The night had drifted by in a blur. It had fading into the first hours of morning, which I have always found to be almost magical. Technically it was morning, but if I’d asked any one, at the same hour, when my house was bustling with of the guests and party goers, I don’t doubt that they’d have told me that it was still the middle of the night. It was an oxymoron of sorts, much like I was. A rich man who made his own money. A morning that was also the middle of the night.
The thought made me chuckle.
Tonight there were no people crowding his house tonight, there was no party, no noise, but his house was filled with light. It was a strange sight, or so I imagined. My house completely empty, lit like a beacon in the inky night, with a lone man standing in the yard, me. I was waiting for Nick to return from the city. The man hadn’t been home all evening and it was imperative that I spoke with him. The light was merely a tool to keep me from drifting off, and perhaps to make sure I captured Nick’s attention regardless of weather I did.
The low rumble of an engine caught caught my attention from across the yard. I quickly made my way closer to find that it was Nick. At long last he had returned. A smile graced my lips a I walked closer. He seemed enraptured by the sight of my home, just like I’d hoped he would. Warm pride filled my veins and made my heart flutter.
It was only when Nick’s taxi drove off that his gaze finally fell on me.
“Your place looks like the World’s Fair,” he murmured, sounding as though he was caught in a trance.
“Does it?” I asked, following his eyes as they drifted back to my mansion. I rolled my lip between my teeth before continuing. “I have been glancing into some of the rooms. Let’s go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car.”
“It’s too late,” he replied, his eyes still fixed on the house.
For a moment I wondered if my plan was working a little too well. It most certainly appeared that way.
There was a silence. We both stared at the light, though I found myself stealing glances at Nick as we did. Nerves began to creep up my spine. I’d been waiting all night for this moment, yet once it arrived I found myself dreading it.
“Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming-pool?” I offered. I couldn’t pinpoint why, but I prayed for him to agree. “I haven’t made use of it all summer.”
“I’ve got to go to bed,” he sighed, finally returning his eyes to me.
My heart dropped at his reply.
“All right.” I nodded hopping he couldn’t see my disappointment.
For a moment I lingered, hoping he would change his mind.
When Nick spoke again, it wasn’t to accept my offer.
“I talked with Miss Baker,” He said. There went my plan of spending some quality time with the man before getting down to business.. “I’m going to call up Daisy to-morrow and invite her over here to tea.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” I muttered. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble.”
I didn’t want to force him into anything. Nick was my friend. One of the better ones I’d had given the time I’d known him.
“What day would suit you?” he continued, completely disregarding what I’d said.
“What day would suit you ?” I corrected half-teasing him. “I don’t want to put you to any trouble, you see.”
“How about the day after to-morrow?” Nick offered.
I mulled it over for a moment. That was so… soon.
“I want to get the grass cut.” I blurted without thinking.
Our eyes fell to the grass, more specifically the stark separation between my well kept lawn and his more… ragged yard. I didn’t judge the man for it. I doubted he had the spare money for a gardener. Luckily I was more than willing and able to lend him a hand.
That would at the very least buy me some time.
I thought for a moment.
“There’s another little thing,” I began.
“Would you rather put it off for a few days?” he asked, sensing my unease.
“Oh, it isn’t about that. At least ——” He assured him as I fumbled with my words. “Why, I thought — why, look here, old sport, you don’t make much money, do you?”
“Not very much.”
I continued, now with more confidence. “I thought you didn’t, if you’ll pardon my — You see, I carry on a little business on the side, a sort of side line, you understand. And I thought that if you don’t make very much — You’re selling bonds, aren’t you, old sport?”
“Well, this would interest you. It wouldn’t take up much of your time and you might pick up a nice bit of money. It happens to be a rather confidential sort of thing.”
Nick froze and I instantly regretted my offer.
“I’ve got my hands full,” he replied awkwardly.. “I’m much obliged but I couldn’t take on any more work.”
“You wouldn’t have to do any business with Wolfsheim.” I added, in an attempt to repair any possible damage I’d just done to his image of me.
To my relief, all was well.
I returned to my house that night with a pleasant smile on my lips.
Things would be just fine.