A story inspired by the book of Hosea

Feb 7, 2015

Chapter 3b

         Joey sat at Mrs. Delfeno’s kitchen table as he dunked his warm chocolate chip cookie in the cold milk. He reached in with his fingers to gather the pieces that fell apart during the dunk.

         “Then the princess had to choose which knight was worthy to win her hand. She decided she would hold a joust to help her decide.”

         “What’s a doust, Mrs. D?” Joey interrupted.
         Mrs. Delfeno looked up from her book, smiled at his pronunciation and answered, “It’s when two knights on horses, with very long spears in their hands, ride their horses toward each other. Whoever gets knocked off their horse loses.”

         With eyes wide, Joey said, “Wow! Does he die?”

         “No, Sweetie. The long spears have an end on it that doesn’t hurt. It just knocks down the other knight. The knights wear suits of armor that protect them.”

         “What’s armor?”

         Mrs. Delfeno smiled. “It’s made of iron and it covers the knight’s entire body like a suit.”

         Al walked into the kitchen and sat down next to his wife. He grabbed a cookie from the plate. “I couldn’t help overhearing your story from the other room Marie. I can’t wait to hear what happens next. What about you Joey?”

         “Please, please read some more Mrs. D.”

         “Okay, you two. So then . . .” the doorbell interrupted her. “Al, go see who that is.”

         Al grinned and said, “Ah, man do I have to?”

         “Now Al Delfeno, you behave.”

         “Okay, but you’ll need to read me the rest of the story later?” he said with a wink.

         “Only if you’re a good boy,” she replied.

         Even after all these years together, he loved her flirtatious ways. Al heard Marie’s voice in the background as she read to Joey. He loved how that little boy brought joy to his wife whenever he visited. He peeked through the peephole and didn’t recognize the man he saw behind the door. He put the chain on as a precaution. He yelled without opening the door, “What do you want?”

         “Could you open up sir? I just want to talk to you for a minute.”

         “Say your peace through the door.” Al wasn’t a fool. He wouldn’t open up for a stranger.

         “Okay then. I just thought you might want to know that I heard screaming coming from an apartment on the third floor. You might want to check it out. I think it’s the apartment right above yours.” The man said.

         Al opened the door slightly with the chain still on as a safeguard. He watched the man as he left the building.

         Marie entered the room with a scowl on her face. “Al, what’s wrong?”

         “It’s okay honey. Go back and read to Joey. I’m going to check on Vickie.” Al grabbed his master key chain from the hook by the door and headed for Vickie’s apartment.

         Al rang the doorbell. When there was no answer, he knocked. Still no response. What if she’s hurt? Al opened the door slowly. “Mrs. Martinelli! Vickie! It’s me, Mr. Delfeno.” He looked around and saw feet sticking out of the doorframe of the kitchen. “Vickie!” He rushed over to her. He knelt down on the floor beside her. “Please wake up.” She lay sprawled out on the floor in the kitchen, drool emanating from her mouth.

           *           *            *            *           *           *

         Sal found his front door opened. Panicked, he ran inside. “Vickie! Joey!” The sight of Mr. Delfeno kneeling next to Vickie’s unconscious body caused his heart to miss a beat. “Mr. Delfeno! What’s going on?”

         “I don’t know. Someone came to my door and said he heard a scream coming from your apartment. I rang the doorbell but when I didn’t get an answer, I knocked. There was still no answer, so I came in.” Mr. Delfeno made room for Sal. “I’ll call for an ambulance.”

         “Where’s Joey?”

         “Don’t worry, son. He’s been downstairs with Marie. He doesn’t know what happened.”

         Sal sighed. Relief washed over him. “Thank you. I’ll take care of her. She’ll be fine. I’ll come down for Joey in a little bit.” The scenario that lay before him was all too familiar. Embarrassed he continued, “Don’t worry Mr. Delfeno. She’s going to be okay.” It was as if on cue, Vickie moaned. “I’ll get her to bed. You can see yourself out, if you don’t mind.”

         “Sure thing.”

         “Mr. Delfeno.” He stopped and turned around. “There’s no need to bother Mrs. Delfeno with any of this. You know how she tends to worry.”

         “Just between you and me.”

         “What’s going on?” Vickie muttered as she started to come around.

         “You were passed out on the floor,” Sal answered as he helped her to feet. She held on to him but her knees buckled. He helped her to the bedroom, laid her on her side, propped pillows to make sure she stayed that way, and lovingly covered her with the sheets. Dear God, not again.

