Chapter Five - Gathering Thunderheads
Rays of polluted sunlight sifted through the lacy-curtained window, falling directly upon the figure lying in the prone position under a protective layer of sheets. Anne awoke to find herself strangely comfortable in her bed in her apartment. The warmth of the covers and the feel of the morning sun upon her face fogged her mind, which she hardly minded since it was a pleasant feeling. Gradually Anne’s senses returned, and she was able to recall the fabulous dream she’d had last night.
The slayer dreamt that she’d been wined and dined by a handsome, mysterious young man. They exchanged secrets with each other that no one else knew, and when that was done, he had taken her hands and kissed them—a romantic gesture such as she had never dreamed with Angel before. After dinner in a wintry, moonlit park, they decided to walk back to his place instead of taking a cab. It was not that far of a walk in the first place, but substantial enough for Anne to be chilled by the icy winds. In an effort to warm her, as well as be romantic, Anne’s companion wrapped his suit jacket around her shoulders, then he slid an arm about her thin waist, drawing her closer to him.
When they got back to his place, the gentleman asked for a dance. He played an old song from the 1920s—perfect for this night. Anne wanted to feel closer to him, so she welcomed with him when she was in his embrace; it was oddly recognizable and comforting. She tugged him closer, his inviting, muscular arms tightening their hold on her. Anne sighed dreamily as she placed her head gingerly on his shoulder and snuggled it up against his neck. At one point in the song, the man loosened his grip on her enough so he might dip her. Anne was surprised, but pleasantly so. She looked up at him to smile in merriment and was thoroughly shocked by the guy whom she was holding.
His smile was one of impatience; his whole face looked as though he was ready to explode if he didn’t receive a kiss soon. He lifted her up and brought her face to his own, pressing his forehead against hers, their lips dangerously close. Buffy held her breath, awaiting what she was sure would transpire. The slayer felt his head shift ever so slightly, then all she felt was Xander’s lips pressing passionately against hers. Buffy’s eyes fluttered shut, her lashes kissing his cheeks with their feathery tips.
The kiss was magnificent. Buffy had never experienced anything like it before, and even for a dream kiss it was extraordinary. This was beyond all wows. And, as it is often said, one thing led to another. A tangle of lips became a tangle of arms and legs and then a tangle of silken sheets. If her dream had only been real…
Anne sat up in her bed, the ivory covers falling to her waist and exposing her nakedness to the other occupant of the room. He emerged from the hidden closet just in time to see the show. Anne blushed furiously—all over—as she realized the fact that it hadn’t been a dream after all, and also at the fact that she wore nothing but her birthday clothes. “Someone appears to be clothing challenged,” Roger stated matter-of-factly, an impish grin plastered on his face. Instinctually, Anne yanked the covers up to her chin. “It’s a little late to be shy, Annie, don’t ya think?”
The blonde turned away, examining her beautiful silver dress lying crumpled in a ball on the floor; his suit jacket was tangled with the skirt frills. In fact, all of her clothes were strewn upon the ground: shoes, stocking, jackets, etc.
“Uh, Anne? Are you okay?” Roger asked concernedly, moving in toward the bed. “I mean, last night was, uh, well, not what I was expecting it either. Are you… okay with it? I wanna know if you regret what happened or not because I don’t, not even for a minute. However, it doesn’t matter how I feel, only how you feel.”
“I feel, I feel… drunk. What did I have to drink last night?”
“One glass of water and two glasses of champagne.”
“Ugh,” the slayer moaned. “Feels like I guzzled down the whole bottle. Everything from last night is so fuzzy, I can hardly even remember my own name, and yours too, for that matter.”
“Let me refresh your memory then. My name is Roger… Winters. Your name is Anne… uh, what is your last name anyway. You never told me.”
The slayer laughed humorously at Roger. “It is not! Your name is Vlinters, not Winters.”
“Where ever did you get that ludicrous idea?”
“It was on that resume I gave you.”
Now it was Roger’s turn to laugh. “Ah, I suppose you mean the one that fell in the puddle Monday afternoon, the one that also said my first name was Hogan?”
“Yeah, well, you never said Winters was your last name!” Anne gasped exasperatedly.
“Right, because you didn’t ask.”
Anne rolled her eyes. “You are so corny! The point is you let me believe that your last name was Vlinters… for the last two days!”
