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Just Another Rooftop On The Boulevard

Good memories of fun times spent with crazy friends...

It was the night before New Year's Eve 2011...

For weeks there had been a “Coming Soon” sign up on the blank billboard outside of my apartment building. Over the years, it had become a ritual for a few of the residents to sit out on the rooftop every Friday night and unwind after a long week. The rooftop of the building on Black Velvet Boulevard was the place you could come to if you wanted to bemoan your fate, plan your boss’ untimely - yet well earned - demise, boast about your latest success, reminisce about how good life had been when you were still free and single, lament about how good it would be to not be free and single or even just sit and listen, allowing everyone else’s problems to make yours look like specs of dust in comparison. So naturally, for weeks our discussions would stray to the naked billboard, each of us speculating about what was to come. The new billboard was an unwelcome guest in our neighborhood, since it blocked the only good view we had of the ocean from our rooftop.

The air was thick with pre-New Year’s Eve excitement; I could hear the bustle of party-goers down on the street below. I had always marveled at the change of pace at that time of year – a time for ushering out the old and guiding in the new - the sense of raw expectancy was palpable. For a precious sliver of time at the end of every year, forgotten was one of mankind’s greatest fears – the fear of the unknown. It was a time for embracing the mystery of what lay ahead.

I took another sip of my drink, savouring the bubbles on my tongue as I looked up at the offensive commercial.

“Holy shit! That looks even worse from up here.” I didn't have to turn to envisage the outraged expression on her face.

“Pull up a chair, Suzie. It gets better the longer you stare at it.” I took another sip from my glass.

Suzanne laid down a pillow on her chair and sat down, bottle of Veuve Cliquot in her hand. I handed her a chilled glass from my cooler. She sat holding the bottle and glass while I poured myself another drink. She shoved her glass at me and I raised a quizzical brow at her unopened bottle.

“It’s the good shit, Yas. This baby is only popping at midnight New Year’s Eve.” She stroked the bottle lovingly.

“So you are carrying it around a whole twenty-eight hours before you can drink it?” I laughed heartily as I leaned over to pour her a drink. We sat in silence, staring up at the gaudy image as each of us sipped their drink at leisure.

“Well yeah, all part of my plan for an elaborately indulgent evening. We’re still in the wooing stage of our relationship.” She stroked the bottle yet again, her tone dripping sarcasm.

“Ah! You have a date?” My tone matched hers, but there was no malice. No one understood Suzanne better than I did.

“I don’t need a date. I have cable… and Facebook. And Veuve Cliquot.” She rubbed the bottle lovingly as she spoke.

Suzanne always managed to lift the mood of everyone around her; there was never a shortage of laughter and merriment when she was around. She had without a doubt everything a man could ever want in a woman, the only problem was that she was even fussier about picking her men than most women were about shopping for shoes.

“Do you think I’m a nutter, Yas?” She inquired after I had stopped laughing. I wasn't sure if she was serious, her expression was hard to read.

“Are you asking me as a therapist or as your friend?”

“I don’t know… which is cheaper?”

“Everything has its price, Suz. How was work?” I shifted in my seat, trying to get comfortable. If it weren't for the fact that there was no shelter or storage space up on the roof, we would've had plush loungers, instead all we had were plastic garden chairs that numbed the butt after only a few minutes. “Fuck! Forgot to bring a pillow.”

“Real busy! The store was real busy, which is good for business, but I wish people would be nicer and slow down. You know, spread the holiday cheer.”

“Here, I brought you a pillow.”

I turned to smile up at the newcomer as the pillow plopped down into my lap. “You read my mind, Naomi.”

“Doesn't take a mind reader to know that you need a pillow, sweetie. You always forget yours, then end up bitching half the night about your ass being numb.” She smiled down at me as she ruffled my hair and pulled her chair up next to mine.

“That’s not true… I do not…” I began.

“Give it a rest, Yas.” Suzanne patted my knee softly. “Or haven’t you noticed that one of us always has a spare pillow? Coincidence? I think not.”

“We still love you, sweetie. And you do always remember to bring the glasses and the cooler.” Naomi smiled as she leaned over to scoop ice from the cooler into a glass.

“What is that you’re wearing, Naomi?” I asked as my mind finally registered her appearance. “Is that… are you wearing your pyjamas?”

“Well… it is night time and… Oh sweet heavens! What the heck is that?!” She cocked her head as she viewed the billboard in open-mouthed awe.

