Authors: Ed Ifkovic
“Dak seems a quiet young man. But troubled…”
“As I said, I known him for years. His trouble is that he listens to other people.”
“And you don’t?”
“Most times other people got nothing you need to hear.” She paused. “Too many people talking to that boy—
that boy. He don’t know what to believe.”
Outside, hit by a blast of August heat, I deliberated walking to the nearby park, then changed my mind. A cool bath in the deep Victorian claw-foot tub, a glass of iced lemonade delivered from the kitchen, an hour with my Fanny Cavendish lines, and perhaps a welcomed nap.
As I stepped onto the sidewalk I spotted Evan Street across the way. He’d paused before a rooming house, glancing up and down the street as though looking for someone—or perhaps to avoid being seen—but he finally walked up the steps and disappeared inside. A decrepit place, this rooming house, the old clapboard Victorian with peeling yellow paint, sagging green shutters, and a faded sign hanging loose off one hook. ROOMS TO LET. MRS. SIMPSON’S. GENTLEMEN ONLY. The block lettering was fast disappearing. Respectable, certainly—the house had an aura of old musty gentility—but a painted lady down on her luck. An old man sat rocking on a chair by the front door. Dressed in a denim shirt and a railroad cap, a pipe stuck between his lips, he’d nodded at Evan, who ignored him, purposely stepping wide of the man. A residence, I considered, for itinerant workers, for drifters, fugitives from shabby Hoover villages, two bits for a night’s lodging and a lumpy mattress and mouse droppings in the shared toilet. I knew such places…and so, lamentably, did Evan Street.
That evening, near dark, I walked up the street to the Marlborough House, a restaurant recommended by a woman I met in the lobby of the Jefferson Village Inn. “A lovely inn, this place,” she whispered, “but if you want good food try the Marlborough House.” She glanced over her shoulder as though regretting her betrayal of the inn’s kitchen, then rushed off to her room. She looked trustworthy: a schoolmarmish woman my age in sensible shoes, a silk shawl for a chilly night, with a bit of mischief in her brown eyes, a woman carrying a black patent-leather purse big enough to secret silverware service for twelve and perhaps a gravy bowl or two.
I imagined a blessing for her as I dipped into my savory pot roast and rosemary-slathered potatoes, toothsome and perfect. In the crowded dining room—perhaps that culinary spy had alerted others?—I devoted my energy to the meal. On the hot August night I’d donned a simple polka-dot summer dress, sleeveless, with my obligatory pearls, to be sure; and the modest clutch I carried could accommodate one sterling silver soup spoon, should larceny be my inclination.
I started when a voice whispered in my ear, ”Women who dine alone are looking for vagabond heroes.”
George Kaufman slipped into a chair opposite me.
“But usually we find ne’er-do-well scalawags, themselves one step ahead of the law.” I breathed in. “George, you weren’t supposed to arrive for a couple days. Why are you here?”
Wide-eyed, he waved his hand around the dining room. “My spies told me I’d find the best supper in Maplewood here. Therefore, using my powers of deduction, I knew I’d find you here, food fetishist that you are.” He squinted his eyes. “And I’m not in the least.”
“I highly recommend it.” I smiled. “But that’s not an answer to my question.”
He sat back, his familiar slouch, and waved the waiter away. “It was Bea’s idea, Edna love. ‘You need to be there for Edna in her acting debut,’ she said, or some words to that effect. Or maybe she said, ‘Her hour of need.’ Or maybe: ‘She went there early. You leave her alone in that dull village that isn’t Manhattan. You know she’ll be at a loss for company, and she’ll probably have stage fright when she’s onstage.’” He paused. “All right, I made up that last part. Some of the first part, too. But I thought, why not come early? What else is there for me to do? How many laps can a soul do in his lovely pond? After all, we did write the infernal play together and…”
“And you got tired of puttering around your summer garden.”
“So here I am.”
“Tell the truth, George. This directing job—it’s not like you. Summers you stare into space, slack-jawed. You spend August imaging new illnesses that will kill you by September. Tell the truth—you want to see me make a fool of myself.”
“I’ve already seen
, Edna. Over
“George!” I said through clenched teeth. “Enough of
“I figure it will all be an adventure. Whenever we’ve traveled together, you and I, at some tryout or other misadventure…well, things happen.”
“Nothing will happen, George. It’s New Jersey.”
