BREAKING THE RULE
New York, December 2004
Adjusting his coat, Danny Taylor buried his cold hands in his pockets. It had been long ago since he'd arrived in New York and the city had adopted him, but he wasn't used to the low temperatures in early December.
A quick glance at his watch was enough to make Danny realize that he would arrive at work on time. He would arrive on time and no one would ask any questions. Danny began walking towards the bus that was provided by the Department of Corrections, for visitors to and from the Island. He tried to repress any thoughts about the events that had transpired in Rikers during his hour and a half long conversation with his brother. That, however, was going to be very difficult until he was safely on the other side of Buono's bridge, which led him to his home in Queens and far away from Rikers Island, the largest penitentiary in New York City and his brother Rafael Alvarez's home.
A grimace of disgust crossed Danny's face, reigniting the resentment that he felt when he had any contact with his brother Rafael or Rafi as he was well known; the confusion Danny felt every single time he talked to Rafael, every time he was forced to remember who he actually was. It didn't matter that he'd lived a difficult life, changed his name, sobered up and built a life for himself that anyone would be proud of. Every time that he talked to Rafi, all of his self-confidence, self-worth, his hard work and accomplishments would come crashing down. Danny was forced to relive the reality that was his life all of those years ago. They were years of fear, frustration, solitude and rage that he'd more than once tried to forget with a generous amount of alcohol; a habit that he had given up with effort and the help of a great friend, Raymond Coleman, his sponsor from Alcoholics Anonymous.
Danny was aware that he'd lived a life that had taught him a lot of lessons along the way. He knew that he should be grateful and proud of the amazing young man he'd turned into, despite his difficult life before. However, to Danny Taylor, there was only handful of memories of his thirty-one years on this Earth which were worthy of attention. As for all the others, he tried...pretended that those damn event and memories in his past life hadn't existed.
That was Danny's sole intention, when he shook hands with the city official who gave him the documents that contained his new surname, new social security number and his new life.
Fidgety, Danny shifted on the seat as the employee at the other side of the desk revised, ordered, signed and sealed the required documents, a task that seemed never-ending.Nervously, Danny began to fear that there was a problem with the documents he'd turned over to the official, surely that had to be the reason he was taking so long.
When the city official finally gave him his new documents, Danny took them with trembling hands, as if they were crystal, as he was going to break them. Closing his eyes, standing there, he swore to himself that he was going to start fresh and forget everything he had lived before.
Only the sound of throats clearing, courtesy of the people waiting behind him in line, made Danny react. He opened his eyes, and vigorously shaking the hand of the official, so used to seeing and hearing those empty kinds of promises from people who crashed and burned less than a month later before throwing their lives away again. Before leaving the office, Danny breathed in a new air, filled with self-confidence and determination to make a new life for himself.
"Don't look back," was Danny's number one rule. "Danny Taylor, Danny Taylor, Danny Taylor…" Danny began whispering that name again and again, making it his new name and his new life. He would never be Danny Alvarez again.
End of Flashback
Several passengers got into the bus a few seconds before the driver started the engine and greeted him kindly. They were probably staff members from the night shift, since it was still too early and visitors weren't allowed into the prison yet. Danny had made use of his credentials as an FBI agent to get special permission to see his brother before the usual visitor's time. Rafi didn't protest when the guard came to escort him away and he's had to miss breakfast. He was really anxious and all he wanted was to talk to his little brother Danny.
Danny absentmindedly greeted back and focused his attention straight forward, feeling better as the bus drove away from Rikers Island. However, he feared that his recent conversation with Rafi would leave him troubled for quite a while.
What to do? He could let it go. That was Danny's first thought but, on the other hand, he couldn't help but feel curious. Maybe he could try to investigate it and Rafi wouldn't bother him anymore. Danny was almost certain that everything that Rafi had told him during his visit was a result of his brother's imagination, a mind deteriorated by the long years of drug abuse and the countless years spent going in and out of prison.
For the last twenty years, both brothers had rarely seen each other. However, two crucial encounters had changed Danny's life, forcing him to confront the painful events and putting his emotional stability in jeopardy. Danny was aware of how close he was to succumbing to the pressures of unresolved situations if he didn't keep away the memories of his past. But Danny also knew that although it was a constant fear, sooner or later, he would have to confront his past.
