Anyone but You Read online

  “I’ll just have to open my door when she’s going by sometime, then,” Nina said. “She’s not shy, right?”


  “What about dogs?” Nina looked anxious again. “Will she be upset about Fred?”

  “Only if he pees on her exercise bike,” Alex said. “Norma’s pretty easygoing.”

  Nina looked down at the pile of bones and skin that Fred melted into every time he collapsed somewhere. “Don’t pee on Norma’s bike, Fred.”

  Fred snored.

  “I think he’s got it,” Alex said. “Sharp dog.”

  “And don’t go in Alex’s window, either,” Nina went on, and Alex said, “Well, let’s not get carried away here. I can always use the company.”

  Nina smiled at him again, warm and serene and welcoming, and he blinked, wondering why he was having such a hard time remembering his place in the conversation. There was no reason for her to be confusing him like this. He was hardly over his relationship with…with…

  Oh, hell.

  Nina said, “Are you all right?” and he thought, Get out of here, Alex, she’s fogging your mind. Who the hell had he been dating? She’d been blond, he remembered that. Time to get out. He stood up and said, “I’m great, but I’d better go now. Thanks for the Coke.”

  She followed him to the door, thanking him again for returning Fred, while he tried to remember the name of the woman he’d been seeing for six weeks. Why couldn’t he remember? It had to be age. He was going to be thirty tomorrow, and already the mind was going. Whatshername had had a narrow escape; their kids would have done lousy on the SATs, and she was the type who would have cared. What the hell was her name?

  “Debbie,” he said, and the woman in front of him said, “No, Nina.”

  He blinked down into her dark, dark eyes, which was how he’d gotten in this mess in the first place. “I know you’re Nina, I was just trying to remember the name of my…uh, dog.”

  “You have a dog?” Nina beamed. “That’s why Fred came through your window. Looking for a friend.”

  “No. Debbie was my…never mind.” Alex shook his head. “Anyway, Fred had the right idea. I could use a friend, myself.”

  She held out her hand. “Well, you’ve got two upstairs now. We really appreciate you coming to the rescue.”

  He took her hand, trying to ignore how soft and warm it was while he appreciated her, too. Knock it off, he told himself and dropped her hand. “Got to go. See you, Fred,” he called back over his shoulder and then he escaped into the hall and down the stairs.

  On the way down, he met Rich, looking disgustingly healthy in jeans and a gray-striped shirt that matched the gray in his hair, on his way up to Norma’s with a pizza.

  “Hello, Alex.” Rich punched him in the arm. “Not making time with my woman, are you?”

  “Rich, you know Norma wouldn’t look twice at me. I couldn’t keep up her pace.” Alex nursed his bicep where Rich had pounded him. Rich had a mean punch. “I was in three, meeting the new tenant.”

  “Ah.” Rich nodded. “I saw her the other day. Very nice-looking.” He squinted at Alex. “She’s older than you are.”

  “You should talk,” Alex said.

  “No, no, that’s good.” Rich leaned closer. “Older women know things.”

  Alex hated to ask, but he had to. “What kind of things?”

  Rich raised his eyebrows. “Things. You’ll find out.” He sighed. “Of course, she’s no Norma. They broke the mold when they made Norma.”

  “I always figured Norma broke the mold because she didn’t want the competition,” Alex said, and Rich roared with laughter.

  “Didn’t want the competition. Wait’ll I tell Norma. She’ll love that one.”

  “Yeah, and if she doesn’t, she’ll come down and beat the crap out of me,” Alex said, and Rich laughed again and went jogging up the stairs with Norma’s pizza.

  “Older women, huh?” Alex said to his retreating back, but Rich was too far away to hear.

  “I READ AN ARTICLE on menopause yesterday,” Nina said to Charity, who was sitting on the oriental rug on Nina’s living-room floor, looking elegant and sexy in a black silk catsuit. Nina looked down at her own blue-striped cotton pajamas and sighed. You are what you wear, she told herself, and went back to the feast that she and Charity had assembled on the floor around them: nonfat pretzels, nonfat potato chips and a blender full of chocolate Amaretto milk shake.

  And Fred.

  Fred was turning out to be a world-class mooch.

  Charity rolled her eyes and fed Fred a pretzel, which he took gently in his mouth, dropped on the ground, pushed with his nose, examined closely, and then, deciding it was exactly like the other three pretzels he’d had earlier, ate. “Don’t rush into anything, Fred,” Charity told him and then turned back to Nina. “Why are you reading about menopause, for heaven’s sake?”

  “Because I’m forty now.” Nina crunched into a pretzel. “It said that perimenopause starts in the forties.”

  “Nina, you’ve been forty for about forty-eight hours. Estrogen deprivation won’t start for at least another week.” Charity leaned over Nina’s blue-striped lap to grab the potato-chip bag. “I can’t believe you’re torturing yourself like this.”

  “There was a list of symptoms,” Nina went on. “Warning signs. They were awful.”

  “Hot flashes.” Charity nodded. “I get those every time I think of Sean. Only I think it’s rage not menopause.”

  “One of them is that your pubic hair starts to thin,” Nina said.

  Charity stopped with a chip halfway to her mouth. “I did not need to know this.”

  Nina nodded. “So I was in the shower last night and I looked, but the thing is, I never paid that much attention before, so I don’t have any idea if mine’s thinner.”

  Charity dropped the chip back into the bag. “Nina, honey, you’re losing your grip.”

  Nina stuck her chin out. “I just want to know. I want to be prepared.”

  Charity shrugged and went back to the chips. “So ask Guy.”

  Nina shot her a withering look. “Ask my ex-husband to check my pubic hair to see if it’s thinned in the year we’ve been divorced? No, I don’t think so.”

  Charity beamed at her. “Well, there’s always Rogaine.”

  “Thank you very much.” Nina slurped up more of her milk shake. “And then there’s this thing I’m developing for younger men. I was watching ‘Friends’ the other night and caught myself wondering what Matthew Perry is like in bed.”

  “I’ve wondered that myself,” Charity said. “You know, whether he’d stop wisecracking long enough to—”

  “Charity, I could have given birth to Matthew Perry.”

  Charity looked at her with patient contempt. “Nina, Matthew Perry is not a real person. He’s an actor. He doesn’t count. Now, if you were having hot thoughts about Macaulay Culkin, I’d worry. But Matthew Perry, no.”

  “He counts,” Nina said stubbornly.

  “Hell, I think about James Dean and he’s dead,” Charity went on. “That doesn’t mean I’m heading for the cemetery with a shovel. Fantasy is not the same as reality. You don’t have to feel guilty about it.”

  “It’s happening in reality, too,” Nina said. “I met my downstairs neighbor yesterday, and I was thinking about how much fun he looked and what great hands he had, and I swear, he can’t be more than twenty-five. It’s only a matter of time until I’m cruising the high schools.”

  Charity sat up straighter, which made her black silk move against her curves. It was a shame there wasn’t a man around to watch Charity move, Nina thought. The whole effect was sort of wasted on her and Fred.

  Fred was investigating the potato-chip bag.

  “Downstairs?” Charity said, pushing Fred’s nose out of the bag. “You didn’t mention any guy downstairs. Who is he? What does he do? Is he married?”

  Nina tried to look quelling. “I told you. He’s just a baby.”

  “I l