Rush me, p.13
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       Rush Me, p.13

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 13

  “End of November. And, Mom—I have a friend who doesn’t have anywhere to go for the holidays. Would it be okay if I brought him home?”

  She pounced. “Him? It’s a him? Would this be a date?”

  I resisted rolling my eyes, since she couldn’t see, or grinding my teeth, which would damage me more than her. I sighed. “No, Mom. Just a friend. ”

  “Someone I know?”

  My mother, queen of the third degree. “No. I just met him last weekend. He just moved here from California. ”

  “What’s his name?”

  “Abe. ”

  “Where’d you meet?”

  “At a friend’s house. ”

  “What friend? Rachael, I feel like I’m pulling teeth when I talk to you. ”

  “Yeah, well, that might be less painful. ”

  She sighed. “You know, my friend Linda’s son lives in Astoria. I know I’ve given you his number. Why don’t you see if he wants to meet up?”

  “Because I’m busy. Look, Mom, I should go. I’m just getting to a friend’s house. ”

  “Oh? What are you doing tonight?”

  Might as well bite the bullet. “Shabbat. ”

  There was a moment of silence where my infallible mother was stunned. “Shabbat?” she repeated as she recovered. “Are you serious?”

  Might as well deliver the rest. “Yeah. I’m leading it. ”

  “What? Do you even know how to lead Shabbat? Rachael, what brought this on? Are you feeling all right?”

  “God, Mom, I’m not totally incompetent. It’s going to be casual. I told you; I have a friend who’s new to the city. He wanted to do this. ”

  “Are you sure you’re not interested in this boy? Wait, is he Jewish? Are you dating a Jewish boy?”

  “I’m not dating him,” I said firmly. “I’ll call you this weekend, okay?”

  “I never thought you’d date a Jew. ” Mom sounded dazed. “Not after Stephen. I liked Stephen, don’t get me wrong, but, well, we all know how that ended. ”

  “I have to go now, okay? But it’s okay if he comes for Rosh Hashanah?”

  “What? Oh, yes, of course. Certainly. Your brother’s bringing Sophie. You haven’t seen her yet, have you? Since the two of them started going out?”

  “No. I’m going now. Bye. Okay? Bye!”

  I loved my mother. But she drove me crazy.

  I walked along Central Park West. The avenues still confused me, and I’d been in New York three months, but CPW was also 8th Avenue, sort of like 6th was technically called Avenue of the Americas. It ran the length of the park, all the way up to Morningside, where it became Frederick Douglass Boulevard until it ended at the Harlem River. As I walked north, four lanes of yellow cabs crawled slowly on the left, while giant leafy branches hung over me on my right. In Brooklyn, I lived near-ish Prospect Park and I loved it, but Central Park was my childhood, filled with memories of trips to the city, greasy fries and slowly spinning on the carousel. We’d ridden it every time we visited, until my brother turned thirteen and decided he was too cool. After that, I stared at it longingly and shook my head when my parents asked if I wanted a ride.

  I’d already been on it four times since moving to the city.

  Past the slow moving taxis on the other side of the street rose tall steel and glass towers, interspersed with cold limestone and warm brick. I approached the address warily, taking in the detailed carvings, the stark stairs leading to wide, heavy doors. Pushing them open, I entered a smooth rotunda of marble and oak. Across from me, lodged behind a desk carved of the same stone as the walls, the concierge waited.

  I smiled tentatively at him and walked with quick, soft steps across the echoing foyer, unwilling to speak until I stood in front of him. “Hi. ”

  He looked at me as though it took great energy to speak and it displeased him greatly to make the effort. “Can I help you?”

  I swallowed, wondering if he could sense that I didn’t belong in buildings like this. “I’m here for dinner. ”

  “And who are you visiting, miss?”

  I stared at him, appalled by my oversight. Abe had only given me an address, not a name, and now the concierge stared me down as though I were some thieving peasant. What did I say? Did I go out and call Abe, or would that look like I was trying to sneakily look up a resident?

  Then I took in my surroundings a second time, the marble walls and paintings in gold frames, the obscene wealth and privilege radiating even from the concierge. And I remembered standing outside on 8th: I live just a few blocks uptown. I sighed and looked back at the concierge. “Ryan Carter. ” I should have seen that coming.

  He didn’t blink. “And your name, miss?” When I gave it, he picked up a phone. Only after repeating my name did he finally smile. “Right that way, Miss Hamilton. ” He nodded at the elevators. “Thirtieth floor. ”

  “Thanks. ” I swallowed. “Have a good night. ”

  The elevator rose so quickly my ears popped, but not so quickly my pulse hadn’t ramped into overdrive by the time the doors opened. The hallway was small and tasteful but a little pointless; there was only one door, and I rapped my fist against it loudly, trying to drown out my trepidation.

  It swung inward and Ryan stood there, tall and golden and arch. He wore navy slacks and a white button down, and I tried to remember that I didn’t like him. “Hello, Rachael. ”

  “Ryan. ” I stopped. I didn’t think I’d ever said his name to him before. Flustered, I pressed on. “Why’d you volunteer your apartment?”

  “Good to see you, too. ” He stepped behind me, and I tensed as he left my sight. My shoulders jerked when I felt his hands on them, sparking shivers all through my body, and then the weight of my coat vanished. He raised his brows when I stared at him in astonishment. “And I just wanted to keep an eye on things. ”

  I flushed. “You can’t still think I have some sort of motive for crashing your party. ”

  “No,” he admitted, surprising me with his honesty. “But Abe’s just a kid, and you’re obviously not the kind of girl he should get interested in, so. . . better to keep it friendly. ”

  “And you’re not a kid? Thank you,” I said, as he hung my coat in the hall closet. He looked back at me with a questioning lift of his brow, and I jerked my head at my coat. I took a deep breath. “How old are you?”

  “Twenty-six. ” He turned around and swept his eyes up my elegant wrap dress. A shiver of frisson ran through me.

  I bit my lip, looking away. “Practically ancient. ” I hefted my bags. “Is there somewhere I can put these?”

  He led me deeper into the apartment, which looked nothing like him. I would’ve expected sweatshirts thrown across the couches, stacks of movies piled about, and empty glasses forgotten on side tables. Instead, we entered an architectural marvel with white oak floors under high, airy ceilings. To my right, a full kitchen of chrome and granite stretched out, a mobile of polished copper pans dangling from the ceiling. A curved counter separated the kitchen from a dining table with matching unstained wood chairs. But it was the living room that took up most of the space. Leather couches and armchairs were arranged around a thin and glossy entertainment system.

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New York Leopards