Behind the bars that separated him from the outside world, Rafi observed his brother as he left walking through the corridor, beside the guard. He was expecting a confirmation, an understanding look, a final positive glance before Danny turned the corridor and he lost sight of his brother; however, his brother never once looked back.
Losing heart, Rafael Alvarez shook his head in disbelief and turned back. He didn't tell his brother the whole story; it hurt him to make his little brother suffer. All it took was one look at Danny's expression to easily take him back to the past. Their current relationship was anchored to the past, to a life that, in Rafi's opinion, was enough justification for his current situation; an opinion that Danny completely refuted. Danny was probably right, Rafi knew that as well, but still…things would have been very different if their father wouldn't have been the bastard that he was, different for him and different for Danny.
Despite missing out on most of Danny's life, Rafi was proud of him. No doubt Danny was a strong man and He had successfully passed all the tests that life had put him through…including the fact that Rafi had failed in being the older protective brother he needed most after his parents' death.
Rafi tried to remember the last time they were together, the day of their ultimate separation. Before him stood a tall, thin little boy, with dark hair and a deep look, eager for life experiences and knowledge, caresses, the warmth of home, a family. The boy wanted someone who could hear his whispered pleas. Rafi wasn't able to give Danny what he was looking for, since he was looking for the exact same thing. He didn't find anything in that moment, though. The memories that came to mind were memories of the happy times they used to have when he and Danny went fishing or when he was teaching Danny how to drive. Rafi, eight years older than Danny, had a car that he was proud to show off and he remembered well how happily Danny's face lit up when Rafi taught him how to drive the Lincoln Continental. Yeah, it wasn't that bad, then.
The sound of keys opening the cell where he had met with his brother minutes earlier, brought Rafi back now from those joyful memories from his past, beside the sea, in Miami. Once again, he was brought back to the present day and all that surrounded him were the grey walls, the failing fluorescent light and the bars and guards everywhere. Prison, a constant reminder of the poor choices he'd made his entire life. That was Rafael Alvarez' life, going in and out of prison, just because he had screwed things up every chance he got, even now when he had his own family. What was he thinking? When would he learn the rules of the game? How the hell was he going to compensate his wife, Sylvia, for all the years he had spent in prison promising her that everything would be different once he got out, just to do the same thing he'd done in the past? How was he going to make things up to Nicky, who in his eleven years of life had only seen his father outside of these prison walls for one year and a half? What about his daughter Natalie, who was still unaware of the fact her father was a convict? There was no time anymore, his time had come to an end, he thought regretfully and was surprised by tears that shed from his eyes.
"Come on, Alvarez. You've already had an extra visit allowed this week even though it wasn't the allowed time or day." He listened to the guardian. Absentmindedly, Rafi offered his hands to the guard and was handcuffed. They left through the opposite door from the one that had been opened to allow his brother to leave and wearily walked toward his cell, keeping with him the memory of a smiling ten year old Danny trying to get the pedals of the Lincoln Continental… the car whose doors were full of hidden drugs.
Miami, March 1980
"… and match the horse's picture to its name. Like this. Danny, pay attention!" Janice Ayala dropped the pencil and glanced concerned toward the six year old little boy. His brilliant dark eyes were glued to the door, where on the side his parents were having a violent argument. It wasn't a big deal in their house, but they were talking about him and Danny was plenty aware about what was going to happen later…when there were no witnesses.
"Danny, honey, come on…" She insisted, soothing his arm. Danny jumped slightly and focused his eyes on Janice. His expression of fear was so clear and Danny was on the verge of tears. However, he took the pencil with courage and drew the line that matched the horse figure with the word defining it, swallowing the tears and the fear that threatened to come a minute earlier.
"Is your hand still hurting?" She asked, pointing to his left bandaged wrist.
The kid shook his head.
"Of course it still hurts," His older brother replied. "But that'll teach him to stay quiet and not get in the middle when Papi…"
"I cut myself with the window!" The kid protested angrily.
