keeping the money," Georgia said, and she wasn't kidding.
"C' mon, Georgia, be reasonable," Andrew begged, struggling
to keep pace with her as she zigged through the midtown crowd.
She glanced at her watch.
"It's mine. I earned it."
"Putting up with you for four and a half months."
"That's not fair." Andrew found himself inside a clothing
store. Georgia headed straight for a rack of black pants at the
back of the store. Andrew knew two things: she had been here and
looked at them before, and she would not try them on until she
"What, are you gonna spend it on pants?"
"Some of it."
"How about you keep part of it. Say half. Keep half. That's
very generous of me."
Andrew could not believe he was bargaining; he needed all of the
"I am keeping all of it."
"Come on, Georgia!"
"No." She had pants in her hands and she was heading
down the stairs. Andrew followed.
"What do you think of these belts?" she asked, fingering
a pale pink leather one.
"I don't like them."
just saying that because you want the money back."
"That. And I don't like pastels."
She picked out a belt in her size and headed back upstairs.
"I don't see how you can truly believe the money belongs
"Possession is nine tenths of the law."
They were at the register.
"What the fuck does that even mean?"
"Watch your language, please," said the cashier, whose
tag read "Marla". She rang up the black pants and the
pink belt. "Sixty-six twenty-four."
"I thought there wasn't any tax on clothes," Georgia
"Belts are accessories."
Georgia handed over four twenties. Andrew was tempted to grab
her wallet and run away. The only thing stopping him was his belief
that the money was his fair and square and he shouldn't have to
act like a criminal to get it back. That and he was fairly certain
Georgia did not have all of the money in her wallet.
"Accessory implies that an item is not necessary," Georgia
said. "Belts are necessary. My pants would fall down without
"So buy smaller pants," Marla suggested.
"I buy them in the smallest size you sell and I still need
"So eat something. Next customer step down."
Georgia grabbed her bag and smashed her way out the door and onto
the street. Andrew followed.
"I buy a salad and head back to work."
"Is this how you spend your lunch hour every day? Buying
clothes you don't need and eating roughage at your desk? Why did
I bother to come meet you?"
"Is that a rhetorical question?" Georgia had led them
into a sort of passive salad bar. "Hey Rico," she said
to the salad maker.
"The usual?" Rico asked.
"Yep." Rico mixed chopped carrots and kidney beans into
a bowl of raw spinach.
"Nothing for your boyfriend?" Rico teased.
"He's not my boyfriend," Georgia said.
"Maybe you came to meet me because you were hoping to talk
me out of some cash," Georgia said when she and Andrew were
back on the street, answering what had in fact not been a rhetorical
Andrew dodged humans a few steps behind Georgia, almost tripping
over the boot end of a Bergdorf buyer.
"Will you stop for just one second!"
Andrew stopped walking and, though she had her back to him, Georgia
came to a halt. Without turning around she said, "I'm keeping
Andrew inched closer to her. Around them, midtown workers whizzed
past in a blur.
Georgia jumped when Andrew touched her arm.
"What is the matter with you?"
She turned her body towards him. "The money is mine."
"No, it's not."
"I refuse to argue with you about this any more. I need to
get back to work. Just let it go."
Andrew had been sworn to secrecy, but he was getting desperate.
"What if I told you it might be dangerous for you to keep
"Are you threatening me?"
"No. I didn't say it would put you in danger. But if you
keep the money it might put someone in danger."
"Why'd you leave the money at my house?"
"I thought it would be safer there."
"You live alone and don't have many guests. And you have
"You thought my renters insurance would cover your cash?
Didn't you think about what would happen if I found it?"
"I didn't think you'd be looking in the condom box any time
soon. Some people take a breath after a relationship before fucking
"Don't change the subject. Where did the money come from?"
"Can't tell you that. Who'd you fuck?"
"I don't want to tell you that." She turned around again
and was off. In seconds she blended into the lunchtime crowd,
lost to Andrew.
He turned and walked in the opposite direction. Andrew had taken
the afternoon off, hoping to convince Georgia to do the same.
walked south for a few more blocks and then headed east. The sun
was shining. It was the first day all year that could be described
as "spring". Andrew wished he'd thought to bring his
When he got near the multiplex at Union Square, he fished the
travel alarm that was his watch out of his pocket. Nearly two
o'clock. He forgot he'd given up movies for Lent until after he'd
already bought a ticket to something that was playing at around
He stopped at the pay phone in the lobby and checked his messages.
There was only one, from his brother Peter. "Andrew, I'm
gonna need that money from you tonight. Thanks for holding onto
it for me while I was upstate. Call me when you get this. Oh,
and do me a favor - erase this message."
Andrew rode the escalator up to theater six, where he sat in the
dark for two hours, eating popcorn soaked in butter and drinking
a cherry coke.
~ * ~