“You don’t belong here.”
The elevator guard stood arms crossed, blocking her way. She tried to put on her most dumbfounded face, but ended up looking like a child caught in the cookie jar. She raised a squirt bottle.
“I was told there was a cleanup?”
He shook his head.
“The Don said all youse staff was supposed to stay far away from his daughter’s party.”
Standing awkwardly in her ill-fitting maid outfit, she only now noticed how conspicuous her cleaning cart stood out. It blocked most of the tiny hallway, drawing attention from any person who tried to pass. Even a cursory look at what the cart was carrying would mean big trouble.
The heist hadn’t even started, and already it was going badly. She hadn’t planned on the service entrance being blocked. She didn’t have much time before the real cleaning staff noticed the items she’d ‘borrowed.’
She figured from his accent that he was a recent import to the Don’s crew. Trying to play up the oblivious angle, she spoke in broken English.
This raised the guard’s temper, so much so he unfolded his arms.
“What’s your name? I’m calling you in.”
He reached for his radio. Before he could grab it, she squirted the bottle in his face. The guard winced.
“What did you do…that…”
His eyes rolled back, his body the same. He fell against the wall, sliding to the floor. After a few motionless seconds, loud snoring came from his nose.
Pressing the elevator call button, she waited for cab to arrive. She looked down at the man.
“Three months I’ve worked here, and you couldn’t even be bothered to learn my name?”
The doors opened. She pushed the cart onboard.
“The name’s Samba.”
The elevator began to rise. Samba removed her disguise, revealing a gold evening dress. She pulled the pins from her hair, locks falling into her natural brown curls.
She kneeled down and reached into the cart. Behind the linens hid a timer device. She checked her watch.
If she was fifteen minutes late, the guard would wake. Thirty minutes late, she’d suffer an even worse fate.
She’d get fired from her day job.
“Of course they schedule me for a double shift tonight,” she said.
Samba set the device accordingly. Standing up, she looked at herself in the elevator’s reflective surfaces. She made a last-minute fix to her dress, and then took a deep breath.
“Just have to blend until then.”
The doors opened, and Samba knew that would never be the case. Through the open doors, the sound of the party on the rooftop penthouse of the Don’s lush casino-hotel filtered in.
The service elevator deposited her into the reception area of the roof. French doors opened out onto the open-air half of the roof. The only part of the roof not taken up by the party was the adjacent office.
Most likely the Don’s, large wooden doors and a team of bodyguards sent a message to keep away.
Spotlights lit up the night, as well as the line of expensive cars around the block. Teenage girls jammed the roof, along with a smattering of very good-looking boys. Samba noted a lack of supervision.
She also noticed the designer dresses, expensive jewels, and professionally done hair. Samba was a teenager herself, but she had done her own hair and stitched together a feasible looking dress.
Her naturally dark skin and curves stood out in a sea of light skin and stick bodies. At that moment, she knew that no matter how long she worked on her dress, or fussed with her hair, these people would never see her as an equal.
Focusing on the task at hand, she scanned her surroundings. A long table divided the roof, stacked high with large portions of delicacies. A massive cake, stacked several layers high, would have been the center of attention at a normal party.
That honor went to her target. On a glass pedestal, flanked by two guards, lay a beautiful diamond necklace, on display for the guests to covet.
Hanging above it, a banner draped the entire roof.
Happy Sweet Sixteen, Carmela.
Conspicuously absent were the locals. A twenty-foot privacy wall around the hotel shielded the partygoers from having to look at the favela on the other side.
The same could not be said for the working classes in those homes, blinded by the floodlights illuminating their bedrooms and pounding music keeping them awake.
Making sure the uninvited stayed out, guards in suits and earpieces flanked the perimeter. Samba knew if she lingered by the service entrance, she’d stand out more than she already would.
“No point in socializing then,” she said.
There was one thing they couldn’t keep from her. One thing they couldn’t keep hidden under their money. She made her way out onto the dance floor.
Nodding her head to the beat, she let the music guide her movements. Grooving to the sound, she made her way across the roof. The others girls gave her look, but parted way for her.
Reaching the food table, she pretended to lose her footing. Stumbling into the desserts, she started giggling. The guards gave her only a glance.
“That’s right,” she whispered. “Just another socialite who’s let the party go to her head.”
Reaching into her purse, she removed a special candle, slipping it onto the cake.
Leaving the dance floor, she pretended to get some air. Ducking into a corner at the edge of the roof, she hid just outside of the guards’ view. On the other side of the wall was the penthouse office.