Both brothers looked each other defiantly. Rafi, at fourteen had become a lanky dark-haired teenager. His expression showed clearly that his childhood had been taken away and he'd been forced to grow up at an early age, probably earlier than other kids his age, who were still enjoying his childhood.
Finally, Rafi averted his eyes and closed the books with scorn. "I'm going out for a walk," He announced, standing up.
"Rafael, please seat down. You haven't finished your homework yet." Janice ordered.
"Says who?" He replied.
She was going to object, but Rafi was already leaving, carefully closing the door. He didn't want his parents to stop yelling and insulting each other and focus their anger and insults toward him or Danny.
Playing with a small stone, as he walked toward the parking lot of the old abandoned Civic Centre, where he met his friends every day, Rafi once again thought about the chance of leaving home. But he needed money and he didn't want to think about leaving Danny behind. What would happen to his little brother if he left? Day after day, under silence, Rafi succumbed to his father's rage and was beaten both for whatever he had done but also for what Danny would deserve, according to the rules his drunken father commanded. They were rules that on some days, Danny and his mom appeared to accept in order to keep his father from beating them. Rafi was aware of what was behind Danny's reaction. He had been separated from his mom once before and spending an evening in a foster home, not knowing what would happen the next morning, had resulted terrifying for the kid. It wasn't easy for his mom, either. It was difficult to create a lot of excuses to try to hide the abuse. She wouldn't be able to deal with being separated from her sons again. So, she had repeatedly told Danny, with great conviction, that he'd cut his wrist himself with a broken kitchen window. His mother said it so many times that the kid had begun to accept that excuse. A grimace of disgust appeared on his face as he continued, already forgetting the small stone that had accompanied him during his first steps toward the parking lot.
Even when he'd left their small house, he could still hear in his head the screams and insults his parents yelled at each other. They lived in that small house in Hialeah, an unfavorable and run down neighborhood in Miami. He was still thinking about that, when he spotted his friends leaning against an old abandoned car that sat by the fence in the parking lot, speaking friendly. He waved at his friend and walked faster.
"Hey! What's up?" Rafi greeted as they shook hands in the usual ritual they called a 'greeting'.
"Hi Rafi," One of them replied, handing him a cigarette.
Rafi smiled in surprise. "Where did you get this, Verguilla?" That was the nickname they used for Marcos Zaldívar, who at fifteen was taller than his friends, even though Rafi was almost as tall as him.
Verguilla burst out laughing, revealing several missing teeth; a consequence of being punched in the mouth during a fight the previous month. "Do you remember the guy that I talked to you about last Friday?" Rafi nodded as he lit the cigarette and took several puffs, as if he was an expert in the matter. He'd stopped coughing and choking on the cigarette smoke long ago and felt that it was a big deal, very important; especially, when he still saw a lot of boys who'd turn red in the face and ears and cough nonstop after trying to smoke.
"He's got a business proposition for us…it seems interesting," Verguilla continued.
"Is about money or just cigarettes?" Rafi asked intrigued.
"He said that we'd become important people…" Manny commented.
Manny, Manuel Ramirez, was fifteen years old just like Verguilla and he was Verguilla's counterpart. Manuel was just as short as his father or so he was told. Manny never met his so-called father, the man who'd lived in his house for a short time and left, leaving his mom to pay a large debt and three children to fend for, all on her own. His mother spent her life washing other people's dirty dishes in a restaurant during the day and looking after her family on what little time she had free. Manny, the oldest of three brothers, was supposed to care for the little ones, but the truth was that he spent most of the time with Verguilla and Rafi. The further away from home he was, the better, he had decided.
The sound of loud shrilling music coming from an approaching car, made them look at it. Rafi frowned thoughtful, trying to remember where he had seen that car before. Oh yeah, close to the jetty where he sometimes took Danny. "Are they the business men?" he asked, already knowing the answer to his question.
Verguilla nodded nervously as he continued staring at the car.
The music was turned off and the doors were opened. Two large men approximately twenty-six or twenty-seven years old, Rafi thought, got out and began glancing around as they approached the group, pointing at Verguilla. Rafi couldn't help but smile at the outfit that the guys wore, surely they'd been inspired by a terrible mob movie.
