Rush me, p.53
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       Rush Me, p.53

         Part #1 of New York Leopards series by Allison Parr
Page 53

  “So then what are you thinking? Would you join your dad’s company?”

  She swirled the dregs of her soda around her cup and frowned. “I didn’t take a job at the firm because I thought that would be cheating, you know? I wanted to do something on my own merit. And I was sick of him looking over my shoulder all the time. ” She shrugged. “But if I’m still taking money from my parents to support myself, shouldn’t I be working somewhere where I can make that much money? Wouldn’t it be stupid to get forty-thousand a year and borrow the rest from Daddy instead?” Self-recrimination filled her voice. “And that’s assuming I got a job at Maples&Co, and what if there was only one position and I got it instead of you? That would hardly be fair. ”

  I tried to phrase my next words carefully. “I’m not sure it’s about being fair. I think people do what they can to get work. ”

  Her smile was unconvinced. “Yeah, but—if I don’t get the job, nothing about my life will change. I’ll still have the same apartment, and shop at the same stores, and eat the same food. If you don’t, you won’t even be able to afford to stay here. And then you’ll have to go to law school. ”

  I was with her completely until the last sentence, when the inanity of our conversation struck and I started giggling convulsively. She frowned. “What?”

  I smiled, embarrassed. “This is so upper-middle class I want to vomit. ”

  Her lips twitched. “Please. I’m Park Avenue. ”

  “Oh, excuse me. ”

  She groaned. “Now I just feel bad all over. Maybe I should do some sort of volunteer work. Didn’t you work for the Peace Corps for a year?”

  “AmeriCorps. I was in Maryland doing a literacy outreach program. Yeah. ” We spent a moment picking at our sandwich remnants.

  “I don’t care, it’s still hard. Even if it sounds silly. I’m just trying to figure out what I’m doing and what makes sense and what’s right. I don’t know how to do that. ”

  “I think you have to make a lot of mistakes. Though I don’t think Maples&Co was one. I’ve definitely learned a hell of a lot from them. ”

  “Yeah, I guess. ” She sighed. “I’m telling Gretchen this week that I’m leaving. ”

  I shook my head in disbelief. “So are you working with your dad?”

  “Yeah. I’m starting with HR. Don’t be too sad. ” She smiled knowingly. “Gretchen likes you. ”

  “But does she like me enough?”

  “You’ll do fine. You’re like that. ”

  Coming from Laurel, that was the highest of compliments. Fine. I could handle fine, if it encompassed friends and music and Ryan and laughter. Just like Laurel, all I wanted was to figure life out, and I finally felt as though, in some small way, I had.

  Chapter Twenty

  “Stop him! Stop him! No!”

  “Rachael. You realize this all took place last week, right? Also, I wish you’d stop cheering for the Patriots. ”

  It was a week after Eva’s show had opened, and we were watching the Buffalo Bills’ last game tapes in preparation for Sunday’s match. Well, Ryan was. I alternated between filling out online job applications and glancing up to see people I sort of recognized tackle each other.

  The nights were lengthening, and the sun fell faster and earlier each night. Now, at half past six, I could see red and orange spreading out behind the skyline. It was much more interesting to watch that than formulate a convincing argument for why I should be given an assistant editor position despite lacking three years of experience. I’d almost hammered out the perfect sentence when Ryan’s phone rang.

  He paused the tape and answered with a mix of familiarity and affection that meant a family member was on the other end. I didn’t have to guess which one, because his grandmother’s loud tones pierced straight through the cell and echoed across the room.

  “I saw the picture. You went out to dinner with a young lady. ”

  He rolled his eyes. “I often go out to dinner. ”

  “But,” his grandmother said, as I opened a new tab and searched for Ryan Carter dating. “You were smiling at this one. ”

  My stomach swooped and my lips curved up.

  Ryan’s grandmother hammered him with questions as I pulled up the article in question. Only two hours old. Wow. Was his grandma tech-savvy enough to have Google alerts set up? Or did she just search his name on a regular basis? Or maybe she had a network of other old ladies who kept tabs on each other’s grandchildren and. . .


  The picture showed us at a rooftop bar on 5th. Three of the tables around us spoke French—I suspected I had the same guidebook half the tourists had—and the drinks were expensive even for New York. But it had a view of the skyline and the bar supplied thick red cloaks to keep off the chill, and I liked doing touristy stuff.

  Still, it wasn’t a surprise we’d been caught out by a photographer there, rather than when we went for divey pizza.

  At least it was a nice picture. He was smiling at me, and I was laughing, wine glass lifted halfway to my lips.

  Now, I listened to Ryan answer his grandmother’s assault of questions, gaining my age, profession, reputation, and religion. “Is she a nice Catholic girl?”

  I rolled over on my stomach so I could stare at him across the wide living room, to where he paced in the kitchen. I raised a brow at his furrowed face, and waited as he cleared his throat. “Ah. . . No, no, Mimi, not really. ”

  “She’s not another one of those atheist types, is she? Ryan, surely there’s someone in that city who isn’t without the Lord. ”

  I watched Ryan squirm uncomfortably, peeking at me from under his long golden lashes. “Uh, you know. . . I’m not really sure. . . ”

  “Well, go ahead then,” she said querulously. “Ask her. I’ll wait. ”

  Ryan gave me an absolutely helpless look. “Um. . . my grandma wants to know if you believe in God. ”

  What a question. I transferred my gaze to the window, where the pollution of this godless city had turned the sunset into a riot of softening colors. “That is a very long, complicated conversation. ”

  He narrowed his eyes at me, and I could read his mind perfectly: Yes-or-no would have been just fine. “She’s spiritual, Mimi. ”

  “Hmm. Well. Is she a Protestant?” She pronounced the denomination with slight mistrust.

  I raised my brows. “You might as well bite the bullet. ”

  “Actually. . . ” He was irritatingly hesitant. “She’s Jewish. ”

  “I suppose I am technically Catholic,” I mused into the long silence that followed. “In that I have a wide, all-embracing worldview. You know. If we’re using the word as an adjective. ”

  “Oh,” Mimi finally said. To my relief, she didn’t sounded disapproving, just a little. . . taken aback. “How. . . nice. ” Her tone conjured up a tiny, grey-haired Midwestern woman steeling herself in her rocker. On a farmhouse porch. Knitting a hat. “She’ll have to come for a visit. ”

  “Mimi. . . ”

  “At Christmas. If you’re still together—you do run through these young ladies awful quickly. ” She paused while I grinned at Ryan, and started up again, sounding wary. “She can come for Christmas, can’t she? That won’t be—confusing?”

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New York Leopards