Samba pulled a phone from her purse. She looked like any other teenager, taking more interest in her phone then in the lavish surroundings. The only difference was that none of her fellow generation had specially modified headphones.
Placing one bud in her ear, she pressed the other against the wall. A suction cup soldered onto it adhered to the surface of the wall.
A voice began speaking in her ear.
“I believe in Brazil.”
Samba listened in as Don Parcheezio, the head of the five families of Brazil, addressed a guest. Not Brazilian himself, he and his brood had moved in on the local gangs, setting themselves up according to old-school rules of omerta.
“This country,” he started. Stopping abruptly, he took a long drag on his foul-smelling cigar. Blowing a puff of smoke, he continued.
“Has been good to my family. The guild has never interfered with our affairs before. Now you, Noah Taiko, boss of the East, come to me, on the day of my daughter’s birthday, and ask me to throw away all that we have built.”
Parcheezio leaned back in his chair. The mob boss was short with a bloated build, ravaged from years of gorging himself. His puffed out cheeks pressed his eyes so thin they appeared permanently shut. When he spoke, his mouth sounded full of cotton balls.
Across the Don’s lacquered wooden desk sat Noah, his face affixed in a perpetual state of near boredom.
While the Don dressed for the occasion in suit, bow tie, and cumber bund threatening to burst at the seams, Noah wore a brown trench coat over a plain white collared shirt. Despite his plain attire, he fastidiously manicured his considerably long beard and hair.
Noah’s sole concession to the happy occasion, the only clue a joyous celebration went on outside the drab and solemn office of the Don, was a small pink present clutched in his hand.
Noah spoke, his tone strong yet respectful.
“I would not come to you unless the way of life we so cherish was in jeopardy. In this trying time, it’s good to know which friends you can count on.”
The Godfather pursed his lips. He swirled his finger in the air, as if stirring a cup of coffee.
“You call me your friend, yet it pains me that in all the years we have known each other, you haven’t invited me over for cup of coffee, or espresso, or maybe a biscotti…”
Noah raised his eyebrows. The Don’s thoughts wandered as he involuntarily rubbed his ever-expanding waistline.
“…Caramel latte macchiato, Crème Brule, maybe one of those little cannoli with the chocolate sprinkled on them.”
“Have you made a decision?” Noah interrupted the Don’s sugary daydreaming.
Parcheezio drew forward to his desk, burying his face into cupped hands.
“You’ve grown cold, old friend.” He lingered on the last two words. “What will you do with those who refuse to join you?”
The Don held his cigar above his ashtray. Tapping the burning end, a clump of ash fell off.
“Like you did to the king of thieves fourteen years ago?”
He crushed the cigar into the ashtray, twisting it back and forth until the flame extinguished.
“King of Thieves?” Samba whispered.
Noah looked down at the cigar stump, no reaction on his face. He waved his hand, as if brushing away a fly.
“I’ve told everyone time and again that I had nothing to do with…”
The doors of the room burst open, shaking everything in the room. The sound reverberated through Samba’s ears. She tore the headphones off her head.
Looking around the corner, she watched the Godfather’s sixteen-year old daughter invade her father’s sanctuary. A tiara desperately clung to her blond hair. A massive corsage the size of a wedding bouquet donned her left hand.
“Daddy,” she yelled, in that entitled tone of voice only capable through years of being denied nothing. She charged across the room, giving no thought to her father’s privacy.
“What is it, my daughter,” said the Don, “on this, the day of my daught-…er, your birthday?”
Reaching his desk, she slammed her hands down, sending the ashtray flying.
“You call this a party?” she said.
The Godfather’s daughter charged out of the room the same way she came in. Lurching out of his tall leather chair, the Don followed her out onto the terrace. Loping forward at an uncertain pace, waddling more than walking, the sight of the two emerging turned heads.
His daughter continued to shout angrily. She shook her balled up fists in the air.
“All I asked for my birthday, the only thing I wanted on my list, was my own island in French Polynesia. Is that too much to ask?”
The Don followed, arms outstretched in disbelief.
“After all I’ve given you, you treat your father in this way?”
Left behind in the drawing room doorway, Noah held the tiny pink present. Next to him stood a table stack high with gifts. The table’s legs wobbled nervously.
His gift spurned, Noah tossed it on top of the pile. Reaching its limit, the table gave up the struggle and collapsed..
Noah looked at the Don and his daughter, squabbling on the dance floor.
