This was just crazy, Martin thought as he stared out the window, watching the scenery pass by on the way to . . .. He glanced at Samantha who was sitting beside him in the backseat of the cab, and smiled. She smiled back, a sort of nervous, tremulous smile. He thought she looked a lot like a person who was about to have her first skydiving lesson. He knew exactly how she felt, because at this very moment he found himself questioning his own sanity.
He must be out of his mind. It was the only logical explanation.
His cell phone suddenly vibrated; he smiled again at Samantha as he pulled it out of his jacket, flipped it open and held it to his ear. He didn't bother to say hello.
"Are you out of your mind?"
"Danny." He glanced at his watch. "Long time, no see."
"Oh, yeah? Well, guess what? I saw you."
"That's nice." He wasn't in the mood for this, but still he kind of enjoyed hearing the sound of Danny's voice, although he'd never admit it.
"I just have one question."
"Just one?" Now that was hard to believe.
"Are you crazy?"
Ah, the question of the hour. Martin let out a long sigh before answering. "Probably."
"Well, if you ask me . . .."
"Which I didn't."
"Nobody asked you."
"Right, like I was saying, if you ask me, you're playing with fire. And I have to tell ya that it's starting to worry me, Martin. You're starting to worry me."
"Well, don't be. There's no need." What's there to worry about? It was late at night, he was in a cab with a co-worker who'd just had her heart broken by their former boss and co-worker, and they were on their way to her apartment for what could only turn out to be--
"Can't help it." Danny's voice cut off his line of thought, something Martin was grateful for. "It's my nature. I was born a worrier. You can tell me not to worry, but it never actually does any good, because it's something I have no control over. I worry, therefore I am. And right now, at this moment, I'm worried about you, Martin."
"Uh, you probably ought to consider getting some help for that. Maybe seek professional counseling."
Danny chuckled into the phone. "Yeah, well, you know . . . I tried one of those self-help programs, once. Didn't work."
Martin couldn't help but smile, in spite of the absurdity of the conversation. "Right, well, I'm sorry to hear that, but thanks for the advice. I gotta go now. Bye." He flipped the phone closed and tucked it away.
"That was Danny?" Samantha asked quietly. He turned to look at her and found her watching him, leaning against the opposite door, staring at him with those big brown doe eyes.
"Yeah," he replied with a shrug. "He was worried about you, wanted to make sure you got home safely." She didn't look like she believed him, but it was the best he could come up with on short notice.
God, what was he doing? This whole situation was so ridiculous. He felt like he was back in high school and Samantha was the pretty blonde debutante in the tight sweater who'd just been dumped by a son of a senator. How many times had that happened to him? Certainly enough that he should have known better than to get into this cab. Certainly enough that he didn't need a reality check from Danny Taylor, of all people.
Danny, who thought he was gay. Which made him wonder why Danny was even worried that he was going home with Samantha? Maybe he was more worried about Samantha? Or maybe he was worried about them both - for who knows what reason? But, if Danny was so sure that Martin was gay -- which he wasn't -- then really, he should have nothing at all to be worried about.
He remembered the time Danny had accused him of checking out his ass -- which Martin hadn't been doing. Martin had denied the accusation and told him emphatically that he didn't check out other men. Danny had winked at him and said, "Riiiight." And then gone on to ask Martin if he thought it looked good, like Martin hadn't just denied looking in the first place. He'd tried to patiently explain to Danny that he wasn't gay, that he dated women had dated women, before. And Danny had laughed and nudged him with an elbow and said, "Of course you have, Fitzie." Well, okay, so he hadn't dated m . . . any women since he'd moved to New York, but it wasn't easy finding a date in this city - where millions of available women lived. God, how pathetic was he?
His phone buzzed again and he thought about turning it off or tossing it out the window, because he had a pretty good idea who was on the other end. For some masochistic reason he answered it anyway.
"Just do me a favor."
Martin sighed tiredly. "What?"
"Meet me up on the deck of the Empire State Building at midnight."
"No, next Tuesday," Danny said, sounding annoyed. "Of course tonight."
"The Empire State Building?"
That almost made him laugh. "You couldn't come up with something . . . less cliché?"
