On to the third part of The Faces They Wore.
I will continue sharing The Faces They Wore, part of Nothing Too Familiar by the Busan Writing Group. In the last part, Daniel and Angelina began an odd friendship as Daniel began visiting her for conversation rather than gratification.
The Faces They Wore by TCC Edwards
Part 3 of 4
Her eyes went to the clock on the wall, and Daniel thought, hoped, that the slight flinch he saw was disappointment.
“Time over,” Angelina said, keeping her light tone.
“Yeah,” Daniel said as he stood, “But you know, I could come again.”
“Just for … talking?”
For a brief moment, Daniel swore he saw a real smile spread across Angelina’s face. It was gone quickly, however, replaced with the coy fantasy she wore for her customers.
“Anything you like, Daniel.”
“It’s just … I think about her all the time.”
“Tell me you don’t think she likes you.”
“What? Come on, I know that.”
“Hope so. She’s a whore. She gets into your fantasies.”
“I just like talking to her. What’s so bad about that?”
“You can talk to anyone. You don’t pay to talk to me, do you?”
“Dammit … she’s just … different. She really listens, know what I mean?”
“You’re comfortable with her, then. You sure you’re not in love?”
“Good. I used to fall in love. Had my heart broken every time.”
“That’s why you never stay with one girl?”
“But … what if I do like her?”
“Then you definitely need to meet someone else. Trust me – stay away from her.”
Cicada screeches filled the air as they each spent a moment in contemplation. Finally, Felix spoke softly.
“Maybe you just shouldn’t think about her – or any girls – for now.”
Slowly, they walked down the path together. When they reached the stone bench before the pond, Felix sat on one end, facing the pond. Daniel sat on the opposite side, leaving most of the bench between them as Felix turned to speak.
“Wish I could stay. I’m still hungover, and I’ve got extra classes in the morning. Guess when I found out – go on, take a guess.”
“You found out today, by a text message in broken English.”
“Holy shit, you’re psychic! I’m pulling the midnight run on Master English if they keep it up. Won’t do it now – still got my fucking student loans.”
“I hear ya.”
Daniel waved goodbye, and then was left alone. He took out his supplies and absently sketched the pond in front of him. He sank into the work, letting it fill his world.
“Good sketch!” The soft voice jarred him, his hands covering the sketch. Angelina now stood behind him, her dark t–shirt and jeans far more conservative than her clothes those weeks ago. With her light makeup and jet black hair, she was the girl from the subway, not the lady of the evening. She smiled at Daniel, and he awkwardly returned it.
“Nice to see you,” he stammered, “What brings you here?”
“Temple is nice,” she said. She then pointed toward the unoccupied end of the stone bench, raising an eyebrow in a silent question.
“Sure, yeah, of course,” Daniel said, gesturing for her to sit. He took his hands off the sketchbook, now eagerly revealing his work.
Angelina also had her book – the one she had dropped on the subway. Selecting pages with care, she showed her own work. As with Daniel’s drawings, most of her subjects were temple gates, mountainsides, and relics of ancient Korea. Much of their talk turned to the Chosun Dynasty and earlier ages of Korea’s past.
The sunlight slowly vanished, and it was soon too dark to carry on. In the fading light, Daniel led the way down the path, back toward the city streets. When they were nearly at the end of the path, Angelina stumbled, and Daniel was quick to help her. Moments later, back on solid concrete under a dim street lamp, Daniel found he was still clasping her hand. He marveled at how easily their hands fit together, how right it felt.
“I’m sorry,” Angelina said, at last letting her hand slip from Daniel’s, “I must work tonight.”
Daniel sighed sharply, a scowl flashing across his face. He bit his lip as he reclaimed the calm of the pond before the temple.
“I’m sorry,” Angelina repeated, “I was bad come here?”
“No, no. I’m glad we met away from … work. But don’t you … you know, want to quit?”
“I need it.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow, but Angelina kept her eyes even. Don’t ask again, her face told him.
“We cannot be friends?”
“I go to temple every Sunday. We can talk about draw.”
Daniel nodded silently as she walked away into the busy night.
As she sat on the opposite end of the bench, Daniel’s day at Master English quickly fled his mind. He wiped sweat from his brow, smiling as he regarded the sketchbooks stretched across the stone bench. He watched Angelina work intently with her pencil, watched her hair as it swung in the summer breeze.
They continued to exchange glances and smiles as they worked. She was capturing the pond, the temple, and sprawling mountain landscape behind it in dark graphite, her work stretching across one sheet in her new, oversized sketchbook. Daniel turned to a sketch of her sitting cross–legged before the pond.
As he further fleshed out the drawing, he realized how much he didn’t know about its subject. Her real name, her hometown, how she had become …
No. Daniel thought, biting his lip as he lifted his pencil away from the paper. It doesn’t matter – she is who she is.
