Rush me, p.23
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       Rush Me, p.23

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
 
Page 23

  I shook my head.

  “Rachael. ” Ryan regarded me gravely. “You kill me. Archie Manning? Two sons who both won Super Bowl titles? All quarterbacks? You have to be kidding. ”

  “Oh, God, they’re like the Kennedys of football,” I said, taken aback. “Or the Bushes. Or, no, remember that case in China, years ago, where the one-child policy was lifted so the Olympic athletes could have a second child—it’s like you’re breeding football players. ”

  Ryan started to laugh, and then I did, and we didn’t stop.

  After another half an hour and a pot of coffee, he finally leaned back. “I have to go. Team meetings. ”

  “But you just had a game yesterday. What are you doing now?”

  “Watching game tapes. Studying plays, gauging new ones. Checking our performances. ” When I stared at him, he raised a brow and went on, challengingly. “Soon we’ll get game tapes from the Steelers, who we’re playing Sunday, and we’ll watch theirs, too. We don’t just sit around and look pretty every day but Sunday, you know. ”

  “Oh,” I said, because I’d thought they did. I smiled. “Thanks for breakfast. ”

  “Yeah, sure. ” Then we sat there and neither of us spoke. I thought about saying we should do this again and then I thought about the reason we were there, and I wondered if he was thinking about John, too.

  So instead I said, “Good luck,” and he said “Thanks,” and then he leaned forward and I leaned back.

  Time stretched out while Ryan stiffened and looked embarrassed and I thought my heart might burst out of my chest. “Sorry. ” He avoided my eyes, his cheeks stained with color, and he climbed out of the booth.

  “It wouldn’t work,” I tried to explain. I’d get so hurt. After the night I’d had, I wasn’t sure I could tell what I actually wanted. “Why bother trying?”

  He looked over my head as he slung on his coat, cool and reserved. “I’m not. ”

  I waited, shoulders hunched in, until he’d gone. He stopped to sign three autographs before he made it through the door. Then, feeling foolish, I rolled up the crayon map and slipped it in my purse, and I left, too.

  Chapter Ten

  On Tuesday, Eva talked me into coming to her rehearsal after work. “You need to think about something that isn’t a boy. ”

  “I do. I think about having to dip into my savings to pay for rent. I now have one-thousand, three-hundred eighty-two dollars and nineteen cents in the bank. ”

  “You can’t think about rent all the time, either,” Eva lectured. “Unless you’re singing about it. ”

  I smiled. “Don’t be clever,”

  “Just giving you a taste of your own medicine. ”

  That evening, I sat in the back row of Eva’s theatre, surreptitiously munching through chocolate trailmix while I watched the letter sequence. Mr. Darcy sang a three-page explanation of his seemingly arrogant, prideful actions to Elizabeth, while evil Wickham twirled Georgiana Darcy around and around, seducing her for her inheritance and breaking her heart. Jerk.

  They performed a graceful supported pirouette, and then kissed passionately.

  I sighed.

  On the ride home, I stared blankly at the posters plastered to the train’s wall, and then blinked them into focus. Malcolm caught a pass in a full-page advertisement for the NFL, dressed in full gear. I’d never noticed the picture before, but it must have been there for months.

  Eva nudged me with her shoulder “Snap out of it. ”

  “I screwed up. I always screw up. ”

  “That did not sound like snapping. ”

  “Sure it did. My sanity snapped. ”

  Eva sighed, ever so long-sufferingly. “You know, there’s this thing called the Bechdel Test. It’s when you watch a movie and you check to see if there’s a conversation between two or more females that focuses on something other than guys. Half of all films fail. ”

  “Are you trying to tell me you’re bored?”

  “No. ” Eva relented. “I just wish you’d give yourself a break. You can’t keep obsessing about Ryan, or beating yourself up about John. So you slept with someone you didn’t like. That’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. And you don’t have to do it again. ”

  “But I shouldn’t care about not liking him. I should be above that. I should be sexually liberated. ” The older woman on my other side smiled slightly.

  Eva shook her head. “Sometimes I think you have too many rules and ideas in your head about how the world should work. Why don’t you just try doing whatever makes you happy?”

  “That sounds way too practical. Besides, look at Georgiana. She thought Wickham would make her happy, and he ended up breaking her heart. ”

  Still, I tried to follow her advice. I had manuscripts to read, after all, and jobs to apply to on long, complicated online forms. I had companies to research, cold calls to make, parents to appease. I had friends and coworkers and really awesome bagels. I didn’t think about Ryan at all, really, except in those last few moments before I fell asleep, and that hardly counted.

  At least, I told myself it didn’t until the phone call I received Thursday afternoon.

  I was toiling up my stairs after work when my phone rang, and I was a little surprised to find Abe on the other end. “Ryan reamed me out about letting you pay for dinner last time. ” He sounded like a sad puppy. He perked up immediately afterward. “So I already ordered everything! And it’s being catered, too. ”

  “Huh?” I was too breathless to comprehend. In three more steps I landed on my floor, and started to search for my keys. We were playing an endless keep-away-game, and they were winning. “What are you talking about?”

  “For tomorrow. Oh, and we invited a few more people. But I don’t know if people are going to dress up again. I wouldn’t count on it. ”

  I stopped searching for my keys, and just stared at my wall. “You want to have another Shabbat dinner?”

  “Yup. ”

  “Where?”

  “Ryan’s. ” The “duh” was implied.

  “And he agreed to this?”

  “Of course. ” Abe sounded baffled. “He suggested it. ”

  I was blown away.

  I finished the call and entered the apartment to find Eva scrubbing dishes and singing at the top of her lungs. “Jane’s Ballad. ” All sad about stupid Mr. Bingley. She stopped when I came in. “Aloha! How went the temping?”

  “Um. ” I looked up from my cell, still somewhat confused. “Fine. Tedious. Ryan Carter wants to have dinner with me on Friday. And like a dozen other people. But still. ” I collapsed onto the sofa and kicked off my shoes.

  Eva frowned. “But aren’t you in a fight?”

  “Yes. I don’t know. Is this a really bad idea? Apparently he suggested it. ”

  Eva’s grin broadened and her dark eyes twinkled. She peeled off the rubber dish gloves and dropped down next to me on the sagging cushions. “I think it’s a great idea. ”

  “But what if he’s a Wickham?”

  She shrugged. “Maybe you’re a Lydia. ”

  I shuddered. “Don’t say such things. ” Lydia might have caught Wickham in the end, but she was still vain and flippant and unlikeable. “I want to be Elizabeth. ”

 
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ALLISON PARR SERIES:

New York Leopards