(From A Suggestion By Mordmorgan)
With midnight and the scheduled end of her shift was more than an hour behind her, Audrey Piersall was bored out of her mind. As interesting as the streets of Manhattan were, after ten hours everything began to become one big blur. She'd spent so much time driving her cab this last month that it was starting to feel like a second home.
While the extra money she was making by driving so much was nice, she didn't really need it. She'd been spending so much time behind the wheel simply because she needed something to do. Something to get her mind off what she'd just been through. Besides, it wasn't like she had anything, or anyone, to spend it on, other than herself.
She and her lover, Cleo Burton, had broken up just over a month ago. When they'd moved in together after a year of dating, Audrey had been convinced that the relationship would last forever. That bubble had burst when Cleo had sat her down one night and told her she'd taken a new job out in Chicago. Cleo had explained that while she still loved Audrey, she didn't think they were meant to spend their lives together. She hadn't even given Audrey time to think about it, or even the option of going with her. After all, driving a cab in Chicago wouldn't be that different than New York. Two days later, Cleo was on a plane and out of her life.
At first, Audrey had just stayed in her apartment, hiding from the world. After a week of that, a few of her friends had dragged her out to go to the clubs with them. She had tried to have a good time, but her heart just wasn't in it.
Trying to get her out of the malaise she was sinking into, a few of her single girlfriends even dropped a few hints that they be interested in keeping her company in a more intimate manner, but Audrey politely declined. She was unwilling to cross the line between friends and lovers just for some quick satisfaction. The thirty-two year old was also unwilling and unready to start hitting the bars alone or to be fixed up on a blind date. It was still too soon. So she had been driving her taxi instead, lost in her own little world.
"Dispatch to Cab 58, come in," Audrey's radio crackled.
"Cab 58," Audrey responded as she picked up the mike, "what's up?
With the lousy reception on the cab's radio, she could never be sure, but the voice coming out of the box sounded like Naomi Walchuck, one of her girlfriends who had been trying to help her get over Cleo.
"I've got a call for a pick up outside Club Flare to go to East 53rd and 2nd Ave. Can you take it?"
"Sure, nothing better to do. That's a bit away though."
"You're the closest available," the voice said. After a pause, it went on. "After this is done, you might want to consider calling it a day, 58."
Audrey laughed. Now she knew for sure it was Naomi. The others in the group called her 'Mommy' due to her tendency to try and take care of the others.
"Alright, alright," she said. "Mark me down as signed out after this fare is done ... Mommy."
"Good girl," Naomi laughed. She then went on in a less cheery voice, "Am I to assume that you'll be back at it again tomorrow?"
"No, I'll probably take the weekend off. It's supposed to get pretty miserable the next couple of days. But don't count on me going out. I'll just get caught up on my cleaning and reading."
"Alright, I still hope to see you," said Naomi.
With that, Audrey signed off. She proceeded to make her way to her pick up, figuring out what she would do at home. There was no way she was going out, so she'd have to screen her calls. That, of course, was what answering machines were for.
Club Flare was over on the West Side, down by the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. It took longer than Audrey would've liked to get through all the New Jersey bound traffic, and to make matters worse, a heavy rain started to fall as she pulled up in front.
The redhead rolled down her window and looked around for her fare, hoping that they hadn't got tired of waiting and made other arrangements. Then, from inside the club's doorway came a blue-coated figure scurrying towards the cab as she tried to avoid getting too wet. Or at least she was trying to since it was hard to scurry in high heels.
The rear door opened and then as quickly closed as the figure dropped into the back seat. A stream of curses spilled from her lips, giving Audrey pause. Some she understood, but others, the more malicious ones judging from their tone, were in a language she didn't understand. If she had to guess, the cab driver suspected that they were directed at something other than the rain.
She gave her passenger a moment to compose herself and settle in, then she turned around and verified the address she had been given over the radio.
"East 53rd and 2nd Ave, right?" she asked, getting her first good look at her passenger.