“Hey, I tried to tell you several times, but every time I was interrupted by something or someone—usually you. But that doesn’t answer my original question: What is your last name?”
Anne laughed quickly, a heavy tone of amusement present within it. “Winters! Anne Winters!”
Roger raised his eyebrow in curiosity as he tried to determine if she were telling him the truth or not. “Are you joking me?”
Her smile was warm and generous, her eyes lit by an inner light she had not felt present there since Sunnydale. “No, I’m not joking you. I’m really quite serious. That is my last name, too!” And her voice broke with laughs.
“Well, you certainly don’t look like you’re serious. You’re naked, laughing and smiling, and that makes me think that you’re just kidding around with me.” Suddenly Roger’s voice grew deep and was chocked full of mock concern. “You don’t think we’re related, do you?” He obviously didn’t believe that they were, but he was checking to see if she herself believed it.
Another laugh from Anne. “No, Roger, I don’t think we’re related. Not a chance in the whole world or the ones beyond it.”
“And just what makes you so sure?” he questioned with his hands on his hips.
“Trust me. Besides, how common can our last name be? Tons of people probably have the last name Winters.”
“I’ve never met one until now,” the handsome man confessed. It was then that Anne realized just how attractive he was. Roger was without a shirt or pants, only a pair of silk boxers. She saw his defined muscles on his chest, arms and legs—not so big as to be considered grotesque, but they made him appear formidable enough. However, ignoring his size, Roger’s actual face was, in and of itself, as hard as the muscles in his body. His jaw was strong and pronounced, his goatee sharply pointed and skillfully trimmed, and his eyes were hard and black, possessed by a past as tortuous and unforgiving as her own.
While Anne was lost in the young man’s cryptic eyes, Roger took a few steps closer to her naked form barely concealed under the ivory sheet. It wasn’t until he was kneeling on the edge of the bed that Anne discovered he had moved. Roger slid a hand across the silky covers and up to her face, tracing her delicate jawbone with the back of his two fingers. Not knowing what else to do and unsure of what she wanted, Anne leaned into him, his other hand taking it as a “yes” to move in for the kill. He cupped her face and guided her head to look directly at him. Roger smiled before he brought her face to his own, his lips capturing hers in a bewitching kiss. He flicked his tongue across Anne’s bottom lip, then suckled it into his eager mouth. The fire within the kiss was just too much for the young slayer to resist, and she reached out to encircle his neck and draw him even nearer to her, forgetting totally about the sheet that was the only thing between her bare chest and Roger’s. Anne’s breath quickened and her pulse raced as his hands feathered her hair then slid their way down her back.
Then suddenly, Roger pulled back far enough that their lips were still touching but he could whisper to her. “I might not get a chance to say this later, but in the very short time I’ve come to know you, Anne Winters, I think I’ve fallen in love.”
With the mere uttering of the word love, Anne jerked away harshly, yanking the covers back up to her chin roughly.
Roger pulled uncomfortably away, unsure if he should have revealed what he just had. He turned his face so that she couldn’t see his eyes as he spoke. “I’m sorry, Annie. If I said something or did, well, anything to offend or hurt you, feel free to walk out of here and rest assured I won’t bother you again. I understand if last night was just a night of fun for you. I can’t say it wasn’t fun for me too. It’s just that I’m not used to ‘those’ feelings, and ever since California I’ve tried to block them out. So please excuse me if I’m a little rough around the edges.” He said that harder than he meant to, but Anne knew it wasn’t his fault he was feeling what he was. “I haven’t loved for years. It’s something I never wanted to experience again, and I surely didn’t expect it anytime soon.”
“Could you just… leave me for a few minutes while I get dressed?” questioned the young girl in the unsure, tremulous voice of a child.
A look of almost excruciating pain fluttered across Roger’s steely face as she spoke. “Sure, sure.” With that, Roger grabbed a shirt and a pair of pants sullenly and eased out the door, the jamb clicking quietly as it shut.
The moment Roger had left, Anne relaxed her iron tight grip on the sheets just enough to roll on her stomach, throw a pillow over her head and moan loudly in sorrow. What did she get herself into now? It seemed to her that Buffy Summers was always the one getting into trouble, not Anne Winters. She felt as though this had been her first real mistake since… ever. This boo-boo wasn’t made under the influence of the slayer. No, not this time. This was all Anne’s doings, and that simple fact stung a helluva lot.
