June 1977

“Lovely, isn’t she?” a voice from behind Josh asked, startling the blond haired twenty year old.

Mesmerized by the young woman in the portrait, Josh hadn’t heard anyone come up behind him. He turned and found, only a few feet behind him, an attractive Hispanic woman in her early thirties. Tall, maybe an inch or so more than his own five six, she had short, jet black hair cut just above her neckline and wore a low cut, sleeveless blue dress that drew attention to a compact bust. Her skin was deeply tanned, as if she’d just spent a week at the beach, and Josh also couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t wearing a bra, her pert nipples pressing tightly against the thin material of her outfit.

“Excuse me?” Josh asked.

“The young woman in the painting — she’s quite lovely, isn’t she?” the new arrival repeated. “I assume you thought so as well, since you’ve been staring at her for almost ten minutes.”

As if that hadn’t been true, Josh glanced back at the painting, acting as if he was viewing it for the first time. It was a side view of a young woman about his age, with fair skin and brown hair done up in an elaborate style. Standing near the edge of a river bank with thick foliage in the background, the brunette wore a light colored dress dotted with an indistinguishable pattern, a garment that hung low enough around her body to expose both her right breast and the small of her back. It had caught Josh’s attention as he walked past, her beauty compelling him to stop and take a better look.

“I guess she is,” Josh finally agreed as he turned back to the woman behind him, trying to downplay his attraction to the semi-nude portrait.

“Do you think that, when she posed for that painting, the young woman had any thought that, over fifty years later, people would still be admiring her beauty?” the woman in blue asked.

“Fifty years?” Josh repeated, momentarily confused.

Stepping up beside him, the dark haired woman pointed to a small metal plate situated under the bottom of the frame. On it appeared the title of the painting, the artist and the year of the work, which read 1919.

“A small bit of immortality,” the older woman said with a smile, “or at least a chance to influence young hearts beyond her time.”

“I guess so,” Josh replied, feeling slightly embarrassed by the thoughts he’d been having about a woman now probably older than his grandmother.

“I love that the artist thought to leave at least something to the viewer’s imagination, don’t you?” she asked. “A bit of mystery for a potential lover to discover on their own.”

Josh looked again at the portrait and realized that she was right. It wouldn’t have been half as captivating if she was totally nude. It was what you couldn’t see that was the real attraction.

“Oh, let me introduce myself,” the woman said as she realized that she hadn’t done so. “I’m Anya Martinez.”

“Josh, Josh Miller,” the younger man replied automatically.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Josh Miller,” Anya said with an inviting smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you at one of Randolph’s revelries before.”

“Who?” Josh asked, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Randolph Cabot, your host,” Anya stated, an equally bewildered look on her own face. “Don’t you know whose party you’re at?”

“Honestly, not really,” Josh admitted. “Oh, I know he’s a Broadway producer or something like that, but that’s about it.”

Her expression now reflecting a bit of skepticism, Anya took a closer look at the young man. She hadn’t thought much of it initially, but, in just a pair of slacks and a buttoned shirt, he did seem a bit underdressed for the occasion.

“Did you come here with someone?” Anya asked, considering the idea that he was someone’s date, adding to herself that he was certainly cute enough to be someone’s boytoy.

‘No,” Josh replied, quickly adding, once he saw the way she was looking at him, “I guess I should explain.”

“Maybe you should,” Anya agreed, recalling someone saying that there had been a few recent robberies in the area — two of which had occurred during parties.

“My uncle owns Ricci’s Pastries and I sometimes make deliveries for him on weekends,” he said, pulling a half dozen business cards from his shirt pocket, having only realized now that he’d forgotten to leave them by the dessert trays. “I …”

“A food delivery, this late?” Anya interrupted him, confirming with a glance at a nearby clock that it was almost a quarter to ten.

“As I was saying,” Josh continued, ignoring the interruption. “My uncle was just closing up shop when he got a call asking if we could deliver a second order because, the caller said, more people had shown up at the party than had been expected. They didn’t care what we brought, but they needed it now. So, we just boxed up what we had left and that was it.”

