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Who would have thought that this could be such a difficult story to tell?
Some may say that I have been fortunate to have travelled with my work. Others may say that it has been a curse. My shadow is one that is cast in solitude, in places where people do not often look, or care to look.
I am hired for different reasons. I have seen people live. I have seen even more die than I care to recall. Yet, as time has marched on, out of all of those faces, his is the one that I remember the most.
Even his name presented itself like a question waiting to be asked–Nash Rivers.
I still see him lying there on the grass, looking up at skies that reflected the same blueness as his eyes.
Now you may be wondering why I am about to tell you a story that is not mine. Yet, after everything that has happened, I am the only one who can now tell it.
You may even be wondering who I am. For now, that is not important. My part in this story does not happen until much later, but you will know me well enough when the time is right.
What I can offer you, before we go any further, is a warning. Of the things, I am about to tell you, take heed, as there is no going back from here.
In my profession, it is ill-advised to use names, but you may call me “The Messenger”.
And if you care to hear it, I will tell you a story.
Neatly etched in small black letters along the bone of his right hip were three words: Empire of Dirt. It was the only tattoo on his body–one single phrase from Johnny Cash’s last song.
**What have I become, my sweetest friend,
Everyone I know goes away in the end.
And you could have it all–my empire of dirt.**
Nash did not have enemies, nor did he particularly have friends. And then, of course, there were the women–the ones whose initial fancy turned to dislike after they became fragments destined for the past. Their names forever lost inside simple, fleeting moments of passion.
I have always been fascinated by how easily women are drawn to men with good looks–like an addictive substance, which rendered them helpless despite its warning label. Nash was the archetypal figure for what men wanted to be and who women wanted to be with.
Now, do not presume that because I mentioned women, it means I am about to tell you a soppy love story. I wish it were. But no, that would be too easy, and romance is not my style.
Yet there were things none of those people knew. His secrets…
I would often see him sitting on his balcony in the still of the lonely night with a glass of whiskey. Like a mischievous temptress, the night wind would ruffle his thick, dark hair as he looked out at the bejewelled Manhattan lights.
He took a liking to whiskey after he heard the story of the poet, Dylan Thomas. Following a long drinking session of eighteen measures of whiskey, Dylan swaggered into a New York City bar before passing out, and later dying. Of whiskey, Dylan said that it complimented his lifestyle and washed away his middle-class background. To Nash, drinking whiskey became a badge of honour. It tasted like an eroded challenge to death and mediocrity–dangerous, yet hypnotically compelling.
Monday 10th May
** It was a day that I would never forget, nor would he. Even though the city was bursting under the heaviness of an unusually hot late spring, I still remember the shiver that rumbled across me that morning.**
He was surrounded by a lush expanse of fields with a view of the mountains in the distance. The sprawling landscape was dappled with a mosaic of various flowers. Thin wisps of clouds lazily waltzed across the blue blanket of heaven. No sun could be seen, but its heat was felt.
At the top of a hill was a cottage that looked aged, yet somehow new at the same time. Under a solitary tree with a thick trunk dressed in leaves of green, a wooden bench faced the rolling countryside.
A sense of happiness and expectation filled his paces as he started making his way towards it. His walk quickened across the field, as blades of grass lashed gently against his calves. There was something waiting for him. He did not know what it was–just that there was an excitement to receive it.
Out of nowhere, a cloud of angry grey spilt hurriedly to darken the skies. The colourful flowers around him started to wilt into putrid shades of brown. The grass began to diffuse into a crisp rust shade. Soon, the whole place was engulfed in blackness.
As he looked back up towards the cottage in the distance, his skin jittered with coldness. Something was there waiting for him, but it was something terrifying...
…Nash was startled awake by the piercing sound of the alarm. His chest laboured to catch his breath as beads of sweat broke across his forehead.
Rubbing his eyes with the sides of his fingers, he realised that he was in his bedroom. He lived in a top floor apartment–his own sky sanctuary, far above the blaring streets that overlooked Central Park. Crimson morning light flooded into his apartment through oversized windows, revealing panoramas stretching as far as the eye could see.
The décor’s flawless arrangement revealed a certain pursuit of tranquillity, which came with order. Nash was the sort of man who paid extra attention to those finer details. Every item sat in its place with military precision.
Strange dreams had been an unwelcome visitor for some time. At the insistence of a girl at work, he visited a psychic once about them.
