Season of Dreams
by D. J.
About the Book
was young, beautiful, intelligent ... and possessed of need--the need to be loved,
the need to be accepted, the need to come to terms with her past, as well as
with her future.
When she met the man of her dreams, he gave her everything she ever wanted
... and then some. Before she realized what had happened, she was walking the
streets of Hollywood, living a life of insanity, as far from her middle-class upbringing
as she could possibly be. Hers was a world of cheap tricks and liquor, of pimps and
johns and cops and junkies. When she crawled up out of the gutters to become one of
the most successful madams of all time, she thought she had it made.
But deep down inside, she longed to get out, yearned to return to simpler times. When she found herself on a downward spiral of drugs, money laundering, and murder, she
turned to the only person in the world who could help.
But would he? Could he? Or was it too late? Only time would tell.
She had no business being there, and she
knew it. If she'd had half a brain, she would have packed her bags and gone home to
Chicago, where she could have stood up like a man and proudly taken both barrels.
Her mother would have tried to pound some sense into that eighteen-year-old, Ive-seen-everything,
I-know-it-all, I'm-not-just-another-dumb-kid head of hers about how much wiser and
more mature she would be not to succumb to the whims and fantasies of a lifestyle that can
lure a young girl into the most outrageous, the most deplorable, the most heinous of
transgressions against man and nature.
Young girls, her mother would
intone, are not like young boys. Young boys can take care of themselves.
They can, you know, do that. Young girls are, well, (pausing for dramatic
effect) vulnerable. Theyre more easily swayed, talked into doing things
they shouldnt be doing. Things they really dont want to be doing. (Wiping
the sweat from a wrinkled brow that looked to grow older, more dinosaurish by the second):
Things theyll regret doing the rest of their lives!
Danielle would have stared at her
incredulously. Oh, mum. Poor mum. Papas locked you in the closet and youre
looking so dummm. She would have said to herself, Is this it?
Finally? The whole birds-and-bees thing in one, fell, ignorant swoop?
As if at the age of 18 she hadnt
already had plenty of time to figure it out for herself. Not firsthand, of course,
as probably half the girls in her graduating class had already done, and this in a
Catholic high school where chastity was a virtue and promiscuity, well, simply didnt
To make matters worse, she wouldnt
for the life of her been able to understand what would have triggered it all. All
that guns-and-roses tirade about how the world could be a horrible, cruel, merciless
cesspool of sin and conflagration for innocent young girls, a world full of abusive,
contemptible men just waiting for a chance to get their greedy clutches on an unsuspecting
delicate young flower such as she, never mind the fact that she came from a strictly lower
middle class Great South Side of Chicago family, such as it was. That is what the world
has in store for girls who venture too far from home-- her mother would have continued
pounding into her addled, underdeveloped brain--girls who left the sanctity and security
of their loving family, girls who turned their backs on the parents who had worked so long
and hard to provide them only with the best, girls who were sluts. Thats what
happened to such girls, not to mention to girls with only half a brain.
Despite her mothers best shot, Danny
would have remained unswayed. After all, some people thought she was pretty hot.
With brains to match. No matter that, even at her age, she was still relatively
unencumbered by thoughts of sense and security and safety--and, of course, of
brains. So why not go for it? And let her mother's warnings be damned.
Besides, she had something no man could
ever steal from her. A tall, statuesque, Hollywoodish beauty that nearly everyone,
including other young girls, had long admired. She wished she had counted the number
of times she'd heard someone say how she should be a model or an actress or how she
should be on television because, after all, she was much more attractive than that Lee
Phillips person or whoever the hell she was and she even had her own television talk show
or news show or something like that, Danielle couldn't exactly remember which except that
it was on WGN-TV Channel Nine weekdays around noon or something like that and that it was
really boring as hell and she hardly ever watched it at all, unless she was home sick and
dying and had no choice in the matter.
