Sunday, March 31, 2013

She Is Where, Part 37

When she got to her cousin's house -- her aunt was now there full time -- things were an emotional mess.  Her cousin was collapsed in the middle of the living room floor crying, everyone trying to console her.  Everyone except her husband who was in the kitchen boiling water for tea.  Everyone gave her cautionary looks and flicked their heads in the direction of the kitchen so that's where wordlessly went.

"What's up?" she whispered to the husband, the very good guy.

"Mom doesn't know any of us," he said.  "Duck your head in.  Maybe she'll know you."

She just looked at him.

"Really," he said.  "Maybe she'll know you."

She did as he asked, quietly turning the doorknob and entering the room.

Her aunt looked up from what she was doing -- playing Solitaire it seemed with an old deck of cards -- and stared at her blankly but then a grin spread over her face.

"I saw your parents this afternoon," her aunt said.  "They're waiting for me."

Her eyes got as big as saucers.  Her own parents had died many years earlier.

"They said to tell you they love you and watch over you," said her aunt.

It was nice of her aunt to say, really.

"They also they like Conrad and it might be a while before you see him but he's coming back to you.  They said try not to worry."

Her aunt got a dreamy look on her face.

"They said they will be seeing me very soon," said her aunt.  "Don't tell your cousin.  She's so emotional."

Here aunt then quickly turned her attention to her game of Solitaire.  It might've been Klondike, it might have been the playing card version of insanity, but it was as if she's never spoken and it was frightening to her beyond measure.

She left the room, quietly closing the door, and returned to the living room.  Her cousin was drinking tea and things seemed less dramatic.

"So," said her cousin.  "Did she know you?"

How do you answer that?  She thought, 'Yes, but she's been talking to my deceased parents who seem to know all about a man I care about.'

"Yes," she said, "she knew me.  She said she saw my parents this afternoon."

Her cousin gently put the cup and saucer on the coffee table, then howled and fell to the floor again.

"But she knew it was me," she said.

Her cousin's husband walked over and hugged her.

"Yeah, she knew you," he said.

She decided it would be a good idea to leave.  She said her farewells as calmly as she could, her cousin still balled up on the floor.  Her cousin's husband walked her out.

"I think she's afraid she will go that way," he said.  "I'm sorry you had to get hit with some crazy."

"I don't know that it's so crazy," she said.  "She also told me about something I've never told anyone in the family.   There are a lot of things in this world you can't explain and what happened in there is one of them."

"Care to expand?" he said.

She thought for a few minutes.

"No," she said, "but not because I don't want to.  It's because I can't describe it."

They were at her car.

"When you can talk, I can listen," said her cousin's husband.  "You know I can keep a secret."

She smiled at him. 

"You can," she said.  "If you need anything, let me know.  I can listen, I can run errands, I can sit with my aunt."

They embraced lightly and she got in her car and before she drove off,  she looked at her phone to see if there were any messages.  There was one from Kevin.

"Oh, yeah, hi.  Now please don't worry but Con's missing.  He's not where he's supposed to be and no one's heard from him.  Please don't worry.  Call me."

Her aunt said her parents said they liked Conrad but it might be awhile before she saw him.

She liked her life better when it was maybe someone trying to kill her and not some metaphysical, spritual mumbo jumbo, and she was not so crazy about it then.  Crap.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

She Is Where, Part 36

"As I live and breathe, I thought I'd never see you again," said the man on the elevator.  "How nice to see you."

She smiled and extended her hand to Mr. King, the head security guard from her former work address.  They shook hands warmly.

"What brings you to this part of town, Mr. King?" she asked.

"I've been given a transfer.  I am now in charge of this address and the one across the street," he replied.

"More work?" she inquired.

"Less, in fact," he said.  "That other building had stuff going on all day every day.  If someone wasn't shooting up in the restroom then someone else decided it was a good idea to beat his wife in the lobby.  I've been blessed with less work, a little more money, and get to see some new faces.  And some favorite old faces."

She smiled.

"But I am not saying you're old," he said.

They had reached the lobby and exited the elevator.

"I didn't think you had, Mr. King," she said.

"It is always good to see your face," he said.  "Oh, say, remember that White man with the cold eyes?  The one who is friends with the giant?"

"Yes," she said warily.

"He has an office across the street.  I was wrong about him.  He's a nice, honest fella.  A jeweler," he said.  "His office is like Fort Knox."

She smiled at Mr. King.

"We've been reacquainted," she said.  "I've come to know him slightly."

"Slightly?  The man's a total open book.  You know he's in Africa, right?  Some diamond became available and he went to buy it," said Mr. King.

"He didn't tell me where he was going," she said, her mouth suddenly dry.

