She walked into the bar of Mimmo’s Café still clad in that awful pinstripe suit she thought made her look thinner. She’d pulled her hair back into a ponytail, but wisps still stuck to her sweaty cheeks. I was glad she wore a jacket so we didn’t both have to ignore her pit stains.
“I went ahead and ordered us a carafe, thirsty Thursday and all.” I said by way of greeting. Anna smiled wryly and filled her glass with the house red. She sipped and then sipped again, the muscles in her jaw flexing as she swallowed. At twenty-five, she already looked like a pro.
“I need to ask you a favor and I need you to not ask any questions.”
“I’m happy to do you a favor but we both know I’m not promising no questions.” She sat a little longer and then lit a cigarette. She smoked the whole thing down and then nudged it out in the black plastic ashtray between us.
“Can I come stay with you for a while?” I sat back in my seat and pulled a cigarette from her pack while I studied her. She met my gaze, her steady eyes giving away nothing.
Anna got married two years ago to the man we all assumed was the love of her life. And frankly, we were jealous. When Anna got into that car wreck, when she pulled the muscles in her lower back or whatever, she was told to take a warm bath in Epsom salts. She went out to the CVS, found the salts, got herself some tea and muscle rub and when she finally made it home to draw her bath, she discovered that their apartment bathtub was missing a stopper. So what did David do? He jerry-rigged a cloth stopper and a plastic cup and sat there at her feet, holding the cup in place so she could recline in her Epsom salts. That’s the kind of guy David was.
The only question was why on Earth Anna needed to leave her two-bedroom bungalow tucked away at the end of the cul-de-sac and that was not the question to ask.
“Tomorrow. Or Saturday. I can wait until Saturday if you want.”
“Anna, if you need to come tomorrow, you should come tomorrow. I’ll clean out the spare room.”
She stared straight ahead into the mirror behind the bottles. She dropped her chin to her chest for a moment, then pulled her hair out of the ponytail, removed her earrings and set them on the bar. She shrugged that awful gray suit coat off her shoulders. She was wearing this magenta silk sleeveless blouse. I could see the curve of her biceps and deltoids. This was new.
“Thank you.” I put my hand on that newly defined arm muscle and squeezed.