The dog and mailboxes looked the same, keeping company with the woman sitting on the top step of the porch.
“You’re here,” Farah said, as if surprised to find Quentin before her. A quick breath was necessary before she remembered to smile, and she remembered to aim the smile at his face. “Hello husband,” she said. And then she looked at her wrist, asking the watch, “Are we going to be late?”
“Not at all.”
“I’m almost ready.”
She had told him to meet her here, at her old apartment. “For convenience sake.” Standing slowly, carefully, uneven strides carried her indoors. A single key was brought out from a pocket, and without a knock or word, she entered the dark little room.
“I thought you didn’t live here,” he said.
“But it belongs to me, and I have privileges.” She laughed. “And I store a few belongings here. Extra makeup, for instance.”
“Are you sure you’re ready?”
Another breath and a long moment were invested in careful consideration of those words. Then she laughed, nothing funnier. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“This is an important event,” he reminded both of them.
“No, the Kurosh is fun,” Farah countered, picking up a lockless purse and a light jacket, folding the jacket carefully over her arm. She was wearing a silver shirt that looked new, tight-fitting white slacks and fancy leather boots with Aztec eagles embossed on the toes. Each hand enjoyed several jeweled rings, none familiar. Her black hair was bright and clean and combed hard, twin little braids running across one shoulder. She looked pretty. Yet in the same moment, Quentin didn’t know this person. Makeup had been applied with determination but no great precision. Her eyes were red and a little swollen, and the black eyeliner didn’t hide the damage. The woman seemed to have trouble holding her eyes open.
“Will it be cold tonight?”
“A little,” he ventured.
“Do I need a heavier coat?”
“It wouldn’t hurt.”
But she looked at the jacket on her arm, deciding to stay true to her initial decision. “You have a heater in your car.”
“I am ready then.”
She locked the doorknob before they left and then stopped in the hallway to search the purse, pulling out a huge ring of keys. But none were right. Where was the proper key? Then she remember the one in her pocket, and that was funny.
Quentin watched her fumble with brass and the lock.
“Are you all right?”
The question surprised her. She looked at him, smiling by reflex. “I am very well, thank you.” Then the door’s bolt was turned successfully, and she wasted more minutes trying to slip the lone key onto the crowded ring.
“You have a lot of those,” he mentioned.
She said, “Yes.” The tone was flat and a little slow.
“How much have you been drinking?”
Farah returned the single ring to the purse and sealed it with tiny snaps and then put the strap around her left arm, up tight where the purse would ride against her ribs. Throwing a smile his way, she said, “Ready.”
“A lot of keys,” he repeated.
“I should put some away,” she admitted. Then she paused, making certain of her footing before attempting the first porch step. “I don’t need so many. But carrying the keys to my old home...it is a silly comfort, I suppose…yes…”
Their progress was slow and careful. When they reached the curb, Quentin asked, “How much have you drunk today?”
“Two glasses,” she speculated. But after reflection, she decided to say, “Three, and a few sips.”
He stared at the waxy, overly made-up face.
“On an empty stomach,” she added.
“Saving your appetite for the Feast.”
“Yes.” That answer deserved enthusiasm. “Exactly. My appetite is saved.”