When I stepped off the elevator on the 67th floor, Rosalie was waiting for me, dressed in a sweatsuit. "Hey, Tony, come on in. I'm glad you could make it. Come on, I'll show you my place."
I followed her into her apartment, more than a little confused. Well, maybe a little disappointed. She was obviously not dressed for a date, much less seducing a nineteen year old kid. Maybe she was dressed this way so that I wouldn't be too intimidated by her, to help me to relax. Or maybe we were going to take it slowly. That would be fine with me.
I closed the door behind myself and followed her into the only room besides the bathroom. A small efficiency kitchen was to the left of the door, the bathroom was on the right. A Chinese screen blocked off one corner of the room near the huge window that dominated the apartment. I assumed that this was where her bed and dresser were, since I didn't see that there were any more doors in the place. A leather loveseat was positioned beside the screen, facing out of the window, with an end table at either end. Along the left wall was a steel desk with a bookcase beside it; along the opposite wall, a dining room table with six chairs around it and an entertainment center that held a small television and an elaborate stereo system setup, with large speakers standing either side of the cabinet. The radio was tuned to the local "light rock" station; not my particular taste, but then, I could learn to like it.
"So, there's the bathroom, there's the kitchen, and everything else is in here," she said, smiling. "So, take off your jacket and tie, and get comfortable. I have the wine you sold me, but if I remember correctly, you're more of a beer man. I have Heineken, if that's all right."
This woman had a lot of class. Heineken was generally way out of my price range. "Beer sounds good." I took off my jacket and hung it over the back of one of the dining room chairs, then took off my tie and stuffed it in my jacket's breast pocket, and unbuttoned my top button. Rosalie came back with the beer and a glass of wine, handed me the beer, set her glass down on the table, and unbuttoned a second button.
"There, now you look more like you did last night," she said. "Come on, I want to show you something." I followed her over to the window. "Ever seen Chicago like this?"
"Wow. Never like this." She had a magnificent view of the North Side from her apartment. I looked for Mertz Hall on the Loyola campus, my home while I was at school, and it seemed so tiny beneath me. Several inches above it, from my perspective, I could see Farwell Pier, where I had gone fishing as a kid and where I had drunk beer with my friends in high school, and just above that, the campus of Northwestern University.
"On a clear day, you can see almost up to Milwaukee," she said. "Come on, sit down. You've probably been on your feet all day, poor thing." She pointed to the loveseat, and I sat down, moving over so that she would have room to sit. I was surprised when she sat on the floor in front of me instead. "So, tell me, Tony, what do you do besides work at the Wine Shop at Field's on the weekends? You a student?"
"Yes, in fact, I go to school across the street at Loyola." Loyola's Lewis Towers campus was just across the street from the Hancock Building, on the other side of the Water Tower, the only building left standing after the Chicago Fire.
"You're what, a sophomore?"
"Junior. How'd you know?"
She pointed at the back of my hand. The "9" written in red marker pen from one of the bars that I had been to the night before, indicating that I was not yet old enough to drink hard liquor, was still faintly visible. "You're a marked man, Tony."
"Oh, yeah," I said, nervously. "I guess so." I felt a little nervous and out of place now. It didn't help that suddenly the building started swaying. "Whoa, what's that?"
"You get used to it after a while," she said. "The first couple of nights that I lived here, I couldn't sleep for all of the bending and creaking of the building, but then I learned that's just what it's supposed to do. One of my friends from Northwestern, who's a civil engineer, told me that."
"Is that where you went to school?"
"Oh, heavens, no. I went to Oakton up in Skokie for a couple of years, and I'm still finishing up at De Paul at night. At the rate I'm going, it'll be another three years before I have my degree."
She leaned back against the couch and started talking about how she'd grown up on the North Shore, the wealthy suburbs along Lake Michigan, and had been a National Merit Scholar and graduated in the top ten percent of her class. She talked about how her parents were adamant about her going to Northwestern, and how she had fought them on their decision, because it wasn't where she had wanted to go; she had wanted to make her own decision on her education beyond high school, and didn't appreciate their interference. I was starting to slide my hand behind her, hoping perhaps to lay it on her shoulders, when suddenly she stood up. "I don't know about you, but I could use another drink, and I'm starved. Want to order a pizza?"
