|Photography by Kimberly Mack|
He grabbed the bottle of red wine and began the trek up the steep stairwell. The occasional bark of a dog and the music echoed through the hills. The music got louder the higher he climbed. He arrived at her front door. It was 35 steps to her door and was surrounded by bright Bougainvillea and a breathtaking view of Hollywood and downtown LA. He had to catch his breath. The stairs were a killer. He knocked. She answered. She was the one playing the jazz. Things were looking up.
“Hello,” she breathed in her soft Veronica Lake voice.
“Hi,” he replied back. She stepped aside and he stepped in. He caught a whiff of her scent as he moved past her and into the livingroom. She smelled of baby powder and lavender. There was a fire going in the fireplace.
He held out the bottle of wine.
“Thank you. Won’t you sit down?” she said with a floating gesture towards the white sofa. He would, and did. “A drink?” she asked.
“Bourbon … on the rocks,” he replied. She glided over the polished hardwood floor to her liquor tray to fix his drink. He drank her in like a man dying from thirst. She was a petite little number, lean with hard angles and cheekbones like Lauren Bacall. Her shoulder length hair was blonde with red highlights when it caught the light. Her eyes were emerald chips, the irises flecked with gold. Her skin was smooth and pale. She was intoxicating.
She sat next to him. He studied her over the rim of his glass as he took a swallow. A bell went off from the kitchen.
“You’re cooking?” he asked. She nodded. He had planned on taking her out.
“Yes. I thought it would be a way to repay you for helping me last night.”
He nodded. He met her the night before at The Formosa in Hollywood. She’d gotten herself into a jam and had too much to drink. He stepped in and helped. She hadn’t any money on her. He paid her tab and gave her a lift home.
“I have the money to repay you now,” she said, pulling a twenty out of her purse. “So silly of me to have grabbed the wrong bag.”
He studied her and waved away the money. “Does that happen to you often?”
She shook her head, her hair falling forward. She brushed it off her forehead with a carefully manicured hand. Her nails were short and painted red. He liked that. He never cared for long fingernails on a woman. They could get a man into trouble.
“No, I don’t do that very often.” She moved suddenly off the sofa and over to the dining table. He watched her intently like a starved man.
“If you’ll open the wine and light the candles,” she whispered. “I’ll bring dinner out.” He nodded and like a man hypnotized, rose. While he opened the wine, he gazed out over the city. The view was impressive, and the lights twinkled like gems in the dark night. The music of Miles Davis filled the room, and he was suddenly struck with a strong feeling of déjà-vu. He had been here before.
He didn’t know what time it was when he woke up. He only knew that she was gone. He reached out across the bed. His hand fell away empty. He lay quietly, listening. There was nothing but silence, and the faintest scent of her perfume. He didn’t like what he was feeling.
He waited around. He took a shower, stalling for time, and thinking she’d show. She didn't. If this was his place he would’ve thought he had dreamed the whole thing. But, that was her rumbled bed he’d crawled out of an hour ago. He felt like a dope; like he’d been dumped.
He walked out the front door into the bright, smoggy sunshine of Los Angeles. He descended the steps he climbed last night.
Images of her floated through his mind as he made his way to his car. He wanted to see her again. She’d gotten in.
He turned, glancing up the street. His car was gone.He reached into his pocket for his keys and swore. His pocket was empty.