New York, 1967There aren't a lot of things a girl can say about a man like Danny. We met when I was only nineteen right on the corner of Jackson and 5th. He caught the corner of my eye as I hurried from class that afternoon. And I guess I caught his. As I stood there waiting for the light to change, he made his way over to me. At first, I pretended not to notice. But I caught a whiff of his cologne, Roger Evans for Men, and felt a tingle in my nether regions.“Excuse me, miss,” he said. “But I think you forgot something.”I must say I tried harder than I care to admit to not make a move on him in the middle of the street in front of everyone—as if he was just another one of the men who catcalled and whistled at me any old day. As if he wasn’t one of the most handsome men I’d ever seen. Mother always said you’ve got to make them beg for it. I didn’t want to come across as some desperate sexpot.“Thank you. I hadn't even noticed,” I said.I reached for my silk scarf that had fallen from around my neck in my haste, but he held it away. He held it higher whenever I tried to take it. I pouted. I’d never been a haughty one, but this pout of mine I’d practiced getting it just right since I was thirteen. It worked on most men, but not on a man like Danny.“Dinner and a movie,” he said. “Around six, what do you say?” He cocked his head to the side a little watching me think.If he were any of the other older men who hit on me I would have grabbed my scarf out of his hand and told him off for being so forward with me. But I could tell he was different. It was strange. I’d never felt this way about any man, especially not one who was a stranger. Right then it seemed I’d also lost my voice. I whispered a feeble sure.He wrapped my scarf around my neck. His fingers brushed my skin, and I trembled. These were the same fingers that would take my hand and lead me into what would be some of the most wonderful months of my life.“I guess you’ll need my address, won’t you?” I asked. He laughed. “I guess I do.”“I live just up there.” I pointed up the street. “House 2258. You can’t miss it.”He nodded, and I felt as silly as a goose. As soon as an attractive man came into my presence I forgot my own name.He smiled anyway. “I’ll find you.” His smile never faded. Golly, even the dimples in his cheeks were perfect. “Do you want me to walk you?” he asked.I realized the light had changed. I’d been too busy staring at him to notice. “No, it’s okay,” I said. “I’ll see you.” I started to cross quickly. Against my better judgment, I turned around again as I walked. He waved and warmth flooded my cheeks.When I got home, without even saying hello to Mother, I ran upstairs to my bedroom. I only had a few hours to get ready for our date. I took down my best dress from my closet and held it up in front of me, but it didn't seem special enough for him. Nothing in my closet did.Mother came into my room. “Well, good afternoon to you too, Dolly,” she said.“Sorry,” I said. “I’m a little busy.” I put the dress down on my bed and went over to my closet again. I hadn't been on a real date in months, and everything I owned looked shabby and worn.“What are you looking for?” Mother asked. She sat on my bed and crossed her legs. Long and slender, they were the total opposite of mine which were so short I had to have my dresses hemmed. I wished I could trade my legs for hers for the night.“I’m looking for something to wear,” I said, shifting through the dresses in my closet. I pulled out a white eyelet number and tossed it onto my bed.“What’s wrong with this one?” Mother held up the first dress. It was black velvet with a sweetheart neckline, but the velvet in some areas wasn't as smooth as it had been the first time I took it home from the shop. Mother tossed it to me. I caught it. “He must be something special,” she said. “Let me know how it goes.” She slinked out of the room. Her Chanel perfume was so thick and sweet it lingered even after she left. I’d have to borrow it, just for the night. I didn’t want Danny to think I was just another poor girl who was after men with deep pockets.At 5:45, the doorbell chimed. I pushed on my last heel, grabbed my pocketbook, and practically fell down the stairs trying to get the door. Once I reached it, I readjusted my dress and rubbed my lips together. They were red. After counting to ten in my head, I pulled the door open. I swear I’d never seen a man dress so sharp anywhere other than church on Sunday mornings. I even wondered what his Sunday best would look like. Even better I bet.He didn't come with flowers or chocolates, which was great because I hated that crap. He held out his hand for me, and I took it. His car was parked out front, sleek and dark green it looked like something only men of a certain caliber drove. He got the door for me, and I slipped onto the cool leather seat. We didn't talk on the way to the restaurant. I figured we would do all of the talking when we got there. Besides, it gave me time to come up with things to say.Fifteen minutes later, we were parked in front of the restaurant. It looked so fancy I did feel a bit underdressed. I went in with Danny with my arm wrapped around his. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to have this man on my arm. Even the hostess couldn't take her eyes off him. I moved closer to him to let her know he was with me. He was all mine for the night.“We’re under Grayson,” he said to her.She glanced at her book. “Yes, Mr. Grayson. This way.” She waved for us to follow, swinging her hips a little too much as she walked. I squeezed Danny’s arm tighter, but he was a gentleman and didn't pay this hostess any mind. I was more protective over him than a woman over her new Chanel. The hostess sat us at a table with a window view. “Let me know if you need anything,” she said. She bent over so low I could see her brazier.Some women didn't have any shame. Mother had warned me about women like her. Danny gave her a slight nod. After she left, I felt more comfortable. “Wow, I've never been inside such a fancy place before,” I said. I took in everything, the sights, the smells, and sounds. I could get used to this.“So do you like it?” he asked.“I love it,” I said. The waiter brought over two glasses of water. I took a sip of mine and almost chocked on it. I put my hand over my mouth, so I wouldn't spit up everywhere. “I’m sorry,” I said while I tried to hold back my laughter.He laughed. I loved his laugh. It was so warm and content like he didn’t take himself seriously at all. “What is it?” he asked.I swallowed my laughter. “I’m sorry. I just remembered I never asked for your name.”He shook his head. “Of course. It’s my fault. He stuck out his hand. “I’m Danny.”I took his hand. “I’m Darlene, but everyone calls me Dolly.”