Chapter One: An Early Morning
Billy Darley sat in the back booth at Big Mike's Diner. It was still early, and he was sipping on a cup of coffee; trying to nurse the hangover from the night before. Most of all he was stalling, before he had to head over to his father's chop shop. A place he never looked forward to going to. Billy picked up the cup and took a drink of it.
"Hi!" someone said cheerfully. He slowly put the cup down to see a little girl sitting straight across from him. She was small, and couldn't be more than four or five years old. Hear hair was a mop of dark brown curls with pale skin. Her eyes were bright blue and she had a splash of freckles across her cheeks. She held a ragged cloth doll under her arms. "My name is Savannah, what's your name?" Billy just stared sternly at the girl. "And this is Molly Dolly." She held up the ragged cloth doll. " She's five, like me." Billy quickly darted his eyes around the diner, but no one seemed to noticed the little girl sitting across from him. "I can count to twenty, can you?"
"Didn't your mother tell you not to talk to strangers?" Billy mumbled.
"Molly Dolly doesn't think you're a stranger," she said with a smile. "Molly Dolly likes you."
"Well she shouldn't."
"Why do you have tattoos on your neck?" Billy didn't answer her, but picked up his cup of coffee instead. He took another drink from it and set it back down on the table. The little girl watched him carefully and then giggled a little. "You don't have any hair." She reached over grabbing the creamer containers and started stacking them on the table, now completely ignoring Billy. She started humming and rocking her head left to right. Billy heard footsteps approaching the table and looked up to see his friend Bodie standing in front of him. Bodie looked over at the little girl and pointed at her.
"Who's this?" he asked.
"I'm Savannah," she answered not looking up at him. She reached over grabbing more creamer containers and stacking them. Billy leaned forward and glared at Savannah. She slowly looked up at him, her bright blue eyes staring sternly back.
"Go away," Billy said flatly.
"No," replied placing the last container on top. "What's your guy's names?"
"If I tell you, will you go away?" Billy asked. She didn't answer him and Billy let out a sigh.
"Billy, and that's Bodie. Now go away." Savannah looked up at Bodie and crinkled her nose.
"I don't like you,"she said. Bodie let out a loud laugh and clapped his hands together.
"She doesn't like me, but she's sitting next to you? Where's ya mother little girl?" Bodie asked. Savannah pointed across the room. Billy followed the direction of Savannah's finger. A girl who looked to be in her early twenties was leaned over the counter counting out money.
"I don't know how the fuck you do it Darley," Bodie said shaking his head. Savannah's eyes popped and her jaw dropped.
"Ummmm!" She yelled pointing her finger at Bodie. She quickly scattered to her feet, standing on the seat of the booth. "Mommy!" she yelled. "He said a bad word!" The girl behind the counter shot her head up.
"Savannah!" she yelled throwing down the bills in her hands. She quickly came around the counter and towards the booth. Billy looked up getting a better look at her. Her hair was the same dark brown as her daughters, but pulled back in a ponytail. Loose ends of her hair swooshed against her face, but you could still see her bright blue eyes. She quickly grabbed Savannah out of the booth, and held her up on her hip. When she looked over at Billy, he could see the same splash of freckles across her cheeks. Her daughter was the spitting image of her.
"I'm...," she stuttered staring at the man that her daughter had been sitting with. "I'm uh...sorry. Sorry that she bugged you." Billy didn't say anything, just stared cooly back at her. "I didn't see her...uh..." She didn't know what to say to him. He intimated her and she could feel the goose bumps slowly start to creep up on her skin. She looked at her daughter with a stern look in her eyes.
"Mom," Savannah said in a huff. "They're my friends."
"You don't talk to strangers," her mother said sternly.
"But mom, that's Billy," she said pointing. "And that's Bodie. They're not strangers."
Bodie raised and eyebrow at Billy and cleared his throat. "Hey," he looked down at her name tag. "Celes, could I get some coffee?" She brushed the loose strands out of her face and took her eyes off of Billy and onto Bodie. "Um..yeah. Sure, coming right up." She pulled Savannah up a little more and quickly walked away stealing one more glance at Billy.
Bodie sat down in the booth shrugging off his jacket. Billy pulled out a pack of cigarettes and placed one in his mouth. He felt around in his pockets, but came up with nothing. He looked up at Bodie who slid his lighter across the table. Billy caught it right before it fell and lit up his cigarette. He tossed the lighter back as Celes walked up with coffee in her hand. She placed it down on the table and could feel Billy's eyes on her. She glanced over, seeing him staring right at her, cigarette dangling from his mouth.
"Did you want anything else?" she asked her eyes darting back over to Bodie.
"Yeah," he said flipping the menu open. "I'll have some eggs and an order of bacon." Celes pulled out her book of tickets and started jotting them down.
"How do you want your eggs?" she asked looking back at Bodie. Bodie smirked at her and leaned back in the booth.
"Surprise me," he said and Billy let out a faint chuckle. She could feel her face growing a little hot as she looked over at Billy.
"And you?" she asked almost cautiously. Billy took a long drag from his cigarette, slowly letting the smoke escape his lips.
"Nothing," he said staring right into her eyes. She quickly turned around and walked away heading to the kitchen to place the order up. There was something about his eyes, how they seem to cut right through her.
Savannah sat in a booth across the room, now coloring one of the paper place mats with a few broken crayons Celes had rounded up for her. It wasn't even her shift to be working, but her co-worker and roommate, Evie had called in because her car broke down on the side of the freeway. She promised to get to work as soon as possible. Savannah had been excited to be able to come to work with her, but Celes knew that she would be a handful. She had been good for the first part of the morning, sitting still in her booth, but now that the rush was over, she could tell her daughter was getting bored. Bored enough to crawl into a booth with a guy that should have scared the hell out of her.
Celes rounded the corner waiting on another table, making sure to glance at her daughter every few minutes. She didn't want her going back over and bugging them. She had only been in the city for over two weeks now, but the city was nothing like where she grew up. She could get a feel for people, and the two men that Savannah had tried to befriend were defiantly trouble. She just wished that Evie would hurry up and get here already. Celes went to the other tables, checking on everyone, when she heard the bing of the bell that Big Mike (who wasn't really that big at all) hit when the orders were ready.
She hurried over to the kitchen grabbing the plate and heading back to the booth where the two men sat. She carefully placed the plate down in front of Bodie.
"Anything else for you?" she asked.
"Nah," he said then looked up as the front door chimes went off. "Well look who's decided to grace us this morning." Celes automatically looked over at the door to see two other men walking in. One was shorter, with dark hair, who couldn't been past eighteen years old. He strided in wearing a red leather jacket. The other man was around the same height, no hair, and had the same tribal tattoo creeping across his face. Celes stepped out of the way as the one with the tattoo on his face slid into the booth next to Bodie. The other one, grabbed a chair pulling it up to the table.
"What's going on Billy?" the one with the tattoo on his face asked. Billy looked sternly at him.
"What's going on?" he asked. "I dunno Tommy, what the fuck is going on with you two? Huh Joe?" He turned his head looking cooly at him. "You mind telling me what the hell happened to you two last night?"
"I'll just come back," Celes said quietly. Billy snapped his head up at her which made her freeze.
"No," he said then looked back at Joe and Tommy. "You two want something? Cause she's not going to fucking stand around all day."
"Coffee," Joe mumbled. "And an order of hash browns."
"I'll have the same," Tommy said looking down at the table. She scribbled the order down, and started to walk off when Billy reached over grabbing her arm. She stopped quickly and looked at him.
"I need a refill," he said. Celes nodded her head as he dropped his arm and looked back at the other men at the table. She put the ticket on the wheel and grabbed a pot of coffee heading back over to the table.
"If you two pull that kind of bullshit again, I'll beat ya to the ground. You got it?" Billy spat. "Now, hurry up and eat your food, we've got work to do." He didn't bother looking up at Celes as she filled his cup and walked off. She walked across the room setting the coffee pot on the table.
"You doing okay?" she asked Savannah.
"Yeah," she said not looking up at her mother. "Can we go home yet?"
"In just a little bit," she said smoothing down the top of her head. "Just make sure to stay over here, okay?"
"Okay," Savannah mumbled.
By the time Joe and Tommy's food was done, Evie had just walked in the door, and Celes let out a sigh of relief. Evie was twenty-four just like Celes. She was tall and thin, with full lips, and jet black hair. She was tanned and always had her nails done.
