Note: Vague mentions of Drugs and Dominos (the light novel that details Eve's search for her brother and her run in with the Gandors) spoilers. The events of the novel are quite different from those of the anime. I prefer the novel.
ETA July 24, 2010: Thanks to the reviewer who pointed out a few errors in the story. Curse my eyes and the limitations of the modern spell check program! Anyway, I appreciated your assistance. You asked a few questions but you didn't leave any sort of means for me to get back to you with the answers. I've tried to expanded upon certain things here in the hopes of covering at least a few of your questions. The note about the title has been moved to the bottom so as the talk about the title without potentially spoiling the story.
"Are you all right, Miss?"
"I...I think I'm fine," she said.
"Let me help you up."
"Thank you but I think I can manage." Eve pressed her gloved hands into the wet snow and tried to push back up to her feet. She almost succeeded but her heel slipped a mere moment before victory, sending her crashing back to the ground. "Maybe I could use a hand."
She slicked back a piece of snow drenched hair and looked up. At first, she could not see past the brim of her good Samaritan's hat. The sight of it only furthered her frustration about leaving the hotel without her own hat. But a closer look revealed something else. She realized that she was looking at the outstretched hand of Luck Gandor. She tried to keep her face calm but she was sure that her eyes expressed some sort of silent desperation. It did not pass her notice that even he too seemed to be alarmed. His brows knitted together in obvious frustration. But the expression melted under a smile almost as quickly as she had noticed it. "Let me help you, Miss Genoard."
What could she do? The snow had begun to soak into her skirt. The cold was further seeping in through a rip in her hosiery. And even though she didn't know the exact time, she had the sinking feeling that she was nearly late. She picked up her purse and tentatively took hold of his hand. He lifted her to her feet as if she weighed nothing at all. "Where are you heading?"
"I'm just going up another few blocks."
"Then let me walk you there. That is," he said with cautious eyes, "if you don't have a problem with taking my help."
Eve paused as she dusted the snow from her coat. It would probably be best not to walk the streets arm-in-arm with a mafia capo. Given her background with crime families (in general) and with the Gandor family (in particular), she could not plead ignorance as to who he was or what it did. At the same time, she had teetered down icy sidewalks for far too long. Even though she knew that the distance was short, the journey promised not to be any easier. So, she mustered up a smile and said, "I would appreciate your assistance."
He thrust forward his left elbow and said, "Whenever you're ready."
For a moment, she could only stare at the arm. Eve had witnessed that arm do strange and horrible things. Now, covered in snow-dappled brown wool, it was hard to imagine that those things had ever happened. She threaded her arm next to his and looked up into his eyes. "I think we should begin."
Luck nodded. He began to take a tentative step forward but stopped mid-step and replaced his foot in its starting position. His right hand reached over and grabbed hold her of arm. Her eyes drifted back toward his and she was surprised by his suddenly serious expression. "Miss Genoard, I think we should take this slowly. It looks like some of the bast...I mean, some of the proprietors have not cleared their sidewalks yet. It would be a shame if both of us fall for moving too fast."
She let forth an inward sigh. This was not what she had wanted at all. Yet she could see his point. The post-snow blitzed streets were almost bare. No one, except for her, was in any sort of hurry. "You will most likely get me there faster than I would on my own. You should lead as you see fit."
"Fine," he said with a smile. "I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page."
And they were off. While Luck's stride was strong and natural, Eve still labored under the tyranny of her heels. She tried her best not to verbally curse society's choice for feminine footwear as she cautiously tripped across the snow. On occasion, she had to lean against her companion to remain upright. She was thankful, and a little surprised, that he was gentleman enough not to comment.
That did not mean that he remained completely silent.
"I didn't recognize you at first."
"I didn't recognize you either," replied Eve. "But that's not so odd. It's been years since we saw each other."
"Maybe so. But I never imagined that she was you. Perhaps, I never expected to see you around here again. Perhaps," he said before casting her a playful glance, "it was the stunning lack of pink in your attire."