Nash was cynical. He believed that a lot of psychics formed their opinions after a mere observation of the individual's age, aesthetics, and background. This psychic called herself Madame Celestia and spoke of things, which he did not understand, and to which he paid little attention. He swore that it would be the first and last time he would ever visit such a person. There was only one thing that he recalled that she had told him.
**If the moon rises before the sun sets, life will be over.**
His phone rang.
“Hey,” Nash answered, stifling a yawn and stretch.
“Morning,” said Harry cheerily. “Just to let you know that I’m leaving home now. I’ll stop by the office to pick up the paperwork first and then meet you there.”
“Cool. See you soon.”
He was meeting with Harry and a potential investor about a new Japanese restaurant, followed by a late lunch in Chelsea with his parents. Harry was the only person Nash trusted with his prized nightclub.
Nash remembered when Harry first started out in the club scene working as a fresh-faced bartender at the age of twenty-one. Good ole Harry. He came from a blue-collar Irish family over on one of the rougher side of Queens. Harry was there from the start and worked fourteen hours a day, six days a week. Over time, he slowly climbed the professional ladder by carving a name for himself through sheer hard work, loyalty, and honesty. Nash gave Harry shares in his club as soon as he started making noticeable profits. Nash said that loyalty was something that should always be rewarded and remembered.
Kicking the crisp, white sheets off his body, Nash got out of bed and wrapped himself in the softness of his robe. Pushing his cell phone into its pocket, he plodded to the bathroom.
After a brisk shower, he carefully shaved, and then quickly selected what to wear from his wardrobe, neatly sorted by colour. Standing at six feet and two inches, his tailored black suits fitted his athletic build to perfection.
In the lobby downstairs, a doorman in a grey jacket and hat beamed his usual, “Good morning, Mr. Rivers,” before opening the door.
“Morning James.” Nash realised he had forgotten his cell phone in the pocket of his robe. “Damn it!”
“Everything ok, Sir?”
Cursing again to himself, he returned all the way back up to his apartment to retrieve it. By the time he was downstairs again, the city was awake with commotion. His frustrated eyes scanned both sides of the street and in a frantic search for a taxi, he extended his arm and waved it high in the air. None stopped as they all crawled by in rush hour, full of passengers. After almost fifteen minutes, a yellow cab finally slowed down on the opposite side of the road.
Lengthening his strides, he started to cross when someone bumped into him. He heard a shriek and spun around in time to see a girl, head bent over, picking up a spilt bag off the ground.
“God damn it!” Reaching down, he grabbed her newspapers that fell like a splayed fan on the pavement and passed it back to her.
A lipstick-smeared paper cup lay on its side next to her foot, encircled in a pool of brown liquid. His eyes widened when they fell on an amoeba-shaped coffee stain on her silky, cream top. Her dark hair fell messily over her face as she dabbed at the stain feverishly with her free hand.
“Geez. I’m sorry.” He patted his pockets to feel for a handkerchief, only to come up with nothing. “Listen, I'm going downtown, do you want to share a cab and we can sort this out if you are heading that way?”
“I'm just going a couple blocks.” She declined without raising her head to make face contact.
The yellow cab that waited honked loudly. Nash twisted around to eye the driver. “Jesus! I’m coming! Just give me a sec, ok!”
He turned his wrist for a quick glance at his watch, before reaching inside his jacket. “Here, take my card. I'll pay for the cleaning, or buy you a new one. Gimme a call.”
By the time Nash turned up, Harry was already there. In usual Harry fashion, he had arrived early and waited: hazel eyed and well-meaning. He was wearing a black suit that must have come from a discount line but looked smart all the same.
“Good morning guys–so sorry for the slight delay,” Nash eased a cool smile on his face as he shook Harry’s hand, and then Jason Fujita’s, a wealthy businessman from Tokyo.
“Good to see you, Nash. I checked out Foleys on the weekend,” Jason went on to say. “It was pretty busy.”
“That’s good. What did you think of the place?” Nash asked.
“Absolutely loved it,” was Jason’s response.
Years earlier, Nash had purchased an old warehouse and converted it into Foleys–one of the hottest nightspots at the time in New York City. But it was only through the luck of an investor and some risky heavy loans, that he secured the funds to start the business. By the time he was twenty-two, his parents had already cut him out from any financial support.