         “I’m sorry Sally. Don’t be mad,” she cried out.

         “Shhhh. Go to sleep. We’ll talk about this later.”

         He stood next to the bed as a tear slowly rolled down his cheek. Her breathing seemed to regulate itself again. He turned, walked out of the room and closed the door. He leaned against the bedroom door and sighed. He stood there in disbelief that Vickie would risk everything and start using drugs again. He knew who gave them to her and wondered what else was exchanged between them. I better get Joey.

  © Nadine Zawacki 2015

Feb 3, 2015

Chapter 3a

         “Oh Henry, why do we have to go to New York City?”

         “Ida honey, don’t fret. I’ve told you . . .” He caressed her shoulders as he continued, “we’re going to be staying with a nice family. There’s an adorable little boy who’s about three and a beautiful little baby girl. They’re expecting us.” He continued his massage of her shoulders because it was the only thing that calmed her down when she became nervous.

Ida relented easier than expected. “Henry, you know exactly what to say to me. I love little children and who could resist a little baby girl. Are you sure it’s okay that I come along?”

“Of course, Ida. I’ve called ahead. They’re excited to meet you.” He looked at her affectionately when he said, “Sweetheart, don’t worry. The flight will be fine. I’ll be with you the whole time.” He gave her a hand a little squeeze. “Right by your side as always.”

She took a deep breath. “You’re a good man, Henry James. Let me finish packing while you go pray. See if the Lord will tell you anymore about our trip.”

She was so in tuned with his needs. It was one of the many reasons he loved her. He walked outside his little cabin. The massive rainfall the night before left puddles in his yard. He loved the smell of fresh rain that hung in the air for it reminded him of his mother. She loved walks in the rain and he loved when she took him along. They would discuss anything that was on his heart. She would say the rain was God’s way of giving the earth a bath. Henry’s thoughts drifted back to the present. Large oak trees surrounded his cabin like soldiers that protected the perimeter of his home. At least he liked to pretend they were. It was peaceful to be out in the middle of nowhere. He closed his eyes and suddenly he was on a mountaintop. He saw with his mind’s eye two large rocks. A large eagle was perched on top of the rock on the right. Henry knelt down on the wet ground. He trembled with fear. The mountaintop swiftly filled with light. Henry didn’t dare open his eyes.

He heard a voice say, “There is much pain ahead for your young charge. The temptation to interfere will be great. A work needs to be done in his heart. Don’t move on his behalf until instructed.”

Henry couldn’t speak. The heavenly being knew his thoughts. I will do Your will Lord, not mine. Give me the strength and wisdom I need to advance Your kingdom. Henry knelt for what felt like an eternity. No matter how many times he was brought to the top of the mountain, he dared not look directly into the heavenly being’s eyes. Even though he was terrified in the moment, he felt renewed, refreshed, and strengthened afterwards. He knew the road ahead would be difficult, but as with everything timing was highly important. He opened his eyes and he was back among the trees outside his cabin. He got up with a bit of difficulty. His knees were not that of a young man anymore, but he knew God would give him what he needed until the day he went home for good.

              *          *           *           *             *             *             *

         Vickie sat on the couch with her eyes closed, taking in the sweet sensation of feeling lighter than air. She hadn’t felt this good in a long time. Phil stroked her face gently. It felt comforting. She sighed. When she opened her eyes Phil’s face was close up against hers. His stare satisfied her in a strange way.

         “You’re so beautiful.” He took his index finger and outlined her lips, just like Sal did the night before. “I’ve missed those luscious lips of yours baby.” Vickie felt as if she was watching this unfold from outside her body. He leaned in and she felt his wet lips on hers. His kiss was warm and familiar. He pulled her closer and she felt his hand reach up for her bra strap.

         “Stop!” she managed to say. She pushed him away and stumbled up from the couch. “This was a bad idea. You have to go now. I don’t want to see you again.”

         Laughing, Phil picked up the rest of his drugs, got up and walked towards her. “Sure, baby. Whatever you say, but that kiss says you’re not over me. I’m a patient man ‘cause I know you’ll be back. You know where to find me and my goodies.” He gave her a peck on her cheek.

