Hugo kept his distance after that. He didn’t lean, or whisper, or allow his hand to rest anywhere near her, for which Irene was thankful. He ate breakfast, and then fell asleep.
While he dozed, she fretted about the sudden disconnect between them. She had found Hugo’s offer of assistance irresistible. That was why she had spent the night with him—although she couldn’t imagine herself in his bed. She knew his wife was present, but not in this picture. Irene was in it, and yet, she knew she didn't belong.
And then there was Meg’s unqualified insistence that she return to New York. They had not parted amicably. Meg had seized control of her work so ruthlessly, shooing her from the theater as though she were vermin, that Irene finally stopped going. When Hugo appeared in her life, at the suggestion of a friend of a friend of a friend whose name she could not now remember, she called Meg to say she was leaving, that she’d found a backer for an old play she’d written. Secretly, stupidly, she had hoped for some protest, some declaration of need, but got none. All that Meg gave her was a silent spell long enough to make Irene sweat, followed by a cold and indifferent, “See you on opening night.”
Irene closed her eyes, tried to relax.
There would be a limousine at the airport to pick them up, she was sure. That was how Hugo always traveled. And when she told the driver to drop her at The Bridge, Hugo would say, “I wish you’d reconsider, stay on the Island with me.”
She assumed his fingers would wrap around her wrist, press into her flesh, not painfully, but enough to make an impression.
And she would resist pulling away, responding, “I know, but your brother’s house is too far from the theater.”
Hugo would claim she was making a mistake, that she didn’t have to stay in the city just because Meg had booked a room for her. He would remind her that The Bridge was an antiquated mess, unsanitary, unsafe.
She gripped her stomach. The plane was coming down.
Below her were rooflines, peaked and flat, steel and concrete, bathed in grime and drizzle.
Hugo had made her promise to call him after seeing Meg.
Her mother had forced a similar promise from her before she left for Hugo’s, one she hadn’t kept.
Strange that she should think of it now.
Causes Barbara Froman Supports
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Lawyers for the Creative Arts