Authors: Michele Reed
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A Billionaire Romance
By: Michele Reed
Mercedes threw back her third shot of whiskey – perhaps it was her fourth? She was not entirely sure. The bartender poured her another glass of the cheapest whiskey he had, and she forced herself to slow down. She had to work the next day, but drowning her sorrows was perhaps the only way she managed to cope with ongoing disappointments that continued to seep into her life. She stared at the glass of whiskey, served neat; in the dim bar lighting the color of the drink mimicked that of her elegant, Spanish skin. Mercedes twirled the refilled glass around, staring at the liquid as she made it swirl in a circle. The bar was far too quiet for her liking, but that was often the way it was during the week. The place did not get too rowdy until the weekends. In the midst of the depressing silence, the sudden crashing of the pool balls surprised her slightly. Not that it wasn’t a sound she was used to; she had been spending a considerable amount of time in
in the last couple of months to help her cope with current life struggles
Mercedes was not sure why the place was called
. The bar had been owned and operated by a man named Steven for years, and she had never met a Bob who worked at the bar. People loved alliteration. She supposed that
did not exactly have the same sort of ring to it.
“You scratched!” a man’s voice boomed loudly from the back of the bar, his laughter told that he had had far too much to drink in order to find something as irrelevant as a pool game to be so incredibly humorous. The small group of men had been at it for hours, and Mercedes was growing tired of listening to their ongoing quarrel: it distracted her from her drinking.
“Idiots,” Mercedes mumbled and finished off her latest glass. She instantly felt the effects of the alcohol as her head spun slightly. A bathroom break at this point was necessary. She felt herself staggering slightly to the single stall women’s restroom.
she thought upon discovering that there was no line and that no one was in the room losing their dinner. She breathed a sigh of relief as she entered the bathroom, taking note that the employees had actually bothered to clean up a bit that week and the usual smell was not present.
Before completing her trip to the bathroom, she splashed some water on her face and stared herself down in the small, round mirror that sat above the sink. She had not bothered getting dressed up that night - she had had no intention of socializing - but instead she had merely headed to the bar right after her shift at the garage. Her face was covered in grease, as were her arms and clothes. She sighed and undid the blue, greasy button-up that read
Benny’s and Tito’s
in red stitching just above the shirt pocket. Underneath her uniform she wore a simple white tank-top; she felt air against her chest for the first time now with the button-up undone.
, she groaned as she left the bathroom and headed back to her seat at the bar.
Looking around, she could see that only the true drunks and party goers were left. It was a weeknight, after all. She did not care to come to the bar on the Fridays or Saturdays when the place was packed full of weekenders. She was alone seated at the bar. The rest of the patrons were crowded around the pool tables for what was sure to be the last game of the evening before the bartender closed up. “Want another?” the bartender asked. He was a tall, well-built white man with a poorly kept beard. Mercedes could not ever remember his name, although nowadays she spent more time with him than most anyone else. She shrugged her shoulders, knowing she should say no and head back home before she would be too drunk to find her apartment. “On the house,” the bartender said when she did not speak so that he could finish off the bottle; he poured her a double shot - a much more generous pour than Mercedes would have expected.
Mercedes chuckled and willingly took the free alcohol. “Are you trying to get me drunk?” she joked as she took a greedy sip. She stared up at the man who she now noticed had a lustful look about him. She wondered if he had always looked at her like that and that this was merely her first time recognizing his sexual gaze.
The bartender leaned over the counter and winked at her. “Maybe I am.”
“Don’t even think about it,” Mercedes said sternly, although not too harshly. The bartender had always been friendly, and she needed a place for escape after work other than her sketchy apartment building.
Has he always been interested
, she wondered,
or has this creep just noticed I’ve had more to drink tonight than usual?
The bartender laughed and stood upright, “It’s Mercedes, right?”
“Yeah,” she said, surprised that he remember her name. She had briefly introduced herself the first time at the bar, but apart from that, she had hardly said a word to the man. There was a bit of a twinkle in his eye. He looked her up and down and did not shy away from looking at her now slightly revealed breasts. Mercedes started to wish she hadn’t unbuttoned the work shirt, but it would seem too obvious to attempt to cover herself now. There was a certain sensual hunger about the man that suddenly made Mercedes eager to leave. She pulled a small wad of cash out of her pocket and started counting it out, making it clear that she would not be sticking around. The bartender put on a fake pout as she counted out her cash, and he continued his intense stare.
“You coming back tomorrow night, chica?” he asked.
he’s not serious.
“Don’t call me
“What?” he held up his hands to assert his innocence. “You don’t like white guys, huh?” His assumption infuriated her more than the
Mercedes stood, hoping that she had laid down enough cash because she did not intend to wait on him to count it out. “I don’t like pigs,” she stated in retort.
The bartender snatched up the cash, clearly annoyed by how forward she was being. “Whatever,” he huffed. “You know, I bet Mercedes isn’t even your real name.”
“It is.” Mercedes rolled her eyes, “What is your name, anyways?”
“Edgar,” he said.
Mercedes laughed, “I remember you now; you’re the owner’s son. Edgar, really? And you think Mercedes is a weird name?”
The bartender crossed his arms. “It’s a white name. Mercedes isn’t even a Mexican name, is it?”