She couldn't see it, herself, all this
talk about beauty and crap. She would sit around half the day sometimes, staring
into the mirror, pushing a fistful of ashen blonde hair from one side of her head to the
other, playing with some rouge or lipstick or liner or something else shed managed
to sneak from her mothers room without her noticing, or maybe borrow from a friend,
and shed still fail to see it. To her, she would always be a little too tall, a
little too heavy, a little too angular in her facial features, too big boned or whatever
it is you call it. But even when she tried out for the senior play, she passed
auditions with flying colors, and Sister WhatsHer-Name--Felicia or Felicity or
something like that, all lyrical and sweet and tender and not at all in keeping with the
image of a 57-year-old dried-up old prune with a temperament as sweet as a plastic bag
full of bees left sunning on the porch all day--even she had once told her how
beautiful she was and that she just had to play the role of Scarlet in Gone with
the Wind, or rather their own watered-down, pimple-faced, high-school version of it,
such as it was.
So anyway, there she sat, sipping lightly
from a glass of Chardonnay and mulling over all this stuff and wondering just what the
hell she should do next, exactly. It was her first time away from home.
Alone. And she just couldnt get used to making decisions like these. As
if that werent bad enough, she slowly began to become aware of things. Little
things. Things shed never noticed before. Like the bartender staring at
her. Not gross or perverted or anything like that, not with lust in his eyes, just
staring. Staring. Until she began to wonder if she had her makeup on crooked
or if maybe he was getting suspicious about her age, which naturally shed lied about
when she told him she was 22, although she certainly looked that old and possibly
older. She thought, too, that she noticed from the corner of her eye another man,
older, staring at her from the end of the bar, a customer, less obvious than the
bartender, more timid about his actions, as if he couldnt help but stare but would
rather die than let her know that he knew that she knew what he was doing.
Shed been in Miami Beach only a
couple of weeks, and--maybe she was hallucinating or fantasizing or what she dont
know--but she swore she felt the difference. She had a hard time getting used to the
smiles she was getting from men on the street. She found it disconcerting, too--the
attention she was getting from the bellhops and doormen, calling her by name. Yes, Miss
Franks. No, Miss Franks. It would be my pleasure, Miss Franks. One doorman in
particular seemed especially attentive to her, rushing to open the door of her cab, racing
around to her side to help her out when she returned as she slid her tall, thin frame
along the scratchy vinyl seats.
And it wasnt just older men and
bellhops and barflies and people like that. She caught a number of younger men, too,
following her movements with their eyes, waiting for the chance to match her gaze with
theirs, eyeing her hungrily, greedily, as though she were all in the world they wanted or
needed and would kill to possess it, if only for a moment, for a minute, or less.
It was as if she were Alice passing
through the glass. Floating through an endless spiral of hopes and dreams, of
promises to be fulfilled, of a future yet to come. In Chicago, she was Little
Danielle, pure and simple, fresh out of high school, not smart enough or ambitious enough
or connected enough, she wasn't sure which, to go to college; but cute enough, she
guessed, to get a job, meet a man, get married, have a child, take a month or two of
maternity leave, and then go back to work at some dead-end position, probably as a
secretary, probably for the rest of her life.
But in Miami Beach, everything was
topsy-turvy. she couldnt explain it exactly. Maybe it was because in the few
weeks between being graduated and making the pilgrimage south, shed grown up.
At least thats the way she looked at it. Maybe she had at last stepped out of
her little-girls cocoon and emerged a radiant, fluttering butterfly. Certainly
she couldnt see the metamorphosis in the mirror. She still had the same
teeth, the same eyes, the same funny little upturned nose shed always had, so far
as she could tell. But something had changed. Or at least something
had appeared to others to have changed.
Which is not to say that she didnt
appreciate it and milk it for all it was worth. She would have been crazy not to. So
when a bartender asked her, all stooped forward over his lacquered rosewood bar with
hand-carved filigree and mortised backsplash, all hush-mouthed, eyes glued to hers,
fingers tapping nervously above the well, what shed like to drink, she told him.
Vodka and tonic, please, with a twist.
It was just such a night, after a long day
of sitting by the pool and sunning, which was how every woman in Miami Beach spends her
days, that she met him. Finally. After years of waiting and a lifetime of
hoping, simply met him. All smiles and confidence, specked with the kind of insecurity a
woman finds hopelessly alluring. You look familiar, shed told him, not coming
on to him with a line or anything, but because it was true, to which he responded, Yes,
and so do you. They gazed at each other for a few moments, awkward moments by anybody
elses standards, and yet they felt perfectly comfortable, perfectly natural to her,
and then he added, Of course, we have already met. A million times before.
