Yep, a new story. Took me awhile, but the idea finally came. Lol. I hope you all will like it, and always, your feedback in GREATLY appreciated. Thanks for the support, dolls! xx
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
It was a warm afternoon in Brooklyn, New York. Not hot enough yet for fire hydrants to be opened so that kids could cool off, but still pleasant enough for tee shirts to be worn. Blue with a few sparse clouds, the sky above stretched out for miles, as if announcing to the neighborhood that spring had arrived. Grateful the cold winter had passed, twenty-five year old Valerie enjoyed the sun as it warmed her skin.
Loving the sun-kissed bronze look her skin took on in late spring, she had chosen to bare her arms in a pink tank top, with acid washed jeans to complete the outfit. On her feet were a pair of jellies, pink to match with her top. Hoop earrings accented the look, while pressed out hair with feathered bangs flattered her heart-shaped face.
In no hurry to return home, she leisurely walked, taking in the neighborhood which surrounded her. Filled with curiosity, her eyes saw it all, from the man with a push cart selling flavored ice on the corner, to the delicatessens and various bakeries.
Right in the heart of Bensonhurst, a residential neighborhood filled with Italians, the fragrance of good food seemed to surround her, filling the air with breads baking, exotic spices, and delicious pastry scents.
Italian flags could be seen proudly displayed at the various businesses, and as she passed a butcher shop, the sound of a shopkeeper singing “Oj Mari” floated out into the streets.
Old men sitting on folding chairs watched people go by as they sat outside a small neighborhood market, sipping espresso from tiny cups.
Although she felt out of place, Valerie walked with confidence, as if fully belonging, yet knowing very well that she clearly stuck out. People watched as she went by, but most just gave stares of pure curiosity. The only black woman around for miles, she knew they were wondering as to the reason behind her presence.
If they’d looked into the paper bag she was carrying, they would have spotted Pernigotti chocolates, as well as Italian sausages and homemade mozzarella. A variety of pastries had also been purchased, authentic and freshly made just that morning.
Having picked up everything her mother had needed, Valerie took the route which led to the bus stop. Now venturing into a residential section of brownstones, she noticed many people sitting out on their stoops, excitedly chatting as they enjoyed the spring weather.
Eyes followed as she walked the tree-lined street, from both men and women, young and old alike. Even babies watched her progress, sitting in strollers as mothers socialized with one another.
Now halfway down the block she was eager to reach the bus stop, but on passing a particular brownstone with a pre-war style, she noticed a guy on the steps, intently watching as she approached his building.
Making no secret of his interest, he was totally fixated on her form, gaze shifting from her face and then down to her body, which she kept in shape with ballet classes. She wasn’t as tall and lithe as most of the other women in her class, but it was an activity she greatly enjoyed.
So twice a week she made the trek from her home in Flatbush, to the theatre district just west of Times Square.
Still watching with keenness, the guy, who was clearly Italian, turned his head as she walked closer. Feeling self-conscious at how hard he was staring, she glanced back at him to check out his face. Strong aquiline nose, jet black hair that was thick and lush…shifting her gaze to his thick eyebrows she saw that she liked those too.
Clean shaven, he seemed to be around her age, and dressed in a tracksuit he was nicely built, not overly muscular yet clearly in shape. He was quite handsome, that was undeniable, and his strong Italian features really pulled her in.
The way that his eyes kept steady on her told her he liked her too, and softly smiling she began to flirt. His thick brows lifted just slightly, as if not expecting that response. Then a soft little smile began to tilt his lips, but the moment was broken off as the door to the brownstone flung open.
Three guys, all Italian, headed down the steps to the guy who was staring. And on seeing that his gaze was pinned on the young black woman, one of them loudly spoke.
“Hey Gianni, why you looking at that moolie?”
Two of the three laughed loudly at the slur term, while the one who had said it spoke yet again.
“She’s a mulignan, Gianni. Got your own kind to pick from, know what I mean?”
Still chuckling, two of the three friends gazed at the black woman, who was now looking back with a wounded expression.
Mulignan, she knew that word, and her cheeks burned hot as the men kept on laughing. But shifting her eyes to Gianni, she saw that he wore a straight expression. Clearly not amused he looked downright embarrassed, and in fluent Italian spoke out loudly to his friends.
She couldn’t understand what he said but the laughter quickly died down, and still furious about the slur, she hastened her steps.
