Authors: Jules Moulin
DO YOU HAVE TEQUILA
?” Ally asked, sitting at the bar at Friar Tuck's somewhere out on the Cape. She didn't know where they were.
“Yep, we do.” The bartender smiled. “Straight up?”
“No, thanks, no. I never drink.” She ordered a frozen margarita instead, no salt, and cheese fries. She leaned on the bar, looked around, and chewed the nail of her pinky finger.
She couldn't see Jake anywhere.
The main room and the two rooms off it were dimly lit and clouded with smoke. Three different jukeboxes blared different songs from three different rooms.
Jefferson Airplane blasted from the closest, and when Ally turned toward the sound of the song, she found Jake sitting one stool away. “Don't you want somebody to love? Don't you need somebody to love?” He was singing along.
Ally looked away and smiled.
He finished the song, the entire song, and the bartender brought out Ally's food. Then Jake slipped to the stool next to hers. “Something about cheese fries and booze,” he said. “Once you get going, it's hard to stop.” He was speaking in a thick New York accent. He reached out his hand. “Carl. Yastrzemski. Nice to meet you. Folks call me Yaz. I'm a Major League player. Baseball.”
Ally focused on the TV. “Hi,” she said, ignoring his hand, playing hard to get.
“I didn't catch your name.”
“Didn't throw it.”
“What's your name, pretty?”
Ally tried to think of one. “Um,” she said. “Margaret Thatcher?”
“You don't know your name?”
“This is so weird,” she said as herself.
Jake looked around. “What's weird, doll?”
“This,” she said. “I can be anyone? Anyone at all? Sappho? Or Esther? Or Joan of Arc?”
“What?” She leaned in and whispered. “I thought we were doing a doctor and nurse, or something like that. But if you get to be a baseball player, then I want to beâI don't knowâa queen. Elizabeth the First.” She sat up straight. “Elizabeth. Hello.”
He reached out his hand. “Nice to meet you, Elizabeth.”
“The First.” She held out her hand, permitting him to kiss it. Jake took her hand and kissed it gently. “Otherwise known as the Virgin Queen. Although that's ironic.”
“What do you do, Elizabeth the First?”
“I rule England
“Yes. I live in a palace, fight wars, and take lovers half my age.” She sipped her margarita.
“Wow. Cool. You here alone?”
“I'm waiting for someone. A duke.” She pretended to look for her duke. “You alone, Yaz?”
“I'm with my team.” Jake pointed to a group of guys hovering around the pool table. “I'm number eight. Seven Gold Gloves. Triple Crown.”
“I'm sure that's impressive, but I don't know baseball. Only hammer throwing.”
“Can I steal a fry?” Jake asked, smelling her cheese fries.
“No. I don't share food. Germs and diseases. You know, the plague. Smallpox. Not good.”
Jake nodded. “Right,” he said. “We shouldn't swap spit. At least not yet. You married?”
“No. Only lovers.”
“No,” Ally said. She then changed her mind. “Wait, no. I do have a child. I have a daughter.” She didn't want to leave Lizzie out, even out of her fantasy life. She took a fry and leaned in. Softly she said, “This isn't working. I'm not turned on.”
“Why don't you choose someone sexy?” he whispered.
“Can we start again?”
“Let's start again.”
She slid the fries in front of him. “Eat.” Jake grabbed a couple of fries and smiled. “Are you still Yaz?”
“I'm sticking with Yaz.”
She picked up her glass and guzzled the drink. Jake watched as she set the glass down and raised her hand to alert the barkeep for another. “I want to be a groupie,” she said. “The kind of girl who preys on stars. Give you myselfâin every wayâin exchange forâI don't knowâyour attention and bragging rights. I can brag I slept with Yaz. Cool? The truly consensual trade. Sex to impress. The âI had sex with a supermodel' thing. But in reverse. The âI can bring this guy down to his kneesâMonica Lewinsky and Bill' thing.”
Jake nodded. “Good. That's hot.”
LIZZIE BARRELED INTO FISHMAN
office. “Someone stole my stuff!” she announced.
Josh and Fishman sat focused, working. They both looked up and turned around.
