Chapter 9 What Friends Are For

“SKY, MY DEAR, it’s time you became respectful of women," Adelaide advised. “We’re not just dolls. We’re not playthings.

"And now that you seem to be wiser, more responsible, and have found your true love, I hope you’ll cherish and love Sarah Brown the way Nathan loves me. For your own good, Sky. She seems to be a lovely lady, a woman of substance, and a missionary to boot! I’m looking forward to being close friends with her.”

Then Adelaide quipped in, for good measure, “Frankly, my dear, I was quite shocked that Sister Sarah would even look at you, considering.”

Sky burst out laughing, “Blame Nathan; it was his fault! He bet a sucker that I would not be able to take the mission doll out on a date. No sweat, I simply took Sarah to Havana and overnight she fell in love with me. Can’t blame her, either, considering.”

“Gimme oxygen, puhleease!” Adelaide pretended to gasp as she groped for her wine glass to find her bearing. She took a sip, then crumpled a paper napkin and threw it at Sky, “You’re up to your old trick, again, you wicked, wicked boy! When will you learn? If your other dolls knew about Sarah, someone could die.”

“No, no one died,” Sky parried the napkin ball and laughed heartily. “Sarah got into a clinch with one of my Cuban dolls, came out like a pro and knocked the Cuban doll down with a right hook. We left the bar looking like a war zone. Sergeant Sarah will move heaven and earth fighting for me; she thinks I’m worth it.”

“Stop bragging!”

“Not bragging. It’s true.”

“You seduced her!”

“No. She seduced me.”

“There’s no accounting for taste, then.”

“O, come on, Adelaide. I’m not just a pretty face!”

Adelaide slowly shook her head, “Oh, Sky, dear friend. For your sake, don’t you ever two-time Sarah.”

’I promise.”

Adelaide, fully recovered now, said dreamily, “One thing I really love about Nathan, he never had any other woman but me. All these 14 years we have been engaged, it’s been only me for him, and him for me.”

“Quite a feat for you, too, Adelaide.” Sky said, now relieved. “To think that being the celebrated star of the Hot Box, you could easily choose one or more guys from the many who hover around you. All kinds of them – single, divorced, widowers – even an occasional rich married man wanting for a mistress. But for you, it’s only Nathan. He’s one heck of a lucky guy, and the bastard does not even know it.”

“He still wouldn’t marry me, though,” said Adelaide, starting to cry again. “It’s the crap game that’s his mistress. It’s the floating crap game that’s the other woman in this triangle. You are right, Sky. Nathan will never change.”

“Adelaide, as my Daddy would suggest, will you think of it another way?” Sky sighed and continued. “You and Nathan have each your own career. You have the dancers in your domain. You protect them like a mother hen concerned for their well-being. And you’re happy to be their manager. You love them, and they love you. Do you really want to give them up for a houseful of book ends and wallpaper? Do you really want to give up singing and dancing and all that adulation?” he asked.

“Keep talking.”

“Same with Nathan. He is no ordinary man. He’s the head of us gamblers. Okay, no one is perfect. But like your care and concern for your exotic dancers, Nathan cares for us. He makes sure our game is safe, as much as possible, away from the police. His concern is that none of us welsh on our markers; never to rat on another. We have a code of honor which Nathan, even in his craziest moments, never fails to enforce.

"He is our general manager. He wants us to avoid violent language; to be gentlemen at all times, even with no dolls around. He also makes us laugh, which is a bonus. All that may be because of your influence. But we look up to him and respect him for what he does, and what he makes of us.”

“Oh, Sky dear, I almost didn’t recognize Nathan by your description. It’s so delicious, tell me more.”

“Another thing, a very important one: Nathan is the operator of the game. He is above the game. He almost never gambles; he only does if he’s really broke and has no other choice. He skims off the top for what's rightfully his, that’s all. He does not dirty his hands in the process; he does not interfere. He never borrows nor steals. If we were in the stock exchange, Nathan would own the brokerage, and we, guys, the brokers trying to break each other.” Sky sighed and waited for Adelaide’s answer.

“Your point?” Adelaide asked.

“I mean that you and Nathan each can pursue your own calling and still stay together. You could still build a house and fill it with wallpaper and bookends. You could get married and have children, but without conditions of giving up one career for the other, like a husband and a wife with their separate professions. You, the manager of dancing dolls; and Nathan…well, he’s the manager of gambling guys. Nothing wrong with that picture!

Sky continued, “And if your concern is the bad reputation associated with gambling, what about the reputation associated with your provocative dances, costumes, and songs? Your profession has its own cringe-factors. You wouldn’t be caught in a dragnet and sitting in the police station tonight, if it were squeaky clean. But Nathan is not bothered by your choice of career because he trusts you. He knows you know what you’re doing. How I wished you’d trust him, too.

There was a long silence between them, during which Adelaide noticed she hasn’t sneezed at all; not even once, during this long conversation with Sky. She never felt so good. Perhaps with the vast untapped area of hope for her and Nathan’s relationship opening before her eyes, her perennial cold has finally vanished. She hopes it did; she hopes holds. Wherever Nathan is at this hour, she sincerely hopes he’s having fun at the game. She looks forward to seeing him tomorrow night.

Outside the cafe, Sky reached into his pocket and handed Adelaide some money which she didn’t refuse. “It’s a loan. It’s dirty crap money to tide you over until you get to the bank or get your purse back. You’ll need some for the cab.” Adelaide gave Sky a big hug before taking the taxi that will take her home.

FRIDAY, 8:30PM. Sky Masterson climbed into another cab and headed for the Biltmore garage where the action is.

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