“Be good to her, my friend,” he said, a slight tinge of mourning in his voice. “You blink and they’re gone.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a young woman looking at him. Something about her seemed familiar. Glancing in her direction, she ducked into the crowd.
In the center of the rooftop stood a long dining table laid out with luxurious desserts. At the center rose a five-layer cake, ringed with sixteen candles. The confection towered over the rest of the offerings.
In the midst of the distracting fight between the Don and his daughter, no on noticed Samba plant one extra candle.
The Don grabbed his daughter by the wrist. He pulled her down to his level. She pulled back, creating a tug-of-war on the dance floor.
“Now you listen here,” the Don said.
One of his men leaned in to whisper, hand pressed to the side of his mouth.
“What is it?”
The Don realized he was shouting. The Don looked up to find that the party had come to a standstill. With the music stopped, the rooftop became awkwardly quiet.
“Maybe it’s time to cut the cake?” the henchman whispered.
The Godfather pulled at his collar, readjusting his bowtie. A wide smile appeared on his face.
“Yes, cake! Cake is good. We must cut the cake.”
The party gathered around as the Don began lighting the candles. He counted each candle lit, starting from the bottom. When he reached the top, the Don noticed the final candle appeared much larger than the others.
Finishing his task, the Don waved the notion away along with the lighter. He turned to the crowd.
“I wish you, my daughter, the very best on your seventeenth birthday.”
His daughter’s eyes opened wide. Her lips curled back.
“Daddy, I can’t believe you, I’m sixteen!”
Looking back at the cake, the Don knew he counted seventeen candles. His face now shifted to anger.
“Okay, who’s the wise guy who…”
Before he could finish, sparks began to fly from the wick of the strange candle. The Don, taken aback, looked closely at the cake. The wick burned down to the wax.
“What’s up with this feshuggah candle?”
Fireworks exploded out of the candle, sending cake flying. The partygoers dispersed, running for cover. Fizzling out, the candle switched to pouring out volumes of smoke.
Unfazed by the turn of events, Noah pushed upstream against the fleeing crowd. Emerging through the crowd, he could only see the Don’s daughter, a mound of cake caught in her hair. She yelled at someone through the smoke.
“You! You’re ruining my party!”
Noah could see she was pointing at someone standing on top of the table. A heeled foot mashed the now-melted cake.
Samba stood atop the ruins. Upon her forehead she wore a pair of out-of-place goggles. In her left hand she held the extravagant diamond necklace. A large tag attached to it read HAPPY BIRTHDAY. She winked at the daughter.
“You know what they say, it’s your party.”
Behind her, the Don crawled out from under the table he had been hiding.
The thief pulled the goggles over her eyes and tucked into a ball. Pushing off the table, she flipped backwards over the Don.
“Stop her,” he said, “she’s getting away-”
Samba landed on his back feet first, using him as a springboard. Vaulting towards the elevator, she sent him reeling to the floor. Landing shoulder first in a roll, she rose to her feet and ran to the elevator.
Once inside, she reached over to her right wrist and twisted her watch dial. The watch began beeping furiously.
On the table, the candle on top of the cake blew open with a final bang A massive screen of smoke spread across the roof.
Before she was enveloped, the Don’s daughter took her last look at the thief. Samba lifted up her goggles and gave her another wink.
“You can cry if you want to.”
The elevator bell chimed, the doors closing before disappearing in the smoke.
In the lobby of the building, the guests tried to push their way out. Wave after wave of the Don’s goons fought through them. They surrounded the elevator, watching the indicator numbers count down. Finally it reached its destination. An audible ding resounded.
The elevator door opened. Smoke poured out, cascading into the lobby. The guards tried to wave it away.
A figure sprinted out of the elevator. She stayed low, her shoulders parallel to the ground.
No longer wearing the cumbersome dress, Samba wore a long-sleeved blue shirt, track pants, and high-top sneakers. The goggles covered her eyes.
Halfway through the lobby, she dove feet first. Sliding across the floor, she kicked the front door open with her left foot.
Jumping the red velvet ropes, she disappeared into the crowd. It happened faster than the guards could react. From an intercom, the Don’s voice howled.
“Get her youse morons! It’s her! It’s Samba!”
The guards rushed after her. The combination of smoke and fleeing patrons caused them all to reach the doors at the same time. Struggling to force their way through, arms and legs flailed comically.
Running through city streets, Samba reached the metro station exactly as the latest train arrived. She vaulted the center divider of the escalator, sliding down between surprised onlookers.
