~ Violet ~
“Good morning, beautiful girl!”
Violet Carvey heard her mom’s chirpy voice as soon as she entered the kitchen. Her mom, Barbara, was standing over the cramped kitchen counter in their small apartment, fixing a nice tuna sandwich and putting it inside a brown bag.
“Good morning, mom. What are you doing?” Violet replied.
“I’m packing you lunch for school,”
“Mom, I’m not in school anymore. I’ve graduated last month,”
“Oh,” Barbara stopped whatever she was doing immediately. She didn’t remember that her beautiful daughter was already 18 and a high school graduate.
“It’s fine, I’ll take it anyway,” Violet said sweetly. She felt bad about it and grabbed the brown paper bag, stuffing it inside her backpack. “Thanks, mom,”
“You’re welcome,” Barbara smiled. “By the way, what is Dylan doing in the house? Shouldn’t he be in New York right now?”
“Mom, Dylan’s dropped out from college,” Violet explained patiently.
“He did?” Barbara gasped in shock like this was the first time she heard it. “Why?”
Violet let out a sigh. This was not the first time she had to explain to her mom about the things going on around the house. Ever since Barbara got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year, her memory and health had been deteriorating. Barbara stopped working entirely and Violet’s older brother, Dylan, even dropped out of college and moved back home so he could help them out.
“No reason, he just doesn't think school’s for him,” Violet lied. She knew her mom would feel bad if she told her the real reason.
The Carvey family had been struggling financially for the past several years, especially since Violet’s father died. Life hadn’t always been this difficult for them, especially when Violet was young. She was actually born into a middle-upper class family. James Carvey was a successful businessman in a small town in New Jersey. Violet and Dylan enjoyed a wonderful lifestyle growing up, but everything changed when Violet was thirteen years old. Her father wanted to expand his business, and he made a bad business deal with some powerful people in Italy. These people ended up bankrupting her father’s business. It got so bad that her father had to borrow money from so many people just so the family could stay afloat. In the end, Violet’s father had to sell their three-story home, all their cars and assets, and they moved into a small rental apartment in Newark. It didn’t help that James fell ill and he couldn’t work to support his family. Barbara had to step up and work at the factories. And finally, James Carvey couldn’t take it anymore. One day, he said he was going to the store, but he ended up crashing the car down the cliff on the highway. He died leaving his family with a mountain of debt and some insurance money.
As soon as Violet turned fourteen, she started working at ice cream stores or coffee shops to help out the family. Dylan, who was two years older, started working at a local bar owned by their father’s old friend, The Union. Once Dylan turned 18, he got a scholarship to study at Fordham. Barbara was so happy for him and he promised that he’d get a good education so their family could go back to the way it was. Unfortunately, only two years later, Barbara’s health began to decline with Alzheimer's. Violet was still a senior in high school. Dylan knew it was his responsibility as the oldest son to go back and help his family, so he dropped out of Fordham and returned to Newark. He got his old job back at The Union, except he also did many other side hustles, the kind of work that Violet would never mention to her mom.
“Oh, so that’s why Dylan’s been around the house lately,” Barbara nodded her head.
“Yeah, he’s dropped out since last year, mom. He’s been around ever since,”
“Oh… I see…” Barbara said. Violet smiled sweetly, but she knew she would have to explain this again tomorrow morning.
“Anyway, I gotta go to work. Call me if you need anything or check the post-its if you forget something,” Violet said as she grabbed her things from the kitchen counter.
“Okay, dear. Have fun at work,”
“I love you, mom,”
“Love you too, sweet girl,”
Barbara kissed her daughter’s cheek and Violet made her way to the door. She checked her reflection in the mirror for two seconds before she headed out. Her dark brown hair was long, her face was pale, but her purple-blue eyes were shining bright. If she had more time in the morning, she would’ve put on some make up, but there was no time for pleasantries. Her shift at the local coffee shop starts in fifteen minutes and she should be out the door by now. So without a second thought, Violet shrugged and left the house.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Walking out of the house, Violet quickly raced to the bus stop and she managed to catch the incoming bus going downtown. After a ten minute ride later, she arrived at her stop and made her way to the coffee shop. Within minutes, Violet already got her apron on and she was manning the register at the coffee shop.
“Welcome to City Coffee, what can I get you today?” Violet greeted her first customer of the day. This was a line she had spoken so many times in her life, it came out like a reflex. She didn’t even have to look up from the register, she’d just hear their order, punch it in, and quickly make the drink.
“Violet? Violet Carvey?” the girl standing in front of her said. Violet looked up from the register and saw a familiar face. It was a girl about her age and she might’ve seen this girl around school before.
“Oh, hey. You’re… Nicole, right?”
“Yeah, we took AP Calc together!”
“That’s right, how are you?” Violet smiled.
“I’m good. I’m with Hanson and Ashley. You remember them?” Nicole turned to the glass windows and waved at her friends standing outside. “Guys, look, it’s Violet! Our Valedictorian!”
“Oh, yeah,” Violet laughed nervously and waved at the people outside. They were waving at her and mouthing ‘hi’.
“I go here all the time, I didn’t know you work here,” Nicole said.
“Only almost every day,” Violet turned her eyes back to the register. “So what can I get you?”
“An iced latte please,”
“Coming right up,”
Violet punched the order and turned to the coffee station. Her hands were skillfully working the coffee machine. She loved the smell of freshly ground coffee and she found making coffees to be a therapeutic act. She’d prefer if people didn't talk to her when she was making them, but Nicole didn’t know that. She was too excited to run into a high school friend, so she kept chatting.
