“Not everyone can be bought,” she said.
The money sat on the table, crumbled like discarded trash. All big bills. Twenties, fifties and hundreds. How much was there? Antonia didn’t know and hadn’t asked.
She flicked the ash of her cigarette into an empty can. Across from her, Josh was perched on the edge of his chair. His gaze looked distant. It made her wonder if he had even been paying attention.
“I’m well aware of what we want,” Antonia replied. Another drag of her cigarette and left the stick half gone. The nicotine was doing little to calm her nerves. They wound around her tightly, making each drag a fight.
That’s the cancer latching its hooks into you. Her mother’s voice rang like a clear bell in her head. Antonia scoffed something. Something had latched its hooks into her, but her mother was way off mark. Cigarettes may be her addiction, but she was possessed by something far worse.
That something was the reason she in the tiny motel room, sitting at the chipped wooden table in the corner with money piled in the middle. She knew Josh had scrounged every penny he could. Calling in favors long forgotten. Had he offered favors in return as well? She didn’t want to know what sort of deals he made with the devil for her sake.
The silence in the small room stretched out. Antonia forgot her cigarette, letting it turn to ash while it sat clutched between her lips. Her red lipstick smeared the filter. She could imagine it as blood; see it splashed across everything she touched. A stain that could not be removed. Tears started to blur her vision and a lump rose in her throat. She fought them back and the words whispering in her head.
I’m sorry, Mama.
A high-pitched squeak escaped her when Josh rose. Heat flushed up her cheeks. More red stains. She quickly pressed her hands to her cheeks to hide the color.
If Josh noticed her jumpiness, he chose to ignore it. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a few more bills. “It all goes down tomorrow night. Bring the money and remember everything I told you.”
“What if it goes wrong.”
“Pray it doesn’t.” He let the money fall onto the table and walked out.