He rolled down the passenger side window and held up his hands in a ‘pardon me?’ kind of gesture.
She smiled. “You were watching me and my banana,” she said.
He didn’t say anything, just held up his hands and smiled back at her, trying to show her he didn’t know what she was talking about. She just laughed and pulled away from him. The black, late model Mercedes sport coupe did it effortlessly. He watched her pull away from him, the tail end of her car swerving in and out of traffic to get up and ahead of him.
“Does she want me to follow her?” he asked himself.
His little Dodge Avenger wasn’t up to the challenge and he kept to the outside lane and continued to commute on home. There wasn’t much on the radio and he found himself cycling through the range of channels three times before shutting it off entirely, riding the rest of the way home in silence. As the commuters thinned out and the highway reached the end of the line he found himself looking a little more closely at the cars he was with, seeing if one of them was a black Mercedes sport coupe. Not that he would know what to do if there was one.
He pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex, locked up his car and went on up to his tenth floor apartment. He shared the walk and the elevator ride with other tenants and he made polite eye contact with them, smiling his hellos, staring straight ahead or at the climbing numbers on the elevator display or at the digits on his watch – a watch that told him, despite the achingly long time he felt, insisted it was less than ten minutes from his car door to the couch in his one bedroom apartment.
After dumping out the contents of his backpack onto his kitchen table, he pressed the ‘play’ button on his answering machine and went to the fridge so he could pour himself a glass of milk.
“You have,” the machine told him, “one new message.”
That made him cough and choke a little, forcing him to lean over the sink or else risk getting it all over the kitchen floor.
“Hi, Dougie,” the caller said. “I wanted you to know that the lawyer will be sending over the papers probably tomorrow and for sure before the end of the week. I just want them signed and I want this over with, you know? So, please, let’s just sign it and get this over with?”
He jabbed the delete button on the phone base and took his glass of milk with him over to the couch. He flipped open the lid on his laptop and surfed through what Netflix would have to offer this evening while he had dinner. Not finding anything off the bat, he took the laptop with him into the kitchenette, so he could look further while he checked his freezer for something he could eat.
The phone didn’t finish its first ring before Doug picked it up.
“You want this over with?” he said. “You didn’t say one word about Sarah. Let me speak to her. I haven’t even seen her in weeks. The least you can do is let me talk to her.”
Doug waited in silence for two heartbeats. “Jessie? So what about it?”
“I haven’t even started, Sweetheart,” the caller said.
He checked the call display. The number was blocked. He cursed himself under his breath for being so anxious to answer the phone.
“Sorry, I thought you were someone else. How can I help you?”
“Who’s Sarah?” the caller asked. Sounded female.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m sorry for having answered the phone that way. What can I do for you?”
“You don’t remember me?”
“Um, can’t say that I do. Listen, I just got home from work, so if you could cut to the chase that would really help us moving things along. Let me know what you’re selling. I might even be interested.”
He leaned back against his counter, crossing one arm across his chest, holding the phone to his ear with the other.
“Oh, Sweetheart,” the female caller said. “I’m no telemarketer. We’ve not met, but you’ve seen me.”
“Listen, ma’am, I appreciate what you’re trying to do here….” Doug said.
“Banana,” the caller said.
“The last time you saw me I had a banana in my mouth.”
Doug’s eyes popped open and he mouthed the word, “Holy shit.”
“How did you get my number?”
“Is your phone cordless?”
“Yes,” Doug answered. “But that doesn’t answer my question.”
“Come to the phone and wave hello,” she said.
A knot formed in the middle of his chest and he had a moment where it was hard for him to breathe. He didn’t move.
“I don’t bite, Sweetheart,” she said. “You can trust me.”
“It’s not biting that I’m worried about.”
“We can talk more about that over coffee,” she said.
He walked over to the window, careful to stay out of direct view of anyone looking up and into his apartment. A thought occurred to him and he checked the balcony, too. She could have been crazy enough to climb up along the outside of the building or connive her way into an adjacent apartment, above or below or next to him, and clamber over. Finally he pulled back the sheer curtain enough for him to look out. There was the black Mercedes, and the blonde in dark sunglasses who was driving it, only now instead of a peeled banana in her hand she had a mobile phone to her ear. The sunglasses reminded her of something Audrey Hepburn might wear. She paced back and forth, looking to him like she was trying to calculate which apartment might be his.
“What’s to stop me from calling the cops?”
“And tell them what? A pretty blonde lady in a shiny black Mercedes finds you interesting enough to follow home and ask you out for a coffee? Yes. I expect they will put their best men on the job.”
“I could tell them you pulled a gun on me on the highway and I tried to get away from you.”
“Listen,” she said. “Are you going to come down for a coffee or what? I’m asking here, I’m not fucking begging.”
She stopped pacing and looked down at the toe of her pointy black high heeled leather boot.