In order to make her feel smarter and wiser, Anne had used Buffy as a scapegoat, blaming all of her problems on the lingering effects of a past that wouldn’t let go. And now, well, she had no one to pass the buck to but her stupid self. Two years of celibacy, two! And then she had to go and throw it all away for just one night of incredible, amazing, mind-blowing… what was she thinking? Horrible, horrible sex! Okay, admittedly, it was very good (actually, great), but still, Anne found it hard to believe that she threw it all away for a single night in man’s bedroom. It wasn’t even the fact that she had slept with Roger, merely that fact that she had felt something toward him. It was something mighty powerful, too, to get her to go to bed with him on the evening of their first date. That was what scared her most of all.
After the incident in Sunnydale, Buffy and Anne had both made an agreement that they would never again allow themselves to love, and since that time they had kept up their pact. Until now. The familiar stirrings Anne felt within herself could only be expressed as pure desire and infatuation; in other words, a big, fat crush. Ah, but those were for high schoolers, not for hard-core slayers and Brooklyn former waitresses. However, no matter how long she closed her eyes and no matter how long she thought of Angel, those feelings remained present. Once the seed starts to germinate, there’s no turning back, as Buffy knew so well. Now they both were in for it.
Anne knew that at this low point in her life she needed company, and a boyfriend could give her that. The problem was that she didn’t want one. She was afraid to commit, afraid to trust, afraid to love, but most importantly, afraid to end up alone. In the end, Anne knew, she would only lose Roger anyway, maybe to another woman, then again, maybe to a force of evil. It was the twisted way of things. Besides, she felt that these feelings betrayed Angel’s memory. Buffy believed that to love someone would be to stomp on Angel’s grave—even though he didn’t have one. Naturally, this was an irrational thought, but the confused woman couldn’t help but feel that way.
Angel had always been her one and only, a gift that came along once in a lifetime. He was every woman’s desire and every man’s nightmare-come-true. In Buffy’s eyes, he was as close to perfection as anyone could get, despite the fact that he was a 244-year-old vampire. But now that he was out of the picture, this made room in Anne’s life for Roger.
Another life, another man, she supposed.
So who was this guy Roger Winters anyway? He was every bit the mysterious man Angel was, if not more so. The details of his past were so vague that it was hard for Anne to even say she knew anything about him. But she knew more than she thought. She knew that other than being well off, Roger was refined, romantic, funny and compassionate. He had a good ear for listening and a warm touch for soothing. When it came to expressing his feelings, Roger was right; he was rough around the edges. But all of that was understandable because it was remarkably similar to her own situation. In addition to all of these things, Roger had destroyed her life. What would be considered a disaster by anyone else—as Anne had also seen it in the beginning—turned out to be one of the best things that had ever happened to her. This strange gentleman had freed her from the monotony of her life and had literally shown her a whole new world. And to think it all started with a little gum on the bottom of her shoe!
A real class act with some minor flaws. He said he was falling for her… her—a former waitress living in a dump apartment with one friend in the whole damn city! Roger could obviously see himself loving her, and now, finally Anne could see herself loving him, too. There was just one little problem.
How could she explain it so he’d understand and believe? Should she even bother to explain it in the first place? How could she trust Roger when she didn’t even know the details of his past yet? So much uncertainty and so little room for error. It had been a helluva lot easier with Angel, for he already knew who she was; there was no deception in the first place. To love someone new like this, with no idea what she was talking about, was to risk her heart, and that Buffy had done before.
But, of course, weren’t risks what love was all about anyway? Risking her heart for Roger could be the greatest thing that had ever happened to Anne… if all went as the romance novels said it would. On the same token, it could be a repeat Angel. Like the flip of a coin—heads you win, tails you lose. A 50/50 chance. But it always seemed that the odds of losing were much higher when it came to the matter of love for Anne/Buffy. It was all about Fate—a deity Buffy had learned to despise for her cruelty long ago.
Oh, Angel, if you were only here…
But he’s not! And he never will be again! So get over him, and move on with your life—at least the one you have left.
Anne was engaged in a constant inner battle with herself, as always. This argument had played on in her head for hours at a time, but it never helped resolve anything. To win this battle, truly win it, Anne would first have to conquer Buffy and Angel. Only then would Roger stand a chance at winning her heart.