“Oh yes, I forgot to tell you about that. She was up there this morning when I got up. Keep forgetting you’re on the other side of the building, so you haven’t seen this yet.” I leaned over to fill her glass as she continued to stare at the scantily clad model. “Suzie is thinking of getting an outfit like that.”

“I think Suzie would look hot in that.” Suzanne turned to smile up at the owner of the sexy Texas drawl. “In fact, I think Suzie would look much better than the skinny broad up there.” He double pillowed his chair and tipped his Stetson at us before sitting down in the chair beside Suzanne. “Evenin’ ladies.”

“Hi Des.” I handed him a glass and the bottle.

The sound of giggling came from behind us.

“Nooo… you can’t come up here. It’s for residents only, gorgeous. Wait for me in the apartment.” We heard the jingle of keys and the sounds of hungry wet kisses. “I won’t be long. I promise.” More giggling and what strangely sounded like someone’s ass being slapped.

“Hi Sharon.” We all piped together.

“Hey guys! Can’t stay long tonight.” Sharon stood behind me, leaning on the back of my chair.

“Yes, we heard.” Naomi winked at her.

“I came to get a closer look at that ass.” Sharon was practically bouncing with exuberance; clearly she had a stimulating night planned.

“Oh darlin’, all you needed to do was ask.” Des got up and turned, shaking his rump at us in burlesque fashion.

Naomi roared with laughter. Suzanne wolf whistled. I shook my head slowly and smiled.

“Not the ass I meant, but that show was worth the trip up here.” Sharon winked at Des.

“I leave you kids alone for a little while and this is what you get up to?”

“You sorry you only got to see the butt end of the show, Cheri?” Des smiled sheepishly as he sat back down.

Cheri rolled her eyes, leaning on the back of Suzanne’s chair. “So this is what we waited for anxiously for weeks?”

I poured a fresh glass and passed it along to Cheri.

“Any plans for New Year’s Eve?” I asked of no one in particular.

“Bottle of red wine…” Naomi looked lost in thought as she peered over the rim of her glass.

“A bottle of red wine? That is your plan?” I asked.

“I have Veuve Cliquot…” Suzanne stroked the bottle again.

“And you’re going to hug and stroke it like that for the next day?” Sharon laughed as she pulled up a chair. “I have some cheap champagne on ice, maybe order some Chinese and watch the Twilight Zone marathon.”

“And your gorgeous house-guest? He not part of your New Year plans?” My apartment was directly below Sharon’s, so there was no doubt that it would be a sleepless night for both of us.

“Fuck no! He is the pre-New Year’s entertainment. His ass is being kicked out in the morning. Maybe in the afternoon if he is erm… entertaining enough.” She winked.

“We have plans for the night. We’re going to a party.” Cheri pulled up a chair, pillowed it and sat down. “I want to wear something sexy for my husband. Tease him… any ideas?”

Without a word four fingers pointed up toward the billboard. Cheri grimaced at the idea of going to a party wearing only a white lace thong and a wickedly alluring smile.

“Or you could borrow my cheer-leading uniform.” Sharon smiled wickedly as she reached into the cooler and popped a bit of ice into her mouth.

“Alan is going to a party at Lush.” I offered as I refilled my glass and set aside the empty bottle.

“Oh really? Hmm…” Suzanne shoved her glass back at me. I opened a fresh bottle and refilled her.

“That’s the bar down the road, right? Seems he is always at Lush. Do they serve magic drinks there?” Des inquired.

“Worse. They have awful drinks, but thankfully drinks are not the main attraction. It’s the watering hole for some pretty damn brilliant writers. The entertainment aint too shabby either, it’s fast becoming the most popular bar in the district.” Naomi’s head was still cocked at an odd angle as she stared up at the billboard. She seemed enthralled by the image smiling down at us, I could not say that I blamed her; it wasn't every day a larger than life, stunningly beautiful, bordering on naked woman took that much interest in us.

I too remembered the place well from a time when I had just moved into the neighborhood, but I wasn't about to admit that to anyone. After all, what was a teetotaler doing in a salaciously raucous bar anyway, right?

“I remember seeing the New Year in with Alan two years ago. Not that he’d admit to it.” Naomi laughed.

“He might’ve been too drunk to remember.” Suzanne quipped.

