In The Midnight Of His Heart
By AL BRUNO III
February 25, 1993
“You never talk about your family. Why is that?”
Angie refilled John’s coffee cup, “You never talk about yours either.”
“Touché.” John smiled and poured a liberal amount of sugar into his cup and then as an afterthought added a dash more, “Me first then?”
Replacing the coffeepot she scanned the diner to make sure she’d taken care of everyone. There was nobody left but the regulars and most were more interested in talking then being waited on. It was that kind of night. “Yeah... I bet you’ve got an interesting family tree.”
“Not really. I was an orphan from the age of seven.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, what happened to your parents?”
John stirred his coffee, “Hunting accident.”
“What? Your mother and your father were hunting.”
“My mother put the men in the family to shame. She always kept food on the table. She died first.”
He waved a hand, “It was a lifetime ago.”
“I was away from where we were sleeping. I was playing... another group of hunters took them down.”
“You make it sound like they did it on purpose.”
“Who knows? Maybe they did.” an edge of bitterness crept into his voice.
Angie patted his hand, the simple gesture set his heart hammering. “Sometimes I wish it had been that cut and dried with my family. My mom and dad divorced when I was young, I can barely remember them together. They married young, too young I guess. Both of them seemed all charged up to start their lives over. I don’t think I fit into either of their plans. It was like they wanted to forget their marriage ever happened and I just reminded them.”
“It couldn’t have been so terrible.” he sipped his coffee, “What is the saying these days? You were conceived in love.”
Tom stepped out of his office, his face looked flushed. He gave John a half-hearted wave. “Conceived in love?” Angie snorted, “I was conceived in the back of a sports car by two dumb kids with too much alcohol in their system.”
“How could you know something like that?”
“Mom told me once when she was drunk.” she said with a shrug, “Be back in a flash, I’ve gotta make the rounds.”
“Go.” John waved her away. He watched her check on her three other customers, reveling in the slim turn of her legs, the way the edges of her mouth curled up when she smiled. How could anyone not love her? He wondered Has the world really turned so far on its ear?
Teresa sat at her usual booth, half counting her tips, half-nodding off.
When Angie came back she refilled his cup and told him, “Your turn. Did you live at an orphanage?”
“No. I was taken in by an eccentric millionaire. He made me his ward.” John said simply.
Angie giggled, “What? Are you pulling my leg?” The men’s room door squeaked open, Bernie stepped back out into the diner. His fly was open.
“I’m serious.” John added more sugar and cream to his coffee, it felt good to tell at least part of the truth to her, “His name was Victor Kovach. He took me in and made me his personal assistant and when I was old enough, he trained me to be his bodyguard.”
“God! It’s like something out of a movie. What happened? Did you save his life?”
“Several times.” John glanced over to see Teresa was well and truly asleep now. Her head was down, she was snoring slightly.
“Good for you! I bet he left you a couple of million when he died.”
“Afraid not. He left me with a trade and the clothes on my back and that’s about all.”
“So what did you do?”
“I got a job. Working for the government.”
“Oh no.” John set the spoon down beside his cup, “It’s your turn now. What happened after your parents divorced?”
“I lived with my Dad until I was fifteen-sixteen but he was a little to bossy. I needed room to breathe.” her smile began to fail, “He was short-tempered. He would get physical, never punching just slapping or if you turned your back on him he would give the hair on the back of your neck to get your attention.”
John shook his head, “Some people aren’t cut out to be parents.”
“He wasn’t cut out to own pets.” Angie said, “We used to have a dog, he beat the poor thing to death for messing on the carpet.”
“I don’t think he meant to. He must have gotten carried away, but I wondered how long it would be before he got carried away with me. You know what I mean.”
“So, I insisted my mother take me to live with her and by insisted I mean that I ran away from home and refused to leave her doorstep.”
“Are you saying didn’t she want you?”
Angie rolled her eyes, “Mom had just hooked up with a handsome young stud ten years younger than her. She had no interest whatsoever in me.”
“It must have been rough.”
“It was a fuckin’ nightmare. Pardon my French.”
“Cuss all you want. You make it cute.”
That got her smile back, briefly, “Flirt! Anyway, it turns out she hadn’t even told her boyfriend she had a daughter. I think she was afraid that I would make her look like damaged goods.”
“She let me live in her spare bedroom until I was eighteen and then she gave me the old heave-ho.”
“Have you talked to them since?”
“No. My Dad left a message on my machine once but I never returned his call. He probably needed one of my kidneys or something.
“Good.” John raised his cup in salute, “Screw’em.”
“Cute.” Angie said, “Not as cute as me but still cute.”