At the bottom of the stairs, Shandy invoked the prayer to St. Anthony. Jessica, Shandy’s Jewish boss said the incantation worked every time. Shandy held the prayer printed out on a small card so she could read it in a hurry. On the other side was an image of St. Anthony in his friar’s cloak, head shaved down to a crown of cropped brown hair. She read the prayer, in her thick Indian accent at least twice, sometimes three times a day.
Saint Anthony, perfect imitator of Jesus, who received from God the special power of restoring lost things, grant that I may find the keys to Jessica’s Audi which have been lost.
Jessica screamed from upstairs. “I can’t fucking hear you, Shandini.” Books fell from shelves, drawers slid open then closed, closet doors slammed. Jessica was the only person on earth, besides Shandini’s mother, who called her by her full name.
Shandy recited the prayer louder and shook her head. She wanted to cry. She liked Jessica during the interview two months before and thought she might learn to be strong from a powerful white woman. They’re industrious, she had thought, and she admired Jessica because she wasn’t that much older than her. Shandy was desperate for the position and she took the internship without pay for the first month. Today was her one hundred and fiftieth recitation of the prayer. She kept a tally of hatch marks on the back of the card, in the white border above Anthony’s downturned eyes.
Jessica descended the hardwood stairs, her heels pounding with hammer force, BAM-BAM-BAM. Shandy started over again.
“Did you check the coat pockets?” Jessica said.
“I’ve been praying.”
“Goddamn it, you’re supposed to pray and look.”
Shandy went for the coat rack, a tall dark wooden post in the entry way to Jessica’s home office in Georgetown. She plunged her hands into every open pocket.
“You’re not praying,” Jessica said.
Shandy started from the top. Saint Anthony, perfect imitator of Jesus, who received from God the special power of restoring lost things, grant that I may find the keys to Jessica’s Audi which have been lost.
“What time is it?” Jessica said. “Oh my God, I’m late.”
Jessica was due at the afternoon White House press gaggle in 45 minutes. All day she went on about getting in the front row so that “pencil dick” of a press secretary finally calls on her. Jessica Mitchell’s status as a Betlway darling was crumbling. She was notoriously late to gaggles and getting lippy on camera.
Shandy produced three sets of keys from the pockets. Jessica inspected each and threw them on the floor when she identified them as not the ones to her Audi. “No, no and no,” she said. “Fuck, fuck, and fuck!”
“Jessica, you can use my Metro pass,” Shandy said.
“I will not take the fucking Metro,” Jessica said. “And why did you stop praying.”
“Have you tried retracing your steps?” Shandy said.
“Retracing my steps? Are fucking kidding me?”
Shandy started the prayer again and went to the intern desk. She moved papers and phones and computer mice and found nothing.
“What’s his face? What time did he leave?” Jessica said.
“William? He left at 3:30?”
“Where was he today?” Jessica said.
“Here all morning. Then you asked him to run an errand. In your car. He came back and then went home for the day.”
“Stop right there,” Jessica said. “Call him. Now.”
Shandy dialed. “Voice mail,” she said. “He must be on the train by now.”
Shandy imagined William going deeper into the clean subterranean world of D.C. on his way back to his apartment in Alexandria, his shoulders back and his chin up. Above the square cleft, a smile with clean bright teeth, teeth she loved and wished to one day feel with her own tongue.
“I’ll have his balls on a plate,” Jessica said.
“Maybe he will come back,” Shandy said. “If he took the keys, he will feel them in his pocket and come back.”
“Is he your boyfriend or something?” Jessica said.
“No, he is not,” Shandy said.
“Well then keep fucking praying. And call his ass again.”
Shandy looked outside the small narrow window next to the front door. She prayed in silence to Ganesha: Please, William. Please come back.
Jessica pulled up the cushions on the sofas in the lounge area, the very loveseat where Shandy felt something for the fair faced boy from Connecticut. Would her parents ever approve? How would they get married? William had touched her thigh one afternoon, first on accident, but then he left it there and she let him keep his hand there.
Shandy turned the card over and studied Anthony’s face. She never realized how much he looked like William. Or was it the other way around? Did William look like the saint? Jessica screamed from the kitchen.
Shandy whispered now, eyes still fixed on the glass, waiting. As least restore to me peace and tranquility of mind, the loss of which has afflicted me even more than my material loss.