Andrea Miles earned her Masters of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. Originally from Pocomoke, Maryland, she currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband and three sons. Trespassers is her first novel. To learn more, visit her website or her Facebook page.
Excerpt from Trespassers
She Writes Press
© Andrea Miles 2014
Excerpt from Chapter 4
Melanie stopped just inside the door of Ruben’s, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. The dim lighting reminded her a little of her mother’s house. There was a blonde on stage, wearing only a garter and a pair of tiny thong underwear as she danced to the beat of an unfamiliar song playing from the jukebox in the corner. She watched as the blonde flirted with a drunken Japanese man, his brown fingers reaching to tuck crisp bills into the skimpy strap of her black thong. The girl moved along the small stage, pausing to smile and fondle herself as various men tucked money into her garter and panties, their fingers eager to feel her pale skin as they risked getting reprimanded by the chaperoning bouncers. Melanie surveyed the sparse crowd, but she recognized no one. She walked towards the bar stretching along the back wall.
“Melanie, I haven’t seen you around lately.”
She turned to the old man who’d approached her, a fat cigar clenched between his lips. She smiled, recognizing him as the owner. “Mr. Nichols. How are you?”
He reached out and hugged her, squeezing her tightly. She was a little surprised that such a frail-looking man would have such strength. But then he only looked old. His true age was a mystery. He probably wasn’t sure exactly how old he was himself. “Couldn’t be better.” He pulled away from her and let his eyes roam over her body. “You could stand to put on a few pounds, Melanie. And what’s with the fat lip?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.” She averted her eyes, looking past his shoulder. “It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but I fell down the stairs.”
He puffed on his cigar, squinting up at her. Finally, he removed it from his lips and waved it towards the back room where the pool tables were. “If that son of a bitch hit you—”
“Oh, no, Mr. Nichols. Rick wasn’t even home when it happened. It had been raining and well, I . . . uh . . .,” she tried to explain, her tongue thick with the lie. Waving her hand as though erasing the words she spoke, she continued, “I hadn’t been paying attention, daydreaming about something or other and so I slipped on one of the wet steps and down I went.” She snapped her fingers.
“You’re lucky you weren’t hurt worse than a busted lip.”
She nodded, tapping her fingers against her thighs. “That’s what Rick said. He was very upset with me for my clumsiness.”
“Clumsiness,” he repeated softly.
She nodded vigorously and then smiled to compensate for her rather over-the-top adamancy.
He grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “If he ever gets out of line, you let me know, Melanie, and I’ll teach that prick some manners.”
She nodded, unable to say a word. She’d only met him a few times and each time she was always taken aback to realize that he was nothing like you’d expect a strip club owner to be like. Bizarre as it was, he really seemed to care about women. All the strippers liked him as far as she could tell. In fact, many of them confessed that the only reason they stayed there rather than moving on to a bigger, busier club in a neighboring town was because of Mr. Nichols. He considered each of them to be the daughter he’d never gotten to have before his wife had died of cancer early on in their marriage.
“Go on,” he grumbled. “You know where he is.”
She smiled slightly. “It was nice seeing you, Mr. Nichols.”
“Yeah,” he mumbled, puffing on his cigar.
She walked away, feeling his eyes on her back.
Around the pool tables were about a dozen or so people, mostly guys, but a couple of girls who were obviously trying to fit in with their sweet-smelling cigars, racy talk, and hoarse laughter. They pretended they didn’t even notice the cocktail waitresses dressed in skimpy feathered negligees, but when the waitresses walked away, their eyes searched for flaws and they always managed to find something to feel superior about.
Melanie hung back on the edge of the room, watching Rick as he prepared to take his next shot. He was losing this game and the bald black man he was playing against was looking pretty happy with himself. Rick missed. The man took his turn, an easy shot of the eight ball into the side pocket, and then the game was over. Rick made a big show of being disappointed, begging the man for one more game, and doubling the bet.
“Come on, Mo, give me another chance. I’ve got to get lucky sometime.”
“Shit,” he said, a big smile on his face, “an ugly white boy like you ain’t never going to get lucky.”
“One more game. That’s all I ask. What’s the big deal? You’ve already taken quite a chunk of my dough as it is.”
“Yeah, it’s mighty generous of you.”
Rick smirked. “Maybe you’re worried your luck’s run out. Because I have yet to see any skill.”
