THE MAN WHO GOT AWAY
By Gloria Palazzo
With an anxious smile Beryl fingers her long black hair. Adjusting the plunging neckline of her scarlet blouse and releasing a deep throaty breath, she applies lip plumping gel to her pouty lips. Beryl adjusts her shoulder bag. She thought it was stylish, but on her tiny frame it looks and feels like a bundle of sad luggage.
Inside this multicolored purse Beryl has packed tooth brush, hairbrush, assorted creams, deodorant and panties. Frank bought the panties for her while they were vacationing last month. At the bottom of her purse, wrapped in a pink fringed shawl is the gun.
Frank is a handsome man and Beryl felt lucky to be dating him. She sees him across the street and knows she must have him. Beryl’s attraction to Frankie was fierce from the day they were introduced in that funky after-hours canteen.
“Frankie, Frank, FRANK!” He doesn’t hear me. Damn it!
She is shouting. People are looking. If I don’t make this light, with his long muscular legs he’ll be a mile away before I can get across the street. Frank, Frankie, wait up, wait up. Beryl walks, wanting to run, but her skirt, wrapped tightly around her shapely thighs, limits her.
Please, please, God, Universe, or whoever makes these things happen, let him accept my apology. One hand is holding tightly to her bag; the other is clenched and sweaty. Beryl loosens the sweaty hand to stop her nails from biting into her flesh.
Whew, so many people. “Mister, I can’t see through you.” She doesn’t know if she has said this out loud or is thinking it. She is swaying, trying to see through four lanes of traffic. Busses, trucks, sirens and her straining and stretching to see him. There he is. So straight. He walks with such ease and she loves him. Even from the back she loves him.
When the light changes, enmeshed in the crowd, she is ferried across the street. She can catch up if she can keep him in sight. One block ahead and on his left is Harry’s Place, the lounge where they met, where they spent so many happy hours. Frank stops and checking his watch, enters the dim-lighted bar.
Hesitating to have time to catch her breathe, Beryl enters. Confident now, she is sure she will find Frank at the bar, alone, with a cigarette and a double bourbon. Sometimes he stands with his first drink. Juke box music wafts through the din.
It’s dark and Beryl needs a moment to adjust her vision. Frank is standing and with his black turtle neck sweater and beige linen trousers he looks like a model. He’s talking to someone seated on the bar stool in front of him. Beryl freezes near the entrance. As her vision adjusts she sees legs, bare legs; pretty legs with red high-heeled shoes.
Frank is pressing up against the back of whoever owns those legs. He places his hands on the shoulders of the woman attached to the legs and turns her slightly, tenderly, as he bends and kisses her upturned smiling face.
Are those the same as her new red shoes? The shoes she and her sister Nancy bought last week? The same ones….they always bought the same shoes.
Beryl feels faint, sick to her stomach. Leaning against the wall for support as she cannot move, the weighty bag she has been toting slides from her shoulder and drops. A loud bang startles everyone and the red shoes with the legs and the just kissed face, glide ever so gently to the floor.