"Really? I don't see how 'pink' is one of my defining traits." Still, there was no way for him to see the bits of pink she hid beneath her black overcoat: the faint pink pinstripes in her jacket and skirt, the pink accents on her cufflinks, or her pale rose colored shirt. It was all the pink she allowed herself. Despite her love for the color, she knew very well that no one respected a young woman dressed entirely in pink. And though the color shift was a professional choice, she had no problem maintaining this new quota. Perhaps that was why the thought of anyone – especially him - associating that color with her sent the fire to her cheeks. Their frigid surroundings only seemed to make the fire burn hotter.
She needed to change the subject. "What are you doing out on a day like today?"
"I just have a few errands to run. A boss' work is never done."
"Certainly, but don't you have other men to do your leg work?"
"Some things, especially on days like today, need the executive touch. They need to know that their work is appreciated in these bleak conditions. A boss has to get his hands dirty."
"And you've never had a problem with that?"
"No." He let the details go unspoken.
Eve let the conversation drift away. She allowed her thoughts to wander as she watched the last few bits of snow drift lazily toward the ground. She was only vaguely aware that Luck had been speaking to her. His voice blended in with the calm of the street. It wasn't until she felt his movements stop that she realized that he had been expected her to reply. "I'm sorry," she said. "What was that again?"
"Why are you out?" he asked, his patience obviously strained.
"Oh, it is part of the 'Genoard Rehabilitation Project.'" She noticed his slightly quizzical expression and tried not to laugh. It wasn't the first time she had received such a look because of this project and it would probably not be the last. Yet she liked her pet name for it and happily kept it, confused looks or not. To her, the name described the project too well. "As you well know, my family has been the cause of much pain and suffering for many people. And though we've rebounded legitimately, that does not undo years of bad behavior. So I have begun to spearhead certain charitable works throughout the city."
"Even in our territory?"
"Yes." She pronounced the word with a confidence that was quickly slipping away from her. Despite her family's previous ties to organized crime, she had not considered how her actions would look to the neighborhood mafiosi. "Is this something that your family will have a problem with?"
"Probably not. We have no beef with you personally and the details will probably show that this is all very harmless." He cast her a furtive look before asking, "Are you the only Genoard family member involved in this operation?"
"Yes, yes! Certainly yes," she exclaimed in instant relief. "You will not see my brother in your neighborhood. He is with the Lord now."
She nearly fell forward when Luck came to a sudden stop. She righted herself and looked over to Luck, ready to unleash a torrent of polite anger. Instead, she was struck mute by his wide-eyed confusion. She was bewildered until the unintended meaning of her words became clear. "No, it's nothing like that," she insisted. "Metaphorically, Dallas is with the Lord. We all are. In actuality, he is in the able care of Brother Michael St. Michaels of Albany."
Luck tossed back his head and unleashed peals of laughter. "I should have guessed," he said before resuming his walk.
"And what does that mean?"
"Nothing," he said. "It's nothing you should worry about."
"It obviously means something." She let her voice become low and serious before saying, "Please be candid."
"If you insist. But isn't it obvious?" he asked. "Your brother has always been a problem that someone needs to fix. He was a problem before the incident and has continued, in some ways, to be a problem after it. He should know better but he falls into old patterns. And now you've had to turn to some two-bit con-man of the cloth..."
Eve could barely hear him talk above her rising rage. Who was he to say such things? He and his brothers coordinated a group of thugs who surely left parts of their constituency shaking in their boots. And they had no one to set them straight either from fear or lack of concern. Eve had faith in her brother, flaws and all, and she was willing to help him see his true potential.
She hardly noticed that the speed at which they were walking had dramatically accelerated. That her heels no longer impeded her walk was the least of her concerns. Instead, her mind raced through possible rejoinders to all of his various points. She may have asked for his candidness but she would not let him get the final word in on her life.
"You're wrong about so much, Mr. Gandor," she finally said. "First, Michael St. Michaels comes highly recommended from those who deal with wayward boys and men. I've read their stories of how Brother St. Michaels was able to set their sons, husbands, and fathers back on the right path. Still more, he has received a glowing write-up in the Times and a very balanced article in the Daily Days. He's not just some con-artist who is out to steal from those in need. And, yes, Dallas does need help. I recognize that my help has only gone so far. It is better to allow someone else to assist than it is to just give him a gun and a purpose because delinquents will be delinquents."