         She wiped it off as she watched him close the door. She walked over to lock it and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. What’s wrong with you? She was disgusted with herself. The drugs made her not care. That kiss felt dirty, but how close she had come to letting herself get trapped in that life again disgusted her. Vickie made up her mind. She needed better self-control. She could do this, but she felt sick at the moment. She better sleep it off. She’ll get Joey later. He’s safe with the Delfenos.

 © Nadine Zawacki 2015

Feb 2, 2015

Chapter 2c

   Sal sat at his desk with his feet up. “Look Bryan, I need sugar dots... hey, if you can’t supply them then I’ll find someone who will... I’m sorry you feel that way... fine!” He placed his feet down and hung up the phone. He hadn’t noticed Margaret in the doorway to his small office.

   “Anything I can do?”

   “No!” He realized the tone he used was harsh. “I’m sorry. I was just talking to Bryan and he wants to raise the rates again on sugar dots and to top it off the shipment will be late. Seriously! It’s sugar dots.”

   “Needn’t get yourself in a tizzy. There are plenty of other suppli- ers out there. Besides, sugar dots are overrated.”

   Sal chuckled at her attempted humor. “You’re probably right, but I’ve known Bryan for a long time. I’ll just call him in a minute and apologize.”

   “Do you want to talk about it?”

   “About sugar dots?”

   Margaret shook her head. “Your mood has nothing to do with Bryan or his sugar dots. We both know that.”

   He didn’t want to talk about what the core problem was with anyone. His life had been the subject of too many conversations. “Thanks for asking, but I’m good. I’ll probably go home early today.”


   “What do you mean by ‘oh’?”

   “You’re a good man, but we both know the Mrs. will be the death of ya.”

   Margaret had a knack of hitting the nail on the head. Sal wasn’t ready to admit defeat. “She’s just lost, Margaret.”

   “Have you considered that maybe she wants to stay that way?”

   He’s had this conversation before. There wasn’t a need to continue. “Don’t worry so much Margaret. I’m fine... I promise.”

   “Okay, if you say so. Do you want me to call Bryan and smooth things over? You know I think he’s taken a shine to me.” She raised her brow.

    Sal snickered, “I’m sure he has, but I better do it. I’ll go home after I’m done.” 

© Nadine Zawacki 2015

Jan 31, 2015

Chapter 2b

   Sal’s candy store was located on Quentin Road and 35th Street. It was a great location and close to his home. His mother had named it when the store belonged to his father. Sugar Buddies was a simple name that everyone knew, so he saw no need to change it. When Sal pulled up to the candy store, the neon open sign in the window was on. It meant Margaret would be behind the counter, as usual. He was grateful for her diligence. He sat in his car for a moment, wondered why he couldn’t shake the feeling that some- thing was wrong. He grabbed his cell phone and was about to call home, when he was startled by a knock on the driver’s side window. The last person he expected to see was Rose. He got out of the car. “Rose! What a pleasant surprise. It’s been ages since I’ve seen you.” He reached out to hug her, but decided to hold back instead. 

   “Yeah, it has been.” Awkward silence followed. The last time he had seen Rose was the day he met Vickie. It was as if six years had not passed. Her auburn hair cascaded down to her mid back,
straight and shinny. Her crystal blue eyes sparkled as they did when they first met. She looked stunning in her fitted blue jeans and red high heels. Rose always overcompensated for her five-foot frame with high heels. He was amazed that she could walk in them. “How have you been?” he asked.

   “I’ve been good. You?”

   “Good.” Sal had a hard time collecting his thoughts. The sight of her took him right back to when they first met at college orienta- tion. “It’s been a long time.”

   “Yeah,” she nodded. “So... how’s your... I want to say, son, right?”

   “He’s amazing. He’ll be starting school soon.”

   “That’s good. You look great.” Her embarrassment made him smile.

   “Thanks. You look like you always did, beautiful.” She bit her lower lip as she blushed. He used to love it when she did that. “I heard you got married and moved out of state.”

   “Yeah... um... my husband died last year in a car accident. That’s why I moved back home. It was too hard staying in Washington without him,” she said longingly.

   The sadness in her eyes moved Sal. He hadn’t known about the accident, or that he died. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

   The mood had changed as awkwardness draped over them again. Rose broke the silence. “It was nice to run into you. Maybe we could have coffee some time and catch up.” He nodded his head and smiled.

   As Rose walked away he wondered why he broke it off. Oh yeah, Vickie. He wanted to patch up their relationship, but Vickie got pregnant. Being married to her really turned out well, didn’t it? If only he went after Rose that day... it didn’t matter now. He headed inside. Margaret was behind the counter. She looked up when she heard the side door open. “Morning.”