“You're kidding,” said Fishman. He seemed alarmed but not alarmed enough.
“I went to the pantry, and when I came back my stuff was gone.”
“You haven't signed in and you needed a
?” Josh asked.
“I was hungry,” said Lizzie. She looked at Fishman. “Someone went into my purse in my room.” She then looked at Josh, who was staring right at her, pointedly chewing a green piece of gum.
“What's missing?” Fishman asked and stood from his desk.
“My wallet, my keys, and my phone,” Lizzie said.
“I'm sorry. It's a problem. I should have warned you.” He opened a drawer. “We haven't caught her, but we have a Russian short on cash.”
“Sasha? No. She was with me. In the pantry. She was with me.”
Fishman handed a MetroCard to Lizzie. “Take this. It doesn't expire until next month.” He crossed to his briefcase.
Lizzie watched as he slipped out some bills and pulled out a phone. “Take these.” He handed them to her. “Emergency phone, until you get a new one, and here's money to pay for new keys or a lock for your place.”
Lizzie took the phone and the fifty-dollar bills, the newest-looking money she'd ever seen, clean and smooth. “Thank you,” she said.
“Take your purse,” Fishman said. “Even to the bathroom.”
“Anything else we can do to help?”
“No,” she said quietly, feeling as if she was being played.
Fishman nodded and sat back down. “Someone's rolling our rooms for sure.”
Josh nodded and cracked his gum.
An hour later, Lizzie felt faint in the humid heat. On a Henry Street corner, next to a mailbox, she slipped off her heels, changed into flip-flops, took off her wig, and stuffed it, hard, down into her bag. She then took off through Carroll Gardens, through Cobble Hill, toward Brooklyn Heights.
She knew they'd try to track her with the phone. Powering off would achieve nothing. She put it in flight mode and took out the battery. Then she remembered the second battery, the weaker one, there to maintain contacts and time.
What she needed, she decided, was a booster bag. A Faraday cage. The kind Weather had made with foil when they were twelve, to shoplift; an electromagnetic shield.
She stopped at a market, bought five rolls of foil, and wrapped the phone like a birthday gift until it was the size of a brick.
Ninety minutes later, she reached Pineapple, then Orange, then, finally, Cranberry Street. She climbed the stoop, knocked, but found the brownstone empty and dark. Her spare key was home in Stuyvesant Square.
So she headed east and hoofed it over the Brooklyn Bridge, watching the golden sun dip west.
When she got home, she discovered her superintendent was gone, in the DR, and wouldn't be back for another day. No one but Julio had a spare key.
Ally had spent the afternoon there, across the street. At nine thirty, she got up and left. She missed Lizzie, and Lizzie missed her mother, by less than five minutes.
That night at eleven, Ally, at home, climbed into an Escalade. Jake's car. The driver dropped her at Tenth and Sixteenth at a hotel in the Meatpacking District.
She checked the address and wandered in and waited in the lobby behind two women who looked like models.
One was over six feet tall, in a Sid Vicious T-shirt, four-inch shorts, and stiletto heels. She also wore a mink-fur vest and striped ski hat with a pom-pom on top. Odd for August, thought Ally, but cute.
The other one wore a T-shirt too, except hers was ripped. She didn't wear shorts or a skirt or pants. She did wear a thong, so the bottom of her butt cheeks peeked from her shirt when she laughed or bent over, and Ally thought she looked ready for bed. Then, she thought, maybe that was the point.
When she stepped up, the concierge winked. “Love the look. So uncommitted.”
Ally looked down. What was she wearing that was so uncommitted?
Tretorns. Jeans. A button-down shirt in a yellow and pink floral print. The blouse, she thought, might pass for Liberty, except that she bought it for three ninety-nine on sale at Old Navy. The cotton was sheer, the buttons were plastic, the hems were fraying.
“Hunt Club, love. That's downstairs.” The concierge pointed to a door across the lobby with a tiny brass sign. It read, “The Hunt Starts Here.”
Ally didn't know about the separate entrance that led to a hall to a secret door that led to a second secret door that led to a bouncer and a red velvet rope, and a guest list, then down a stone stairway that spiraled around and stopped in front of a gold beaded curtain in the corner of the basement.