"What's so funny? What are you smiling about?" One of the men blurted out.
Rafi's smile froze instantly, but used to the daily struggle with his father, he found a quick answer, albeit a true one. "Your car…" He began, while the man raised an eyebrow. "I like it," Rafi continued, uncertain about the man's reaction and whether or not he would be offended.
"Okay, so you like it, huh? Would you like to drive a car like this one?" The guy asked smiling mischievously.
Rafi wasn't able to hide his pleasure, even though he simply just nodded. "It'd be good," He concluded. He wasn't of legal age though, but he was tall enough that he could pretend to be sixteen years old, the required age to get his license.
"Have you talked to your friends, kid?" The man asked Verguilla.
"I told them what you told me, that you had an interesting business proposition for us," The kid replied.
"You could make some money…and some goods, if you want," He said as he threw the cigarette on the ground and crushed it with the tip of his steel-toed shoes. "Come here."
Miami, September 1980
Rafi quickly climbed the stairs to the third floor of the old building, stopping to catch his breath just few steps from the door to his home. He had to control his breathing and bring it back to normal. He'd never seen so much money before and had spent some of it on gifts for his mom, his brother and he still had some money left over. It's for her, as well, he thought. He'd heard his mother talking about things that she needed for the home but his father always refused to give her anything. Well, things were going to be different now.
Feeling proud and responsible for his family, confident about the changes that were coming beginning now, he took the bags and knocked on the door. The silence on the other side of the door told him that his dad wasn't around.
"¡Abuela!" (Grandma!) Rafi exclaimed in surprise as she opened the door.
Apart from any social worker coming by for an inspection, having visitors wasn't a usual occurrence at home.
She looked at him up and down and frowned. "These kids are growing so much. I don't know how you do it, Sonia. None of my kids were ever this tall!" She exclaimed in Spanish, the only language she spoke; speaking loudly so that her daughter would hear it.
Rafi dropped the bags and hugged his grandma. At sixty-five years old, María Auxiliadora Quirós didn't keep her courage anymore. Leaving from Cuba, after the death of her husband, with her little daughter, Sonia, they had established in Miami where she had gotten a job in a men's clothing store. A job she shared with her daughter, Sonia, until the day she fell in love with a client's son, Mario Alvarez, although attractive, appeared somewhat dangerous in her opinion.
Not only did his attractiveness called the attention of Sonia, but the sweet way in which he helped his mother, to take the clothes she couldn't mend after the arthritis had ruined her hands.
He loved her green eyes that highlighted her pale face. As she put her long dark hair in a ponytail, Mario Alvarez knew for certain that he had found the mother of his children. Three years after they had left Cuba, Sonia and Mario joined their lives with promises and dreams soon forgotten under Sonia's tears. It was after Rafael's birth that things at home took a drastic turn. Mario spent more time outside of his home than in it, he barely helped his wife and on more than one occasion the alcoholic breath and glassy eyes was the only attention she got from him once he returned home.
In the beginning she thought that she would be able to deal with the situation, but after his behavior began affecting his job as a mechanic, he became more and more violent, especially with his family. A short time later, there was nothing left of the attractive young man helping his mother, that she had first been attracted to.
Looking after the basic necessities of her family Sonia considered the possibility of working in the clothing store making alterations, a job which she had abandoned when she got married. Then, it wasn't necessary and moreover, Mario wasn't happy about her working at all, but now things were different. If Mario wasn't able to keep a job, she wanted to do something. But he didn't understand the need and he took her wanting to work as an offense. His violent reaction made her give up the option of asking him again.
Sonia's mother couldn't help when an enraged Mario came into the store to confront her. The situation hadn't gone worse than his uncontrolled yelling, thanks to a young female employee who intervened. It was María Auxiliadora who called social services, talked to the teachers at school and discretely tried to help her daughter and grandsons from that moment on. She barely went to the house because she was afraid of running into Mario and when she did go to her daughter's house, she always tried to make sure that he wasn't around.