"It's an uncut diamond, and not in a good neighborhood, I gathered.  He said he wasn't even telling his lady love where he was going.  Just said he had to go out of town," advised Mr. King.  "He said he didn't want to worry her.  He said his best friend would guess where he'd gone."

"His lady love?" she said.

"He said he'd finally connected with someone he'd met briefly but who was ready to get to know him.  He said she works in this building."  Mr. King looked into her eyes.  "Is that you?"

She nodded her head.  She wasn't going to be able to make words.

"He said it should be fine.  He was hiring a team of guards to help with the purchase.  It's some big, rough diamond that he'd been negotiating for.  He said it was not quite the right time to go but he was sure she'd wait for him.  Is that right?  Is that you?" asked Mr. King.

She nodded again.

"I think so, Mr. King,"  she said with a huge unmoist tongue.

"You've been blessed with love, then.  So different from how things used to be," said Mr. King.  "I don't want you to be worrying about him.  It sounds like everything would be under control."

She nodded, a single tear coming from her left eye.

"Oh, now, I didn't want to make you cry.  You're one of my favorite tenants," said Mr. King.

She quickly took a tissue from her left pocket, wiped the tear, and blew her nose.  It was a little too loud.  She had to get it together.  She needed to be in a good mental place when she saw her aunt.

"It will be fine," Mr. King said.  "He said things would be great for years if everything went well."

She nodded again.

"Connie," said Mr. King.  "A man has to be secure to let himself be called Connie."

She smiled.

"I think he is," she said.  "Secure, that is."

"He's a fine looking White man," said Mr. King.  "Even sisters tell me he's fine."

She grinned and smiled and couldn't help but let another tear escape.

"But after you know him for a while, you see that he's not just fine looking.  You see a decent man who's trying to make a good life," said Mr. King.  "He hooked me up with some lovely pearl earrings for my daughters."

"Mr. King, it's so good to see you and I guess we will see each other again," she said.

"Yes, we will," he said.

"My aunt's quite ill and I need to see her while she still knows me," she told him.

"Awww, that's too bad about your aunt.  You go be with her," he said and then asked, "Was she a kind person?"

"She had her moments but was mostly she was not the nicest," she said.

"Well, that's not going to change," said Mr. King.  "My Aunt Gladys was a hard woman and she became demented and she was hard times three.  She tried to bite my mom.  Once I came to her door -- my mom wanted me to fix a pipe -- and she started screaming that a black man was trying to break in.  She used the N word to describe me.  The police came and when they got to the door, she told them they were white abusers.  One was Latino and the other was a light-skinned lady officer.  She tried to stab one with a fork, saying she had to stand up for the black man.  By the way, Aunt Gladys was a very dark-skinned lady."

"That sounds terrible," she said.

"After that she was blessed with admission to a very fancy assisted-living facility," said Mr. King.

"How long was she there?"  she asked.

"Four years," said Mr. King.  "I felt sorry for the employees every single day.  She still tried to bite my mom every time she visited, which was almost every day."

"That still sounds terrible," she said.

"My mom was blessed with a hide like leather, a sweet disposition, and the patience of saints.  She would say, 'I understand that she's not herself but I just want her to not sink her fangs into my arm.'"

"How's your mom doing?" she asked.

"She's fine, god bless her," he said.  "With her church group on a trip to Michigan at the moment.  Thanks for asking."

She extended her hand to Mr. King and they shook warmly.

"Sorry about you auntie," he said, "and I think your boyfriend will be okay."

"Thanks, Mr. King," she said and turned and walked out the door.

When she got outside she let loose a melancholy smile.  While she worried because this man she was getting to know might be in a dangerous situation, she was his lady love.  Another tear leaked out of her left eye.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

She Is Where, Part 35

Handsome's attentions in the office was a turning point for her in the eyes of the people who didn't work with her.  The stuck-up pretty girls decided she must be the coolest if this best-looking of guys wanted her, if this gorgeous fellow didn't give the time of day to Kim (and every man seemed to fall over himself for Kim).  She didn't care that they saw her in a new light.  They were still the shallowest people anyone could ever come across but it didn't bother her that they had this new respect for either.

The fates had other ideas.

Her aunt took a turn for the worse, walking out of her house one day, and was finally found days later sharing beans with the homeless guys who live under the Belmont overpass.  When she wasn't found in her neighborhood, the police and all the radio and TV stations were alerted, and the family fanned out and drove around for all those days trying to find her.  When the police found her, she introduced them to each of her homeless friends by name.  The police took her aunt to the emergency room and she went with her cousin and her cousin's husband to fetch her.  She didn't recognize any of them and accused them of trying to kidnap her and get a ransom for her.

"My daughter is a real bitch!  She'd rather let me rot than give you a nickel for me," she told her daughter, who was, in fact, a real bitch.  This made her cousin cry and storm out of the room.

"It needed to be said," said her aunt, when the cousin and left.  "She really needs to soften up or she'll be a hard-assed old lady like me."

