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Authors: Leslie Wells

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Come Dancing

BOOK: Come Dancing
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Come Dancing

 

A novel

 

Leslie Wells

 

Copyright © 2014 by Leslie Wells

 

ASIN: B00KVQAL98

Cover photograph © Irene Lamprakou/Trevillion Images

Cover design © Laura Klynstra

Ebook formatting: LK E-book Formatting Service

 

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, places and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to actual events or places, or to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

The author gratefully acknowledges permission from Robert Laffont/Seghers Publishing Company to reprint lines from “Des Yeux D’Elsa” by Louis Aragon, Copyright © 1942.

The author gratefully acknowledges permission to reprint the translation of lines from “Des Yeux D’Elsa” by Louis Aragon, translated by William Jay Smith, Copyright © 1947.

 

 

 

Dedicated to the memory of my sister, Jennifer.

I miss you every single day.

 

 

 

“It’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I wonder what can have happened to me!”


Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

1: One Way or Another

2: Brass in Pocket

3: Wrong Idea

4: Stormy Monday

5: One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer

6: Lively Up Yourself

7: Welcome to the Working Week

8: The Girl Can’t Help It

9: Career Opportunities

10: Could You Be Loved

11: Walking on the Moon

12: Love is the Drug

13: Bottle It Up and Go

14: Big Apple Dreamin’

15: Nite Klub

16: Crosseyed and Painless

17: Slippery People

18: Just Lust

19: The Harder They Come

20: Talk of the Town

21: Should I Stay or Should I Go

22: Don’t Get Me Wrong

23: Sugar on My Tongue

24: Boom Boom

25: Fame

26: Highlife

27: Stranger in the House

28: Love Bites

29: The Bed’s Too Big Without You

30: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

31: Making Flippy Floppy

32: Three Little Birds

33: Reconsider, Baby

34: White Rabbit

35: ‘Deed I Do

About the Author

Acknowledgments

 

 

 

Chapter 1

One Way or Another

 

 

“Are you ever getting out of there?” my friend Vicky complained.

I crooked the receiver in my shoulder, scrabbling papers together. “I’m heading out now. Harvey dumped a bunch of stuff on me right before he took off.” My boss, the publisher, liked to clear his desk at the end of the week—which meant I got to stay late every Friday night.

“About time. I’ll see you at your place in an hour.”

“We’re going to stick together tonight, right? Avoid the meat market?” I loved dancing off my pent-up energy from long hours sitting at my desk. Vicky saw it more as a smorgasbord of men, served up buffet-style.

“Depends what’s on the menu. See you in a few.”

The minute she hung up, my line rang again. “Is this Julia?” a familiar voice screeched.

“Hi, Louise. How’s it going in Seattle?” Our high-strung author was on a twelve-city tour for her new thriller, and the campaign had been plagued with problems. A celebrated Texas crime reporter, she had braved drug dealers’ bullets but couldn’t cope with delayed flights and lumpy hotel pillows. Harvey had stopped taking her calls a week ago, and ever since she’d been haranguing me.

“The escort hasn’t shown up yet. Why can’t these people be prompt?” Louise fretted.

I held back from pointing out that it was over three hours until her event. “Let me see if anyone’s left in publicity; maybe they can locate her.”

I scurried around the corner to the desolate PR department. The lights in Erin’s cubicle were still on, which gave me hope. A few doors down, I found her on her knees in front of the copy machine. Erin looked up at me and smiled. “Got it!” she exclaimed, extracting an inky wad.

“Could you come deal with Louise? She’s all pumped up for her signing, but the escort has gone awol.” I rolled my eyes.

“God forbid she should ask the front desk to call her a cab,” Erin grumbled as she followed me down the hall. “She’s stared down gun-toting Mafiosi, but on the road she turns into a quivering mass of jelly.”

“Typical of her,” I said. Most of our authors were great, but a few were real doozies. “Do you want to come out with me and Vicky later? We’re going to hit the Palladium around eleven.”

“I have to finish a press release for that astrology guide. Another glam night in the big city.”

“Okay, be that way. Call me if you change your mind.” I ducked into my office and switched Louise over to Erin, covered my typewriter, then crammed my weekend reading into my backpack.

I sprinted down the deserted hall past shelves overflowing with manuscripts, a few framed awards gathering dust. Our titles ranged from literary to pure fluff; with the economy still in the pits, we were hawking anything from pop psychology to diet fads. This had been a shock when I’d arrived as a starry-eyed editorial assistant after a brief stint in grad school, thinking I’d be spending my weekends holed up with hot talent from
The New Yorker
. But now I was seasoned enough to plow through the B-list celebrity memoirs and breastfeeding manuals, while relishing any good novels that came my way.

I caught the elevator with a jittery messenger who bounced his bike tire, making the floor shimmy. I waved to the security guard and headed down lower Park Avenue in the balmy air. Usually I walked home to save money on subway tokens; I figured I had time tonight since my best friend was probably still primping.

Vicky had left the company a few months ago to join the publicity department of a larger midtown publisher. I missed her at the office, and I was also envious of her escape from assistantdom. But we still got together on weekends, and now I couldn’t wait to go to our favorite club. We liked the Palladium for its edgy mix of punks, rockers, and regular people like us.

I wove through some guys hissing “Sens, sensimilla!” in Washington Square and stopped at a street vendor selling earrings. A pair with long strands of beads and feathers caught my eye. I fingered them for a minute, calculating.
Seven bucks for drinks; three for a cab home tonight
… Reluctantly I put them back.