Racists, she thought, and cheeks burning hot she came closer to the bus stop. Should have known, why did I even flirt?
Not looking back she just kept on going, and as the bus approached she waved it down. Glad to have caught it on time she quickly climbed on, paid her fare, and then took her seat with groceries on her lap. Not wanting to look yet finding herself drawn to do so, she turned her head to stare out of the window as it approached the brownstone where he was.
Now standing on the stoop, he noticed her staring from the window of the bus. And looking right back she hardened her stare, then shook her head with an expression of disgust.
She could have sworn his face fell, and that made her feel good. And this was the last sight that she had of him….
At least, that’s what she thought.
* * * *
The door to Gianni’s brownstone swung open, and stepping outside, he descended the steps. Just as he’d done the day before, and the day before that, and still the day before that, he sat down on the stoop.
He felt ridiculous doing it but just couldn’t stop, as he still had some hope deep in his heart. Gazing at his watch he checked the time, and seeing it was nearly one p.m., he anxiously waited.
Why, you stupid or something? A voice inside him said. She ain’t coming back, and you darn well know it.
But maybe she would, he defiantly answered back, and looking down the street, he searched for the woman. She’d be easy to spot in a neighborhood like this, that was for sure, so it only took a glance to see she wasn’t there. Yet still fixating on the path she had taken three days ago, he focused hard on that route, as if he had the power to materialize her form.
Waiting for a bit, he let some time pass – fifteen minutes and then half an hour, before finally a full hour elapsed. Pushing out a breath he looked back down the path, and shoulders drooping just slightly, he knew she wouldn’t come. He wouldn’t see her again and he knew it, so why continue to look for her at that exact time?
Even if she came through the neighborhood again, why pick the same route right past his house, after what had gone down the last time?
She wouldn’t and he knew it, so slowly rising to his feet, he switched on his Walkman. Attached to the pants of his tracksuit, it was bright yellow and brand new. A birthday gift from his brother, as he had just turned twenty-seven.
I don’t feel like twenty-seven, was the thought in his mind as he started to jog. Time went quicker with every year it seemed to him, and before he knew it, he’d already be thirty.
Already on him about having kids, his mother was always asking if he had a woman, and when he’d bring her by. No girlfriend yet, Ma, he’d say when she asked, as for the past eight months he’d been living the bachelor life, and to be quite honest he kinda liked it that way.
Ever since breaking up with Francesca eight months ago, he’d been pretty reluctant to give up his manly freedom. But if the right one came along he might make an exception, and as he passed the firehouse along 18th avenue, he braced himself for the feelings to come.
Miraculously, however, they never did, and throwing a glance toward the red-brick façade, realized he had finally let it go. Well padded, his Air Jordans carried him along, down the tree-lined block and then to the right, so he could head to the gym and check up on things.
As he came closer to the waterfront, she popped into his head again. The woman, that gorgeous black beauty, the one he’d been hoping to see again for three days. Everything about her made him attracted – the brown skin, the body, the beautiful face, and those soft, sweet eyes which had looked right at him.
Their eyes had connected for only a few seconds, but that was long enough to see there had been a connection. Then his meathead cousins had come into the picture, ruining it all with just one word - Mulignan.
The slur, which meant eggplant in his language, had been spoken to demean her skin tone. And clearly she’d known what it meant, because the look she’d given after they said it, told him all he needed to know.
What she didn’t know, however, was that he’d reamed them out for speaking the slur, and made it real clear they had been in the wrong. He knew better than to say those words as an adult, and although he’d spoken them around others to fit in when he was a kid, he’d been taught growing up to avoid speaking slurs.
She hadn’t deserved to be called such a name, and truly sorry she had been hurt, he just wanted a chance to apologize. A date would be nice as well, but he highly doubted at this point that it would ever happen.
It’d take a miracle from God for their paths to cross again, and coming up on a corner deli he loved to visit, offered a wave to the shopkeeper Vinny, who stood outside smoking a cigarette.
“Gianni, it’s been days now.” Holding his hands out in a gesture that said, what gives?, the shopkeeper waited for an explanation.
“It’s good to be single, Vinny. Can’t say that i’m ready to give it all up.”
“Playin’ the field, huh?” Vinny chuckled. “Well ring my sister when you get a chance. She been waiting by the phone for like six days now.”
