The sun had just begun to set through the outstretched arms of the elm trees, when Danny Valentine reached his apartment on fifth. He sighed and reached under the matt for his key. He fumbled the copper colored key in the lock and stepped inside. He was greeted by the tantalizing aroma of fresh parmesan and freshly cut tomatoes. Danny threw his stuff on the floor, and collapsed on the well worn vomit green sofa. It was supposed to be a wedding gift from his Aunt Maureen and Uncle Stewart, but he knew better, those cheapskates had been trying to get rid of that ratty old thing for years, and his wedding was the perfect opportunity.
God, the damn thing reeks he thought reaching for the bottle of lilac scented febreeze, and spraying it generously around him. Danny sighed took a breath of the newly lilac scented air, it smelled much better than musty pungent smell of week old fried chicken, and fries at the Popeyes. He sighed and stared dreamily at the small purple bottle of air freshener, if only he could bring it to work and spray away all the unpleasant smells from work. Danny shook his head and decided this fantasy was too good to be true and reached into the back pocket of his black khaki pants for a smoke, and pulled out his last Lucky Diamond cigarette.
Lucky Diamond cigarettes used to be a town favorite back in the 60’s, the huge factory on Main used to crank out thousands of the red starred cigarettes. It was a brand known throughout Norfolk county for the cigarettes remarkable quality and employing nearly a quarter of the workers in the city. Everyone smoked Lucky Diamond: the librarian, the bus driver, the barber, the teachers, even the doctors couldn’t resist passing up a Lucky Diamond cigarette. Lucky Diamond was simply a way of life. Now, due to the conomy crashing and the rise of big name cigarette companies into the region Lucky Diamond simply became a cheap alternative for those who couldn’t afford the brand name cigarettes.
He cursed quietly it was his last cigarette and he didn’t get his pay check until Friday. He debated saving it for another occasion, maybe a smoke break on Tuesday or Wednesday, but he decided against it. He closed his eyes, propped his ratty tennis shoes on the breakfast table, brought the cheap cigarette to his lips and inhaled. “Hey babe, how was work? Samantha called from the kitchen. No answer. “I SAID how was work? ” Samantha tried again still frantically stirring the pot of angel hair pasta to keep the delicate noodles from burning. ” It was shit, Harold has no idea what he’s fucking doing, he gave Teresa and Grace the day off and I had to cover for them. ” Danny complained taking another deep drag from the cigarette, savoring the sweet bitterness of the tobacco. ”
That fat bastard needs to get on those two, it’s not fair that you have to go and cover their asses. Now, come to the table dinner is ready. Samantha said carrying the pot full of her famous pasta to the table. Danny’s mouth watered as the sweet aroma tickled his nostrils, and suddenly he was there. He remembered it like it was yesterday, standing nervously at the door of Samantha’s apartment for their first date their junior year. It was the day after their victory over their cross town rival Johnson East. She had caught his eye during the the pep rally, she had been on the side but by far was the most attractive girl there. Their first date had been at her house attempting to recreate her mother’s famous spaghetti and meatballs.
Over the years, it had become Danny’s favorite dish, which was strange because he wasn’t even a big fan of pasta. It was dish that strangely brought Danny comfort, when he was holed up in the hospital room eyes red from tears, Samatha and that damn spaghetti had been there for him. Danny heaped an enormous portion of pasta on his plate and went to town, quickly devouring the dish. Samatha on the other hand, picked at her plate. Danny looked up, “Babe, what’s wrong? ” He asked as he attacked a meatball on her plate. Samantha looked up, carefully avoiding Danny’s intense blue eyes. You got a letter” Samantha started slowly still careful to avoid his eyes, “It was from your brother. ” Danny’s forked dropped causing the thick marinara sauce to splash all over the the wooden table. Danny’s older brother Vincent was known in Devil’s Square as a cheapskate and a thug.
While Danny worked hard at school and focused on football, Vincent was selling drugs, and stealing. He was arrested two years ago for battery, assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, and currently is serving fifteen to twenty years at the Norfolk County Pentatinary. I don’t want to see that fucking piece of shit” Danny said sternly. ” Babe, come on he says he changed. He says he joined a church group and is working to be ordained as a minste…. ” Danny interrupted her, “That bastard ruined us Sam, we could’ve have been something. We could’ve have gone somewhere but instead we got stuck in this fucking shit hole” Danny roared slamming his fist on the table. Samantha pursed her lips as the flimsy wood table rocked violently. She could see the hate burning in his eyes. Vince had always been a sore subject for Danny.
He was his role model but now he was dead to him. He remember like it was yesterday. It was around 8 P. M, he had just got done with football practice and was making his way back to the collection of rundown apartments known to the locals as Devil’s Square. Danny had made it halfway careful to stick to the dim streetlights as to avoid trouble. As he made his way towards his complex, two figures dressed in black approached him. The larger one seemed to be carrying something that appeared to be a bat.
The duo moved blocking his path forward. The slimmer one kept his hand in his coat pocket. Yo is this little Valentine? We been looking all over for you. ” The slimmer man said hand still buried in his coat pocket. Danny could clearly make out his cheap gold grill within the faint light. Danny quickly surveyed his options, there weren’t many except to run away. Before even co back. The slimmer man removed his hand from his pocket and stuck an old revolver into Danny’s chest. Danny gulped, eyes quickly darting to the silver the revolver. “What do you want? ” Danny asked still fixated on the large revolver that had begun to slowly trace circles around his heart.
The slim man smirked, ” Eh, relax little homie we just lookin for your brother. You see Vince, owe us a lot of dough and when we stopped by to see his skinny ass. Where was he, Hugo? ” the man said turning to his partner. Hugo scratch head slowly, “Uh… he wasn’t there, Ricky” “You’re damn right Hugo, that fucker wasn’t there and I think you can figure out what that means” Ricky stated taking a step towards Danny. Before Danny could reacted, Hugo swung the bat catching Danny in the knee cap. Danny cried in pain as he collapsed to the ground, and the world went black.
Three Months Later* “Danny, I need you to push just a little harder. You are almost there” The therapist said gently. Danny dropped the weights and swiped the sweat from his brow”I can’t Karen… it’s useless. We both know I’m not ready for the 15th. I’m never going to be able to play again. ” “Danny don’t give up. You’re the only person that might have a chance of making it out of here. So stop fucking around and give me more ten more. ” Danny grunted in pain as he slowly brought himself down for a lunge. Danny gritted his teeth, his arms shook, but he slowly managed to complete his set.
He said goodbye to Karen, grabbed his jacket and headed out the door. Samatha was waiting for him outside in her red volvo. “Hey babe, how did it go? ” Samantha called from the window. ” Not good. I’m so far behind. I’m never going to make the team. ” Danny grunted pulling out a pack of Lucky Diamonds. He proceeded to light one up and brought the cigarette to his mouth and inhaled. “Babe! What the hell are you doing? The scout is coming in a week. ” “I just need one. Today was… ” Danny was interrupted as Samantha kissed him. “ Hush, Baby you’ll be ready okay? Don’t worry about it” Samantha said gently