“I wrote something with him that night.” Naomi said wistfully. “We wrote a poem together by alternating lines.”

“You did?” The billboard seemed to be getting larger the longer I gawked up at it, so I broke my stare and looked at Naomi instead.

Naomi nodded. “We saw the New Year in together that way.”

“I remember good times seeing in the New Year with special friends too. Back when I could still stay awake beyond midnight.” I sighed.

“I guess we’re older now and get tired quicker.” Naomi signed too.

“Great! Remind us of old we are.” Suzanne said with a sigh.

“Sorry. I said older. I never said wiser.” Naomi smiled apologetically at Suzanne.

Suzanne took another sip from her glass, stroked her Veuve Cliquot and sighed.

“You keep stroking that thing as if it were a magic bottle.” Sharon laughed before popping another bit of ice into her mouth.

“What if it were a magic bottle, and after all this rubbing a genie floats out once you pop it tomorrow at midnight?” Cherie asked, amusement adorning her beautiful face.

“I’d like to be thinner, wiser, happier and in love.” Suzanne said without hesitation.

“And proud owner of The Fountain of Youth... don't forget that one.” I added.

“That too!” Suzanne laughed.

“And if you’re feeling generous enough to wish a little something for your friends, I want an ass like that.” I pointed up at the billboard.

“Are we dragging out those old resolutions again, because this all sounds very familiar.” Naomi smiled.

“Yeah, but technically they're not really old. We're too senile to remember as far back as last New Year, so they're new resolutions again.” I smiled.

“Doesn't the genie only give you three wishes anyway?” Sharon asked, which earned her an annoyed look from both myself and Suzanne. “Just saying…” she said as she put up her hands in defense.

“While we’re still wishing, I want smaller perkier boobs as well.” Suzanne looked down at her ample bosom.

“Now you’re just being mean.” I said with a pout, folding my arms over my less than adequate chest.

“Big bouncy boobs are where it's at.” Sharon jiggled her deliciously bouncy boobs at us.

“Just a bit smaller please.” Suzanne ran her fingers over her protruding chest.

“Oh stop!! You're making me cry.” I laughed.

Suzanne mock-smiled over at me apologetically, “And bigger boobs for my friend Yas, she really needs it.”

Sharon’s phone rang and she walked to the far side of the roof to take the call.

“Can I also have a smaller stomach and ass then?” Suzanne patted her tummy. I saw nothing wrong with her tummy.

I rolled my eyes at her antics. “Now where did I leave that damn magic wand...”

“Smack me with it once you find it please!!” Suzanne laughed.

“If I get a wish, my wish would be to be able to walk without pain. I don’t need wishes for the rest; I'll work my socks off to deserve my other desires.” Naomi sighed and sipped at her drink again. It was no secret that Naomi had spent most of her life suffering the effects of a childhood accident.

After a brief silence - a silence clearly pregnant with our shameful contrition - Cheri added, “I feel for you Naomi. My sciatica has been acting up the past couple of weeks. My back is much better since I got healthier and lost a big chunk of weight. I need to get back on my program and get the pounds off. I showed my hubby a pair of kick-ass thigh high boots when we were out shopping the other day. He told me I could buy them once I reach my goal weight.”

Suzanne winked and whispered to me, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I just bought myself a pair of kick-ass knee high black boots too.”

Sharon was smiling by the time she got back. “New Year's Eve plans changed. I'm going out tomorrow night, just been invited to a party.”

“Hope no one cancels my New Year's Eve plans.” I sighed, thinking of my elaborately constructed plan of eating ice cream while bringing the New Year in watching ‘Dinner for one’ on TV yet again.

“Due to budget cut backs New Year’s has been canceled.” Des stood up, lifted his spare pillow and held it out to Sharon. “Here, looks like you’re staying.”

“I do have someone to go do…” she took the pillow anyway and sat down. “Yas remember to bring her own pillow?”

“Seriously? I am not that bad. Am I?” Suzanne patted my knee the way you would pat an unintentionally petulant child’s head, no one replied.

“All boobs are good.” Des said after a lengthy silence.

“Suz, can I leave you with the master keys to Alan's liquor cabinet?” Sharon pointed to the storage box Alan hides his Vodka in; we had pinched the key days earlier, watching with amusement as he fretted about misplacing it somewhere.

“No one touches it until we all get here. Okay?” Naomi wagged a finger at Suzanne.