   “Good morning, Margaret.” Margaret was an older woman of Irish decent, who lost her husband five years ago. She had worked for Sal since. Gray hair and deep wrinkles added a sense of wisdom to her persona. She didn’t have any children of her own, but was motherly and protective toward Sal.

   “What’s wrong?”

   “What? Nothing’s wrong.” Sal tried to sound sincere.

   “Well, Salvatore you don’t look right. You look like a man with a burden on his heart,” she said matter-of-factly.

   He never understood how she did that. It was like she could read his mind. “I’m fine. After I do inventory I’m going home for a little while.”

   “You’re the boss. You needn’t justify your actions to the likes of me. But if you ask me, you don’t look quite right.”

   “Truly, I’m fine.”

   She looked at him over her glasses. “As you wish.”

   He walked into the back room where his small office was located. The room barely had enough space for his desk, much less anything else, but it suited him. He sat down to gather his thoughts. He ran his hands through his hair and controlled the urge to scream. Something was not right with Vickie—he felt it. If life wasn’t complicated enough, Rose was back in town. He couldn’t believe the old feelings that stirred within him. What’s wrong with you? He grabbed his clipboard and headed for the storage room to check inventory. 

           *          *         *         *          *          *          *         *         *          *   

   Vickie watched Joey color in his book at the kitchen table. The knock on the door startled her. “You stay put, Joey.”

   He looked up at her, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay, Mommy.” He went back to his crayons.

   She wiped the sweat from her brow as she approached the front door. She looked in the wall mirror next to the door and noticed a smudge on her face. She quickly dabbed it off and opened the door.

   “Good morning, dear. I hope I’m not interrupting.” Mrs. Delfeno wasn’t whom she expected.

   “Not at all. Joey’s inside coloring in his book.”

    “I baked cookies this morning and thought Joey would enjoy some.”

   “How sweet of you.” Vickie noticed Phil coming up the stairs. He had the good sense to back off when he saw she wasn’t alone. “Mrs. Delfeno would you like Joey to come down for a visit?” Quick thinking Vick.

   “I would be delighted,” she nearly squealed with excitement.

   “Joooooey, come here!”

   Joey came running to the front door. He saw the plate of cookies in Mrs. Delfeno’s hands. “Mrs. D. is that for me?”

   Mrs. Delfeno bent over and handed Joey the plate. “Why don’t you give this to your Mom for later.”


   “Well, I thought you could come down and have some cookies at my house. I just bought a new book that I would love to read to you.”

   “Yeah! Let’s go.” Vickie grabbed the plate of cookies from Joey. He hugged her leg and grabbed Mrs. Delfeno’s hand.

   “You be a good boy now, Joey.”

   “Okie dokie, Mommy.”

   “What time would you like me to bring Joey back up?”

   “If you don’t mind, I’m going to take this opportunity to take a nice nap. I feel a migraine coming on. Would you mind if I came down for Joey when I get up?” What a tangled web.

   “Of course that’s fine. He’s welcome to stay as long as you need dear.”

   Vickie watched Joey skip towards the elevator. She glanced over to the stairs, but didn’t see Phil. The elevator door closed. She won- dered if Phil left. At that moment, he came back up the steps. He looked at Vickie in a way that made her feel as if she was a piece of rare steak being dangled in front of a hungry lion.

   “Hey baby, you’re looking good,” Phil said as he licked his lips.

    “Get in here before someone sees you.” She grabbed him by the arm, as she pulled him into the apartment.

    His eyes scanned her up and down. As he looked fiercely into her eyes, he said, “You look delicious.”

   “Stop it! If you came here just to be a pig you can go home.”

    “Oh baby, such harsh words. We haven’t seen each other in a very long time.” He walked up to her as he extended his arms. “What... no hug?”

   “Seriously, Phil, why are you here?”

   “Better question is why did you let me come? You’ve dodged my calls for months.” Phil walked over to the couch and made himself comfortable. He pats the cushion next to him. “Come... sit. I have something for you.”

   Vickie didn’t move. “I’ve been clean for the last six months, Phil. I don’t want anything you have.” Even Vickie wasn’t convinced of her resolve.