Nash started his club all on his own. Everyone expected that he would fail and end up bankrupt within the first year. His mother told him that she would not be bailing him out when the business went bust and he fell on his face–like he did with everything else. Ironically, it was that unanimous presumption of his imminent failure that sparked his determination to succeed.
The meeting lasted longer than he had expected. The idea was to have a state of the art interactive table service, where customers could select their own food straight off the bar without the use of waiters. It seemed very modern and visionary, or at least, that was how Jason described it, before shaking hands.
Nash was late for lunch with his parents.
Being late to see his mother was never acceptable.
He arrived at Mireille –a baroque styled French restaurant that played host to live piano music on evenings. It was reserved for whenever they dined together, every couple of months, when his parents were in the city. The petite brunette at the reception beamed and said, “Joining the table of Anna Rivers–right? Follow me please.”
When he sat down at their table, his mother muttered, “You’re late,”
Nash ignored her comment, while his father remained silent. He took the menu from the waiter’s extended hand and surveyed the specials.
Anna’s fingers trailed her pearl necklace that sat perfectly above the neckline of her black dress while she scrutinised her son.
“What did you do to your hands now?” she sighed.
“I was climbing Half Dome at Yosemite last week.” Nash turned his hand to look at a blister.
“You went alone?”
“I don’t get this whole free-solo climbing. How is it even legal to climb without someone else or without any safety equipment? That mountain is almost a 2,000 feet fall.”
“Nice that you research these things, Mother.” He scrolled to the drinks section.
“You would have thought that you learnt something after breaking your leg from that snowboarding accident.”
“Howard?” She turned her attention to his father, who appeared surprised by his name, as though he had entirely missed the conversation altogether.
Anna opened her mouth to say something but stopped herself. She studied the smaller details of Nash’s face and noticed a mild shadow under his eyes. Instead of asking him if he had been sleeping well, she took a sip of her wine.
She knew he hated being asked, and she no longer questioned him about it. His cocaine-fuelled younger years had long faded into the distant past.
In the beginning, it brought to him the euphoric highs of a desperate escape. The more he used it, the more he felt he wanted it, and the more he felt he wanted it, the more he felt he needed it. By the time he was twenty-two, he was using it in amounts that would be considered highly dangerous.
In the end, she became involved and checked him into a rehab. She felt that to visit him during that period would have been to condone his wayward behaviour. She did not condone wayward behaviour. And he had never dabbled with the substance again. Of that, she was sure.
Nash’s phone rang. He normally turned his phone off when he was meeting his parents. It was the only time he turned it off.
“Well, you might as well answer it now you’ve disturbed the entire restaurant,” Anna remarked, making no effort to conceal her irritability. “But turn it off after!”
A female voice with a distinct yet indeterminable accent said, “Hello, is this Nash Rivers?”
“Hi there, it's Dana–the girl from earlier today...with the coffee?”
“This morning we bumped into each other…well, I washed my top but the stain didn’t really come out…so I found the receipt and–.”
“–No, you don’t need to do that. Just text me whatever amount it is with your name and address. I’ll have a cheque sent to you.”
“Well…ok, thanks. I’ll let you know.”
“Cool. Thanks. Bye.”
Nash turned his phone to silent mode before replacing it in his pocket. His mother still wore the same expression, accentuated by a raised eyebrow.
“What was that about?”
“It’s nothing. I bumped into some girl this morning and spilt coffee on her.”
“You left her drenched in hot coffee?”
“No, it wasn't like that. I was just in a rush." He picked up the menu and resumed his scanning of the drinks list.
“Did she get burnt?”
“No…well...no..." he paused. "I don’t think so.”
“What if she was? What happens once she finds out who you are? And who we are? People sue over the smallest things these days. Everyone’s quick to try to make easy money.” She waved her hand to get the attention of a waiter to order.
“She’ll be telling everyone what a good-for-nothing you are.” Anna continued, clinging to the words. "You didn’t just ruin her top. You ruined her day. She probably had to go all the way home from work just to get changed. By the time she got to work again, she probably had twice as much to catch up on. That’s the problem. Men just never think.”
In actuality, he had not thought of that.
“I don't want anyone saying you are impolite and arrogant,” she persisted. “You should call her back...and tell her you're going to make it up to her. It's only good manners.”
