tagNovels and NovellasLove is Enough

Love is Enough

byNotWise©

"Love is Enough" follows my earlier short story "Oscar's Place." It tells the tale of a hipster playwright and two (mostly) friendly ghosts. The story includes nudity, adult situations, and flapper slang—lots of flapper slang.

*****

1.

"It's cold out here," Gabby said, and wrapped her hands around her bare shoulders. She had to shout to be heard over the approaching sirens. "You'd think the old place would burn hotter than this."

"It's the rain," Hannah said.

Moments before—or maybe a little longer, it was hard for them to tell—they'd been happily curled up with their bottle of gin. It was all just another night until the big blast. Everything they were used to went crashing down around them, and they found themselves standing on the sidewalk on a rainy night.

"You look cold," Hannah said. "Your nipples is sticking out." She pushed the bottle at Gabby and looked around. "Where to?"

Gabby covered her tits with one arm, took the bottle, and used it to motion to the old theater on the opposite street corner. "I did a dance review in there once," she said. "It wasn't the Palace, but it was okay."

"Then let's get a wiggle on," Hannah said. They ran through the fire trucks and the working men. They jumped over the hoses that snaked across the street and stopped by the box office under the darkened marquee.

Gabby handed the bottle back to Hannah, shielded her eyes from the flashing red lights, and peered through a window. "They have a play or somethin' goin' on," she said, "But it's all closed up."

"So?" Hannah asked, and demonstrated what she meant by reaching through the window.

"I'd rather be invited," Gabby said. "Sorta, anyway."

A round man in an overcoat hurried around the corner, just to be stopped by a policeman. "I'm the manager here," he said and pointed to the theater. "The alarms went off. What the hell happened?"

The officer waved toward the ruined hotel and said, "Everything we know you can see as easy as I can. You can have a minute to make sure the place is secure, but we need you out of here."

Hannah and Gabby squeezed through the door with Mack—the manager. Gabby patted his ass, and the way he jumped made Hannah laugh. Mack spun around to see who laughed, but Gabby pulled Hannah away. They stopped in the lobby, and Gabby said, "The house is this way. The dressin' rooms and all are under the stage."

They found their way from backstage into the dungeons below, and then explored from dressing room to dressing room. "It's warm here," Hannah said, and dropped onto a threadbare sofa in the largest room.

"I think the boiler's next door, or somethin'," Gabby said. "It used to get real hot and stinky in here with all the girls." She settled next to Hannah. "This thing is soft, and I'm tired." She put her head down on Hannah's shoulder and slept. They couldn't tell from the dressing room, but it was the next afternoon when a key turned in the lock and woke them with a start.

A dark-haired young man pushed the door open and reached around the frame to turn on the lights. Hannah and Gabby blinked against the glare and watched. He looked tall, but maybe that was because he was thin. He checked the waste baskets and opened some drawers in the dressing table, and left the door open behind him.

Gabby pushed herself away from Hannah and started after him before Hannah grabbed her arm. She kept her voice was low, so he couldn't hear. "Where're you going?" she asked.

"I think he's cute," Gabby whispered. "I wanna find out who he is." Hannah rolled her eyes, but she followed along. He wore a dark suit with a jacket that was too tight and pants that were too short. He unlocked each room, turned on the lights, and sniffed the air.

Gabby was peeking over his shoulder into the men's dressing room when he turned. He walked right through her then stopped and searched for the cold draft he'd felt. He had dark-rimmed glasses. His hair was tousled, and it had been days since he last shaved.

"Looks rough," Hannah said. He turned back to see who was there, but the corridor was empty, so he shook his head and went on.

They peered around the corner where he'd disappeared and found him talking into his hand, or something like that. "It's ready down here," he said. "I'll open the back door and let them in." He ran the stairs up to stage right two-at-a-time.

"I bet he's the assistant manager or somethin'," Gabby said. They didn't have more time before complaining voices and the sound of footsteps on the stairs chased them down the corridor and up to stage left.

The play opened the night before to a good reception, but on that Saturday night the crowd buzzed more about last night's hotel explosion then they did about the play. Maybe that was to be expected, but it still wasn't good to be upstaged by the news.

Hannah and Gabby slipped into the sound booth during the show and watched over the tech's shoulder. The director banged through the door after the curtain closed and thanked the crew before he went to meet his cast on stage. They were still talking after the house emptied and the curtain opened. The actors were agitated, and the director did what he could to make them feel better. It was a distracted crowd. That's all it was.

