It is just after 4:00 a.m. when Malcolm Winters unlocks the door to enter the hallway of his apartment building. Once inside he shakes the cold December night from his favorite gray suit and trench coat. "Brrr!" He turns around to find Vanessa Schmidt sitting on the steps with a small plastic grocery store bag containing her belongings resting between her heavily tattooed legs and an unlit cigarette and book of matches waiting in her hands. Malcolm and Vanessa were an undefined pair, until now.
"Hey Malcolm, how was your day?" Vanessa asked with a smile. "My day was great! Vanessa, I got another "refi" customer, I am ahead of everyone in my department this month and tonight I spoke with a young guy, he said he was just awarded his uncle's inheritance, a little over $600,000! I told him I could set his portfolio up so that he would not need to contribute to it after ten years and in another fifteen years he could retire if he wanted. Anyway, Mr. Wilkins wanted to talk to me about my future with the firm. He believes I have potential!" Vanessa tries to maintain her smile, "That's wonderful Malcolm! You are kicking ass.... but you could have called." Vanessa looks down at the cigarette in her hand and sighed. "Yeah.... it would have been nice if you would have thought to call." Malcolm looks at Vanessa trying to analyze, "Vanessa was wearing makeup, until now she has only worn makeup on special occasions, still he thought she looked beautiful. Her short auburn hair was in two pigtails, but she hasn't worn her hair that way in a long time. Obviously upset her colorful face was blank as she leaned forward playing with the cigarette in her fingers. She was wearing the old Wonder Woman t-shirt they found at the corner thrift store one Saturday, four or five months ago. She bought it with the quarter she had found on the sidewalk just a few minutes earlier. Malcolm remembers the smile on her face and happiness buying the twenty five cent shirt brought her, she said "this shirt was meant to be hers and it was a sign that her life is looking up." After buying the shirt, Vanessa cried and Malcolm gave her a big congratulatory hug and a kiss on the cheek. This was the first piece of clothing she has ever purchased, Vanessa is 29 years old.
Vanessa Schmidt is a woman with no stability. From a small farm town southwest of Sidney, she ran away at age fourteen to escape from her screaming. Her father was a sexually abusive alcoholic and meth addict when he could afford it, while under the influence one night he kicked in the bathroom while 14 year old Vanessa was showering, that night he became her first. Her mother died from an overdose of prescription medicine a year and a half before. Afterwards Vanessa ran all the way to Omaha hoping to forget, it took her a week. The young runaway has worn a lot of hats to survive fifteen years on the streets of Omaha, she is a beautiful girl with tattoos and piercings to cover her many scars, most are self inflicted. An intelligent girl filled with tons of issues, loneliness and insecurity topping the list.
Malcolm Winter is Vanessa's opposite, a twenty seven year old street kid from Western Chicago. It's was Malcolm's grandfather who introduced him to the stock market and tried to explain the benefits of investing, investments and annuities when he was nine, by age twelve Malcolm would explain investing to anyone willing to listen. Growing up savvy had its downfalls, Malcolm was always fighting to stay out of the gangs who always seemed to be recruiting. He ran the numbers and learned his odds for a successful life was higher if he ran alone.
Malcom learned of Warren Buffett in the sixth grade and decided to follow that path. Today Malcolm is a University of Nebraska grad also in Omaha with the drive to succeed. Deemed an overachiever by the standards of many, Malcolm enlisted tons of sweat equity to make his mark in the world of banking, finance and personal investments. He works two full time jobs as a trader and advisor, working both the US and foreign markets, coming home only to sleep, shower.... and bring some type of order to the beautiful, but very angry insecure woman who only wants to matter in his life.
