The story so far:
New York was the same, and inherently different, which is perhaps why so many claim it as their own. Scarlet was swept up in the current of people, the crush of bodies that seemed to move as one, like bees in tight formation. Odors, of the pleasant and not so pleasant alike, swelled around her and she felt a sudden gulf of emotion for the city. It’s like coming home.’
Scarlet fell in step with a young woman who clipped along in heels and an oversize Prada bag. She figured she had another ten blocks to walk and if memory served, and it would, she’d make it to the El Café to meet Buddy just in time. Scarlet had no idea how she would feel when she saw him. Elated for sure, he was her longest friend. But there was something else she was slyly pushing aside, another emotion that crept up the back of her neck like small, wispy fingers, every time she drew his face to mind.
Her mind wandered to their one and only attempt at intimate affection. They’d been drinking, of course, but neither would say that was the responsible factor. No, they had chemistry. They had friendship. They had physical attraction. The booze lifted the cowardice and intensified the urgency. The afternoon following the party, Scarlet would board a plane and take her first job in a new city, the start of her career at the loss of something she could not describe.
“Scarlet, you look exceptional tonight, you know that?” Buddy had asked, his arm around her shoulders, his lips to her ear. She had caught the masculine smell of his cologne and tucked her face in the side of his neck to whisper back, “Do I?” He nodded his assent, and she took a sip of courage from her glass. “So what are you waiting for then, Buddy? What’s the hold up? “ She looked up, searched his dark brown eyes and said, “Take me somewhere.”
He did. He took her first to his apartment on the East side, one he shared with a roommate that spent most of his nights behind the counter of an all night coffee shop. He took her to his room, he took her to the bed, and at some miraculous moment, he took her nearly to the moon and back. This was not ordinary drunk coupling, this was the good stuff. The kind of love making that makes you look at him different afterwards, as if this handsome yet ordinary man suddenly ripped his shirt open to show you the Superman suit beneath. All of sudden, everything is different and no one can decide if it’s just too good to be true or so good it’s got to be bad. Everything changed.
Scarlet rounded the corner and just as she’d remembered, the green awning with white scripted El Café, stood in front of her. She walked in and hesitated. She was a bit early, having sped-walked with Miss Three Inch Heels all the way here. Would Buddy already be here? She wanted a minute to compose herself. She wanted to freshen her lipstick. She wanted to…
And there he was. Staring at her from a booth in the corner of the room. She noticed the new, distinguished grey in his hair at the temples, she noticed his eyes, still dark and intelligent, crinkled at the corners by his smile. Something much like desire and comfort swept over her and at that very moment she was so grateful that he’d brought her here to New York again. Buddy stood, still smiling and she crossed the distance in the cafe and into his waiting arms.