"Hey, it was short notice." He could almost see Danny's smile, a little smug and a little sheepish. "Just don't get hit by any cars on the way," he said, in a kind of dorky imitation of Cary Grant that actually had Martin laughing.
A moment later, his humor faded and Martin sighed again. "Even if I wanted to," which, he reminded himself, he didn't, "I can't."
"Yes, you can."
"How?" He really was interested in hearing the answer, because he suddenly really wanted to be anywhere at all as long as it wasn't in this cab, en route to Samantha's apartment, for . . ..
"You're a clever boy, you'll think of something."
"Gee, thanks." He flipped his phone shut and slid it back inside his pocket and scrubbed his hands over his face.
When he'd been talking to Danny he'd almost forgot that Samantha was sitting there. "Yeah."
"Still worried about me," she asked, sounding cynical at best.
Martin let out a huff of laughter, then turned to her more seriously. "Look, Samantha, maybe this isn't such a good idea."
She nodded, looking a bit sad or maybe just resigned. "I just wanted someone to talk to."
"Yeah." Like he hadn't heard that one before. A lot. On television.
"I mean it's not like I was planning . . .." She suddenly gave him an incredulous look. "You didn't think . . .?"
He shrugged a shoulder.
"I mean, you're gay, Martin."
Now it was Martin's turn to look incredulous. He turned his head so fast he might have given himself whiplash. "What?"
She laughed. "What do you mean, 'what'? Everyone knows your gay. It's no big deal."
"I am NOT gay!" Did he just whine? God.
"Oh, I get it." She nodded sagely, then leaned closer to him and said in a stage whisper, "Still in the closet, huh? I can understand that, but really . . . you don't have anything to worry about. Your secret is safe with us."
"Yes, of course, we're your friends, Martin."
"You're my . . .. Wait a minute, this is ridiculous. I'm not in the closet. There is no closet! I'm not gay!" End of discussion.
"Sure, Martin." She reached over and patted him consolingly. A moment later, she glanced at him slyly out of the corner of her eye. "But, if you were gay," she continued in a conversational tone, "well, Danny's a pretty good looking guy."
He was definitely not going there. Not having this conversation. Besides, Danny wasn't gay, although he wasn't shy about ogling a good-looking man as easily as a good-looking woman. Martin didn't ogle. He didn't ogle men, or Danny. He didn't even ogle women, because he just wasn't the ogling type . . . unlike some people. "Danny's an asshole," he said, trying to roll down the window and get some air. The damn thing was stuck.
"Well yeah, but he's still good looking and he does have some good qualities."
"Oh yeah?" Like what? At the moment, Martin couldn't come up with any. And then he wondered why he was even trying. He tried the window again. Still wouldn't budge.
"Of course that doesn't matter, since you're not gay." He was pretty sure that she winked at him, but he convinced himself that it was a nervous twitch.
The cab pulled over in front of her building and she got out, "See you tomorrow," she said, and her eye twitched again as she closed the door.
Martin watched until she was safely in her building. Then the driver craned his neck and said, "Where to, buddy?"
He checked his watch. It was 11:28. "Empire State Building."
As the cab pulled away from the curb, he decided that once he got to the top of the Empire State Building he was going to push Danny over the side. He would say it was an accident and everyone would believe him because his dad was the deputy director of the FBI. Of course, having a pair of big blue eyes that were capable of melting the polar ice caps would probably come in handy in his defense. He pulled out a tin of Altoids and popped one into his mouth, then straightened his tie. In the worst-case scenario, he might have to do that nickel at Pelican Bay, but it'd be worth it.
"Got a hot date?" the cabbie called out over his shoulder.
Why was everyone suddenly so interested in his love life? "I'm not gay," he stated, just to clear up any possible misperceptions.
He saw the cabbie give him a strange look in the rearview mirror, then shrug his shoulders. "Hey, makes no difference to me, pal."
Martin thought about informing the man that he was a federal agent an armed federal agent, but instead he gestured aimlessly. "Just, please, hurry."
"Okay, okay," Martin heard him mutter to nobody in particular, "Geeze, I always get stuck with the crazies."
"Tell me about it."
Continues in Misinterpretations