Rafi put a finger on his lips with a conspiratorial smile, when his grandma stared at the bags. Then, he approached the sleepy figure of his little brother sleeping on the couch. Tapping on his shoulder, he sat down beside Danny. Whispering something to his ear, the kid began shifting on the couch. Then, Rafi stood up and taking one of the bags, he took out a colored wrapped gift and set it beside him.
Danny rubbed his eyes and looked at his brother protesting, but immediately focused on the gift and woke up all of a sudden, no longer feeling sleepy. "What's this? Is it for me?" He exclaimed, opening his eyes widely.
"Open it," His brother encouraged him.
Danny took the gift and quickly tore up the paper. The small backpack with Looney Tunes printed on it, made his kid brother's eyes light brilliantly in happiness. Opening it, he looked inside and turned it to examine all of the details. Finally, he looked at his older brother, his face illuminated with a big smile.
"What do you have to say, Danny?" his grandma asked.
"Thanks Rafi," he replied instantly.
Rafi laughed and hugged his little brother. "That's okay. It's cool, right? Wait until you see the faces of your classmates when you arrive at school tomorrow."
They both burst into laughter. Rafi mussed up his brother's dark hair and then stood up. "Wait, I've got something for mom, as well," He said without realizing that she was leaning against the bedroom door, observing him with a smile but also a worried look.
However, turning to her, Rafi didn't understand the concern. His mom barely smiled with her eyes, which, most of the time was a mirror of fear and fixed on her, the sadness of her soul. Rafi guessed the reason but they never talked about it. Sometimes he had overheard a social worker warning his father "…if you continue like this, and the current circumstances continue, the situation will become more difficult. You must understand that if they got into the program was because social services' reports were positives about you and you signed an agreement that you have to obey." He had noticed the scorn expression of his father and the tears in the eyes of his mom that day and looking through the crack of the bedroom door he shared with Danny, had seen her holding Danny's hand, feared that, at any moment, he would be taken to a group home.
"What's this all about, Rafi?" She asked, taking the bag that he handed her. He didn't reply, just looked at her expectantly as she took out the soft sea green sweater that matched the color of her eyes. She couldn't help but exclaim "Rafi, this is wonderful!" She put on the sweater and approached the mirror. "Look mom, isn't it beautiful? And you've got the exact size. Good eye…"
"There's something else, mom," Rafi said joyfully, as he began fishing in his pocket and found the small roll of money. "Take it, this is… for you, for home, for… whatever you need."
She looked at the money astonished. She didn't have to wonder how much there was because it was too much money for a fifteen year old kid to have, and then there were the gifts. Staring at her older smiling son, a terrible thought crossed her mind.
"Rafi, honey, where did you get this money from?" His mother asked.
"Don't worry mom. I've worked hard to get it…," He began.
"Doing what?" his grandma asked then, understanding Sonia's worry.
"Rafi, are you in trouble? Listen son, I'm happy that you got all of this but... I don't want you to do anything that is going to get you in trouble. This is all right, but it's not necessary, do you understand?" His mother had stopped smiling and now both she and his grandma looked at him with a concerning look that Rafi would have liked to erase in that instant.
"I'm not in trouble. Some guys offered a job to Verguilla and Manny and I joined them. We just have to take something from one place to another…" he explained.
"Something," his grandma repeated thoughtfully. "It must be something very important to get so much money for taking it from one place to another."
Rafi swallowed hard and glanced at Danny, absent from the situation, still looking at the Looney Tunes backpack that his brother had given him. "I don't know what it's about," he finally said.
"And, who are those guys, Rafi?" His mother asked again.
"I don't really know…"
"Don't they have names?"
"Actually, we talked to one of them. We called him 'Mr. Guzmán'. I don't know anything else."
His mom's face paled. It had to be Alexis Guzmán. She had heard of him and what people said about him was nothing good. Taking Danny's backpack and the sweater, she put them in the bags and handed them back to Rafi, as well as the money. "Give this back… or give it away… or do whatever you want. I'm not going to accept it knowing where it's coming from," She ordered very seriously.
"But mom, it's mine. I'm giving it to you. I earned it. It's my job," Rafi protested in confusion.
"I don't want you to work for that Guzmán. I don't want you to do those jobs, Rafi. We don't need that money…"
"What?! We need it! What does Papi bring you from his job, huh? We live badly in this old house, with barely the basics…"
"No Rafi, we don't live badly. Our problems have nothing to do with money; we've got enough money to live!"
