By MaryAnne LoVerme

"I'm keeping the money," Georgia said, and she wasn't kidding.

"C' mon, Georgia, be reasonable," Andrew begged, struggling to keep pace with her as she zigged through the midtown crowd.

She glanced at her watch.

"It's mine. I earned it."


"Putting up with you for four and a half months."

"That's not fair." Andrew found himself inside a clothing store. Georgia headed straight for a rack of black pants at the back of the store. Andrew knew two things: she had been here and looked at them before, and she would not try them on until she got home.

"What, are you gonna spend it on pants?"

"Some of it."

"How about you keep part of it. Say half. Keep half. That's very generous of me."

Andrew could not believe he was bargaining; he needed all of the money back.

"I am keeping all of it."

"Come on, Georgia!"

"No." She had pants in her hands and she was heading down the stairs. Andrew followed.

"What do you think of these belts?" she asked, fingering a pale pink leather one.

"I don't like them."

"You're just saying that because you want the money back."

"That. And I don't like pastels."

She picked out a belt in her size and headed back upstairs.

"I don't see how you can truly believe the money belongs to you."

"Possession is nine tenths of the law."

They were at the register.

"What the fuck does that even mean?"

"Watch your language, please," said the cashier, whose tag read "Marla". She rang up the black pants and the pink belt. "Sixty-six twenty-four."

"I thought there wasn't any tax on clothes," Georgia said.

"Belts are accessories."

Georgia handed over four twenties. Andrew was tempted to grab her wallet and run away. The only thing stopping him was his belief that the money was his fair and square and he shouldn't have to act like a criminal to get it back. That and he was fairly certain Georgia did not have all of the money in her wallet.

"Accessory implies that an item is not necessary," Georgia said. "Belts are necessary. My pants would fall down without them."

"So buy smaller pants," Marla suggested.

"I buy them in the smallest size you sell and I still need a belt."

"So eat something. Next customer step down."

Georgia grabbed her bag and smashed her way out the door and onto the street. Andrew followed.

"Now what?"

"I buy a salad and head back to work."

"Is this how you spend your lunch hour every day? Buying clothes you don't need and eating roughage at your desk? Why did I bother to come meet you?"

"Is that a rhetorical question?" Georgia had led them into a sort of passive salad bar. "Hey Rico," she said to the salad maker.

"The usual?" Rico asked.

"Yep." Rico mixed chopped carrots and kidney beans into a bowl of raw spinach.

"Nothing for your boyfriend?" Rico teased.

"He's not my boyfriend," Georgia said.

"Maybe you came to meet me because you were hoping to talk me out of some cash," Georgia said when she and Andrew were back on the street, answering what had in fact not been a rhetorical question.

Andrew dodged humans a few steps behind Georgia, almost tripping over the boot end of a Bergdorf buyer.

"Will you stop for just one second!"

Andrew stopped walking and, though she had her back to him, Georgia came to a halt. Without turning around she said, "I'm keeping the money."

Andrew inched closer to her. Around them, midtown workers whizzed past in a blur.

Georgia jumped when Andrew touched her arm.

"What is the matter with you?"

She turned her body towards him. "The money is mine."

"No, it's not."

"I refuse to argue with you about this any more. I need to get back to work. Just let it go."

Andrew had been sworn to secrecy, but he was getting desperate. "What if I told you it might be dangerous for you to keep the money?"

"Are you threatening me?"

"No. I didn't say it would put you in danger. But if you keep the money it might put someone in danger."

"Why'd you leave the money at my house?"

"I thought it would be safer there."

"Safer how?"

"You live alone and don't have many guests. And you have renters insurance."

"You thought my renters insurance would cover your cash? Didn't you think about what would happen if I found it?"

"I didn't think you'd be looking in the condom box any time soon. Some people take a breath after a relationship before fucking someone new."

"Don't change the subject. Where did the money come from?"

"Can't tell you that. Who'd you fuck?"

"I don't want to tell you that." She turned around again and was off. In seconds she blended into the lunchtime crowd, lost to Andrew.

He turned and walked in the opposite direction. Andrew had taken the afternoon off, hoping to convince Georgia to do the same.

He walked south for a few more blocks and then headed east. The sun was shining. It was the first day all year that could be described as "spring". Andrew wished he'd thought to bring his sunglasses.

When he got near the multiplex at Union Square, he fished the travel alarm that was his watch out of his pocket. Nearly two o'clock. He forgot he'd given up movies for Lent until after he'd already bought a ticket to something that was playing at around 2:15.

He stopped at the pay phone in the lobby and checked his messages. There was only one, from his brother Peter. "Andrew, I'm gonna need that money from you tonight. Thanks for holding onto it for me while I was upstate. Call me when you get this. Oh, and do me a favor - erase this message."

Andrew rode the escalator up to theater six, where he sat in the dark for two hours, eating popcorn soaked in butter and drinking a cherry coke.

~ * ~

Native Shore Fiction

Word Smitten's
TenTen Award
for Fiction
Title: Lent - 2002 Honorable Mention
Short Story


He forgot he'd given up movies for  Lent.  Fiction by MaryAnne LoVerme


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