She finally found Jake and Marty tucked behind a table, shouting to talk over bottles of PatrÃ³n. The music was loud and thumping and grating. Apparently it was Hip-Hop Wednesday.
“The unsung American teenage girl!” Jake called to Marty, handing him the extra-long script. “It's totally new! Never been done! These girls, they started a revolution! And they wore clothes!”
“Talk to me!” Marty called and popped dried wasabi peas into his mouth. Marty was known for his films about men: men and gangs, men and sex, men and money.
“It starts with the fire!” Ally yelled over the table. “We see the girls jump from the ninth floor and die! The city wakes up! One girl survives and fights the good fight: Safer conditions! Eight-hour workdays! Overtime pay! Show the whole trial!” Ally looked down and drained her shot, then turned to Jake. “Do you show the trial?” She shuddered and her insides grew warm. Jake shook his head.
“What's the trial?” Marty yelled because he had to. “Is that the third act?”
The music grew louder.
“What's a third act?” Ally yelled. The DJ in the corner was blasting his favorite Kanye West, a song about hoes and shoving his fist into Asian pussy. Jake refilled Ally's glass. “No more!” she yelled. “I never drink!” Then she grew still.
“The third act is the last part,” Jake explained, turning to Ally.
She didn't hear him. She saw someoneÂ .Â .Â . or thought she did. She froze and focused across the bar as if she were a lioness spotting prey.
“Is that the third act? The trial?” Marty asked.
“Is that Lizzie's agent?” Ally said.
“Cybil Stern?” Jake turned, scanning the crowd. “Which?”
“The one in black? We met last Christmas.” Ally straightened. “I'm sorry. Hold on a sec.” She slid from her seat. “Maybe she knowsÂ .Â .Â . where Lizzie is.”
Marty looked concerned. “Everything okay?”
Ally paused. “She told my daughter to fix her nose and dye her hair.” She couldn't take her eyes off Cybil.
“Ally, wait,” Jake pleaded as Ally straightened her Old Navy blouse, looking ready for a fight.
“And lose thirty pounds and skip grad school.”
“Ally, come on.” Jake reached out as she walked off. He tried to follow but found himself wedged behind the table. “Ally!”
Cybil was sipping a Virgin Slut. She and the models from up in the lobby chatted in a circle out on the dance floor, crushed by the sweaty, rowdy crowd.
“Now she's doing this cam-girl thing! To make moneyâto get this procedureâthat
“Me? No!” Cybil yelled over the hip-hop. “
recommended? No, Mrs. Hughes!”
“You didn't?” said Ally.
“Lizzie with a nose job? That's nuts!”
“Really?” said Ally, realizing Lizzie had lied to her. “Can you call her then? And knock some sense intoâ Whoa! Whoa!” A man squeezing byâan enormous man, over six feet tall and three hundred poundsâbumped into Ally. “Sorry!” he said as Ally caromed, hard, into Cybil, who then knocked into a woman behind her. The woman fell forward onto her friends, then righted, turned, and yelled, “Scumbag, bitch! Motherfucker!”
“Sorry!” yelled Cybil, meaning it, as the dancers circled her irritably.
“Sorry? Sorry? I'll fuck you up!”
Swiftly, and instinctively, Ally and the models stepped in and formed a line of defense.
“I got pushed,” Ally said. “I bumped into her. She bumped into you. It was my fault. Sorry.”
“Who the fuck are you?”
“No one,” said Ally. “I'm no one at all.”
“I'll fuck you up.”
Holy smokes, Ally thought, as she considered the gauntlet thrown down. I'll fuck you up. Did that mean fight?
Suddenly she was in one of those shows: the catfight shows with the housewives or sisters or someone's ex-wives; women with blowouts, in heels and makeup, in shift dresses, bickering. Except no one here, tonight at the club, was fully dressed. Bras and pajama shorts, Ally thought as she studied the girls; and truck driver hats. At least they were keeping the sun off their skin. She didn't want to fight. She wanted to dress them and put them to bed.
“Motherfucking bitch,” the woman said.
