The Nightingale Rises

By: Cynthia Dane

“Oh, well, if I had to choose.”

“What time is it? They should be there any minute.”

“Wait, what? You went ahead and sent someone over to take me shopping, even before I said I would do it?”

She could practically hear him shrugging on the other line. “I didn’t think you would end up saying no. Anyway, the worst that could’ve happened was that I had to call and tell them to not bother. Then pay for their time. It’s not a big deal.”

It’s a big deal to us little people.

“Don’t worry about anything today, or tomorrow night. Pick out something nice but safe, and I’ll come pick you up around six. Come hungry. It’s a five-course meal.”

“Of course it is.”

“I hope you have some fun, Nala. Even if you’re not too into shopping, it will be a different experience downtown.”

“Yeah, sure. Thanks.”

She hung up before he could say anything else. At that lucky moment, the doorbell rang.

Nala burst from her closet before any of the stoners could get to the door. Oh hell no! She had no idea who was coming. She didn’t want to know, but here she was, huffing it to the door before Patrick could stumble off the couch and answer with a cheese dust-infested grin.

The door opened with nary a squeal of the rusty hinges. When Nala looked up from the closed-toe heels greeting her, she almost lost the ability to speak.

“Gale!” Robin took up the entire doorway, sunhat flapping with raindrops on the rim. “Look at you! Let’s go shopping!”

Nala began to close the door again before realizing that was a very rude thing to do.

Chapter 2

Nala stepped onto the porch, closing the door behind her instead of in Robin’s face. What the fuck! She had yet to see any of the people from the club outside of its confines. Yet here Robin was, dressed like she was ready to attend an expensive luncheon after Sunday mass.

“You ready to go? Oh, didn’t you know I was coming? You’re dressed like…” She looked up and down Nala’s ensemble, a simple hoodie and jeans combo. “Never mind. Do you want to change before we go? I can wait in the car.’ Robin gestured to the Rolls-Royce idling on the street. Oh my God. What was going on?

“I… had no idea you were coming. Nor that you knew Vincent.”

“He and Lucian have recently started doing business together. Vincent called and asked if I would be able to take you out shopping for a day. Said you were… not so into it, but needed a new wardrobe… and thought maybe you’d like a friend to help?”

Nala couldn’t help but crack a smile. She’s ditzy, but she seems genuine. If Nala had learned anything since moving back to Portland, it was that people could be faker than money sharks in Vegas. But when you found a good soul who clicked with you – or as much as one could with Nala – it was best to hold on to them.

“It was very nice of you to come all the way out here from…”

Robin perked up. “Oh! We live down on the South Waterfront. It wasn’t that far to come out this way. The bridges ain’t nothing this time of day.”

“I’m sure.” Nala pulled her hands out of her hoodie pocket and placed one on the door handle. “Give me a few minutes to put on some shopping clothes.” Whatever those were.

Robin went to wait in the heated car while Nala perused her slim selection of cute clothes. Cute clothes that wouldn’t leave her to freeze and drown in the rainy weather, anyway. Are jeans too uncouth? Most of hers were second-hand. So, probably.

The best she could do was her nicer work trousers and a dark blue blouse that made her look more chic than homeless. Please fit into the Portland aesthetic. It was her best bet, because she could never hope to dress like Robin in her slinky red dress and bold makeup.

“Hey, girl, let’s go!” The car door opened and enticed Nala to come inside. “I know all the best shops downtown. Mr. Lane gave me his credit card for safe keeping. You’re so lucky! Ten thousand spending limit!”

“Ten… thousand?” Nala had barely shut the car door behind her and buckled her seatbelt when she heard the news. In the front seat sat a dapper man with white gloves and a black, flat-topped hat. The moment Robin told him to head downtown, the car pulled away from the pot-reeking craftsman house.

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