The Curious Case of Emma Lee

A writer meets an interesting woman.

The Curious Case of Emma Lee

It was a rainy day, the day that I met her.

I remember the raindrops making their way down the shop windows as I walked along the sidewalk. I clutched my collar, holding it close to keep the precipitation out, and to keep the last vestiges of warmth inside my jacket. The jacket was old and worn, and it was already doing an unsatisfactory job keeping the rain at bay; I refused to carry an umbrella. My shoes splashed in the ever-growing menagerie of puddles, and I had to find some respite from the rain. I put my hand on the next handle I saw and pulled it open.

The air was warm inside and welcoming, and it seemed I had found my way into a small bar, and with some even greater luck, I found that I was the only patron. In it, there was a small, brown-haired woman. She was cleaning glasses and didn’t seem to notice me.

“What do you want?” she said.

“Beer?” I said.

She never looked up from the glass. “That’s alarmingly generic.”

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

“No,” she said. “I just thought that a writer would be more creative.”

“I guess I’m not that good,” I said before the realization hit. “How did you know I was a writer?”

“I know everything about you,” she said.

“You do?”

“No,” she said, and pointed to my dripping tweed jacket, “but the only guy who will wear that is either a writer or wants to be.”

“How do you know I’m not a wannabe?”

“Is there really any difference?” she said.

“I guess not.”

She kept cleaning the glass, letting her long, brown curls hang in her face. I saw an open bottle next to her, and glass filled with something that wasn’t water. “What are are you drinking?” I asked.

“Jameson,” she said.

“What?” My question forced her to look up, and I saw for the first time how beautiful she was. She had these brown eyes that, despite how young she appeared, made her seem older. “You said my name.”

“Oh god, your name is Jameson?” she said. “You wear a tweed coat, and your name is Jameson? You’re lucky you're a writer”

“As opposed to?”

“You sound like you should be selling unicycles in Brooklyn,” she said. She came to the bar and sat on the bar stool. As she went to sit, she turned and tossed the towel she was holding onto the booth behind us. She forced me to snap my head back to staring at the mirror behind the bar, as she caught me admiring her from behind.

“Like the view?” she asked.

“I’ve seen better,” I said.

“How much better?”

“Not that much.”

That got her to smile. “I can live with that,” she said. “So, Jameson, what brings you in here.”

“The rain,” I said.

“You’re not the most charming writer are you?”

“I never claimed to be charming,” I said. “How come the bartender is drinking on the job.”

“Don’t you drink on the job?” she asked.

“True enough,” I said, “but I’m not liable if I do it.”

“Neither am I,” she said and she pointed to the front window. The mere fact that I was looking at the word “OPEN” told me all I needed to know, with its "Closed" counterpart visible to the sidewalk.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were closed?”

“You seemed in a hurry, and I was bored,” she said, “and you’re cute.”

“Really?”

“I mean I’ve seen better,” she said. She winked. “Most guys would have asked for my name by now.”

“Most guys would have noticed the bar’s closed.”

“Most guys wouldn’t wear that ugly jacket.”

“I like this jacket,” I said.

“I can tell.” She was leaning ever so closer—so close that I realized just how far out of my league she was. “It doesn’t like you, though,” she said, and reached towards me, and pulled the wet tweed jacket from my shoulders. She tossed it on the table next to us. “You have one of those pretentious wool hats too, don’t you?”

“I wouldn’t call it pretentious.”

“I knew it,” she said. “Horned rim glasses?”

“Lasik,” I said pointing to my eyes, “before they were popular.”

“I told you I know all about you.”

“So you’ve said,” I said, “but you haven’t mentioned how.”

“I’m psychic,” she said, “or maybe a ghost. You decide. You’re the writer.”

“I wouldn’t really like to know your name if you’re a ghost. I’ve never met a ghost before.”

“Boo," she said.

“That wasn’t nearly as funny as you thought it would be.”

“I know, but I’m cute so I get away with it.”

“And very modest,” I said.

“The supernatural is not known for being humble.”

“Oh,” I said, “then you should definitely tell me your name.”

“Emma Lee.”

“Emily? I like that.”

“Not Emily. Emma. Space. Lee.”

“Why do I get the feeling you’re doing this on purpose?”

“Because I could have included my middle name,” she said. She leaned closer still, this time giving me an uncompromising view down her shirt. I didn’t try to hide my stare.

“What’s your middle name?”

“I don’t have one,” she said laughing. She took my hand and led me to the booth, and slid in next to me.

“Ms. Lee,” I began.

“It’s Mrs. Lee,” she said.

When she said that, I’ll never quite be sure if my mouth fell open, or if it just felt that way. “Really?”

“No,” she said, “I just wanted to see your reaction.” She was sitting close to me now. So close, I should have been able to feel the warmth of her body.

“Sorry.”

“So you’re really a miss?” I asked.

“Close enough,” she said, “but it’s a long complicated story, and this is getting incredibly close to killing the mood. So what do you write, Jameson?”

“My friends call me James.”

“Do want to be friends right now?”

“No.”

“Then tell me, Jameson,” she said.

“Mostly detective stories,” I said. “Sometimes noir stuff. Like a modern day Raymond Chandler.”

“I might need a detective,” she said.

“I’m not a detective though,” I said. “Only a writer.”

“Close enough.”

“What for?”

“I told you it’s complicated.”

“It’s the ghost thing, isn’t it?” I asked.

"Yes. Yes, it is."

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Matthew Donnellon

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