She feels his breath hot against her cheek.
For on the couch next to me, buried in my leather purse was the cell, and I could still sense it, smell it, and I worried that it would ring out with Flamenco, or that it would insinuate its feral vibration. I couldn't remember how I had set it only minutes ago. I couldn't remember whether he said he would phone again. And still that musky odor was in my nostrils, and would the others...
-- Are you okay? You look a little flushed.
It was Robert. I looked up at him confused, unable for a moment to remember who he was. When I did recall his name, he appeared to my in a way he never had before: as a man. I found myself looking him over. He didn't have movie star looks, exactly, but he did have the kind of strong nose I liked. His body was solid, and there was that prominent bulge I noticed now for perhaps the first time. I wondered...but my thoughts were getting away from my.
-- Maybe I'm a little tired, I said, smiling faintly, barely resisting the impulse to reach out and cup that bulge in my hand.
But then Alice also noticed that I was not looking so well, and Byron too, and besides there was not much left to discuss, they said. And so they eased me out the door. Was it a plot? Were they seizing on the chance to drop my out of the loop altogether? Ordinarily, I'd be suspicious. Now, I didn't care. I just needed to get out into the night air and try to collect myself. I allowed myself to be led by escort out to my car. I endured their solicitous looks and gestures as I started the engine and drove away. I refused to imagine what they must be thinking.
I checked my watch. The whole hallucinatory episode had passed in the space of twenty-five minutes.
The cool air did little to dispel my confusion. As I approached Fourth Avenue I slowed to a crawl. Would the light be green or red? Would I turn east or west?
It was green. I turned west.
Then the cell phone vibrated. I could feel the vibration through the purse, through the seat. When had I set it to vibrate?
-- Hello, I answered. Against my will, some urgency had crept into my voice.
-- Where are you now?
-- On Fourth Avenue.
-- The beach is in moonlight. The moon is above the hill along Spanish Banks.
The line went silent.
The moon glided beside me along Fourth Avenue as I drove west toward Spanish Banks. Pale figures wandered among the trees in Jericho Park. Heavy limbs separated, curled down, twined and reconnected near the ground. The night air was still fresh and balmy. I turned toward the beach. The wind blew sand in swirls across the road beneath my car.
The concession was closed. One light shone on the wall. A mad woman in her electric wheel chair circled the building, humming softly.
There were no other cars in the parking lot. The light standard overhead was extinguished. I pulled in and stopped, cut the engine, cut the lights. As my eyes adjusted, the rolling beach appeared, luminous in the moonlight, with a scattering of trees, shrubs and driftwood, then the waters of the inlet, black with glimmers, and the dark North Shore Mountains beyond, with their sprinkling of lights signaling unseen streets and tramways.
I picked up the cell. I opened it. Again, the low musk. The wind was gentle in the trees and the new spring leaves were still too moist to make a sound. All voices were low and distant and disappeared like raindrops, never disturbing the calm of the breathing sand.
The cell phone vibrated.
I scarcely whispered:
-- Are you ready to begin?
-- I don't know.
-- Turn on your inside light, switch your cell to speakerphone and place it on the dash.
I did so.
-- You must be warm in that heavy coat.
I struggled out of my black car coat. My dress was in plain and sensible cotton with square shoulders but in a soft yellow gold, and a little tight across the chest.
-- Have you touched your breasts today?
-- I'm sorry?
-- Have you touched your breasts today?
-- Yes, I breathed.
-- Show me.
I glanced around nervously, but with the interior light switched on everything outsi