Okay! Okay! Enough with this thinking stuff already!
Anne rolled back over, still feeling slightly dead. She swung her legs over the bedside, relishing the delicious feeling of her feet sweeping across the thick carpet. No cold wooden floors in this apartment. Taking the sheet with her, Anne shuffled over to the closet and stole a terrycloth robe. Like everything else in the room, it was an astounding white, too. She felt as though she could sink right into the walls and never be noticed so long as she was wrapped in the white cocoon.
For a few minutes Anne debated on whether or not she should leave Roger’s room for fear of another passionate confrontation with the handsome man, but quickly the thought of staying in there any longer left her mind the second she looked at his clock. 11:28. She’d been “thinking” for almost 45 minutes now.
Quickly, the ex-slayer gathered her clothes and sneaked into the hallway as silently as possible. Anne felt a trifle moronic for doing it, but she listened for any sounds that might indicate where Roger was so that she could figure out the easiest route past him and to the exit, if need be. She waited and waited and waited for Roger to make a noise, but after five minutes, Anne gave up and entered the living room.
The apartment was dead silent. Not even the hum of the refrigerator or the obnoxious blare of the television could be heard. Anne shut her eyes and strained to hear anything, but nothing was all her expectant ear received.
Hesitantly, she called out, “R…Roger?”
“Roger?” Anne trumpeted again, making her way to the kitchen. The really scary thing was that she couldn’t even hear the Manhattan traffic in Roger’s apartment. Anne could always hear the Manhattan traffic; it was probably part of her by now. It was as if this place were off limits to the music of the city—only silence, pure silence was welcome here. The sound of her own blood rushing boomed in the woman’s ears, beating like a pair of Indian war drums in the heat of battle. The quiet was as deep as the ocean depths, preternatural and unique to Roger’s place. It was almost as if the supernatural had followed Buffy here.
But there was nothing mysterious about the smell seeping from the kitchen, although it was unfamiliar. However, once distinct aroma hit Anne full force and instantly she knew what it was. Bacon. A smell all but forgotten to the deprived slayer. Finally, Anne reached the kitchen, sensing the aroma growing increasingly more scrumptious with every footstep. And she loved it! It was a wonderful smell, like the fragrance of Willow’s hair or Xander’s cologne—things she’d made sure she didn’t forget. She could hardly breathe enough of it.
On the table was a beautiful set-up. Two sunny-side-up eggs, bacon and toast were cleverly arranged to form a smiley face on an enormous white plate. A hot cup of coffee and a cold glass of orange juice flanked the plate’s right side while a smaller bread plate with a jelly doughnut on it sat to the left. A blood red rose in a tiny crystal bud vase with a neighboring note was in the middle of it all. Anne went to it first and tried to decipher Roger’s scribbled mess, which reminded Buffy a little of Xander’s total and complete chicken-scratch—although she had to admit that this was a bit neater.
I made you breakfast in hopes that it would make amends for any mistakes I might have… pracle?
Did that say pracle? No, wait, that was the word made. “Sure looks a lot like pracle to me,” Anne laughed aloud, shaking her head, too.
I hope you like it. Sorry I can’t be there to… emfey it with you?
Oh, enjoy it with you. Okay, makes more sense now.
I had to run out for a bit. Bon appetite!
Anne couldn’t suppress the smile that formed on her lips after reading Roger’s note. But how had he made all of this without her knowledge? Of course, she had been thinking intensely for the last half-hour or so, though the fact that she had failed to notice the potent aroma of the food sort of scared her. After all, when Anne had been the slayer she was able to smell a vamp 20 feet away, and now she was obviously losing the slayer touch if she couldn’t even smell bacon from the other room.
Still another question unanswered: how had he managed to make the food so it remained hot and tasty for her? Oh, that Roger Winters sure was incredible. He never ceased to amaze her, or he hadn’t yet at least.
Then, the whole world disappeared from around Anne as she hungrily devoured her breakfast.
After much vacillating on her part, Anne decided to spend what little money she had left to buy Roger something nice. No, not just nice, but something that said “I trust you” and “I care about you” and “Thanks.” Roger, despite his earlier actions, had done so very much for her. He had helped shape her character, become her closet friend here, and loved her for whom she was (even if that person whom he loved was Anne). Still, he loved Anne, who was essentially Buffy anyway, minus the whole slayer deal.
