Archive | March, 2015

Trapped in an Alley With You

31 Mar

“There’s nowhere to go,” I hissed. Randy and I were crouched behind a bunch of garbage cans in an absolutely filthy alley that was doing nothing for my shoes. The icy sleet had slacked off a bit but its best friend rain was making itself real comfortable. I’d be soaked through by the time I got out of here.

“Sh.” Randy raised one hand – probably to put it over my mouth, but I twisted away from him. He jerked his head towards the mouth of the alley, where just outsideentrance1then two silhouettes, ugly as sin, were poised. I didn’t dare breathe. I knew what guys like this were capable of; I’ve come up against them before. If Lady Luck was with us, they’d scram and nobody would be the wiser…if, on the other hand, the lady withheld her favors, we were in a rather untenable situation.

The two silhouettes looked around, in that exaggerated manner silhouettes have. The shorter one nudged the taller one with his elbow. “They ain’t here,” he said, in a rough East End accent. “We’ll get ’em – either now or later.”

We waited till their footsteps had faded into the distance, then stood up slowly. I felt like I’d been folded inside the trunk of a car. “What do they want with us?” Randy asked. “They must have followed us to the Heartache.” He took hold of my elbow, like I was made of glass. “Come on. I want to get you home.”

I opened my mouth to protest, then shut it again. I wanted to talk this whole thing out with somebody, and he was the perfect fish. We flagged a cab on Water Street and rode to my place, neither one of us much in the mood for chatter. I tipped the cabbie two bits and Randy and me went up to my place in the elevator.

“Coffee?” I slung my coat at the hook. “I think I got some sinkers around here somewhere.” I kicked my shoes off.  “Check the icebox, wouldya?” monitor-top-refrigerator-freezer

I went around the room, pulling down the blackout blinds, then switched on a light. The landlady was stingy with the heat, it being wartime and all, but she must have been feeling the cold herself: the radiators were warm. I heard Randy rustling around in the kitchen, and went in to see what was going on. The coffeepot was already bubbling on the stove and he’d found the doughnuts in the icebox. “You should take your clothes off.” His face turned red from the neck up. “I mean, you’re wet, you should – I should, too, I guess.” He reached to take the coffeepot off the stove. “You know what, I’m just gonna go…”

“Stay there,” I ordered. I went into the bedroom and found the two bathrobes I’d stored away in the closet. They belonged to an earlier era in my life, when I was younger, thinner, and a lot less happy. “Here.” I tossed one of the robes at Randy. “Get out of those wet clothes and put this on before you catch pneumonia.”

I started stripping as soon as I closed my bedroom door. My blouse was soaked through and my nylons were stuck to my legs. I took off everything, right to the skin, then wrapped myself in the robe. It had been a present from a guy I knew, way back in New York before the war. I loved the thick terrycloth feel of it. Him, not so much. I wrapped a towel around my wet hair and went out to the kitchen. Randy was wearing his bathrobe – pale blue, with a thick shawl collar that gaped open nicely to a view of his muscled chest. I sighed inwardly. You are one lucky dame, Suze, I told myself. What a view!   Even better, he’d made himself at home on the bedspread – mostly because my place is a one-room closet and there’s nowhere else to sit, but still. Maybe the weather would turn stormy, and it would be too cold and nasty for himHe'd made himself comfortable on the bedspread... to venture out, later. Maybe the streetcars would be off the streets, not even a cab running, and he couldn’t walk all the way to the East End, wearing only a bathrobe. Maybe they’d have to ration the electricity, and there’d be no heat, and we’d have to huddle together for warmth–

“Did you say something about doughnuts?” he asked. I tried not to roll my eyes. Men! “Say, what’s your landlady going to think about me being here with you? Some people are fussy about that sort of thing.”

“She doesn’t care as long as the rent’s paid,” I said. I sat facing him and tried not to gawk at the view. “But don’t get too noisy or she’s liable to throw us both out.”

“I’m not real worried about noise, it’s just that—”

I was interrupted by a knock on the door. No, scratch that. They weren’t knocking on the door, they were pounding on it fit to break the wall down. I held up a hand to Randy, gesturing for quiet. “Who’s there?” I expected my landlady, Mrs. Blake, to give me an earful on the other side of the door.

Instead, the voice I heard drew icy fingers of utter dread up and down my spine. “Open the door, little girl, and nobody gets hurt.”

forty

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