"Vanessa, what's going on and where did you get a cigarette?" Malcolm questions, Vanessa hasn't smoked in over three months. "Malcolm, it doesn't matter, nothing matters.... nothing but you!" Malcolm watches as the illustrated woman raises the cigarette to her mouth. He shakes his head as she strikes the match. "Vanessa don't!" Malcolm begs, Vanessa lowers the match and flicks her wrists to extinguish it before removing the cigarette from her lips never taking her eyes from Malcolm, okay Malcolm, anything you say. She places the cigarette and book of matches on the step next to her and lifts her bag of belongings, the shirt she was wearing the night she and Malcolm met and what was left of the eyeliner pencil that was in the pocket of her short cutoff jeans that didn't fit, she could zip them up but not fasten them and they exposed her pubic area and the cheeks of her butt. Vanessa's hazel eyes were glassy as she stood, Malcolm realized she was dressed in the manner she was when he met her, it was a Friday night outside a bar. She propositioned him for a blowjob. "5 minutes for 5 bucks! "Mister, I can do it between the two dumpsters on the side of the building." She said with a seductive smile exposing her stained teeth. "You are cute! For another five dollars you can have the rest of me for another five minutes!" Vanessa smelled like she hadn't bathed, ever! Her matted brown hair was in pigtails. Malcolm thought he was going to puke from her odor. Before he could politely decline her offer, Vanessa fainted. Malcolm caught her as she fell, he looked around hoping someone would claim her, but no one wanted anything to do with the woman who smelled like something crawled inside of her and died. Vanessa didn't weigh anything, she was only skin and bone. Not sure what else to do, Malcolm decided it was best to carry her home, he removed her soiled clothing that didn't fit and bathed her, taking time and care he let Vanessa soak in the hot tub of suds for hours hoping the stench would leave her, the irritating menace would not release her. Malcolm tried lotions and scented oil. He waited for her to awaken to feed her. Vanessa slept for a day and a half. Vanessa woke not remembering Malcolm and was afraid he had raped her, she went into a panic not noticing her fresh smelling skin and hair. It took some coaxing to calm the erratic substance abuser, once she leveled she asked Malcolm for $5 for services rendered. That was last April, it is now December.
As Vanessa stood Malcom noticed how pretty she had become, no longer the inked, smelly, emotionally imbalanced skeleton that sickened him last spring, her pale white face was full, her lips were red, luscious and pouty. She has hips now and nice legs. Her super heroin t-shirt didn't meet her "Daisy Dukes". The tattered shirt stopped inches from her opened denim shorts exposing the artwork across her stomach and lower back down to her hairless pubic region and the crack of her cute little ass. Like when they met, Vanessa was not wearing underwear. Vanessa stood tall and beautifully. The gorgeous walking canvass raised her head and stiffened her chin, "Take care of yourself young man, and make your momma proud!" Vanessa slowly strolls pass Malcom, her hazel eyes still fixed on his deep browns as she steps into the cold December night, no longer carrying the stench he could smell the perfume she asked him to buy her for her birthday, her sweet undeniable scent opened his eyes and his heart. Malcolm watched as Vanessa painfully walked down the steps, "Where are you going? It's freezing out there!" Vanessa turned and began down the sidewalk. "Vanessa!" Malcolm called hoping his commanding tone would continue to be successful. Vanessa stopped, she waited for a few seconds hoping to hear him approach, she felt he needed to prove himself and come to get her, to take ownership and return her to his world. Vanessa stood crying with her back to Malcolm, soon summoning her strength she wiped her eyes and took a deep breath, she ran across the street to the corner and disappeared.
Malcolm stood trying to make sense of what just happened. The door to Apartment 1A opened. Mrs. Davis, the apartment manager steps into the hallway and placed herself at the top of the stairs just above him, she looked disapproving . "You're just gonna let her leave like that after all the work you've done?" She stood with her arms crossed in her house coat and curlers. "Mattie, leave that boy alone and let him take care of his own business!" Mr. Davis yells from inside. "I wasn't talking to you Harold Davis! If you want to be useful why don't you go downstairs and finish fixing that freaking boiler!" It's suppose to freeze tonight!" The landlord looks back at Malcolm, "I never liked her, and you can't trust "her kind!" Stealing and doing only God knows what, But.... "I get it Mrs. Davis!" Malcolm replies. "Excuse me Ma'am, I gotta be at the bank in 3 hours.
Malcolm arrives at Apartment 2C, Vanessa left the door unlocked, she must have been waiting for me to come home to make sure no one else walked in," he surmised. Malcolm looked around the living room, the apartment was immaculate, Vanessa has taken great care of it, as if the single bedroom apartment was hers. Malcolm saw the table was set and there was something wonderful smelling coming from the kitchen. Malcolm found mashed potatoes hardening on the stove and baked chicken now chilling in the oven. There was a single cupcake with a pink candle waiting on the stove.