“Is something wrong?”
Daniel looked up, his eyes wide. Concern in her eyes, Angelina continued in Korean, “You look worried.”
Daniel smiled despite himself. You know what Korean I can understand. How well do you know me? Better than I know you?
“It’s all right, Angelina,” Daniel began. Say something, anything else. Can’t tell her I’m falling for her. An answer came to him.
“I realized I haven’t called Dad for a while,” he said, “I really should.”
It wasn’t a complete lie – the thought of calling New York had occurred several times over the last week, usually just as he had started teaching a class.
“Ah, I see! I call you tonight – remember you. Uh, remind you!”
“Thank you – that’d be great.”
His smile seeming to satisfy her, she returned to her drawing. Daniel smiled as well, contentment filling him as he watched her work.
“I need your help.”
Daniel stood as she ran to him, kicking fallen leaves from the path as he strode to meet her. Her hair was a matted mess, plastered to her scalp and dripping beads of sweat on the back of her neck.
“My whole street’s been shut down. There are cops everywhere!”
“What? But – it’s legal, isn’t it?”
“It was! There is a new law. We thought it bullshit! Police took our madam.”
“Is it just here? Couldn’t you work somewhere else?”
“It’s all over Korea.”
“How serious are they? You don’t have to pay a fine or go to jail, right?”
“I was lucky – they only warned the girls. They told us, ‘find other jobs’.”
“What about your place – your room?”
“I left – I had to. I’m staying at … somebody’s house. He will not let me stay.”
Daniel’s chest clenched as he imagined the deal Angelina had made to secure her temporary shelter.
“You should have come to me sooner,” Daniel said evenly, “I would have said yes.”
“I thought it wouldn’t be right.”
“It’s right to help a friend, isn’t it?”
“It’s just until she finds a job. She sleeps on the couch – like a roommate.”
“You’re too close, mate. I bet she’s still fucking for money.”
“She can’t, now.”
“Of course she can, she’ll just be more careful. She can make more money now!”
“Well maybe it’s okay – maybe I want to be with her anyway.”
“Look, I’ve known guys in open relationships. I don’t think you’re one of them. I think you want a nice girl – I even know one.”
“That’s why I wanted to meet you today. I got a new job lined up – I’ve been teaching Saturdays at this place called English First. It’s all high-school kids and adults. No little kids, no bullshit – they always pay on time.”
“Yeah, I know! Anyway, there’s a teacher there – she’s super sweet. I even turned down a date – I wanted her to meet you.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow, taking in Felix for a moment. Really, Felix?
“Hey, now – it’s just an introduction. I think you would work well together, that’s all.”
I don’t need your pity, Daniel almost said. With a sigh, though, he forced his lips into a smile.
“Okay, I guess I could meet her … hey, they don’t need any more teachers, do they?”
“No, sorry mate.”
“Aw, too bad.”
“Yeah, sorry. Anyway, I’d love to set up a meeting, but not with Angelina around. Sorry to say it – she’s got to go.”
Daniel turned and stood sharply as she entered, his chair banging against the computer desk behind him. Her hands covering her face, she ignored Daniel as she raced past him into his bathroom.
No answer came from the other side of the door. Daniel knocked loudly, but the only answer was the sound of running water. Daniel shook his head. He looked for something to do. He settled on the computer, which still showed various teaching jobs available in the tabs of his browser. He closed everything, promising himself that the search would continue in the morning. The bathroom door opened just as the computer finished shutting down.
Angelina stood in the steam issuing from the open door. She had her clothes on, apparently having undressed and dressed again in the tiny space between the toilet and shower. She held a hand over her left eye. Slowly, she lowered the hand, revealing her swollen eye, stark black against her tan skin.
“Who did this?” Daniel whispered.
“The guy I stayed with before. He called me. We met.”
“It’s fine Daniel. It’s just something he likes – he is usually careful.”
“You let him do this?”
“He pays very well.”
“Who is he?”
“Just some guy. Does it matter?”
“Yeah, I want to know where he lives.”
“And what will you do? Punch him?”
“I’ll call the fucking cops on him.”
“Then the cops will get me, too.”
“What then? What do you want me to do?”
“It’s okay Daniel. Stay away from this.”
“It is not okay. What, are you just going to keep letting this happen?”
“What if I do?”
“You can’t stay here. Not if you do this.”
Daniel stormed to his room, throwing the door open.
“You want to stay? You stop.”
He slammed the door, shutting out any further protest.
The door creaked, admitting a soft light. Daniel stirred from uneasy sleep as Angelina stood silhouetted in the doorway. He made no move as she closed the door behind her and carefully sat on the bed beside him. After a moment of careful silence, he offered her more space and she slowly joined him in the bed. They embraced, their fully clothed bodies cooled by the autumn breeze through the window.
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