Topher's visit had thrown me off my schedule; I hadn't watched the news last night and was again shocked by the papers.
Apparently, Washington had gone to Ford. I was bitterly disappointed.
I told Mother I wanted to walk to school; I had some business to attend to.
But I didn't go to school. I stopped by the corner drugstore and bought two boxes of condoms. I put one of them in each of my coat pockets and threw away the bag and receipt.
Then I went to Kovac's School of Dance to look up this Sanjin character.
"Gute mornink," A pleasant voice greeted me. It spoke English, but in a thick accent that sounded to be from Eastern Europe.
"Good morning," I replied. The voice had come from a short but thick woman in her sixties, at least. She wore a shawl and a kerchief tied over her head. The Russians would have called her babushka—grandmother.
"Vat kin I do for hyou this mornink?" She pronounced 'you' like it started with an 'h', like the 'ch' in loch.
"My sister dances here. And I'm looking for a leotard she left here accidently."
That was vaguely like the truth, just a little short on detail. But like stone soup, it'd taste right enough to a hungry mouth.
"Vat," the old woman asked dramatically, "iss hyour sister's name?"
"Regina Heywood. Gina."
"Oh, Gina. She is gute student. Dances like fawn. To tell truth, I think my grandson is sveet on kher."
That's what I'm gonna find out.
"Oh," I said, taking the proffered opening, "Is he in today? He may have found it, and put it aside for her."
Found it on the ground at her feet, the cretin. What kind of seventeen year-old is 'sweet on' a thirteen year-old girl?
"He's at school, but he only goes half a day. He vill be back by noon. Should I tell khim you vere here?"
"No. I'll come back. The leotard was mine, and I'm very fond of it. I'd hate if anything happened to it."
Except the 'leotard' is a costume and what I'm fond of is my sister. Maybe I should bring a pair of shears with me when I came back.
So I ended up skipping the rest of the day, with Tammy.
We went back to Kovac's at about two o'clock.
Sanjin was in.
We cornered him in the store room. He didn't look seventeen. He was thin, but made of solid muscle, with dark greasy hair and a bit of fuzz on his chin.
I was glad Tammy was with me when I confronted him.
"Vhat do hyou want," he asked without taking the time to check us out.
"I want to talk to you about my sister."
"My sister, Gina."
That got his attention.
"Hwhat about her?"
"I know you took advantage of her. It had better stop."
"Or hwhat? You'll castrate me? Hlook, leetle girl, hyour sister is a bik girl, and she can make her own dec-izhions. Besites," he smiled like a lop-sided grin that made him look Gina's age, "ve are in hlove."
"I'm not her little sister, you reprobate, I'm Dani, and I'm the oldest. Nothing get's past me, you understand?"
"Hlook, Dani, Gina is vonderful. She is ze center of my hworld, and I hlove her like my own heart. Is none of your bee-zness."
"It is surely my business, see, for two reasons."
"And vhat are zey?"
"One, I'm Gina's older sib, so anything that happens to her is my business."
"If you don't listen to me, I'm gonna hold you down and let Tammy here rip your prick off. She may not look like much, but she's pretty vicious when provoked. She's fond of Gina too, so I wouldn't push it if I were you."
That got his attention. He wasn't exactly scared, but I suppose being threatened with an avulsive orchidectomy can concentrate the mind.
"So," he said bravely. "It doesn't chanch any-sink. I love her and vill not forzake her for hyou or anybody else."
"Well," I told him, "In that case, I'm gonna make you a deal." I reached into my pocket and pulled out a box of condoms. "The next time you put your dick in my sister, it had better have one of these on it—unless you're in your marriage bed—or I'm gonna set fire to it with a blow-torch. Is that clear enough for you?"
He looked offended, possibly, but not intimidated.
"Certainly," he said, and took the condoms. "Any-sink else?"
"No," I told him, slightly embarrassed by my outburst. "That'll be all."
We left, and I hoped he got the message. Even more, I hoped he listened. I didn't know how to use a blow torch.
"Dani," Tammy confided in me while we were waiting for the bus, "I don't think I could have taken him."
Topher picked me up at seven, but hit was driving an automobile.
"What happened to the motorcycle," I asked hir coyly.
"This situation calls for a car."
Hit came in, and talked to my parents, and even opened the car door for me.
We sped off into the night, and hit got on the highway, going east. We headed toward downtown but hit turned off near University City. Hit drove down a street famous for its swank restaurants.
"Nice," I said as we passed the upscale bistros and an imitation chateau noted for haute cusine," I'd have been just as happy with a pizza."
We came to a light. Hit smiled and winked at me. "You really mean that, don't you?"
"Yes. It's not like it's a real date."
Hit was about to speak, but frowned for a second and remained mute.
"I mean a normal date; one with hormones and expectations."
"I understand, Dani. But let's just let things happen, and analyze it later."
"Okay." I suddenly felt like dirt. And hit was about to drop thirty dollars a plate to impress me. I'd tried to tell hir not to bother.
"The light's green," I pointed out.
Instead of continuing, hit turned right and drove to a block of row-house apartments across from a strip-mall.
Hit pulled up to a figure standing motionless on the sidewalk—a black person, dressed in black slacks and a white button-up shirt under a black satin vest. Heo wore a garter on hira left arm.
I looked at Topher; hit was smiling, and crooning hits head.
The figure sprang to life and opened my door. I wasn't expecting it, but Topher didn't seem worried so I accepted the hand that was proffered.
It was Christy. I was dumb-struck.