“You can leave them with me as I don’t drink. Guess I will be the only sober one around.” Des slipped the key into his jacket pocket and caught my puzzled expression. “Sorry Yas, you don’t drink either, do you?”

“Nope, never have and never been tempted to either.” I smiled at him.

“So you will be our designated driver?” Suzanne leaned over to stroke Des’ arm affectionately.

He smiled at her warmly. “Yes, if I need to be.”

“And pray tell, where do we need to be driven to? We live right here. Might end up tumbling down the stairs though… damn! I live too many flights down. When are they fixing the elevator?” Sharon said with a raised brow aimed at me.

“Uhm… don’t be looking at me like I’m the building manager or somethin’...” So what if I was, I did not come up to the roof to listen to complaints.

Cheri took a long swig of her drink and set the glass down at her feet. “As long as we're on wishes, I will take winning lottery numbers... and, hey... where the hell is Stuart these days?”

Suzanne made a wry face before adding, “Stu is hiding again, probably from Sharon.”

“Yeah, when it comes to Stu being missing, all roads lead back to Sharon.” Naomi laughed.

“Hey! Not my fault, he brings it upon himself. I can’t be blamed for him being a big ole French sissy boy.” Sharon defended with just the slightest trace of glee at the memories flashing through her mind.

“To be fair – and don’t get me wrong, I am not taking sides here – aside from the Looney Toons, I’m not sure anyone would survive being assaulted with an anvil. And a whip. And chains. And a mace. Not to mention the other scary paraphernalia you own that I don’t even have names for.” I jumped to Stuart’s defense, since he wasn't there to defend himself. In all honesty, even if he were there he would not have defended himself.

“ Repeatedly.” Suzanne added absently. “Poor Frenchie…”

"Any of you ever hear him complain?" Sharon raised a quizzical brow at us. No one replied. "Well, I rest my case."

Des took a sip of his drink before looking up at the barely-clad woman on the billboard; he seemed lost in his own thoughts for the longest time before he spoke. “Mind you, all of you are beautiful, you just have to stop and look at yourselves in the mirror. To hell with what the world thinks everyone should look like. That girl up there is pretty, but still, she is not the standard for any woman to aspire to. Everyone’s different and that is what makes us all special and individual. So stop worrying about getting smaller boobs and an ass like the one up there, you do not need it. You’re all perfect just the way you are.”

I smiled over at him and he tipped his Stetson like the gentleman that he is. Suzanne patted his thigh and he smiled.

“I hope that this year becomes a healthier one for you all and that we all meet our goals, whatever they may be. And that my two good friends will say goodbye to all the pain they suffer daily.” He raised his glass as if toasting to his New Year’s wish would magically make it come true. And in all honesty, every one of us on that rooftop hoped that if we believed hard enough, it would.

Naomi leant over in her chair and hugged him. “Thank you, Des. Sometimes it takes someone standing on the outside looking in to put everything into perspective.”

“You are welcome.” He was hugging her back, but it was likely that he was holding her more to keep her from toppling over onto him.

Cheri sighed, “I work very hard to not let my personal feelings about my body show to my daughter. I am raising a ten year old girl. We all know what pressures there are on girls to be perfect. I talk about changing my lifestyle to be healthy and I don't talk about being skinny. She has a great metabolism and doesn't gain weight easily, so she has to eat a lot, but I do try to make sure they are good choices for her. We also talk about boob size because she is desperate for hers to start filling out. Since I am very well endowed, she is seeing how I struggle to find clothes that fit. Big boobs aren't all they are cracked up to be!”

Desire spoke again and his words stroked my self-esteem like a mother stroking her child’s cheek, “Everybody has to be happy with who they are, not happy with the way the world wants them to be.”

Naomi sighed softly before saying, “You are so right, Des.”

Des seemed to be fueled by anger as he continued passionately, “And to hell with what the world sees as beautiful, beauty will always remain in the eye of the beholder. Outer beauty does not matter much, what is inside of your soul is what matters most. We are all in such a hurry to chase after perfection that we no longer take the time to stop and smell the roses. What does a rose really smell like? Has any one of you really stopped long enough to smell a rose lately? The scent of a rose is part of its beauty. Stop and take the time to smell a rose and you would have found its inner beauty. You’re all roses, my friends.”

I wasn't sure where all the fire inside of Des was coming from, but it was welcome and it was needed. This was what the rooftop of the apartment building on Black Velvet Boulevard was all about; it was about helping your friends reaffirm their own worth after the frivolous demands of the world had ground them down to dust.