A column of suited men appeared at the top of the escalator. They charged down, rudely pushing aside bystanders.
Samba reached the platform and dove for the open train door. Once inside, she jumped for the ceiling handhold rail.
Using the rail for leverage, she flipped feet first out the other side of the train car. Her momentum propelled her up and back, landing on the roof. The men poured onto the train to catch her, only to find the doors slammed shut, locking them in.
As the train began to move, they pounded on the windows. Samba’s head appeared upside-down from above. She stuck her tongue out at them.
Lifting herself upright, a grunt from behind caught her attention. She turned to find a large hulking goon climbing up the back of the train.
The mobster pulled himself to his feet, panting heavily. He took a step towards her, struggling to keep his balance on the moving train.
“Who do you think you are?” he said.
Samba stood defiant. She showed no uncertainty in her footing.
“They call me Samba.”
The guard charged, arms open.
“You’ve danced your last beat, girlie.”
He lunged at her. Samba slid underneath him. He turned to face her, standing up to his full height. Samba took a quick look around him. She chose to stay close to the ground.
“Like music humor, huh?” she said. “What do you call an interlude between two parts of a song?”
“What?” he said.
With a mighty blow a low-hanging overpass struck him from behind. Samba watched the man pass above her. She shouted to him.
“A bridge! Get it?”
The man struck the bridge so hard he became embedded in the brick. He hung there like a statue. He groaned as his sunglasses fell apart.
“That joke was terrible.”
Getting a moment of peace, Samba sat upon the train roof. Running the real diamond necklace through her fingers, Samba couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. Each shard of crystal reflected beautiful patterns in her mesmerized eyes.
“I only got secondhand shoes for my sixteenth.”
The chirping of her phone brought her back to the moment. A little smiley face appeared on the screen, toting a friendly message.
Samba seized up in panic.
“Oh crud, I’m late!”
. . . .
The cabaret lay in a state of disrepair. Dirty round tables filled the floor space on a dingy carpet, wrapped around the large stage. The few patrons mostly consisted of shady men and an old tourist couple that had wandered in by accident.
Every light that worked was dimmed except for a single spotlight focused on the emcee.
He wore an oversized tux garishly adorned with frills, a bowtie, and coattails. He waved his cue cards in one hand, microphone in the other.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, “welcome to the Havana Banana cabaret, the best club in all of Brazil.”
He held his hands up. A few coughs and a half-hearted clap came in reply.
“Okay, let’s keep that enthusiasm going. I am your host and owner of this establishment, Davi. We have a lot of great entertainment for you tonight. But first, who can shave twenty-five times a day and still have a beard? Give up? A barber!”
He motioned to the house orchestra sitting in front of the stage. No response.
Davi cleared his throat.
The drummer noticed his boss staring at him. He struck the drums and cymbal.
“What about this one? Did you hear about the fire in the circus? It was in tents!”
Behind the stage curtain, four young women huddled. Dressed in sleeveless black leotards and white collars with bow ties, they carried top hats and canes. One of them peeked out at the audience.
“Davi’s bombing. He can’t stay out there much longer.”
“Where is she?” one said.
“She’s always late,” replied another.
The fourth girl struck her cane against the floor.
“Oh please,” she said, “like we need her.”
“But Roxy,” said one of the girls. Roxy shot her a look, silencing them.
She had long brown hair, flowing almost to her waist. Big gaudy earrings dangled. Her skin did not look natural, tinged from too much tanning.
“I’m the star. We don’t need that gutter trash.”
Out on the stage, Davi pulled nervously at his collar. He looked to the curtain. The girls waved.
“Without further ado,” he said, “I am proud to present tonight’s entertainment.”
“Bout time,” someone yelled from the audience. That got a laugh from the crowd. Davi laughed nervously.
“The Fairy Tails!”
He exited stage left. The curtain arose on the four girls. They stood facing to their right, one knee lifted in the air, hats tipped forward.
Roxy stood center stage, the three other girls unevenly spread around her. One person was noticeably missing.
They stood without moving, smiles plastered across their faces. When nothing happened, their eyes began to dart back and forth.
Down below the stage, the band had not noticed the girls. Roxy cleared her throat.
Waking up, the musicians went into a mad scramble. Grabbing their instruments, they jumped right into the music. The girls began to dance.
“Oh you’re a liar and a thief…”
Samba ran down a back-alley, reaching a nondescript back door. She threw it open and sprinted down a hallway, reaching a door labeled Wardrobe.
The girls flipped off their top hats and appeared to hand them towards the audience.
