Her head moved up and down in a slow rhythm.
What are you doing here?
I had to get away, she said, from my mother. Her eyes neither moved nor blinked. Ive been living with her for awhile, just until I get some stuff straightened out. She was trying... Its difficult to explain. She paused, then went on in a fast rush of words. The bus dropped me off here. I was going to the city. Didnt quite make it. She smiled, a sudden flash that quickly dissolved. Hey, do you know if there is a cheap hotel, a motel or something, nearby?
David saw a motel sign in his mind: it moved by him outside the train window every day he went to work. It was a sign, he thought, not just of the motel, but of the decay that was starting to eat at the edges of his town.
Theres one just outside town, he told her. You go down the hill to the main street, take a right... I mean a left. Its about a mile or two down the road. No, Im sorry, I mean the right side. I guess you could get a bus in town.
David wasnt sure. He never rode in busses. Only in trains and cabs or his own car.
Her eyes moved from his face for the first time, down to the sidewalk and then up, away, towards town.
Do you think I could borrow some money, she said, her voice a vague sound without weight. Ill pay you back. Just something for the motel room for a night. For a bus ticket for tomorrow.
Davids hand went to the breast pocket of his coat. His chest felt hard and smooth underneath his palm. He suddenly remembered seeing her breasts at the concert. She had been lying on the lawn, watching him as he talked, listening closely, laughing at things he was not sure were funny, peppering her responses with swear words. He remembered thinking that she found him more interesting than he had thought himself to be. She had moved--shifted her weight from one elbow to the other, rolled onto her back to stare up at the sky--and as she did, her skirt had tugged the top button of her blouse loose. He remembered seeing the curve along the top of her breast and the darker hardness of her nipple.
He had decided he should get back to his friends, that they would be wondering about him. When he had told her he had to leave, her eyes had gone completely still, like they were tonight. He had surprised himself by leaning over and pressing his lips to hers. Her mouth had opened, soft and wet like a childs, but her kiss had been that of a woman. She had clung to him, kept kissing him, even as he started to pull away. But then she had smiled, grinned really , as she let him go, and waved to him as he walked off. Standing there now with his hand at his breast pocket, his body remembered the feeling of her chest pressed against his, her mouth warm and moist like the center of a small candy. His loins jumped unexpectedly at the memory.
Hey, is everything all right? he asked her. Are you ok? Do you need a place to stay or something?
No, no, she said, and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. Im ok. I just need to get away from my mother for awhile. Im a little short, is all.
Davids hand was still at his chest. I could just give her some money, he thought, then turn away and walk home to Karen, and that would be that. He wondered if he moved his coat to reach for his wallet, if there would be a protrusion at the front of his pants. Then he remembered, and felt his face flush with embarrassment. He had spent all his cash at the bar, buying his colleague drinks.
Look, why dont you just come with me, he said. My house is just up the street. Ive got lots of room. You can stay there while you get things sorted out.
||She hesitated, and David hoped for a moment that she would say no, she couldnt. He thought of Karen and wished that there was somewhere else he could take Chloe. She dropped her chin to her chest, her eyes to the ground, and took a step in the direction he had indicated. He stepped in front of her, and she followed him up the hill.
Karen smiled stiffly at Chloe when introduced and rolled her eyes at David behind Chloes back. David tried to give her a look filled with stern disapproval, but Karen merely rolled her eyes again. She showed Chloe to the living room and mixed her a drink without asking her what she wanted. When Chloe reached out to accept the glass, David saw that her nails were chewed down, the tips of her fingers a ragged line of mingling nail and flesh. Karen announced with practiced buoyancy that she was going upstairs to prepare the guest room.
Ill help, David said to her departing figure, and then, to Chloe, Well be right back. Make yourself comfortable.
David followed Karens trim figure, clad in tan, dry-cleaned jeans, a startlingly white turtleneck and flat, brown shoes, up the stairs. He watched the bones of her shoulders which jutted out just below the crisply turned-under line of her hair. He wondered how her hairdresser got so many shades of blonde into hair that was naturally dull brown. For the first time, he wondered what such a blend of colors cost.
At the top of the stairs, Karen turned on him.
Why did you bring her here? she hissed. Theres laundry unfolded in the guest room, the maid hasnt cleaned there for three weeks, and I dont have anything but a leftover casserole for dinner! Why didnt you just give her some money, and send her to a hotel?
I dont know, Karen. It just happened. David tapped his forehead with his fingertips. Im sorry for springing it on you like this. She just seemed to be in some kind of trouble. Like something strange has happened to her.
Karen let out something between a sigh and a whine. Again, her eyes rolled in her head.
David started to follow her into the guest room, but she closed the door behind her, not quite a slam, but hard. He stood there for a moment, the door a few inches from his nose, and then turned and walked back to the living room.