She shot a glance at her husband who averted his eyes to an ornately framed Pre-Raphaelite styled painting on the other side of the room. He wore a similar jacket to Nash that day. It could have been an opportunity for Howard to break the ice. He did not. He rarely spoke any words to Nash at those meetings. And to Nash, that suited him fine.
Nash remembered their last interaction well. He was fifteen when a booze-fuelled bickering escalated. An accusation was made. A shriek was heard. Nash had burst into his parents' room. His father had slapped his mother with a resounding force that propelled her body to fall–face down to the floor. Nash was no longer that little boy. No, he was far stronger than Howard and easily wrestled him to the floor.
With built up years of anger and adrenalin coursing through his veins, he was on top of Howard before anyone could blink. He landed a right-handed punch to his father's jaw.
“Don’t you ever lay a finger on her again!” Nash spat the words out as if they were the flavour of poison. He grabbed Howard by the collar of his shirt and yanked him within inches from his face. “You think it makes you a big man to hit a woman?”
Anna screamed fiercely, “Stop it, Nash! You’re hurting him!” Blood dripping from her nose, she stood up hurriedly on shaky legs. She raced over to her husband to pull the boy off.
“That punch didn’t even hurt!” Howard swore as he tasted the blood that dribbled into the corner of his mouth.
With his heart still racing, Nash took one long, steady gaze at both of his parents. He let go of Howard, stood up and walked out of the room, slamming the door as he left. He did not return until three days later, and only then because the police found him staying at a rundown motel.
Anna ensured that such stories never made their way into the newspapers.
The only child of the glamorous actress and handsome director, Nash was pushed into the spotlight before he was born with the press calling him **Baby Beautiful**. When he grew into an overweight child, the press was more brutal with their nicknaming of him.
A lifetime of being preached to about his parents' public image–the burden of all the things he could and could not do.
The outside world would see one story–the one it wanted to and was made to believe. Yet behind closed doors, was a different reality: one the world was not supposed to see–a couple riddled with infidelity, violence, and alcohol.
But today, Nash was too tired for the arguments. He had only been seated for a few minutes.
In the cab back to the office after lunch with his parents, his mind ran on the coffee girl and what his mother had said. What if she did get burnt or hurt? Guilt gnawed at him along with the realisation that he had been rude to the girl.
Nash looked at his phone.
**One phone call. One small button. Redial**
He scrolled through his call list until he found the number he was looking for. He pressed the button and took the phone to his ear.
**After my assignment was over, my pondering plagued me.
What if Nash Rivers knew of the dangerous consequences that one call would lead to–would he have still made it?**
He realised he had forgotten her name. “This is Nash.”
“Oh hello again.”
“I just wanted to call you ‘cos I’ve been in a rush all day so I didn’t have much time to talk before. I hope you didn’t think I was rude. Anyway, I just wanted to check that you were ok–you didn’t get burnt or anything, did you?”
“Oh I’m fine-but thanks for checking.”
“Ok, that’s good. Look, I feel bad about everything–can I ask where you live?”
“Um…yes, New Jersey.”
“I see. Well, when are you in the city next?”
“I’m not too sure yet.”
“Well if you’re not doing anything on Friday, could I take you to dinner? Just as an apology for everything.”
“You really don’t need to do that.”
“No, I insist...plus I can settle the damages in cash when I see you. Saves you the hassle of going to the bank with a cheque. What do you say?”
After a bit more persistence and persuasion, he finally got her to agree.
He got home late that evening after spending a longer time at the gym as a text came in:
**Hey Handsome, see you Friday night ...maybe... ;) xxxx**
Their parents were friends for over thirty years, and Nash had known her since they were children.
Miranda was the girl who turned heads. Whether for the right or wrong reasons, is dependent on opinion. Always perfectly groomed, platinum blonde hair styled into a sleek bob, sculpted long legs and a body with just a few subtle enhancements. Miranda had her nose, lips, and breasts “improved”.
The term was “friends with benefits”.
Nash and Miranda had an arrangement. They would engage in crazy, wild sex while high on cocaine. Miranda still used the drug socially, but she knew better than to use it in front of Nash as she did before.
Friday 14th May
Seated at his table, the warm yellow hue of candlelight reflected on an array of precisely placed cutlery. The hum of faint jazz music wafted like silk tulle in the air. A subtle clinking of glasses and subdued chatter filled the space.
When a girl walked towards the table, it dawned on Nash that he did not know what the “no named girl” looked like. He turned the idea over in his mind about finding a way to ask for her name again without appearing rude.
