The late afternoon had lost its steamy humidity, leaving the evening comfortable. Frey Hill stood on the busy city sidewalk, staring at her phone as people hurried by.
A blue blurb popped up on her smartphone screen. Her brow creased as she swallowed, her fingers hovering over the keyboard.
Instead of answering, she put the phone away, and she entered her apartment building.
Stepping into an open elevator, she pulled out her phone again, trying to find a suitable response. There wasn’t one.
With a Ding, the elevator opened up to her floor. Marching to her door, she unlocked it, disappearing inside.
“Hey, Athena. Taking a break from your kids?”
She dropped her purse on the side table and scratched the lounging tiger cat behind the ears; as she purred, three kittens wrestled each other in a nearby dog bed.
“They kicked you out of your bed again, Murphy?
A Weimaraner huffed from his spot on her couch. Frey rechecked her watch.
“What do you think, should I go?”
Athena’s tail flicked, and Murphy only stared back at her. In the corner, the three kittens continued to play.
A tread was wearing on the apartment roof as Matthew Dichter paced, muttering to himself. It was nearly 7 pm, and his date had yet to make an appearance. He rechecked his phone and put it down, disappointed.
Frey shifted from one foot to the other by the rooftop door, one hand still holding the doorknob as if she was ready for an excuse to bolt.
“Hey, I thought maybe you weren’t coming.”
Frey let the door go; it closed with a soft snick. She came forward slowly, pausing at the sight of a mattress topper covering the sundeck swing.
He had turned to an ice cooler and offered her a drink. Frey faked a smile as she accepted the beverage.
The popping of the can was overly loud, seeming to reverberate off every nook and cranny of the square rooftop to Frey’s ears
“Beautiful night, huh?” The question brought her back to the present.
She looked up to the breath-taking view of New York City. She nodded.
Matthew put a basket on the sundeck table. “Hope you like pizza. I got it from a place on 53rd street.” He turned, paper plates in hand. “I wasn’t sure what you liked, so I figured cheese and pepperoni were the safest bet.”
Frey didn’t take the plate offered to her. Her fight to keep her expressions neutral failed as a deep sadness took over before smoothing back into neutrality.
“We aren’t going to finish the conversation from earlier?”
Matthew’s lips formed a tight line. He shrugged again, putting the plates down. He itched his head nervously.
“What’s there to finish?”
“You never responded when I told you I’m transgender.”
“My phone rang. I couldn’t ignore it. You left before I could stop you.”
Frey scoffed and walked away to lean against the parapet, watching the setting sun.
Matthew followed her, uncertainty in his step. “I don’t know what experiences you’ve had in the past. But that’s the past; this is now.”
“You’re a real estate broker, as is your father. Are your parents going to be pleased when they find out you’re lusting after his transgender broker intern?”
“Well, for one, my dad raves about you. Says out of all of his interns, you are by far the most dedicated and smartest.”
Frey studied him and turned back to the city skyline. “That’s nice of him.”
“You don’t have to tell them or anyone anything. It’s your business.”
Frey didn’t respond.
Matthew reached out, beckoning. “C’mon.”
A crooked smile lit Matthew’s face; he gestured with his head. “C’mon.”
“What if someone sees?” Frey glanced back at the rooftop door.
After a moment, She let his fingers entwine with hers, and he towed her to the swing.
They sat for hours on the swing, comfort in every contour of their bodies with the mattress topper, staring up at the sky. Matthew had thought of everything, the drink, the pizza, and the topper.
How did he lug that topper up to the roof? Frey meant to ask but let it go; some things were meant to be mysterious.
Nearby the picnic basket was empty of pizza and filled with dry hard Selzer cans.
“There.” Frey pointed. “See, looks like an upside-down house? And Cassiopeia’s over there. It’s a Greek love story. Cassiopeia was cast into the sky by Poseidon after boasting of her beauty over the Nereids-” Frey trailed off, with an apologetic smile. “Sorry, I’m rambling…”
“I’m listening.” Matthew insisted. “Who are the Nereids?”
“Sea nymphs. Poseidon married one of them. He sent a sea monster to Cepheus’s city. The only way to save themselves was to sacrifice their daughter. But she was saved by a Greek hero. When Poseidon’s punishment failed, he tied Cassiopeia to her throne, threw her into the sky. Cepheus couldn’t live without her, so he asked to join her forever.”
Matthew squinted at the stars, making Frey laugh. Her dark mood vanished hours ago.
“Too much light pollution. How do you know so much about constellations?”
“My grandfather would take my brother and me outside at night. We didn’t live in the city so that we could see the stars better.”
Matthew smiled. “Sounds peaceful.” He became thoughtful. “You know, every year, my family rents a cabin up in Claryville. Quiet, relaxing, and you can see every star.”
Frey glanced over.
“Not many cisgender men would be as accepting as you are appearing.”
Matthew drew in a breath. “I’m not playing you.”
“I didn’t say you were. You’re just not like the norm I’ve met.
Matthew studied her. “What is love exactly? I want a lifetime partner, preferably someone I won’t want to throttle in a year or two. Someone who wants to travel with me or sit at home if we want, eat.”
Frey made a face. “Definitely wouldn’t want to throttle anyone. Funnily enough, those are things I’ve thought of.”
Matthew faced her fully. “See, so what’s the problem if we want to do this again on a rooftop?”
“Well, for one, I don’t know any of our coworkers who’d have pizza and hard seltzer on a roof.”
“Too stiff,” Matthew said.
“Seriously.” He insisted.
“I know, that’s why I’m laughing. It’s true.” Frey took a deep breath to stop her giggling. “That person would have to like dogs. Murphy was the first man in my life.”
“Fair enough. Murphy gets first dibs. That person would have to like cats too.”
“I have four.”
“Don’t they have stipulations of how many pets you can have in this building?” Matthew teased.
“Not my fault she was pregnant when I found her wandering around the side alley.”
Matthew grunted, his face lighting up instantly to show he was still joking.
“You can learn all about Hanukkah. It’ll be fun.”
“And it’ll be Kwanzaa for you.”
Then, Matthew reached out, running his fingers through Frey’s hair. She closed her eyes, letting him.
"What do you say?"
Frey opened her eyes, the sadness absent.
© 2021 Regin St Cyr