Malone Ridge, a novel

Malone Ridge is my new upmarket contemporary work-in-progress about family and relationships.  Eve has had a full life at age sixty, from growing up poor in rural West Virginia to the glamor of the art world and even professional sports. A series of events send her on a journey to discover family, friendship, and love.

Chapter 22 - Baker has finished painting Eve in a faded pink dress. They spend the day at the National Gallery of Art.

"Oh my God, Baker, look! A merry-go-round like the one my mother told me about. Can we go, Baker?" He bought them tickets. Eve chose a unicorn and Baker a black horse. They rode the ride over and over, grabbing a handful of brass rings by the time they had to leave. The sun sunk over the river. "I could stay here all night." Eve sighed.

"We better go. Oscar is going to need to be walked." She didn’t protest. 

"Thank you, Baker. Today was magical." Eve kissed his cheek as they stepped from the ride and walked to the Metro station. She didn’t flinch when he reached for her hand, enjoying his touch. She slept on the short ride back, her head on his shoulder. The two exited at King Street, following the throng of commuters onto the brick-lined street. 

Eve smiled at Baker when she saw the flash of color from a woman's sundress. The dress was the same faded pink she’d worn only hours before. Baker saw her, too, nodding towards the painting come to life beside them in the crush from the Metro, visible one second, hidden by crush of bodies the next. Eve and the woman were almost the same height, skin color, even hair style. She held a Starbucks cup like many of the commuters. Eve noticed a slight tremor as she put her foot down in worn sneakers that didn’t match her dress. She almost stumbled, one foot dragging. On closer inspection, she had little muscle tone in her legs and the pattern on her dress seemed strange. Eve realized in the blink of an eye that the faint patterns were stains, filth and dirt on her skin and the fabric, a dress slept in on a bench, in a box, the back of a car. Her arms and legs were smeared with something the color of foundation. She had bruises. Their eyes met, hers glassed over, her pupils dilated. She looked through Eve, thrusting out her cup that jangled with change. 

"Oh, fuck me!” Eve mumbled as she grabbed Baker. “How much do you have on you?" She pulled her tip money from her pocket. Baker started to protest. "Shut up. Don’t say anything. What do you have?" He handed her a twenty from a now empty wallet. Eve ran to catch the girl, dodging commuters. She stuffed sixty dollars in the cup. A smile slid across the girl’s face in a practiced way, her eyes shutting with a flutter of her lids. 

"Thanks. That’s kind of you." She moved on with the crowd in an instant, the transaction complete. Only a few of the hurrying strangers noticed the exchange. The girl disappeared in the throng, once again invisible. 

 Baker and Eve walked in silence to Eve's apartment. She wiped her eyes several times on the way there amid sniffles. The two paused outside.

"I know what you're thinking. She'll use the money to get high, but I don't care. That was me not so long ago, not the drugs but the homelessness. That could be me now. She'll know someone cared about her tonight. Maybe it will help a little." 

"But she's not you, Eve. By God's grace it's not you. We're lucky to have found each other. You made me see you and I'm glad you made me see her. It's not always easy to see someone in need. I know I didn’t look at her a second time but you did. You’re a good person." They stood in silence; Baker, Eve and the ghost of the young woman.   

Baker gave Eve a goodbye kiss. She wanted to pull him close and kiss him back. The day had been intense, wonderful, and tragic, but he was already gone. Her world swirled, a maelstrom from the girl in pink and her own unease with her feelings. Something was unsettled that she could not identify. Did she like Baker because he saved her? Did she need saving? The unease didn’t sit well. She wanted to be his equal like April, but she was not April and never could be. She had more in common with the girl in pink and didn’t really belong in this new world. There were more questions than answers. It would all have to wait. She needed to get ready for work.