“So when it does, we’ll be surprised.”
I sat back, and smiled. George’s sudden appearance pleased me. Feeling a tad lonesome by myself, I knew George would, despite his sardonic commentary and occasional cruel jibe, be the loudest cheerleader for my adventure on the stage. There were times I rued his being nearby—times I suggested that he was wrong about something that I actually knew he was right about. Or those times he viciously dressed down an inept waiter or bellhop. Unpleasant, skin-crawling times. And George could be dreadfully nosy, the pesky snoop, and the hypochondriac who insisted I diagnose a low-grade fever or a heart murmur—all preparatory to a deathbed scene. He hated that I often interrupted him—which I had to. Most people, I’d discovered, are in need of being interrupted. I consider it an act of mercy. But I knew I got on his nerves, and he on mine. But…I was glad he’d come. With his carnival nose and gigantic hair, he sat there in his red bow tie and a white-linen summer sports jacket, and looked like a character from a Marx Brothers review.
“Frank Resnick is here.” He pointed across the room. “Didn’t you spot him here?”
I shook my head. “I only remember meeting him once, George. He didn’t make an impression on me.”
“No one ever remembers poor Frank.”
“I do remember that he’s Cheryl’s stage manager for the summer. For reasons that bewildered her.” A pause. “And he’s your old buddy.”
“No, I know him slightly, but I do like him. A strange bird, that one. Efficient as all get out, but distant, moody. Not one to blather like lots of show folks, present company included.”
“George, most folks can’t get a word in when you’re in the room. You enter a room talking.”
“I’m a sly fellow, Edna, as you know, but I always figure I’d better forestall the dullards waiting to share their dullness with me.”
“Tell me about Frank. He’s sitting with a very pretty girl.”
Frank spotted the two of us looking at him, and nodded. He leaned in to say something to the young woman, but she looked tense, one hand nervously touching her hair.
A man probably in his early fifties, Frank reminded me of a silent movie actor—John Garfield maybe, a pencil-thin man, wiry, with a pencil-thin whisper of a Continental moustache, smartly clipped. A dapper Dan haircut, oily black and slicked back from his forehead, the part so painfully executed it seemed etched in the scalp. Dark-complected—or was it a summer tan? He sported a slightly out-of-style suit with a checkered pattern that, while not a zoot suit, was at least a distant cousin.
As he looked at us, his eyes got cloudy and wary—confused, as though our presence was something of an intrusion. Again, the quick aside to his companion. Perhaps it
an intrusion, at least his friend George’s presence, as George cast his own covetous eyes on the slight but sultry girl at the table. She wore too much makeup for New Jersey, I thought, a crimson lipstick and accented eyes that made her seem an Erté figurine. Both were smoking cigarettes, both with arms extended as though in a scene from a Lubitsch German film, both mannered and a little preposterous. I was enjoying every bit of it.
“Our stage manager seems to be managing just fine,” George commented.
“George,” I seethed, “you have a leering gleam in your eye. A little unseemly, no?”
George was peeved. “Unseemly, Edna? A lovely girl, that one. I take an interest in young people.”
I groaned. “A lovely euphemism, that line.”
Frank now left his table and, with obvious reluctance, was maneuvering his way to us. “George,” he began, “a surprise.”
know that I’ve taken over as director?” Frank nodded. “And Edna needs all the help she can get. Edna, this is Frank. Edna says she met you once, but can’t remember anything you said because she fell asleep. Frank, this is…well, you’ve heard of her. You know, I wrote all of the Fanny Cavendish lines in our play and without me she’s helpless.”
I said nothing. Frank stood stiff and tense, his head bobbing. Now and then, he lifted a hand to touch his shellacked hair, and I feared his fingers might get stuck in the oily slick that passed for tonsorial splendor.
He also kept glancing back at the lovely young woman at his table who never took her eyes off us, her cigarette smoke wreathing her face.
“Miss Ferber,” Frank addressed me, making eye contact for a second. Again, the unnecessary wariness. Why? “I look forward to working with you.”
But he was already edging away.
George reached out to touch his sleeve. “Tell me, Frank, who is your dinner guest? So pretty.”
