Life without Lesli was, any way you sliced it, a losing proposition. Sleep, forget about it. It took all the courage he had — frankly, not a lot — to lay on the bed where they’d made love. After the first few nights of tossing, turning, twisting in the sheets, eyes closed with his mind wide awake, he gave up and started laying on the sofa, watching the television until late at night the television wound up watching him.
Luis and Gerry both told Keith the best thing was to throw himself into work. It made sense. He did, after all, still have a living to earn. Maybe catch on with a tour and gratefully get the hell out of town. Nothing like a change of scenery to help you get over a woman. Except, he had a feeling there might just not be any getting over this one.
It was a Wednesday. He’d woke up hung over, lit a cigarette, and was on his way to the fridge for ice to put in a drink when the phone rang. He knew it wouldn’t be her — when Lesli made up her mind, that was it, and she’d clearly made up her mind to dump him. Yet he couldn’t help hoping it was her.
“I’m going to turn that damn ringer off.” He picked up the receiver, nerves rattling. It was good news. A few weeks’ work. And, who knew, maybe a tour.
Over at least the past year, he’d chatted off and on with Helen St. James about joining her band. If only part-time. He’d called her up to see whether the offer was still good. It was. She was calling him back. St. James had a husky voice that arrested the ear when she was singing and when she simply breathed a friendly, “Hi, baby. How you been?”
“You don’t wanna know.” He knew Helen already knew. Nothing travels faster on the grapevine than a break-up.
“That bad, huh?”
“Yep.” He sat, dropped ice in the glass, and grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniels, looking around the coffee table for an ashtray that wasn’t full to overflowing. I maybe ought to hire a maid, he reflected.
“Well, you’ll live.”
“Long enough for what I need, anyway. After that, you can jump off a bridge for all I care.” She was finally going to record. By the time they hung up, Keith had a smile on his face for the first time since he could recall. Helen’s producer, some Italian big shot, would pay him, as a result of her having stood on the guy’s chest, double scale for time in the studio. They started tomorrow.
“Thanks”, he said, “for such short notice.”
“You’re welcome. Swing by, pick up the charts. We’ll be ready to start laying down your tracks probably this weekend.” Helen was one of those impossibly gorgeous women who happened to have an I.Q. that ran off the scale. Redbone, give or take six feet, athletic build, pretty as hell with a flowing mane of naturally blonde hair. And smart as a whip.
She’d done guest spots in a CBS sitcom, playing an addled-brained bra stuffer. When she went on one of those late-night talk shows, people were shocked she had a brain. Television hadn’t been bad to her, nor had Hollywood, where she lucked up and did a handful of supporting leads, then got a gig co-starring with Harvey Keitel in a romantic comedy. From there, she stayed in acting work. Yet she was determined to add music. One thing about Helen St. James. When she wanted to do something, it got done.
“Swing by where? The studio?”
“No, Keith. The supermarket. Yes, the studio, dummy. Though, now that I think about it, I’ve got them right here. You want to get together tonight at Vitto’s Garden? I’m rehearsing until about midnight. We can have a late dinner, some Chianti, and you can walk me home.”
“Works for me.”
She rang off. Didn’t Helen, last he’d heard, have a husband? He didn’t know anyone who’d met the guy. Keith had always wondered why he and she never hooked up. Timing? Not wanting to spoil a friendship? He really didn’t know except to say there just never seemed to be a moment in which he felt comfortable making a move.
Well, husband or no husband, he was going to make sure and dress nice, splash on some smell-good, and see how comfortable making a move felt tonight. “Yeah, sure you are.” The smile died, his disposition turning sour. One thing you did not do was mix business with getting laid. Especially if the lady is your boss.
What the hell? So, he’d have spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and wine, shoot the sugar, honey and iced tea with a good-looking woman. There were worse fates. And, at least for a little while, it would take his mind off Lesli.
Next week: Helen grills Keith like a well-done steak.
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