Now Mercedes was livid. She slammed her fist down on the bar and pointed a finger at him. “Listen, asshole,” she began, “Mercedes is not a Mexican name - I’m not even from Mexico! My
was from Guatemala though.”
“Same thing.” He glared at her, “Why don’t you just head on home, bitch?”
Mercedes threw up her hands. “Fine! Screw you.” She spun around in her boots and eagerly hurried to the door. She stumbled slightly when trying to open the heavy bar door.
“Drunk bitch.” She heard the bartender muttered under his breath. She had half a mind to storm back inside and continue her tipsy ranting, but decided it was not worth it.
Mercedes did her best to slam the heavy door on her way out; she contemplated coming back down to the bar that night to throw a brick through the window when Edgar was long gone just to spite him. Mercedes did not take too kindly to being called cruel names; she had never been one to put up with men treating her degradingly. She stormed out onto the sidewalk and began her short trek back to her apartment. She crossed her arms as she walked and kept an eye out for sketchy characters. The streets of Brooklyn were not incredibly safe this late, particularly in Bushwick.
She walked along the worn down row houses that were done in alternating cream, yellow, and gray brick. Distantly, the sound of sirens could be heard. The sound of a woman’s angry screams echoed out of an open window of a nearby row house, “no vienen tan tarde,” the woman’s voice called out hysterically.
“Mama, it’s not so late-” the voice of a pleading teen suffered at the hands of his mother’s abuse, although Mercedes had to admit that it was far too late for a young boy to be out in Bushwick. Only children involved in the local gangs were still roaming about at this hour- which was more than likely the concern of the angry mother.
Mercedes passed by the apartments at a steady pace, the bartender’s vulgar behavior still on her mind. She wished there was a bar closer to home so she would not have to go back there, but there wasn’t and she was not going to pay for a cab just so she could go have a drink after work. Three generations of her family being in the boroughs and some white guys still called her a Mexican instead of an American or a New Yorker. The only reason she even knew Spanish was because of the number of locals in Bushwick that did not speak English, and she did not want to lose business just because she could not communicate with someone in need of an oil change or an engine repair.
At last Mercedes arrived outside of her apartment building. It was in one of the crummier neighborhoods, but the building was one of the nicer ones in the run-down neighborhood; it was the only one nearby without at least one window boarded up. She entered inside quietly, knowing one of the rooms on the first floor hosted a family run by a single mom and several small children who rarely allowed the young woman any sleep. Mercedes carefully closed the door and took a moment to head by the letterbox station to check for mail - nothing but bills. No surprise there. She tucked the mail under her arm and headed up the familiar two flights of stairs. As she reached the third floor, she began to fumble around for her keys. She could hear voices of her neighbors in a heated argument. It was too late for that nonsense, not that that would stop them. The arguing would die down in an hour or two like it always did, so there was no point in getting involved in hopes of shutting them up.
Upon reaching her apartment, she saw the large eviction notice that she had been ignoring for the past week. She had already spoken with the landlord about needing an extension, but knew the man was growing increasingly impatient. She put her key in the lock and it stuck. “What the hell?” she muttered and noticed the new doorknob. The landlord had changed the locks on her while she had been at work. In a purple sharpie he had written
, on the eviction notice.
, she gritted her teeth,
he couldn’t tell me to my face?
She punched the door; her belongings were still locked inside. She sunk down to the floor and leaned back against the door, sulking as she prepared to sleep out in the hallway that night. Mercedes frowned,
No…I’m not sleeping out here tonight. Screw that,
she stood and stared back at the note on the door. She flicked off the note as though that would suffice until she saw the landlord in person. She would have plenty to say to him, but deep down she knew she was putting the man in an awkward position. She would have to call and make an appointment to come and pick up her things. Mercedes had always gotten along with her landlord, but in recent days the two of them had been on less friendly terms with Mercedes always having to make late payments.
It had been a long day at work, but it seemed that her misery was far from over. With nowhere else to go, Mercedes began her descent down the two flights of stairs and back into the night air. Brooklyn was a harsh world, it seemed. It was early fall and the leaves had yet to begin to change, but they would soon. She supposed that, if she forced herself to look on the bright side, it was the best time of year to be thrown out of her apartment. It was not sweltering hot and the cold winds that came with mid to late fall had not quite hit either. She headed back in the direction she had come after leaving the bar, her frustration higher than ever. Her intentions were to head to the garage, but she needed to make a quick pit stop first.
As she came up on the bar she smiled to see that the street light was out and no one was in sight. As if it were a sign from God, Mercedes stubbed her toe on a loose brick in the sidewalk. She grinned and picked up the cracked brick and, without allowing herself time to second-guess her actions, threw the brick into the window of
before bolting down the street. The shattering of the glass made her smile for only a moment but she instantly felt guilty for the deed, wondering who was going to have to pay for it. Probably not Edgar, she supposed. More than likely his father, the owner, who had always been kind to her on the rare occasion that he made an appearance.
Mercedes scorned herself for breaking the window, although it felt nice when she realized that it was unlikely she would be caught with how empty the streets were that night. It took about forty five minutes of walking before she at last arrived at
Benny’s and Tito’s
. It was not much, but the garage had always felt more like a home to her than any rundown apartment ever had. This would be her sanctuary for the night. It was of course locked, and Tito would not be arriving there until morning. There was no way Mercedes had any intentions of sleeping outside that night.