Bill Call leaned over his coffee, peering at Arlene. “When was the last time you saw Eddie?”
Without answering him or even excusing herself, Arlene rose and went to the bathroom. She locked the door, splashed water on her face, and sat on the toilet. On the back of the door was a framed photograph of Paul Robeson. Leonora had placed little baskets along the rim of the wash basin, each filled with a different colored soap.
She covered her face with her hands and cried noiselessly. There was Eddie in her mind’s eye, standing tall in her front doorway on that last evening, molding the crown of his hat with forefinger and thumb, wearing the dark suit with pencil stripes that he favored when the sun went down.
“I’m not inclined,” he had said.
“Well, then, don’t bother,” she answered. “Don’t bother on my account.”
“Tomorrow night be better. Our customary evening.”
This last phrase Eddie spoke with a sly tone, his way of offering to end the spat on friendly terms.
But she was angry. “You rather spend time with Virgil than me then you go right ahead. See if I care.”
He frowned, put his hat on his greased head, and wandered into the night. See if I care. Her last words to him. Words he carried into the next world. Words she would carry through the rest of her earthly life.
And Virgil gone missing. Maybe murdered as well. What had they done? Who had they crossed?
She and Eddie had rarely argued. He was a peacemaker, even when he was unhappy with something (her wedding ring, not being able to come by the house when Wardell was home). The secrecy of their affair suited them both, and was easy to disguise because of their musical partnership. He liked to slide along the easy way, Eddie did, and keep his head low.
But lately he’d been prickly. He had to borrow a few bucks from her once or twice, which hurt his pride, and couldn’t find work outside the weekend gig at the Sunset (Emmanuel Baptist didn’t pay). His needs were modest, but he liked his reefer and new threads when he could get them, and bought her flowers every week. He was feeling the bite of hard times, she knew that.
Their songs would not leave her alone. Lyrics took on sharper meanings:
I don’t know why but I’m feeling so sad
I long to try something I never had
Never had no kissin’
Oh, what I’ve been missin’
Lover man, oh where can you be?
Kevin Stevens’ novel is available HERE