“I can’t believe that high school’s already over. Can you?” she said.
“Time sure flies,” Violet replied shortly.
“I know, I’m excited about college though. I’m going to Georgetown,”
“Georgetown’s a great school, congratulations,”
“Thanks. And I heard you got a full-ride scholarship to Harvard. Is that true?”
“That’s so cool! When are you leaving?”
“I’m not going to Harvard,”
“What?” Nicole squeaked so loud, people nearby turned their heads to her.
“I had to turn it down,” Violet shrugged simply.
“You turned down a full-ride scholarship to Harvard?!”
“Yeah. I wish I could go, but I can’t be too far away from New Jersey right now. My mom needs me,” she gave Nicole a weak smile and turned back to the coffee she was making.
“Aw. You’re such a good person, Vi,” Nicole pouted and sighed. “I don’t know if I could do that if I were you,”
“Here’s your ice latte. That’ll be 3.75,” Violet put the drink on the counter.
“Here you go, keep the change,” Nicole handed her a five dollar bill.
Nicole took the drink and smiled. Violet smiled politely back and turned her attention to the next customer. Nicole took the hint and she headed outside.
“Hi, welcome to City Coffee, what can I get you?”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Violet’s shift at the coffee shop ended at around 5 PM. She was tired from standing around all day, but the day wasn’t over yet. She took a quick dinner break before jumping into another bus, this time it was heading to The Union in Jersey City.
Ever since she graduated high school and she wasn’t going to college, Violet thought about filling her time with as much work as she could. Not only that her mother needed money for treatment, but the Carvey family still owed a lot of money to a lot of people. She had to do her part to help chip in any way she could.
Violet arrived at The Union just before 7 o’clock. The Union was a fancy western saloon-style bar that had been around in the neighborhood since the 1980’s. The owner, Danny, was a good friend of Violet’s dad because they grew up together in high school. Danny felt bad about what happened to James, so when James’s son and daughter asked for a job at his bar, he allowed them to work and paid them a little extra sometimes.
Violet started working as a waitress there a few months ago. Danny noticed right away that she was a smart girl. She was also a skilled barista, and once she started watching the bartenders mixing drinks, it didn’t take long before she ended up picking up that skill as well. Violet preferred working as a bartender than as a waitress. Sometimes the guys in the bar would get drunk and handsy and they’d put their hands on her miniskirt. That never sat well with her, especially when Dylan was around, he would start a fight over it. But being the bartender, Violet felt a lot safer because she was always behind the bar. No one could touch her there. She’d make less money in tips, but the peace of mind was priceless.
Dylan was always around the bar a lot as he was now promoted as the bar manager by Danny. Working under Danny was great, but Dylan was always looking for ways to make more money. Violet noticed that Dylan would sometimes do shady deals in the VIP section. He’d find girls or drugs for the VIP customers. One time he even got a guy a gun. Dylan never wanted to talk about his backdoor activities with Violet, so whenever she asked about it, he always shrugged it off and told her it’s better if she doesn’t know.
“Why are you dressed so extra today? It’s like you're applying for a job at a bank,” Violet commented as she saw Dylan walking out of the manager’s office in a suit and tie. Normally, her brother would only wear jeans and a black t-shirt. His long dark hair was always messy and unkempt, but he made an effort to comb them today.
“Didn’t you hear? We got special guests coming tonight,” Dylan played with his eyebrows and leaned against the bar counter.
“Watch it, I just cleaned the bar,” Violet shoved him away.
“Sorry,” he muttered and took out a cigarette from his pocket.
“And what special guests? Those basketball guys? Or that rapper Ice-T?” Violet said as she wiped the bar again.
“Nope, not athletes and rappers,”
Violet’s eyes shot up instinctively. She thought Dylan must be joking, but his expression was dead serious. He took a long drag of his cigarette before blowing the smoke away, in the direction opposite of Violet.
“What mafia?” she asked.
“The Van Zandt family,” Dylan whispered lowly so that only she could hear him. “They’re coming tonight, and they’ve got the whole VIP section booked,”
Much like everyone who had grown up in New Jersey, Violet had heard about the Van Zandt clan like it was a folklore story. They were the biggest mobster group in New Jersey since the Luciano family. The leader, Damon Van Zandt, took over the leadership after Joe Luciano died five years ago.
Violet had heard many stories, most of them weren’t great, but she never saw these people in real life. She never had a reason to. Her life was mostly peaceful and idyllic. She spent all her days at school, working at the coffee shop, and she’d go to church on Sundays. It was only recently that she started working at The Union, and so far the only famous people that came here were rap stars or athletes.
Suddenly, as if on cue, the front door flew open and a group of men in black suits appeared. Violet turned her head instantly. She noticed the atmosphere in the air shifted as this group of guys entered the room. Dylan quickly put out his cigarette and started walking to the door to greet the men.
One of the men stood out from the rest. He was standing in the very middle. He was tall, tan-skinned, dark haired, and tattoos were peeking out of his expensive three-piece suit. Violet found herself gazing at this mysterious figure. His eyes were dark and unreadable, but his gaze was sharp, sharper than that killer jawline.
And that was the first time Violet saw him in person, the devil in the flesh, Damon Van Zandt.
- - - - - To Be Continued - - - - -