Stepping out into the wind and sleet, her thin leather boots disappeared under the floating ice and street trash. Gone was the snowy white magical kingdom – welcome filthy major inconvenience. She dug for her wallet deep inside her oversized leather bag while the street water poured in through her zippers. The cab’s windshield wipers squeaked in time and splattered black water droplets over her wool wrap. Finding it, she paid the driver and watched him speed off. Water pushed out from underneath the speeding tires and soaked the bottom part of her pants. She stood in the street watching the cab get smaller and smaller. Nearly hitting her, an angry driver cursed out her window and swerved just missing the dazed lunatic.
Water dripped heavily from her clothes as she climbed the stairs and held the rails tightly. Finally reaching Ian’s loft, she noticed that the door had been either left opened or broken into. Unflinching, she pushed the door open until it slammed into the wall. Ian hated when she did that. He bitched that it would damage the brick and create more dust for her to complain about. She would laugh and mock him by ‘putting up her dukes’ and telling him that she didn’t know her own strength. With no evidence of a break –in, Nora crossed to the kitchen area and poured herself a drink. She sipped the warm vodka and felt her teeth chatter against the glass. She finished one and poured herself another. The wind and sleet beat at the windows and echoed off of the bricks. The phone rang and startled Nora. She let the call go to voicemail and removed her soggy boots. Barefoot, she dragged her drink off the counter and paced the room. The phone rang again, it was Eva St. Claire.
“Hello Eva,” she managed to say.
“Hello to you Little Nora,” Eva continued, “You and I have a date to see your gorgeous things, yes? Well, what if we met sooner, say over lunch?”
Nora wondered how many people actually read the New York Dailey, did Eva? Had the cab driver? For her own piece of mind she pretended that her story in the daily paper, was as preposterous to its readers as batboy.
“Lunch sounds good, just tell me when,” Nora played at normal.
Eva described to Nora that lunch would be a relaxing afternoon of two successful women enjoying some wine and one another’s company – did everything have to be business? Answering her own rhetoric, Eva stressed that she would also need to see images of what Little Nora had created in the last two months. But mostly she wanted to check in with her, a new thing she was doing with her contractors. Nora had the sneaking feeling that because her story in the newspaper had proved far less preposterous than batboy, she was the only contractor experiencing this ‘new thing’.
Taking the rest of her clothes off, she slipped into Ian’s long thick robe and poured herself more vodka. She debated out loud to herself which pieces were even presentable enough to shoot.
“Fuck!” she blurted.
He had destroyed her machine. The metal bar, now lying easily on top of one of the 10-inch tables, had expelled the machine’s guts. Able to feel her feet again, Nora finally noticed that Ian had cleaned the apartment; it was spotless. In the far corner, off of the kitchen area, he had replaced the blue-grey swirling dust with a small Tiffany lamp. The lamp glowed warmly on the corner accent table. He must have uncovered another window, because a new stream of light washed the once dark living area. She crossed to the rickety end table and picked up the trophy. It had lost a few ‘bedazzlements’ but otherwise it was still in tact.
“How am I supposed to sew anything?” Nora began to cry.
Beyond the cracked and splintered plastic of her Singer, she finally noticed the brand new computerized machine by Brother. Intimidated by its digital features, she was relieved to find, on the new sewing table, that Ian had meticulously laid out the instructions and warranty.
“Goddamn it Ian,” she complained smiling.
The large metal door slammed shut behind Evan. He walked slowly into the open room and found his brother sitting with his head down on the table. Evan tapped his head softly. Ian grabbed hold of his brother’s finger and nearly twisted it off. The guards rushed to the table and pinned Ian down onto the table. He was warned that if he acted up again, hearing or no hearing, his ass would be theirs. Ian quietly apologized, adjusted his jumpsuit and sat. He apologized to Evan then explained that he had just had the pleasure of getting a cellmate. His new cellmate was a lovely little nutter that had a fetish for red hair and constantly touched or pulled at Ian’s hair. He had not slept since the bastard arrived.
“Well maybe you’ll think of that the next time you bury your fist into someone’s face,” Evan hissed.
Ian agreed with his brother and asked about Nora. Was she still staying with him and Paulie? Was she keeping herself fed and warm, in this dreadful weather? Did she hate him?
“She is the last thing that should be on your mind. Your hearing date is next week, Thursday, I believe,” he said searching on his phone calendar.
“Yeah, the lawyer came by after you left yesterday. He thinks that I can get outta here no problem, maybe for 10 or 15 thousand dollars. And I only have to pay 10% of that. Jesus shitter, when they brought me in here they acted as if I’d never see the bloody light of day,” Ian explained biting his thumbnail.
Evan nodded then dropped the New York Dailey on the table. Ian pulled it towards him with his index finger.
“Fuck!” Ian said then dropped his head on the table.
The black couple, seated next to them, each held two children on their knees. The oldest child jumped up and down in front of her father, demanding daddy to watch. Too immersed in his wife’s accusations about ‘hos comin’ ‘round to see his broke ass, he ignored his daughter. The woman was asked several times by the guards to either keep her voice down or else she would have to leave.
The judge, Evan nervously conveyed, could base his decision to grant or deny Ian’s bail, soley on Ian’s standing within the community. Ian insisted that the lawyer had told him that being a new property owner would hold much weight.
“Domestic violence, Ian!” Evan’s face burned red.
A guard took a small step towards the brothers’ table. Evan put his hands up assuring the guard that he would settle down.
“They will throw away the key, do you understand? All that money you made off of Da’s store, gone – your flat…Ian if your bail is denied, you’ll be stuck in here for however long it takes to prepare the case! It could be a fuckin’ year, hell it could be two. Do I also have to remind you that you’re a British citizen? This country is a catastrophe when it comes to immigration,” he explained.
The black woman was now gathering up her children and screaming at the father how he fucked up her and her babies’ lives by getting caught and that why couldn’t he be a real gangster instead of some shiftless fool. She scooped one child into her arms while managing to convince the other three to hold onto each other and mama’s hand so they don’t get lost and have to stay in jail with they sorry-ass daddy. The three small children, locked hands quickly and followed their mama out of the room.
Ian sat silently watching the small children rush out and away from their father. While the children scurried across the linoleum, he listened to his brother try to convince him that they had to protect their own, he could no longer accommodate Nora and him. Evan stressed to Ian that he and Paulie had looked out for Nora at the flat for about two days but that had to be it. Evan began but stopped himself from telling Ian that he had also lied to Nora.
Turning to his brother, Ian said, “Do whatever you can to get me out of this shit hole. I’ll play any game you like, but please do me one more favor?”
“What?” Evan asked.
“Please tell Nora that it’s all a big gaff to get me out of here. That’s all I ask and I’ll do whatever you or Mr. Lawyer says,” Ian begged.
“You don’t get it! We can’t go near her, the goddamn press will destroy you!” Evan warned.
Flipping through the instruction manual, she sipped her vodka and dialed Paulie’s number again, voicemail. Frustrated, she went to the kitchen area and unapologetically, dragged one of the 10-inch tables across the flat. The maple table left behind it a long white scratch on the painted black floor. On top of the table, she laid out her fabric choices, tape measurer, 2 pairs of scissors, zippers, etc. Displayed on her dress molds were three out of four dress choices for Eva. The door buzzer sounded, scaring Nora.
“Who the hell is that?” she slurred a little, checking her phone for the time.
The phone read 9:26pm. Shocked that she had been working non-stop, she stood to answer the door and nearly lost her balance.
“Oh boy…um…who is it?” she stammered trying to catch her breath.
“It’s me,” Jackson answered.
She pressed the buzzer and let him into the building. Still dressed in only Ian’s robe and her slippers, she stood by the kitchen table and waited. Heavy on his feet, Nora heard Jackson ascend the last stretch of the staircase. Pushing the door open, he peeked his head into the flat.
“Hello? Nora?” he called out.
She invited him in, removed her reading glasses and searched for more booze. Jackson walked towards her slowly until she told him to stay clear. His behavior at their last encounter had not been forgotten nor forgiven. He admitted that although there is no excuse for what he did, he had been drinking. She remained silent and continued on her quest for booze.
“Look I came by,” he started to speak.
Interrupting him, Nora demanded to know how he had found out where she lived. He explained to her that Penny Dresser was a woman of many talents and for some odd reason, finding people was one of them. Always fond of Penny, Nora smiled and suggested that Penny was some kind of lesbian Nancy Drew. He laughed loudly at her joke and continued to slowly advance towards her.
“What do you want? I’ve a strict deadline, so,” Nora said still trying to catch her breath.
“Nore, it’s no secret what that prick did to you. I don’t think that you should stay here…are you okay?” Jackson asked noticing her struggle for her breath.
“And where do you suggest I stay…hmm, with you? So you can drunk attack me and like a pussy then take back all that you owe me the next day? Get outta here!” Nora sipped on Ian’s remaining Jameson.
Jackson looked over the looming dark brick and in the ceiling noticed the multiple pained windows. He asked what the apartment had been before it was a living space. She took another xanax from the little brown bottle and swallowed it down with whiskey.
“I came to make sure that you’re all right,” he said calmly.
“And I told you to get the fuck out,” she said between clinched teeth.
He backed away from her and assured her that he would not hurt her. Ashamed, he apologized, again for attacking her at the Park Slope studio and admitted that she had been right along about him not being able to deal with the reality of life. At the flat, he admitted how every emotion seemed to creep up on him without warning or reason. Although he had acted like an ass that night, she was not without sins.
She lit her cigarette and asked, “Are you really going to ignore me and not get out?”
“Nora, please listen. I’ve known you for over two years, please trust me when I tell you that it isn’t a good idea for you stay in his apartment,” Jackson pleaded.
“Look, even if I were taking advice, and I’m not, there’s too much…Eva to do,” she stammered.
“Then stay at Park Slope. It’s empty,” he said watching her closely.
“Yeah right, in exchange for what?” she sneered.
Jackson shrugged and suggested that for maybe the occasional dinner together and a nominal fee, she was welcome to stay in the flat. He would even hire movers so she wouldn’t have to lift a finger. She drank down another xanax and asked why he was being so nice to her.
“How many of those have you had today?” he asked.
Nora meandered towards the unmade bed, mumbled something about how the xanax was meant to keep her from splitting her skull then dropped to the floor. He’d been holding onto a long oblong box and tossed it onto the bed. Dropping to his knees, he sat her up against himself. He tried to wake her by lightly patting her already bruised cheeks. He pressed his face to her nose and mouth; she was barely breathing. He called 911.