Taking one of the cards and looking at it, Anya recalled that she herself had noted earlier that more people than usual seemed to have showed up for the party. Still, that didn’t explain what the young man was doing out here admiring the artwork. Josh seemed to anticipate that question as he finished his explanation.

“After I made the delivery, I was about to head home to Brooklyn, when the gentleman who signed for it suggested that I hang around and get myself something to eat,” he said. “I hadn’t had dinner, so I figured, why not?”

“A tall, slender middle aged man, slightly balding with a beard?” Anya asked.

“Yeah, that was him,” Josh confirmed, her change in expression telling him that he’d just described Randolph Cabot.

“I’m sorry for being so suspicious,” Anya apologized. “I …”

“That’s okay,” Josh smiled, knowing that he was a bit out of place.

What Josh didn’t realize was that, even if he was no longer viewed with skepticism, he was still an object of curiosity in Anya’s eyes. She wondered if the gregarious producer might have had an ulterior motive in inviting the young man to stay. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time, she told herself, having observed several such occurrences herself. But then, after considering the thought for a few moments, she discarded it. Cute as Josh was, he really wasn’t Randolph’s type and besides, why take a chance on an unknown quality when the house was filled with affable guests, many eager to share his company? Anya, however, loved the challenge of unknown qualities.

“So, have you been enjoying yourself?” Anya asked, changing the subject.

“Well, it’s been interesting,” Josh said diplomatically. “The crowd here is certainly different than where I normally spend Friday nights.”

“Oh, and where would you usually spend a Friday night?” Anya inquired.

“My friends and I like to go to a disco in Bay Ridge,” Josh answered. “You might’ve heard of it, 2001 Odyssey, it’s pretty popular.”

“Named after the movie?” Anya inquired, the Stanley Kubrick film having long been a favorite of hers.

“I don’t know, maybe,” Josh replied, having seen the movie even if he hadn’t understood it. “You know, they filmed a movie at Odyssey; some friends and I even got to be extras in it. It starred that guy from ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ and it’s supposed to come out later this year. I don’t what they’re going to call it, but it was awesome.”

“I’m sure it was,” Anya replied, seeing that the young man was really excited by the fact that he got to be part of the scenery in a film no one would probably ever remember.

“Did you ever watch the show?” Josh inquired. “It takes place in a Brooklyn school.”

“I’m afraid I’m not much of a television person,” Anya admitted. She had heard the name of the show, but had never watched it.

Nor had she ever heard of the disco Josh mentioned. As popular as it might’ve been in Brooklyn, it was still in Brooklyn, and as far as most Manhattanites were concerned, it might as well have been Outer Mongolia. Now, if he was talking about that new place up on West 54th Street that had opened a few months ago, then she would’ve been impressed.

“Since you’re out here in the hall admiring the artwork, instead of the main hall with just about everyone else, I assume you didn’t find anyone in there that struck your fancy?” Anya asked, again shifting the subject.

“Well, I know some of them are probably your friends, but I thought most of them were the most boring people that I ever met,” Josh replied. “All they seemed to be interested in was who was appearing in what show and what auditioning might be coming up.”

“Of course, what did you expect?” Anya laughed. “After all, this is, basically an industry party. If Manufacturers Hanover had an office party, don’t you think most of the guests would be talking about banking?”

“I guess so,” Josh agreed after thinking about it.

“You have to understand, most of the people that come to these little gatherings come to be seen, not to make new friends,” Anya expanded. “There are only so many roles per season, and it can get pretty cutthroat come audition time.”

“Then why are you out here with me, instead of out there being seen?” Josh inquired.

“I said most, not all, and even then, that really only applies to the talent,” Anya said, explaining that her contribution to the industry was backstage.

“Oh, I thought you might be an actress,” Josh noted. “You’re certainly pretty enough.”

“Why thank you kind, sir,” Anya said with a smile and a fake southern accent. “In a way, I sometimes am an actress of sorts, but I much prefer being behind the curtain than in front of it.”

Josh was about to ask Anya what it was that she did when she cut him off again.

“Did you ever get something to eat?” she asked, recalling what he’d said before.

“No, I never got around to it,” Josh replied, adding that he’d spent his time exploring and listening to the people around him.

