I’m begging you to help me,’ I tell Joey, stirring at the coffee I have ordered continuously and look deep at the black whirlpool I have created.
Joe Junior sits quietly. He seems hesitant to reveal what he knows, for he is certain that I will chase whatever lead he has. I could see he is tempted to say something but quickly changes his mind.
‘Nah, it’s too dangerous.’
‘What? What were you going to say?’
‘I’m thinking… going to the club… the Black Lotus. I mean… that’s what I would do. But…’ Joey sighs. Shaking his head. ‘It’s practically owned by the mob.’
‘I’ll risk it Joey.’
‘Nah man. I mean I wouldn’t go near that place. You can’t just go in there and start asking questions.’
‘Joey!’ I grab his wrist. ‘I have to know what happened.’
‘OK… I don’t know if this works or not. But from what I hear, you go up to the bartender and order something which is off the menu.’ I swear I heard the cops sitting next to us said about the same thing. Another deja vu.