She nestled back into the soft leather of
her seat, amusing her mind with a million fluttering thoughts as the Miami cityscape
roared by. The sun clung tenaciously to the sky, a fiery ball of yellow and orange
just inches above the horizon, which was partially obscured by a thin ribbon of clouds
that severed the heavens into two neat strips.
It wont be long, the man
sitting next to her said. He smiled confidently and reached out to turn the
cars thermostat down to 68 degrees, then fiddled with the console until the haunting
strains of a Vivaldi sonata snaked their way out, filling the rear chamber with the magic
of a time and place far removed from here and now. And yet it all seemed to fit, it
all seemed so right.
Hey, I like that, you know?
Real nice. Real classy, like. A lotta people, they dont go in for that
kinda stuff. That classical music and long-haired stuff. Me, I always liked it.
Calms me down. Takes my mind off my problems, you know?
It struck her curious that a man with the
apparent background and upbringing roughly analogous to that of a sloe-eyed newt could
have problems. Still, she leaned back and smiled. He was older, her chaperon,
in his mid-fifties, greying at the temples and slightly overweight. His suit was too
shiny at the elbows and sagged a bit at the knees. But for some reason she liked
him. He reminded her of her grandfather--or what she remembered of him. Just a
hardworking guy trying to make a buck, to make his life a little easier, a little better
for himself and his family.
Not that her grandfather had ever been
chauffeured around in a Rolls Royce. No one in her family had ever done anything like
that, at least not to the best of her knowledge. Still, she couldnt help but
feel a certain warmness for him in his awkward attempt to put her at ease.
You ever play music like that?
Take lessons or somethin' when you was a kid? I always wanted to play the violin
when I was young. Jeez, them strings always sounded so sweet and clear, like a
cooing dove. It brought goosebumps to me whenever I heard em. But my old
man wouldnt let me have anything to do with music, you know? Said violins was
for sissies. I dont know, maybe he was right. In our neighborhood, you
got caught playin a musical instrument or somethin like that when you shoulda
been out rollin drunks on the corner, you got your ass kicked, you know what I mean?
Pardon my French.
She laughed. I took piano lessons in
high school. I really enjoyed them. But we were on a budget after my father
died. My mother just couldnt afford them anymore, so I quit.
Jeez, he said, a thick, dark
furrow suddenly scarring his forehead. "That's tough.
She wasnt quite sure why shed
come to Florida, why Miami Beach. Shed told herself at first it was to find a
job. She wanted to be a model. Shed taken a few classes back home and
had been told she showed promise. Everybody she talked to said, Go to New York or You
ought to be in L.A. Hell, she wasnt comfortable in Chicago, her own home
town, with its crime and pollution and weirdos and all. She wasnt about to
push her luck, pack her bags, and head out to the coast--either coast. But
Florida seemed different somehow. Kinder. Gentler.
Besides, all the major agencies had
offices there. To provide models for the swimsuit and boating shots that were so
much in demand, she guessed. So on her second day in town, she began making the
rounds. By the end of the week, shed visited a couple dozen agencies.
Dropped off dozens of portfolios. Had scores of interviews. Everyone was very
nice, very encouraging.
Still, after three weeks, there she was,
sunning herself by the pool at the Fontainebleau. Watching all those sizeeighteen
sausages stuffed into size-twelve suits waddle by. Still unemployed. And
getting hungry. Nervous. Scared. She
wanted to work, wanted to show everyone back home that she could make it on her own.
The last thing in the world she wanted to do was to run out of money and have to catch the
next Greyhound back, all broke and hungry and ready to listen to her mother tell her what
a fool shed been, wasting all that her time and energy on a pipe dream, just another
dumb kid too naive to realize there wasnt anything better Out There than what
shed left at home.
And then it happened. Out of the
blue. Like a bolt. Now here she was, staring out the window at a group of
young children playing in the corner school yard. The tallest one reminded her of
herself when shed been her age. Whenever the rope she was jumping swung
around in her direction, her pigtails bounced up and slapped her in the face. Her
dress was a faded cotton frock two sizes too small. She stood out from the others
like a bull thistle dancing in the wind above a field of sweet clover--too tall, too
gawky, too awkward to fit in with the rest of the world around her. A sudden rush of
pain swept over Danielle--for her or for herself, she wasnt sure.