"I don't know," said her cousin's husband.  "I don't think you give her enough credit."

"You're way too good for her," said her aunt.  "Too handsome, too sweet, too kind."

"You don't know her like you think you do," said her cousin's husband.  "She is very tender and loving."

He left the room to look for his wife.

"What do you think?" her aunt asked her.

"I think I am going out of my mind," she answered.

"But not like this," said her aunt.  "You're just caught in the middle of this shit."

"Yeah, that's a good part of it," she said.

"Now, what's your name?" asked her aunt, just as her cousin and her husband came back into the room.

"Mom!" gasped her daughter and started crying.

"Mom!" groaned her son-in-law and hugged his wife closely.

"Really," said the aunt.  "Your name is on the tip of my tongue but I just can't recall it.  Tell me the first letter.  Is it a three?  Does your name start with a three?"

The rest of the week was spent finding a patient, compassionate person to come live with her aunt on a full time basis.  They all felt sorry in advance for whoever it would be.

When she came back to work, there was a phone message from Handsome.

"Hey, doll, I have to go out of town for a couple of weeks.  I've got something I've been trying to get my hands on and if I don't go get it now, I will never get it.  I'll call you when I get back.  If Kevin calls you, tell him he has to wait for me to come back to have dinner.  XO."

He'd ended with "XO" like "Ex-Oh."  She was pleased.

Kevin did call her the next week.

"Say, hi, how are you?  I was sick, that's why I haven't called.  And then my wife got sick.  And then I got sick again, but my wife was fine," blurted out Kevin all at once.

"I'm fine, Kevin, thanks," she said.  "Connie had to go out of town.  He said there was something he was trying to get his hands on and he had to go get it.  It was now or never."

"Oh, hmm, ha, I hope it's not dangerous.  Sometimes he goes to places that are dangerous.  He has great stories to tell but it's dangerous getting to that point.  Do you want to wait for him to come back to come over?" asked Kevin.

"Connie said you have to wait for him to come back," she said.

"Oh, wow, he really likes you," said Kevin.  "Otherwise he'd have said to just go without him.  Oh, wow, nice."

She blushed and smiled then realized she hadn't said anything.

"You there?" asked Kevin.

"Sorry, Kevin," she said.  "I was busy blushing."

"Ha, hmm, oh, please," said Kevin.  "You know he likes you."

She blushed some more.

"Are you blushing again?" asked Kevin.

"Yes," she said sheepishly.

"I have to tell my wife.  She will tell me she knew it, she KNEW it," said Kevin.  "For someone he never met, he always managed to mention the lady from the train."

Just then, the supervisor who worked under her arrived at her door looking concerned.  She beckoned her to sit.

"Kevin, I have to get back to work.  I'm sure Connie will call you when he's back in town," she said.

"Yeah, okay, right.  It was good to talk to you," said Kevin.

"My best to your wife, though we've never met," she said.

"She will love that," said Kevin.  "That is gonna make her day.  Bye."

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to her supervisor and some problems that had come up, mostly involving people who'd made mistakes and didn't want to admit them.  When they finally did, they were going to be expensive to fix but with a few calls here and there, the amount was reduced to almost nothing but those involved had to be addressed which took a lot of time and gave them all headaches.

"I'd suggest we go and get some adult beverages," said the supervisor, "but I have a child and I want to hug him close."

"I'll finish up here and go.  I want to go see my aunt.  She's gone around the bend and I want to see her while she might still know me," she replied.

"Sorry," said the supervisor.

"Nice of you to say," she said.

"Hey, what's up with that handsome man everyone says is your boyfriend?" asked the supervisor.

"He had to go out of town," she said.  "He'll be back in couple of weeks."

"I am sorry I missed that whole thing with Kim," the supervisor said.  "Rumor has it she was really cold."

"Cold doesn't begin to cover it.  Did she and her fiancee break up?" she asked.

"The word is no, they are still together.  He must have issues that include cold women," said the supervisor.

"And we never ever psychoanalyze the motives of others," she said.

"Not us," said the supervisor.

They said good night and she finished up the problems, shaking her head repeatedly while she documented the details.  They knew they should always say right away if something was wrong but they decided it would be a terrible situation if they admitted it whereas there was only a problem when they tried to cover it up.  Humans make mistakes, she'd told them, but the same people always forgot she'd said it.  It was a mess but now it was over.

She shut off the light in her office and walked to the elevator.  She thought about Handsome and smiled.  She wondered when he'd be back in town.  She wondered how long her aunt would know her and her own daughter.  She wondered if the work mess was worth it.  She sighed loudly as the elevator door opened.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

She Is Where, Part 34

"That's one thing about Kevin," said Handsome as she dialed.  "He almost always answers."