Frank’s eyes suddenly got hooded, dull black, and he actually turned, as though he had no idea someone had joined his solitary table. Flustered, he gave out a harsh phony laugh. “Oh, God, no. It’s not what you think. George, really! That’s Nadine Novack.” A pause. “An actress. She’s the understudy Cheryl hired for the summer. Beautiful, no? She’ll be understudying Julie in
The Royal Family
and Talullah Bankhead in
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray
. She’s already done Louise Rainer in
A Kiss for Cinderella
.” He paused again, then stuttered, “An actress.”
“You’ve established her profession already.” My tone was icy.
“She doesn’t know anyone in town.”
“She knows you,” George concluded. “She’s very pretty.”
Again, the fumbling words. “She’s an…” His voice trailed off.
“An actress,” I finished for him.
He was backing away. “Yes, she is.” He looked unhappy, his final words brusque. “It’s never what you think, George.”
“That’s true, it never is.”
When he was gone, I looked at George. “I really don’t understand the mating rituals of the aging American male. I followed so little of that inane conversation. The two of you are like fifteen-year-old boys reaching puberty at the soda fountain at Woolworth’s. I expected magnificent peacock plumage to appear, Hollywood-style, from somewhere beneath both your sports jackets.”
“Edna, what are you talking about?”
“She’s just an actress, George. This Nadine Novack. A preposterous name stolen from a silent movie plot. Yes, gorgeous, admittedly. But an understudy.”
He was playing with me. “She’ll have a long career.”
“Yes,” I insisted, “after Maplewood…the flood.” I rose to leave.
Glancing back at them, I spotted Frank, silent now, watching us. Nadine was fixing her makeup, looking at her face in a compact mirror, mending her lipstick. Frank said something and she looked toward the door. Frowning, she shook her head. Then she looked back at her mirror and bit her lip. What she saw didn’t make her happy.
Outside, George and I walked slowly in the warm stillness of the night. Not wanting to return to our hot rooms—“I’ve booked a room down the hall from you, Edna. No one will get past me, I promise you”—we lingered on a sidewalk bench, sheltered by a grove of trees at the edge of the park. A boy and girl walked past, ice cream cones in hand, giggling, in love. Fresh scrubbed, the boy in billowing trousers and the girl in white bobby socks. They glanced at George and me, and the boy nodded, deferential, sweet. I found it charming. George, however, cleared his throat and informed the lad, “We’re not as happy as we look, young man. She’s leaving me for a circus clown.”
“Don’t believe him,” I countered. “I wouldn’t make that mistake a
The boy and girl, baffled by the nonsensical blather from the strange couple who could be their parents—and thus should be at home—scurried away, still giggling. The boy glanced back at the skinny man with the pompadour and the Barney Google eyeglasses and the beaky nose, sitting with the tiny lady with the three strands of pearls and expensive shoes from Saks.
“George, must you engage everyone in your silliness?”
“I’m a plagiarist. I steal everybody’s happy moments.”
I laughed. “God knows what they…” I stopped.
Frank and Nadine had left the restaurant, standing in front of the entrance, taking leave of each other. Leaning into her neck, Frank said something that made her laugh. She threw back her head and gently touched his arm. Then Frank turned away, headed up the street, walking at a brisk clip. Nadine watched him walk away and then headed in the other direction, pausing in front of a small rooming house. THE HARWINTON. FOR WOMEN. GOOD EATS. She fumbled in her purse for a key, dropped it, then lit a cigarette. She looked back up the street, but Frank was already out of sight.
She turned into the walkway and climbed the front steps. For a moment, enjoying the night, she leaned against the balustrade, breezily smoking. I sensed movement from across the street. A clump of small trees, a line of trimmed hedges, a garden trellis covered in purple wisteria. A confusion of night shadows under a faint moonlit sky. A figure shifted in the darkness. A solitary man stepped onto the sidewalk. Even from where I sat I could tell he was monitoring Nadine’s movements so intently that he tripped on a stone, swore under his breath. He stood there, watching, frozen, while Nadine, unaware, snubbed out her cigarette, flicked it into the bushes, and walked inside.
The figure unfroze and in the still night I heard a heavy sigh, lone and plaintive and awful.
The slight graceful body rocked back and forth.
I recognized who it was. Dakota. Dak.