When she had kids of her own, she promised
herself, things would be different. Shed see to that. Her kids would get
all the piano and ballet and tennis lessons they wanted. Theyd wear the best
clothes money could buy--not some neighbors hand-me-downs. Theyd eat at
the finest restaurants with their father and her, not at the corner burger shop or pizza
parlor. No brownbag lunches for them. Shed promise them
that. Shed promised herself that.
Yeah, thats really
tough, the man said, your old man dying on you so young and everything.
Musta been hard makin ends meet. You know what they say is true.
Moneys a curse. You want it when you aint got it, and when you do, you
want it even more.
Vinnie Marello paused to punctuate his
thoughts with a puff on a long, thick cigar. The smoke rose in a cloud, momentarily
obscuring his face before the automobiles fresh-air system sucked it up and spit it
out across the Miami skyline. You go over with these people Im
introducing you to tonight, youll be able to take all the piano lessons you
want. Youll be able to take piano lessons til theyre comin' outa
your ears. Take any kinda lessons you want. Theyre talking fifty, a hundred,
maybe two hundred grand a year. Thats what a top girl makes in this business,
She knew indeed. She hadnt at
first, but James had taught her. Hed also taught her that modeling was a
grueling, dog-eat-dog profession where only the best survived. And he made her
determined to be the best.
What should I say when I meet
them? I mean, how much should I tell them about myself, about my experience? I
really havent had a whole lot.
Marellos eyes widened below two
Oh, she said sheepishly.
James told you.
He nodded. Jimmy, he tells her
She felt foolish suddenly, like a little
kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Then, what do I do? she
asked. "What do I say? Theyre not going to want a model who
hasnt had any experience.
Dont you worry about
nothin. Just do what I tell you, and the rest will take care of itself.
Good girls, they got class. They got that certain something, that kinda hoidy-toidy
look, like theyre playin hard to get, even though you know damn well they
aint. Experience dont mean nothin in my book. If you got
the look they want, you get the job. And you got the look they want.
That was exactly what James had told her--
in somewhat less picturesque language, of coursethe day she met him. How
different things had been back then. Before James. Before Marello.
Before everything. When a naive young girl from the great South Side of Chicago had
arrived in Miami Beach with $463 in her pocket, her entire lifes savings, everything
she had in the world. And a heart full of dreams too, of course.
The money had long since disappeared, but
the dreams lived on, and now it seemed as if her life was just beginning.
She had just settled into a green chaise
lounge and pulled a flop-brimmed straw hat down over her face. It wasnt the
most stylish of hats, she was sure, but then again she wasnt exactly the most
stylish of girls. Shed been a tall, thin, gangly kid for as long as she could
recall--the only girl on the block with bicycle-spoke arms and golf-ball eyes that never
seemed to close even when she slept. Or so her mother said.
She stretched out beneath the sultry Miami
sun and wondered what her friends would say if they could see her now. What her mother
would say. Her mother had been furious when she told her shed had it with the rain
and the cold and the snow and the working-stiff mentality of the people around her. Or
maybe her mother been furious with herself for never having had the courage to do with her
life what shed really wanted, what Danielle was about to do. It had been far
too easy for her to meet a man, drop out of school, get married. One child.
Then another. All in her never-ending attempt to capture a piece of the Great
But dreams dont become reality by
themselves. Her mother finally came to realize that the day Danielle told her she
Dont be stupid! she
snapped. You just stay here and get yourself a good job. You dont know
what youll find somewhere else. Here, you know.
Shed been right about that.
Danielle never would have guessed in a thousand years what lay ahead. Not that she
was particularly worried. Whatever would be would be. That was her
philosophy. Sure, she needed a job. She desperately wanted to get a call back
from one of the agencies. But she knew it would come. She knew it would
happen. It was only a matter of time.
She pulled herself up and adjusted the
back of her chaise, then popped the cap off a tube of sun screen. She squeezed a
thin snake of white onto her legs, which were beginning to glow reddish-bronze, and
slipped the cap back onto the tube before rubbing the cream into her skin. Down to
her toes and back up along the inside of her thighs, then her waist, chest, neck. As
she wiped the last of the cream across her forehead, a dark-haired woman in a one-piece
suit popped up in the chaise in front of her.
