Insatiable (chap 2)

9:30 A.M . EST, Tuesday, April 13
6 train
New York, New York

Meena hoped she was wrong about Miss Butterfly.
Except that Meena was never wrong. Not about death. Giving in to the inevitable, Meena
let go of the gleaming metal pole and slid into the seat the girl had offered.
“So, is this your first time visiting the city?” Meena asked Miss Butterfly, even though
she already knew the answer.
The girl, still smiling, cocked her head. “Yes. New York City!” she cried
enthusiastically.
Great. Her English was basically nonexistent.
Miss Butterfly had pulled out a cell phone and was scrolling through some photos on it.
She stopped on one and held it up for Meena to see.
“See?” Miss Butterfly said proudly. “Boyfriend. My American boyfriend, Gerald.”
Meena looked at the grainy picture. Oh, brother, she thought.
Why? Meena asked herself. Why today, of all days? She didn’t have time for this. She
had a meeting. And a story to pitch. There was that head writing position, vacant now that Ned
had had that very public nervous breakdown in the network dining room during spring sweeps.
Head writer was really where the money was on a show like Insatiable.
Meena needed money. And she was sure the pressure wouldn’t cause her to have a
nervous breakdown. She hadn’t had one so far, and she had plenty of things to worry about
besides Insatiable’s ratings.
A woman’s voice came over the subway car’s loudspeakers to warn that the doors were
closing. The next stop, she announced, would be Forty-second Street, Grand Central Station.
Meena, having missed her own stop, stayed where she was.
God, Meena thought. When will my life stop sucking? “He looks very nice,” she lied to
Miss Butterfly about Gerald. “You’re here to visit him?”
Miss Butterfly nodded energetically.
“He help me get visa,” she said. “And—” She used the cell phone to mimic taking
photos of herself.
“Head shots,” Meena said. She worked in the business. She understood exactly what
Miss Butterfly was talking about. And her heart sank even more. “So you want to be a model.
Or an actress?”
Miss Butterfly beamed and nodded. “Yes, yes. Actress.”
Of course. Of course this pretty girl wanted to be an actress.
Fantastic, Meena thought cynically. So Gerald was her manager, too. That explained a
lot about the baseball cap—pulled down so low that Meena couldn’t see his eyes—and the
number of gold chains around his neck in the photo.
“What’s your name?” Meena asked.
Miss Butterfly pointed at herself, as if surprised Meena cared to discuss her as opposed
to the ultra-fantastic Gerald.
“I? I am Yalena.”
“Great,” Meena said. She opened her bag, dug around the mess inside it, and came up
with a business card. She always had one handy for exactly this kind of situation, which
unfortunately came up all too often…especially when Meena rode the subway. “Yalena, if you
need anything—anything at all—I want you to call me. My cell phone number is on there. See
it?” She pointed to the number. “You can call me anytime. My name is Meena. If things don’t
work out with your boyfriend—if he turns out to be mean to you, or hurts you in any way—I
want you to know you can call me. I’ll come get you, wherever you are. Day or night. And
listen…,” she added. “Don’t show this card to your boyfriend. This is a secret card. For
emergencies. Between girlfriends. Do you understand?”
Yalena just gazed at her, smiling happily.
She didn’t understand. She didn’t understand at all that Meena’s number might literally
mean the difference between life and death for her.
They never understood.
The train pulled up to Forty-second Street station. Yalena jumped up.
“Grand Central?” she asked, looking panicky.
“Yes,” Meena said. “This is Grand Central.”
“I meet my boyfriend here,” Yalena said excitedly, grabbing her huge roller bag and
giving it a yank. She took Meena’s card in her other hand, beaming. “Thank you! I call.”
She meant she’d call to get together for coffee sometime.
But Meena knew Yalena would call her for something totally different. If she didn’t lose
the card…or if Gerald didn’t find it and take it away. Then give her a fist sandwich.
“Remember,” Meena repeated, following her off the train. “Don’t tell your boyfriend
you have that. Hide it somewhere.”
“I do,” Yalena said, and scrambled toward the nearest flight of stairs, lugging her
suitcase behind her. It was so huge, and Yalena was so small, she could barely drag it. Meena,
giving in to the inevitable, picked up the bottom of the girl’s incredibly heavy suitcase and
helped her carry it up the steep and crowded staircase. Then she pointed Yalena in the
direction the girl needed to go—the boyfriend was meeting her “under the clock” in the “big
station.”
Then, with a sigh, Meena turned around and headed for a train back uptown, so she
could get to Madison and Fifty-third Street, where her office building was located.
Meena knew Yalena hadn’t understood a word she’d said. Well, maybe one in five.
And even if she had, there wouldn’t have been any point in telling the girl the truth. She
wouldn’t have believed Meena, anyway.
Just like there was no point in following her now, seeing the boyfriend for herself, and
then saying something to him like, “I know what you really are and what you do for a living.
And I’m going to call the police.”
Because you can’t call the cops on someone for something they’re going to do. Any
more than you can tell someone that they’re going to die.
Meena had learned this the hard way.
She sighed again. She was going to have to run now if she wanted to catch the next train
uptown….
She just prayed there wouldn’t be too many people on it.

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