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In Favor

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Anybodys did what she thought she ought to do in the wake of Tony’s death – watched out for Maria. If she needed groceries, Anybodys carried the bags. If she needed medicine, she’d fetch it from the drug store (without meeting the eyes of Doc). She did it without complaining or without asking, informed by Action that he’d seen Maria and…

This, for Anybodys, was a form of penance for her role in Tony’s death. The new era of peace in which she lived picked away at her nerves like a little flea, because she was too aware of the role she played in the drama they shared. Doing something – anything – that made her useful helped cut down on the anxiety running rampant in her mind.

So she kept an eye on Maria from a distance for a few weeks – doing what she did best, spy, acting as a lookout and trying to see ahead of them both.

 

 

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The sandwiches were the first gesture of love.

She saw Maria at the diner at the end of the block, picking through a bowl of chicken soup, looking downcast but prettily dressed. She later pried it out of Anita (with much difficulty) that Maria could and would fork down some food whenever Anita forced her to do it, but she was skipping lunches left and right. On Anybodys'' way to work – at the garage where she and most of the Jets had managed to scrounge up a job at – she started popping into diners, buying Maria a sandwich, then leaving it at Maria’s doorstep or at the dress shop.

Maria took them with suspicion in her wide brown eyes. She looked up and down the street, trying to figure out where this sudden kindness was coming from. But she didn’t seem to understand. At least, not to Anybodys’ reckoning.

 

 

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Maria showed up at the garage a few weeks later. “Anita’s having trouble with this motorcycle she got,” she said, bold and calm, not even a little bit unsteady as she stood in the middle of what used to be Jets territory. “It’s outside. Can you spare someone to fix it?”

Anybodys raised her hand eagerly, sliding out from beneath the greasy chassis of a Ford Coupe. “I know something about bikes,” she said. “Can I…”

“Yeah,” said Action, who was trying to tighten up a radiator cap. “You can pay her when you’re done, Maria.”

Anybodys followed Maria outside with a toolbox and an oil can – she had no idea what Anita had done with or to the bike, but she wanted to be prepared.

“How’re things?” Anybodys asked.

“They’re…Anybodys, I know you’re the one leaving me food and things. Thank you, I wish to repay your charity somehow.”

“It’s not charity. I’m just trying to be…good, y’know?” she squatted down to begin her work. There was oil in the engine, so that couldn’t be the problem…gas, too. She started checking the hoses and, ahah. “There you go. Leak in the gas line…”

“Anybodys,” Maria said. She sat down beside the other woman, and Maria handed her the wrench she’d been carelessly plumbing about for. “Are you sure? There’s not more there than pity? This feeling…”

Anybodys paused, then shook her head nervously.

“I…sometimes, when you’re with the others at Doc’s. Or at the school…I’ve been watching you, too.”

The wrench fell out of Anybody’s grip and then upon her toe. She cursed and fell back onto her ass, grabbed at her boot, and Maria made a soothing sound, taking Anybodys’ foot into her grip, unlacing the boot, pulling off her sock and checking her toes, flexing each one. There would be a bruise, likely. “No breaks, but there’s a cut, “ Maria said. She reached into her back pocket and pulled free a handkerchief, then began to dab at the cut. “We’ll darn your socks,” she said. “You know that.”

“I don’t want charity.”

“But you’ll give it?” Maria’s eyes were wide. “You’re a handsome girl. I don’t know why you’re wasting time floating around me.”

“Because you’re what Tony said you were. Beautiful. And nice,” said Anybodys.

“I got Tony Killed,” Maria said bitterly.

“All you did was get his attention. It’s my fault,” Anybodys said.

“You tried to help. You told him Chino had that gun.”

“I should’ve had the guts to take the gun…”

“And die, too? It’s bad enough that we lost ‘Nardo. Bad enough we lost Tony and Riff.”

Anybodys reached for her sock and pulled it on. “Are you saying you’re glad I’m here?”

“I am very glad you’re here. There’s something special about you.”

It was too much said, and enough. Anybodys fixed the fuel line in her stocking feet, and then put her boot back on afterwards, ignoring the cold pavement beneath her foot. Maria tried to pay her, but Anybodys turned her away.

“Then think about what I said,” Maria begged.

She watched Maria wheel the bike back through the fall leaves, her posture erect, looking neither back or to the side. Anybodys watched her progress all the way up the street.

 

 

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The next afternoon, Maria sat down next to Anybodys at Doc’s, and bought her a malted. They made a habit of this – sitting and talking over food – as the fall becomes the winter and the winter the spring.

Maria sent her flowers when she graduated. Anybodys returned the favor. They worked night courses together – Maria in fashion design, Anybodys in autobody repair - studying over Anita’s kitchen table, holding hands, sneaking kisses behind people's backs. Maria’s mother and father didn’t see, never seemed to fathom what was occurign (Anita knew everything, because she was Anita). Anybodys stopped caring what Tony would’ve wanted and tried to do what she thought was best – and discovering herself, understandin herself, was an entirely new concept.

 

 

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When they touched for the first time, it was under a broken streetlamp during a blackout, stuck waiting for a bus to take them back to the neighborhood. Under the cover of darkness, with no one else around. The wind would take them to their destiny – a cozy home in the middle of the state, three adopted children, a dress shop for Maria and place in a garage for Anybodys. There would be challenges - sadness. They would never forget what came before or where they were from.

But there was hope again in the neighborhood, as spring became summer, and a year spun the earth around once more.