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“Seventeen?”
“Yes, what’s up?” Clay said impatiently.
“I have a Miz Latimer calling all the time to get in touch with you,” said Herbie. “Call her back will you, so she’ll stop tying up my lines.”
“I don’t have her number,” Clay said.
“I got it,” Herbie said and gave Marni’s phone number to Clay. Clay clicked the phone and dropped some coins in and called Marni.
“This is Clayton Wing, Marni. What’s up?” Marni was crying bitterly, and choked out her words between sobs.
“I… I… haven’t heard a word… from you,” she sobbed. “What is it, Clay? Why don’t you call me?”
“Why would I call you?” he said, confused by her attitude.
“You fuck me and leave me, eh? Is that it?” Marni shrieked.
“What are you talking about?” Clay said. “You begged me to stay, and you swore it was just for that night, just because you didn’t want to be alone. No obligations, no commitments, just company for two lonely people, remember?”
“I know,” Marni cried, “but I didn’t think I would feel this way.”
“What way?”
“I can’t stop thinking about you,” she said. “I can’t stop thinking about the way you taste, your fragrance, your face, your voice.”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Clay, concerned and annoyed.
“I know it’s ridiculous,” Marni wailed. “I can’t stop it, I can’t sleep or eat or find any kind of peace of mind. I need Clay. I love you.” Clay was hit hard by these words. Marni was an extremely beautiful, sensual woman, but there couldn’t be love between them. Friendship was the best she could hope for, and even that would be unlikely.
“Look Marni,” Clayton said soothingly, “I have a rehearsal tonight. I have to get ready for my show.”
“Come to my place after, please,” she pleaded. Clayton agreed and hung up, exasperated.
It was almost midnight when Clay arrived at Marni’s door. She was stunning, with impeccable makeup and a transparent nightgown that exhibited her breathtaking figure to perfection. Clay sat down with Marni, to explain to her the importance of developing relationships gradually. She would have to understand that different people have different priorities. Marni swore she understood it all, and begged Clay to stay the night. He looked at her, statuesque and splendid, and agreed to stay as long as she acknowledged that it was not a commitment, which she did. They enjoyed a night of passion and deep sleep until morning when each was forced to hurriedly prepare for the day’s work.
It was becoming a habit. Clay checked his cab out, and as he emerged from the garage to start his morning shift, Herbie’s voice on the radio asked him to pick up the fare at Whitehall Road. He pulled up in front of the mansion as usual, but that’s all that was ‘as usual’.
Alicia Radley sat at the curb in her wheelchair. The usual Scottish plaid and conservative blazer were replaced with a bright, floral summer dress. Over all, the colour was a sunny pastel yellow that was softened by pale green leaves and ferns. Clayton barely recognised her. Her face, that was always attractive with its creamy complexion and refined features, was radiant and animated. Her blue eyes sparkled, free of the glasses that she had always previously worn.

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