DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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Finding theirs

Shirley’s patent leather heels almost cracked when they hit against the concrete as she raced toward the taxi. The snow came down heavier now in thick, sloppy flakes. Her feet hurt, but she broke into a jog to catch the last taxi at the corner. Then, just as she stretched to grab the door handle, a young couple slid into the back seat from the other side. Shirley scowled and clenched her teeth. She was about to break into sobs when the young woman’s fawn-like eyes looked up to her.

“I’m sorry. We didn’t see you.” She slid back toward the door and started to disembark. “Go ahead and take this one.”

“Why don’t we share it?” Shirley asked and plopped onto the split-vinyl seat. She exhaled loudly. Although she hadn’t wanted to share a cab, it seemed only fair when the young woman showed her so much consideration. After a few seconds, Shirley turned to look at the couple. The pale young woman had shifted back in the seat. She smiled, and Shirley caught a whiff of her perfume, which smelled like a combination of lilies and Patchouli oil. The young man, whose ebony black hair and tawny skin made him appear Asian, forced a smile, ran fingers through that long, silky black hair then looked out the window and appeared to stare at something in the distance. He held his expression in a tight, fixed smile, a smile that seemed to be carved out of marble.

“Thanks.” The young woman smiled again. “It’s so miserable out—so cold and wet—too wet to wait for another cabbie.”

“Thank you, too,” Shirley said. “I’ve had a rotten day—and these shoes aren’t made for walking, let alone jogging.” After smiling at what she considered a double-entendre from an old pop song, Shirley turned back around and looked out the windshield. Although snow still fell from the November skies, Shirley’s underarms were wet, and sweat dribbled across the folds of fat padding her ribcage. She fanned herself with a copy of The Washington Lines and frowned when she drew her plastic-wrapped mink to her chest. She wished it were cold enough to wear mink. At home, it would be. And she wanted to be home—home with Ralph and away from this mess. She didn’t want to return to this city. So she especially wished they could bomb the newspaper building today. Unlike Lynette, she no longer cared so much if anyone were in the building when they completed Lynette’s mission. In fact, she halfway hoped that the rude receptionist would be there filing her nails when the place went up in flames. Part of her psyche hated herself for feeling that way. On the other hand, her anger and frustration had pushed her over the line: They had crystalized her heart. And that hard heart kept her going after she’d been so broken by the day’s arduous events. Nonetheless, she tried to channel her angry psyche away from negative images. She also tried not to think too much about the mission. Already, she was running late because the receptionist kept refusing to contact Ralph. And Shirley kept insisting that she should. She knew the receptionist probably figured Ralph wouldn’t have taken so long for lunch had she told him Shirley arrived, but that receptionist was evil. Yes, that much she knew. Finally, Ralph had arrived. But they’d spent only fifteen minutes together. And now, she worried that Lynette and Sophia might have given up on her coming to the Watergate. She hoped they still waited there but worried they might have thought she’d stayed with Ralph and left in another cab.

As the taxi pulled away from the curb, the young man stared at The Lines building. “I don’t see how people buy into his rhetoric,” he said loudly, then clawed his hair again. Shirley glanced back at the couple.

The lily-smelling woman placed a hand on one of the ma’’s knees then squeezed. “Charisma,” she whispered, loud enough for Shirley to hear.

The man snorted. “If only they knew.” He looked toward the woman, shook his head, and squeezed the hand on his knee. ”Mary Margaret, I can’t believe the O’ Man cut me out of his will. I wouldn’t care so much, but now, I’ve got nothing to offer you.” He slid an arm around her. “But if you still want me, penniless, jobless, we can manage somehow. We’ll still get married.”

Mary Margaret muttered something inaudible, or at least, something Shirley couldn’t catch, but still, she stared at the couple. Out of his will? she wondered if she’d heard the young man correctly. She smiled the most motherly looking grin her mind could concoct. Perhaps this couple, too, suffered discrimination because of the reverend.

“Does your father work for the Reverend Ghuune?” Shirley’s question came out in a high-pitched rush—before she could stop herself from prying.

The Asian man focused his dark eyes on her, and he grimaced. “My father is Yung Sung Ghuune.” He clenched his teeth. “If you want to believe he’s a reverend, fine, go ahead. But you won’t hear me calling him that.”

Mary Margaret squeezed Oshi To’s arm, but the angry son blabbered on. “Maybe you believe that garbage he spiels, but it’s time the world knew what a fraud he is.”

“Really?” Generally Shirley didn’t like hearing youths debasing their parents.

But oh! This was a cow of a different color. “Do you really mean that?”

Oshi To nodded.

“You are serious? Not just upset?”

“I’m both.”

“Then there’s someone you need to meet.” Shirley smiled again and introduced herself. Finally, this trip was making sense to her. God’s hand had finally moved—He’s swept away the curtain of clouds to make her role become clear. Somehow, she’d connect Oshi To with Lynette. She turned around and squeezed her mink. Perhaps Lynette wasn’t so whacked-out after all. She’d been right-on about that purported reverend.

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