“So full of ego and deceit…”
Samba entered the costume room like a whirlwind, sending clothing and accessories flying.
The Fairy Tails danced in a row and held their canes high.
“But you’ve stolen my heart today…”
Samba ran out of the costume room wearing the same costume as the other girls, only to turn around and run back in. A moment later, she exited with her cane and top hat.
“Give me lots of diamonds and posh scenes, full of rubies and limousines…”
Samba ran to the backstage. She could see Roxy about to perform her big number. The music came to a crescendo, reaching its fever pitch. Then it stopped.
“Oh thiefy, my thiefy,” sang Roxy.
Samba took that as her cue and slid out on stage, stopping right in front of Roxy. She winked at the audience.
“Ain’t you just such a cutie?”
Samba sashayed to the right, kicking up her leg. The other girls followed suit, except for Roxy. She stood there stunned, even more so when a smattering of applause came from the audience.
“Oh thiefy, oh thiefy, ain’t you the one,” sang Samba.
Roxy bumped into Samba, using her ample hips to push the interloper out of the way. She took over the singing.
“Oh thief, my thiefy, won’t we have fun?”
All five girls fell in line next to each other, dancing the same routine. Samba and Roxy tried to outdo the other. The audience loved it, cheering the girls on.
At the rear of the club, a young man entered through the curtain covering the doorway. Ducking underneath, he grasped his weathered fedora with one hand to prevent it from falling.
He wore a brown trench coat a shade darker than his skin color, with a collared yellow shirt and matching tie.
He stepped inside and began to search the club, not taking an interest in the show.
Onstage, Roxy bumped Samba hard in the shoulder, knocking her down to the floor. Roxy took control of the performance.
“You’re the maitre d’, of my fantasy,” she sang.
At the front of the stage, Samba noticed the piano’s empty wheeled chair just below the stage. Somersaulting forward, she vaulted into the audience.
She landed on top of the piano chair just as the band reached the crescendo of the song. She rode the chair down the center of the club, straight towards the recent arrival.
Catching a snag, the chair went out from under her. The man reacted quickly, catching her mid-fall. He looked down, surprise on his face.
Samba noticed the awe-struck look on his cute face. Placing one arm around his shoulder, the other holding her hat high, she looked up and winked to her rescuer.
“It should just be you and me, baby.”
Now the audience paid attention, as a round of applause and cheers overwhelmed the sound of the band. The young man helped her back to her feet.
“What’s your name?” she whispered.
“Jazz,” he said.
Samba blew him a quick kiss, then ran back towards the stage. Back in the spotlight, she took a small bow. Behind her, Roxy fumed.
Samba walked backwards without paying attention. Scuttling over, Roxy waited for the right second and stuck her cane between her rival’s legs.
Tripping over the cane, Samba’s instincts kicked in. Without thinking, she grasped the cane between her strong legs and twisted. Roxy, too surprised to let go, went with it.
Samba cringed as she watched the girl take a nosedive off the stage. The music came to an abrupt end, horns blurting and symbols crashing to the ground.
Samba looked down into the orchestra pit. The musicians, picking themselves up, glared back at her. As for Roxy, Samba saw the tuba now sprouted legs, each one kicking wildly.
Samba could only hold her hand to her forehead and sigh. The performance obviously over, the lights went up in the cabaret.
In the very back of the club sat a private table hidden in a covered alcove. A sole figure sat there all dressed in white. White suit, white gloves, but his most striking feature was the white mask worn on his face.
Small slits cut in the mask became eyes, nose, and mouth. He sipped a glass of brown liquid through a straw, a half-full bottle his only companion. Locks of dark hair fell around the mask.
He watched the promoter and the musicians struggle vainly to free the trapped diva. He focused his attention on Samba.
With all the commotion, no one else seemed to pay him any mind, except for Jazz. The young man leaned against the wall, keeping his hat pulled down to cover most of his face. He refused to take his eyes off the man in the mask.
Outside of a back room door labeled Manager, snippets of Davi’s voice bellowed from inside.
“Showing up late…no one knows where you’ve been…wreaking havoc…YOU’RE FIRED!”
Samba opened the door, slamming it behind her. She walked slowly across the backstage, head and shoulders drooping.
“So what else is new?” she said. “Third one in as many months. Sister Maria is going to have a fit.”
She hesitated outside the dressing room door. She could hear the voices of her fellow dancers speak in animated tones. Taking a deep breath, she turned the handle. As the door swung open, she caught the tail end of the conversation.