Half an hour later, we were seated at her dining room table with a large sausage and pepperoni pizza and a couple of bottles of beer.
"So, Tony, what's your story?" she asked. "What're you studying?"
"Oh, the usual stuff for a junior. Accounting, Finance, Business Law..."
"You're a business major! So am I! So, what's your concentration?"
"I haven't really decided yet, but I'm leaning toward Operations Management."
"Oh, that's interesting. Don't get too many of those. I'm thinking of majoring in Finance, and minoring in Marketing. Maybe I'll run a mutual fund." She looked at me and smiled. "Tell me something, do you know Professor Campbell? Teaches economics?"
I had a mouthful of beer and nearly choked to prevent it from going up my nose. Dr. Jeffrey Campbell had taught my macroeconomics class, and I had nearly flunked it. The nicest thing I'd ever heard anyone say about him was that he was a total jerk. "Uh, yeah. I had him in one of my classes."
"Judging from your reaction, I'd say that it wasn't a very positive experience," she said.
"That's putting it mildly. How do you know him?"
"He's my uncle."
Well, that's just great, Tony, I thought. Guess that ends this relationship on a sour note. I noticed that Rosalie was doing everything she could to keep from laughing. "You're pulling my leg, aren't you?"
She nodded, and burst out laughing. It was contagious, and soon I was laughing along with her. "Yes, I'm pulling your leg, honey. He used to teach at De Paul. I had him for micro. The most arrogant prick I've ever known. Hey, there's another guy who went to Loyola from De Paul who was a prof of mine, Dan Wilcox. Do you know him?"
"I have him now for Statistics. Nice guy."
"You're not just saying that because you're afraid I'm going to tell you he's my brother or something, are you?" She winked and smiled.
"No, no, really, he seems like a great guy."
"That was my impression, too. I enjoyed his class a lot." She yawned and glanced at the clock. "Hey, listen, I've really had a good time tonight, and I hate to break it up, but I've got to get some sleep, because I've got a big day ahead of me tomorrow. And you've got to get some rest too, considering the night you had last night and the day you've had today."
"Yeah, I guess." I tried to sound cool about it, but I was really disappointed. I could see that she could tell that I was.
"Listen, Tony," she said, taking my hand in hers. "I've really had a good time here, and you know, I'd like to see you again. I know that you probably didn't know what to expect tonight, and, actually, neither did I. It's a big world out there, and sometimes it's easy to get lost in it, and sometimes it's nice to reach out to someone and have that person reach back. Know what I'm saying?" I nodded. "Good. Are you comfortable with this?"
"Comfortable with what?"
"This. You and me. You know, having dinner together, having a couple of drinks, you know...this."
"Well, yeah," I said, not knowing what she was driving at. "Why?"
"Doesn't feel funny to you?"
"No, I'm fine with it," I said. "I guess...I don't know, I guess it's just kind of..." My voice trailed off.
"Kind of different? That what you're trying to say?"
"Sort of. I guess I'm not sure where this is going..."
"It's going where it's going. Look, honey, it was kind of a leap of faith for me to do what I did today. I had no idea that I'd see you today when I was at Field's. Inviting you here was a big step. You took a big step, too, coming here, not knowing what to expect, probably against your better judgment. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that you considered not coming here this evening. But you did, and that's what's important. From here, it goes where it goes." She stood up and extended her hand down to me. I understood what she was saying. I got up, took my jacket off of the back of the chair, and slipped it on.
She walked me to the door, opened it, and kissed me on the cheek. "Give me a call Wednesday. I'm tied up the next couple of nights. You have my number, right?" I nodded. "Great. I'll talk to you Wednesday night." She kissed me again, swatted me on the butt, and closed the door behind me.
It was just after nine o'clock. I considered stopping at Pippin's for a drink, but realized that Rosalie was right, I should go home and go to bed, especially since I was now going to be pulling an all-nighter the next night to get my paper written.
And, yes, there's more to come...