The theater was quiet again after the show, and a single light over center stage was all that lit the house. Hannah noticed one last person left in the theater. It was the assistant manager. He sat alone in the balcony with his feet up on the seat in front of him, and he snored. "Let's go see," Gabby said.

Gabby settled into the seat on his right and Hannah took the other side. His eyebrow twitched. He snorted and wiggled his lips. Gabby inhaled the scent that rose from his neck and nodded her approval, so Hannah sniffed and wrinkled her nose. To each their own.

"He smells better than the fellas that worked at the hotel," Hannah said, and the man between them stirred. He put his hand on something in his lap that looked like a notebook, and he shifted in the chair.

Gabby grinned at Hannah and slipped her hand into his suit jacket. First, she explored for his wallet, and then she was distracted by the muscles she found under his shirt. Maybe he was thin, but that wasn't the whole story. Hannah watched Gabby's expression and rolled her eyes.

His eyes fluttered open, and Gabby jerked her hand back. He stared at the ornate ceiling for a moment before the girls gradually appeared in the seats next to him. He looked from Gabby to Hannah and back again then shook his head to clear his confusion. It didn't work. "The theater's closed," he said. "What are you doing here?"

"We're new here," Gabby said. "I'm Gabby. The blond doll there is Hannah. Who're you?"

"Trevor," he said. "Trevor Johnson. I'm TJ." He said it without thinking then straightened himself and put on an officious tone. "You need to leave."

Hannah put her hands palm-up by her shoulders, "No place to go," she said.

"What kind of name is Trevor?" Gabby asked, and slipped her hand into his jacket again.

"Just my name," TJ said. He was getting more confused, not less confused. "Where did you come from?"

"The hotel across the street," Hannah said. "You know. The one that went boom."

"You lived there?" TJ asked, "I thought it was empty." He tried to stand up, but then had to grab at the notebook-thing on his lap when it started to fall.

"It wasn't empty," Gabby said. "It was haunted. Now it's empty." She pointed to the notebook-thing on his lap and said, "What's that?"

"My laptop," TJ said. The screen flashed on when he opened it, and both of the girls blinked until their eyes adjusted to the light." He looked up like something had just occurred to him. "So, you're telling me you're ghosts?" he asked. "I don't believe you."

Gabby laughed and the girls both disappeared in a swirl of frigid air. TJ tried to scramble to his feet, but Hannah and Gabby were gone for only a second. "Now you see us. Now you don't!" Gabby said, and TJ could only nod.

"Oh, we've seen one of these!" Gabby said, and pointed to TJ's laptop. She looked up at Hannah and asked, "Remember? That big shot architect had one."

"I write on it," TJ said, and looked from one girl to the other. "I'm writing a play... Or I'm trying to write a play."

Things were getting out of hand for TJ. The girls were too close. Their perfume tickled his nose, their breath warmed his cheeks, and neither of them wore much more than a camisole. Hannah's top seemed to stretch over her tits. Gabby's tits were smaller, but her nipples thrust against the thin fabric.

He looked from Hannah, whose blond waves were cropped below her ears and framed blue eyes, to Gabby, whose short, dark hair was cut in a straight line above her brown eyes and curled against her cheek. He laid his head back against the seat and looked up at the ceiling. "You can't really be here." he said. "You both look like you stepped out of a 1924 Sears catalog."

Gabby asked herself as much as anyone, "Was it 1924? I think it was 1926." She didn't pause for an answer. She picked up TJ's laptop and handed it to Hannah. "I'll tell you what," she told TJ, "We'll let you decide if we're really here."

Hannah laid the laptop behind her, leaned close, and kissed TJ's neck just below his ear. Gabby opened his pants and slipped her hand inside. She found him soft, but he didn't stay soft. Hannah parted her lips over TJ's and invited him to explore her mouth and her breasts, and Gabby stroked her fingertips down from the sensitive tip of his hardening cock and wrapped his shaft in her hand.

TJ was sure he was having an awkward wet dream, and that was all. It wasn't like the girls in his dream were giving him much choice, so he decided he'd just clean up later. He put his arm around Gabby's waist and pushed back against her hand while she stroked him. Hannah's mouth was warm, her tongue was soft, and her breast filled his hand.

