Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Short Story
2450 words
SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

It’s My Treat

by Joseph Giordano

Rachael finished window-shopping on Fifth Avenue and headed for the subway station to her apartment downtown. She delighted in the aromas of roasted chestnuts and the charcoal braziers of twisted pretzel vendors. A bus air-braked near her, and she jumped. Yellow taxis honked and swarmed past her like bumblebees. A menu posted on a mirrored window outside an exclusive French restaurant attracted her. Gourmet food made her pulse race. Rachael looked at herself in the mirrored display and smoothed her brown hair. Obsessing over food would not help her stay on a diet.

A man peered at the Carte du jour. He smelled like cedar and black suede, which triggered a memory in Rachael’s head. She was eight, and it was Christmas morning. She’d jumped out of bed in her pink, footy pajamas to see what was under the tree. Her father was awake, and she tore open gifts sitting in his lap. This man had his smell. Rachael wondered if she’d recognize her father after all these years; he walked out on her mother after Christmas, and Rachael hadn’t seen him since.

The man at her shoulder said, “The menu looks exquisite, don’t you think?” He had an Italian accent.

He was slim, in his mid-thirties, dark, with sharp features and short, curly black hair, dressed in a brown tweed herringbone sports jacket, a light green shirt opened at the throat, and sharply creased olive colored slacks.

He held out his hand. “I’m Enzo.”

She gave him a tight smile and started to walk away.

“Wait,” he said. “I know I’m being forward, but would join me for dinner?”

Rachael picked up her pace. Enzo pursued.

She said, “If you don’t stop following me, I’ll scream for the police.”

“I’m not joking. Look.” Enzo took out his wallet. “This is not a scam.”

Rachael gave Enzo a sidelong glance. He showed her a wad of bills.

She said, “Strangers don’t treat people to five-hundred dollar dinners.”

Enzo laughed. “Perhaps, but it’s lonely to eat an expensive dinner by yourself. Please be my guest.” He extended his arm to her. “What’s your name?”

Rachael took a deep breath. She thought, he’s attractive, oh what the hell. She said, “I’m Rachael,” and took Enzo’s arm.

Inside black-vested waiters with long white aprons scurried around patrons seated at white-draped tables in a room with beige and red accented decor. Silverware and glasses tinkled with the drone of soft conversations. Rachael was enveloped in the most enticing aromas, and she sampled the air like a fine wine. Enzo slipped the sharp-nosed, tuxedoed maitre d’ fifty dollars, and they were seated immediately.

They started with Beluga caviar accompanied by a frosted glass of vodka and talked careers. Rachael was an Assistant Professor in Classics at New York University, and she specialized in the Roman Empire. Enzo restored art and was on retainer to the Metropolitan Museum.

Enzo chose a Chassagne Montrachet with the grilled langoustines, and a Nuits-Saint-Georges for the Provençal rack of lamb. Rachael was smiles and rolled eyes.

Enzo said, “I love a woman with lusty appetites. As a Classicist you must agree that we should indulge our inner Dionysus.”

Rachael looked at Enzo and thought, handsome, successful, and urbane. Could they fall in love in one night? She stopped believing in fairy tales when her father disappeared.

She said, “I bet you have a long list of women in this city waiting for you to phone. But I appreciate this wonderful experience. Thank you.”

Enzo said, “Do you think everyone would enjoy this feast?” He wrinkled his face and spoke in a nasal voice, “Oh, Enzo, so many calories. I’ll just have a salad.”

Rachael laughed. She covered her mouth and looked around the restaurant. Her face was red. She said, “You’re kidding: a restaurant like this, and all they think about is their figure?”

“Rachael, for many appearance is everything. They only go to fine places so they can text their friends.” Enzo leaned close to Rachael. “On the other hand, curvaceous women have always been the image of love in art. I’m working on the Rubens, Venus and Adonis, at the Metropolitan. The color and texture of Venus’s soft, round flesh: Rubens loved voluptuous women.”

“He took a child bride in his sixties.”

Enzo chuckled. “Yes, but not an anorexic female.”

After the chocolate soufflés and a vintage port, Enzo paid the bill. They took a cab to Rachael’s apartment, and she invited him in. Her mind swam in alcohol and hopeful fantasies. Enzo could have his way with her, and once in bed, he did.

