We made our way back to street level and started back down Bow Street toward the town center, in search of dinner. I was light-headed and a little exhausted; I would have been happy to lie down in bed. Maybe do it again. But we were in Portsmouth Center, hungry, and the dining halls were closed on campus.
We were standing at the corner of Bow and Market Streets when an expensive car drove past and pulled up to park near to where we were standing. An older, familiar-looking man in a tweed sport jacket got out of the car and crossed behind it to open the passenger side door.
We watched as a beautiful redhead emerged, long legs preceding her, dressed in a revealing dress. Marc stared, his jaw hanging open. I followed his gaze back to the woman.
Venus. It was Venus on the arm of an older, distinguished-looking man. They crossed the sidewalk and entered at an expensive address overlooking the waterfront. We both stood there aghast for a few moments.
“Who was that she was with?” Marc whispered, intrigued.
“I don’t know. But he looked familiar,” I said. “Someone from the university?” I wondered aloud. He had the sophisticated, casual air of a professor.
Amazing. She was full of surprises.
“Well, whoever he is he’s got money,” Marc said, looking appreciatively at the car they’d gotten out of. A convertible Mercedes.
“Well, well, well,” I said. Inside of a week she had made her way from a fraternity house basement to a waterfront flat in a Mercedes. “She gets around, doesn’t she?”
That night I dreamt of Eva.
In the dream, Eva is sitting beside me in my dorm room, lightly rubbing my arm. I wake. She seems calm and content; there is no trace of frustration or sadness in her countenance. She smiles and says, “Hi.” Her hair is loose around her shoulders, her voice is easy and relaxed. My heart aches.
“Eva, are you going to stay with me now?” I ask, sitting up in my dream to look at her.
“I’m always with you, but I have to go back,” she replies.
“But that doesn’t make sense,” I say, upset.
“You have your own work to do,” she says. “Your life. But first you have to help me with something,” she says, smiling a knowing smile and patting my arm.
“What work?” I ask, perplexed. “Help you with what?”
She continues to pat my arm lovingly. “You’ll see, Row.” It feels good to hear the little abbreviation she would use sometimes when she was talking to me. “You’re going to tell everyone something very important for me,” she says, getting up. “Come. I have something to show you.”
Rising, she moves toward the window. She reaches it and turns, her hand out to me. I take it. Together, we pass through the window and into the night. We’re standing on the lawn outside of Randall Hall.
All is quiet. Durham is sleeping. Streetlights shine on empty streets. I look up. There are a million stars in the sky.
In a moment, we are among them, up in the air, flying over the middle of campus with its walkways, trees, and brick buildings. We fly out over Main Street. I can see the pizzeria I had lunch in with Celeste, the sidewalk lit for no one. We are flying over streets we would have driven. It’s fantastic, cool, and fast.
In a flash we’re standing in front of her house in Chester. Eva turns to me and smiles, gesturing for me to look around.
I take the invitation. The lawn is freshly mowed. The gardens are kept; they’ve been weeded, trimmed, and mulched. The trees all around us rustle in the night air.
I approach the house, stopping at the front door. I turn. Eva seems to be gone. I can’t see her. But I can hear crying inside the house. I knock softly, but no one answers. I let myself in, concerned that something serious is wrong.
I walk past the living room on the right, the sofas there are empty, the pillows all neatly lined up against the arms. Moonlight shines through the windows, illuminating the tidy room. A ray of silvery light falls across a clean wooden coffee table. I hear a clock ticking quietly. And some more muffled crying. It sounds like it is coming from upstairs. I continue down the hall and turn left to go up. They are carpeted, and my ascent is soundless.
“Come over here, Nurse Eva,” this is a man’s voice, and it’s coming from the room at the end of the hall. “Come over here, sweetie. I need something special from you tonight. Come on,” he’s coaxing. “Get down on your knees for me.”
“What if I don’t want to?” It’s Eva’s voice.
“I didn’t ask if you want to. I’m telling you. Or we’ll have to involve your sisters tonight. Do you want that?” He sounds almost sorry as he makes his threat.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?” She is sobbing.
There is a long pause. And the sound of a zipper.
“I’ll tell Mom when she gets home tonight,” she says feebly.
“Oh, sweetie, you are an idiot. Don’t you think your mother knows?” He laughs softly. “This is a family tradition that started long before you came along. Even before your mother, your sisters . . . we all do as we’re told. Come on, sweetheart. Show me you love me. Now. Before I give you a real reason to cry.”
I approach the door silently and take the brass knob in my hand. The hall around me is dark. I pause, my stomach tightening into horrible knots that nearly bend me over. I start to cry.
“Uhhh … nice,” I hear the man’s voice saying. “That’s good … Mmm …Just like that.”
I don’t want to open the door, but I have to.
I have to see.
I turn the knob, and open the door just a few inches. Far enough to see Eva kneeling in front of her father. Far enough to see his pants at his feet.
Far enough to choke, to scream, to wake.