It was past one in the morning by the time Meggie actually left the diner. Red was still there as business had picked up a little after midnight with a few of the other Westside Dukes wandering in to order food, but he could manage well enough on his own so told Meggie to get off home.
As requested, Double J was accompanying her. The rain had long since moved away and the moon was now clearly visible in the cloudless sky; its light playing off the windows and fire escapes of the towering tenement blocks. Wet laundry that had been caught in the shower had been left out to dry in the warm summer’s night and hung in the cat’s cradle of lines that criss-crossed between the darkened buildings, the clothes hanging from them limp and lifeless in the still air.
They walked in easy silence along the cobbled streets, passed the mesh enclosed basketball courts, the small family run stores and dilapidated tenements that made up the majority of Dukes turf; the small patch of real estate that represented all that they had. There was nothing else. At least not for most.
But for Jay and Meggie there was the chance of something new, no matter how ill-advised or mis-matched they may have been. Something was building and they both sensed it.
Meggie was tired tonight; weary from her shift and not particularly talkative but she was content to be there with Jay beside her and did not resist when he took her hand softly in his. It was the first moment of intimacy they had shared and the significance of it was not lost on either of them.
Eventually they came to a halt outside Pat Flanagan’s butcher’s shop which was on the ground floor of Meggie’s building. She lived six floors above in a modest little apartment that was reached by a narrow and unforgiving flight of stairs.
“Want me to come up?” Jay asked as he stood facing her, smiling wickedly and already knowing the answer to his question.
Meggie looked up into his kind brown eyes, genuinely tempted for maybe the first time and smiled back. “No. I don’t want you to come up. Nate and Danny will be asleep.”
“Hey, that’s okay. I won’t wake them up if you won’t,” he grinned.
“Sure you won’t, you great clumsy lummox. Any excuse to play with those kids and you’ll use it.”
“It’s not the kids I was hoping to play with,” said Jay, looking down at her meaningfully.
“Hmm,” she replied softly, “I sort of guessed that. You do know that I’m eight years older than you don’t you? Practically an old maid.”
“So you’ve told me. Many times – and you’re nothing of the kind. Besides, I don’t care. I think maybe I—.” Suddenly he choked on his words and looked slightly embarrassed.
Meggie stared at him sharply. “What? What is it that you think?”
Jay was suddenly lost in her face, drinking her in as her innocent blue eyes searched his features for a meaning. “I think I love you,” he said at last.
“You do?” She said huskily.
“I do,” he replied, bending towards her upturned face which was now just inches from his.
“Oh my,” she said a second before his lips touched hers.
They kissed tenderly for a moment, each tentatively relishing what they had secretly imagined for many weeks. Then, his arms were around her waist pulling her close and her hands were at the back of his neck guiding him, keeping him where she wanted him as the passion ignited and their kissing became more urgent.
As his probing tongue wriggled into her eager mouth thoughts both delicious and sinful flooded her brain. She knew that what had started in that moment could only end in trouble down the line yet still she submitted herself willingly.
She would worry about the possible repercussions some other time.
Continues tomorrow or download the complete novel here