In return for all he’d given her, she wanted to give him something. “As if I haven’t already given Roger ‘everything,’” Anne thought sardonically.
Well, she wanted to get him something extra. Besides, she wasn’t even sure if last night still meant anything to Roger after the cruel way she had reacted this morning. So the slayer borrowed a shirt and pair of jeans from his extensive wardrobe, got dressed and headed out the closest shopping district she could find.
Annie locked Roger’s door with the set of keys he’d given her last night on the street. At the elevator she waited patiently for it while her mind swam with the warm memories of the night before. Central Park shimmering as the moonlight played upon the snow. The quiet, romantic walk to Roger’s home. Their dance. Their kiss. Their love-making…
The soft, melodious chime of the elevator bell plucked Anne from her sweet reverie, and although the actual images of last night had vanished, the tingling sensation they left in their wake remained with her throughout the entire elevator ride. “Angel never left me with these kind of memories,” she mused. “That’s certainly a plus for Roger.”
On her way out the slayer stopped in the middle of the lobby—much like she did every time at Hornwaggler Apartments—and surveyed the scene with her cat-like eyes. All of the people scurrying about the expansive room were dressed in finely tailored clothes, silk dresses or fur jackets. Naturally, they all looked different, but the two things they shared in common: they were all filthy, stinking rich and absolutely none of what they wore was faux or cheap imitation. The men wore genuine Armani suits with a Rolex watch to match precisely, and the women were dripping with jewelry (most likely from Tiffany’s) and smelled of the finest French perfumes. Even the doorman was wrapped in the finest uniform the apartment complex could afford to give him.
The room, both immense and immaculate, was appropriately decorated with comfy leather sofas, cherry end tables, fancy Oriental rugs, tiny crystal chandeliers and accented tastefully with ornate molding around the ceiling. The light touched every corner, and there was not a shadow to be found within the place. Huge windows in the front of the building opened the place to the street while making it feel airy and even more spacious than it was. They brought so much character to the room. Anne also noticed where the superintendent’s apartment was located because of the over-sized cherry wood door. The slayer would have bet any money she had left that his apartment was as nice, if not nicer than Roger’s penthouse, and probably twice as big.
After a pause to breathe in some of this rich life, Anne burst through the revolving door and into the crisp morning weather. The temperature must have dropped drastically over the course of the night because all of the snow had hardened into chunks of dazzling ice, glassy and treacherous. As hard as she tried to remember, Anne could conjure up no memory of the intense cold, only the heat under the covers. “Whoa! Hold up, Anne. You’ve read one too many romance novels,” she scolded herself under her frozen twirls of breath.
Oh God, there she went again, thinking too much about what happened last night instead of watching where she was stepping. But of course, Anne placed her foot squarely on the slickest patch of ice in the whole damn metropolis and fell flat on her ass, taking down four other innocents with her. After grumbling many apologies to all, Anne slithered away, totally chagrinned.
While she searched hi and low for a suitable present, the slayer managed to slide on three other patches of ice, though magically none of those times she fell. When the people would stare and laugh, which they inevitably did, Anne would coolly say “Watch it” or “City really needs to salt these,” and then she would walk off as casually as she could manage, fighting a slight limp. Then later, she stepped right into a puddle that miraculously hadn’t frozen and soaked her right shoe and sock all the way through until she could practically feel the icy water in her bones. And, of course, as her day wore on, Anne only succeeded in injuring herself further, including scraping her knee when she tripped over a sewer grate, bruising her thigh when she ran into a bookshelf, and cutting herself on a page in the book through which she was leafing. It was a horrible day packed with misfortune after misfortune as far as anyone else would see it, but Anne still saw the world through a pair of rose-colored glasses—things she hadn’t tried on for years. The only thing that bothered her was the question: “Where did all my slayer agility go?” Oh well, a question to ponder during another, more opportune time.
Her day was only made better when she found it. It was the perfect gift for Roger, and it was conveniently priced, too.
A thank-you card.
Okay, so it was a little cheesy, and it wasn’t exactly a Rolex or an Armani suit, but he had those already. Besides, this was sweet and showed she actually put some thought into what she was buying him. Plus, this card would allow Anne to express all of her feeling about him without making an ass out of herself in the process.
