Rush me, p.12
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       Rush Me, p.12

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 12

  “Come on,” John wheedled, taking a step closer. “We’ll go out this weekend. We can get dinner at Mariette’s—I know the owner. Or there’s this great wine and chocolate bar. . . ”

  I blinked, pulling my coat tighter. Mariette’s cost upward of two hundred dollars a meal, and the reservation list stretched for months. Why was it so attractive that John could get into places like that? That he came from old-New York money? It shouldn’t balance out a tedious, smarmy personality.

  “Or,” John said, when I remained silent, “my family has season tickets to the Leopards’ games. We could go on Sunday. ”

  I stared at him, sick. The Leopards game? What was this, a conspiracy to insert sports in my life? I should call my father. “I don’t do sports. ”

  He laughed condescendingly and rolled his eyes. “Well, yeah. But they’re the Leopards. ”

  I don’t even do the Leopards. As one Leopard would most certainly ascertain.

  “Look, John—” The mention of the Leopards had drained away any lust-fueled temptation, and now I fumbled for words. Luckily, deus ex telephone, my ringing cell saved me. I held it up. “I have to take this. See you. ”

  I pressed the cell to my ear, not recognizing the number and not caring. “Hello?”

  “Rach!” a male voice cried. “What’s up?”

  I glanced over my shoulder at John, who had already turned away. “Um, hi. Who’s this?”

  “It’s Abe. ”

  I knew an Abe? Oh. I knew a football player named Abe.

  “Hey. How are you?”

  “Great. So—I was thinking. ”

  Thinking people were dangerous. “Uh-huh?”

  “This might be short notice, but if you’re not doing anything tomorrow, wanna have Shabbos dinner?”

  I drew the phone away and stared at it. Had burly Jewish Abe just suggested we hang out? “Um—I don’t really do Shabbat that often. ” Like, since I was fifteen.

  “Yeah, I haven’t either since I got to New York. But, I don’t know. I thought it might be fun?”

  He’d pulled out that puppy-dog tone again. Didn’t he have relatives over here? I could not be the only Jew he knew in New York.

  But what if I was? He was observant, and I knew from past experience that spending holidays alone was depressing as hell. That semester in Italy, I’d spent Yom Kippur curled around my empty stomach waiting for time to pass so I could call my family on the other side of the world. I caved. “Come on over. I have a standing invite to a family friend’s place. Want to go there?”

  “Great! I’ll see you tomorrow!”

  After we hung up, I laughed and shook my head. At least Shabbat with Abe would be safer than dinner with John.

  Chapter Six

  Friday evening, I came home from my internship to find Eva primping in front of the mirror, her heart-shaped face stretched long and narrow by the distortion. “Where are you off to?”

  She met my reflection’s gaze, her own smug as a cat. “I have a date with the lawyer I spilled paint on. ”

  Eva would. I tossed my coat on the couch, remembered Abe would be stopping by later, and hung it neatly on the back of the door. Then I frowned. Damn, I should have a mezuzah hanging on the doorframe. “How’d he get your number?”

  “He didn’t. ” She touched up her lips and fluffed out her pale hair. “He showed up at rehearsal and told me I could buy his dinner to apologize. I’m thinking of taking him to a hot dog stand since I have no money. ” She grinned up at me. “You still going out with that nice Jewish boy?”

  “Who are you, my mother?” I asked, as she slung on her coat and expertly knotted her scarf. “Have fun. ”

  “Certainly, dah-link,” she drawled, and then held up crossed fingers and grinned. “See you tomorrow!”

  Since I only expected Abe to see the living room when he came by, I swept all my junk into my room and hurriedly neatened the couch blankets before jumping in the shower. Halfway through sudsing my curls, my cell rang. Just leave it, I told myself, wringing out my hair. They’ll leave a message.

  On the last ring, I dove out of the shower and caught the call. Abe. My stomach dropped in disappointment. He probably wanted to cancel. “Hello?”

  “Hey, so a bunch of the guys are interested, so I thought we could just have Shabbos at your place. ”

  I wiped a soapy strand off my forehead, momentarily stunned into silence. “A bunch of the guys. ”

  “Yeah, Mike and Keith and some others. ”

  “At my place. ”

  “Yeah. ”

  My exasperated expression stared back at me from the steamed mirror. Abe sounded so young and so eager. “Um—I don’t know if that’s a good idea. My apartment is tiny. ”

  “And mine’s a mess,” Abe mused, sounding less put off than I’d hoped. “Okay, I’ll ask the guys. HEY! Who has an apartment we can have dinner at tonight?”

  I winced, imagining them all standing around together, and I abruptly wished I wasn’t naked. I had to stop obsessively answering my phone.

  “Landed one,” he said happily a minute later. “I’ll text you the address. See you at six!”

  I dropped the phone on the sink counter and stepped back into the shower, dismayed. If we weren’t going to my friend’s, who exactly would be leading this Shabbat dinner, and where would the food be coming from? Did I need to supply dinner for who-knew how many football players?

  Half an hour later, I’d paid $200 for a deli that would cater. I also printed out half a dozen copies of the Shabbat blessings for wine and bread and hand washing. I wasn’t sure if “interested” meant the guys wanted to see the ceremony, or if they just wanted food. Damn, I hadn’t the slightest idea how to lead a service. Abe may have assumed I knew Judaism as well as he did, but I was really just a half-baked halfie. I hoped I didn’t embarrass the both of us.

  Without the time for my curls to dry, I blasted them into a flat mess and twisted and stabbed pins into my hair until it resembled a French twist. I threw on a blue wrap dress, shoved dangling pearls into my ears, and spun around three times to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything before running out the door.

  Abe texted me an address on Central Park West, which meant the apartment had a rent I couldn’t afford even if I sold my soul to corporate America, and that I’d never be there by six. Especially as I still had shopping to do.

  Wine was easy, but it took three bakeries before I found one that hadn’t run out of challah. The last purchase was only difficult because I didn’t want to part with the money. Suck it up, I told myself, and bought two silver candlestick holders and white wax columns.

  The train ride took forever but only included one transfer. I made it in Brooklyn to avoid the horrors of the Times Square stop, which was always filled with angry commuters, confused tourists, and proselytizers. After settling into my seat on the B, I finally relaxed. It would take me all the way to 72nd Street, just blocks away from Abe’s.

  As soon as I came out of the subway, my phone started beeping with missed calls from my mother.

  There went relaxation. Well, I still had a ten minute walk, so I clicked her number.

  “I just wanted to see when you would be home. You’re coming for Rosh Hashanah, right? And then what dates are the reunion?”

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New York Leopards