Rush me, p.29
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       Rush Me, p.29

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 29

  “You have a lot of rules. ” But he got on the horse.

  The other horses filled with children and parents. One of the fathers took a second glance at Ryan but was quickly distracted by his crying two year old. Then cheery organ music filled the air, and we started to move. Looking over at Ryan, bobbing slowly up and down on his horse of many colors, warmth bubbled up inside me. “Smile!”

  “I look ridiculous. ”

  “So what?” I craned my head to watch the green of the park spin by as we faced the entrance. When we cycled into the covered portion of the ride, I twisted to see the carousel’s inner column, painted pale blue and decorated with carnival themes.

  When I looked back at Ryan, he was grinning at me, eyes dancing. I made a silly face, just because I could, and he made one back. Then we were laughing as we whirled, up and down, a blur of colors and music and laughter as we rode nowhere on wooden horses.

  When the ride finished, we wandered through the park. The gray sky contrasted sharply with the yellow and orange leaves, making them appear brighter than usual. We pointed out our favorite parts of the park to each other. I loved the Conservatory Garden, while Ryan had a fondness for the Marionette Theatre that rivaled mine for the carousel. We ended up standing behind the Met, studying the pitted and weather-worn hieroglyphs on Cleopatra’s Needle.

  “I always loved Egypt,” Ryan admitted as we walked around the obelisk. “When I was a kid, that’s what I really wanted to do. Be Indiana Jones. See Egypt and Greece. ” He smiled, animated. “Did you know this isn’t actually from Cleopatra’s time? Thutmosis the Third built it, and then Ramses added inscriptions a couple centuries later. ” He tilted his head, studying the hieroglyphs. “I used to think I’d learn to read them. ”

  “You still could. ”

  He shook his head. “No. I don’t know. Now I’d just be happy to see where everything’s from. ”

  “I read this really funny article on Alexander the Great’s Indian campaign recently. ” Then, without meaning to, I ended up telling him all about the tabloid manuscript.

  “I’d buy that. Are you going to put it out?”

  I shook my head rapidly, curls flying around my face. “Oh, no. It was an unsolicited manuscript. We don’t touch those. ”

  “Why not? You like it. Talk to your boss. ”

  “It’s not done. ”

  An odd expression passed across his face “You’re scared. ” He paused. “I can’t believe you’re scared of anything. What’s she going to do, say no?”

  “Or never give me a job!”

  He grinned, and desire clenched my gut. “Then I’ll hire you to ghost-write my memoir. ”

  I stared at him. “You have no idea how much I envy you right now. ”

  “Come on, Rach. I don’t believe for a second you could be afraid of anyone. Ask your boss about it. At least she’ll know you’re passionate, and you’ll have shown initiative. ” His phone beeped, and he looked at it. “Oh, shit. I have to head out now—the plane is leaving for Pittsburgh in forty-five minutes. ” He made a face. “Sorry I never got you to your stop. ”

  “Don’t worry about it. It’s just outside the park. ”

  I walked with him to his bike, passing again under the arching yellow branches of old, tall trees, brushing by bushes bright with red leaves. I let out a sigh of total contentment. Here I was, in my favorite city, in one of my favorite parts, in my favorite season. That thirst for more that sometimes came when the seasons changed, the longing for something special was for once completely quenched. I stopped, and looked at Ryan, looked my fill, studying the sharp angles, the square jaw, the long, pale lashes. He returned the gaze with a quizzical one. “Something on my face?”

  “I’m really glad we came here. ” And then, without letting myself think about it too much, I stood on tip-toe and pressed my lips to his, balancing myself with hands lightly against his chest. His lips were warm and soft, welcome after the chill wind, and he tasted like cinnamon.

  It was a gentle kiss, and when I drew away he looked pleased and surprised. I smiled, pushing my hands into my pockets. My fingers curled slightly, rather like the warmth in my stomach. “See you. ” I took a couple steps back, feeling a little shy.

  His bemused expression cleared, and he grinned, white teeth and twinkling eyes. “See you,” Ryan repeated, and when I turned my back on him, it was all I could do not to skip all the way out of my park, to my train, and home.

  Chapter Thirteen

  Dad picked me up at the train station in Worcester. “There’s my big-city girl!” He enveloped me in a hug. He smelled like wood smoke; he’d probably thrown some steaks on the grill, to go with the more traditional kugel and sweet carrots and challah. “Good trip?”

  “It was fine. ” I kissed his cheek. My father was of the scrawny, professorial mode, and it was only in the last decade or so that he’d begun to put on the weight that had eluded him for most of his life. Recently, the remainder of his hair had also gone wispy and gray. Mom called it distinguished, but usually only when he became moody after she teased him too long about his bald spot.

  “Been to any of the museums yet?” he asked as we got in the car. I shook my head. “I’ve been trying to get your mother to take a weekend and go with me to the city, but she says there’s no way she’d go half the places I like. ” He made his sad-dad face. “You’d go with me to museums, wouldn’t you?”

  “Course I would, Dad. ” I shook my head and grinned. Poor art history professors. They can’t enter a museum without delivering a thesis. “Hey, has David arrived yet?”

  “I picked him up this morning. ” Another sad face. “That’s all I’m good for. Chauffeuring my ungrateful children around. ”

  “I know, it’s quite tragic. But don’t feel too bad; you’re pretty good at cooking and cleaning, too. Is Sophie there?”


  I rolled my eyes. “David’s girlfriend?”

  “I knew that. Yeah. She’s there, too. ”

  “And? What do you think?”

  “She seems sweet. ”

  Getting Dad to say something unkind was like getting the tooth fairy to leave more than a quarter. “You think all of his girlfriends are sweet. Do you remember her?”

  He looked confused.

  “From when we were little! She was my grade. ”

  “Really? No, I don’t. ”

  I snorted. Mom would remember. I wondered whose side she would take.

  We pulled up in front of the house. It was a Model Number 3, out of the seven different housing plans in the neighborhood. David and I had mockingly called it Three Point O growing up, since our first house had been of the ram-shackled farmhouse variety. In this development, neatly cut lawns containing copses of trees framed pale pastel houses. Middle-schoolers roller-skated and biked past, kids I’d baby-sat as a teenager but who probably didn’t even remember me.

  “In here!” Mom hollered when we opened the door. I kicked off my shoes and dropped my purse, heading into the kitchen. Mom stood at the counter, chopping carrots into thin rounds.

  “Hi, Mom. L’shana tova. ”

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New York Leopards