Fagin sighed as he sat down at the kitchen table. The boys were in bed, the dishes were done, and he was finally able to do whatever he wanted. He stretched, yawned, and looked about the room. What would he do? I could read, he thought. No, I can do that any time… Fagin fidgeted in his chair. After a few moments, he stood up and walked over to the fireplace. Grabbing the fire poker, he prodded the wood and stirred the flames. Placing the fire poker back in its proper place, he stepped back and smiled at the fire. Now what? he thought. Shaking his head, he picked up a candle and walked over to the stairs that led to the top floor's bedrooms. He made his way up them slowly, trying not to make a sound. A floorboard creaked and he automatically brought a finger up to his lips in a signal of "quiet." After a moment, he continued his journey until he reached the landing. He tiptoed over to the door and placed his ear against its wooden surface. He listened intently for any sounds. Hearing nothing, he smiled satisfactorily and nodded before making his way back down the stairs. Once he reached the bottom, he looked around the room, smiled, and bounced back and forth on the balls of his feet. After a moment, he let the smile fall into a look of intent thought. He walked over to a small bookshelf and picked a dusty book off of it. Walking over to the kitchen table, he sat down, placed the candle onto the table's surface, and opened the book. He began to read a paragraph discussing a particularly bloody murder, when there was a knock at the door.
"Thank goodness!" he said aloud. Quickly placing the book back on the bookshelf, he grabbed his candle and made for the door. Walking quickly down the passageway, he reached the door in a matter of seconds. "Who is it?" he asked softly yet loud enough so that the caller outside could hear.
"It's Nancy," came Nancy's voice through the door.
Fagin opened the door, smiling widely.
"You look in good spirits," she commented.
"Ah, well, my dear… why shouldn't I be?" Fagin guided Nancy up the stairs. "The boys are in bed after a productive day of work and the house chores are complete… it's a fine life."
"Indeed it does seem so," Nancy commented somewhat solemnly.
"Something troubling you, Nance my dear? Have a seat and I'll get you a drink." Fagin pulled out a chair at the kitchen table for her to sit on.
"Well, it's just that Bill's gone on another one of his excursions." She sighed heavily and shifted in her chair.
"Well, my dear, that means plunder… profits… money…" Fagin smiled greedily as he handed her a glass of gin.
"There are other things in life than money, Fagin." Nancy commented.
"Well, yes, my dear. There are, aren't there?" Fagin shook his head thoughtfully. "Well, either way, money is one of the things that makes life worth living."
"You and Bill! All about business and money! Don't you two understand that there are sometimes more important things? What about people?"
"What about them, my dear?"
"Well, they have hearts… hearts enabling them to care… to love…" her voice trailed off slowly.
"Ah, my dear, to be sure! But why are your thoughts so bent on such things?"
"Well, I was sitting alone in the living room – after Bill left – and I began to realize how lonely it really is…"
"Certainly, my dear, but you have Bill quite often," Fagin pointed out not so much to lift the girl's spirit's as to get her to talk.
"Oh, Bill?! Really, Fagin! I think you would have noticed by now that all I am to him is a housemaid! Someone to do his laundry and cook his food!"
"My dear, you must be much more than that," Fagin soothed, letting his hand rest on her shoulder.
"Oh, no I'm not! The last time he gave me some honest attention was… well… I don't remember!" she finished triumphantly as she proved her point.
"Nance, my dear," Fagin began as he poured some more gin into her cup, "Perhaps you are rethinking Bill… decided that he is no longer… satisfactory…" he grinned moving his chair purposefully closer to hers. "There are other people that could… satisfy your desires…"
"Oh, Fagin!" she laughed. "If I didn't know better, I'd say… Oh!" she burst into uncontrollable laughter.
Fagin stared blankly at her, wondering how such a simple suggestion could put her into better spirits so easily. Taking advantage of her distracted state, he poured more gin into her cup.
After finishing her laughing fit, she picked up the cup and took a good-sized sip.
"Well, my dear, conversation is fine and dandy, but how about some… fun?" Fagin rubbed his hands together excitedly as he rose from his chair.
"Fun? All right. What have you got in mind?" she asked curiously.