The phone rang once and went instantly to voicemail.   She put it on speaker.

"Hi, it's Kevin.  Tell me the pertinent stuff and I'll call you back."

When it went beep they each looked at each other but she spoke first.

"Hi, Kevin," she said.

"Hey, Kevin," said Handsome.  "It's Con.  I have found our missing friend and we're calling to wrangle dinner invitations.  Call me back."

He nodded at her to disconnect.

"I was hoping to leave here with a plan," he said.  "A relaxing evening with Kevin and his wife.  What she does to a lobster is amazing.  Oh, god, I'm afraid I'll start drooling if I think about it too much.  Tell me you like lobster."

"I like lobster," she said.

"Do you eat meat?" Handsome asked.

"Yes, I eat meat," she replied.

"Do you cook?" he asked.

She looked at him and cocked her head to the left.

"If you don't cook, it's okay," said Handsome.  "I cook.  I'm a great cook.  I just wondered what you bring to the table, pardon my pun."

"Cranberry relish," she said without apology.  If Handsome would like her, he'd like her for her lack of kitchen activity.

"Thanksgiving's favorite side, good, good," said Handsome.

"I also bring conversation," she said.

"A lost art," Handsome said.  "I like conversation a lot.  So I have one more question."

"Okay," she said.

"Am I babbling?" he asked.  "I feel like I'm babbling."

"You're not babbling," she said.  "Conrad."

"Con," he said.  "Call me Con.  Or Connie.  I like either but women I've dated don't like to call me Connie because they're afraid of being thought of as lesbian when they talk about me to friends."

"Connie and I went to the movies?  Connie is so affectionate?" she asked.  "That kind of thing?"

"Yeah," he said.

"And you don't tell them to just shut up, Connie?" she asked.

"Those haven't lasted a long time, I assure you," he said stepping close to her and taking her right hand in his left and bringing it close to his chest.  "I just had a good feeling about you."

They stood like that for a few minutes, looking at each other like each was a spectacular sunset, with big clouds that were a purplish gray at the top and a coral magenta at the bottom, and the sun was filtering through with long rays of light.  They were interrupted by a knock on the door jamb.

It was Kim, the girl who didn't say yes.

Handsome kept her hand but turned slightly.

"Sir," said Kim, "thanks for your speech.  It was really lovely. "

"Oh," said Handsome.  "I thought you were upset by it."

"I just don't like surprises.  It caught me off guard," said Kim.

"Life sometimes does that," said Handsome.  "It takes you by surprise.  You think you're going to a birthday party and someone asks you to marry him.  You think the presentation you're giving about the locks of love will give someone an idea that someone's about to propose.  You think you're riding the train with your friend to get a motorcycle and you meet someone fascinating and interesting who apparently thinks you're trying to murder her."

"Who's that?" asked Kim.  "That's not me and my boyfriend."

"That would be me," she said.

"Fascinating?" asked Kim with mounds of incredulity.

"Extremely," said Handsome, squeezing her hand, then lowering his hand and letting hers go.  "Your boyfriend is a generous man with great taste."

"Yeah, can you please show me your stuff?  I want to see what was in store," Kim said.

"Sorry," said Handsome.  "I was hired by your boyfriend and when I pack up the bags, I don't open them again."

"Well, what's the difference?  You haven't left here.  Maybe I'll buy something," said Kim.

"Show's over," said Handsome.  "Nothing to see here."

Kim gave him a look like he was scum.

"I can give you my card," he said.

"No, thank you," said Kim icily, turned quickly and walked out of the office.

Handsome closed the door.

"Good," he said quietly.  "I didn't want to give her my card anyway.  Did you know she was so difficult?"

"I really didn't," she said.  "We've never worked together so it's just greetings at manager meetings or in the hall or bathroom.  I got the feeling that she was a little shallow and controlling but I didn't care because I wasn't working with her."

"I am hoping the boyfriend changes his mind," said Handsome.  "I suspect he's too good for her."

"Let them make their own mistake, Connie," she said.

"No more locks of love presentations for her," said Handsome.  "But I will happily sell him this one mammoth diamond, a real knuckle buster.  Do you want to see it?"

She did want to see it.  And the settings and the smaller diamonds, too.

"Sorry, Con, I have to get back to work," she said, because she did.

"Atta girl," said Handsome.  "Leave 'em wanting more."

Handsome put this handcuffs and his briefcases in the Costco frozen food carry bag and zipped everything up so it looked like a guy whose wife made him bring his lunch to work for the next year all in one trip.

"Should I call you when I hear from Kevin?" he asked.

"Yes, please," she said.  "Thank you."

He stepped forward and stood very close to her.  He leaned forward and whispered in her ear.

"I am so happy we found each other," he said.

"I am so happy you're not trying to murder me and wear my flesh." she replied.

He smiled at her,  turned, and left.