Penny Dresser sipped her cappuccino and tightened her outdated, Burberry scarf. In mid-January, the sun had taken residency in Manhattan, causing The Mark hotel’s outdoor coffee shop to swell with vitamin D deprived patrons. Turning the pages of Italian Vogue, Penny brushed her overly long fringe from her eyes and released her ponytail.
“Here, check it out,” Penny said handing the magazine across the metal mesh table to Jackson, “Looks like Johns is getting into fashion.”
Jackson sat tall in his chair reading an article, in The Times, about the President’s possible involvement in a scandal regarding a solar power company. The thick magazine thumped onto the table, rattling the flatware and spilling some of his coffee. Alarmed, Jackson quickly collapsed his paper and asked what happened. Penny rolled her very large round blue eyes and motioned back to the Vogue.
“Read it! There’s an article in there about your fiancé or ex-fiancé or whatever and Robbie Johns,” she explained again.
Jackson thumbed through the magazine and quickly observed, “It’s in Italian.”
“Shit, right, well it says that Johns is being hit up by designers to represent their new lines.” Penny said, “And he is quoted from his publicist as being interested in a Nora Frances, an up and coming designer most notable for her free lance work at the Eva St. Clair fashion house.”
Feigning disinterest, Jackson opened up his paper and continued to read about Solyndra. Penny’s wide hand slapped the table, spilling more of Jackson’s coffee.
“Jesus,” he protested.
”So, that’s it? You’re just done with her?” Penny asked concerned.
Jackson shrugged and folded his newspaper into a perfect square and placed it over the Vogue. He sipped his coffee and looked at the blue sky. Penny sipped her coffee drink and noticed that the wind had grown colder as the sun prepared itself to set. Jackson sat quietly, watched the passersby head towards Madison Avenue and drank his coffee.
“She broke my heart, Penny,” Jackson finally admitted, “I don’t know what you want from me.”
“I’m sorry. Look Jackie, this is your bestie from high school talking to you now. I hate seeing you like this and hate even more not being able to do anything about it,” Penny said.
Jackson reached across the table and touched her hand. He smiled a toothy grin and thanked her.
Penny continued, “If you need to take time with this, fine, but if you still love her don’t let your being stubborn stand in your way. Okay?”
Jackson laughed and nodded his head. He confessed to her that he hadn’t even found out why she had cheated. When Nora had returned from London he had only given her deadlines – one week to find a new place and another week to get her shit out. He then left her alone in the Park Slope studio and rented a hotel room on the Upper East Side.
The blue walls spit and covered her Singer 191D-20 sewing machine, 3 dress forms and Nora, in blue-grey dust. Angered and frustrated, she tried to move her sewing ‘room’ to the other side of the flat. She was successful moving her Japanese screens, the cherry wood writing desk, the Singer serger, all three dress forms and the large rolls of fabric. The table for the 191D-20, however, proved heavier than she had remembered. She was forced to leave it by the wall to turn blue. Crying, Nora climbed back into Ian’s bed and turned on the TV. Landing on Mtv, she recognized the name ‘Robbie Johns’ recently from her Italian Vogue but mostly from hearing Jackson refer to him as a narcissist.
The young pretty VJ, introduced Dirty Herberts’ Robbie Johns and promised America that he would reveal news of his future with his world famous band, fashion and owning most of East London. Nora sipped her wine and sat up.
“Maybe he’ll mention me,” Nora hoped wiping her tears.
Robbie spoke, “I wanted to give back to what had made me who I am so I started to invest in low income housing, but doing it in a manner by which the residents could afford to stay. In Shetfield, you are poor, but you’re still proud to be from Shetfield.”
Intrigued, she turned up the TV. The thin, brunette’s voice lilted when she pressed him about his desire to turn his career away from music and try his hand at fashion. He let her know that her facts were complete bullocks and condescendingly explained that in England, the love affair between rock and roll and fashion is legendary.
“Do you know the Rolling Stones, love?” he asked.
The brunette threw her long bangs from her eyes and stuttered, “Seriously?”
Robbie stared through her. Nora wiped her tears and finally laughed. Climbing out of bed, she crossed to her desk for more cigarettes and noticed she had 4 missed calls from Ian.
The TV spoke in the background, “Well, yeah!”
“Okay then. Currently, I’m simply the biggest name in pop, and possibly; now, I say this with all due respect, but possibly a modern day Mick Jagger. Pop stars in England, and I would also include, the hip-hop community, anywhere, find fashion to be the next natural step.”
Nora agreed, “Yeah fashion! Mention me!”
An unrecognizable loud voice on her voicemail, spoke in choppy bursts. Nora quickly dialed Ian’s number.
The strange voice shouted into the phone, “Finally.”
“Who is this?” Nora begged.
“Listen, you need to get some money together, Ian’s in jail!”
“Ian Smith,” the rail thin Brooklyn police officer clucked more than yelled, “You’re free to go. Your bail has been posted.”
Ian faced two large blood shot eyes and a hefty waft of halitosis while collecting his few belongings from the front desk. Dragon breath was happy to inform Ian that assholes like Ian should be assholes in their own country and that if they busted him fighting again, charges or no charges, they would have his Irish ass sent back for good. Ian kept his head down and stuffed his pockets. In dark Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, Nora waited for him in the busy station. Ian’s eyes landed on her. Ashamed, he kept his head down, and walked to her.
“Oh my God, Ian, your eye!” Nora blurted.
“Shh, it’s okay love, I’m okay. Let’s get the hell outta here,” he said guiding her out of the station.
“Wait…I mean, your friend, George is outside smoking. He has your phone,” Nora explained.
“Brilliant,” he said.
Clasping onto Nora’s hand, Ian strode quickly out of the station to find George. An average dark haired man, he sat on a stone bench smoking and talking to his wife. Her Welsh dialect was always heavier when she had had enough. And she had had enough of him hanging out with that half-Irish degenerate and that a husband should be home with his wife. Hearing it in her voice, he realized that she was only scared that he had been hurt again. He apologized profusely and promised that he’d be home in the hour. His wife warned that if he wasn’t, she’d lock him out again and he could get a hotel for all she gave a toss. Still holding onto Nora, Ian extended his other hand out to his teammate.
“You bastard,” Ian accused.
“My wife has been through enough as it is. I told you, I’m not fighting anymore and you have your bastard self to thank for it,” George explained and lit up another cigarette.
“Ah, Alli just hates the Irish. A lot balls comin’ from a Welsh,” Ian tried to wind him up.
Stoic and exhausted, George offered a cigarette to Ian, who turned it down, then to Nora. She thanked him and waited for him to light it.
“Ah, so you’re the bird he’s got staying with him. I’m George, we spoke on the phone.”
She shook his hand and continued to cling to Ian.
George passed along his phone, “Look, I’m glad you’re free but, Alison will throw me out if I don’t get home. Cheers,” he quickly stated flatly and was off.
The couple sat still in the blackness of the cab while rows of old and abandoned brownstones blurred outside the window. The dry cold streets, heading towards Bedford-Stuyvesant, were eerily deserted. Nora turned to Ian, still wearing her sunglasses, and from her bag offered him an ice pack. Surprised, thanking her, he obeyed and placed it over his eye.
“What happened?” she finally spoke.
“What always happens, we got aled up and started punchin’,” Ian replied.
“Punching who?” Nora asked listlessly.
“United! See we represent Briztol City, and they represent Manchester, the Red Devils…” he began.
“What?” she interrupted,” You mean to tell me that you went to jail over a made up football league?”
The cab pulled up to his flat. Ian paid the cabby, grabbed Nora’s hand and climbed out. Once outside, under the streetlight, she observed that his red and purple eye was swollen shut. Nora carefully examined the blood that had dried and clotted on his busted lip, then tried to reach his crooked nose but was stopped.
“You don’t want to go to the hospital?” her voice rattled.
Ian kissed her head and assured her that it looked worse than it really was. He went in for another kiss but was stopped.
“Ian, I just want to go to bed,” she said starting to sob again.
“Oh sweetie, don’t cry,” he comforted her, “I’ll be fine, I promise. I’ve a knack for quick healing.”
“What if they press charges? They’ll deport you,” she cried.
He wrapped her into his arms and felt her shaking against him. He tried to sooth her by telling her that come the morning, Evan and George would straighten everything out with the owners.
“Look love, I know that you don’t have a lot of money. You’ll get every cent back, I promise,” he said.
The television was still blaring Mtv when they entered the apartment. Ian crossed to the dorm fridge while Nora slowly undressed and climbed back into bed. He sat on the bed, turned off the TV and sipped his beer.
“I’m sorry I was an arse earlier. I get carried away and next thing I know…” he tried to explain.
Nora’s ring tone rang loudly and interrupted him. Annoyed, she pulled the phone from her purse, strewn by the bed, and shut off the ringer. She noticed that it was a missed call from Jackson. Ignoring it, she tossed her phone back into her purse.
“Was it him?” Ian asked suspiciously.
Nora nodded then crawled to him. She gently kissed his swollen eye and broken nose and replaced the discarded ice pack. Insisting that he keep it iced, she attempted to unzip his pants.
“Stop,” he said checking the time on his phone, “Why’d you bail me out?”
She shook her head, “I don’t know. I mean, I don’t even know you. I guess I made up my mind.”
“Look, if you even so much as think of doing to me what you just did to that sorry bastard, I will kill you,” he threatened with a smile then tried to kiss her with his bloody lip.
Nora screamed and failed to escape his bloody kiss from smearing her cheek. Still reeking of the night’s events and a Brooklyn jail cell, he was quickly banished to the bathroom for a shower. Nora even suggested that he have his clothing incinerated. She waited for the shower to start then checked her phone.
“Hey, it’s me. Um…I was hoping that we could talk about everything. Um…just give me a call when you can,” Jackson’s voice cracked on her voicemail.
Nora quickly text him, “Call me at noon.”