The girl smiled as the waiter walked behind her. She was short with long straight black hair and wore a blue dress, further accentuated by an overzealous helping of blue eyeshadow. Nash stood, smiled politely and was about to extend his hand when the girl walked past him. The waiter neatly pulled out the chair opposite to Nash for a girl behind him.
There seemed a familiarity about her, yet her eyes gave nothing away. Nash could barely remember her, but this girl did not seem like the one he ran into.
Her light brown hair was held back in a thick ponytail that flowed down to her hips. She had a sun-tempered exotic complexion, and eyes that were reminiscent of a tropical sea. Her cheekbones were elegantly defined and her lips were full. She wore a loose beige dress, yet it did not hide her feminine figure.
Nash wondered how he had not noticed any of her striking features before.
“Hey, I hope that you haven’t been waiting too long,” she said, standing in front their table.
“No, not long at all.”
“This is a lovely restaurant. You really didn’t have to do this.”
“Are you kidding? After I ruined your top and your morning? How about we start over. I’m Nash.” Still standing, he extended his hand towards her.
“Dana,” she replied, taking his hand.
**Something strange shivered into his spine**
“I almost didn't recognise you without the coffee stain,” he said.
She laughed and sat down, taking the menu the waiter gave to her.
“Shall we get a bottle of wine? Do you prefer red or white?”
“Sorry, I don't drink.” She smiled. “But please have a glass. Just some sparkling water for me, thank you.”
“....and a glass of Chateau Margaux. Thanks.”
A few terse moments of silence passed when he realised that he was staring at her, as his mind spun with trying to figure out how she looked that morning. No answers came.
“So how was your day?” She smiled as she opened the menu to the first page.
“Busy, you know how it is. So where are you from? I can’t place your look or your accent.”
“My mum is American....well, Native American to be precise and my dad is German. They were science geeks who met while studying at Princeton. My sister Lyra and I were born in New Jersey. When we were kids, Dad got offered a job in Germany heading up a scientific research team. So we moved there when I was about seven and pretty much lived there up until about two months ago when we moved back to Jersey. So maybe my accent is a bit muddled up.”
The waiter returned with their drinks and neatly placed their respective glasses in front of them.
Nash lifted his glass and chimed it with Dana’s before raising it to his lips, “**Prost**.”
“**Prost**,” she returned in surprise. “You speak German?”
“No. For some strange reason, I know how to say “cheers” in about a hundred languages.”
“So basically, if you are ever lost and in a strange country, you would at least be able to find the bar?”
“I suppose so.” He laughed. “So where in Germany did you live?”
“It’s a little town on the outskirts of Munich called Germering. It’s only about twenty minutes on the train to the centre of Munich.”
His phone beeped.
**Hey handsome, how's about you and me meet for some after school activities? ;) xxxx**
Miranda Petersham. He typed back.
**Sorry, got some detention already tonight.**
The night’s conversation flowed as freely as the patrons coming and going. There were no moments of uneasy or awkward silence. It went far better than Nash had initially anticipated.
“Wow, look at the time!” She raised an eyebrow with a glimpse at her watch.
“What's wrong? Do you have a curfew?”
“No, but I need to get the last train home. My last train leaves from Penn in about an hour.”
“That’s a shame. I could have shown you around town a little. I'm guessing you haven't seen much of the night-life?”
“Oh clubs aren't really my thing. I really should get going though.”
“There is a nice café nearby. Should we have a quick coffee before you head off?”
“Thanks but I probably shouldn’t risk it.”
“But you still have an hour left, right? That’s still plenty of time to get to Penn.”
She hesitated, switching between glances at her cell phone and her wristwatch. Their eyes met. Again, something unnerved him.
That café. It was always reminiscent of a scene that should have been painted by Edward Hopper. It had a certain 1940's feel, reminiscent of much of his work–an authenticity of a New York long forgotten amidst the glitz and glamour of the skyscraper generation. A long dark wooden surface overlooked where the cooks worked. It was flanked by dark wine coloured cushioned stools, surrounded by a few dark wooden tables with longer seats where lovers could sit opposite each other. It was a quiet night with fewer people than what was usual.
