Are You Alienated: part nine
Her phone was under the wax wrapper of the nacho burrito Cammie had bought herself for lunch. Warmth and grease had transferred through to the screen. She wiped this on her tee shirt. “Delete all calls?” the phone asked. Cammie hit cancel and thought about Minta Castelberry.
What had John said to her? That was all she really wanted to know.
She pictured herself, feeling like she was breaking some rule, even though her nighttime hours were free, and she was allowed to go out. Scared of Russia, Cammie hadn’t done it, the first time.
The tour company was not affiliated with the university, but they did business “through the university” as Dr. Slater explained it. Semi-retired professors, employed as guides and lecturers, lent gravitas to the company’s excursions, and the tours were marketed to faculty and alumni. That was why everyone else Cammie met was old, and she’d made no friends.
“Do you go to clubs?”
He’d approached her at a moment when, as she stood in the Baltic’s lobby, she’d felt she might walk through the entryway and continue walking all night, along the St. Petersburg streets. She would aimlessly invite danger, or adventure, or nothing. In which case, she would crawl back to the hotel in the early hours, and let work dispel her loneliness.
So at this she’d been bold, where normally in answer to such a question, she’d have shrugged and said, “I don’t know.”
She looked John Emmett in the face. And thought, he’s not so bad. “Are you asking me?”
He’d taken her to the Fifty-Five, if she had the name right. His friend was there, Ilya, and the three of them found a little curved booth in a corner. Ilya had large eyes and curly dark hair, and when he spoke, he bowed his head, looking up in an appealing way, wanting to befriend everyone, even Cammie.
“Because,” he told her, “it’s high time.” He and John put their heads together and laughed quietly.
She was a little over the top…she’d gone by then, with the boys, one round too many. But when she said, “I don’t get it,” Cammie had felt confused, not drunk.
“The address proved a fortuitous coincidence,” Emmett said. He said these words with a perfect clarity. He downed the rest of his vodka and lime, and said no more for several minutes, until Ilya, finally absorbing Emmett’s remark, taking it as a great joke, dissolved again into laughter, drawing Cammie into her own fit of giggles.
“Technically speaking,” Emmett said at last, “five-fifty-five is high time, because there is no six-sixty-six. However, you may like to say that twenty-three twenty-three is high time. You will notice that it reduces to fifty-five, which is, of course, one and zero…thus, a fortuitous coincidence.”
And when Cammie had trailed Brenda and Dr. Slater, juggling his coat, losing her grip on his patronizing flowers―some instinct or awareness had warned her to glance up. He’d been there, John, looking at her without looking at her, as though he would not acknowledge knowing her. Because he’d taken up with Minta Castelberry.
“I think,” Minta said, “something you told Quentin gave him the wrong idea.”
“I don’t remember what I said.”
“Well.” She was trying to handle this with tact. “If you make Quentin a serious offer, he may take you up on it.”
Cammie giggled weakly. The impulse Minta suspected her of acting on was human enough…but stalking the home of a rival was not the behavior of a well-socialized adult. And most of what Minta had learned of Cammie tended to confirm it. The girl was a poor starter. She had not yet left home or school.
Cammie’s job, though, had not been Dr. Slater’s offer. That would be impossible—Cammie belonged to the university, Minta didn’t. Dr. Slater and his friend Torbay had an interest, about which Cammie likely had no clue, in monitoring Minta’s activities.
“Cammie, why did you stop by to see me?” She heard, over the phone, inarticulate noises of interior debate. “Listen, is there a place you’d like to meet me for lunch?”
Are You Alienated
(copyright 2015 Stephanie Foster)