Halfway down MacDougal, I came to a screeching halt. An absolutely perfect small table was sitting right in the middle of the sidewalk. I stepped close for a better look. Gold leaf curlicues adorned its surface, and ornate lion heads were carved into its corners. I gave it a shake to see if the legs were loose, but it didn’t even wobble. I couldn’t believe someone had thrown out something this nice—it wasn’t even large garbage night! At last I could get rid of the stacked milk crates I ate on.

Now I just had to get it home. My place on Broome Street was eight blocks away, and the table was about three feet square. Maybe if I swung my backpack around to the front and hoisted the table on my back …

As I stood there considering, a guy in a dirty tee-shirt approached, holding a can of beer. “You need some help with that?” he asked, swaying a little.

“I think I can get it. Thanks anyway.”

The man leaned against the brick wall of the apartment building to watch. Turning around, I backed up to the table. I tried to reach behind and grasp its sides, but I couldn’t bend back far enough—why I’d always stunk at the limbo-la. Maybe if I bent lower … I crouched down, the backpack wedged against my belly like an unwanted pregnancy, and strained to get a grip on its legs.

Suddenly a woman ran screeching out of the building. “Stop that! What are you doing with my table?”

I stared at her. “This is yours? I thought somebody was throwing it away.”

“Are you kidding? This is an antique! You couldn’t have thought it was being thrown out.” The woman glared at me, hand on her hip.

Oh my god, how embarrassing
. “I didn’t realize—I mean, it was sitting here all by itself with no note on it or anything. I thought it was meant for the garbage.”

“The garbage!” the woman shrieked. “I paid six hundred dollars for that! I was waiting for my husband to bring it upstairs! You should keep your paws off things that aren’t yours,” she huffed as she flounced back inside.

The man in the tee-shirt smiled and took a gulp of beer. “Baby, you just took a bite of the B-i-i-i-g Apple.”

“Actually, I think it just bit me.”

 

 

 

Chapter 2

Brass in Pocket

 

 

My cheeks burning, I continued across Houston toward my loft. I had rented it a year ago from the building’s owner, an old Italian man that I paid in cash. $330 a month wasn’t bad, now that SoHo no longer consisted of vacant warehouses. Some art galleries and clothing shops had sprouted up recently, along with a few sushi bars and espresso cafes. It seemed safer to walk the streets at night, but I hoped Mr. Iaccone wouldn’t catch on and raise the rent.

Cutting over on Prince, I averted my eyes from a diner where I’d spent many Sunday mornings with my ex-boyfriend, Arthur Klein. It was awful to break up with someone who lived nearby; there were constant reminders unless you detoured around entire blocks. An NYU professor recently separated from his wife, Art’s sandy brown curls and racquetball-toned body were admired by all the female English Lit majors. I felt unbelievably lucky when he asked me to have coffee one afternoon after class. From our first conversation about Virginia Woolf, I was head over heels. Ten months later, he told me he was going back to his wife.

For weeks I was a total wreck, sniffling in token lines and sobbing through double features. Then, thinking something purely physical might cheer me up, I brought a guy named Eric home with me from a party. But when he stumbled out the next morning and never called, I felt even more miserable.

Every time I experienced the sting of rejection, it dredged up feelings about my father. We had been so close when I was growing up—or so I’d thought. Dad was an inspector in a factory in our small Pennsylvania town. When he got home from his shift, he’d roll up his sleeves, crack open a beer and turn on the rabbit-eared radio in our linoleum kitchen. If a good dance tune came on, he’d scoop me up in his wiry arms and swing me around, dipping me dramatically and making me giggle as I gazed into his boyishly grinning face.

Sometimes after he’d had a big argument with my mother, he would play the mournful country music he loved—Hank Williams, Patsy Cline—on the little plastic record player he’d given me. He also loved the blues, and by the time I was six, I could distinguish the way Albert King strummed his guitar, from T-Bone Walker or John Lee Hooker.

Things started to fall apart when I was eight, after my mother, Dorothea—“Dot” to her friends—began moonlighting as a cocktail waitress on weekends. I liked having Dad all to myself; he let me stay up past my bedtime, dancing to Motown 45s. My mother would come in much later than one a.m., when the bar stopped serving. She claimed to be helping the owner close out the register, but my father suspected otherwise. The next morning, their shouting made me retreat to my room with a pile of library books.

Eventually she quit that job, but the damage was done. Then, the September when I was fourteen, he discovered that she was having an affair with her manager at the hardware store. When Dot and I came back from running errands the following Saturday, his side of their closet was empty. My mother shut the closet door, lit a cigarette, got out her checkbook and sat staring dry-eyed at it on the kitchen table. I went to my room and lay shaking on the bed, terrified of what would happen to us. My father simply vanished into thin air that day, leaving Dot with the bills, and me feeling abandoned.

I came out of my memory-induced daze just in time to avoid stepping on a broken crack vial lying on the sidewalk. My mind skittered back to the present. I wondered whether Art ever thought about me, now that he was reunited with his wife. I had gone out with one or two guys in the past eight months, but nothing much had come of it. After my lousy one-night stand, I’d decided that I should sleep with someone only if there was the
possibility
of a relationship. Which meant I’d had a long dry spell, with no relief in sight.

BOOK: Come Dancing
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