"And I suppose you think that's all I do?" he asked, his eyes narrowed down to golden slits. When she didn't answer, he shook his head and let an inaudible swear slip past his lips. "This is why none of your charity will work. Our men aren't greedy little rich boys who want to beat up people who are smaller than themselves. They're disciplined workers who've been given their first tastes of companionship and family. Someone with a Bible and pipe dreams won't change them."
"'Family' equals possibly jail time or death. 'Companionship' ends if they happen to make a grave enough mistake. My plans have very little to do with your organization or its members but I think you rate yourself too highly. Who doesn't want to walk the streets without fearing who might be following? Everyone deserves a chance to be free."
"And power and money equals freedom."
"But money only exists to make more money. It can only take you so far. Industry and strength of character, though, offer freedom from that cycle," she countered.
"Yet you have both and care chained to your money and your family."
"I could say the same for you. And at least no one is gunning for my head."
"My head will be fine regardless."
"Only because of twist of fate."
"Yes, fate gave me this life. And faith gave you yours. I prefer mine and so would anybody else."
She wanted to respond. How could she not? She shot him look that made his eyes widen in surprise. Yet as her mouth opened, her foot slipped beneath the snow and met a slick icy surface. Luck appeared to have hit a similar surface. She felt his body twitch and lean to the side. She closed her eyes and fell with him. Her free hand flailed out and grabbed onto the nearest bit of fabric it could reach. She knew that this would not break her fall, but she needed to hold onto.
When she opened her eyes, she realized that they were still mostly upright. Luck had grasped onto the adjacent light post to keep them in such a position. Her face was firmly pressed against his chest. She looked at her hand and realized that it was pulling at his lapel. She looked up into his horrified eyes and noted that there were only inches between them. A sudden flush overcame his cheeks and he looked away. She did the same.
"We weren't very careful," he said shakily.
"No we weren't. We let emotion get the better of us."
"Always a bad idea." They both tittered uncomfortably. He looked back down at her and said, "We can't manage like this for long. We're going to have to move and..."
"And I'm going to have to move first."
"Right." He offered her a halfhearted smile and said, "I can't help you much with this one."
"It's okay," she said, returning the smile. "I think I've got it."
Carefully, her hands unclenched and she began to straighten up. Her purse, which had unceremoniously shuffled itself between Luck and herself, began to fall but she managed to catch it with a calculated shift to the side. Her body edged further and further away from him with each micro-step she took. Soon, their bodies untangled. Eve took a few mini-steps to the side and nodded for Luck to join her.
Luck gave a small push off the light post and righted himself with no problem. He too took a couple of steps to the side. For a moment, they only stared at each other, each unsure of their next moves. "We should keep moving," suggested Eve.
"Right." They both turned and took a step forward. Again, feet sank beneath the snow to find a slick sheet of ice. And with no post to break their descents, they were forced to tumble to the ground.
Eve cringed. Though she was thankful to have not bumped her head on the cement, she still groaned from the dull throb that overwhelmed her body. Had the choice been hers, she would have stayed on the ground for as long as the pain remained. But because she didn't have that kind of time, she pressed her hands to the ground and foisted herself into a sitting position.
She wasn't surprised to see that Luck was already sitting up. She was, however, a bit confused as to why he was looking away. She looked down and noted a possible answer: her coat had parted and revealed that her skirt had slipped halfway up her thighs. "This surely can't be the most you've seen?" But a sudden sting of pain forced Eve to look closer. It was then that she noticed the seeping gash just to the right of her knee.
She looked again at Luck and saw that he was now holding an oversized handkerchief. "Please take it," he said. "It is clean."
Eve reached out and plucked the cloth from his hand. Carefully, she reached out to grab her purse. She retrieved her own handkerchief and placed it to the side. She tied her handkerchief on first, pulling it tight so as to try to stop the bleeding. She tied his on wide and loose in the hopes of covering the wound and catching any remaining blood. She flexed her leg a few times to see if her handiwork would hold. When she was satisfied that it would, she pulled her skirt down and looked at Luck. "Let's try this again, shall we?" she said with her best forced smile.
"Let's." Luck pulled his legs in and managed to right himself with a not so gentle hoist. He retrieved his hat from the sidewalk and circled wide around the icy spot. He stood before Eve with an outstretched hand and said, "It's all déjà vu, right?"