In the morning, Rachael awoke slowly with the dream of Enzo’s caresses on her body. She reached for him, but his pillow was empty. Her eyes snapped open; she sat up too quickly, and her temples started to throb. Her mouth was sticky dry, and she tottered unsteadily toward the bathroom to brush her teeth. In the mirror, she saw the bite on her breast. It had turned royal blue and was tender. Her butt was sore; bruises from Enzo’s fingers were on her cheeks. She threw water on her face. Rachael peered at her smeared image in the mirror wondering how she could have let herself be used like that. What do you expect when a man buys you a thousand-dollar dinner? You thought it was love? Her eyes got wet. She got into the shower and turned on the hot water until it stung, and she scrubbed herself red.

She threw on a baggy tee shirt and jeans and put on sunglasses although the day was overcast. She kept her head down as she walked and made eye contact with no one. Her mobile rang. It was Enzo.

He said, “I’m sorry I had to leave. I had an appointment in midtown. Why don’t I come over later this afternoon?”

“That’s not a good idea.”

“Why? Last evening was great. Let’s do it again. There’s a new trattoria in the Village. Their osso bucco with polenta is the best in New York.”

Rachael knew the restaurant from a rave review in New Yorker Magazine. “I don’t want to repeat last night.”

“I shouldn’t have drunk so much. I apologize.”

“You should be sorry. You made me feel cheap.”

“Rachael, we need to talk in person. I’ll be at your apartment at seven.”

She said, “No,” but Enzo had hung up.


Rachael had on make-up and her robe when Enzo pressed the apartment’s buzzer. She checked the bolt before she spoke through the door. She said, “Enzo, please go away.”

He said, “C’mon, Rachael, I’m really sorry. I can’t get you out of my head. You need to let me in.”

“No. Go before a neighbor calls the police.”

Enzo kicked the door. “Okay, but I’m not giving up.”

For weeks, Enzo showed up at the University, and at Rachael’s apartment, but she wouldn’t speak to him. He tried to phone, but she wouldn’t answer.

Rachael spoke about Enzo with her friend Elizabeth over coffee. Elizabeth was an English Lit Professor who adored Jorge Luis Borges. She wore ankle-length printed skirts, and had straight brown hair with bangs.

Elizabeth said, “Oh my God, he’s a stalker. Do you remember the creep who slashed the girl in Brooklyn? He gave no sign he’d be violent. Have you told the cops?”

Rachael said, “I can’t go to the police. I slept with him.”

Elizabeth sat back in her seat. She picked up her coffee and took a sip. “Well, never mind.”


Rachael had to get away. The British Museum offered newly discovered Roman artifacts for study, so she used grant money to book a flight to London. She finally got a decent night’s sleep.

On the plane to London from New York, she took an aisle seat in coach and opened her research papers. She sensed a presence and looked up; Enzo stood over her. Rachael grabbed the armrests of her seat, and her papers tumbled to the floor.

Enzo said, “We need to talk.” He picked up her papers, placed them on her lap and returned to his Business Class seat.

Rachael’s face got hot. She thought, oh my God, how did he know I’d be on this plane? Maybe I should get off? The flight attendant announced that the doors were closed, and the plane backed away from the gate. Stress sweat dampened Rachael’s chest and back. She put her hand to her forehead and held it there. Her eyes darted. She thought, what is he going to do? She tried to control her breathing. She patted sweat from her forehead with a tissue, but tears started. She looked at the man next to her. He was in his twenties with a wispy mustache, black stud earrings and a tattoo on his neck of a flaming skull punctured by a knife. Rachael wiped her eyes.

She was exhausted after the flight. At Heathrow, she walked with the other passengers to baggage claim. She was relieved when her bag came off before Enzo’s, and she ran for a taxi. Enzo called out that he was staying at Claridge’s. Rachael didn’t turn around.


Rachael was in the pediment shadow of the British Museum entrance when she saw Enzo leaning against one of the portico’s huge fluted columns. She brought her hand to her mouth: NYU must have told Enzo where she could be found. He didn’t see her immediately, and she walked double-time down the stone stairs and almost got through the black, iron gate before Enzo spotted her and followed. She turned in the direction of Oxford Street hoping it would be crowded. But Enzo was gaining. She decided to confront him in a public place and ducked into a pub, Waxy O’Toole’s.