Fagin put on a thoughtful look. After a moment, he pointed towards the sky in triumph and walked over to her. Removing his hat with his left hand and extending his right hand towards her, he made his intentions clear. "Would you care to dance, my dear?"
"There's no music," Nancy pointed out, smiling with amusement all the while.
"Ah, yes, well…" He thought for a moment. "Ah! No problem, Nancy my dear! We shall have music!" he smiled victoriously.
"All right then!" She placed her hand in his.
After placing his hat back on his head, he pulled her out into a section of the room that was devoid of furniture. Fagin put one hand on her waist and took one of her hands in the other. A small laugh escaped Nancy's lips as he began to hum an exotic sounding tune. They danced about the room twirling and laughing. Slowly Fagin wrapped his arm farther and farther around her waist, decreasing the space between them. With a flourish, Fagin let go of her waist and twirled her in a circle in front of him. Dramatically pulling her against him as the tune he was humming became more intense.
"Where did you learn this?" Nancy breathed lightly against his cheek, clinging onto him, as the dance became more complicated.
Fagin paused in his tune. "Oh, I don't know… it was a number of years ago…" he paused in his talk to hum and then continued, "I really don't remember!"
Nancy laughed and was suddenly brought into a dip by Fagin. She held tightly around Fagin's neck, staring up at him, nearly bursting with laughter. He stared into her eyes, his facial expression cool, as he brought his lips close to hers. Momentarily paralyzed, Nancy stared up at him with wonder. Just as his lips were about to touch hers, he brought her back out of the dip and twirled her before pulling her to him again. They made their way about the room again, Fagin still humming and Nancy alternately giggling and staring in awe at him.
Fagin did a sudden turn, taking Nancy with him, and ending it with a showy gesture. He again dropped her into a dip, this one deeper than before. Humming softly, he leaned in towards her, bringing his lips close to hers again. Once his lips were almost touching hers, he stopped the humming and pressed his mouth to hers. As Nancy clung onto him, they sunk deeper into the kiss. After a moment, they broke apart and he brought her back to a standing position. Hardly pausing, he wrapped his arms tightly around her and placed another long, deep kiss on her lips. Fagin stroked her hair with one of his hands and let the other move slowly down her back. Suddenly Nancy pulled away, staring wildly at Fagin, her chest heaving from the exertion. He moved towards her staring intently into her eyes. When their faces were about six inches apart, Fagin took Nancy's chin in his right hand and, tilting his head to the left, placed his lips over hers again. She yielded to him, then pulled away violently. Fagin stared at her for a moment and then spoke softly. "My dearest Nancy, what is the matter?"
Her mouth moved soundlessly for a moment and then she found her voice, "I… I-I need to be going!" She turned, her skirt whirling about her and made quickly for the door.
Fagin followed her, covering the space between them rapidly. He grabbed her arm, stopping her as she reached for the doorknob.
"Nancy, my dear," he breathed, "there's no need for you to go rushing out of here like this… what are you afraid of?"
She stared passionately back at him, her mouth unmoved. Fagin, seizing his chance, held tightly onto her upper arms and kissed her again. She melted into it, but suddenly pulled back, wrenching herself out of his grip. Pulling the door open, she ran down the stairs, Fagin following her. Once she reached the bottom of the stairs, she paused, holding onto the doorknob in thought.
"Nance," Fagin said slowly, edging his way between her and the door, "answer my question; what are you afraid of?"
She stared at him, her lips shut tightly. Finally, she spoke. "I am afraid that I don't love Bill! I'm afraid that… that… I love you!" Deftly Nancy pushed Fagin out of the way. She turned and pulled the doorknob ferociously and ran off into the dark, starry night.
Fagin stared helplessly at Nancy's frantically retreating figure. He knew that if he attempted to go after her it would only make things worse. Sighing, the old Jew closed the door and made his way back to the kitchen. He picked up the cup that held the remains of Nancy's gin and tipped the contents into his mouth. He swallowed and then poured more gin into the cup. Fagin sat down in one of the chairs and sighed. He was back alone again with nothing in particular to do. He glanced at the modest-sized bookshelf and at the one dusty book that rested on it. He shook his head and stared down at the gin in his cup. After draining the contents, he got up, taking the candle with him. He decided that the best thing to do would be to go to bed and forget about the whole evening. Well, maybe not forget it; just put it out of his mind for the night. No, he would dwell on it - all possible thought would be bent on it.