Gabby stroked him harder and faster until TJ had to catch and hold his breath. He turned his head and pulled Hannah's mouth hard against his neck. He bucked and groaned, and Gabby gave a delighted squeal while his cream gushed. It splattered on the back of the seat in front of him and covered her hand.

She kept stroking TJ until he was empty and started to soften again, then she sat back in the chair and tasted him on her hand. "Well?" she asked. "What do you think? Are we really here?"

Hannah pushed away when TJ let her go, and he looked from one to the other. "You shouldn't be here now," he said. "If that was a wet dream, then you should be gone."

"It was wet," Hannah said, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. She used her fingertip to take a drop of his juice off the chairback in front of him, sucked it off her finger, and said, "Was it a dream?"

"Oh God," TJ said. "Where's my laptop?" He found it behind Hannah, then stood up to zip his pants again. "I gotta go. It's late. I just gotta go." He pushed past Hannah and ran for the door while Gabby and Hannah laughed behind him.

The girls watched TJ leave then Hannah asked, "Did you get his wallet?"

"Nah," Gabby said. "He musta been sittin' on it." She sat back in the seat and asked, "What would we do with his money, anyway? Besides, maybe I want him as a repeat customer."

"D'you think he's the one?" Hannah asked. Gabby's face was half lit by the dim light from the stage when she raised her eyebrows in a question. "You know," Hannah answered, "The quiet man said they wouldn't take us because we weren't done yet."

"And a fella would tell them when we were ready." Gabby said. "I never did understand that, and at the hotel we never did anything about it. I dunno," she said and shrugged, "I guess any fella might do."

* * * *

TJ woke late on Sunday morning. When he did get up, he faced a winter that was coming early and memories he couldn't believe. He didn't have a lot of time before he had to open up for the matinée, but he used it all to convince himself that the night before was all just some odd dream.

He was opening the dressing rooms again when he felt a cold draft. This time it was followed by a voice. "Hey! Watch where you're going!" it said.

"Oh God," TJ said. He leaned back against the door frame and fixed his eyes on the ceiling, afraid of what he might see if he didn't. "I don't see anyone. How could I watch out? Who's there?" Both girls laughed, and TJ's stomach wrenched.

Another voice said, "Guess, and we'll see if you remember us."

TJ didn't have trouble remembering them—the chatty brunette and the quieter blonde. He remembered their scent, the way they felt, the way they turned him on, but could he tell whose voice he heard? It wasn't a complete guess when he said, "The first voice—the girl I walked into—was Hannah. It was Gabby who asked if I remembered. Why can't I see you now?"

"He got it!" Gabby said, and the sound of their laughter let TJ relax. "You can't see us," Gabby added, "Because, you know, a girl's gotta have her secrets."

Gabby and Hannah dogged TJ right up to the moment he opened the front doors. They didn't follow him outside when he went to move the shivering panhandlers who sheltered under the marquee, and for the first time since he opened the dressing room he was without the girls' company. He'd felt their cool presence pass by him and through him all morning as he went through his routine. They scared him at first, but then he was just annoyed.

TJ stopped in the lobby to see if anyone watched, and when he was sure he was alone he stepped into an old coat closet below the balcony stairs and flicked on the light. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Why do you feel so cold?"

"I s'pose we're cold because we're dead." Gabby said. Her form took shape next to TJ, then Hannah appeared on the other side.

"Better now?" Gabby asked, and tucked her warm hand around his arm. She looked past TJ to Hannah and said, "He's cute when he's all balled up." She squeezed TJ's arms, "We wanted to see what you do, so we followed you around."

"Why do you wear a suit that don't fit?" Hannah asked, and ran her fingers along the lapel. "It feels nice. Did you grow out of it or something?"

"It's a vintage Armani!" TJ said. "It's supposed to be slim cut." He watched Hannah stroke his chest and said, "It doesn't quite fit the way it's supposed to, but it's still authentic, and I want people to see my socks. They're handmade."

Gabby reached up and plucked the glasses off TJ's nose. "And why do you wear such big cheaters?" she asked. "Are you blind or somethin'?" She put them on, felt around as if she couldn't see, and made Hannah laugh.

"It's just the style. I'm not blind," TJ answered, and took his glasses back. "And they're not that big. It's just the frames that are big"

"Did you forget to shave this morning?" Gabby asked, and touched TJ's cheek, "And yesterday, and the day before that?" She turned to Hannah and said, "Good thing it isn't scratchy."