Multi-colored ceiling fixtures lit the cool interior. There were a few rough-cut wooden tables and benches. A dartboard hung near the bar and every wall was covered with pictures of football stars past and present. The place reeked of stale beer. A big man, with blond hair, and a scar under his chin nursed a pint and leaned against the dark oak bar. Rachael heard a Polish accent as he chatted with the mustachioed bartender with thinning hair who polished a mug with a rag. When Rachael burst in, the two men looked at her like she’d arrived from the moon. She stammered an order for a Guinness, keeping her eyes on the entrance. Enzo stormed in and headed straight for her. She backed up into the man who was in mid sip, and his beer spilled.

He said, “Hey.”

Rachael said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” But she didn’t take her eyes off Enzo

Enzo was red-faced. He said, “Rachael, let’s talk”

The Polish man had a thick accent. He said to Enzo, “Who the fuck are you?”

Enzo turned his face toward the man and said, “Keep out of this, Asshole—this is...”

The Polish man’s punch struck like a cobra, and Enzo hit the floor like he had rubber legs. Enzo clutched his face, and blood flowed between his fingers. Rachael grabbed her head and gasped. She started to bend toward Enzo, but the Polish man took her by the arm and pulled her toward the door of the pub.

He said, “Miss, we need go before policja come.”

Outside the pub, he said, “I’m Piotr, Miss. You name?”

Rachael’s pulse galloped. The image of Enzo’s bloody face was stamped on her brain. She took a deep breath and said, “My name is Rachael. Please let go of my arm.”

“Okay. But I walk you. You stay in hotel?”

Piotr released Rachael, but stuck with her as she walked. He had on a blue stocking cap, a worn brown leather jacket, jeans and soiled work boots. His smile softened the scar.

Piotr looked behind them. “He not follow. Don’t worry.”

They walked with a crowd of people, and Rachael’s hotel wasn’t far. Her pulse slowed. She looked at Piotr and thought, he really has a nice face. Her father had been a construction contractor. She liked a man with natural muscles.

When they got to the front of her hotel, she extended her hand and said, “Piotr, thank you for your help.”

Piotr smiled. “Miss Rachael, I think I come to your room. Okay?”

Behind Rachael, a young couple emerged from the hotel, entwined. They giggled at some shared secret. Rachael looked at them and sighed. She couldn’t remember ever being that happy. Being alone sucked. She thought, Piotr didn’t hesitate to come to my defense. She turned to enter the hotel, and Piotr followed.

In bed, Piotr smelled like an unwashed beer mug. He was gentle, but quick. Afterwards, he went into the bathroom, and soon she heard the shower.

Rachael lay back on the pillow and closed her eyes. Piotr’s a little shy, but that’s not all bad. With some gentle suggestions, their lovemaking would be more satisfying for her.

The water in the bathroom stopped and in a few minutes, Piotr emerged dressed.

He hesitated at the foot of the bed and put his hand into his pocket. He said, “I leave it here.” There was a corner table with a lamp in the room, and Piotr took some Pound notes and placed them on the table.

Rachael’s mouth opened and closed.

Piotr came to the bed, bent and kissed her on the forehead. He said, “You have beautiful eyes.” He left the room.


Enzo was still at the ER when Rachael got to Claridge’s, so she sat in an Art Deco chair near the fireplace under the Chihuly chandelier in the black and white marble-tiled lobby. When Enzo arrived he had a bulbous white bandage across his cheeks, blood stained his shirt collar, and his face was black and blue. He looked like a raccoon with a false nose, and Rachael almost laughed, but she saw the pain in his eyes. Enzo saw her and scowled as he headed for the front desk.

She walked up behind him and said, “Enzo, I’m sorry you were hurt. Piotr was trying to protect me.”

Enzo spoke in a nasal voice. “Oh, so Piotr is your new friend.”

Rachael saw tear tracks on his face. She said, “I’m hungry. How about you?”

He tilted his head at her.

She looked at her watch and said, “I understand they serve a fabulous tea here, and I’m dying for a scone with clotted cream.”

Enzo faced her.

Rachael said, “I have some extra money. Want to join me?” She held out her arm.


SHJ Issue 7
Spring 2013

Joseph Giordano

was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their little Shih Tzu, Sophia.

Joe’s stories appear in Alliterati Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Black Heart Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Bong is Bard, Crack the Spine, Forge, Infective Ink, Johnny America, Marco Polo Arts Magazine, Milk Sugar, The Newer York, Orion Headless, River Lit Magazine, River Poets Journal, The Shine Journal, The Stone Hobo, The Summerset Review, The Waterhouse Review, Writers Abroad, and The Zodiac Review.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury