The Stories We Whisper at Night - Sky Corgan



I've been in this room a million times before, but for the first time ever, it feels like a prison. Maybe because I'm sitting in a chair in the middle of the room. It's an odd place to put a chair, but it seemed appropriate considering the exchange.

I look at all of the boxes stacked around me yearning for the comfort of familiarity. The stock in the store rotates weekly, but I can still expect to see these boxes here. Chips and candy and pop—the typical stuff that people come to my parents' small grocery store for.

Today, everything seems foreign to me. Right now, I'm the only one in the room, and the mood is so tense that I feel like I'm suffocating. The cool air snakes up my lungs to choke me. There's a vice grip on my heart. I've never been more nervous in my entire life.

I smooth down the front of the floral skirt I'm wearing over my knees, trying to cover myself down to my ankles. There were about a dozen different outfits that I could have worn today, but I wanted to give off an air of modesty. Long high-waisted skirt. Long sleeve red shirt to match the roses on the skirt. I even put on white opaque stockings so that there would be nothing to see beyond the skirt. I'm wearing large round-framed sunglasses even though I'm indoors. I can barely see a thing, but I need them to hide the bags under my eyes from the lack of sleep. That and the fact that my makeup is probably smeared from the silent sobbing I've been doing. Concealer can only hide so much, and I swear there's no such thing as waterproof mascara.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I shouldn't have worn makeup at all. It doesn't really matter, though. It wouldn't make Giovanni Bianchi magically decide not to take me. He's seen me in a full range of clothing, with and without makeup. I should count it as a blessing that he wanted me in the first place. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened to my parents—to their store. I would not want them to lose it. It's their life's work.

I remember the story my father used to tell me when I was a child about how hard he and Mom had worked to accomplish their goal of owning their own grocery story. It was a story full of romance and wonder. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a part of that story, so I volunteered to work at the store every free chance that I got. The store became just as much a part of me as it was for them. It had evolved from being bricks and tile and windows to becoming a part of our family. If we lost it, we'd all be devastated.

My parents had moved here long before I was born. As the story goes, my mother's parents hated my father—to this day I haven't met my grandparents on either side. They refused to let the two marry, so my father used all the money he had saved up from his job as a janitor to fly them to the United States. My mother had always dreamed of going to New York City, so that's where they landed, but they ended up settling down in the Bronx. Neither of them spoke a lick of English when they got here, so they had a difficult time establishing themselves. Initially, they lived off of what little money my father had left. Then they both had to start picking up odd jobs. My mother is a wonderful seamstress, so she put those skills to use. My father worked manual labor gigs whenever he found them. He said that after a few years of struggling to make ends meet, it became a running joke that one day they would open up a grocery store so that they'd never have to worry about food again.

Eventually, my father found steady work at a gas station and my mother settled in at a tailoring shop. They lived a meager life, sharing a 525 square foot one bedroom apartment and pinching every penny they had. It wasn't until two years after I was born that they had saved up enough money to turn their joke into a reality. Wanting a better life for us, they decided to go into business for themselves. They bought a small store on the corner of Arlington