“So is that why you came by the pizza place tonight? To eat?, Or did you have another reason?” I kind of feel like I’m interrogating the man but I figure it’s better to know where I stand now rather than later and get my hopes up.
“Well you know..I wanted to see how you were doing and to make sure that you were alright.”
“Oh….I’m fine, another day, another assault.” Part of me is joking, the rest is trembling and afraid that something like that could happen again. Gerard shakes his head and looks serious. Can he can tell that underneath my wit I am scared shitless.
“That is no way for anyone to live. Especially a lady such as yourself.”
Now I laugh for real. “A lady! Me!, Not likely.”
I stop laughing when I see that he isn’t amused, he isn’t even smiling. He turns to me on the cold dark street and holds both my hands before he speaks, “A lady is a woman of such caliber that a man feels she is due homage and obedience. She is polite, gentle, and has dignity. I feel you have all these qualities. Your scoffing at my use of the word wounds me. For you are a lady, Pennelope.”
I stand as a guppy, mouth agape, and try to process his words. Try to come up with the appropriate response, but none floats to the surface of my stirred up mind.
I nod slowly. That is all. He nods back and we return to our walk to the diner. I feel shame for throwing his kind words back in his face, and also a little giddy knowing that he thinks so highly of me.
The diner Gerard picks is named Feed Me, where meal portions were large and so were the booths. I hadn’t eaten at Feed Me because of my small appetite. Turns out Gerard can eat enough to make up for my lack of stomach space. He devours a hungry man combo and three-quarters of my BLT meal. It’s pretty impressive.
We both sit back, stuffed with delicious food. “Tell me Gerard, just how many All You Can Eat places have you put out of business?”
He laughs, “I’m banned from every one in town. After about five visits they make a stand and kick me out.” I giggle at the thought. “Those poor restaurant owners.”
“Don’t feel too badly, they make a killing off tiny eaters such as yourself. I’m just keeping it even.”
“Do you do competitive eating?” I ask.
“No, my whole family just eats a lot. For us its normal. Fast metabolisms.
“I pity your parent’s wallets, having to provide that much food.”
He shrug’s, “Luckily my family owned a cattle farm and we grew our own vegetables so it wasn’t too hard on them.”
I’m a little surprised at his country upbringing. “Did you go to college? Because you really don’t seem like a country boy. Your very refined, if that’s the right word.”
Gerard nodded, “I understand your meaning. Yes, I attended college in England and lived there for many years. I’ve been away from the farm for quite some time. My parents were no bumpkins, either.” He seems uncomfortable talking about his family. I get the feeling that maybe the word complicated would describe his family dynamic.
He asks, “Did you grow up around here? ” before I can question him more. Not that I was going to. If anyone understood uncomfortable family topics, it was me.
I quickly skim over the different foster homes I had stayed in, leaving out the more horrible facts and concentrating more on explaining my failed country star career. He nods with understanding but I fail to see if he could ever really know what it was all like. But I do appreciate his open ears.
“Enough about me. What exactly are you doing wandering the cold streets at night.” I speak low. “Are you batman?”
He laughs heartily, “I am one butler away from being batman.”
“I knew it!” I smack the table and laugh with him.
When we calm, he answers my first question. “I don’t sleep much..insomnia. I’ve found I like the cold and the quiet of night. There’s also the times I get to help people. Crime fighting, if you will.”
“Your amazing.” I say without thinking. It just blurted out, and now I’m embarrassed. What’s worse is, he’s embarrassed. I made a full-grown man go pink.
“Thank you… so are you, you know.” he places a warm hand on my arm and squeezes. I bob my head like a moron and take a sip of my water.
“I mean it Pennelope. The way you handle yourself in a bad situation is astounding. For such a small woman you have an amazing amount of strength. Most people would be blubbering messes if they had to experience what you did.”
I don’t feel strong. I feel like I’m just clawing my way out of a forever collapsing sand pit. If I stop to have a mental breakdown, I’ll be swallowed into its depths. I don’t say this to Gerard. Let him have his delusions about me. I’m not going to stop him. So I say “Thank you” and change the subject.
“Want some company on your walk tonight?” I offer.
“Yes, that would be lovely. The moon is almost at its zenith. There will be beautiful light.” He pays the check, and we begin our stroll up Hampton St., each gripping our to-go coffee’s.
Sipping, chatting, and walking, we start to notice there’s no one else around. The quiet is eerie, like there are people watching us. I check my watch, it’s one in the morning. “Wow, I didn’t realize it was so late. Maybe we could head back towards my place.” It was funny that once my brain knew it was way past my bed time, my body got the message and began complaining. My legs were sore and my frozen feet were aching. It was hard keeping up with Gerard’s long legs.
He turns and sees my slumping stance. “Why don’t we go to my home. It’s only three blocks up, I can drive you back.”
“My feet would thank you, if they could. ” I chuckle and look down at my wet converse fully stained with salt from the sidewalks.
“Would you like a piggy ride?” He offers. I would love for him to carry me but it was a matter of pride that I wouldn’t take the offer.
“No I’m good…” A terrified scream pierces through the calm of the night. It came from the left, a couple of streets over. My adrenaline spikes and suddenly I’m not tired anymore.
Gerard sprints towards the screams, yelling over his shoulder. “Wait there, I’ll be right back!”
I raise both brows, “Yeah, I don’t think so!”
Then I am running right after him, down the dark alleyway he had disappeared into.
Towards the screaming.
More to come….