"I didn't forget to shave," TJ said. "Now stop." He pushed Gabby's hand away, and then Hannah's. "It's all just a style."

"No-one else around here looks like you." Hannah said. "Ain't your style popular or anything?"

"I'm a hipster," TJ said. "And they're not. Everyone here is totally midtown.

"Now, you have to stop following me around. You're making it hard for me to get my work done, and the boss is giving me looks."

"Having company's been a hoot," Hannah said. "We ain't been around many real people for a while."

"I'm glad I could help," TJ said, "But can we talk after the show?" He stopped and hushed the girls, so he could listen through the door. "The boss is looking for me," he said.

Hannah and Gabby waited in the balcony until the show was over, the crew was gone and the stage was lit with just a single bulb hanging overhead. TJ searched the house after the show and found himself alone. He heated his dinner in the break room and tried to get some writing done, but his curiosity nagged him. Where did his ghosts go?

TJ went looking. The stage was set with living-room furniture now all draped to keep the dust off. He climbed to the stage, and when he looked again he found Gabby sitting on the edge of an easy chair with her back straight, and her hands on her knees. "Are you workin' late?" she asked.

Hannah slouched on the sofa when she appeared, with her bare legs stretched in front of her. TJ sat beside her and said, "I'm off. I stay here and write after work. I share a house with two other guys and it's hard to write there, so I showed some of my writing to Mack—the boss—and now he lets me stay here when I want to."

"Did you write the play they're doin' now?" Gabby asked. She walked to the sofa and sat down beside TJ. "I hope not," she said. "There was more cussin' in that thing then I ever saw in a play before."

"There would be more cussing than there was in 1924 or 1926," TJ said, "But I didn't write it." He looked from Hannah to Gabby and changed the subject. "What's your real name?" He asked. "How did you get here?"

Of course, it was Gabby who answered first. She pointed to Hannah and then to herself. "We were whores—when we were still alive anyway. Once you're a whore, are you always a whore? Even when your dead?" she asked, then waved off her own question.

"I was Gabriella Francini, and I suppose I still am," Gabby said. "Gabriella was a really odd name when I was little, but I guess my dad thought he was going to raise an angel." She flipped her hand. "He got a chatty quiff instead.

"I didn't start out to be a whore. I was an actress, and I did my time in a few dance reviews. Directors—at least the ones that weren't queer—told me I had talent. That was usually on the way to bed, you know? It never worked out for me. The other girls lied and cheated and kept me out of the good parts.

"I ran out of cash and was about to be on the street, so I decided to stop givin' it away for nothin'. I went to Tina—the madam back when the top of the hotel was a cat house—and she gave me a job."

TJ turned to Hannah when Gabby paused. Hannah bit her lip with her eyes down on the stage. "She doesn't like to talk about it," Gabby said.

"I'll say it," Hannah said. "The old man can't hurt me now." She looked up and went on. "Hannah was my real name—Hannah Daley. When I was a kid my step-dad done things to me—things my mom shoulda stopped but didn't. He said he'd kill me if I told a soul. He already killed a man, or that's what he said, so I knew he could.

"I run away when I got old enough to know better. I got some work in town as a housekeeper and that kept me for a few years. The old lady was okay, but then her boy moved in with her. He thought he had rights to me, so I came here. Oscar taught me to wait tables. He ran a juice joint over in the hotel. Oscar was a good man.

"I waited tables for a time, but I figured on making more upstairs. I talked to Tina, and she put me to work."

"I was already there a couple weeks when Hannah showed up," Gabby said. "We hit it off, and we worked together a lot. You know, when a guy wanted two girls."

"Our last customer was one of those," Gabby said. "He was a baby grand kind of fella. I guess his wife here and his wife in Chicago weren't enough for him. He wanted two girls at a time and that night it was Hannah and me.

"He said that someone was after him, but what could we do? We did what he wanted. He was all relaxed, and we knew we were gettin' paid, so we were happy. Then there was this noise outside and two bimbos with choppers busted through the door."

"Then he was dead, and we was dead." Hannah said.

TJ stared at his hand between his knees and suddenly wished he hadn't asked, but that came a little late. He should have known their story would be something like that. "Why are you here?" he asked. "Why didn't you just die like everyone else?"

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