“Hope she never shows her face again.”
As Samba entered, the girls glanced at her and just as quickly looked away. Paying no attention to them, she crossed the small dressing room.
She made her way through the mess of costumes to her station. Leaning towards the mirror, she started to remove her make-up.
In the reflection, she could see Roxy across from her, ice pack pressed to her head. Without looking at Samba, she picked up where the conversation left off.
“I should reread my job description. I thought we were dancers, not garbage men. Since when did we start taking gutter trash off the street?”
“I don’t know Roxy,” said Samba,. “Probably when they hired you.”
Roxy jumped out of her seat and grabbed the back of Samba’s chair. Samba spun around, coming face-to-face.
“I don’t know what favela you crawled out of,” said Roxy, “but you better go back where you came from.”
Samba didn’t say anything. The look in her eyes told Roxy she had cut deep.
“Don’t you understand? You don’t belong here!”
A voice spoke up behind them.
“I hope you don’t mean me.”
A man wearing a loud pink shirt, gold chains around his neck and several rings on his fingers, stood uninvited in the now open doorway. He wore his shirt one size too small to overemphasize his disproportionately bulky upper body. He entered the ladies’ dressing room without asking permission.
“I heard from a little birdy someone’s looking for a job.”
Roxy’s mood changed dramatically. She clapped her hands together, a wide smile on her face.
“Rallo, my prince! You’ve finally come to whisk me away from this dump.”
Rallo walked by Roxy, ignoring her. She stood with her face still smiling, but her eyes opened in wild surprise.
“Melody,” Rallo said to Samba. She winced at hearing him use her real name.
As he leaned close, an overpowering smell of cologne clogged her nose. She tried to match his leaning in with her leaning away, but he was insistent.
Reaching inside his pocket, Rallo handed her a purple card with a picture of a pink cat on it.
“I’m opening a new club in Rio. Very exclusive.”
Samba flipped over the card. In sparkling font, she couldn’t miss the pretentious name.
The Kitty Kat Club.
Rallo loomed behind her.
“You could be my star attraction.”
He started to rub his hands down her shoulders.
“Life of a wanna-be dancer is hard. But you’ve got the talent, the looks. Let me take you away from this.”
At this point Rallo pressed down nearly on top of her. Reaching towards her desk, she grasped for anything. Her hand landed on a powder applier.
“Work for me,” Rallo whispered in her ear. “I have some rich clients who would love to meet you.”
Samba yanked the powder puff out of its holster and smacked it into his face. White powder flew everywhere, turning Raolo’s face a ghostly shade. He fell to his knees, gasping. Samba grabbed her personal belongings and stormed out, not bothering to change clothes.
Behind her, Roxy tried to wipe the powder off his face. She shouted at the departing Samba.
“How’s he supposed to give me a job if he’s blind?”
Rallo whimpered. His words came out clogged.
“My dock-ter said knaught to get anyting up my sinuses.”
. . . .
Standing behind the counter, the storeowner stared at Samba, still in her stage outfit, then to the diamond necklace she held in her hand. After a long moment, he shrugged his shoulders.
The white sale tab popped up out of an old cash register. Reaching behind the register, he produced a bag of groceries.
Walking out of the store, Samba went through the bag. A look of disappointment appeared on her face. The necklace didn’t fetch nearly the amount of food she hoped. She looked up at the store sign.
“His lips aren’t the only thing tight about him,” she muttered.
Samba carried the bag through the streets, her surroundings growing more hardscrabble. Many of the buildings were run-down, some built solely from concrete. All the buildings were colored bright shades of paint. A few streetlights illuminated the neighborhood, showing sporadic signs of activity.
An old man sat on the stoop of his home strumming a guitar. Children kicked a football in an intense match, the entire neighborhood serving as a pitch. The people in this place had little, but they still attempted to make the best of life.
After walking a distance, Samba stood outside of an old iron gate wrapped around a three-story brick building. A large sign hung above her.
St. Shakira’s Orphanage and School of Dance.
“Home sweet home,” said Samba. She walked up to the front door.
As she twisted the doorknob, the unlocked door popped open. Pushing the door wide, she peered in. No lights illuminated the empty hallway. Toys lay scattered about the floor.
Her voice echoed down the hallway.
Closing the door quietly behind her, she pressed her back to the wall.
At the end of the hall, light peered out of a door. Tiptoeing to it, she stood flush with the bannister.
Placing a hand on the door, she peeked inside. Her eyes opened wide.