When it all was purchased and done with, Anne went back to the pavilion in Central Park in the hope s of being inspired.
Nothing remained to show that they had ever been there last night except for some glazed-over footprints and a spattering of candle wax. It was as clean as before, if not more so. Even the view during the daytime was different, too. The city surrounding her was as gray as the clouds, the oily, dirty smog running like wet paint onto the futuristic skyline.
Suddenly, it seemed to Anne as if she were on an island in the sky, a desert tundra barren of all human life but her own. The sun above was just a dimly outlined circle in the heavens, covered by a blanket of ashen haze. Dead trees waved their naked arms in the breezes, moaning and croaking in pain as their stiff limbs quivered and quaked.
She felt like she was floating free from everyone and everything, and Anne didn’t like that one bit. It was dreadfully lonely on this island of despair. She yearned for someone to be here with her, someone that could make her fell warm in this cold place, someone like Roger Winters. Like magic he appeared before her, leaning thoughtfully up against the post just like previous night. His expression was the same, the look in his eyes identical. Everything was an exact copy of last evening, right down to the ridges in his suit and the rustling of his perfectly combed hair.
His gaze was centered on something behind her, and although she checked, the slayer could not find at what he was staring. Obviously, however, it was something pleasant, for the admiration in his eyes could not be concealed. When Roger took a deep, wistful breath in, it was at that moment Anne realized this was a replay of their dinner. He had looked at her with those eyes; he had dressed up special for her; he had smiled those smiles because of her.
The slayer stared harder at his image. Roger certainly was one of the most beautiful men she had ever encountered, inside and out. He reminded her of so much of what—whom—she had lost. There was a lot of Xander in this man, even a little Angel; however, the bitterness inside him was unidentifiable. That trait could be compared with no one she knew but her own self.
Suddenly, Anne was inspired to write. Her hand scribbled expediently across the inside of the card because she didn’t want to lose her idea, but also it was biting cold outside and she didn’t want to lose her fingers to frostbite.
Snow began to fall all around her, throwing the misty gray world encompassing the pavilion into a wall of ivory. It was like someone had blown a thousand dandelions into the air, and the little white propellers were lost upon the winds.
As she finished up the card, the hovering island drifted back down into its proper place in the park, and Anne was once again united with the world. It was a wonderful feeling that coursed through her veins, a happy, everything’s-right-with-the-world sensation. Anne couldn’t wait to give Roger his present. She couldn’t wait to see his face light up like Xander’s used to whenever Buffy would walk into the room—that is, before she had left.
On her way out of the park, Anne stopped by the Befesda Fountain and relived the moment yesterday when they’d met for their first date under a dwindling sun in a bone yard of trees. How romantic that evening had been. The lighting had been perfect, the company delightful and the food delicious.
While meandering down the criss-crossing pathways of the park, the slayer remarked to herself how she hadn’t been this excited to see anyone since the days of Angel, Willow, Oz, Giles, and God forgive her, even Cordelia. And Xander.
It seemed awfully weird to Anne that the more time she spent with Roger, the more she thought about her friend Xander. She couldn’t help but notice the ever so slight resemblance between the two, and when she said ever so slight, she met almost infinitesimal. Of course, Xander would always aspire to be as buff as Roger was, but it was highly doubtful that he ever would be. And Roger had a fortune. And Roger was a lot less warm and friendly. And Roger also had facial hair. But all that aside, she still saw a few similarities within the two. Their humor. Their laugh. Their sarcasm. Their eyes; that deep chocolate brown present in a very select group of people.
Strange, amazingly so, how being with Roger was changing her feeling toward Xander! Kissing Roger made her wonder what it was like to kiss Xander, and this seemed grossly unfair. It wasn’t right for Anne to be dreaming about her former “friend” when she was with another man. Aside from that unjustness, Xander was gone—a part of her past that had surely moved on without her, probably to Cordelia. Still, Anne’s latent romantic feelings toward the slayerette were emerging, and she couldn’t think of much to do to stop them.
She sighed. Again with the thinking too much. Had her friends been here with her, they would most likely have reminded her about that. “They always do,” she said aloud, “or, at least, they always had.”
In the beating heart of the throbbing city again, the slayer hopped into a cab, yelling to the driver, “745 Ganesh Street, and hurry!”