Authors: Luke Loaghan
Tags: #Fiction & Literature
I tried to picture the attackers. When I had hit the ground, I saw another person down the block, watching, wearing a bandana over his face and a dark business suit.
“I can’t tell; it was dark, and the guys had masks covering most of their faces,” I said.
Ganz said I was free to go. I was stressed out, and felt like vomiting.
It was a long ride home. I wondered if Juan was behind this, if he was coming after me because of his obsession with Delancey. Was he the person in the dark suit?
Would Juan ever attack Delancey? The thought of something happening to her turned my stomach. But maybe Juan had nothing to do with it; maybe it was just speculation.
My father asked why I was home so late. I hesitated, because I knew I couldn’t tell him the truth. I did not want him to have more to worry about in his life. The last thing he needed to hear about were my problems.
I explained that I had witnessed a crime against a teacher at school, and was at the police station giving a statement. That’s the best I could do without lying.
“Be glad you did it; whenever you do the right thing, there’s no need to look back.” My father went to sleep.
I ate half of my dinner, while doing my homework. Well after midnight I was still awake in bed staring at the ceiling. I was stressing out about the attack. Mr. Zoose was in the wrong, but so was Svetlana. There was too much on my plate and I didn’t want to get involved in their situation.
At lunch, and to my dismay, Delancey was sitting with Juan. Her back was facing me. Juan smiled at me before he threw his arm around her.
In the far corner of the cafeteria, Svetlana sat alone at an empty table. Sam, Carlos, and John looked confused when I sat with her. She was not eating. Delancey stared at us.
“How did you know?” Svetlana asked.
“I saw the two of you in the classroom with the lights off. How is Mr. Zoose?”
“He is going to be released tomorrow. I’m going to the hospital today after school to see him,” she said.
“I’ll go with you,” I replied. Svetlana looked disappointed.
“It’s better that you are not alone with Mr. Zoose.” After a long pause, she agreed.
“How long have the two of you been…” I asked.
“A few months. I’m almost 18 you know; it should be okay after I graduate.” It was obvious that she was in love with Mr. Zoose.
“It could cost him his job and land him in jail. You should really cool things off.”
She started sobbing and I nervously looked around to make sure no one was watching. To my chagrin, everyone was watching; it was a high school cafeteria after all.
“Please don’t say anything to anyone,” she said.
“I won’t. I owe Mr. Zoose for stepping in when he did, and I feel really bad that he was stabbed and is in the hospital,” I said.
Svetlana commented that I was right to feel bad.
“How did the whole thing even start?” I asked. I couldn’t conceive of how a seventeen-year-old girl would even approach a teacher about having an affair, or vice versa.
“Well…like all the other girls, I was fascinated with him. Mr. Zoose is good looking, charismatic, well spoken, mesmerizing on romantic literature. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was drawn to him. I often sat in the front of his class, and he has a sort of magnetism that lured me in. So many of girls feel the same way. One day, I was the last person to leave his classroom. I walked up to his desk, and I looked at him, deep into his lovely eyes. Mr. Zoose smiled back at me. I picked up the apple off his desk and took a bite. The rest, well you know.”
Detective Ganz entered the cafeteria. To my shock, Svetlana kissed me, on the lips, for a more than a few seconds. Ganz saw us kissing. But so did Delancey and she angrily stormed off. I wanted to chase after her, but Detective Ganz called out my name.
Ganz asked me if I remembered anything else.
“Like a gunshot being fired.” He glowered at me, but kept looking around the cafeteria.
“I heard a loud boom. I forgot about that,” I said.
“Yeah, you did. I wonder what else you forgot.” Ganz raised his voice, bellowing instead of talking. I became nervous.
“I don’t think I forgot anything else.”
“We’ll see.” Ganz left the cafeteria.
I went back to the table with Sam, Carlos, and John. “You and Svetlana? Wow!” said Sam. “When did that happen?”