"That's a lie! I've heard you both yelling at each other because Papi doesn't give you money for food! I've heard you arguing to get some money for school things! You always are yelling each other about money!" It was Rafi who was yelling now.
His mom saw the rage in Rafi's eyes, it was familiar and just as painful. For a second, she thought that the teenager yelling at her was Mario. But no, he was Rafi, her little boy who wasn't little anymore. At the moment, her son vanished, replace with an unrecognizable stranger. A cold shiver ran down her spine in anticipation…a premonition of her older son's dark future, if she didn't do something to change it.
"Rafi," She began calmly. "These guys are bad people, drug traffickers. They're only using you to make their drug deals and so that the police won't catch them. If they catch you, son, if they catch you…you'll be in serious trouble and there'll no way to help you. I don't want you to ruin your life. You have to get away from them, do you understand me? The best gift that you can give me is to finish high school and get a decent job, but not this. It looks good, it's an easy way to make money but it's bad and it's dangerous."
"Honey, all of this that you've bought is dirty…" His grandma began.
"Dirty? What's dirty? It's mine, I got it, I got it for you. Grandma, where do you see anything dirty here?" Rafi insisted, removing the sweater he had bought for his mom.
"Rafi, your mom is grateful for what you've brought. The problem is how you got it. Where that money comes from is the issue here," His grandma tried to explain.
"No, that's not wrong. What's wrong is something else. It's what happens here which we don't talk about, what happens before the social workers get here and when they are here. It's all of the lies, every single time we end up in an emergency room at the hospital. Don't you realize that we can be free with this money?"
"Rafi don't waste your life like this," his mother replied, aware that there was some truth in Rafi's words but…what could she do?
"No, I won't waste it. If you want to live like this, go ahead, mom. But don't expect me to do the same." Rafi took the bags and the money and turned away, running quickly out the house. He wouldn't let them see his tears of rage and desperation, of frustration. He didn't want to see Danny, misunderstanding what had happened between them and wondering what had happened to his new backpack.
He walked back the route he had been walking just minutes before when he felt the joy of bringing good things home. He finally had to force himself to stop thinking about the memories of what had just happened. Rafi hit his fist on a wall and left a small hole in it and blood on his fists but he didn't care.
After angrily wiping away his tears, Rafi walked down the street, to the place where he usually went to meet with Verguilla and Manny. He'd share a joint with them and forget everything for a while.
Miami, February 1983
Although he didn't have to go to school, Danny got up early that day. He had agreed to meet Rafi for fishing and spending the day out together. Still sleepy and dressed in his pajamas, he walked into the kitchen and dropped himself onto a chair. On the table still lay the note that Andy Pears, the social worker, had left him the day before. Of all the social workers that had come to the house, Andy had been his favorite. But just like all of the other social workers, Andy too had given up.
"I thought he liked me," he said.
His mom, who was making him something to eat for lunch, closed the container and put it into the bag. Then, she handed a cup of hot milk to him and sat down beside him. "I just called social services. Andy quit his job…not us, not you. Sometimes people just get tired or find a better job…"
"I thought he had fun with me," The kid continued.
"Of course he did, sweetie, but his job is more complicated than that," She said, bringing the cookies closer.
"Then, this isn't it about me?"
"Of course, it's not…"
"I don't get it. Why did he tell me about summer camp if he wasn't going to take me at all?"
"Maybe he had planned on taking you, Danny. But, surely something came up and…"
"They all leave," he interrupted. "They make plans with me, but then just go away. I guess they say it so I'll believe them, but it's a lie… it's always a lie. I'm stupid for believing them."
"No, baby, it's not a lie. This has nothing to do with you. And no, of course you're not stupid. You're so smart, my little baby. And your tutor at school agrees with me."
"Your father is so busy, Danny and sometimes he just brings his problems home. That's why he's so angry but it's not about you. He loves you…in his way… but he loves you."
Danny stared at her skeptically, while he thought of another question. But his mom didn't let him talk anymore.
