Authors: Abby Weeks
Tags: #Fiction, #Literary, #Erotica, #Romance, #Womens, #Suspense, #Contemporary
Copyright © 2014 Abby Weeks
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“ALL ART IS EROTIC.”
“EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS ABOUT SEX EXCEPT SEX. SEX IS ABOUT POWER.”
OLDEN WEST PUSHED OPEN THE
door of Angel’s Diner and held it for his friend.
“After you, Jimmy,” he said.
“And they say chivalry’s dead,” Jimmy said with a grin.
They were both wearing navy blue mechanic’s overalls and were covered in engine grease. They’d been working for four hours on the transmission of an ’81 Jeep pickup. Holden’s hand was bleeding from where he’d cut it against the gear shaft. He’d wrapped it in a filthy engine rag that he was holding closed with his other fist.
Lucy noticed them straight away. She was serving a table near the door and always noticed the two of them as soon as they came into the diner. To her it felt like they changed the entire atmosphere of the place. She spent most of the day serving stockbrokers in suits from the nearby financial district. Those guys were cocky and arrogant. They wore Rolex watches and tipped her a dollar on a ten dollar lunch bill. Holden and Jimmy were different. She knew their names from the tags on their overalls. They were like refugees from a different time, a time when the area south of Wall Street was a place of industry and shipping. They worked with their hands and spent their days lying under engines instead of staring at numbers and stock prices on a computer screen. They ate like men and tipped as if they actually appreciated her service.
“Hi, fellas,” she said as she cleared them a table. “You look like you’ve been having trouble.”
“This?” Holden said, raising his bandaged hand. “It’s nothing.”
It didn’t look like nothing. The rag was dirty but Lucy could see where blood had soaked through it. “Let me see it,” she said. “Come on. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Holden caught her eye. “You don’t want to see my hand,” he said.
She took his arm and opened the bandage. “Ouch,” she said. He’d torn the skin on his knuckles and it looked painful. “You’ve hardly cleaned it.”
“Jimmy cleaned it for me,” Holden said.
Lucy shook her head and sat them at the table. Technically they were supposed to go to Cynthia’s section, Lucy had taken the last group of customers, but Cynthia wasn’t in sight and Lucy could let her take the next two tables.
She went back to the staff area and got the first aid kit. She ran a clean cloth under the hot tap and went back to Holden and Jimmy’s table.
“Give it to me,” she said to Holden, holding out her hand.
He held up his hand and she carefully removed the bandage. She wiped the wound clean with the cloth and then took out the antiseptic. “This might sting.”
“Go on,” Holden said. “Do it.”
She poured the alcohol onto the cut and Holden breathed in sharply through his teeth. Then she wrapped it all in a clean bandage and fastened it with tape.
“Thank you, Lucy,” he said.
She smiled at him. They knew her name the same way she knew theirs, from the name tag beneath her collar.
“Makes me wish I cut my hand too,” Jimmy said.
“You’ll have your turn, no doubt,” Lucy said. “Now I presume you came in for some lunch.”
“Our usual,” Jimmy said.
Lucy jotted in her notebook and left them. They always had exactly the same thing, three eggs over easy, bacon, toast, home fries, beans, and black coffee. She got the coffee and two rollups and set their table.
“Thank you,” Holden said when she put the coffee in front of him.
She smiled and left again. She liked serving them. They weren’t as clean cut as the usual Wall Street men who came in but somehow they managed to treat her better than any of the other guys she served. It was as if they, a pair of mechanics from a noisy, smoky garage, classed up a joint that was two blocks from the most important financial center on the planet.
Lucy noticed so many things about them that were missing from her other customers. They were nice to her and to each other, good friends who worked together and had eggs and bacon for lunch every day. They were both strong looking, tough with well-built, muscular arms and scruffy stubble on their faces. Lucy was twenty-one and she reckoned Holden and Jimmy were about thirty. She knew nothing more about them and yet she felt as if she knew everything. The black grease on their hands, their scruffy hair and battered overalls, their easy smiles, even the fact that they wore name tags seemed to Lucy to say everything she needed to know about them. They were the kind of guys that made her feel as if they’d been her friends her entire life. They treated her like someone they cared about.
She was almost certain they were bachelors. Neither wore a ring, neither ever came in with a woman, and the way they acted around her gave her the distinct impression they were single. Jimmy was the flirt, Holden was friendly but something about him made him seem more distant.
She brought them their food and they thanked her again. “Enjoy,” she said.
As she walked away she put a little extra swagger in her step. It wasn’t like her to try and impress her customers but when Holden and Jimmy were around she held herself taller and straighter than usual. She knew they were watching and she wanted to look good.
As she worked she watched them eat from the corner of her eye. She couldn’t help be aware of them while they were in the diner, no matter how busy it got. They talked together and laughed a lot. They made eye-contact with each other and other customers. They teased each other mercilessly. And they always fought over the bill. It seemed they were the only two customers in all of Manhattan who actually took pleasure in picking up the tab for lunch.
