The building was locked this late, no one else in their offices.
Mish and the woman’s gray silhouettes wavered behind the pebbled window. I spent a moment catching my breath, kept down a final cough and turned the bolt and swung the door open. The rain couldn’t tamp down the acrid tang from the nearby plastics factory.
“Good evening, come in,” I said, instinctively glancing around behind them as they came up the steps. “Welcome to my humble abode.” Yeah, I knew it wasn’t my abode, but I ended up sleeping here more nights than in my apartment.
She wore a mesh under her fashionable hat. A couple raindrops glistened on it. She stepped in without looking at me, followed by Mish, shaking rain off his fedora. He gave me that ‘play nice, now’ look he used to give me a lot upstate. He expected me to be a schoolboy polishing an apple for teacher. I knew he was right but something in me still bristled.
“Second floor, up here. Sorry, our elevator boy is off tonight,” I joked, and led them up.
Her heels clicked on the stairs. She had a surprisingly solid step. I didn’t look back at her, to be polite – club women like that in public – and I let them in my office.
I had let Trish take a couple days off, and I ended up regretting it. I had tried to tidy up as best I could, but I’m just not good with woman’s work. Trish’s front office was neater than mine, with plants in pots, so I had us stay in here.
I moved to help her with her coat, but Mish beat me to it.
She was of a certain age, to be sure, but still slender, even willowy, her wide belt cinched around a still girlishly small waist. She was about as tall as me, and most women aren’t. Mish draped her coat and hat on the coat tree but only took his hat off and put it on Trish’s desk. Her hair was full, and you really had a hard time deciding if it was naturally white or platinum blonde. Her complexion was so pale, it crossed my mind she might even be an albino.
“Nice office, Mr. Mayhew,” she said flatly, to be polite, assessing it, without turning around to face me.
Her voice wavered with an accent, but she knew how to talk, like someone’s parent who’s been here thirty years and actually worked at learning it. But Mish told me she had just come over this year, from Romania.
She turned to me. Her eyes were dark, deep. She wasn’t an albino, just sun starved. It took me a second to see her eyes were the darkest blue, the last color you see on the edge of the sky after the sun goes down. Her face was softly webbed in the finest wrinkles, like a bone china cup that’d been dropped but hadn’t shattered. That and her hair – which was white – proved she certainly wasn’t young. But her figure and carriage wanted to say she was.
She knew I was looking at her the way men look at dames.
But she also expected it.