Room for Rent

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The voice he talked to on the phone belongs to a 30-ish woman with dark hair and dark eyes. Her hair falls to her shoulders in generous curls.

“I’m Rosa. If you just have a seat, I’ll bring you a cup of coffee. Mr. Lippincott will be right with you.”

Allen sits on the leather sofa in the bank’s private room, trying to ignore the surveillance camera aimed at him.

I’m James Leary of Herkimer. I pray that Lippincott doesn’t bring up something specific we talked about when I opened the account two months ago.

He sips his coffee, putting himself further on edge. The door opens and Lippincott flies in. There is no other way to describe it. He is one of those men who rarely sits still.

“Well, hello, Mr. Leary.”

He looks Allen up and down and for a moment, Allen thinks the gig is up. Then Lippincott claps him on the shoulder.

“Gained some weight, I see? If it were anyone else, I’d never say a word, but for you, it was a necessity. You’re looking well. The Adirondack air has done you good. I wish I could say it’s a pleasure to see you, but since you’re withdrawing every penny—well, all I can do is comply and choke back the tears.”

Allen doubts Lippincott will lose much sleep over the quarter million dollars, he seems like the kind of person who doesn’t dwell on things.

“Sorry about that. There’s a real estate deal in New York City I have to go in on.”

“No need to apologize, Mr. Leary. It’s your money. We’re just your piggy bank.”

With that, he whips out a form and a cashier’s check.

“I just need your signatures here, here and here and the check is yours. It’s as good as cash.”

Allen signs. Lippincott puts his copy in a folder, the other he hands to Allen.

“Will we see you again?”

“I doubt it. I may be gone for a while.”

“Godspeed, Mr. Lippincott. Call us if you need anything.”

A handshake, a business card and Lippincott is gone. Rosa appears again.

“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Her beauty and the fact that he is suddenly wealthy sucks all the air out of the room. Allen tries to catch his breath. He adjusts his glasses.

“Well, I may be overstepping my boundaries and if I do, just rap me on the knuckles. But I was wondering if you’d care to have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

For a second, Rosa says nothing and Allen feels he has made a fool of himself. How clichéd can he get? Asking out the girl at the bank?

“I’d love to.”

In a moment that will forever be fused with bright colors and a whiff of perfume, Rosa writes her phone number on a post-it note and instead of handing it to Allen, puts it in his breast pocket.

Allen floats to his car.

The high lasts until the following night, when he sits across from Rosa at The Sandbar, the only good seafood restaurant in Utica. When he picks up the menu, the familiar refrain of “I can’t afford this” runs through Allen’s mind, before he realizes that now he can pretty much afford whatever he wants. And that includes the gorgeous woman sitting across from him. The bottle of Chianti is robust with a soft edge and puts the finishing touch on the scene.

“I’m sorry,” he says, realizing he had lost the thread of her story.

“Were you not listening?” she asks coyly.

“I was lost in your face. I’m sorry,” Allen says, making her blush.

“Stop,” she says, laughing.

“I’m serious. What were you saying?”

“I said I was looking to move back to New York City. I’m tired of this small town mentality. And of dating boys.”

“Me, too. Tired of dating boys, I mean.”

This time they both laugh.

“I want a real man, someone I don’t have to take care of,” she says, playing with the lip of her wine glass.

“Sounds reasonable,” Allen says as the waiter steps to their table on silent feet.

“Any dessert for you this evening? We have an excellent cheesecake. Or an espresso, perhaps?”

“I’ll have some if you have some,” Allen says.

“I thought we could have dessert at my place. I’m not too far from here.”

“Just the check, thank you.”

The waiter places it on the table and withdraws to a discreet distance.

Allen takes out his wallet. Greg’s wallet. He forgot to switch back to his own when he got dressed. With a racing heart, he opens it. A ten-dollar bill, the driver’s license and a credit card. He put the credit card in it for authenticity, in case the bank wanted to see it.

He calculates the odds. He could come up with a lame excuse of how he left his house with no money and have Rosa pay. Which means he will never see her again. Or he could pray that the credit card is active. It has a signature and is not expired. With shaking hands he hopes Rosa won’t notice, he places the card in the holder.

The waiter returns with it in two minutes.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Leary. Please come again real soon.”

Leary signs the credit card slip, adding a twenty-five percent tip.

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