Malcolm turned around and looked into the bedroom, the skinny black cocktail dress, black opaque pantyhose, black lace bra and stilettos he bought for Vanessa's 29th Birthday waited for her. The young man noticed the photo of them was next to the lamp and her new glasses on her side of the bad, Vanessa in makeup, smiling with Malcolm, he recalls how beautiful she looked, and how he wanted her later. Malcolm stood in the doorway trying to tie everything together. "Eight months Mr. Winters!" Mrs. Davis announced as she walked into the apartment. "She has been clean for six of them, that is the reason for the dinner." Mrs. Davis opens the oven to examine the ruined meal she and Vanessa spent hours on earlier. You know, she came to me and asked for help with your dinner yesterday afternoon. She said "she needed tonight to be perfect for when you got home!" She was hoping you two would celebrate and that you would look at her differently. Malcolm stood puzzled as the landlady enlightened him as she placed the lid back on the potatoes. "Mr. Winters, your personal life is not my business, but it seems you don't have a personal life! Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure...." Malcolm replies
Mrs. Davis opens the refrigerator to remove milk and butter to fix the potatoes as she begins her deposition. "You have invested a lot of time and energy in Vanessa... Why?" Malcolm scratches the back of his head. "She needed help, she passed out in front of me. I wanted to get her back on her feet." "Uh-huh," the older woman acknowledges. "Vanessa has been clean for months, why was she still here?" Malcolm stood wondering where the landlord was going. "Think son, think! Why was she still here?" Malcolm had no answer. "Vanessa is a pretty girl, once you get past her scary ass tattoos," Mrs. Davis confesses. "Mrs. Davis, Malcolm interrupts, "I am sorry, but I am not following...." Mrs Davis gets to her point. "She stayed as long as she did because she loves you! She wants you, respects you, yadda yadda yadda.... The problem is you care for her, but you don't want her. So, what's wrong with her Malcolm? Why aren't you touching her? Riddle me this Smart Guy, how do you sleep next to her and never have the urge? Is there another woman?" No Ma'am!" Malcolm answers quickly. "Do you prefer men? It's okay, I am not judging." "No...." Malcolm answers disgustedly. "Let the truth set you free! What is it?" Malcolm sighs, he is almost shamed as he looks at the ground. "She told me she is messed up inside, you know.... down there, and, she can't have children because of it. She got pregnant when she was 16, she panicked and tried to self abort, she used a hanger and tore herself up, she said it was pretty bad, it almost killed her, it was her blood that led them to the dumpster she hid behind. Anyway, she says sex is painful to her and the baby..... it haunts her. She says from time to time she can hear it crying. She would cut herself to try and match the baby's pain. That's why she has the scars on her arms and legs. And.... I still smell that stench, from the night I brought her home." He looks up at the landlady, "You remember that night, don't you Mrs. Davis?" The old black lady exhales, "Yeah, I still remember.... It took two cans of air freshener to cut the stench from her goat smelling ass! But Baby, she doesn't smell like that anymore."
Mrs Davis removes the chicken from the oven, "do you have any flour?" Malcolm points, the early morning chef adds seasonings to the pan to make gravy. "Malcolm, you spent two months detoxing her, you went to the clinic with her. She's clean Baby, and she is out there with nothing to keep her warm, with no one except the bullshit a cold night brings! She is waiting for you Malcolm, you are the only person to ever give a damn about her, she doesn't care about herself, give her a week out there and she will be the way she was when you met her!" Mrs. Davis adds the cold dry chicken to the gravy, the mashed potatoes are simmering. "Malcolm, Mr. Davis was not my first choice, but he is a good man, he works hard, he keeps me safe and takes care of me. Baby that's love! And he was my best choice! You give that to Vanessa, but you won't take her in return. You are good to her, but you treat her like she is shit at the same time. How do you care and not care for someone at the same time?" Mrs. Davis nods her head. "Maybe she is better off wherever she is. I know if Harold didn't want me I would move on too, but I would not have waited until the coldest time of year to do so!" You don't choose who you love, or who loves you! That's how the good Lord intended, but I will end with this, Vanessa is a train wreck, who loves you more than anything in the world, more than herself. She would cut off her right hand for you, how many women do you know that cares enough to do that?" Mrs. Davis takes the spoon to taste the potatoes and gravy. "Your dinner is almost ready, go and find her.... unless you really don't give a damn!" Malcolm grabs Vanessa's coat and eyeglasses.