We began our rehearsals. By the second day I’d learned my lines, though I had trouble with my onstage movements. I felt awkward and clumsy, aware that each step was being watched—and judged. George, to his credit, whispered encouraging advice, and was only cruel now and then. His “You can embody the character, Edna, and quite well” was immediately balanced by his grumbled remark, “Edna dear, you move like a wobbly bowling pin.” George rarely complimented. “You’re supposed to be good,” he once famously quipped. “I’ll tell you when you’re not.” But, ultimately, I came around. Yes, I could survive a week of performance without undue embarrassment and fatal mistake.
Nervous, I chain-smoked Lucky Strikes during our breaks, and George purposely avoided me. He detested smoking, especially by women. “Really, Edna, it makes you look like a fishwife.”
I ignored him.
I looked out into the vast theater and trembled as I envisioned it filled with over a thousand eager theatergoers. A beautiful space, the Maplewood, with its large oval dome, its cut-glass chandeliers, the walls painted in shades of carnival red and sky blue, the proscenium arch a light green with a hint of red. An old-style theater, reminiscent of Manhattan’s movie palaces of the Twenties. Here, Cheryl had told us, the first movie shown had been Valentino’s
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
. A Wurlitzer organ punctuated the silent frames.
Here, in a few days, I’d take the stage—not so silently.
Louis Calhern and Irene Purcell, who played Tony and Julie Cavendish, my feckless, impulsive grandchildren, were troopers, though both seemed hell-bent on catching the late-afternoon Lackawanna train back into Manhattan after each rehearsal. George and I shared a cup of coffee with both, a hasty lunch, and all was shoptalk. “You’re staying in Maplewood?” Louis stammered when I mentioned my rooms at the Jefferson Village Inn. He looked as though I’d signed in at a leper colony for a lark.
“Ambience,” I told him.
“There is none,” Louis insisted.
Irene nodded. “How many oak trees can one sit under, Edna?”
George interjected, “Edna, the peripatetic novelist, is only happy on location. In fact, by the end of the week’s run—when we close on Sunday to huzzahs and bouquets of roses at my feet—she will have sat under all those oak trees. As well as a few sycamores, for good measure.”
During those first two days, as I polished my lines and wandered around town, George was right: I did like to soak in the atmosphere of the locales I visited. I relaxed, enjoying myself, lighting a cigarette when I wanted George to disappear. No gardeners worried me about insidious grubs, no poultry men battled over the building of the coops, and no mother was there to guide me, as they used to say in the Victorian novels by The Duchess. Here I was, a fiftyish spinster always apologizing to a mother I could never please. Yes, Mother. No. Yes. In frightening moments of reflection I believed I would always be that skittish little girl rushing home from school in Ottumwa, Iowa, or in Appleton, Wisconsin. Yes, Mama. Was it any wonder I sought out the far reaches of America’s hinterland for plot lines? Eventually I’d take shelter in an igloo up in the Arctic Circle. I’d freeze to death as the aurora borealis painted the night sky. I was sure of it.
“If I lived with my mother, Edna,” George told me whenever we discussed Julia Ferber’s hold on me, “I’d be up on charges.”
During those two days of hard work, incredible novelty, and moments of unexpected joy, I had little time to consider Evan Street, who, despite being an anonymous understudy, managed to insinuate his annoying presence into the company. Even if you did not spot him lurking in the wings, script in hand, as though waiting for Louis Calhern to mysteriously disappear or at least stumble into the orchestra pit, even then you heard his thundering voice somewhere—that raucous look-at-me laugh, the loose-cannon rumble of his flattery, and the overtly dry cough from the back of the theater as George as director admonished Louis for a poorly delivered line. He was the understudy who filled the corners of the theater. The handsome man who’d always assumed the innate authority of those God-given looks, the lover with the cobalt-blue eyes, the Leyendecker chin, and the Richard Harding Davis exoticism. The privilege of accidental birth, that boy…blessed by a foolhardy God.
By the end of the second day, exhausted, the troupe gathered outside under the shade trees on green slatted benches, fed lemonade and cookies from Mamie Trout’s café. We were all pleased with ourselves. The veteran actors were less wary of me, the rich and presumptuous interloper, now that I’d proven I could say a line without stumbling—and that I, the imperious playwright, refused to lord it over folks. They bantered easily with me—which I relished. In fact, I was still in awe of
, these hardy souls who lived in front of footlights and never knew when they’d work again.
During our lazy afternoon, I leaned against an oak trunk, my eyes tired. Suddenly I heard Evan’s voice calling out: “Gus, hey, Gus.”
