kitchen-4Back in his car and on their way, Bill breathed easy for the first time. He had never seen this policeman before and he was thankful the cop didn’t phone in to have him looked up. He wasn’t supposed to be drinking at all on his probation. He’d admitted to having a few beers, not a smart move, he thought, but better than getting busted for lying on top of everything else.

Everything else. Bill didn’t think about it much at the time, but being in the same car late at night with a black woman could have gotten him in deep shit. Worse, it could have gotten Marie in deeper shit. The one thing they both had going for them was that they worked at Steakhouse East. Otherwise…

“Good thing we work there,” Marie said when they were a distance away. “You could have been beaten senseless. I could have been raped then killed. They could have arrested you for it, said you were a bigot and a hater. They could have made it stick with you having a record.”

“Assault and battery.”

“I’m telling you, you don’t know how lucky we were. This ain’t no liberal place except by the university. They could have just beaten the shit out of both of us cause we’re an interracial couple, even though they don’t know we’re not a couple.”

“Next time don’t get so messed up.”

“How else could I get you alone in the car?”

Marie reached over the gear shift and rubbed Bill’s thigh. She smiled at him and lifted one leg so her legs were apart and angled. She opened her coat and slowly lifted the dress she’d worn to work.

“You don’t give up, do you?”

“Hey, I know a good piece of meat when I see one.”

“What a thing to say!”

“I never had a white guy before. I want to try one before I die.”

“Marie…”

“That’s about the most honest I can be. What else you want me to say?”

“Don’t say anything. Put your dress down, bundle up and I’m dropping you off.” They came to a light and stopped momentarily. Bill looked at Marie. “Just what do you think you’re gonna get with a white guy?”

“How the hell should I know. What did you get with a black woman? With the black women you been with?”

“Different outer colors with the same insides. That’s it.”

The light changed and he started driving again. Marie began telling Bill where to turn and when they were getting close. She bundled up her coat and withdrew into herself. Except for directions, she didn’t speak again until they were parked in front of her house.

“I’m still gonna take my turn if I can have it. That’s on you.”

“Why?” Bill looked directly into Marie’s eyes as she faced him.

“Because I’m curious. Because I’m young and attracted to you. Because like Henry Lee, my old man is hitting anything that moves, specially things ten years younger than me, and I’m only twenty-nine. Because in my whole life I might never get a chance to be with a white guy again and I want to. Me. I want to. I’m entitled to what I want if it don’t hurt nothing or it just hurts me.”

Bill didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything. As they sat there, the door to her house opened. It was a half double. Bill could see a man standing there in the light from inside the house.

“I got to go. See you tomorrow. Thanks for the ride.”

“Take it easy,” Bill said.

“You be careful,” Marie said. “This neighborhood ain’t safe for you.”

Bill watched until Marie was safely inside the house and the door was closed before he drove off. He drove straight home, showered, slipped into bed next to his wife-to-be. For her part, she sensed him there and snuggled up against him.

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