Liza always kept a pen on her.
She was always jotting down notes, quotes and potential story ideas. Her phone was always ringing, a mixture of calls from debt collectors and well-to-do government officials. She had a pretty stable relationship with the local newspaper covering Queens’s government stories. Always in town meetings and in the city hall office, Liza was making a decent living as a freelance journalist. It had been her dream for many years— since she used to chase the chickens on her family’s South Carolina farm.
Liza was naïve, but she always knew that Charleston never had much for her, since she moved there at the age of 8, she developed an extreme disgust for the town.
When Bertha, a category 5 hurricane came through and wiped roofs clean off, knocked out power lines, uprooted trees and dissected her high school, she wished Bertha would have took it all. Charleston was a figment of her imagination – nothing ever seemed real there. Her friends didn’t seem that way, they’d always make jealous remarks about her family’s wealth or the nerds she had classes with. And those who mattered died. Senior year was particularly hard, as she had to attend three of her friend’s funerals; Kevin’s head was rolled over by a trailer after he fell out the bed of a speeding truck. Felicia was stabbed in a fight, and died of complications resulting from her asthma. Kemal committed suicide after he received his SAT results. His note said, “I’ll never amount to anything.”
Charleston was a beautiful residential area with great schools, but it always represented sad memories to Liza. She had become numb to the world living there. She would walk down the streets and see nothing but snakes and lizards, and realize that she forgot how to connect with real people. She longed for the big buildings and lights that she saw on the television screen. To her, New York was where all dreams came true. She envisioned that at the sound of her southern accent, a man would sweep her off her feet as soon as she landed at John F. Kennedy airport. He’d propose and they’d get married and have cornbread instead of cake, and go on a honeymoon to Maui. Then they would get a beautiful apartment on 74th street across from Central Park and play tennis and eat at the Boatyard restaurant in the summers and hold hands while ice-skating in the winter.
The polyphonic ring of her phone brought Liza back from dream world. She tended to doze off while she was riding the train, she didn’t like eye contact with any of the creeps. One time she made eye contact with a guy who referred to himself as Michael the Prophet. He looked into her eyes and saw her future. He saw an alcoholic husband, three kids, lots of credit card debt and a miss America crown. It was sad, and one part frightfully accurate. She vowed to never make eye contact again.
“Hello,” she said, with a hint of southern charm.
“Heeeeyyyy,” a man on the other end of the line excitedly said. “I didn’t think you’d pick up.”
She was used to two voices on that line, the bureaucratic monotone voice of government officials or the spritely voice of her fiancé, James. She had memorized all the debt collectors’ numbers and purposely did not answer.
Liza played along.
“How are you?,” she asked.
“It’s so good to hear your voice. It’s been forever, how have you been?”
Liza was beginning to feel a familiar tingle in her heart. She pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at the number in an attempt to see if she mistakenly answered a bill collector’s call. She replayed the numbers in her head, six-one-seven; she didn’t recognize the area code.
“I’m really well, working a lot, but not getting paid enough. You know the deal.” It was a generically safe answer, she thought even if it was a bill collector.
“I’ll give you a hint. I used to have a big crush on you back in the day.”
Liza blushed at the thought of some age-old crush stalking her. She was very private and almost untraceable on Facebook and other social networks. The only unsolicited form of communication she received was spam, and bill collectors – but they were human spam anyways.
His voice was starting to sound really familiar. She paused for a few seconds, looked up at the top of the train and grabbed her bottom lip firmly. Who could it be? Her and James had been together for the past seven years, so it would have to be someone from her past. She’d only been in New York ten years.
All of sudden she put a face to the mystery voice.
“Tony!” She screams, before he even confirmed. “Oh my gosh! How are you??! Where are you? Tell me everything.”
She was just as dramatic as he had left her 15 years ago, when he almost made love to her as a young kid. He lived down the street from her farm and they’d always spent their nights together to make Charleston seem less dull. When he was 9, him, his brother and their mother moved to Charleston from Boston. Fifteen years ago, when she was 16, he told her he loved her. Liza would never forgive herself for backing down and not being brave enough to give her heart to him. He was planning to leave on plane back to Boston and never come back; he hated Charleston like they all did. She couldn’t blame him, although she was hurt that he wouldn’t stay for her. Still they fell deeply in teenage love, sneaking out to smoke weed underneath the banana tree or spending the days on islands only accessible by jet-skis. Although Tony was recently married, he always thought of Liza as the one who got away, telling all his old girlfriends about her and reminiscing on his teenage years in sunny, desolate Charleston.
“I’m in town for the weekend, your brother gave me your number. I just wanted to know how you were, maybe we could get a coffee or a bite to eat,” he said.