“It’s my turn today, buddy,” Holden said when she brought the bill.
“You paid yesterday,” Jimmy said.
Holden looked up at her, shaking his head in mock disbelief. “Would you believe this guy?” he said. “Every single time!” Jimmy shook his head but Holden was having none of it. He put a ten and a twenty on the table.
Lucy smiled as she took the money. “I’ll get your change.”
“No change,” Holden said. “I wouldn’t dream of taking change from the girl who fixed my hand.”
She watched them leave and then tallied up their bill. They’d left her over twelve dollars on a bill of $17.59.
UCY WAS EXHAUSTED BY THE
time her shift was over. She’d taken on extra hours and it meant she’d been working since eleven in the morning. It was almost eleven at night now. The place had been empty for the last hour or so but even just being there was tiring. She cleared off all the tables and then filled the bucket to mop the floor. Christopher, the cook and owner of Angel’s Diner, was cleaning down the grill.
“You can flip the sign,” he said to Lucy. They were technically open till midnight but there was no point waiting around when it was this slow.
“Thank God,” Lucy said. She poured soap in the bucket and mopped the floor. She did a good job even though she was exhausted.
Christopher came out of the kitchen and sat at the counter. He was tired and sweaty. He lit a cigarette. There was no smoking in the restaurant but after a late shift he didn’t care. It was his place. Lucy respected him because he was a hard worker. His father had left him the diner and he worked seventy hours a week to keep it afloat. “You want to get a drink or something?” Christopher said.
“I’m pretty beat,” Lucy said. “Next time.”
“Yeah,” he said as he took a long draw from the cigarette. “Me too.”
“Besides, you have that lovely wife waiting for you at home.”
“I wish,” Christopher said.
“What do you mean?”
“She went back to her mother’s. Said I was never home.”
“You never are,” Lucy said.
“I guess,” Christopher said.
Lucy could tell he was exhausted. He was slouched over the counter, the cigarette dangling loosely from his mouth. She finished the floor and sat next to him.
“I’m bone tired,” he said.
“You look tired,” Lucy said. She got up and poured him a cup of coffee and brought it over. “Make sure you go straight home tonight. No bars. You need a good night’s sleep.”
“So we can do this all over again tomorrow.”
“Hey, it’s a living. I got over a hundred in tips today.”
Christopher smiled. “Good for you,” he said. “You worked hard today.”
Lucy got up and got her jacket. She left through the back door and down the alley to South Street. It was too late for a bus so she made her way to the Fulton Street subway station. She caught a train and fifteen minutes later she was at her stop. She got off at the Forty-Sixth Street station on Queens Boulevard and made her way two blocks south to the apartment she was living at with her parents and sister. The area they lived in might have once been thriving but all Lucy could see was shuttered up windows and closed businesses. Her apartment was in a squat, brick building above an old grocery store. A fire escape was attached to the front. It was midnight when she finally got to the door.
Inside were her two parents, Mabel and Al Mayfair, her older sister Shirley, and her sister’s baby. The reasons they all lived together in this tiny apartment were a lesson in bad financial planning. Just a few years ago Lucy never could have imagined that they’d all be living like this. When she was a little girl they’d had a beautiful brownstone house in the affluent Brooklyn Heights neighborhood. They’d each had their own bedroom, a beautiful garden with tall oak trees, a pool in the back. Lucy and her sister had grown up there, gone to school at one of the best public high schools in Brooklyn, and seemed set to have nice, comfortable, successful lives. But then a few years back her father’s engineering business, Mayfair Automotive, had begun to falter. What had once been a successful specialist engine tuning company had over the years gotten into serious financial difficulties. Her father had always been more of an inventor than a businessman and that was what had gotten him into trouble. He loved old muscle cars and had put all of his money into an idea for improving the horsepower of a turbocharged engine. He spent a small fortune running tests on the new turbocharger, he’d given thousands of dollars to attorneys to patent the invention, but it was impossible to sell his product until it had federal approval. He pushed hard to get it approved but had come up against one regulation after another that kept him from putting it on the market. Before he knew it he was so far in debt that he had to put a lien on the business. Then he’d gotten a mortgage on the family home in Brooklyn. At first he’d been able to get money from the banks, his business had a good track record, but as things got increasingly desperate he had to find new ways to get credit. When the banks started rejecting his applications he turned to private financing companies he’d found in the classified section of the New York Times. A finance company gave him the money he needed but at an extortionate interest rate. A few months later he missed a payment. Yet another federal regulation had blocked him from selling his turbocharger. He knew the invention would work but the finance company wasn’t interested. They took the Mayfair family home. The whole family had been stunned and in desperation had found this cheap apartment in Queens. Now, the finance company was trying to take the company too, along with the patents, the turbocharger, everything. It was killing Lucy’s father and she knew it.