“Luck? How can one scrawny white boy be so dumb?” Mo wondered, turning to the few bystanders. He grinned. “Or maybe you’re just blind? You must be awfully dumb to say my beating your ass isn’t skill.”
“Then why are you so worried about playing me again? I’ve got a whole ’nother pocket of dough just waiting to cross those sweaty palms of yours.”
“Shit, you might as well just hand it over then. It’s a lot less time consuming, you know what I mean?”
“Fuck you. I am not so dumb as to fall for that. Here I am, begging you to let me try to get my dignity back. You going to walk away without offering me just one last chance?”
“Dignity? That’s ripe.” He laughed, shaking his head. “All right, you dumb-ass fool. I’ll play you one more game, but this time pay attention and maybe you’ll learn something.”
Rick moved to the end of the table to rack the balls. “Now that’s some bold ass talk. Maybe I’ve just been having a run of bad luck.”
“Shit, I’ve beat you so bad your momma don’t even want to claim you.”
Melanie walked over to Rick, smiling. He was really sexy.
He frowned the moment he saw her. “Damn it, Mel. What’re you doing here?”
She kept a smile plastered on her stiff lips. “I came to see you.”
“I’m busy. You know I’m busy here,” he grumbled. He tightened the rack with his fingers and then gently lifted it from the table. Mo chalked his cue at the other end of the table. “Give me a sec, Mo.”
“That can’t be your lady?” he said, nodding towards Melanie. “Baby, you get bored being with a loser, you call on Big Mo because I am a gen-u-ine winner.”
“Yeah, in your dreams maybe. I’ll be right back.”
“Take as long as you need, but you’re still going to get schooled.” He grinned, his teeth bright white against his dark skin.
Rick grabbed Melanie’s elbow and pulled her away from the pool table.
“Ow, Rick, you’re hurting me,” she complained, trying to pull her arm out of his grasp.
“Now,” he said, releasing her, “what the hell are you doing coming in here?”
“It’s obvious you’ve forgotten, Rick, so I might as well remind you.” She took a deep breath. “Today’s my birthday.”
He stared at her. “So?”
Her heart dropped. There went the idea of getting an engagement ring for her birthday. “So I thought maybe we could spend some time together tonight.”
“I am busy, Mel, trying to make some money. Can’t you spend your birthday with someone else?”
She folded her arms, biting her lip and looking at a spot over his shoulder. “You don’t want to spend time with me on my birthday?”
“I do. Of course I do. But not right now.”
“Come on, Rick. I’d like to get this ass whipping over with so I can have some time spending your dough on a few of those fine chicks out there.”
Melanie swallowed, fighting to keep her tears in check. She would not cry in front of him and all these people over this.
“So are you leaving? Because I’m about to beat that cocky black bastard over there. And then I’ll be home. Okay?”
“Yeah, okay.” She hurried away from him and practically broke into a run the closer she got to the door. Once outside, she stopped. She leaned against the brick building and closed her eyes, breathing deeply. Hearing footsteps scuffing along the cement, she looked up to see Mr. Nichols strolling towards her.
Wordlessly, he held out a cigarette.
She stared at him and then accepted the cigarette, wondering briefly how he knew she needed one and which stripper he’d bummed it off of. Putting it to her lips, he struck a match and she leaned forward to reach the flame. She inhaled as he dropped the match to the ground, the flame extinguished and a thin thread of smoke curling up from the cool cement. “Thank you.”
He stared silently at her, puffing on his cigar, his blue eyes intense through the thick smoke surrounding his face.
“I wish I didn’t love him so much,” she admitted unhappily. But she did love him. He’d taken her in when she’d had nowhere to go. No one forced him to do that. She knew he was a good person deep down; she just wished he’d show it a little more often.
“If you love, you will suffer, and if you do not love, you do not know the meaning of a Christian life.”
Melanie stared at him in surprise.
He smiled slightly, noticing her shock. “My wife read that in Agatha Christie’s autobiography and quoted it often to me and Giorgio.”
“The mystery writer?”
“Yes. I’m not about to pretend I’m a religious man, although my wife did her best to turn me into one, bless her soul; I mean, I own a strip club and I think the Church would frown on that. But I do believe the first part.”
“Sometimes love makes you suffer?”
“That sucks,” she said, flicking the ash from her cigarette so hard she almost broke it in half.
“I couldn’t have said it better.” He moved to stand next to her, and together they smoked in silence.