Although flattered, Giovanni wouldn’t call, as word on the street was, she was the kind of broad who really got around. Still jogging at a good, steady pace, he was now coming up to his place of business.
Sandwiched between a tiny pizzeria and a suspiciously curtained storefront, the gym had a rear entrance, which was only used for him and his brother.
As owners of the gym they ran it together as a tight-knit team, and on entering the fitness center, the familiar smells rushed into his nostrils. Along with the odor of sweat, there was also the scent of rubber mats, as well as the disinfectant they used to wipe down their equipment.
Just large enough to fit a couple dozen people it was nearly always full, and as Gianni entered the small office, he was greeted by his brother, Adriano.
“Couple calls came through for you from a woman,” he said with a smile. “Sounded super eager, if you know what I mean.”
Intrigued, Gianni took the message from his brother, who had written it out on a small notepad with their company logo. And on realizing it was Vinny’s sister who had called, he balled up the note, then shook his head.
“That bad, huh?” Adriano smirked.
“Vinny’s sister,” he replied. “I’m just not real interested, if you know what I mean.”
Gianni unzipped his track suit jacket, then settled at his desk to check out the scheduled appointments. Flipping through the wirebound client book, he saw there were six clients booked for personal training sessions. Busy day, he thought, but he loved owning a gym, as working out was a passion of his.
“It’s been eight months since Francesca.” His brother’s voice cut into his thoughts. “That can’t be easy.”
“So hit the clubs,” he suggested. “We could do it together. You, me and Bianca.”
“I wouldn’t be into it,” he said. “One night stands just aren’t my thing, and you know it.”
“Well there’s gotta be someone,” Adriano said. “Some girl you got your eye on…”
Knowing his brother wouldn’t give up until he gave him a little something, Gianni let loose a few words.
“Yeah okay, so there is someone I noticed lately. But she’s not from Bensonhurst, so you wouldn’t know her.”
“An outsider, huh?” Adriano grinned. “Well she better be Italian, otherwise Ma will have a fit.”
Focusing hard on the appointment book, he pretended to be reading, but his brother knew him too well, and grinned even harder.
“So she isn’t Italian! Oh yeah, Ma’s gonna hate that.”
“She won’t hate anything,” Gianni quickly said. “Because I won’t see this woman ever again.”
“Well why not. She blow you off?”
“You could say that,” Gianni replied. “But it’s just as well, because like you said, she’s an outsider.”
“Plenty of girls in this neighborhood,” his brother reminded him. “Plus Bianca’s got cute friends, so I could ask her to set you up.”
A shrug of his shoulders, followed by a soft nod said he’d be open to it. His brother was right about plenty of good looking women right there in his neighborhood.
But it wasn’t the ones who belonged he was after. It was the outsider that he wanted, the gorgeous black beauty who just didn’t belong.
* * * *
It was just past three p.m. on Saturday afternoon when Valerie exited the dance studio, stepping into the street and beginning her walk. Although her body ached, she felt very refreshed, as class was invigorating and always stretched out her muscles. Still wearing her black scoop neck leotard, she’d slipped on a pair of black leggings to cover the bottom.
An oversized floral print blazer provided some coverage for her ample bust, and to finish the look, she’d slipped on some pink leg warmers. Not wanting to make the trek home in her ballet flats, she’d donned a pair of white Keds for comfort.
Now righteously summer, it was getting too hot to wear any type of jacket, but men always stared at her bust, so the blazer was needed.
As she stepped off the block where her class was located, Times Square came fully into sight, which was kind of a nightmare for her to pass through.
Bustling with traffic, there were giant billboards all over the place, plus signage on buildings which advertised seedy things.
From peep shows, to XXX video stores, to X-rated bookshops, they all looked so seedy. But the worst thing of all were the lascivious leers she got from various men. One of the most dangerous areas of the city, it was a place where two-bit hustlers and porn addicts hung out.
Noisy, colorful, rude and commanding attention, it was a place where she knew she was vulnerable. Yet somehow she wasn’t scared at all, just disgusted and turned off by the whole scene.
Walking with quickness she couldn’t wait to reach the subway station, but on descending the steps, the strong scent of urine filled her nose.
Already prepared with her subway tokens, she quickly fed the slot, and as the metal turnstiles gave way, she headed forward to wait for the train.