Fagin entered his bedroom. Slowly he undressed and put on a long flannel nightshirt. His mouth gaped wide open as he loosed a yawn. He approached the nightstand where he had placed the candle and blew out the small light source. Then, after pulling back the covers of the bed, he lowered himself onto the bed. His head hit the pillow lightly and he closed his eyes, smiling contentedly.
Nancy glanced back every few steps to make sure that she wasn't being followed. Once she was halfway between her home and Fagin's, she slowed down and then stopped. Gasping for air, she leaned against the grimy wall of a fine china shop. Her heart was pounding; not so much from her sudden sprint, but from the intense emotions that were battling inside her. She loved Bill… when I first met him! Fagin is just a business associate, a friend… nonetheless he's a person and a man at that! Nancy was just an innocent girl, well, woman… and a right lonely one at that!
"Shut up!" she mumbled irritably to herself. She whacked herself in the head to further impress the command upon herself. How had ten minutes with Fagin caused her to question so many things? Because you think that Fagin is right. Others COULD satisfy your desires… She sighed heavily.
"No!" she told herself firmly. Satisfy my desires… ha! she thought. A burst of laughter exited her as the words reverberated in her head. She could feel the mirthful tears collecting in her eyes, ready to flow down her cheeks. She wiped at her watery eyes as the laughing fit began to calm down. After a moment, she was brought down to a smile of amusement.
See! she thought. You're right. Bill is the one you love. Fagin is crazy.
Another snort of laugher escaped her and she winded her way none too gracefully down the street. She tripped on some object that was lying on the ground and, not managing to catch her balance, fell onto the ground in a heap of giggles.
Calm down! she scolded herself. Someone will see you and think that you're drunk!
She placed her hands and feet against the ground to steady herself. Slowly she straightened up, first raising her bottom, then her upper body. She laughed then hiccuped. Nancy was reminded of the gin that Fagin had poured her. So I am drunk, she thought. Just a little.
Walking on with new determination, Nancy focused on the task before her. She could see her apartment in the distance. Picking up her pace, she covered the distance quickly and reached the door. She stood in front of it for a minute in confusion; something wasn't right. Key! she thought suddenly. She glanced around herself desperately. A thought dawned on her. I left my handbag that had the key in it at Fagin's! She groaned with annoyance and despair, leaning against the door. She knew she had only a few options. (1) She could go back to Fagin's and get it from him, (2) she could wait hours out in the cold for Bill to show up, or (3) she could attempt to break into her own apartment. Discounting the first one immediately as awkward and unpleasant, she considered the second one. It's too cold! She then considered the third one. It's worth a shot! Reaching up, she extracted a hairpin from her hair. She stuck the hairpin into the lock and turned it. After pulling it out, she attempted to turn the knob, but the door was still locked. She glared at it, then put the hairpin back in, wiggled it, turned it, and wiggled it again. She rattled the doorknob angrily before giving up.
I'm not waiting who-knows-how-long for Bill to show up! she thought, hugging herself tightly as the cold air bit at her skin. Her mind strayed to her first option – going back to Fagin's. The memory of their dance ran through her head and she found that the night air was suddenly much too hot. In her mind's eye, she could see Fagin getting closer and closer… his lips touched hers… his arms wrapped around her… she was in ecstasy…
Nancy snapped out of her thoughts as her hot skin touched the cold ground. Her eyes had closed, she had slid down to the ground, and she was now lying against the icy surface of the doorstep. She stood up, wiped at her now soggy dress with her hands, and shook her head vigorously, trying to rid herself of the thoughts and images that had taken control over her.
To business! she ordered herself. I'll just go to Fagin's, act like nothing unusual happened, and get my handbag!
Nancy searched the ground with her eyes, bent over, and picked up the hairpin that had slipped from her fingers in her moment of distraction. After pinning her hair back in place, she made her way back towards Fagin's.