Rush me, p.51
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       Rush Me, p.51

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 51

  I held up a hand. “Okay, let’s get our children’s lit straight. I’m pretty sure it was Glinda who sent Dorothy over the rainbow. Or the tornado. ”

  This time, he definitely leered. “I could be a tornado. ”

  I kicked him again. “New rule. No more awful innuendo jokes. God, how do people take your seriously?”

  “Oh, it’s my charm and good looks. They don’t even hear what I’m saying. ”

  “You’re right. I’m so dazzled by your appearance I’m knocked senseless. Completely blown away. ”

  His eyes were bright in the dim pub. He leaned across the table and kissed me. He tasted of salt and rain and for a moment I thought, damn, I’m done for. And then I didn’t think.

  * * *

  He suggested taking a taxi back home, but I insisted on the subway. We were standing on the platform when the commotion started, a small stir that ended with a click and a flash of light right before we stepped onto the train.

  “Did someone just take a picture of us?” I peered through the closing doors at the photographer who wasn’t quite standing clear. He’d tried to beat his way on, but the rush hour crush blocked him away.

  Ryan smirked down at me, his arm stretched above me to hold on to the metal rail. “I’m not a big deal, am I?”

  “Oh my God!” I craned my neck, trying to catch another glimpse of the reporter as the train pulled out of the station. “I should have worn a cuter outfit!”

  “Are you kidding?” Ryan asked. “You didn’t dress up for our first date?”

  “If you’re lucky,” I said with a small smile, feeling very lucky and daring myself, “next time I’ll wear that Venetian mask. ”

  * * *

  My friends and I had always said, in the offhand manner of those who don’t really have to consider it, that we would never want to be in a serious relationship with a doctor or finance guy because of the hours.

  Turned out the hours of professional ball players were also ridiculous.

  Ryan spent that weekend in Boston, but we’d managed to steal the Friday before he departed. We met at Amorino’s, a European gelato chain down near Malcolm’s that I hadn’t known existed, and we ended up at Malcolm’s afterward with the usual suspects.

  After he came back, we had more time due to the bye. I still had my internship and temp work, not to mention Alexa and the book, but we made it down to Artichoke Pizza and the Botanical Gardens on different evenings. Unlike most of my friends, who had carefully cultivated ennui and no interest in tourist spots, Ryan liked exploring the city, and tourist spots never embarrassed or turned him off.

  For Halloween, I dressed up as Dorothy despite myself. Ryan played the Wizard in a green waistcoat and top hat, while Abe, Malcolm, and Dylan suited up as the Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow. Bri came as Glinda, and the lot of us went to Mount Sinai’s Children Hospital and put on several skits. There was a bit of trouble when I tripped out of my ruby slippers and accidentally pulled the tail off the lion, but mostly it went well. Afterward, we met up with Eva in the Village. She’d dressed convincingly as the Wicked Witch, though she insisted we call her Elphaba.

  The next morning—of that one weekend where Ryan was totally, blissfully free—we woke long after the sun had risen. I yawned and curled up against him, sleepy and happy and content. “This is a totally yuppie tourist thing, but want to do brunch at Max Brenner?”

  He rolled over and lifted a brow.

  I wiggled my cold toes against his calf. Ryan was never cold. “There’s so much chocolate. Crepes and shakes and fondues and sundaes. ”

  So we headed downtown to Max Brenner.

  Afterward, I took him to the Strand, which he’d never managed to step into despite four years in the city. Books lined the walls, shelves towering above the polished wooden floors and forming a maze of knowledge. Spines of every shape and color called out to us. We lost hours there. Ryan stood in the military history section and geeked out until my stomach hurt from laughing.

  Later that week, I worked up the nerve to call my mother. She picked up on the first ring, and I pictured her pacing around the living room, neatening things obsessively. “Rachael, good. I was just about to call you. ”

  “You were?” I dropped down onto my bed. “What about?”

  “I just talked to your brother. He and Sophie are going into the city in a couple of weeks. You should all get dinner. ”

  I snorted. “Thank you, Mom. I think we’ll be able to figure things out ourselves. ”

  “I just wanted to let you know. Maybe they could stay with you. ”

  Did mothers live on the same planet as the rest of the world? I couldn’t even tell. “Mom, you have seen my apartment, right? Besides, Dave probably has some fancy executive suite he can use. ”

  “You know, you could make just as much as he does if you’d just invest in a law degree—”

  “Uh-huh,” I said, with a little too much perkiness. “I do know. ”

  Mom sighed.

  I hurried to change the topic. “Anyway, what are you and Dad up to?”

  Half an hour later, we were about to hang up when I slipped in my real reason for calling. “Oh, and, um, I just wanted you to know, I’m dating someone. ”

  My attempt at being low-key did nothing to fool my mother. I winced at her loud intake of breath. “What? You are? Who? Since when?”

  Really. She acted like I’d never dated anyone before. “His name’s Ryan. He’s one of my friends. ”

  I could hear the cogs in her head turning. “I’ve never heard of any Ryan before. ”

  I rolled over on my back and stared at the ceiling. “Mom. Do you seriously think you can remember the name of each and every person I meet here?”

  “There’s no reason to get snippy. I’m just curious. Does this Ryan have a job? Where does he live?”

  “Central Park West. And yeah, he plays football. ”

  I didn’t need to see my mother to know the expression of disbelief she would be wearing. “What kind of job is playing football?”

  “He’s a professional, Mom. ”

  There was a long, slightly awkward silence as my mother processed. “Well. That’s an. . . interesting career choice. ”

  “Mom. ”

  “Is he nice? Where’s he from?”

  “Iowa. ”

  “Well that’s. . . lovely. ”

  My mother, queen of the insultingly placed pause. I rolled my eyes. “I have to go now. ”

  “Wait! I’m sorry, don’t go! When do I get to meet him?”

  “Bye, Mom. ” It forced the matching goodbye out of her.

  Well. That had gone well.

  But at least I was covered if a picture of us showed up in a tabloid magazine.

  * * *

  That Friday, Pride and Prejudice: The Musical opened in a small off-Broadway theatre. Relatives and friends crowded inside, along with a healthy dose of Austenites and, in the fourth row of the orchestra, half a dozen members of the New York Leopards.

  “What’s this about, again?” Keith asked loudly. Briana, sitting between him and Malcolm, batted his head.

  The orchestra swelled with the familiar strains of “Universally Acknowledged/In Want of a Wife. ” I clutched Ryan’s hand, grinning madly, and he glanced over in surprise. “I am so excited,” I whispered. “Eva has been working on this for so long. And Mr. Darcy! Singing! What could be better?”

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