"Indeed it is." She pulled her legs in and grabbed his hand. He pulled, she pushed, and together they brought her to her feet with a semi-painful thud. Luck swept away some of the snow with his foot and revealed a dry spot surrounded by ice. Eve took careful steps into the spot and out onto the safe zone. As she repositioned her purse beneath her arm, she said, "Thank you, Mr. Gandor."
"You don't have to thank me. In fact," he said as his face quickly flushed, "I need to apologize. I said some things that were completely uncalled for. I had no right to mock you or what you're trying to do."
Eve nodded. "I also said some things that were out of line. I don't know you well enough to question your motives. If anything, you've generally shown me a great deal of kindness." She took a deep breath and said, "I accept your apology and I hope that you accept mine."
They stood silent, each weighing what to say next. It was then that Eve noticed the clump of snow that stuck to his lapel. She reached up and flicked away the offending bits of moisture. It had been an automatic gesture and, one she had finished, she inwardly cringed upon realized just how inappropriate an action it was.
Luck either did not notice or chose not to note her action. He looked down at her and asked, "How much farther do you have?"
"Then we should get moving."
Again, Eve locked arms with Luck and set off down the street. Their strides were cautious yet confident. Eve couldn't help but wonder what the dozen of their fellow pedestrians saw as they watched them walk on. She was sure, though, that most of it was illusory. Neither spoke a word during the last few moments of their journey. For her part, Eve recognized their uneasy truce. She didn't want to say or do anything to sever it.
Eventually, they stopped just a few feet away from the building. "Is this close enough?" he asked.
"Yes." She unlocked arms and stepped in front of him. She thrust forth her hand and said, "Thank you for all you've done today, Mr. Gandor."
"It was no trouble at all." Luck gripped her hand. Before he could do anything else, Eve offered him her firmest handshake. He smiled. "And I guess I'll be going."
Eve watched as he turned to leave. But he stopped suddenly and turned back. "You know, I may have to get in touch with you in regards to this little project."
"Perhaps that can be arranged." Eve flipped through the contents of her purse until she pulled out a small card. She held it out and said, "My personal contact information is at the bottom."
Luck took the card and offered her a small nod. "Until then."
As he turned again to leave, Eve called out, saying, "What about your handkerchief?"
"Just keep it."
"I can't do that. It doesn't seem right." Again, Eve flipped through her purse and procured a pencil and a small pad of paper. She held them out and said, "After today, the least I can do is return it."
Smiling, Luck retrieved the pad and quickly scribbled out a message. He circled a particular part of it and handed the pad back to Eve. "Remember, not after this time." She nodded eagerly. Again, Luck smiled and tipped his hat to her. "So long, Miss Genoard. It's always an adventure with you, isn't it?"
"I could say the same for you." Eve gave a wave and watched as he took off across the street.
As she watched him cross the unusually empty intersection, she began to wonder how far out of his way she had taken him. Though that thought caused a kernel of guilty concern to form in her mind, those thoughts didn't weigh her down for too long. Her internal clock seemed to sound, reminding her of her true mission that way.
Eve brushed herself off as she walked the last few feet to the building. She glanced quickly into the window to assess her appearance. Though there were a few hairs of out of place and a few damp spots on her coat, she looked in presentable condition. It wasn't perfect, but it would work. It occurred to her that she could wring a few drops of sympathy out of her story. But just the thought of doing so made her feel guilty and she swore to herself not to go into details about the walk unless she was specifically asked. That in itself would keep her from saying too much.
She pushed the last reminders of Luck Gandor from her mind and opened the door. By no means did she mean this to be a permanent banishment. After all, it seemed to Eve that he had a way of sneaking back into her life when she least expected it.
Note: The title was taken from the name of a song written by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. It was my preliminary title for this when I first came up with the story a few months ago and it stuck. Why did I choose it? I liked the sense of uncertainty to the song. The narrator isn't quite sure if he or she is moving in the right direction. In the story, Eve and Luck are very catious with each other. They are trying to feel each other out. While they, like the song's narrator, have a few bumps and falls (literally), they get up, patch up hurt feelings, and move on. In the end, the state of their relationship is still unceratin but the groundwork for some sort of partnership , be it romantic or otherwise, can hopefully be seen.
Also, Luck advices Eve that the two of them shouldn't move too quickly lest they fall too fast and then they do exactly that. So the title, for me, is both serious and kind of silly.