Miranda's phone call was just the beginning of my Saturday evening adventure. I couldn't understand why Matt was quizzing my younger cousin about my alibi, when he could easily call my cell phone and ask me ... "Did you tell Matt we have an aunt in San Francisco?" Miranda was asking.
I held the phone away, to see if I had any unplayed voicemail -- from Matt perhaps? None.
"He wanted to send you flowers," she explained. "So he asked for our aunt's address in San Francisco. I said we don't have an aunt in San Francisco, so he asked where you were. I said I had no idea. Well, I don't think he wants to send you flowers now," she added lamely.
"Just tell him to call my cell phone," I said abruptly. "I'll explain later." Relatives! They can really fuck things up! And to think that Miranda, my own cousin, introduced him to me.
The meeting in Room 603 was temporarily diverted by my dilemma. "Doesn't want to send you flowers?" Jasmine snorted. "We'll fix it so he sends you flowers every day for the next millennium!"
"You need to acknowledge the person you really are," Roxana gently interrupted. "The closeting of our sex work leads to anger, betrayal, self-hatred. We can change the world one relationship at a time by educating our loved ones about who sex workers really are. Every prostitute is somebody's daughter, somebody's potential life partner -- "
"Please!" Jasmine covered her ears. "Nancy's invested an entire year -- well, almost a year -- of her off-time in a guy who's a serious catch. He's in love with her. And you're telling her to trash that? I've met him," she added. "He's definitely worth lying to." Her vehemence surprised me.
Anabel -- recalling the days when I knew her as Jeannie (or Mary) -- beamed at me like a mother. "You're dating a normal guy? I'm so proud of you, Nancy! I always wondered what became of you after I left New York. I was sure you would end up supporting a musician -- or worse -- because you were always falling in love with the coke dates!"
I cringed as all present -- except for the chivalrous Hugh Loebner -- turned to stare at me. Oblivious to my deepening embarrassment, Anabel continued to expand on her theme. "Don't get me wrong! Your clothes were very chic. And you had such nice manners! But your taste in men -- I'm so glad it's improved, honey."
For God's sake, I came out here to save Anabel's reputation, not to have mine paraded before a roomful of friends and acquaintances. And where does Anabel get off talking about taste?
"Can we keep this meeting focused on the present?" I said in a frosty voice.
"Let's talk about the present and the future," Hugh said soothingly. "And put our differences aside. There is so much we all agree upon -- "
"There is?" Jasmine asked.
"I'm delighted that Anabel and Nancy have found each other," Hugh added, with a politic nod to the more subdued Anabel.
I'm humiliated! I wanted to snarl, but didn't.
"Now that Nancy can attest to Anabel's reputation, April's terrible rumors can be laid to rest," Roxana said. "But I think we all need to agree on Nancy's story."
"Why does Nancy need a story?" Anabel demanded. "I never ripped off April -- or Nancy -- or any of my girls! This is supposed to be a hooker's conference! Why do we have to tell each other stories? I just want Nancy to tell everyone the truth about me!"
"Jeannie," I said, using one of her former names. "If I tell everyone that I worked for you when I was 16 it won't help you. April will use it against you."
Actually, I'm not dying to reveal my early career as a Yellow Pages escort to the rest of the conference! I'd rather not tell Molly or Cozy Von Booty or Lucia that I once worked for Anabel -- even if it makes them like me more. Hell, I'd rather risk being disliked than have my tawdry past dredged up like this.
This time, when my cell phone rang, I stared at the incoming number. Matt was calling from his cell phone. Like a French aristocrat hoping to escape the guillotine, I let him go into voicemail ... .
When the meeting came to a close, Barry announced, to my surprise: "OK, my client has an appointment with me in 10 minutes." Jasmine gave me a discreet shove and the next thing I knew I was standing in the elevator alone with Barry. In the room, Jasmine was arguing with Roxy and Allison while Hugh attempted to calm things down. Anabel was ordering something disgusting-sounding from Pizza Hut.
"Why don't I buy you a drink?" Barry said. "You look like you need one."
A few of the green-and-pink-haired peep show dancers were huddled in a corner of the lobby bar, notebooks in hand. They waved at us as we sat down. "You seem to have allies," Barry pointed out. "Though you're a reluctant activist. Wave back for God's sake."
"That tacky idiot!" I hissed into my glass of white wine. "I'm probably the only girl that ever worked for Anabel who didn't steal her clients and this is how she repays me: With these ... these dreadful comments! The worst part is, she doesn't even know what she's saying!"
"Diplomatic she's not," Barry agreed soberly. "Her vulgarity is matched by her innocence. I'm amazed it took her this long to get arrested. So what are we going to do about your boyfriend?"
"What's he got to do with you? I mean with you representing me?" I asked, miserably.
"Speaking not as your lawyer, but as a guy, he seems to be a personal priority -- unless you want to spend the next three days dodging his calls."
"How did you know that was him?" I asked.
"The look in your eyes -- that wince. We've all been there. It's the kind of thing that happens to guys all the time! Now here's what a guy would do in your situation -- "
"Jesus!" I whispered suddenly, turning my back to the dancers. "I just saw someone I know!"
"Sitting down with the pierced pixies?"
"I -- don't know! I think it's him!"
"Your boyfriend? Stay calm -- he's not even looking at us."
"What does he look like?" I asked. "I only got a glimpse."
"He's almost bald -- one of those close-shaven types -- and he's about, oh, 20-ish? He's wearing black jeans ... That's the guy you've been dodging?"
"No," I moaned. "I think it's my other -- there's this guy ..." Barry's eyes were alert with amused curiosity. "A friend," I corrected myself firmly. "From the health club in my neighborhood. He used to be Allison's trainer. He doesn't know anything about me, I can't let him find out -- but why is he talking to those dancers?" I asked.
"If you want to leave, now's the time. I'll distract him if he tries to follow and I'll call you on the cell phone," Barry offered.
I stood up slowly, heart pounding, and headed for the elevator. When I got to my room, I paced back and forth in a furious, blushing panic, ignoring my ringing cell phone, muttering to myself. After awhile, still thoroughly freaked, I raced out to the elevator and headed for Room 603, to look for Allison. Would she care, at this point, if Randy knew she was here? Maybe not -- now that she's such an activist! I tapped on the door lightly, and Roxana ushered me in. "Are you OK?" she said.
"Yes -- no, sort of," I answered. "I need to warn Allison -- "
But as I entered I discovered that Allison and Hugh were gone. Standing near the bed, undoing a large computer backpack, was Randy. He turned to look at me with a smile of astonishment and adoration.
"What are you doing here?" I gasped.
Despite everything -- the fear, the shock, my bewilderment -- the look in his eyes made me remember: The last time we kissed in a public place, how I brushed my lips against his cheek to disguise our conversation and how, when Tom Winters was pursuing me at the health club, I wanted to fall into Randy's arms. I remembered the way he seemed to be ordering me around when we were talking that first afternoon at Starbucks. How he made me forget where I was ... Then, as Roxy and Jasmine shifted quietly, I realized that we had been staring into each other's eyes for one of those mini-eternities that gives everything away.
"Randy? Nancy? Do you two know each other?" Anabel said, breaking the silence.
Randy came to his senses, put his arm around my waist rather tentatively -- we never did get used to public displays of affection -- and said, "Nancy, I'd like you to meet my birth mother."