   Phil pulled out a little plastic bag. The white powder illuminated in his hand. She took a deep breath. Her glaze fixated on his every action. She watched as he placed a small mirror slowly on the coffee table and proceeded to make those familiar lines. She felt her heart race with excitement. Mesmerized, she inched her way to the couch and sat. At that moment she realized she still had the plate of cookies in her hand. She placed the plate next to the mirror. I have better control now. A little can’t hurt. 

© Nadine Zawacki 2015

Jan 29, 2015

Chapter 2a

   Sal knelt by Joey’s race car bed. When they purchased it for his birthday last year, Joey pretended he was a driver in the Indy 500. Like his father before him, NASCAR was one Sal’s favorite pastimes. The tradition continued with Joey. Sal gently kissed him on the forehead before he left. He didn’t want to wake Vickie before he left, for it’s the only time she looked peaceful. He loved to watch her sleep. Her beauty wasn’t the only thing that attracted him. Her vulnerability made him feel needed. Would he have married her even if she weren’t pregnant? Something about her captured his heart. Inventory was an eternal taskmaster, so he needed to get to the store. He grabbed his keys from the hook on the wall next to the door and headed out. He preferred to walk down the stairs instead of taking the elevator. That thing was old, made too much noise and shook as it went up and down. When he reached the front door, he heard a familiar voice call out to him.

   “You hoo, Mr. Martinelli!”

   He turned around and saw a big smile on Marie Delfeno’s face. “Good morning, Mrs. Delfeno. You’re up early this morning.”

   “Why yes,” she smiled shyly. “I came out to get my paper... How are you all doing?”

   Ah, a loaded question. Translated—how’s Vickie and is she still clean? He couldn’t fault her with that thought. Mr. & Mrs. Delfeno weren’t only good landlords, but also friends. They’ve helped out with Joey more times than he could count. “We’re doing great! How are your knees coming along since the operation?”

   She chuckled softly, “Oh, you’re such a sweet young man. I’ve always said to Al how lucky we are to have such a considerate young man living in our building. I’m doing much better. I really like physical therapy. My therapist is a nice young man with great hands. He reminds me of you, not the hands part...” She blushed. 
   “But he’s so kind and gentle... anyway, he reminds me of you.”

   “Thanks... um... look at the time, I’m running late this morning. Will you give Mr. Delfeno my best?”

   “Of course dear. I’m going to bake some chocolate chip cookies today, I’ll bring some by for Joey.”

   “He’ll be thrilled. He absolutely loves your homemade cookies.”

   As he headed for the car, he turned around and looked up at his apartment window. He felt uneasy about leaving today. Maybe I should just... no, I needed to do inventory and place an order. He decided to go to work and come home as quick as he could. Margaret could handle things by herself after that. It’s not as if there were ever a candy emergency that needed his attention. He wished he could shake the uneasiness he felt. It was probably nothing, probably just his overactive imagination at work. 

           *          *         *         *          *          *          *         *         *          *          

   As she lay on the bed, Vickie stared at the ceiling. She wished being married to Sal was all the satisfaction she needed in life, but it wasn’t. He was a good man who loved her but she missed her freedom. She loved her son, but being a wife and mother was tedious and left her unfulfilled. I feel like a hamster on a wheel, forever moving... never getting anywhere. Her cell phone rang. She picked it up and saw that it was Phil calling again. She paused for a second; thought about Sal’s reaction, but decided to answer it anyway. “What do you want?”

   “Hey, baby doll. What’s with the icy tone?”

   “Look Phil, I told you before I can’t talk to you.”

   “Yeah, then why did you answer the phone? I think it’s because you miss me.”

   “What do you want Phil?” she asked sharply, as if she didn’t know. The games she played with Phil were to ease her guilty conscience. It somehow justified her actions in her mind if she put up a fight. 
   “You know what I want. I want you to come out and play.” Vickie didn’t respond. “It’s been too long baby. I miss hangin’ with you. I just want to come by... see your pretty face... say hello. Is that so bad?”

   “I don’t think my husband would like me hangin’ with you.” 
   “Your husband doesn’t like a lot of things. Maybe that’s why you answered the phone.”

   “I’m hanging up.”

   “Wait... wait... don’t... aren’t we adults? Can’t we be friends? There’s no crime in talking. Last time I checked talking with a married woman wasn’t a sin.”

   Vickie thought about it for a moment. The sound of his voice comforted her in a peculiar way. Sal would probably be at the store for a while, so she relented. “Okay... but you can’t stay long.”