“I see,” Anya replied. “I asked because I’m suddenly feeling a bit hungry myself,” she explained.

Josh wrongly assumed that was Anya’s polite way of excusing herself from the conversation. So he said that it had been nice to meet her and was about to move off when she corrected his impression.

“Where are you going?” she said.

“I thought you wanted to go get something to eat,” Josh said.

“I do, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still want to talk to you,” she smiled. “You might not realize it, but not being part of the industry makes you possibly the most interesting person here tonight. What do you say I get us both a little plate of snacks and we can find a better place to chat?”

Josh thought that was a great idea and patiently waited by the portrait while Anya excused herself for a few minutes. When she returned, not only did she have a small tray of delicacies in one hand, but two flutes and a half full bottle of champagne in the other.

“I assume you’re old enough to drink,” she said as she handed him the glasses and bottle, “not that I’m going to tell anyone if you’re not.”

“I’m twenty,” Josh said as he accepted it.

“Oh, I remember twenty,” Anya mused, a mischievous smile filling her face. “Of course I was a much different person back then.”

“Everyone changes as they get older, don’t they?” Josh noted.

“Some more than others,” Anya again smiled. “Oh, by the way, in case you’re curious, I’m thirty-four.”

“You’re kidding,” Josh reacted, surprise in his tone.

“How old did you think I was?” Anya inquired.

“Twenty-six, maybe twenty-seven,” he said.

“Now I’m definitely not letting you go,” she laughed as, taking a better hold of the large platter in her hand, she motioned for Josh to follow her.

She led him down the hall, further away from the party, then up a back flight of stairs that led to the second floor. A second hallway followed, leading to a pair of French doors that opened onto a small terrace. There Josh saw a pair of padded chairs and a small table, nestled among a small forest of potted plants. Through small gaps in the greenery, the lights of midtown could just about be made out.

“Wow, this is amazing,” Josh said as he laid the bottle and glasses on the table. “Are you sure Mr. Cabot won’t mind that we’re up here?”

“He won’t if we don’t tell him,” Anya replied as she set the tray on the table. “Now, why don’t you pour us some of that champagne?”

As Josh proceeded to do so, Anya seated herself in one of the two chairs, reaching out for one of the drinks once both glasses were full. She took a small sip and smiled.

“I’ll say one thing about Randolph Cabot: when he throws a party, it’s first class all the way,” she said as she laid the glass back on the table.

Josh also took a taste of his drink but other than thinking it did taste good, he had no way of judging the quality of it, his palate being more accustomed to beer than champagne. Still, he had seen the bill for the delivery that he’d made earlier and it hadn’t been cheap. His uncle had nearly doubled the cost of everything and Mr. Cabot hadn’t even given it more than a glance before signing it.

“Now, where were we?” Anya asked as she took an hors d’oeuvre off the tray and popped it into her mouth.

“I was about to ask what it was that you did backstage?” Josh said, remembered that he’d never gotten to ask.

“I’m a costume designer,” Anya replied.

“I’m not totally sure what that is,” Josh said.

Anya took a few minutes to explain, after which Josh said it sounded like an interesting job.

“Oh it is, and I love it,” she replied before asking what he did when he wasn’t working for the catering service.

“Well, I’ve been taking a few college classes, but I’m really not sure what it is that I want to do yet,” he replied.

“Few people are at your age,” Anya offered.

“Did you?” Josh asked.

“Since I was ten,” she smiled.

She then proceeded to ask Josh a bit about his personal life, surprised to find that he didn’t have a girlfriend. He replied that he did date often, but hadn’t yet met anyone that he could see himself with long term.

“Well, there’s no rush for that,” Anya said. “The important thing at this point in your life is that you enjoy it. Actually, that’s the important thing at any point in your life.”

Having been asked about his social life, Josh felt justified in asking Anya about hers. Like Josh, she replied, she dated when the mood struck her, but had not found ‘the one’ yet. Until then, she was just enjoying life as it unfolded.

“Besides, it takes an uncommon man to handle a woman like me,” she concluded, before again reaching for her drink after having had another tidbit.

