for cherry.


Tess opened the door for the second time that night and found herself staring into the abyss.

Terry's boys, far from home and the warm breezes of Vegas, had come to deliver an envelope, of course. Far be it for Terry to bother with something as mundane as courier service. Even when they were together, the flowers were always delivered by someone else.

She didn't open the envelope. It wasn't addressed to her, but that's not why. It had occurred, to Tess, that perhaps she didn't want to know what was inside.


It was kind of obvious Rusty had been drinking steadily. She peered around him, watched a yellow cab pull carefully out of the drive and make a right turn and out of their lives.

It was the abyss, Tess knew it - she just didn't know who'd started it. It was the abyss because she knew that Danny wasn't going to follow Rusty inside her house, he wasn't going to follow Rusty into the living room. Danny didn't follow Rusty anywhere, it was the other way around.

She picked up the envelope from the table. "A delivery came for you, this afternoon."

It had been sitting on the table since Terry's boys had dropped it off. Tess hadn't held it with her own hands, and she handed it to him wrapped in a tea towel, now. Rusty just grabbed the thing and ripped it open with two fingers, messily, as Tess stepped back.

"Weren't you afraid it might blow up or something?" Tess asked him.

Rusty draped himself on one of her dining room chairs, pulled out what looked like photographs. He answered, "he wouldn't have sent it here," and then stared at the pictures, intently.

Tess leaned over, to look, and Rusty flipped them over. "Don't," he said, and then, "you don't really want to know, do you?"

Tess had never known Rusty to come to her; not in the eight years she'd known him had he ever come to her before Danny. They'd had good times, bad, but Rusty was always the shadow, following Danny in his grand entrances. Rusty was a con man; he could step behind a pillar in the lobby and even Tess would forget he'd been there thirty seconds later.

He prided himself on being the one in the room people didn't point out. It was his way to be able to put you off, make you forget that the picture you nearly saw was your husband with a 9 mm to the back of his head. Rusty tucked the pictures back into their envelope, and put it in the inside pocket of his jacket.

Tess studied him for a long moment, wondering what Danny would have done with him at this moment. "Just come upstairs," Tess finally said, slowly.

Rusty stood, lurched a bit, and looked at her. It was pained, and apologetic, all at once, and Tess shook her head. Her and Danny might have been a movie star romance - drama, passion, heartache, joy - but not for a second would Tess blame anyone but Danny for this.

"Just come upstairs," she said. Rusty followed her, and Tess closed her eyes, briefly, and didn't look behind her.