Of course I didn't call him.
For the next few weeks I settled back into my usual routine of making drug deliveries and turning tricks, earning enough to keep the bills paid, plus a little left over for a new-to-me pair of shoes from the thrift store. Thinking I might raise some steady money, I applied for a waitress job at one of the chowder shops but never got a call back. I began feeding a stray cat in the hope that it might intimidate some of the rats that hung around the back stoop of our apartment building where the garbage was collected for weekly pickup. And in an attempt to brighten my dismal flat, I bought a nasturtium, guaranteed to grow, and put it on my living room windowsill.
Most importantly, though, I tried to reconcile with Father Cash.
It wasn't an easy decision. If life had taught me anything, it was to avoid lopsided relationships and not let anyone think I might need them more than they needed me. But Father Cash had been kind and probably would have been no less generous with food and quilts if I had never allowed him into my bed. And so I gathered a few coins and dollar bills, bought some peanut butter and Ritz crackers, and waited, reading by the window, until I saw him coming up the walk. When I knocked on his door a few minutes later, I hardly knew what to expect, but after what seemed a long time, he finally answered.
His posture was stiff and erect. His voice was gentle, but he didn't smile.
I held up the plastic grocery bag. "I know it's supposed to be a casserole, but I thought I'd spare you my attempts at cooking and bring you something edible."
"That's very thoughtful of you, but—"
"Just let me in, would you?"
He stepped out of the way, but he wasn't happy about it. I set my offerings on the scuffed and blemished coffee table and looked around. Nothing had changed much, except for a cardboard box in the corner that I assumed contained Sella's things. "How have you been?" I asked.
"About as well as can be expected."
"No luck reaching Lena?"
Father Cash shook his head.
"Surely she has friends or an employer who—"
"There's no need to pretend that you care, Judith."
I turned on him in exasperation. "I'm not pretending anything. Just because I don't want to follow you on a goose chase doesn't mean I'm not sad about what happened or concerned about you. You're my friend."
Our eyes locked and he looked away first. "I was just getting ready to watch a Ken Burns documentary. You're welcome to stay."
It wasn't what I had in mind, but since I didn't have a TV or laptop, a show of any kind was a treat. I settled in on the sofa and accepted a glass of greenish wine and a Ritz cracker. The documentary was, appropriately enough, about the Great Depression, and the black and white vistas of blowing dust put me in no fit frame of mind to deal with what Father Cash said when he finally spoke again.
"It was very inappropriate of you to flirt at my niece's funeral."
For a moment all I could do was stare.
"You were rather taken with that fisherman."
"He seemed like a nice guy." I reached for a cracker. "But if making polite conversation counts as flirting, then I guess I flirt with everyone."
"It's okay," he said. "You're young, far from home, and in a precarious position. Of course you want a relationship with someone close to you in age; a provider who can give you a little stability."
"I do want stability," I told him, offended now. "But I have no intention of latching on to a man to get it. I can straighten things out for myself."
He turned back to the television, and so did I. A few minutes later, though, he hit the mute button. "You need to decide what you want, Judith. That young fisherman is the sort who wants a girl he can marry, and you—"
"I know what I am," I snapped. "And I have had no contact with him since the funeral. He gave me his number, but I didn't call it. He asked for mine, but I refused. I wouldn't even let him bring me home, so he doesn't know where I live. If you want to make some kind of grand romance out of that, go for it, but for now will you please drop it?" I reached for the remote and turned the sound back on.
For a long time, it was just him and me, and the soothing sounds of Ken Burns describing a long-ago catastrophe. Finally Father Cash said, "I'm sorry, dear. I didn't mean to offend."
"Yes, you did," I said. "You're jealous."
"Maybe so, but I obviously have no right to be."
I shrugged and reached for my wine glass.
"So since you aren't...involved with anyone, perhaps we can kiss and make up."
Why hadn't I seen this coming? I suppressed an inner sigh of annoyance. "There's nothing to make up, and you were never much into kissing, anyway."
"You're right. We can skip the kissing."
I took a big gulp of my sour wine and figured once a whore, always a whore. I stood up and let him lead me to his bedroom.