   “I can’t wait to see ya, baby.”

 © Nadine Zawacki 2015

Jan 27, 2015

Chapter 1b

   Vickie opened the window and stepped onto the fire escape. She lit her cigarette and savored the first drag. The first one was always her favorite. It comforted her as she inhaled, then exhaled. It wasn’t as good as pot but would do in a clinch. How could he take her child to that smelly old church? What had God done for her or him for that matter? I wish he could just loosen up. Why couldn’t he be more like Phil? When it came to Sal, once a boy scout always a boy scout. She looked down the street and watched as neighbor- hood children played stickball. She liked living in Midwood. The neighborhood had both houses and small apartment buildings. Sal wanted to save up for a house one day, but enjoyed the convenience apartment living afforded them. No maintenance was needed—no lawns that needed to be mowed or appliances that needed to be fixed. Granted Brooklyn wasn’t known for its massive lawns but the people of Midwood kept what they had well manicured. It was quiet considering the amount of kids that lived on her block. They looked carefree as they laughed and ran around makeshift bases. Funny how manhole covers were always home base. It’s nice to be a kid—no worries, no one to please but yourself. 
  The apartment started to close in on her again. Being married felt like living in an amusement park without any money for the rides. She knew Sal loved her, yet it wasn’t enough to make her happy. He was a nice guy, maybe too nice. She loved him in her own way, but was not sure she was in love with him. If she was hon- est with herself, he bored her to tears. It didn’t matter how many times she screwed up in the past, he was there to pick up the pieces and take her back. Why would he do that? She took her last drag and flicked the cigarette. She watched as Sal parallel parked across the street. He looked up, waved and smiled. She hated it when he smiled like that. It was hard to stay mad at him when he had that goofy smile on his face. It charmed her in a weird way. 
   She went back through the window into the apartment. Maybe it would just be easier to go away somewhere, anywhere. Before she knew it, the front door to the apartment opened. 

   “Mommy, we’re home!” Joey said as he ran towards her. “How’s my little man doing?”

   “I fell asleep in church,” he said proudly.

    Vickie smiled at him.
Who could blame you? “Well I’m sure it was okay. Why don’t you go play in your room? I need to have grown up talk with Daddy.” 
   “Is Daddy in trouble?"

   “No Buddy,” she chuckled. Joey hugged her leg and skipped away towards his room. 

   Vickie gave Sal a dirty look. She wasn’t happy with him. He walked over to her and attempted to give her a hug, but she jerked her body away. 

   “So... I guess Daddy is in trouble.”

    “That’s not funny Sal. You can’t take my son to that... that place without asking me first. You know how I feel about it.” 

   “Honey, it’s only church. Joey likes going there. He likes the music, and I always take him to breakfast at McDonald’s beforehand. I think that’s his favorite part.” Sal smiled at her again. He placed his hand on the back of her neck and stroked it lightly. “I’m not trying to do things that make you mad, it’s just... this means so much to me. It’s something we both enjoy.” Sal’s eyes twinkled as he placed his other hand around her waist. Her resistance was futile. It appeared to Vickie that he would not be deterred by her anger. He looked lovingly into her hazel eyes. “I love you, even when you’re upset with me.” When he was this close to her, he was hard to resist. His scent caused her mind to drift. It drew her to him. Whether she loved him the way a wife should, didn’t interfere with her desire for him physically. His touch was warm. “You know you can’t stay mad at me for long. I’m too adorable,” he smiled. 

   She sighed, tilted her head to the side. “You’re right. I guess there’s no harm done,” she moved her face closer to his. 

   She knew he smelled the cigarette smoke on her breath by his hesitation as she approached him. He hated the fact that she smoked. He’ll have to learn to live with disappointment. She kissed him passionately. “What’s that for?” he asked. 

   “Are you complaining?” 

   “No... it just surprised me.” 

   Joey came running into the room. “Mommy... Daddy... look what I made!” he said proudly as he held up a picture he just drawn. 

   “That’s great Buddy, I love it.”

    “It’s a beautiful picture little man,” Vickie said.

    “It’s not beautiful Mommy. I’m a boy... it’s handsome.” 

   Vickie looked at Sal, they both tried not to chuckle at his comment. The things that came out of his mouth never ceased to amaze them.

   It was moments like these that made life seem normal. “Well Buddy, let’s find a place of honor on the fridge to hang that hand- some picture.” 