Not a squeak could be heard as Des continued his much needed tirade. “Don’t get me wrong, I am not referring to eroticism. I am talking about how we feel about ourselves when we look into the mirror. How many of you see the beauty of the special person that you are both inside and out? This is tough for me to do… it is tough for all of us to do.”

“I think that it’s a direct result of what we are raised to believe society expects of us.” I ventured after a lengthy pause.

Cheri continued, “I know that it’s not about physical appearance, but so much of the media has "beautiful people" in it.” She turned toward us to air-quote with her delicately painted fingers. “If you aren't pretty enough by societal standards, then you're not worth it. I learned something a couple months ago in the world of print advertising; if you are a size six you only qualify for plus size modeling!! Hello? Size six is not plus size. Don't show me what some skinny toothpick is going to look like in the clothes I'm trying on. That's just not realistic, and don't tell me that if I’m over a size four, that I'm fat. When I was in high school I was a size seven. My mother always called me fat, and I still have to deal with that.”

“Well your mother was wrong in ever telling you that.” Des harangued while all of us nodded our agreement in appreciation of his sentiments. “What is in the rags today about looks is all wrong. Who the hell decides what a woman is supposed to look like anyway?”

“I was wondering when you lot would gather here for the unveiling. Nice picture... if she was the teacher, I'd sure go to class...” He had the uncanny habit of sneaking up on us… always last to arrive, yet you were left with the sense that he had been lurking the entire time.

“Pull up a chair, Alan… this party has only just begun.” I turned to smile up at him.

“I see you remembered your pillow, Yas.” He double padded his chair before settling down with a deep sigh. “And yeah, real people are much more erotic, it's nice to look at beautiful people like that once in a while, but in reality I'm more moved by real women... some of these models are really too fake, and that to me is a huge turn-off...”

“Seriously? Am I that bad?” I was trying for outrage, but only managed deflated defeat.

I handed him a drink as he settled down onto his double padded seat. “Thanks, Yas.” He smiled broadly as he took the glass. Alan was a fairly simple guy to please, it didn't take much to keep him content and a drink in hand was always a good place to start

“Oh I think he’s being a bit hasty thanking me before he’s tasted it.” I mumbled loud enough for Suzanne to hear, we shared a conspiratorial giggle.

“My mother always made me feel like a big piece of garbage too. I’m a fairly decent guy, successful, try to do good by everyone. I graduated high school and have five college degrees, but still I am never good enough for her.”

“And sexy… don’t forget sexy.” Suzanne winked at him.

Cheri laughed out loud. “I think we have the same mother! I don't have anything to do with mine if I can help it.”

“Cheri... yeah, there are a lot of relatives I'd just love to delete like a Facebook friend.” Alan quipped, viewing his untouched drink with adept suspicion.

“My husband has a cure for it… unfortunately, it's illegal.” Cheri grinned.

Desire laughed as well, the deep sound of his laughter was infectious. “Well I moved far away from mine, but the problem is that she’s a truck driver and just shows up at will.”

“I know where you could hide the next time she shows up.” Suzanne batted her lashes at Des seductively.

“I will remember that, Suzie.” He winked at her.

“Oh get a room…” Sharon aimed a sprinkling of crushed ice at the two of them.

“The hell with what they think! Look in the mirror and say out loud, ‘I am beautiful’. And believe it. Own it.” Des paused just long enough to take a sip and a deep energizing breath before continuing. “I would take a curvy woman over that surf board any day.” He gestured toward the picture with his glass. “A real woman doesn't need all that make-up and fancy hairdos; she just needs to be herself.”

Naomi raised her glass and everyone else followed suit. “To real women who wear their beauty where it matters most.”

“I agree. Well, it does help if she has a dirty mind… just saying.” Alan sipped at his drink; a hush fell across the rooftop while everyone anticipated a reaction. He grimaced. Everyone else wore knowing smirks. “What in the hell is this?”

“Erm… champagne?” Naomi offered, barely winning her battle against the laughter threatening to overtake her.

“With maybe just a little less alcohol than you’re used to.” Sharon giggled.

“This is not… give me that…” He took the bottle, inspected it closely and shook his head, his expression one of deep displeasure. “Zero percent alcohol? Really, Yas? Now you can take the skinny and the makeup out of my women, but for the love of all that’s unholy, do not take the buzz out of my drinks.”

