“That’s not what I mean,” he said. “I was late getting home because I’ve been working to get the go-ahead for a dot-com business I’ve been developing, and finally, after almost three years, I have a deal together.”

“Hold still,” I said. “I want to get this wound cleaned up. And your eye is going to be huge.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “You don’t understand what this means.”

“What does it mean,” I said, while I dabbed at his bleeding face.

“It means I’m going to earn ten times more next year than I did this year,” he said. “And I guess I’m going to be living alone after today’s episode with Rhoda.” I didn’t want to mention all that I saw between his Rhoda and her black lover.

“That eye of yours needs to be treated. Do you have a steak in your fridge?” I said, partly to change the subject. He laughed.

“Steak is not something I’ve been able to enjoy lately,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work for very little money to get my plan to take off.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m not in the steak category either, but I have some nice, fresh hamburger that will do the job.”

“Why are you doing all this?” James asked.

“I’m sure you’d do the same for me,” I said, “if you’d been watching such a thing happen to me, across the courtyard.”

“If you saw me get hit,” he said, “then you must have seen my girlfriend… former girlfriend I guess it will be… making a fool of me.” I stepped back and looked at him, his gentle, brown eyes, his tousled salt-and-pepper hair, and his fine features that were temporarily lop-sided.

“In my opinion, James, a man who dutifully goes to work every day to keep bread on the table, while he aggressively pursues his dreams, is certainly not a fool.” It was his turn to stop and look at me.

“What’s your name?” he said. “And how do you know my name?”

“I’m Virginia Madison, and I’ve noticed your name and Rhoda’s on the mailbox downstairs.”

“Yeah,” he mused. “I guess I better take her name off there.”

“Will you be able to come over to my place, or should I bring the burger over here,” I asked.

“I’d rather come to your place,” he said. “I don’t think I could be comfortable here right now.”


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