Sheets pulled up tightly. Rain tap-dancing on my bedroom window. I’m guessing it’s around 7am. It’s Saturday, a lot to do, though nowhere especially urgent for us to be.
She rolls her eyes, almost awake. A smile pierces the curtain of coiled brown hair half masking her face. We are wrapped in each other’s arms. We’ve been this way since that day in the park.
I had noticed her that afternoon coming down Fifth Avenue half a block away. I was moving towards her with absolute purpose. She could have moved to avoid me.
Wringing wet from my three-circuit run around the Central Park reservoir, I stopped a few feet away, removed my sunglasses and slipped the stem of the frame under my t-shirt.
“Wow,” I said.
“Are you married?”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No,” she said. Soft brown eyes danced over me, checking and authenticating.
“And your favorite color?”
“That would be blue.”
“Phew,” I said. “For a second there, I thought you were going to choose the wrong color.”
She laughed as though we had known each other forever. She laughed as though we hadn’t seen each other in forever. “That’s important?”
“Of course it is.”
“And the married or boyfriend stuff?”
“And, if I may ask, what’s your social status?”
“Right, so, I am not married nor do I have a boyfriend but, more importantly, do you prefer crunchy or chewy chocolate chip cookies?”
“Chewy, definitely chewy. What kind of New York City girl would go for crunchy? It’s barbaric.”
“Considering I used to be the Chocolate Chip Cookie Critic for The New York Times, I agree.”
“Really, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Critic for The New York Times?”
“I know, I know, you’re asking yourself how someone so young and devastatingly handsome could land such a prestigious position. I get that question all the time.”
“Yes, right, of course you do. But, also on a slightly different note, do your parents or guardian — or possibly your keepers — know that you’re out here roaming the streets without adult supervision?”
“I thought so.” A bright smile now a regular feature. “Anything else, and maybe with just a hint of truth, I should know about you?”
I thought for a moment. “Is this, you know, like, a take-home question? Because I haven’t really studied for it.”
“Yes. Of course,” she said, shifting her weight into a more comfortable position. “I should have guessed that one too. My fault there.”
“Actually, when I was really, really young, I ran a high-priced escort service.”
“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this.”
“Used to get a cookie a block, and two if the girl wanted conversation. It was because of that enterprise that I landed the job at The Times.”
“Made a killing there, did you?”
“See,” I said, moving a centimeter closer, “the great part was that if they went for the conversation thing, I asked, ‘Now, just to be totally transparent, if it’s intelligent conversation you want, well, that will cost you a little more.’”
“I already know I’m going to regret asking, but what was the fee you were extorting out of some young thing — and, since you look about twenty-five now, I am guessing that would be some unsuspecting fourteen-year old?
“A brownie a block,” I answered proudly.
“Lord, I should have seen that one coming too.”
“Hey, maybe you’re naturally learning-curve impaired? That’s more common than you think. And you shouldn’t feel embarrassed about it,” I added. “There’s plenty of medication on the market to help.”
“Embarrassed, no. And as far as how long I’ve been suffering from this condition, I would guess for the last minute or so.”
“And, did I mention, wow?”
She nodded slowly, thoughtfully, comfortably. “Yes, yes you did.”
“Yeah, I just thought by this point in our relationship I needed to mention it again.”
“In our relationship?”
“Yeah. Now that you now know all there is to know about me because I’ve pretty much confessed everything, while you, you’ve been properly cautious and, did I mention wow? ”
“My name is Angela and I think I would like a few blocks of escorted, intelligent conversation down to the Central Park Zoo on 64th Street where I am meeting some friends. Do you think you can manage that?”
“More pressure, more pressure, more pressure,” I said, covering my face with both hands.
“Okay, just relax and take a few deep breaths.”
“Too bad Orville isn’t here when you need him.”
“My teddy bear. He’s on a top secret black ops assignment in Eastern Europe. He’d know how to answer you.”
“And you depend upon him?”
I considered the question. It was fair and timely and appropriate. “No more than he depends on me, and I really shouldn’t be talking about him out here in the open. Who knows what foreign agents are lurking about in the park?”
“Or are wandering around muttering ‘wow’ to every brunette?”
“Boy, you’re just exactly a hundred percent wrong there.”
“Okay, okay, so let’s just go for conversation, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be intelligent. I think I’m going to have to scratch that one off my bucket list with you, permanently, or maybe Orville can help out when he returns.”
“Wow, beautiful and compassionate.”
“Good morning,” she said, planting a kiss on my cheek, some weeks later.
“Good morning, princess.”
Angela glanced at the window and the gray landscape of drizzle blurred apartment buildings beyond, and to my dresser. “Is he still watching?”
“He was up before me. You would think he never sleeps.”
She shot Orville a wink and folded herself back into my arms. “Our very brave, furry little secret agent. Glad he returned when he did.”
“He’s protected me from the grownup world for almost twenty years.”
“I can’t imagine what we would do without him.”
“Fortunately, we’ll never know,” I said, moving myself, if possible, even closer into her embrace.
Arthur Davis is a management consultant who has been quoted in The New York Times, Crain’s New York Business and interviewed on New York TV News Channel 1. He has advised The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, Senator John McCain’s investigating committee on boxing reform, and testified as an expert witness before the New York State Commission on Corruption in Boxing. Since 2012, over seventy tales have been published and he was featured in a quarterly, single author anthology, nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received Honorable Mention in Best American Mystery Stories 2017.
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