“Know what would be fun?” Sharon smiled. I did not like that smile, it always got us into trouble.

“A wild drunken orgy? Feel free to use my apartment, it’ll welcome the action.” Suzanne winked at Sharon.

“Yes, that would be fun. Not with you lot though.” Sharon laughed. “I meant water balloons.”

“Water balloons?” everyone piped simultaneously.

“Well yeah, we could fill them and drop them over the side of the building. It’s loads of fun, we used to do that when…”

“When you were twelve?” I asked.

“You’re no fun.” Sharon pouted as she sat back in her chair.

“What is that?” Alan asked as he pointed over toward the billboard.

Who is that?!” I squinted to get a better look at the dark figure clambering up the side of the board.

“More importantly, what is it doing?” Suzanne put her glass down and moved closer to the side of the building.

Sharon followed suit. “Looks very familiar…”

“And what is it carrying?” Suzanne squinted her eyes to get a better look at something swinging from the dark stranger’s side.

“It’s not an it.” I laughed.

“Well, until it’s a he or a she, it’s an it.” Suzanne wore her “I dare you to argue” face, so we let it go.

One by one each of us made their way to the side of the building, eyes glued on the hooded figure scaling the side of the billboard.

“It’s a man.” I wasn't sure how I knew this, but I just knew.

“How can you tell?” Cheri asked, concern creasing her brow.

“Because no woman is that stupid.” Alan remarked, taking another sip from his glass and grimacing yet again. “I really need to find those damn keys…”

Sharon giggled.

What? What’s so damn funny?” Alan looked annoyed; curiously he was never annoyed, not unless someone messed with his liquor stash.

Sharon and Suzanne exchanged a look and we all laughed. The sound must have carried on the wind, because the hooded man on the other side of the street turned to wave at us. Sharon was right; something about him was definitely familiar. He continued to wave, doing a little dance that can only be equated to doing “the Carlton”, it was at that point he lost his footing and I held my breath as the dark figure battled to regain his balance, teetering precariously on the edge of the scaffolding for a few nerve-wracking seconds.

“Oh no!” Sharon gasped.

“Oh my God! He’s gonna fall…” Suzanne’s hand rose to cover her eyes.

“No, he’s not. You can open your eyes now.” The words gushed from me in breathy relief as he found his footing.

We watched with bated breath as he continued up the scaffolding with what seemed to be a bucket dangling from his side, stopping on every level to do what he had gone there to do. Before long the once naked young model was wearing a dark robe, even her face appeared to be veiled like a proudly mysterious Arabian woman. Once he was satisfied with his handiwork, he turned toward us and even in the growing dark we could note his pompous stance of self-gratification.

“He did not just do that, did he? It's defacing public property.” I could breathe again, but breathing easy would have to wait for when he was safely back down on terra firma.

“He most certainly did.” Naomi seemed to be beaming with pride. “Whoever he is, he’s such a sweetie.”

"And we just watched him do it, does that make us guilty as well?" Suzanne did not sound in least bit concerned about being an accomplice to the crime in question.

Just as he was about to step onto the ladder leading down to the lower level scaffold, the harness holding the bucket slipped off his shoulder, taking the bucket with it. He reached out to grab the falling object, catching his leg on the top rung of the ladder. In his panic he kicked out and we watched in horror as the ladder slipped and fell, taking the second ladder with it on its earsplitting descent.

“Ohh!” Came the audible gasp from all of us in unison. Well, all of us except Alan, who was still grumbling about the blasphemy of disguising non-alcoholic drinks as something that they clearly were not.

The lone figure stood silhouetted against the billboard across the street from us, but he looked so forlorn that he might as well have been marooned on a deserted island clear across the globe. A phone was ringing, but the sound was ignored as we stood watching the hooded figure pace anxiously from one end of the scaffold to the other, his one hand clasped to the side of his head. The phone continued to ring, sounding angrier with every shrilly ring it belted out.

“Is anyone going to get that?” I could not help the annoyance in my voice at the intrusion.

“Oh! It’s mine.” Sharon answered her phone. “Stu? You’re where?” She turned in a graceful arc – seeming to be moving in slow motion – back toward the billboard, an expression of livid incredulity on her face as her eyes fixed on the dark figure. “Frenchie! What the fuck were you thinking?”

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