Julia and Jack try on clothes at Alice Underground, her favorite second-hand store. This scene would go between Chapters 7 and 8 in Come Dancing.
It’s Tight Like That
Time crept by on Wednesday until I left the office to meet Jack. I usually tried to avoid the subway but tonight I’d have to bite the bullet, as I was running late. Walking across Thirty-Fourth Street, I passed the bedraggled young blonde piteously weeping on the filthy sidewalk, the contents of her shiny white clutch emptied out on her lap. Scrawled on the cardboard sign she held was “Wallet stolen—Please help.” The first time I’d seen her sitting there, I had stopped and asked if I could call someone for her. I could picture myself in the same circumstances; disoriented after being mugged, with no money to get home. Still crying, she’d refused my offer, but eagerly accepted the cash I gave her. Her situation haunted me until I passed her again two weeks later, holding the same sign and the same pocketbook. I still felt badly for her, but I also felt like I’d been taken.
Descending into the depths of Penn Station, I stood well away from the tracks until the train thundered in and the shoving commenced. We stopped to exchange sweating passengers at Times Square, and came to a stuttering halt before reaching Columbus Circle. At least the lights stayed on this time. There was no announcement about why the train had stopped; people just stood there, studiously avoiding meeting anyone’s eyes and hoping that a panhandler or two would be the worst of it.
Finally the train lurched forward and I emerged with the other riders mopping their brows and fanning themselves with folded newspapers. I had a lilt in my step as I headed up Columbus. Jack was much easier to talk to than I would have thought, given his wild reputation. And he was even better-looking in person than in photographs. I didn’t see the car waiting at 78th, and was glad that I’d have a chance to compose myself before he arrived.
But once I took the stairs down to the below-street-level shop, Jack was already there with the two women who owned the place, his masculine profile seeming out of place against the racks of frilly clothing. He had on a bronze shirt and thin white-and-brown striped pants under which he obviously was wearing no underwear, a tendency I’d noticed the other night. Alice was talking nonstop and waving her hands; Corinna just gazed at him with glassy eyes. It was no wonder women threw themselves at Jack—he was the sexiest man I’d ever met. But observing the owners’ reaction to him made me even more determined to behave normally.
Jack seemed relieved to see me. “Was it a hard day at the office, dahling?” he asked in a high-pitched voice, propping his hands on his hips.
I laughed at his pose. “Not so bad. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting.”
“Hit a lot of traffic?” He took my backpack. “What’s in here, a load of bricks?”
“I took the subway; it got stuck after 42nd Street. That’s three manuscripts I have to read for my boss.”
“I’m sorry you lugged the things home, because you’re not reading them tonight,” he said, hoisting the pack onto the counter. “Tell him you had better things to do.” He grinned at me, creating those handsome lines on the sides of his face, and I felt a twist in my belly. It was going to be hard to hold it together in such close quarters.
Alice directed us toward the racks in the rear, which held the more expensive vintage clothes. Usually I just shopped in the five-dollar bin. Jack quickly selected several silky shirts and a couple pairs of pants. “Aren’t you going to try anything?” he asked, seeing my arms empty.
“I don’t really need anything.” I’d just paid my bills, and only had eighty-three dollars to tide me over until the next paycheck, two weeks away. I didn’t want to act like I assumed he was going to buy me something.
“Don’t make me do this by myself.”
“There’s only one dressing room. You go first.”
“All right, you can be my fashion advisor.” He ducked inside and I saw his clothes fall to the floor below the curtain. In a minute he switched it aside and came out in a pair of drawstring pants with the strings untied and an orange-and-white shirt, entirely unbuttoned.
“Does this make me hips look fat?” he asked, swishing around. The shirt swung open to give a glimpse of his lean, muscled chest and the thin chain with the lightning bolt.
I laughed and tried not to stare at his body, which lured my gaze irresistibly. “It would take a lot more than that to make you look fat.”
“I like this outfit. Let me try on another one.”
He reappeared in a pair of tight black trousers with silver studs up the sides and a purple silk shirt that brought out his dark hair and eyes beautifully. The pants, however, stopped well above his ankles.
“The shirt’s nice,” I said. “And maybe you could start a new trend with those culottes.”
“Yeah, they’re a little short.” He went back into the room and came out dressed in his own clothes. “Here, you try it,” he said, handing me the outfit.
I went in and hung up my skirt. The pants were warm from his body—especially in the crotch where they’d fit him snugly, which was disconcerting, to say the least. It felt strangely intimate to be trying on clothes with him, normally something I only did with a girlfriend; not to mention putting on what he’d actually been wearing. If someone had told me a month ago that soon I’d be trading outfits with Jack Kipling, I’d have thought they were hallucinating. It struck me as funny that he didn’t seem to differentiate between men’s and women’s attire; he must be used to performing in glittery costumes. I buttoned the shirt, which was long in the sleeves, wiped my sweaty palms on the pants, and tried to calm down before I went out.
“That color’s good on you,” Jack said. “The purple makes your eyes even more blue. Here, just cuff it a bit.” He reached for my right sleeve and folded it back a few times, then did the other as I held stock-still, immobilized by his light touch. Holding my arm, Jack met my gaze and smiled. “That’s better. Look, I found this.” He handed me a black beaded sheath with spaghetti straps.
“I wouldn’t have anyplace to wear something this fancy,” I said, noting the price tag.
“You never know. Go on and try it.”
I went behind the curtain and slipped into the dress. It was cut low and came up to mid-thigh, very feminine and slinky; I’d never worn anything like it. I wished there was a mirror so I could check the view.
“Come out and let me see.”
I felt shy pulling aside the curtain. Jack was leaning against the wall. He stepped forward, and a wave of heat washed over me as his gaze traveled up and down.
“Let me get that for you. You’ll find somewhere to wear it,” he added as I began to politely decline his offer. “Just humor me.”
I changed into my clothes and Jack bunched everything up. Alice made eyes at Corinna when she saw all the loot, and started adding up the amounts on her tablet. “You didn’t try on those other things,” I said as we waited by the door. “Don’t you want to see if they fit?”
“I want to make it worth her while, keeping the store open late.”
“I hope you got something you can wear.”
“I like that purple shirt. Why don’t we share it? You can have it Saturdays and Tuesdays, and I’ll have it Sunday and . . . Thursday.” He thought for a minute and grinned. “You can slip out of it at midnight on Saturday, and I’ll slip into it.” He gave me a sideways glance, and I felt my face flush.
“I don’t mind sharing, if you don’t.”
“Good to know. Thank you very much,” he said to Alice, barely looking at the sales slip before handing her a bunch of hundred-dollar bills. I had a feeling he’d given her a generous tip on top of what he owed. He took two armfuls and I got the rest, and we went back up to the street.
“You’re coming home with me, right? We can listen to some tunes, score some food …”
My heart leapt into my throat; I’d wondered if we had been just picking out shirts for him. “Great,” I replied as the car edged down the block. A frisson of nerves hit me as I pictured what might happen after we ate. I realized I’d better put it out of my mind, or I’d be a basket case . . .
(This was a scene that I cut from the book. Instead, I now have Julia borrowing a dress from Vicky instead of getting it at Alice Underground.)