21

Angelica’s day was looking up. In less than twenty-four hours, she had lost a job and then become gainfully employed. There was not much difference between the two, but one appealed to her more than the other and she was no longer at the mercy of Donna Barnes Reardon; she didn’t care if she was Hamilton’s cousin.

Arriving at Ari’s, she used the key he had given her to let herself into the house. It was peaceful here. For the first time, Angelica took a real look around the place. It was warm and homey-had the touch of a woman from long ago. Everything was simple but tasteful. A large crucifix with the figure of Jesus affixed to it hung in one corner of the living room.

Time was ticking. Straight to the shower was where Angelica went. The water rolled over her body-the pulsating water made her come alive, causing her to rehearse the performance she was going to give tonight’s patrons. Angelica swung her head to the left, then to the right, twisting her neck as she did. She swiveled her hips from side to side and lifted her arms in the air. It was so natural, as if she had been doing this all her life.

Angelica quickly toweled her body off and looked for something to wear. She hadn’t emptied her suitcase, and hopefully she would find something she didn’t have to iron. Since there was no clock in the room, Angelica picked up her cell phone to check the time. “A call from Ari.” Angelica was too hyped to call him right now. It was now four o’clock, and in two and a half hours she would be performing live on stage again.

Rummaging through her suitcase, Angelica found a nice jean outfit, complete with rhinestones that ran up the sides of her pant legs and studded the pockets of her jacket. She looked at herself in the mirror and decided to let her hair flow freely. Angelica released the ponytail from its band, and her reddish-black mane fell to her shoulders. A few curls would give pizzazz to her limp hair.

The taxi ride to Club Platinum was uneventful. Angelica wanted to call Ari and share the details about her new job. She felt comfortable talking to him because he did not judge. It was at that moment that Angelica remembered Ari was acting a little strange earlier in the day. She would make it her business to talk with him before he left for work in the morning.

Confidence made Angelica walk into the club as if she was the star of the joint. Angelica was met by Gerald Lloyd, who introduced her to Desiree. Desiree was the head stripper, the one who made the schedules and passed out the costumes the dancers wore. It was not hard to sense that Desiree was not feeling her by the scowl on her face and the way she handed Angelica the piece of costume she was to wear. Angelica took the outfit and proceeded to a work station that was pointed out to her. Once there, she ignored the haughty stares the other ladies gave her.

Dressed in a revealing, gold-sequined bikini top and thong, Angelica waited her turn. It was a revolving door as dancer after dancer went on and returned after her twenty-minute set. After an hour and a half, her name was called.

“Angel,” Desiree said with a frown in her voice. “You’re on.”

Angelica walked proudly with a little sway in her hips. The small chatter that could be heard in the room ceased, and Angelica poured it on. Now on stage, the music began to play for her. Angelica nearly skipped to the pole and caressed it like it was her forever lover. Then she heard the announcer.

“Give it up for Angel!”

She heard clapping and, for the first time, Angelica looked at the crowd. The place was filled. Men in business suits, men in casual wear, and men who looked as if they didn’t have a nickel in their pockets were there.

Angelica danced her heart out, occasionally jumping on the pole, wrapping her legs around it, and twisting her upper torso until the audience roared. She slid from the pole and performed some Tina Turner moves. When the men covered the edge of the stage with their dollar bills hanging from their hands, Angelica moved toward them. She let them place the money in her G-string first, and the rest was either placed in her hand or in the cup of her bikini top. It was intoxicating, and Angelica continued to deliver as she heard screams for an encore. When she ended her set, whistles and loud clapping met her ears.

“Angel, come back Angel,” someone screamed.

“We want Angel,” another screamed.

“Angel, please dance for me. I love you.”

Angelica was exuberant as she returned to the dressing room. All eyes were on her.

“So, where you from, Angel?” asked a tall, dark girl with distaste in her voice. She could not have been more than nineteen years old, and came to stand in front of Angelica.

Angelica looked at her as if to say, You need to move out of my way. “Are you talking to me?” Angelica replied.

The other women moved closer. “It don’t look like I’m talking to no one else in the room,” the girl said, pointing her finger in Angelica’s face.

Angelica gathered her money together and looked at the young girl who dared to get in her face. “It’s not important, uh, uh…”

“Kiki.”

“Kiki, it’s not important who I am or where I come from, and I don’t owe you an explanation. But I’m going to satisfy your curiosity.” Angelica waved her finger in Kiki’s face. “I’m another person trying to earn a paycheck. I don’t want any trouble, and there won’t be any if you move out of my way.”

“Listen here.”

“Kiki,” Desiree said. “Leave Angel alone. She just got hired on today. She’s not bothering you.”

“Well, ain’t she kinda old to be dancing?” Kiki asked.

“Not by the sound of the crowd out there,” Desiree said as she eyed Angelica. “Instead of you running your mouth, you should be getting ready to go on.”

The ladies dispersed, and Angelica went to Desiree. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Desiree shuffled off and Angelica went to her station to regroup. She had to go on two more times, after which her first night would be over. It would be nice to share her excitement with someone. At that moment, she thought of Margo.

Margo probably hated her for the way she breezed in and then breezed out of her life. It certainly wasn’t the way to rekindle a friendship, but it was probably for the best.

Angelica completed her next two sets and breathed a sigh of relief. She looked at her watch. It was one in the morning.

It was getting expensive riding a cab back and forth from Queens to Manhattan, but hopefully it wouldn’t be long before she could find a place of her own that was closer to work. Angelica sat back in the cab and closed her eyes. She let the day pass in front of her. It went well, she thought. No real complaints about her first day except for Ms. Kiki who needed to be taught a lesson about respect.

Sleep was what she needed, and Angelica was grateful that Ari would be asleep when she arrived at his house. She was going to take a shower and head straight for the bed. Angelica paid the cab driver, skipped up the three steps to the porch and headed inside the house.

The house was dark. Angelica stumbled forward without turning the lights on in order to get to her room. Before she made it to the bedroom doorway, the dining room light was switched on, making Angelica jump and cover her mouth. Ari was standing near the other entrance to the dining room, looking at her with disdain.

“Ari!”

“Angelica. Where have you been? I’ve called you several times, and you have not called me back.”

Angelica wanted to brush Ari off, but something in his tone changed her mind. “What is it, Ari? Sorry about the phone calls, but I was working and had to turn it off.”

Ari looked thoughtfully at Angelica. “Something happened at the condo today.”

“Yeah, I remember you mentioned something was going on, and…uh, yeah, all the police cars outside.”

“Did you stop to wonder why the cops were there?” Ari asked.

“Look, Ari. I’m sorry for not calling. I found a job, and I was trying to make sure I had everything I needed to get started. I know it’s not always about me, but today it was.”

Ari seemed to appreciate her answer. Then he blurted it out. “Donna was found dead in her apartment.”

Angelica was not sure she heard Ari correctly. “Donna who?” “Donna Barnes Reardon. You were probably the last person to see her.”

“Donna? NO!” Angelica’s hands flew to her face. “She was alive when I left last night, Ari. You saw us come in. The only thing I did was pack my bags and leave.” Angelica found a seat at the dining room table and rested her hand on her head. “No. Why? How?”

“Those are the questions the police are asking. What happened with you and Donna yesterday that you needed to leave in such a hurry?”

Angelica looked up into Ari’s eyes. “What are you trying to say…that I did it? I wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“You do have a sordid past.”

“If I had something to hide, I would not have shared those few tidbits of my life with you. Donna asked me to leave, and I did as she asked.”

“I don’t know how she died,” Ari said absently. “Privileged information. I guess we’ll have to wait for the morning news. So, tell me about your new job.”

“It’s not important. Just a job.”

“A job that keeps you out until the wee hours of the morning?”

“I’m going to bed, Ari. I’ll see you whenever.”

“You’ve got until the end of the week to find someplace else to live,” Ari said and left the room. Angelica watched him disappear-her mouth wide open.

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