As she was waiting, men openly leered at her, doing their best to check out the curves which were hidden beneath the oversized blazer she had on.
Appreciating a woman’s form was one thing, and she really didn’t mind when men took quick glances. But the ones who watched her right now were so creepy about it, and she keenly felt them undress her with their eyes.
By the time she got on the train she felt a little better, but the stares continued on, so she shifted her gaze to let them know she wasn’t interested. Focusing on the crazy graffiti which was all over the interior of the train, she read some of the messages written in among the various drawings.
But out of the corner of her eye she sensed some kind of movement, and mouth slackening, she realized the man across from her was touching himself. Staring right at her, he made it clear what he was imagining, and jumping to her feet, she quickly moved away.
The remainder of the ride couldn’t go fast enough, so when the train pulled into the 71st street station, she gratefully exited and stepped onto the platform. After descending the stairs to street level, she made a path for Gino’s Deli, to purchase the home made sausages she loved so much.
On entering the shop, the scents came to her all at once, and approaching the counter she prepared to give her order. Always a pleasurable experience for her nostrils, the store was filled with scents of aged cheeses and salamis, as well as fresh baked bread and pasta sauce. Gazing into the display case, she already knew what she wanted, but wishing to try something a little different, she pointed to a rolled up looking sandwich which seemed exotic.
“I’ll have the stromboli, please.”
“Don’t you usually get the BLT?” Of medium height with a beefy figure, the shopkeeper, of whom the deli was named, lightheartedly lifted a brow.
“I’m being adventurous,” she said, and as he chuckled she softly smiled.
“A wedge of parmigiano-reggiano as well, please. And half a pound of genoa salami.”
Eyeing loaves of crusty bread stacked neatly on the counter, she grabbed one to add to her order. Then reaching into her fluorescent pink ballet bag, she retrieved her wallet to pull out some bills.
As he rung her up, she noticed there seemed to be an extra hunk of something wrapped up in deli paper. And knowing she’d only ordered three things from the case, there was definitely a fourth added on.
“I’m sorry, but I think you gave me something extra.” Pointing to the mystery package, she let him know.
“It’s for you,” he assured her. “No charge at all, but I want you to try it.”
“That’s very kind,” she said. “But what exactly is it?”
“Italian bacon,” he replied. “Pancetta, special just for you.”
“Wow, well thanks. I’ll make a BLT with it.”
Smiling at her reply, he made another suggestion.
“Wrap it around some chicken legs,” he told her. “Pop it into the oven for twenty-five minutes, and let it bake. Great recipe, you’ll see what I mean.”
“Sounds delicious.” She handed over the money, then accepted a brown paper bag with all of her items.
“Enjoy, he told her, then resumed cutting meat on the slicer behind him.
After exiting the deli she made a beeline for the bakery, which was right across the way. Painted a pistachio green color, it had an old world feel to it, and on opening the door, a little bell that was attached jingled out her arrival.
Knowing just what she wanted, she put in her order and paid, then accepted the pastry box with her hand-made goodies.
Having gotten her specialty items she was now on her way, and made a path for the bus stop which was two blocks away. Knowing the route well, she could have done it blindfolded, but remembering the experience she’d endured on her last trip through, she thought over taking that exact way.
Yet no sooner was she beginning to alter her direction, did she suddenly realize it was silly to do so. It was them who’d been jerks to her, so why was she scared? They’d spoken the slur, not her, and if they wanted to be racists and laugh as she walked by, then let them. But changing her course was not going to happen.
Now walking the tree-lined street where the brownstones were located, she went at a pace which was casual and calm. Admiring the well-kept residences, she noticed Italian flags hung down from some of the upper windows, proclaiming their pride in being decendants from the old world country.
Smells of their cuisine wafted into her nostrils, coming from the brownstones which adorned the streets. And from somewhere in the distance church bells rang out, filling the air with a melodic hymn. Now approaching the stoop where the racist slur had been hurled at her, she shifted her gaze to see if they were there.
They were not, but he was, and even from a distance she could see it was him. A small boy, no older than ten, was sitting right next to him on the stoop, and she could see there was some kind of electronic game in their hands.
As they played, sound effects went off, throwing out phrases such as Monster Throw!, Hey batter-batter!, and various other baseball jargon.
Glad to see he was preoccupied, Valerie continued along to pass him right by. But then his gaze suddenly lifted, and she knew he had spotted her.