Ally raised her hands, palms out, in surrender. “We're not fighting! This isâ She didn't
to bump you! Really! I swear! Come on! We're friends! We're all women! We're on the same side! Right? Right?”
Ally had never been smacked before.
She'd never been slapped or shoved or punched.
The seconds flew as a blur of screams and limbs and pain, scratching and clawing and lights, as swearwords were screeched and clothes were ripped and stretched and pulled. Ally was yelling “Stop! Stop!” above the music and cheers and jeers from all sides. Partyers stopped and whipped out their camera phones, laughing, pointing.
“What theâ? Please!” She tried her best to budge from Jake's grip as he lifted her out of the scuffle. “I'm in the middle of aâ” Jake threw his arms around her waist and carried her off through the throng. “Ow! Hey!” she said, protesting. “Stop!”
“They're on coke! Stop squirming!”
“What?” Ally said.
He led her into a short dark hall, where they stopped for a moment and caught their breath. “How should I know?” Ally complained.
“Oh, I don't know. The dilated eyes? The fine white powder above their lips?” Jake tried the restrooms, but both were locked. “What happened? Are you okay? Were you and Cybil on the same side?”
“Nothing!” she said and looked away. “We all got bumped and they got mad! I got smackedÂ .Â .Â . I thinkÂ .Â .Â . my jaw.” Ally felt the side of her face.
“Are you hurt?” He leaned in to see her chin.
“Coke? Really?” No one Ally knew used cocaine at Brooklyn College or at Brown. Wine was popular, vodka, for sure, lattes and chocolate and Skittles abounded, Colace and Advil, but no one she knew used hard drugs. “That wasâ What are we
here, Jake?” She smoothed her blouse and touched a tiny scratch on her hand. She wrung out her wrist.
“It looks okay,” Jake said.
She looked at the ceiling. “What is this music?” She rubbed her eyes. “I can't believeÂ .Â .Â . They jumped us! Girls!” Someone in the bathroom was smoking something. “What is that
Jake looked concerned. “It's so good to see you. Can I say that? I'm sorry youâ This. This is my fault. I'm sorry.”
“Thanks. It's so good to see you.”
“I need a cab.”
“Does it hurt? Your face?” He reached out and touched it.
“It's fine, but this music, it makes me want toâ”
“What? Makes you want to what?”
“Curl up and die.”
They rode in the Escalade back to Brooklyn.
“We didn't say good-bye,” Ally said. “That was rude.”
“Don't worry. I texted. He texted me back.”
“I didn't get toâ”
“I did,” Jake reassured her. “We talked about it before you came. He said he would call her, Marty did, and talk her out of it.”
Ally gazed at the twinkling lights on the East River. She pressed an ice cube against her jaw. “
wants it herself,” she said sadly, wondering if it was only a phase. “Not Cybil. But maybeâmaybeâif we make her wait. Just long enough. She'll change her mind. It's happened before.” Like her obsession with eyeliner, black. That lasted only half of ninth grade. And Ally's obsession with Dave Matthews. That lasted only half of her twenties.
“She can only live the way people
âfor so long.”
“Before she settles back into default: her true self. And starts to do what she's meant to doÂ .Â .Â .”
“And what's that?”
“I don't know.”
Lizzie was gorgeous. Always. Tall. Lanky. Like Claire, she had an impossible figure: narrow shoulders, small waist and hips, full bust. And legs that started below her ribs and went on and on.
Friends, teachers, everyone, assumed she'd make her mark in front of a camera because she
But what would become of that pesky IQ? That 143? The Mensa invitation? The Johns Hopkins people, the giftedness researchers, nosing about?
“You know,” Jake offered, “it's okay if Lizzie's not perfect.”
Ally turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“She knows, you know, that she was an oops. She told me that.”
“I'm sure you don't agree, butâ”
“I don't,” Ally snapped. “She wasn't a mistake. I think
plays a role in this life.”
“The universeâGod, whateverâmakes plans that sometimes have nothing to do with our own.”
“Okay,” Jake said, “but you don't have to
âshe doesn't have to be the most perfect person ever born to prove she wasn't a mistake.”