   “Okay, Daddy,” Joey said with excitement. 

   Vickie felt guilty for wanting to leave. Who are you kidding; you’ve never had it so good. She watched Sal as he placed magnets on Joey’s picture to keep it in place. 

   “Daddy, will you play a game with me?”

   “Sure Buddy, whatever you want. Go set it up and I’ll be there in a minute.” Joey skipped out of the room.

   Vickie watched as Sal approached her like he was about to steal a cookie from a jar. He stroked her cheek lightly with the back of his hand and outlined her lips with his finger. “We’re good.” 

  “We’re good. “ He patted her lovingly on her behind. She shook her head. “You know I hate it when you do that.” 

   “You love it,” he replied with that goofy grin again. 

   Vickie smiled as she watched Sal leave. On one hand, she loved her family, and on the other her old life felt like a comfortable pair of old shoes that she didn’t care had holes in it. The thrill she felt from her next fix was hard to resist. The escape was euphoric. Her cell phone interrupted her thoughts. It buzzed on the counter. She picked it up and recognized the number. She thought about answering it, but the sound of Joey’s squeal from the next room jolted her. The buzzing stopped. She placed the phone back on the counter and walked into the other room. 

   She witnessed Sal on all fours as Joey rode on his back. She couldn’t help but smile, yet the tug she was feeling for her old life wouldn’t go away. Six months was the longest stretch she had had without a fix. She pushed the urge aside as she entered into the horseplay with her family.

© Nadine Zawacki 2015

Jan 26, 2015

Chapter 1a

  Sal Martinelli sat in the pew for some time after the service was over. Fast asleep, Joey’s head laid comfortably on his lap. Sal didn’t want to disturb him. He looked so content. Joey was the best thing in his world. He stroked his head lightly, pushed aside his dark brown curly hair from his face. Just like his mother’s, Joey’s hazel eyes sparkled when he smiled. Sal couldn’t believe how quickly he’s grown. He’ll turn five soon, just in time for kindergarten. Time moved quicker when you have a kid rather than when you were one. He gently lifted Joey’s head and placed him down on the pew. Sal straightened his pants as he got up more out of habit rather than necessity, just like his father before him. His father came to mind whenever he imitated his behavior. It broke Sal’s heart his dad never met his namesake. He scooped Joey up into his arms. With Joey snuggled safely against him, he headed toward the door. There was nothing better than when Joey’s head rested on his shoulder. He could feel him breathe against his chest. It’s funny how he could sleep through anything without waking up. The church was now empty except for Father Robert. 

   “It’s always a pleasure to see you, Salvatore,” Father Robert said as he tapped Sal gently on his shoulder. 

   “You too, Father,” Sal whispered. 

  “Maybe next time your lovely wife could join you and Joseph? It’s been too long since I’ve seen her. Would you send her my regards?” 

   “Certainly, Father... no problem.” You would think that after all of this time, he’d realize that Vickie was not coming back to church. “It was a good service. I really enjoyed your homily today on Hosea.” 

   “Thank you. I’ll be saying a special prayer for you, son,” Father Robert replied.

   “I should get the little guy home,” Sal said to end the conversa- tion. He didn’t need any special prayer. He was good. Vickie was doing better and had been clean for the last six months. Sal hated backhanded conversations. He probably meant well, so he shrugged his shoulders. When he placed Joey in the car, his cell phone rang. He knew who it was before he looked at it and braced himself for the storm named Victoria that was about to hit.

   “Hello,” he answered after he strapped Joey.

   “Where in the hell are you?” he could hear the icicles fall from her lips.

   “I’m on my way home.”

   “I told you a million times, I don’t like you taking my kid to that place. You snuck out today before I got up. That’s not cool, Sally.” 

   He hated it when she called him that and she knew it. “I didn’t sneak off with your kid. He’s half mine and I took my half to church. I can’t help it if your half followed.” 

   “Cute, Sally. It should be a crime to put all that God stuff in a lit- tle kid’s head. He’s impressionable.” 

   Sal knew arguing with her would be futile. “I’m on my way home now. Do you need anything?”

   “Just the kid!” She hung up the phone.

   He wasn’t looking forward to going home. When Vickie got mad, she clamped down like a lion on the throat of an antelope. He loved her with his whole heart, but that never seemed to be enough. Lately, he struggled to like her, much less love her. Maybe he’s just tired from the long journey they’ve traveled. 
© Nadine Zawacki 2015