"That's right, the Carlstead Towers," the woman in the back seat said in a strong yet lyrical voice, wiping a few locks of wet hair from her face as she spoke.
Without realizing it, Audrey found herself staring at the well-dressed woman. Long lustrous black hair, made more so by the rain, framed an almost elfin face of classic Asian beauty. Audrey also couldn't help but notice the amount of leg being shown, even though the woman's skirt was pulled down.
As Audrey waited for a chance to get back into traffic, another thought entered her head. The woman looked very familiar.
After having driven a taxi for a while, Audrey had gotten pretty good at telling which fares were talkers and which simply wanted to get where they were going without any chit chat. The passenger in the back seemed to be a talker. Audrey decided to see if she was right. It was long drive and she was still bored. Besides, she had found that talkers were often appreciative for someone to chat with and were usually better tippers.
"If you don't mind me asking why are you even partying over on this side of town? There are some much nicer clubs closer to where you live."
"That's true, but this was supposed to be a blind date. A friend fixed me up with her cousin, who's from out of town. The Flare is her favorite club, so she suggested we go there."
"Well, I guess that explains it, except for one thing..."
"Where's my blind date?" the woman laughed. "That's okay, you don't have to be tactful, and it's an obvious question."
Glancing at her rearview mirror, Audrey was relieved to see that her passenger was smiling. For a moment, she was worried that she might've asked too personal a question.
"The not so pleasant answer is that I was dumped," she said, her tone reflecting that she was trying to make the best of the situation. "Everything was going great, Max and I had really hit it off. Then this blonde bimbo 'accidentally' bumped into Max, knocking a drink to the floor. She apologized and offering to buy a replacement, all the while doing deep breathing exercises that anyone would have to be blind not to take notice of. The next thing I know, Max and the bimbo are out on the dance floor together and I'm on my cell phone calling for a cab home."
"Men can be such assholes," Audrey said from the front seat, "put a nice set of boobs in front of them and they lose what little sense they have."
The woman laughed again, the sound a musical tinkle. "I know this may sound corny, but who said it was a he? Max was short for Maxine. I guess it's just as well. She was apparently a breast woman, and I'm not exactly overflowing my dress."
Audrey silently noted that while that may be true up top, it wasn't true of down below. She again glanced at the woman's legs while she waited for a red light to change. The woman had crossed her legs, resulting in the dress riding up even further.
After the light turned green, Audrey gave some thought to what the woman had just told her. The fact that she'd been at the Flare was unsurprising. While not really a lesbian bar, per se, it often had several female couples and single women looking for the same. Every once in a while the place would hold 'Ladies Night' parties, as well. She and Cleo had been to the place for one of the 'Ladies Night' parties and had gone back a couple of times just to dance.
"Did I shock you?" the woman in back asked, taking Audrey's sudden silence as disapproval.
"No, not at all," Audrey said, her eyes trying to watch for a reaction in the mirror. "I was just thinking that anyone who'd leave a beautiful woman like you for some bimbo should have her head examined. I know I'd never do it. But that's the sort that you find at a club like that."
"Really," the Asian woman said, digesting the new piece of information. "Am I correct in assuming that you've been to Club Flare yourself?"
"Yeah, me and my ex went there a few times," Audrey replied. "Mostly just to dance."
"And your ex is?"
"She flew away to Chicago to work for a cable network out there," Audrey added. "Evidently, her career meant more to her than I did."
The mention of the cable network Cleo had gone to work for suddenly caused Audrey to remember where it was she'd seen the woman in back before. Her name was Keiko Yamaguchi and she was the six o'clock anchor on Cable One News.
The reflection in the mirror worked both ways and Keiko was experienced enough at reading people's faces to know that Audrey had recognized her. Her own expression told the driver knew that she knew that she knew.
They continued to make small talk on the run up the FDR drive but Audrey knew she already had no chance. There was no way an on-air personality like Keiko was going to be interested in a mere cab driver. Absolutely no way.
.... There is more of this story ...