From the conversation, Liza gathered that Tony still lives in Boston and works for a political office, they have a conference in New York once a year. He just found out that Liza lived in New York when he went down to Charleston to see his mother for Thanksgiving. Liza had spent Thanksgiving with James.
A few hours later, Liza and Tony met up at this little place in Greenwich Village where you could get wings the size of chicken legs. They laughed, talked about their relationships, their families, etc. It was a good time.
The sun was still up, all her deadlines were in the past and James was out of town, so she respectfully accepted when Tony invited her to go bowling, like the good old days.
James job requires him to travel a lot, he’s a retail salesman for Giorgio Armani and he has to go to fashion shows all over the country for their respective fashion weeks. That’s why James is always dressed in the nicest suits and knows the exact purses to get Liza.
Tony won, as usual. He was always surprisingly good with a bowling ball. The way he tippy-toed up to the line and precisely laid the ball down to slow but steady pace. Twenty seconds later all that could be seen was the dark abyss of the mystery behind the lane and the resonating crack of a strike. At this point, Liza was debating why she even came to the alley; she was loosing so miserably 63 points to 214. Tony would slightly rub it in her face and ask if she wanted to put the kiddy gutters up. “No,” she said with a pouted face, which Tony noticed hadn’t changed in 15 years.
The polyphonic ring again. “Hello,” she said.
“Hey honey, I landed. I’m in Milan. I went straight to the set, they changed the fashion show time… and I’m still waiting on luggage with the remaining suits, we’ve only got two here.”
Liza listened until he took a breath to ask how she was doing. “I’m well,” she said. “I’m out bowling with an old friend. I’m loosing pretty badly,” she giggled. He wished her a good time and good luck on the game.
Liza and Tony had got tired of bowling and Tony decided to give Liza a tour of his suite at the Gansevoort hotel. The Gansevoort was particularly special hotel, and Tony believed Liza would enjoy the twists and turns of the staircases and the modern decor. They toured the pool, Jacuzzi, fitness room, spa area before going up to see the view from his Penthouse.
Liza lived in New York, but Queens didn’t have views like this. She ran to the window as soon as he opened the hotel door. The glass encompassed the whole back wall, and the city lights were as potent as ever—like lifelike fireflies. She lost her breath for a second at the sight of it all. The sun was setting and the sky was a special tinge of orange, pink and purple.
Tony came behind her, admiring her small frame, long black hair with red streaks that glistened in the sun and round buttocks from a far. He came behind her and whispered “Beautiful.” Liza startled at the warmth of his breath on her neck, and clumsily turned around so they were face to face. “Yes, I’m not used to this,” she said. Tony took one step closer to her, staring into her big hazel eyes. She hadn’t blinked for some time, and her eyes were beginning to water. Liza turned back around to admire the scenery, scared what she might do if their eyes remained locked for a second longer.
She put her head down. She wasn’t sure which body part to operate with, her head or her heart, She felt one thing, but knew she should do another. “Thank you for showing me this,” she said coldly.
When she looked up, two hands were pressed firmly against the glass on either side of her ears. She was a little frightened, but the experience felt so familiar. She missed the smell, she ran her hands through his curly tuft of hair, closed her eyes and took a deep breath, her heart racing yet calm at the same time.
Tony kissed her softly on the neck.
He said, “Please stop me.”
But she couldn’t bear to. His hands felt like they belonged on her hips, which they were now resting. She grabbed his large hand and gave it a firm tug, to let him know that she wanted more.
He moved her hair to the side and he rhythmically began kissing her neck watching the sun set over the city before them. Tony turned Liza around and their lips met. Both felt like they had traveled into a time machine where they were two 16 year old sneaking out of their parent’s house to kiss by the lake.
Tony kissed her like he had dreamed. He picked her up and forced her back against the glass window. She winced, and felt her body grow warm inside. The kisses transformed from slow and endearing to fast and sloppy. Soon Liza was gripping his toned biceps for support against the window, her nails feeling his flesh. He pinned her to the window with his chest and groin and proceeded to take off her dress and then his shirt. His body warmth felt so good, and the smell… she took another deep breath of his essence.
She threw her head back in pleasure. She was enjoying it he thought, as he felt her wetness on his chest. He wanted to give her what she had been missed as a teenager, but a knock came at the door. It was his Democrat buddy seeing if he wanted to watch the US Open with him. Tony not-so-respectfully declined with a loud yell through the door. With that he twirled Liza around off the window and put her bare body down on the bleach white sheets. He crawled on top of her, kissing her face, neck and collarbone, his surly back the only thing to be seen from above.
The phone rang. The ring was familiar— it was James. She reached over Tony’s toned body with her left hand, the six-carat ring caught a twinkle from the sun’s final descent and she immediately began to think with her brain.
(Screen) Name: Atti Thony