She’s here, on the subway train. I don’t see her yet, but I smell her. She smells like freshly mowed grass and baby powder. A fat man gets off the train and she’s right there in front of me. Mary Anne has her back to me, but I know it’s her. Her blonde hair is in pigtails. She’s talking on her cell phone. Her voice is soft, girlish, lilting. She’s wearing a pink hoodie and a white lace mini skirt with a pink sash. And ballet slippers. In high school, she always wore a pink sash over her uniform. She was the only one who got away with it, somehow.
I take a step forward and inhale deeply. My stomach tingles.
I’ve followed her from Wichita to New York City, and in one month I’ve ridden in every tunnel of the subway. And today I finally found her.
She slips her cell phone into her purse. The train is slowing. She’s about to get off.
I swallow hard and lean in. “Mary Anne?”
She looks over her shoulder. I can’t tell if she’s looking at me through her designer sunglasses.
“Mary Anne, you probably don’t remember me, but I went to high school with you- Kapaun Mount Carmel, class of 2008. I’m Charlie Kelly. I was friends with Justin Swan and Mike Springer- your prom dates.”
The train stops and she walks out the door. I run after her.
“Mary Anne, please,” I say, walking a few steps behind her. “I’m desperate. I’ll give you anything. I have an inheritance. I’ll sign a contract. I’ll be your servant- your slave- anything. I just want to be happy.”
She races up the steps to the street.
“I want to take the leap.”
She turns and faces me at the top step. “Excuse me?”
“I want to take the leap.”
“I don’t do that anymore.”
“So it’s true. I knew Justin and Mike all through high school. They were always talking about killing themselves. I did too. Then you transferred to Mount Carmel and the three of you started hanging out. They were always talking about ‘taking the leap’ in our senior year. I thought they meant literally. But after our prom, they were different. They were happy. Relaxed. Smiling all the time. They even looked different- healthier. They said they took the leap with you. And now they’re both living the good life. Three years out of high school and Justin is a successful actor in LA. Mike is a personal trainer. He opened his own chain of fitness clubs.” I press my palms to my face. “But I’m still depressed. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“So?” She turns and walks away. I follow.
“They almost dropped out of high school before they met you. I know you turned their lives around. I know you can help me. I just want a chance, Mary Anne. Let me take the leap and I’ll never bother you again. Or I’ll be your slave. Or whatever you want, I’ll give it to you. Please.”
She stops and turns. I run to her, drop to my knees, and clasp my hands in front of my face.
She sighs. “Anything?”
I fall in step a few paces behind her, and she leads me to a brownstone apartment with petunia flowerboxes. Inside, all the furniture is draped in white lace throws, and the walls are covered with pink velvet.
“It would help if you were drunk,” she says. “Would you like beer, wine, or a cocktail?”
“I’ll have whatever you’re having, thank you.”
“A Pink Lady it is. Have a seat.”
She disappears into her kitchen and I sit on the loveseat. Five minutes later, she returns with a Pink Lady and a satchel.
“Here. Drink up.”
“Aren’t you having one?”
“I’m having mine later.”
I take a sip, and she nods and smiles. I take another sip. “This is very good. I’ve never had a Pink Lady before, but-”
A door slams shut and I wince.
Antiseptic. Smells like antiseptic. Am I dreaming?
I open my eyes. Mary Anne sits across from me on a white lace easy chair. She lights a cigar.
“Cheers, Carly,” she toasts. She takes a sip of her Pink Lady and winks at me. I watch as she adds two large pink beads to a necklace of small pink beads. She holds the necklace up and smiles.
“It looks lopsided now, but in a few weeks, it will be a perfect match. Thank you, Carly.”
My lap feels numb. I look down. My clothes are gone and I’m wearing a hospital gown. I struggle to sit up.
“What . . happened?”
“Silly girl. You took the leap.”
“No, you did. You’ll probably want to stay here for a few days until you can dress yourself and walk normally again. In the meantime, I’m going on a shopping spree. Thank you for the inheritance. And help yourself to more Pink Ladies- they’re in the kitchen. You’ll probably need them when the morphine wears off. See you later!”
She turns and walks out the door. It shuts with a slam. I wince.
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