"Drink your milk. Your brother will be here any moment," She said. "I've prepared your backpack with some clothes and lunch. Have you got the fishing rods?"
"Rafi has them."
"Okay, I'm going to take a shower. If he comes up, tell him not to leave. I want to talk to him," She ordered.
"Why's Rafi away for so long, Mami? I liked it better when we all lived together."
"I don't know; he's already grown up but I would like him to be here as well," she replied.
Sonia Álvarez stayed looking at Danny for a moment. He looked so innocent, maybe he was used to the situation… maybe he ignored it, as she did. But Rafi… Rafi couldn't live a second with his father without fighting. And there were too many arguments in that house as it was. Sonia was aware that her son was still working for the drug dealers and silently prayed for him to be safe. Rafi was already an adult and there was nothing she could do for him.
Some minutes later, Danny opened the door for his brother. "Is Papi here?" Rafi asked immediately. Danny nodded.
"He's sleeping, I think he came back late from work last night…" he explained.
"From work?" Rafi repeated in a mocking tone. "Sure," he continued. He wouldn't have an argument with his brother; maybe it'd be better for him. "You ready?"
"Yep. Mami says that she wants to talk to you."
Rafi grimaced in disgust and then he remembered something. "Look, look down through the window," He said, heading to the only window in the little living room. Opening the window, Rafi pointed down. Danny looked down to see the car that Rafi was pointing to. "Is…is that the Lincoln Continental you told me about?" He asked with wide eyes.
"That's the one," his brother said. "Don't tell Mami. I'll take you fishing and later we'll give it back. It's not mine, of course."
"If you want, I can teach you to drive, when we're close to the jetty."
"Would you do that?" Danny asked, still in surprise, his eyes glued to the car.
"Sure, anything for my little bro," Rafi replied. "But you know, to be quiet about it, right?"
"Rafi, are you there?" They heard Sonia asking.
"Yes, Mami… we're leaving…" Rafi replied.
She showed up in the still opened living room and closed the window quickly. "Look, come here. I've prepared some things for you," she explained handing him a backpack. "Take it, there's some food for lunch and I've baked a cake for you…" she stopped, not knowing how to continue. She missed her son terribly and she was so worried about the life he was living. "You're so tiny," she trailed off.
Rafi felt the knot in his throat. He loved his mother, but he didn't understand the way she lived giving in to his father, why she hadn't done anything. However, he lived on his own, taking care of his little brother though, trying to keep him away from his father's cruelty. They said things were working out, but he knew it was a lie. Social workers were still there and the unmentionable ones hadn't come back. There were other signs, though. The marks on Danny's arms were too much evident and Rafi had stopped questioning his little brother, in desperation from the excuses that Danny made up.
"It smells good, mom. Thanks. I'll bring Danny back at sunset, right?" He said taking the bag. Kissing his mom, he grabbed Danny's hand, and then looked at his brother with an indescribable smile.
Their mom continued looking at them, wondering why Danny was so happy about spending time with his brother… sure the little kid had in mind a new incentive apart from fishing…the Lincoln Continental parked outside.
"And… what I have to do?" He asked.
It had been a while since they had abandoned the fishing and Danny became more interested in the car.
"Don't you remember what I taught you last time?" Rafi protested.
It was the second time Rafi got the Lincoln Continental for a job and Danny wanted to drive it again. However, Rafi was worried. The people he worked for began taking an interest in Danny and Rafi didn't feel good about that. He loved his brother. He took Danny with him to keep the kid away his father, but he didn't want him to join those people… him. With a sweater covering his arms, hiding the last needle tracks of drugs from the boy, he leaned his hand on the gearshift to explain, once again, how it worked, as Danny tried hard to reach the pedals. As he was teaching him, Rafi decided it would be the last time he took Danny with him. It was dangerous. Danny started to realize what was happening and Rafi didn't want to risk Danny talking about what was happening. He looked in concern at the door's side panels, where he would hide the drug packages and drive the car to its destination. Most likely, it'd be the last time he saw that Lincoln Continental; the drug dealers used to change cars. Looking back to Danny, Rafi noticed him trying hard to reach the pedals. Rafi laughed and Danny laughed along with him.