But before I could react, Topher had come around and joined us.
Hit handed the keys to...I don't know, heoself?
"Thank you my good man," hit offered a handshake and a ten-dollar bill. Hit had folded it where heo could see it was a greenback. "Here you go. Take good care of her."
Christy got in the car and drove it into the parking lot.
We walked up the street, basking in the moonlight and hit stopped in front of a porch with an enormous orange tabby. I'd seen watermelons smaller.
"Where are we," I asked, enchanted. "Is this where you live?"
"Oh, and you have a pussy cat..." I started making the obligatory signs of brain damage that intellectuals always make around cats.
"Tom cat," Topher corrected, and his name is Ulysses."
"Brave Ulysses," I said to him and scratched him under the chin. He had the most immoderate purr.
"But he's, ah, not mine. I live in the basement." Hits eyes pointed down.
Basement apartments are somewhat rare in the Midwest. We have storm cellars and bomb shelters, but houses with finished basements are not that popular. Between radon and constant flooding, most people don't think they're worth the trouble.
But this wasn't a dank hole. Even the cinder-block stairwell that was hits front porch was tidy. I like tidy.
The door opened, and again, I was confronted with Christy, only now wearing a fussy little mustache and a bow tie. Heo held open the door.
"Rabbit and Rabbit," the maître d' bantered with us, holding up a menu, "party of two. Your table is waiting."
"Thank you Garçón," Topher said smoothly and slipped heom a twenty-five dollar red-back. Red-backs were Federally funded bills issued by states, and they expired. They sometimes came in funny denominations, but they were legal tender. I'd once seen a thirteen dollar bill—though it was a blue-back—and two's, three's, and four's were not that uncommon.
They spent just like green backs until the last date given on the bill approached, at which time they were favored for short-term transactions, like gambling debts, purchasing contraband, and tips.
"Very good, sir," Christy said, looking at hira palm. Maybe I should say Christopher.
Christopher...Topher. Oh my God, how dumb am I? If I hadn't seen them both in the same room, I'd be hopping mad right now. As it was, I was more than a little intrigued.
The apartment was small, a living room and eat-in kitchen which were only separated by an island-bar. There were three doors on one wall and another for a coat closet by the entrance.
'Christoper' took our coats and put them away. Heo even gave Topher a coat-check.
The main room was crowded, but not junky. There was a sofa facing a faux-fireplace but no TV. There were book cases along two of the walls.
A tiny square table, complete with white table cloth, white china and silver plate, even a candelabra sat between two rattan chairs. If hit was trying to impress me, it was working.
Christy appeared at our elbow, sans mustachios, and attended us while Topher held my chair and then took hits own seat.
Our waiter offered a bottle of wine, but I didn't see the label. Topher nodded and Christy produced a corkscrew and opened it.
Heo offered the cork and set it, duly sniffed, aside and poured two glasses. It was a white wine.
Heo set the menu in front of me and returned to the kitchen.
"Topher, what the hell?"
"I'm sorry, you seemed be enjoying yourself; what's wrong?"
"Who is that?"
I was speaking in an intense whisper for some reason.
"That's my sister, Mary Jane."
"You have a twin?"
"No, she's my little sister; two years younger."
"Is she a Rarebit too?"
"No. She's a girl. But we don't know if she's a carrier. They call that a pseudo-female in the Rarin Report."
"Yes, I've read it; it's insulting. Why didn't you tell me you had a sister?"
"It never came up."
"Never came up? It never came up? Topher, remember Halloween night? That would have been a good time to tell me."
"Sorry. Let's not fight. Look at the menu."
pan en la estilo de compesinos
medallónes de puerco adobo
arroz arból con cosas
esparrágo con mantequilla y limón
flan con fresas y miel
Wow! Iberian spread, somewhat rustic, but definitely smacking of effort. Even the Spanish was passable.
Mary Jane came back out, bearing 'peasant bread' and a tray of delightful snacks.
I kicked Topher under the table.
"Ow. Oh, Mary Jane, this is Dani. Dani, this is my kid sister Mary Jane."
"It's so nice to meet you," I said and hugged her around the waist without getting up. She tensed up and shifted her burden to that hip.
"Take it easy there, Dani, or sissy might get the wrong idea." Hit turned to Mary Jane. "And you can't have hir."
Her eyebrows shot up and she looked me over like a lion picking out lamb chops.
"You can have hir, brister, hit's too skinny for me."
She set down the tray and we dug in. The bread was to die for, light with a perfect crumb. There was butter and aioli, that garlic and oil sauce was just so delicious.
"You went all out," I told him. "Getting your sister to cook me a meal like that."
"Not her," he said, sampling the olives. He followed it with a swallow of wine.
"She's the front tonight; the waitstaff, the valet, the maître d'. I'm the kitchen crew. I cooked, and will wash up after I get you home."
"You made this?"
"I was hoping you would be."
We munched, drinking more wine and before long, Mary Jane served the main course.
It was gorgeous, thin-sliced medallions of pork over a bed of short-grained rice, topped with fresh rosemary and a drizzle of sauce.
It tasted even better than it looked or smelled.
"You know, I hear sex is overrated," I told him, sucking at my fingers. "Is there any reason you can't build a relationship on food?"
"None at all. Restaurants do so all the time with their customers. At least they'd better."
Mary Jane started moving furniture on the other side of the room. Topher didn't even look at her, much less offer her help.
I fought off a feeling of resentment on her behalf. Maybe they had some other arrangement; maybe this worked for them.
"So what other hidden talents do you have?"
"Magic hands," he explained. "It's all in the hands. I have no talent at all, except for that."
"You lie like a dog."
"Sadly, yes. Are you having a good time, Dani?"
"Yes, I am. You are totally different from every other person on this earth, aren't you?"
"I'm sure that I am."
Mary Jane finished her housework and went back into the kitchen, where she clanked about and cussed.
She came back over with a two plates of flan, topped with thin slices of strawberry and drizzled with honey. She served them with thin flute of sparkling wine.
It was better than the tiramisu.
"Oh my," I said, pushing the last bite away. It was so good but one more would surely founder me. "That was so good."
I belched, but not on purpose.
I turned pink and hit laughed.
"Don't apologize. I take it as the sincerest form of compliment."
"What next? The Comfy Chair?"
"No," he laughed. "Next, a movie."
"Ooh, have I seen it?"
"I doubt it."
Mary Jane had fired up a projector and was focusing it on a screen she'd set up in front of the mantelpiece. She had moved the sofa back and there was soda and popcorn on the coffee table.
"Is it good?"
"I think so."
"Who's in it?"
"A cute little girl, with cornrows and missing front teeth."
"Oh, that's so cute! Who is she?"