T is for Trespass - Page 24/144

We chatted for ten or fifteen minutes and then she glanced at her watch. “Oops. I better get going. I don’t want to keep you up. In the morning, you can give me directions to the nursing home.”

“I’ll be out of here early, but you can always knock on Henry’s door. He’ll be happy to help. I take it you’ll be staying next door?”

“I’d hoped to, unless you think he’d object.”

“I’m sure he won’t care, but I should warn you the place is grim. We cleaned what we could, but it’s iffy in my opinion. Who knows when Gus last had a go at it himself.”

“How bad?”

“It’s gross. The sheets are clean, but the mattress looks like something he dragged in from the curb. He’s a hoarder as well, so two of the three bedrooms aren’t usable at all, unless you’re looking for a place to toss trash.”

“He hoards? That’s new. He didn’t used to do that.”

“He does now. Dishes, clothing, tools, shoes. It looks like he has newspapers from the past fifteen years. There were items in the fridge that were probably capable of spreading disease.”

She wrinkled her nose. “You think it’s better if I stay somewhere else?”

“I would.”

“I’ll take your word for it. How hard is it going to be to find a hotel at this hour?”

“It shouldn’t be a problem. We don’t get many tourists at this time of year. There are six or eight motels just two blocks from here. When I run in the mornings, I always see the vacancy signs lighted.”

Maybe it was the wine, but I was noticing how friendly I felt, possibly because I was so grateful she’d arrived. Or maybe ours was one of those relationships where you butt heads up front and get along swimmingly from that point on. Whatever the dynamic, the next thing I knew I was saying, “You can always stay here. For tonight, at any rate.”

She seemed as surprised as I. “Really? That’d be great, but I wouldn’t want to put you out.”

Having offered, of course, I could have bitten off my tongue, but I felt bound by etiquette to assure her of my sincerity, while she swore it’d be no big deal to bumble around in the dark in search of accommodations-clearly something she was hoping to avoid.

In the end, I made up a bed for her on the fold-out sofa in my living room. She already knew where the bathroom was so I took a few minutes to show her how to work the coffeemaker and where the cereal box and bowls were stowed.

At 11:00 she retreated to her bed and I climbed the spiral staircase to the loft. Since she was still on East Coast time, she turned her light out long before I did. In the morning, I got up at 8:00 and by the time I came downstairs, showered, and dressed, she was already up and gone. Like a good guest, she’d stripped the sheets, which she’d folded neatly and placed on the lid of my washing machine, along with the damp towel she’d used for her shower. She’d refolded the sofa bed and put the cushions back in place. According to the note she’d left, she’d gone in search of a coffee shop and expected to be back by 9:00. She offered to buy me dinner if I was free that night, which as it happened, I was.

I left for the office at 8:35 that morning and I didn’t see her again for six days. So much for dinner.


Late Saturday afternoon, I joined Henry and Charlotte for the tree-trimming festivities. I declined the eggnog, which I knew contained a stunning quantity of calories, not to mention fat and cholesterol. Henry’s recipe called for a cup of superfine sugar, a quart of milk, twelve large eggs, and two cups of whipping cream. He’d made a non-alcoholic version, which allowed his guests to add bourbon or brandy to taste. By the time I arrived, the Christmas-tree lights had been threaded through the branches, and Rosie had already been there and gone. She’d accepted a cup of eggnog and then she’d left for the restaurant, as her dictatorial presence was required in the kitchen.

Henry, William, Charlotte, and I unwrapped and admired the ornaments, most of which had been in Henry’s family for years. Once the tree was trimmed, William and Henry had their annual argument about how to apply tinsel. William was of the one-strand-at-a-time method, and Henry thought the effect was more natural if the tinsel was tossed and allowed to form picturesque clumps. They settled on a little bit of both.

At 8:00 we walked the half block to Rosie’s. William went to work behind the bar, which left the table to Henry, Charlotte, and me.

I hadn’t paid attention to how much either had had to drink, which may or may not explain what followed. The menu that night was the usual strange assortment of Hungarian dishes, many of which Rosie had determined in advance would be our free choice for the occasion.