Once they were seated, a young waitress came over to take orders. Dana ordered a latte and, Nash an Irish coffee–just the right amount of warmth and whiskey. The waitress returned and placed their drinks in front of them before hurrying off to attend to another couple seated a few seats away. The minutes ticked as stories and laughter were exchanged. Dana drained her last sip of latte and looked up at him.
“Thanks for inviting me tonight. I had fun.”
“–Oh my God, look at the time! We've been sitting here for over an hour!”
“Oh no! I’ve missed my last train!” Her eyes widened into saucers.
“Don't worry. I’ll get a cab home for you.”
“Are you kidding? A cab back to my side of New Jersey will cost a fortune!”
“Well, it's my fault that you missed your train anyway. So it’s on me.”
“Thanks but I can't let you pay like that. I mean, I'm responsible for not keeping track of time.”
“Dana, I really don't mind. In fact, I insist. So now maybe you can see a little bit of the night-life after all? Then we can get you that cab home.”
“Nash, that's really nice of you but I mean, you've been far too generous already with dinner and everything. I really can't let you pay that much for a cab.”
“Well, I could walk you back to New Jersey if you prefer but that may take a couple of weeks and I am actually quite busy in the next few weeks. So, I'm afraid a cab is the only option.” He laughed. “Come on, you're in the big city now. I can be your guide for tonight.”
She giggled. “Well, are you sure?”
“Of course. Let me just get the bill so we can hit the town.”
“Ok…well…thank you. I'm really sorry about all of this.”
He gave a small nod to the waitress, motioning with his right hand as he mouthed the word “cheque”. She brought over the bill in a red embossed holder and beamed behind bright pink lips when he handed her his card. Glancing down, she inserted the card into the machine and frowned before re-inserting it into the slot. “I'm sorry hun, but your card has been declined.”
“What? That's not possible.” Nash creased his forehead. “I've only just used it.”
“Do you have another card?”
“No. I just have that one. Can you try it again?”
“Sure.” She inserted the card again. “I’m sorry it’s still declined.”
“That’s so strange. I'll have to call the credit card company, will you excuse me for a minute?”
Nash stood up and walked to a quiet corner of the café. His shadowy silhouette fell against the wall as he paced up and down with the phone pressed against his ear. Minutes rolled past. Eventually, he returned to the table and sat down with a heavy sigh as he indicated again for the waitress.
“I couldn't get through. There was an automated message saying that they're experiencing high call volumes or something. Can I maybe drop the money that I owe another time? I never carry cash on me but I come here all the–”
“–Oh that's ok, Mr. Rivers. I know who you are. Why don't we say this one is on the house?” The waitress winked before hurrying off to see some new customers.
“Sorry Dana, I only have that one card. When I was a teenager, my mother decided to just get the one card for me to use to manage my spending. So it’s just a habit I stuck to. But once I get through they should reinstate it pretty quickly. Then we can get on with the night and I can get you your cab.”
“Maybe they blocked it because I made a few big purchases today. It’s funny how card companies want you to spend money but then when you do, they take the money away huh?” A dimpled smile eased on to his face and Dana reciprocated, but despite her composure, something seemed amiss.
The waitress used her own initiative to bring them another order of the same drinks (a whiskey coffee and a latte) with another wink exclusively to Nash that it was “on the house”. He tried calling the number a few more times without success.
“This place closes in about twenty minutes and I’m still not getting through…Do you want to stay at my place tonight? Because if I can’t get my card to work, then we wont be able to go out. I have two spare rooms, so you're welcome to crash if you like.”
“Please don't take this the wrong way, you seem like a really nice guy and I don't want to be rude or anything, but I don’t really know you. I mean...”
“Well, if it reassures you, I am not an axe murderer.” He laughed. “You’ll have your own room and privacy. And you have my word you will be completely safe. I’m not getting through though, so I’m not sure what else I can suggest. It's getting late so we need to come up with a plan for when they close up here. My apartment is just a few blocks away. We can go back to mine and once I get through to the credit card company, I can get you that cab. If not, then you may have to get the train in the morning.”
Dana fiddled with a ring on her finger. He looked at her, waiting for her answer, yet none was forthcoming. He told her to think about it as he excused himself to go to the bathroom.
Upon his return, the end of a conversation was nearing. Dana was on the phone. They were words, which never did fall privy to Nash's ears.
**Nash never did see that side of Dana’s face. Not in the way that I knew it.**
There was a stark contrast to her now changed demeanour. Her eyes narrowed in on him as he walked back to their table.
