Today is the first day of the rest of my life.
Phoenix sat in the back of the powder blue VW van, fidgeting, excited and fearful. She couldn’t believe she was actually going through with it, yet she couldn’t wait to start.
All her life Phoenix felt helpless. She always felt too young, too poor, too short and too plain to change, or affect the injustices she encountered daily. Children hurt by evil people,animals tortured, and innocent people robbed of their life savings. Not by masked stick up men, but by multi billion dollar entities.
And no one did anything to punish the offenders or help the victims.
That was about to change.
Phoenix felt her stomach tighten and her breath catch. She was tense, but she needed to relax.
The van was getting hotter and hotter by the second. she moved to the window and made a peep hole with the short frilly curtain just big enough to see through. Her body heat had no where to escape in the van. The heat from her body was absorbed by the vans shag carpet and heavy curtains, then thrown back at her like a boomerang.
Her eyes searched the empty sidewalk for any evidence Neil was on his way with her way in.
Neil parked the van on Dancaster, two blocks from the event, on a quiet street in the Sherwood forest neighborhood in midtown Atlanta. Every street was named after a character from Robin hood. Frair tuck road merged into little John trail. Nottingham way ended at Robin hood rd.
Mansions and MC Mansions lined double wide streets, surrounded by the Atlanta skyline, the Atlanta botanical gardens, and The Atlanta zoo. Sherwood forest at night felt like a pearl surrounded by sand. The sweeping estates and manicured lawns were a contrast against the skyscrapers of the city.
It took a kings ransom to afford a house in Sherwood Forest. Phoenix couldn’t fathom what it took or how much it cost to own the biggest, most lavish home in the neighborhood as Sebastian did.
She wondered whether the nod to robin hood was an intentional jab at the have nots, or an ironic coincidence.
She jumped and had to stifle a scream when Neil opened the door with a loud bang, disturbing the quiet of the night.
Phoenix caught her breath, locked eyes with Neil and said,
“Ready? I was born ready.” She flashed her million dollar smile and stepped into the night.
Neil was one of those rare specimens of brains and brawn. He stood six feet three inches, with an athletic build he sharpened five days a week at the gym. He could quote Tolstoy in an argument or make you crack up with Tommy boy. He loved animals, and children loved his playful nature.
He was perfect.
Neil was in love with her brother Rob, which practically made him her brother.
Neill cupped their arms together and they started down the sidewalk.
”Ok. I’m on a cigarette break,” said Neil.
“Do they know you don’t smoke?”
”No, they don’t.” He stopped to tie his shoe lace before continuing. ” but I’m not going to start now just so I can cover for you and your hare brained schemes. Come on Phoenix, this is a little too crazy, even for you.”
“Look, I’ve gone over this, its gonna work. All I have to so is get to Mr. Steel’s office and–”
” …and what? get arrested? I don’t know if they are going to to book you for trespassing or breaking and entering?”
Their steps slowed as they got closer and closer to the mansion. They could see the massive amounts of lights inside and out of the building. The hum of hundreds of voices just touched their ears.
“Neil, we’ve already talked about this.” A whiny desperation creaping into her voice. She was too close for this all to come to an end because Neil was having cold feet. They’d argued this point for weeks.
Phoenix barely got him to agree.
The tipping point was the promise to vacate the apartment she shared with Rob, for three days so he could have some privacy.
“Everything will be great. If I feel like anything is amiss, I will get out of their.” He didn’t seem convinced and they were almost there.
“I will take off running if I have to.” A smerk lifted neil’s lips.
That gave Phoenix what she needed, she continued with gusto.
“You know I can. I was the county champion hurdler. I promise, if anything goes wrong, I will kick off my heels and take off. I will jump over tables or slide under them if I have to. I will–”
”Ok, OK.” Neil rubbed his face and let out a defeated breath.
They were only a few yards from the service entrance to the mansion. The mansion was so big and opulent, it had an entrance for the service people and deliveries.
“I’m going back to the van. When you’re done, come and get me there. Here is my ID.”
He handed Phoenix a plastic ID from Drumming and Deutsche Events.
“Go in through the back door and go straight. The fourth door on the right is the ladies room. Its unattended so you can change in there. I placed the bag you gave me under the cabinet at the sink. After you change, walk out of the bathroom and make a right to go into the main event hall. Now, you’re going to have to make it through the crowd to the other side
of the hall and somehow manage to head up the spiral stairs.”
Neil wiped sweat from the top of his lips.
”I think Mr. Steel’s office is to the left. I think its the one all the way at the end of the hall. About eleven doors down.”
“Yes. eleven. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Yes. now get out of here. I got this.”
“Did you hear me, go right, right—”
“Yes, yes, now get out of here. we’re lucky no one came by and saw us yet. Let’s not push it.”
”Alright. I’m out.”
Neil turned and started back the way they came while Phoenix looked on.
“Hey Neil,” she called.
He turned to look at her, ready to scrap the whole thing.
”Thanks.” She knew he was putting his job, and his relationship with her brother on the line by doing this for her and she appreciated it. She didn’t know what she would do without her brother from another mother. He was an integral part of the dynamic of her family. She knew he was helping her simply because he loved her and always did whatever he thought would make her smile. He loved making her happy.
“I won’t fuck this up. Promise.”
Neil nodded and started toward the van.
The bag was right where Neil said it would be in the corner cabinet of the service bathroom. The dark color make it unnoticeable in the corner.
Locking the door, she started to take her clothes off. The red dress fit Phoenix”s curves like a glove. She slipped on her pink and red Betsey Johnson heels and took a leopard print clutch from the bag to complete her look.
She reached back into the bag for her blush lip gloss. She loved that her lip gloss smelled like strawberries. It made her feel sexy. She toseled her curls into a semi custom look and stood back.
“Not bad.” She hoped she looked like she belonged. She didn’t know what everyone else who was invited to the party wore, but standing before the mirror, was her version of a wealthy socialite. well, she saw Cameron Diaz win ” who wore it best” against Kim kardashian with an outfit just like Phoenix had on. down to the leopard print clutch bag.
She took a final look and headed to the door. As soon as she opened the door, she froze.