“Assumptions"

Fiction by Allan Retzky

Part One

The Hampton Jitney bus door opened and people began to board. Leroy Fixx positioned himself six or seven bodies behind a girl he’d already noticed. She was pretty, with short brown hair, and wore beige chinos with a black tank top that featured her chest.  Leroy couldn’t take his eyes off her. 

Leroy was tall and lean with avocado green eyes and a mane of blonde hair that hung over his ears and fell well below the back of a white T-shirt. The shirt was marked in the front with the words MOREHEAD STATE in large dark capital letters.

The girl was standing with many others who were clutching suitcases, backpacks, and shopping bags while strung out in a random excuse for a line. He saw her take a window seat about halfway down the aisle. He stood at the empty seat next to her and asked in his native Kentucky drawl if the seat were taken. The girl looked up at him, smiled, said no, and Fixx reckoned he was already in Fat City. 

He slid into the seat, positioned the bag on the floor between his legs, and immediately turned to her and held out his right hand.

“I’m Leroy Fixx. That’s with a double x.”

“Charlotte,” she answered, taking his hand. 

Leroy didn’t hesitate to talk and spoke about going to Morehead State, which was 150 miles from Louisville, and how this was his first trip to New York. Charlotte said she was a painter and lived in a house on the water in Southampton.

“You mean on the ocean?” asked Fixx.

“Actually it’s on the bay but it leads into the ocean.”

Fixx could see that talking about the house and the water view made her excited and she kept moving her hands and arms and brushing against his arm in the process. When moments later she touched him again he knew it was no accident. He noticed that she didn’t wear a ring, which was a definite plus sign, and from this close she looked much older, maybe late twenties. Leroy smiled to himself and thought this was very fine indeed.

Later, along some parkway, and after the night encased them in a black shell, Charlotte reached up to press the light button. The movement enabled Leroy to repeat the same limited observation of her chest that he had experienced earlier. He assumed she did it on purpose and that there would be more of the same.

“How come you took this seat? I mean when you first came on the bus,” she asked, and he noticed her fingertips inches away from his biceps, which he had already consciously tightened into a ripple and held that way, despite a growing ache.

“Well,” he said. It sounded like “whale” to Charlotte who interrupted, “When you talk, it sounds like butter melting on hot toast.” This all sounded very New York sexy to Leroy.

“Well,” he continued, “you are the best looking girl on the bus and I just wanted to sit near you.”

Charlotte answered, “Well, I always do the same thing when I’m looking for a seat,” purposely trying to make the well sound like whale.

Leroy smiled but couldn’t think of anything to say so he just jumped ahead to note the absence of a wedding ring.

“That’s true,” Charlotte said, “but I do live with someone. She and I have been together for four years.”

“Well, Jason and I have roomed together for a year now. We get on real well considering he’s from New York and my home’s 30 miles from Morehead. That’s why I’m visiting. Can’t wait to surprise him.”

Charlotte just smiled and turned her attention to the pages of a newspaper called the Village Voice, and barely looked up when he spoke again. At some point after a long quiet drive the bus pulled into the Southampton stop. Charlotte rose and Leroy swung his legs aside to let her reach into the overhead bin to get her bag. 

“How about I call y’all up and we have a drink sometime this week?” said Leroy, pulling a pen from his pocket and retrieving the scrap of paper with Jason’s directions.

Charlotte turned back to him with her bag in one hand. Standing up, he could see she was shorter than he first thought, and her chest hovered inches from his eyes as she formed a circle with her mouth and then turned away. She could have been saying no but he couldn’t be sure. Acting purely on impulse Leroy Fixx snatched up his bag and rushed after her to the door even though he knew this wasn’t his stop.

“Hey, wait up there,” he called, but she had already disappeared into the waiting crowd by the time Fixx exited the front door of the Jitney. The few people still around were walking towards cars or entering taxis. The bus pulled away, heading east for other stops, and in moments Fixx stood alone in the parking lot. As he began walking to the highway the backlight from the terminal stretched the shadow of a bent sand pine into an unnatural grotesque extension across the roadbed. Fixx hesitated for a moment as if confronted by the path of a black cat and then continued.  He reached the highway, dropped his duffel and was about to stretch his arm out for a lift when a black car speeding from the opposite direction braked suddenly and swung around beside him. 

To Be Continued

 


Allan Retzky is the author of “Vanished in the Dunes: A Hamptons Mystery.” He has previously contributed fiction to The Star. He and his wife live in Amagansett.