I heard her groan. I waited and waited until she finally opened the door and peered out at me.
“I was in the bathroom. I had the door shut and I thought locked and he just came in while I was in the shower and… and went to the bathroom.”
“Next time be sure you lock the door,” she said.
“It doesn’t work and he saw it was closed and I had the shower running. He had to know I was in there.”
“He had to go,” she told me. “Don’t make a big deal of it,” she said. “We have to get some sleep. We’ve already gotten a job and we start tonight,” she added, and closed the door.
My face felt like my blood was boiling just under my skin. I started toward their bedroom door again and then stopped and returned to my room to fume. After a few minutes, I came out and saw that Cory and she had been quite wild and drunk last night. Clothes were strewn everywhere in the already disheveled-looking living room. I thought for a moment, and then I went to his pants and pulled out his wallet. There were three twenties, a ten, a five, and five singles in it. I took the three twenties and put the wallet back.
“That’s your fine for being disrespectful,” I muttered at the door, and left the apartment.
I didn’t get too far before I heard a door open and my name called. Kathy Ann was standing in the doorway of her family’s apartment. She was dressed in a robe, and her hair looked like a family of rats had run through it. I debated just ignoring her, but she kept beckoning. As I approached, she stepped out of her apartment and closed the door most of the way.
“What happened to you last night? I didn’t even know you had left. How did you get home? I had a great time,” she told me before I could offer a single answer.
“Good for you,” I said.
“Axel can speak a little Spanish. His family has a Spanish maid. He was impressed with what I already knew.”
“Sounds like a match made in heaven,” I said dryly, but she was on a happy roll and either ignored or didn’t see my disinterest.
She looked at me with a smile smeared across her lips like cake frosting.
“What?” I finally asked.
“We did it,” she said. “I mean, I did it.”
“It’s not like running the four-minute mile or something, Kathy Ann. You don’t get a medal.”
Her smile faded.
“Don’t you want to hear about it?” She looked like she was going to burst into tears.
“All right,” I said with great effort. “What happened?”
“He was very gentle and considerate and first announced and showed me he had protection.”
“I’m glad of that,” I said.
“Still, I was afraid. He told me he understood, that it was like the first time he had to be a linebacker on a college football team and had to bang heads with a guy just as big as he was if not bigger. He said it was like knowing you were going to run into a wall, but you had to go ahead anyway.”
“Yeah, that sounds just like making love,” I muttered.
“He meant every time you do something new, you are nervous. I thought that was sweet, his sharing his fear with me. He’s so big and strong, it was hard to believe anything could frighten him.”
“It is hard to believe,” I said.
“Anyway, I closed my eyes and held my breath and it was just as wonderful as Charlotte Lily told me it would be. After a little pain, I mean. Axel said he would call me every time he comes into the city.” She leaned toward me to add in a whisper, “He’s really not supposed to be so wild and active. He’s in training.”
“It’s nice of him to put you before football.”
“I thought so,” she said.
I stared at her. Are we all like this at one time or another? I wondered. Do we all wear blinders, deliberately ignore the truth just to hold on to one of our fantasies? Is that what was happening to Mother darling, still happening? What can be the final result? Only a great fall, I thought, great disappointment, and from that, bitterness and cynicism. We would be like the fox in the story one of my teachers told, the fox who couldn’t reach the grapes and then said they were probably sour anyway. Sincere happy smiles would become so rare, we would wonder if it was our faces we saw reflected.