I walk into the Lenox Lounge. My outfit shows of enough my cleavage that every man who passes can’t help sneak a peek at me. I fiddle with my oval pendant. I scan for him near the red plush sofas where young lovers toast temporary bliss. The house band, Big Red and the 110th Street Players, play a pale imitation of jazz. Everyone smokes and those who do not, are harassed by the the cigarette girl until they toss her a dime.
Timmons is by the bar a smoke cupped in hand, the cherry glows, a long smoke breath unfurls upwards. He’s dressed impeccably–as usual. He’s freshly shaved, sober, ready for business or I hope a little fun. He finds me in the crowd. I swan over. He offers me his smoke. I take a long drag and then return it. I brush up against his skin sending a jolt of half-remembered pleasure through myself. He presses me towards a private booth.
I slide in and study him up. The slight gray at the temples makes him looked distinguished.
“Your husband wants to know who you’re sleeping with.”
“With my husband of course.”
“Funny, he’s saying otherwise. Who are you screwing?”
“Of all the words you could have chosen bang, bop and, bounced, why screw?”
“I was trying to be a gentleman. A lady like you might not have the constitution for the verb I’m thinking of.”
“Honey, I am no lady. Stop being polite.”
“Fine, then. Who are you fucking?”
“Why does Regan care about what I do?”
“Your husband’s putting his house in order.” Timmons stubs out the cigarette. The private eye business must be slow if Timmons took a job from my deep-pocketed husband. “Regan asked me to sniff around to see who’s been tom catting with his wife.”
“So Detective, what have you discovered?”
“Every other week for the past three months, you rent a room. You check in at eight o’clock p.m. You leave at eight a.m. You then have breakfast at a local diner. Two link sausages and two eggs over easy, coffee no cream, two sugars.”
“How do you know how I like my eggs?”
Timmons leans in, “I still remember how you like it.”
I raise a brow. The moment lingers.
“Do you remember other things?”
I breathe in his aftershave, sweet birch and lime. I think of the mornings I woke up with my nose buried in his blankets with that scent.
“There’s no one else.”
“Hubby has his doubts. You’re in love, just not with him.”
“Tell Reagan if he wants to know the truth, he can ask me.” Timmons gives me a smile–that lopsided smile that he gave me every time he wasn’t coming home, had a secret, or he had seen something horrible in the streets he could not forget.
“I know you follow me. I’ve known for months. I taught you how I like my eggs; you taught me how to spot a tail. I rent that room, hoping that you’ll come upstairs and teach me the meaning of that verb you were too polite to say–that is if you think I’ve got the constitution for it.”
His hand trails down my face until it rests under my chin, lifting my face to his. I take his hand, interlace his fingers with mine. I scan his face, “My husband thinks that I‘m having an affair. Why disappoint him?”
“You liar.” he whispers.
“You coward.” I stand up from the booth, turn and meet him. “The more I think of you, the less I love you.” I pass the cigarette girl on the way out. I hand her my pendant. I hope it brings her better luck than it did for me.