Jessica! Jessica, where are you
going, honey? Mommy doesnt want you near the water! Come back here now, do
you hear me? Jessica!
Jessica. The word ripped through
her like a rusted saw. She watched as Jessica shuffled slowly back from the
pool. Danielle felt a sudden sense of urgency. Her temples pounded. Her
heart beat furiously. She had been barely eight, some ten years ago or more, the
last time shed heard those words. At a picnic, at an outdoor table next to the
grill, playing with her favorite porcelain doll, dressing her in the outfit her mother had
made for her from leftover taffeta and lace only the week before.
Danielle, go find your little
sister. Lunch is almost ready.
Alright, momma, she replied,
setting her doll on the table next to a big bowl of yellow potato salad ringed with small
black flies. She shooed the insects away as the smoke poured off the grill over
which her father towered, struggling to work his usual magic, transforming uncooked pink
links of sausage into savory Epicurean treats.
Hurry along now, Pigeon, he
said, his face a contorted mass of eyebrows, nose, and lips as they battled the stinging
smoke from the grill. The sausage is just about ready. We dont
want it to burn.
I know, daddy, she said, and
she ran off across the lawn toward the apple orchard where shed last seen her
Jessica? Jessica! Come
on, now. Daddy says lunch is ready. Jessica!
Danielle picked her way through several
long, low-hanging bows brushing the tips of the grass and finally emerged at a steep bank
where a gently rolling stream cut its way through the countryside. Across the field,
a solitary bird chirped plaintively, a meadowlark or a robin. Jessica!
she shouted again, trying to decide if she should follow the thin dusty path
upstream. Her eyes darted from one tree to the next, following closely the
in-and-out movement of the shoreline until they came to rest on a dark spot some ten feet
below. She shivered. She froze. At the edge of the stream lay Jessicas
dress, Jessicas shoes ... Jessica! She was sprawled face down, a steady
trickle of water grinding slowly past her, her tiny head nestled peacefully against a
large pillow of granite swathed in red.
Within hours it was over. The police
had come and gone. Jessica was no more. They had all been questioned, she
longer than the others, since she had been the one to discover her. Tears stained
her cheeks as the police swung shut the back door of the ambulance, then disappeared
themselves in their black-and-white patrol car, roaring off so fast that soon the only
sign that anyone had been there at all was a long ribbon of dust stretching lazily into
The wake the following Tuesday began
promptly at 8 A.M. and seemed to go on forever. It was a long, vicious, debilitating
affair attracting aunts and uncles and neighbors and even casual acquaintances from as far
away as Algonquin, Illinois, more than a hundred miles from their home. People
shed seen rarely or never before showed up to pay their last respects. Or more
likely to gawk at a spectacle that had become the talk of the town. It is not often
so young a girl dies so suddenly, so brutally. In a matter of seconds, she is alive
and healthy and laughing and feeling the sun, filled with the breath of a warm autumn day,
and then she is as silent and cold as a winters night forever.
On the day of the funeral, their family
met at Chansons Funeral Parlor to pay their last respects to Jessica. When Mr.
Chanson who is old and bald and wears the smell of death on his suit like a carnation
finally walked up to close the casket, her father, who had been strong and silent
throughout, broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. It was then for the very first
time that she realized what had happened, that Jessica would never, ever be coming back.
She was gone forever. Although the difference in their ages had kept them from being
as close as they might otherwise have been, the realization that she would never again
have anything more of Jessica to cling to than a fading memory from the pages of time
washed over her like the angry waves of a Lake Michigan storm. Jessica was dead,
and looking at her father sobbing at the foot of the coffin made her realize that a tiny
part of him had died with her. And that was the pain that hurt most of all.
She had always loved her father, loved his
indomitable will, his spirit, his humor. Shed seen pictures of him as a young
boy, a solemn-faced, barrel-chested Yugoslav when he came to America with his parents at
the age of twelve. The family had settled in the East, where her father worked the
mines digging for coal. Some ten years later, he had managed to save enough money to
pay off his debts and open a small yard somewhere in West Virginia. With the money
he made from that, he moved his young bride to Chicago, the melting pot of the nation, the
land of unfulfilled promises, where he continued in the coal business for several more
years before finally selling out to a partner.