"I am so sorry!" Evie said as she rounded the corner. "You would not believe the idiots that came to tow my car. Seriously, I could have jacked the damn thing up better on my own. This guy...oh lord...don't even get me started!" Evie was also on the dramatic side, but that never bothered Celes. They had grown up together and even remained friends after Evie moved to the city when she was sixteen. Since the past year hadn't gone so well for Celes, Evie insisted that she and Savannah move in with her. She even helped her get a job at the diner, and was in the process of helping her find a good babysitter for Savannah.
"It's okay," Celes said grabbing the two plates of hash browns. "I'm glad you're here though, Savannah is about to die of boredom." Evie let out a laugh and grabbed an apron from under the counter. "She even tried to befriend those guys." Evie looked up following Celes's gaze and stopped in her tracks.
"She what?" Evie said with her eyes popping.
"Yeah, she just went over there and started talking to them. That one in the trench coat kind of freaks me out. His eyes-"
"Don't let her go back over there," Evie said quickly.
"You plan on moving those today Celes!" Big Mike yelled from the window. It wasn't a question, it was more a demand. Celes shrugged and walked over back to the table placing the plates down.
"Can I get you boys anything else?" she asked pulling off the tickets and laying them on the table.
"We're good," Billy said not looking up at her.
"Have a good day," she said and quickly walked away. Evie was still eyeing her at the counter when she approached.
"You want to steer clear of them," Evie said in a low voice. "They're bad news. Really bad news." Celes looked back over at the table and quickly turned her head when she saw Billy staring right at her. Evie grabbed the ticket book out of her hand. "I'll see you later, okay? Thanks again."
"Yeah," Celes said taking her apron off and grabbing her purse. She dumped the cup she kept her tips in out on the counter. She counted them out one last time before stuffing them into her back pocket. She walked over to the booth grabbing Savannah's jacket. "You ready?" Savannah quickly jumped up letting Celes put the jacket on her. "Don't forget to say goodbye to Aunt Evie." Savannah ran up to Evie giving her a quick hug as Celes headed for the front door.
"Wait mom!" Savannah yelled looking around and darted back to the booth where the men were sitting. Savannah's sneakers skidded across the tile floor as she came to a complete stop in front of the table. She reached up and tugged on Billy's sleeve. Billy looked down at her and raised an eyebrow.
"Billy," Savannah said her eyes wide. "Do you have my Molly Dolly?" Bodie let out a snicker as Joe eyed the little girl standing next to Billy.
"Who the hell is this?" he asked. Savannah didn't wait for Billy to answer before she dropped to the floor crawling under the table. She crawled to the back wall and grabbed her doll that had fallen under the booth. Celes reached the table by the time she crawled back out.
"Savannah!" Celes said using her warning tone.
"Mom! I lost Molly Dolly," Savannah said holding the ragged doll up with one arm. "I couldn't leave her here, she'd get scared." Celes reached down grabbing her daughter's hand. "Bye Billy!"
"What about me?" Bodie called out as they walked away. Celes looked straight ahead hoping her daughter would stop talking to the men as she dragged her to the front door. Savannah looked back in Bodie's direction and stuck out her tongue. Bodie let a smile crack on his face.
"Darley, I don't think your girlfriend likes me too much," Bodie said. Billy let out a half huff and half laugh. He looked out the window to see the two girls walking to a beat up red truck in the parking lot. He studied Celes as she carefully strapped her daughter into her booster seat. She walked around the back of the truck and her eyes gazed back over at the diner. She could see him staring at her and quickly looked away, almost as if she was blushing.
"Are you ready to get this shit done?" Bodie asked. Billy brought his attention back to the table and slid out of the booth grabbing his ticket. He walked up to the counter where Evie was standing. He threw down a few bills on top of the tickets. She didn't look up at him, just quickly grabbed it off the counter. The four men walked towards the door, then Billy turned around.
"Hey you," he called out. Evie looked up as he strolled back over to the counter. "Make sure the other girl get this," he pulled out a couple bills and handed them over to her. Evie nodded her head placing the bills in her back pocket. "What's her name again?"
"Why do you want to know her name?" Evie snapped.
"Just answer the fucking question," Billy said.
"It's Celes," Evie said then walked away from the counter. Billy stood there for a minute muttering the name under his breath. He turned around walking out of the diner, and headed towards the parking lot. Evie watched him as he went and hoped that he wouldn't remember her best friend's name.