“...I’m not sure, it could be him but I have to find out a bit more…Yes, don't worry. I’ll make sure I stick to the plan...Anyway, he's coming. I better go,” she mouthed to phone before quickly hanging up.
He sat down again. “So, have you decided on anything yet?”
She smiled sweetly. “Ok, if you still don’t get through, maybe I can stay with you tonight then and get the train in the morning, if that's ok.”
“Sure, that's fine.”
“Ok thanks again.”
They walked the short distance along 5th Avenue back to his apartment. The clamorous commotion of cars and people blended into the night breeze. Nash smiled with other passers-by who ambled to their nightly debauchery. A burst of some lightsome mood had taken hold of him.
His apartment looked more like a hotel than a home. Then again, Manhattan was not to everyone's taste.
Huge glass doors with gold gilding and a gloved doorman waited with a paid-for-smile. The floor in the lobby was a rolling bed of polished marble. Large cream sofas surrounded a glass table held together by female figurines clad with flowers. In the far corner, an immense mirror lay inside an intricately carved wooden frame. Behind a long counter, stood another man dressed in a black suit who greeted them.
They stepped into the elevator with dark suede interiors to the sound of Debussy. Nash pressed his finger into a button on the side and the elevator climbed smoothly to the top floor.
Dana silently stepped into his apartment with the confidence of a familiar visitor.
“I didn’t know you had a roommate.” She pointed at a stuffed, green dinosaur with a darned ear and faded fur, which sat on a leather sofa facing them.
“Oh, that’s just my bodyguard,” Nash responded with sincerity.
“He looks like a regular tough guy.”
“He is. He’s a complete animal. In fact, he is the most animalist of all of them.”
“I hope he has a license to carry small arms. What with being a T-Rex and all,” she joked.
“Hey!” Nash feigned offence before laughing. “My mum found him in her attic this week and brought him for me. She thought it would give me a surprise walk down memory lane, I guess. I had him since I was a kid. I used to take him everywhere. I need to find somewhere else to put him though–he is obviously ruining my macho man image.”
“Nah. He is definitely improving it.”
Nash again tried to get through to the credit card company but was unsuccessful.
Dana slipped her shoes off and walked towards the balcony. She pushed the floor-to-ceiling glass doors open and headed out into the warm night breeze.
“A full moon–beautiful, isn't it?” she said, over her shoulder, to Nash. “Whenever I look at the moon I always think it is the one thing that has connected every living thing since the beginning of time. At some point they all looked up in awe at this beautiful thing. One of the few things we have in common with our past and future.”
She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply while standing on the tip of her toes with outstretched arms–as if stretching herself outwards and upwards as much as she could. “It’s really nice up here,” she murmured.
“Thanks. I'm going to fix myself a quick drink–you want one?”
She shook her head. He poured himself a whiskey and walked to the sprawling view of twinkling lights that danced against the open blackness. The moon looked like a white button that had come undone and had been glued into the perfect position. Its light bathed the girl, reflecting some secret mysteriousness on her skin.
Faint noise of traffic on the streets below wafted, becoming a distant lullaby. People appeared no more than moving dots from his apartment view. Like a queen decked in her platinum crown and cloak of shimmer, the Empire State building arose from the shadowy midst of the city’s bosom.
Dana looked at him as his shoulder brushed against hers. She smiled, tucking windblown wayward strands of hair behind her ear. He caught a glint of something in her eyes. A reflection of moonlight. Something subtle. Something inviting. Their eyes locked for a moment. He was close enough to smell the scent of the floral perfume that laced her neck. Her gaze trailed from his mouth to his eyes, as she caught sight of her reflection, before looking away.
He leant in and placed his lips lightly upon hers as if testing the temperature of a bath before fully immersing himself. When he sensed no resistance, he curved his hands around her small waist and drew her closer into the kiss.
It was something that he could not place. A tingling slithered down to his belly that made him almost pull away. Instead, he drew her closer to his chest, drowning out any other thoughts. With closed eyes, he continued to kiss her. Slipping his arms under her knees, he effortlessly scooped her body up into her arms and carried her towards the bedroom.
She stopped kissing him and pulled away. “Nash, what are you doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“We should stop.”
“Nash, please just put me down...There’s something I need to tell you.”
He stopped and placed her down on his bedroom floor.
Sitting on his bed, his weight sunk into it as he waited for an explanation...