I stepped a few feet toward the sidewalk. A short, stocky man paused in front of me, turned with his hands on his hips, and swore under his breath. Evan rushed up to him and clamped a hand on the shorter man’s shoulder, but Gus, his face bright red and his chin rigid, shook it off.
“Evan, you’re a goddamn fool, you know.”
“We gotta talk, Gus. Sooner or later.”
Gus stepped away. Dressed in workman’s clothing, a worn denim shirt and faded dungarees, Gus glared at Evan. For a second, puzzled, he scratched his head, messing up the few strains of pale, wispy blond hair that circled a prominent bald spot.
“I don’t like what you said to Meaka, Evan. You’re a mean bastard.”
A mock shrugging of his shoulders. “I was joking with her.”
“You called her a tub of butter.”
Evan roared. “Well, she is a bit…round.”
Gus poked his finger in Evan’s chest. “She’s my girl, Evan. How do you think it makes her feel?”
Evan bit his lip. “Christ, Gus, I didn’t think she had any feelings at all. She’s like, you know, a…a machine. And that political crap she lays on you…”
Gus flared up, hot. “It ain’t right.”
Evan lowered his voice. “Hey, why’d you have to follow me to this dumb town? A master electrician, my foot.” A phony laugh. “I didn’t even know you knew how to string two wires together.”
“I know plenty.” He moved closer, and I almost missed his words, shielded as I was by some hedges. “And you know I know plenty. You thought I wouldn’t show up? I’m on to you, Evan. I ain’t a fool.”
“You got no business butting in.”
Evan laughed nervously. “All right, all right. Just keep out of my way. Friends, right? Hey, we go way back.”
“Hollywood for a couple months don’t count for ‘way back,’ Evan. We ain’t never been friends.”
“I don’t want trouble. You know, I gotta trust you now.”
“And you ain’t gonna have trouble, but I won’t let this one go. I
Evan hissed, “Stop saying that.” Then he went on in a tinny voice, “I didn’t know you’d show up with Meaka. Why do you two got to be so…you know, that scary political crap.”
“Where I go, she goes.”
“Christ, Gus, you’re talking nonsense.”
“Just remember—you do something—I get mine. You hear?”
“Don’t worry.” A long pause. “You tell Meaka?”
“I ain’t a fool.” He started to walk away, but swung back. “Leave off the rotten comments, Evan. Meaka doesn’t like you to begin with.”
“Hey, it’s mutual.”
“If she was a chorus girl, you’d be after her with smooth talk…”
Evan broke in. “So you got no worries when I’m around.”
“Never mind. Just be careful.”
Evan walked away. Gus leaned against the entrance to Strubbe’s Ice Cream Parlor, reaching for a cigarette and lighting it. When a schoolboy tried to walk in, Gus took his time moving. Alone, he glanced toward the departing Evan and muttered, “Burn in hell.”
From where I stood, still unseen, I could see his profile: fierce, stony, his lips razor thin, his skin ashy and cold. There was something frightening about him, a man who could menace, or destroy, without conscience. He looked…dangerous.
Suddenly he yelled, “Here! Here! Hey, Meaka!” He sucked in on the cigarette, blew smoke out, and then spat to the side as a young woman tottered from across the street. He flicked the lit cigarette away, and it bounced off the plate-glass window.
“I saw you talking to that ass.” Her first words, biting and raspy.
As blond as Gus, Meaka was also short, barely five feet. But while he was muscular and thick, a sinew-bound workman, she was wide and soft, the pale yellow dress hugging her bones and hips. She looked as if she’d fallen into a dress tailored for someone else, but decided she didn’t care. It rode up on one side, bunched around her waist.
I walked from behind the hedges and strolled past the couple, both of whom got quiet. Meaka was whining about Evan’s rudeness and cruelty—“You sure know how to pick them, Gus”—but clammed up as I neared. Both glared at me, and I shivered all of a sudden, involuntarily, surprising myself. There was something about the raw harshness of their mutual stares—frankly, I felt to my marrow that they
me. And that knowing—whatever did that mean? —guaranteed they hated me. The
of me. Irrational, that intuitive moment—but I trusted it.
I could never abide such cavalier dismissal, especially from louts, so I stepped back, feigned a smile, and addressed the gaping Gus. “I am Edna Ferber. Haven’t I seen you working at the theater?”
