"Prince Charming!" Petra sprang to life and sat up quickly on Allen's lap, her silky hair a tousled rat's nest on one side of her head. Allen grimaced. She held her arms out to Stephon. "Save me, Prince Charming!"
Stephon was not impressed. He pushed his chair out and flopped back the flap of his messenger bag, hunting inside for his wallet.
"Listen, Stephon, thanks for inviting me along. Your friends are great. We should do this again." Allen watched Stephon toss a handful of bills onto the sticky pub table. "I guess I'd better try to see her home. Looks like she's on her own."
They parted ways at the sidewalk. Allen threw Petra's arm across his shoulders as she giggled dramatic goodbyes to Stephon and hauled her limp frame toward Pimm Street where her apartment was. She gazed up at him and cried, "Theeere you are, Prince Charming."
"No no, he's gone to sleep," Allen replied quietly. "It's just us now, P. Got to get you home."
It was past 2 a.m. and Allen was dragging. Petra's singing was too loud for the sleeping city, but the apartment was less than ten blocks away, so they walked. Every couple of blocks, she'd kick out of one of her sensible heels, and Allen would stop, balance her precariously, reach for the shoe and get her to hold her stockinged foot still while he replaced it. This was absolutely hilarious to Petra, who made up a fun little chant about how Allen hated her shoes in the kitchen. Which he had indeed hated, he recalled, when they had shared her tiny apartment years ago. But now he hated this more.
"Let's have your keys," he said. He was cranky by the time they arrived and his mood echoed in his tone. She laughed and buried her face in his shoulder, but didn't produce any keys. He took her pocketbook from her and fished them out. They didn't fit.
"Petra, which key is it?"
She was no help.
"Petra, please help me open the door."
Slowly, she looked up at the building for the first time, then broke out in a new fit of giggles.
At last, it hit him. It had been two years.
"Okay, Petra. Where do you live?"
"Left at the donut shop, left again at the dead end, last house on the right before the park," she slurred.
"Jesus Christ. The donut shop? Where is the donut shop, Petra? I need street names."
"You can't miss iss with the big white donut! Sprinkles!"
Palmer's. Damn it, he thought as he mapped it out in his head. Across town. In the other direction.
Allen pried a reluctant, but still giddy, Petra from the back seat of the cab in front of her stately. She hung languidly from his right shoulder, swinging her head around and singing a song about frogs, as he dragged her up the drive to the front door. Clumsily, Allen fished her keys from her purse once again, his arms wrapped around her awkwardly as he searched and tried to hold her up at the same time. On snapped the porch light. Allen looked up.
The door shot open and man stood glaring at him. A large man. A meat barrel of a man, if Allen was honest with himself. He towered nearly half a foot over Allen and appeared to be made out of nothing but muscle and hair gel, even in the middle of the night. His embroidered terry bathrobe gleamed white. So did the teeth he bared at Allen as he spat, "Well!"
"Pardon me. Allen DuPoin," he said automatically. "Er, nobody actually. Just helping Petra home. She seems to have had a bit too much of... something."
"SAVE me! Save me from the horrible tower of doom!" Petra's slurs dissolved into yet another fit of giggles as she clung to Allen's shoulder. "Morgan, it's Allen! Yooou know Allen."
"I don't," boomed Morgan.
"No need for introductions," Allen replied hastily. "I'll just be getting home." He passed Petra's limp, uncooperative body to Morgan.
"Ever after, ever after, ever ever ever," she babbled, waving to Allen. The door shut and Allen's heart at last resumed beating. He turned and headed back toward the taxi.
Halfway down the drive, Allen heard the door open again.
"You cunning son of a b—h!" The ground shook with Morgan's booming voice. "Get back here!"
Allen turned, his eyes wide with terror and astonishment, as Morgan sprinted toward him. He never saw the fist that connected with his right cheekbone.
"You were left alone and you will always be alone and it is time for you to leave us alone as well, Allen," Morgan hissed, drawing Allen in and putting his face close to his. Allen struggled feebly to make sense of it. "You can keep your filthy hands to your filthy self from now on, friend. Whatever you gave her, it'll wear off tomorrow and she won't remember what you told her about me."
Allen's mind jolted. "About you?" he sputtered. "I have no idea who you are!"
Another stealthy, heavy fist, this time into his solar plexus. Allen crumpled to the ground but Morgan caught him and drew him to his feet again. Somehow, his eyes were both narrowed and nearly popping out of his head, and Allen could smell Listerine and beer on his breath when he spoke. "Bulls—t. I know who you are, you goddamn fool. I know what you saw. But she is never going to know. You think she's gonna call you tomorrow? Remember what you said and call to hear some more? Get over it, you pathetic piece of garbage. She never loved you and you will never have her."
"I don't want—"
Four, five, six blows to Allen's ribcage. His vision began to blur and his mind detached from the situation. Where is that cab driver? he thought lazily. Seems like he could be a little more help.
"I know what you think. You think you really pulled it off tonight. And then you bring her back to me with a neat little bow like you're hot s—t. Like tomorrow she'll wake up and remember and pack her bags." Morgan laughed maniacally and spat on the ground, then again on Allen. "You think she was with you tonight? She was with Prince Charming. She thinks she's in a fairy tale. I don't know what you gave her but you overdid it, friend. And you think you mean something to her. You are nothing. Nothing, Allen!"
Morgan struck him once more in the face, then dropped him on the ground and kicked his ribs halfheartedly. "Get the hell off my lawn, dirtbag," he muttered as he stalked back up to his house and closed the door. The street was still.
When a safe amount of time had passed, the cab driver tentatively exited the cab and stood looking over the car at Allen's limp body laying in the driveway. "You want me to call somebody?" he said, just loud enough for Allen to hear.
Allen was motionless for a moment, then dragged himself up to his knees coughing, and at length, to his feet. The cabbie stood watching uncertainly. Allen limped toward the car, his face puffy and bleeding, and fumbled with the door handle. "Mercy General," he mumbled, holding his stomach. He fell across the back seat and promptly passed out.