Nothing to worry about, for now...
"OK, I'm off to the library," Eddie said. "Say hello to Rosalie for me."
"I'll do that," I said. When I heard the door close, I picked up the receiver and started to punch in her number, then stopped and hung up again. I needed to make sure that I knew what I was going to talk about: the guy trailing me home, the near-miss at the corner of Archer and Cicero, Kate's invitation. I hoped that some of this would prompt a more thorough discussion that might just lead to my having a better understanding of what my gorgeous but mysterious girlfriend was all about. I took a deep breath and made the call, and she answered on the third ring.
"Hey, handsome. I was just wondering when I was going to hear from you," she cooed.
"How are you doing?"
"Oh, you know me. Trying my best to stay out of trouble. Everything all right with you? You sound a bit edgy."
"You know, you're about the fifth person that's said that to me in the last five days," I protested.
"Something wrong, honey?"
I told her about my ride home to Evergreen Park, and the mysterious man that was following me, and my interactions with him. "It was like, he was there, then he wasn't. He told me when he was at the store that he was going to a dinner party, then he gets on the subway with me, then he follows me to the L, misses the train, then when I get to 95th, he's on the bus."
"Maybe he took a cab to the bus," she offered.
"Yeah, but why? I mean, if he was going to a dinner party, it wouldn't have taken him that much time to wait for another train. And if he took a cab to the bus, why didn't he just take a cab all the way to his party?"
"Maybe he didn't have enough money to go all the way there."
"It still doesn't make sense."
"Honey, sometimes people do strange things when they're under stress. I mean, maybe he really didn't want to go to this dinner party, and he was taking a taxi just so he could get there earlier so that he could get it out of the way earlier."
I thought about that for a minute. Perhaps she was right. "Yeah, but then, we go out to dinner to some all-night place, and he's sitting there, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Wouldn't he be doing that his dinner party?"
"Maybe they wouldn't let him smoke at the dinner party. You know, a lot of people don't like smoking."
"Rosalie, look. The guy got off the bus at Kedzie. The place we went to was at Pulaski. He walked over a mile to have a cigarette and a cup of coffee, at 9:00 on a Sunday night, when he had to go back downtown to go home?"
She was quiet for a minute.
"You still there?"
"Yes, Tony, I'm here. I'm just thinking...did this guy tell you his name?"
"No, he didn't. He paid cash, too, so I couldn't get his name off of his charge card."
"What did he look like?"
"A little taller than me. Kind of graying hair. No glasses. Dressed really nicely, dark overcoat, brown suit, white shirt, kind of a skinny tie."
"Hm. Doesn't sound like anyone I know. So you spent Sunday night at your mother's?"
"I sure did. That was a load of fun."
She giggled. "Not very fond of your mother?"
"No, it's not that. I love her, it's just that she makes me crazy sometimes. She was picking on me about just about everything. My shoes needed polishing, my suit needed to be pressed, my hair was getting too long, I was edgy, smoking too much..."
"I get the picture. Where's your father?"
"He died a few years ago, right before I started high school."
"I'm sorry, honey."
"Oh, that's OK. I'm over it now, for the most part. Anyway, so Monday morning, I go to cross Cicero at Archer, some clown comes roaring through the intersection and damn near hits me. I tried to get a license plate number, but he got away too fast. I only got a couple of the numbers."
"What were they? Maybe we can find out who it was." I gave her the numbers. "What kind of a car did he drive?" I told her that it was a big sedan, but I didn't know the model or the year, just that it was white. "Maybe I can work with some of my contacts and follow up on this guy. Of course, it might not be related to anything else that happened. He might have just been late for work and not thinking right. Sometimes people drive a little crazy after the weekend, because they're still hung over. But, I'll see what I can find out." Her tone changed. "Honey, I understand that you're upset by all of this, but don't lose any sleep over it."
"It just seems like this kind of stuff happens all the time lately."
"Lately, as in, since you met me?"
"You don't want to give up on me, do you?" She sounded as though the prospect of us not seeing each other really upset her.
"No, of course not!"
"Good. Got big plans for the weekend? I'm working, so I'm afraid we won't see each other this week."
"That's OK. I'm going to a party on Friday night."
"Really? That sounds like fun. Who's giving the party?"
"It's out at a church on the northwest side. This girl I work with invited me."
"Don't tell me, the really pretty Irish girl with the red hair?"
"Yeah! Kate! How did you know?"
"Just a lucky guess. I didn't figure that it was the older woman. You know, that Kate is really gorgeous. I'm surprised that you haven't asked her out."
"I did, actually. She has a boyfriend. You know, she figured out about us."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Sunday, we were leaving work, and she was like, you spent the night with that woman. And I said, how can you tell? And she goes, you wore that suit yesterday, didn't you, and I saw you coming out of the Hancock Building."
Rosalie laughed. "Did she sound upset?"
"Actually, yeah, I think she was."
"Maybe she broke up with her boyfriend and she wanted you to ask her out."
"I don't know. Maybe."
"You should, Tony."
"I should what?"
"Ask her out, you silly kid."
What was she trying to say? "What about you?"
"Oh, I'll be fine. I'm not the jealous type."
"Yeah, but what if she and I end up really liking each other?"
"If you were happy, I'd understand. Tony, you're young, you're handsome, you're a real gentleman, and you're a hell of a catch for anyone. Girls probably line up hoping for you to notice them. You're too young to be involved in anything heavy."
"What about us?" I was feeling this pain in the pit of my stomach.
"Honey, it's like I told you when we started this: it goes where it goes. If there's going to be something heavy between us, I'd rather that you had a chance to play the field for a while, rather than making a commitment to me and finding out that things aren't what you had hoped for. Because, honey, when you decide you're mine, you're mine and no one else's. And that's the way it should be for anyone. I've been through a divorce already, and I'm not going to go through that again. I don't believe in divorce. I think once you make a commitment to someone, that's it."
It made sense to me. I was starting to feel better. "So, it's OK with you?"
"Awww, Tony," she said, the way my mother would. "You don't even have to ask. I want you to go and have a wonderful time. That's what college is for."
"Not according to my mother. She says it's so I can get a job and make lots of money so that I can support her in her old age."
"Well, yeah, there's that, too," she said, and laughed that wonderful, infectious laugh. I started to laugh along with her. "So, you going to vote on Tuesday?"
"Uh huh. I'm going home Monday night so I can vote early Tuesday morning before school." We talked for a few minutes about the candidates and issues, eventually coming to the conclusion that neither of us cared much about politics.
Finally, she said, "OK, hon, I'm going to hit the sack. Give me a call next week, OK?"
"I will. Take care of yourself."
"I will. Good night, sweetheart." She hung up.
"I love you," I said into the dead line. I put the receiver into its cradle and sat there for a long time, analyzing what she had said. Finally I decided not to worry about it anymore, pulled out my Business Law book, and began to read.