Silence, heavy and ugly. I realized that Gus was the third man I’d spotted that first night during the confrontation in the bar lounge—with Evan and Dak exchanging words, pushing, shoving. Now, perturbed by my interruption, he bit his lower lip, raised his chin arrogantly, and answered, “Yeah.”
“And you, my dear?” To the smoldering Meaka then biting the nail of her stubby index finger, where a thin line of dried blood had collected.
A hoarse grunt. “Meaka Snow.”
“What a lovely name. You work at the theater?”
But I got no further because Meaka clumsily grabbed Gus’ elbow, poked him in the side, and the two stepped off the sidewalk into the street so precipitously that a passing car narrowly missed clipping both. Meaka, to my horror, raised her fist at the disappearing car, and screamed, “Damn you!”
I headed to the Full Moon Café for some iced cherry soda. Mamie Trout, smiling broadly, welcomed me back and directed me to a seat by the front window. “Got some chocolate cake with your name on it, Miss Ferber.”
“Every piece of chocolate cake comes with my name on it, Mamie.”
She had a hearty laugh, long and throaty, and absolutely infectious. She pointed to a young woman sitting by herself at one of the back tables. “Another fugitive from your theater.” She pronounced it
Nadine Novack, Frank Resnick’s dinner companion from last night, was sitting quietly, nursing a lemon phosphate, her face bowed close to the straw. The actress with the self-consciously alliterative stage name. Of course, I’d noticed her when I walked in, especially her eagerness when the bell clanged—and her disappointed look when she spotted the tiny frumpy lady with the three strands of pearls. Real pearls, in fact.
Nosy, I decided to join her. She fidgeted as she watched me approach her table, hastily looking beyond me toward the door. “Hello,” I began, “I’m Edna Ferber.”
A whispered, uncertain voice, girlish. “I know.” Then a weak smile. “I saw you come in.”
“You’re the understudy for the part of Julie?”
She nodded. “And everyone else this summer—Gloria Swanson, even—though I’ll probably never be onstage.”
“Nadine Novack. I’m sorry. I’m rude.”
“Not at all. May I sit down?”
A slight titter. “I guess I really am rude, Miss Ferber. Please.” She motioned to a seat and I sat down. She glanced quickly toward the door.
“You’re a very pretty young girl.”
She flushed a faded pink and closed her eyes. “That’s very sweet of you.” She looked toward the door again.
“I’m interrupting. You’re expecting someone.”
“Oh, no. I mean…sometimes other actors come…crew…or…This is a popular place.” A deep intake of breath. “I’m sorry. I’m babbling.”
“No matter, really, Nadine. I find it oddly comforting after some of the bluster and noisome breast-beating I’ve witnessed these past few days.”
“Well, you know, actors…showing off.”
“I imagine you’re not a show-off.”
Her eyes got wide. “Someday maybe I’ll
something to…yes, you know…show off.”
I liked her. Such a petite girl, gamin faced, with wavy auburn hair and brilliant round hazel eyes with a hint of burnished gold in them, charming, lustrous, inviting. A wraith, this girl, a frail woman who nevertheless seemed to have an inner glow, a spirit. A Clara Bow face, but without the doll-like vacuity. Pretty, yes, but a bit mousy under the unnecessary layers of glossy lipstick and red rouge. Yet I imagined her—this neophyte actress—as an unassuming woman who could erupt into dynamic life and character and brio when she walked onstage. It was the intelligence in those eyes—and the real warmth in that upturned face.
“I saw you having dinner last night with Frank Resnick.”
A hesitation. “Yes, he’s very fatherly to me. He feels he has to protect me.” She giggled. “The dark alleys and squalid corners of Maplewood.”
you here…in Maplewood?”
The question startled her. She fumbled. “I…well…a job. Hollywood failed me…and Broadway, so I interviewed with Miss Crawford and…well, I wanted to come here.”
“I mean…well, yes.”
Her face closed up, dreaminess clouding her eyes, as though suddenly she realized she’d said too much. She looked down at her trembling hands and immediately, dramatically, buried them in her lap.
The door opened and Dak entered, rushing in and out of breath. But he stopped short in the entrance, mouth open, staring directly at our table. Nadine emitted a faint gasp, almost a warning, and Dak twisted around, ready to flee. The screen door slammed against his back. Nadine looked down.