“Look, it’s not what it looks like. Yesterday I was attacked by the Deceptors. Mr. Zoose tried to help me but was stabbed and now he’s in the hospital.”
“And what about Svetlana?” John asked.
“She saw the whole thing; she’s the one that called 911.” I didn’t want anyone knowing the truth.
I tried to find Delancey, but discovered that she had left school. I had to straighten things out with her. The last thing I wanted was to hurt her feelings.
After school, Svetlana and I headed to Brooklyn hospital. Mr. Zoose had a visitor in his room, so we waited in the hallway. The visitor came and greeted us. She was a tall, regal figure, wearing a white wool coat.
“It’s really nice of you to come. He’s going to be fine and they will release him tomorrow. I’m his wife, Juliana.”
Svetlana squeezed my hand tightly as she held back tears. I could feel her gasping for air and then she had a coughing fit. I did not know that Mr. Zoose was married. I had never seen him with a wedding band, and he had never mentioned a wife.
Juliana went to grab a bite to eat, and we were alone outside Mr. Zoose’s room.
“I didn’t know he was married,” I said to Svetlana.
“Neither did I and I feel awful…and like a fool,” Svetlana said. Mr. Zoose had an I.V. in one arm, and bandages around his shoulder. A tattoo of a cobra was on his arm.
“I guess you met my wife,” was the first thing he said. He grimaced, but I don’t think it was from the pain in his shoulder.
Svetlana started crying. She put her head on my chest, and I placed my arm around her.
“Mr. Zoose,” I said, “I wanted to thank you for helping me out…and getting involved.”
“What’s the story between you and those thugs?” he asked.
“It’s complicated. Someone may not like the fact that I’m friends with Delancey.”
He looked at Svetlana, unable to take his eyes off of her. “Detective Ganz is on his way over here now. Can I have a moment alone with Svetlana?” he asked.
I waited in the hallway. Outside his room the patient name tag read “Zewsyzski.” That was his real name. Zoose was just a nickname.
Ganz was walking toward me from far down the hallway. I followed the detective as he marched into Mr. Zoose’s room.
Mr. Zoose told Ganz that the person responsible wore a mask. Ganz demanded to know who the assailant was, and called me a coward for not telling him. I remained silent; Mr. Zoose’s eyes weighed heavily on me, commanding me to give a name. I took a deep breath, Svetlana moved closer to me, and now everyone in the room was awaiting an answer.
“It was the Deceptors. That’s all I know for sure. I think that I may have seen Juan Perez in the distance. ”
“Where can I find this Juan Perez?” asked Ganz.
“He’s the class president. But he wasn’t the one that actually attacked. I saw someone that looked like him watching the whole thing. I think he sent the Deceptors.”
“What else?” said Ganz.
“I don’t know for sure if he was responsible. I only think I saw him. “
“Detective Ganz,” said Mr. Zoose. “I can vouch that David is good student, and that he is not a gangster or into criminal mischief.”
Ganz indicated he would try to determine if Juan was involved. Then he stormed out of the hospital room.
“Please take Svetlana home,” Mr. Zoose said. “Before Juno gets back.”
“Juno?” I asked.
“My wife, Juliana.”
“I will, Mr. Zoose.”
“And whatever you know stays between us.” He had a desperate look on his face.
“Of course, don’t worry about it. “
We left Brooklyn Hospital, and took the subway. She lived in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, a neighborhood with a growing Russian population. I figured that the U.S. was winning the Cold War because I had never heard of an American family moving to Russia, but Russians were coming to Brooklyn in droves.
Svetlana was a beautiful girl, and used to remind me of a movie called “From Russia with Love.” Now she reminded me of a book by Nabokov.
I didn’t have much to say, and neither did she. She stared at the floor the entire trip. Finally she said, “What must you think of me? I’m not a little Lolita. I’m seventeen. I did not know that he was married. If I had known, I never would have had an affair with him.”