Even having only just met the woman across from him, Josh had no doubt that was true.

They moved on to other topics, alternating questions back and forth long after both the snack tray and champagne glasses had been emptied. Josh learned a great deal about how a Broadway show was produced, finding it more complicated than he imagined. He’d once taken a drama course in high school and acted in a few plays, but none of them had been anything like what Anya described.

“Have you ever thought about being an actor, as a career I mean?” Anya asked. “You’re certainly cute enough.”

“Not really,” Josh answered, a grin filling his face at the compliment. “I mean, I enjoyed doing it, but making a career out of it seemed as much a matter of luck than talent.”

“That’s often true,” Anya offered. “What is it that they say? For every actor starring on Broadway, there’s a thousand waiting on tables.”

Josh nodded his head, having heard at least a variation of that.

“Oh my goodness, look at the time,” Anya said as she happened to glance at her watch. “We’ve been talking for nearly two hours.”

“It didn’t seem like half that long,” Josh remarked.

“Well, good company makes time fly by,” Anya smiled, “and you’ve been excellent company.”

Josh grinned, thinking that it’d been a long time since he’d just talked to someone. Of course the fact that Anya was also an attractive older woman didn’t hurt either. Josh would’ve been lying if he didn’t admit to having imagined how Anya might look if she had been the woman in the painting he’d been admiring earlier.

“Having said that,” Anya continued, a noticeable disappointment now appearing in her voice, “I’m sorry to say that I’m going to have to throw a damper on our fun. I came here with a friend and she wanted to leave by midnight. In fact, she’s probably already looking for me.”

‘I guess it was too good to last,’ Josh thought as he said that he understood, adding that he’d probably overstayed his welcome anyway.

As Anya got up from her seat, she impulsively leaned over and kissed Josh on the cheek, saying again how nice it had been to meet him.

“You made what I expected to be a very drab evening anything but,” she smiled, her hand resting on his shoulder for a long moment before turning away and heading back through the double doors.

Josh stayed on the terrace another ten minutes or so, admiring the view. He wondered if he should bring down the now empty bottle and the glasses, then decided against it. Doing so might only invite unwanted questions about what he’d been doing upstairs.

Reaching the front entrance, Josh discovered that quite a number of guests seemed to have also decided to leave with the new day. A small crowd filled the vestibule as people made their goodbyes.


With no one of his own to say goodbye to of his own, Josh managed to slip through the melee with little difficulty and work his way down the outside staircase of the town house to the street below. Heading for the side alley where he’d parked his small van when making the delivery, he’d gotten about a hundred feet away when he heard a now familiar voice.

“You’re fuckin’ kidding me,” he heard Anya say to one of the other attendees in a voice loud enough to carry.

Curious as to what was going on, Josh reversed direction and walked back towards the bottom of the staircase.

“I’m sorry, Anya, I didn’t know Constance was your ride home,” Josh heard a man he didn’t know say. “All I knew was that she was in no condition to drive, so I put her in a cab and sent her on her way. She didn’t even mention your name.”

“I guess it’s too much to hope you took her car keys, if she was that drunk,” Anya said, thinking that if he had, she could drive Constance’s car herself.

“I figured she’d need her keys to get into her apartment,” the man, whose name Josh later learned was Archie, said. “Again, I didn’t know that the two of you came together and besides, I thought you’d already left.”

“I was up on the terrace,” Anya said.

Archie gave her a ‘how was I supposed to know’ gesture and then walked away, wiping his hands of the situation.

“Is there something wrong?” Josh asked as he stepped up to Anya once she was alone.

Anya was surprised to again see Josh, but quickly explained what had happened, filling in the gaps between what Josh had already overheard.

“It’s going to be a bitch getting a cab this time of night,” she noted as she concluded her narrative, “and I fuckin’ hate taking the subway at any time.”

“Where do you live?” Josh asked, something that hadn’t come up during their conversation, other than a general comment that she lived here in Manhattan.

“Christopher and Hudson,” Anya replied, “down in the West Village.”

Josh was only marginally familiar with Manhattan, having been working in the city for just a few months, but did know where the West Village was. He thought about it for a few seconds, then quickly came to a decision.