“Dolly,” he repeated as we shook. “Nice to meet you, Dolly.”“Nice to meet you, too,” I said. His grip was firm, but not firm enough to make me feel like he was all talk but no play. When it was time to order, he didn't order for me like most men would. Like Mother advised me to, I ordered a salad. Danny had soup. “So what do you do, Danny?” I asked.“I’m a salesman,” he said.Salesman. That meant he made decent money. I leaned forward a little. “What so you sell?”“A little bit of everything?”I smiled, but I didn't question him further.“So, Dolly,” he said, “May I ask to know more about you?”“You don’t even have to ask,” I said.He gave me a bashful grin. “Fair enough? What are you studying?”“Literature,” I said.We traded questions back and forth for what seemed like forever. Even after we’d finished our dinner and had eaten dessert, we never stopped talking. He asked me everything from what was my favorite movie, and if I could vacation anywhere in the world where would it be.“If I told you I was going away to Paris in a few days would you come with me?” he asked.I thought about it. I knew it was strange to run away with a man who I’d only just met, but how could a girl pass up a place like Paris with a man like him. “I’ve never been to Paris,” I said. “But I’d love to go.”“Check please,” he called to our waiter.I guess I’d never know what movie we missed that night because we never made it to the theater. Instead, we went to a nearby park and strolled for as long as our legs allowed us to. After that, Danny took me home. But even after only knowing him for a day I didn't want to leave his side.He was my Danny boy.In the weeks that passed with Danny at my side, I’d lived more than I had in my mere nineteen years. He took me to restaurants I could have only dreamed about, parties I could have never gotten into had it not been for him, and places around the world I never knew even existed. On our first trip to Paris, he bought me an engagement ring. I couldn’t say I was surprised because he’d told me he loved me on our second date. I loved him, too. On my twentieth birthday, we were living in a lavish apartment on the Upper East Side. Danny was away that evening on a sales job, but he promised he’d be home again soon. He said he had a big surprise for me, bigger than the diamond he put on my finger. I stood in front of one of the windows in our sitting room and couldn’t help but admire my engagement ring in the low evening light. It cost more than anything I’d ever owned in my life and was a great conversation piece. For a man, Danny sure had good taste.Another year gone, and I never would have imagined I’d be living the life I’d always wanted with a man I loved more than anything—a man who loved me more than anything. I put a record into our record player, went into the kitchen, and poured myself a glass of red wine. I was a little tipsy as I climbed into the bath later that day, so tipsy I fell asleep and was jolted awake by the sound of the telephone ringing. I thought it was Mother calling to wish me happy birthday. I’d almost thought she’d forgotten. I trampled into the sitting room wearing nothing but the bubbles from my bubble bath. I grabbed the phone and held it up to my ear. “Hello,” I said.There was no answer, and I thought it could have been a prankster. Then I heard Danny on the other end, and the franticness in his voice frightened me. I’d never heard him sound like that before.“Go into the bedroom and throw whatever you can into a bag. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he said.Before I could ask what was going on, he hung up and all I could hear was buzzing. I slammed the phone down and hurried down the hall to our bedroom, almost slipping on the tile. In the short months I’d been with Danny, I’d learned when he asked you to do something you did it. In our bedroom, I grabbed the biggest bag I could find and stuffed it until it was full. I pulled on some clothes and sat on the bed. My hands trembled. Every inch of me trembled. Was he in trouble?There was bang at the door that made me jolt to my feet. “Dolly,” Danny called. I grabbed the bag and went to him. He took my hand. We didn’t even bother to lock our door. “Danny, what’s going on?” I asked as we ran down two flights of stairs and out the front door of the lobby. He pulled open the passenger door of his Ford. “Get in.”I glanced back at our apartment building, knowing that if I went with him I might never come back.“Goddammit, Dolly,” he said. “If you don’t get in, I’ll make you.”Somewhere, behind us, tires screeched. Danny rubbed his brows and held out his hand. “Everything is going to be okay,” he said. “Just come with me. I’ll explain everything on the way.”The tire screeching got louder and there were screams. “Son of a bi—” Danny yelled. “Dolly, please.”He stormed to the driver’s side and yanked the door open. Moments of us together flashed before my eyes. And before he could pull off, I got in next to him. He grabbed my face and kissed me. Forty-five minutes later, we were speeding down a highway. Danny said he knew some friends in New Jersey we could stay with. He didn’t tell me what kind of friends they were, or why we’d be staying with them. But I was a fool in love, and I trusted him. He drove so fast, the engine roared and the wind hit me in the face so hard my eyes watered. Danny took my hand and squeezed it. I couldn’t lie, his behavior scared me, but I was afraid to question him further because the look in his eyes was one of a man I’d never met. This wasn’t the same Danny I’d fallen in love with.Night had already fallen when Danny and I pulled into the driveway of a house. He got of the car, went over to my side, grabbed my bag, and started across the grass to the front door. I followed him.“Would you please tell me what’s going on?” I asked.“Now now, Dolly,” he said.We made it up to the front door, but before Danny could knock it flew open and the person standing on the other side certainly didn’t look too happy to see us. I should have ran as soon as I saw the revolver, but even I knew running wouldn’t change anything because I’d already made the mistake of falling for a man like Danny. And he expected me to stand by his side for better or for worse. Truth be told, I was more afraid of him now than that gun.
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