His Witness

By: Vanessa Waltz


I can’t.

“Sorry, Tommy. The answer is still no.”

His face is frozen in that pleasant expression. You would never guess that I just rejected him.

“Good night then.”

* * *

Blood. Screaming. Frightening images cycle in front of my eyes as I toss in bed. I just can’t get them out of my head, and my heart flutters and squeezes painfully when I think about the stabbing sounds the knife made. The cover is held tight over my head as I curl into a ball, shaking.

What if he’s still out there, watching me?

I’m too terrified to look.

Jack Vittorio, the head of the family, told me to call him if I ever had any problems. God, I can just imagine that conversation.

“One of your men killed a guy who robbed me.”

“…So?”

Yeah, that’s probably what he’d say.

I manage a small laugh and then I feel sickened with myself. Shouldn’t I be in hysterics about what happened last night? Maybe I’ve just been around this shit for too long.

That disturbs me. It’s almost as if I’m becoming one of them.

I’m Portuguese. My whole family is. Dad emigrated from Portugal when he was three with his six siblings, and Mom when she was a teenager. I inherited my curly hair from her and my short stature from both. I always hated it, being shorter than everyone else with a full head of curly black hair, but we moved to a neighborhood where everyone down the block was Portuguese. All the stores were Portuguese and everyone spoke Portuguese, and after eighteen years of this I was ready to experience something different.

I wanted to be the first in our family to go to college. I was going to become a doctor, because I came from a family of waiters and maids, and I didn’t want the same thing for my future. Years of watching my mother and father break their backs all day made me vow to strive for something greater, but they didn’t expect much from me. I did. I knew I could do whatever I wanted.

Just like my dad thought he knew he could run a restaurant.

We all know how that ended.

Dad was old, and I didn’t want to see him struggle with standing for over eight hours in the club, so I took over the management. I had to take care of my dad. He and I have a good relationship, and I love him more than I love my own dreams.

I guess trying to escape your fate is futile.

Sometimes, when I’m in bed, I cry myself to sleep about it. The thought of never going to college and being trapped in this life forever suffocates me. I have too much ambition to be stuck here forever.

“Coffee?”

My dad sits at the small kitchen table, watching me with wrinkled eyes as I shuffle into the kitchen. It’s three o’ clock in the afternoon. Despite the fact that I was dead tired, it took hours to fall asleep. I kept thinking of Tommy, and wondered what happened to the body and whether I’d be hauled in for questioning any second. I half expect a pair of cops to kick down my door at any second, guns aloft, and scream, “FREEZE!”

“Yeah,” I croak.

I take the cup of coffee and wrench open the fridge, only to find it bare. No milk. Fuck’s sake. I work such long hours at the club, the least they could do is keep it stocked.

Mom walks in, looking aghast. “Melanie, you look so pale. Did you eat yet?”

“No, Mom.”

“Do you want me to make you something?”

“Um—it’s okay.”

She peers at me for a few seconds and then immediately bustles to the kitchen, pushing me aside to make me—breakfast. “Want some chorizo?”

“Yeah, all right.”

The sausage hisses in the pan as I slump down on the kitchen table across from Dad, fingers white around my mug of coffee.

“Everything okay at the club?”

I look into my Dad’s pinched eyes and give him a reassuring smile. He’s always worried about me. He has no idea how bad it is, but he always tells me how guilty he feels for letting me work in the club. We can’t just sell it now that we’re partners with the fucking Mafia, so I’m in it for the long haul because I don’t trust anyone enough to leave the business to.

But he really has no fucking idea how dangerous these people are.

“Fine.”

“Do you ever meet anyone at the club?” My mother’s voice suddenly pipes up.

I raise my head blearily. “What do you mean?”

She gives me a furtive smile. “You meet any nice boys? Portuguese boys?” she adds hopefully.

I laugh humorlessly. If only they knew the sort of men who were interested in me. “I don’t want to date a Portuguese guy.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

I shrug. I really don’t want to date ethnic guys, even if they’re from my own culture. They’re always overly traditional and religious, and I’m not. Nope, just give me a run-of-the-mill mixed American guy.

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