“My God, Daniel. How long has it been?” Marcia’d slipped a flowered house dress hastily over her hair. On any other woman it would look drab and shapeless but not on her. “I thought you’d finally given up on New York City and gone to live on Walden Pond.”
“No. I’ve been here. Well, around. Here.”
She spotted the girls and turned her questioning eyes on him.
“You remember what it is to be adrift in this city without friends?” he asked. “It hasn’t been that long.”
“My God Daniel. I haven’t seen you in over a year and now you show up with three runaways?”
“A year? No, that’s not possible. It hasn’t been that long, certainly not in meaningful days and you can’t count my useless days – for which I’ve had many – against me. For the angel who talked with me came again, and waked me, like a man that is wakened out of his sleep.”
“Daniel…” She smiled. “Still hiding behind scripture.”
He’d forgotten how petite and fragile she was, especially considering the type of work she did.Venus of the Sewers came to his defense.“Daniel saved our lives! We were completely out of gas —we had no place to go. We would have been killed or worse.”
“He can’t help himself. He’s a Jesuit.”
“Was…was a Jesuit. No longer.”
“That’s right Daniel, I forgot. Now, you’re the Anti-Christ. How old are you girls?”
“I’m eighteen. My name is Bronte and this is Claire and Fiona.” Venus began, referring first to young Eleanor Roosevelt and then to the Catholic’s daughter.
“Bronte? That’s an unusual name. Did you make it up? You don’t look eighteen. Are you runaways?”
“No, we’re not runaways. And I really am eighteen. We’re musicians. Claire and I play the guitars and Fiona sings and she’s got a really good voice, just like Cher. We tried getting jobs in Montreal but the Canadians wouldn’t give us work permits cause there are too many Americans up there trying to avoid the draft. So we came down here.”
“To New York City? Do you know anyone in the city? “
They shook their heads no. “See, even stupider than we were when you came here to save the world and I came here to escape from God.” Daniel perched himself on the extra-wide window casing. In front of him was an ironing board, one that never got put away.
The girls still stood by the door uncertain of whether they’d be asked to stay.
“Escape from God? Is that what you’re calling your mother these days,” Marcia laughed.
“Heretic!” Daniel returned. Her face, despite years spent in New York City working on hopeless causes, had not changed. It was still springtime and fresh air. Freckles swam across her nose like wandering stars, making her look much younger than she was. Meanwhile his hairline receded, the lens in his glasses thickened each year and the grime of city air had rendered his complexion dull and grey. He remembered the first time he’d met her. She’d come with his family to see him act badly in the annual Passion Play. He loved how happy his sister’d looked. They were Irish twins and as children had been inseparable; able to read each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s pain. When he went away to seminary she suffered. He could feel it. But she’d finally found a friend, a friend who would treat her mother’s direct line to God the same way she did – with a scoff.
But he’d underestimated his mother.