For dinner, I went for a different look than earlier in hopes I wouldn’t be recognized. I spent time brushing on foundation to make my skin youthful and creamy, a dab of blush, a dusting of powder, attention to my eyes with shadow and liner, my treasured falsies topped off with mascara and penciled brows. I applied the stay put red lipstick I so loved and pinned a flower in my hair above my right ear. Satisfied, I shrugged into some slim fitting jeans, pumps and a red checkered shirt that I tied around my middle.
Digging through my bag, I found some pearl clip-on earrings and a choker along with my white sunglasses. Slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I left the apartment.
Just minutes later I walked through the doors that would lead me to the amazing aroma of cheese and chili powder. I could taste it already and my mouth watered like crazy. The host asked if I was waiting for anyone and I shook my head and smiled at him.
“Just one then?” he asked with a thick Spanish accent.
“I’m afraid the lady will not be staying. Darling! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” that man’s voice said behind me as he grabbed my arm.
Perhaps the panic on my face showed and perhaps not. I didn’t have time to evaluate the host’s expression before I was pulled out of the restaurant and back out onto the main street. When clear of the double doors, I halted and ripped my body back out of his clutches.
“What do you think you are doing?” I demanded with hands on my hips.
“My apologies, Miss Kramer, but I am to deliver you elsewhere,” he replied cool and calm as ever.
“Yeah, well I don’t think so. I have no idea who you are, but I don’t know you and I’m going nowhere with you. Now back off, I’m hungry. You are coming between a starved woman and her food. I would suggest you just leave me alone,” I sassed him.
The man chuckled at my attitude and ran a hand through his dark hair. “So sorry, but I think you really need to come with me.”
And with that, he reached out and grabbed my arm again. “It will all go much easier if you don’t cause a scene, Miss.”
“I will not go with you and not struggle. You aren’t going to kill me without a fight!” I bellowed at him.
There were some strange looks from the people walking by us. The man nodded politely at them. “Play practice, everything is fine, folks.”
And they believed him! They all smiled and nodded with stars in their eyes as they beheld an “actress”. Then, he guided me away and into his fancy black car.
Once he had shoved me in there and closed the door, I frantically tried the handle to open my door but it wouldn’t open. Growling in frustration at the invention of child locks, I tried the automatic windows that did nothing.
The man slid into the driver’s seat and started the car. The engine was near to silent and I tried the window again.
“Please stop,” he said as though I was insulting him.
I glanced up at him looked at me through the rear view mirror. “This is how women come up missing or dead! They are bullied into cars by strange men!” I fired out.
He simply shook his head and laughed as though I were trying to be funny.
The car lurched forward and took a short spin not too far the other direction from where I was staying. I knew this place! It was a historical hotel that had been around for an impossibly long time, Shore Lodge.
The man pulled into the lot and parked, coming around to let me out. Grabbing my arm quite snugly again, he led me to the door where we were shown to the dining area of The Narrows. I was held all the more tightly until we came upon a table overlooking the lake. The fading light of day was dissolving into shades of mandarin and teal through the windows.
I flicked my gaze to the lone person at the table and my mouth fell open.
Jack Harrington was staring me down as the sun was setting in this small mountain town. An uncomfortable heat flushed my face and despite the use of it, my deodorant was useless. I could feel my heart hammering in my chest and my mouth went instantly dry. What did he want with me?
Waving his glass of wine in the air, he smiled and said, “I like the Rockabilly look. Suits you well. Please, have a chair.”
I could feel the shakes coming on and the man holding my arm peeled his fingers away from my sweating skin. Jack merely nodded to the man and he left. Timidly, I sat and set my bag on the floor, then folded my hands neatly in my lap.
“You look like an artist,” Jack grumbled.
“What does that mean?” I piped up indignantly.
A waiter in a smart looking uniform came to the table. “Drink, ma’am?”
“Water,” I replied not looking at the man.
“Please bring an extra glass just in case,” Jack said to him breaking eye contact with me.
Jack cleared his throat. “What I mean is, you have that creative flair that is evident in how you decorate yourself.”
I could tell he was a tad uncomfortable sitting there with me. All the other tables were empty around us…within earshot, that is.
I sat back in my chair and folded my arms over my chest.
“Look. I asked my employee to bring you here to discuss a thing or two,” Jack said running his index finger over the rim of his wine glass.
“I don’t know what you are talking about…” I tried to laugh it all off.
“What I am talking about is the way you show up everywhere I go and take pictures of me and my kids while we are trying to enjoy ourselves out of the spotlight. I deal with your kind all the time, believe it or not. There wouldn’t be a single photo of me to be found if it weren’t for people like you who steal every private moment from me,” he complained and then sipped his glass.
“For your information, Mr. Harrington, I came up here to take some beautiful shots of the wilderness. It wasn’t my fault that you photo bombed a lot of my pictures. I’m not following you, but you are sure having me followed. I have every right to take pictures of what I find interesting,” came my volley.
He cracked a smile. It was just a glimpse of one, but the lines around his mouth deepened just a bit. “You have a lot of spirit, Miss Kramer, I will give you that. All I want from you is the card that sits in your camera there. You have photos of my kids that I don’t want anyone else to have access to. They didn’t have a choice in their life and it is my job to protect them.”
I heard little else after my name. “Have you completely checked me out? Are you kidding me? That’s how the two of you know my name, isn’t it?”
His look turned apologetic. “Welcome to my world, Ruby. Now, I will take the card.”
I stood up. Where was that glass of water? Grabbing my bag, I held it up in the air and shook it Jack’s direction. “This is paying my mortgage this month and the month before and the month before that. I would never give it over to you, but I won’t sell your shots. That’s the best I can do for you.”
With that, I stormed away expecting his henchman to grab me and tie me to the chair until I relented. But no one chased me down and I even looked back to see Jack casually sip his wine as he watched me leave and place a cell phone to his head.
I couldn’t believe what I had done. For once in my life I had stood up for myself. That one moment showed me I didn’t need to be the push over I had spent my life being. Just because he has money doesn’t mean I am his doormat, I reasoned with myself. And I agreed.
It was significantly cooler out when I burst through the doors and into the parking lot headed for the sidewalk. I was still starving and bound for Chapala’s again when all I saw was a bright pair of headlights blinding me. I froze and shaded my eyes as the grill tagged my legs and I screamed out loud, my body rolling over the hood and smashing into the windshield. The car screeched to a stop and I rolled back down over the hood and onto the asphalt where everything went black…like ripping the cord to the television from the wall.