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Vol. 3, No. 2

The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine
by Melissa Bank


I saw Archie once more. I spotted him near Sheridan Square, waiting for the light to change with a pretty, young woman, pink-cheeked from the cold--a good girl in a camel-hair coat. I couldn't guess her age--I'd lost that ability from being with Archie--but I knew she was even younger than I'd been when we were together. I'd always imagined that he'd wind up with someone closer to his age, just as I would. So it threw me. And for a second, I saw them as the world-weary world did: older man seeks younger woman.
    I wondered if they were married. Watching them, I decided they weren't. They were courting each other. Trying to make each other laugh. He had his arm around her, and she was looking up at him. He was a sly boots, but I could tell how badly she wanted his approval. She reminded me of myself, of course.
    Crossing the street, he saw me. He smiled, I thought, sadly. It seemed like he might walk them past me on the sidewalk, but he stopped, and said, "Hey kiddo," and kissed my cheek.
    "This is my daughter, Elizabeth."
    I acted as though I'd known who she was.
    "Hi," she said. She seemed even younger than her young self, fidgeting with a white mohair glove.
    Archie asked me if I was still temping, and I admitted that I was a semi-perm at an ad agency.
    She was looking from Archie to me, maybe wondering who I was--or had been--to her father.
    I asked how Mickey was. "Tired," Archie said; he'd just delivered his new book.
    "The Mickey I met that time?" Elizabeth asked.
    Archie said, "Right," and told his daughter and me that the new book, about a baker-bookie, was called Dough.
    It occurred to me that I would have been Elizabeth's stepmother. I wanted to ask her about herself, what she did and where she lived, but I could see that Archie wanted to go. She could, too, and was taking her cues from him.
    She must have felt me watching her walk away, though. At the corner, she turned around and flashed me a gloved peace sign.
    I peaced her back. Then they were gone.

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