I really did not know the right thing to say. But she seemed to be honest. Her brown eyes were wet with tears and red with scorn. I was less than a foot away from her, and I could feel electricity between us. I felt nervous and anxious. She was taking very deep breaths, and I could see her breasts heaving up and down. Svetlana did not look or behave like a high school girl. In so many ways I was still a boy, and in so many ways she was already a woman. I was a late bloomer and maybe in Russia they are used to an early harvest. She was a fully blossomed woman at seventeen. There was a part of me that could not blame Mr. Zoose. I didn’t know what to say, and I couldn’t stop staring at her big, pouty lips. Her stop was next on the N-Train. Unable to fight my urges, I placed my hand on top of hers. I squeezed her hand, feeling her soft skin, and she squeezed back. She raised her head, face covered in salty tears, eyes filled with sorrow and regret. I leaned toward her, and kissed her, first on the cheek, then on her forehead, and then on her big, luscious lips.
She kissed back, placed her hand on my neck, and pulled me closer. My chest touched hers. She pulled away, stood up and walked out of the train. I stood watching her as the train pulled out of the station. She was standing on the platform waving goodbye. A coy smile emerged on her face.
Delancey’s answering machine picked up each time that I called. Either she wasn’t home or she wasn’t taking my calls. I was annoyed at her immaturity. She was the one that did not want to date. I thought about Svetlana the entire evening.
The next day, I anxiously went to school early and stood outside the entrance for a half hour. There was no sign of Svetlana. I was unable to focus on anything other than the kiss we had shared the day before. I roamed the cafeteria, but she was not at lunch. I felt dejected and disappointed. Maybe the kiss was no good.
Sam and Carlos remarked that I was acting weird. They were going to the billiards hall after school, and I agreed to join them.
Later that afternoon, Delancey walked past me in the hallway without saying hello. She gave me the cold shoulder. It felt more like the cold war.
“How’s it going?” I asked, catching up to her several yards away.
“So why are you giving me the cold shoulder?”
“Why don’t you go back to kissing Svetlana. Isn’t that how you prefer to spend lunch?”
“Freedom of Lunch,” I said.
“It’s in the Bill of Rights after freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
“Don’t be such a wise guy.” Delancey was not amused, and clearly jealous. “Look, I can’t stand Svetlana, and her pouty personality. I can’t believe you are even friends with her.”
“Well, it’s not like I can stop you from having lunch with Juan.”
“I wasn’t having lunch with Juan. He just happened to stop by my table at lunch. It’s not the same thing.” She stormed off. “And stop calling me!” she yelled.
And just like that, Delancey and I were over before we ever began.
After school, we went to the pool hall, our usual place off West Fourth Street in the village. Tekk Billiards was an underground billiards hall, well known for nefarious characters, and a daytime hangout for high school players. There was gambling at Tekk Billiards, and at night, only the best of the best came to play pool there.
Sam and Carlos were talking to someone, a rather large figure. The pool hall was dimly lit, and at first I couldn’t make out who it was. As I drew closer, I realized it was Eddie Lo, my friendly neighborhood gangster.
Eddie seemed happy to see me. I was less enthusiastic. Christine popped out of the ladies room a few minutes later. Fluorescent lamps hung above the billiards tables and smoke filled the room. Sam was puffing away, adding to the fog. Eddie bought us some beers. As usual, Eddie knew the manager, and it was no problem. Eddie knew everyone.
We played a few games of eight ball. Sam and Carlos were missing some pretty easy shots, shots they would typically make. They didn’t want Eddie to lose. They feared his reputation, and after all, he was buying beer.
I leaned over to take a shot, and Eddie was standing at the opposite end of the table. I was focused on the shot, my back bent toward the table and the pool stick in my hands. I pulled off a double bank shot into the corner pocket. Christine clapped.
We continued to play for an hour, when Eddie and Christine asked to talk to me in private.