For the sixth day this week, I watched Elle Vega walk out of the trendy café, wave good-bye to her friends, and climb into her shiny, new VW Bug. Yellow. Compliments of Daddy, no doubt. I knew for a fact she had a Mini sitting in the garage at home, too, but she wouldn’t bring that around this group. No, she had to maintain the appearance she was like them. Like her friends. She’d then take the long way to her condo in the West Village. Tiny, charming, absurdly overpriced. Perfect for the rich little bitch.
“Mr. Smith, can I get you anything else?” Mary asked, the dark circles under her eyes betraying her fatigue. She’d been serving me the same thing every day for the past six days — a double espresso and a slice of apple pie.
I took my wallet out. “No, thank you, Mary. What’s the damage?” I already knew. It’d be less than ten bucks, but I dug out a fifty-dollar bill anyway.
“Here you go,” she said, handing me the check.
I glanced at it before slipping the fifty into the little pocket folder. “That should cover it.”
“Oh, no, sir, it’s really too much.”
I closed my hand over hers to stop her from giving it back. “How’s Kyle doing, by the way? Things settle down at school?” She was a twenty year old single mom working two jobs, one of which paid below the minimum wage. Fucking ridiculous how, here in the United States of America, one of the wealthiest fucking countries in the world, we have kids like this raising their own kids, struggling to put food on the table.
She smiled, knowing she needed the money. Knowing I knew it. “Kyle’s good, and, yes, it’s going better. The bigger kids stopped teasing him, it seems. His teacher’s pretty nice, actually.”
I smiled back at her. “Good. I’m glad to hear it,” I said, standing. “Oh, one more thing.” I took a business card out of my wallet and handed it to her. “I’ll be going out of town for a while, but if you ever need anything, don’t be a stranger.” She was a good kid. Got a shit lot in life, but a good kid.
Her nose reddened and her eyes moistened. “Thanks, Mr. Smith. You’re a great guy.”
I almost chuckled, wondering if she’d think that if she knew the reason for my daily visits.
I dug the keys out of my suit pocket and went around the corner to where I’d parked my Harley. People turned to stare as I climbed on. It was only natural, I supposed, to watch a big guy in a three-piece suit, wearing shoes costing more than most made in a month, ride a fucking Harley through town. The bike was the only part of the past I brought into my present. The rest I’d return to later, when it was done.
I followed the little yellow bug from some distance away, although I didn’t need to tail her. I knew where she lived. I knew what she ate. Where she did her dry cleaning. Who she socialized with. Who she fucked — although that was surprisingly infrequent. I knew the contents of her underwear drawer. Knew what kind of vibrator she liked and how often she used it. And, today, I’d meet Elle Vega face-to-face. I’d introduce myself as her new neighbor, and I’d steal her life, just like they’d stolen mine.