As he opened the door, music began to fill the air. He wasn’t sure if it was the same song he had heard the night before, but the scratching sound of the record was still present. She was sitting on the round chair, still in the peach-colored robe. She smiled at him when she saw him; the same welcoming smile from the previous night.
“Well, come on. Come inside,” said the woman. Her voice had a gentle lilt that reminded him of Olivia de Havilland in Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, almost free of its accent, just a hint of its Southern root. It was inviting and non-threatening. Jack stepped inside the room and shut the door. He turned to face her.
“Ma’am, I-I just wanted to a-apologize for last night,” he said with a nervous stammer.
“There’s no need to apologize, Jack, “ she replied. “Come sit down on the sofa. Talk to me for a minute.”
He started toward the sofa when it suddenly struck him that she had called him by his name. He stopped and looked at her. Her eyes met his. He had a look of confusion on his face.
“What is it?” she asked.
“You called me Jack,”
“Well, isn’t that your name?”
“Yes, but how did you know that?” he asked.
A sly little smile curved on her face. “Silly boy, you just announced yourself coming up the stairs. How else could I have known it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, now you do. Will you please come sit down with me? Sit there on the sofa.” She pointed to the end nearest her. “I know it’s a little saggy, but it’ll hold you just fine.”
Jack finished crossing the room, walking behind her chair, and sat on the sofa. They sat for a moment in uncomfortable silence. He felt awkward sitting on the sofa in the home he had broken into last night with the owner sitting across from him. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be in the Principal's office? he thought to himself. What seemed like an eternity was merely seconds ticking away on the clock.
“I just want to apologize again for last night,” said Jack with remorse in his voice as he broke the silence. It was real remorse, not just something he was trying out like the dry-throated voice he had used with his mother earlier that morning. “Judging from my reaction when you were standing next to me, you can imagine that I didn’t know anyone lived here.”
She sat there listening to him, saying nothing. Her focus was completely on him and what he had to say.
“I’m sure it must have been frightening to walk into the room and see someone, a-a stranger, standing there…talking out of your window.” Jack was nervous and alternately stammering and running his words together. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, I know that I must have scared you last night because you scared me and for that I’m very sorry.”
She was not angry. She gave him an understanding somewhat compassionate smile and said, “Thank you, Jack. I accept your apology and we don’t have to talk about last night again.”
He thought she would be angry or at least scold him a little bit. Her reaction put him at ease. He found himself suddenly filled with relief and a sense of freedom.
“May I ask you a question?” said Jack.
“Of course, as long as the answer won’t incriminate me,” she replied with a little chuckle.
Jack thought she was funny and maybe just a little feisty.
“Are you Genevieve Malloy?” he blurted out. There was nothing subtle about it. He felt slightly stupid and embarrassed. “I’m sorry to blurt it out like that, but your face was on my mind a lot last night and this morning. I think I even dreamed about you. Anyway, I kept thinking you looked like someone from a movie I had seen recently so I went to my DVD’s and there on the cover of Before Tomorrow Ends was your face. At least I thought it was your face.”
“I must say, it’s been a long time since anyone has dreamed about me.” The expression on her face was euphoric as she stared off into the distance. Jack wondered what she was remembering. Her stare was so intent that he wanted to turn and see what she was seeing, but he didn’t. He let her have the memory without disturbing her concentration with his movement. As her awareness came back to the present again, she began blinking her eyes and settled her gaze on him. “Yes, Jack. I am Genevieve Malloy.”
“Miss Malloy, it’s so nice to meet you,” Jack said as he stood up and extended his had to shake hers. It was an automatic response. He couldn’t stop it. He felt a little childish and star struck as he stood there waiting for her to accept his gesture. She chuckled again amused at his gentlemanly manners and accepted his handshake by placing her hand inside his.
“Please forgive me if this is too forward, but why are you living here?” he asked her.
“Do you mean here in Astoralyn, or here in this house?”
“Here in this house.”
“Well Jack, that’s a long story.”
"I’ve got time, Miss Malloy,” said Jack. He couldn’t believe that he was sitting in the living room of Genevieve Malloy. What were the odds of that? Life is funny. What could have been a terrible afternoon resulting in a call to the police had actually turned into one of the most thrilling moments of his life.
“Please call me Genevieve,” she asked in response to his eagerness.
“How about, Miss Genevieve?” he said as he smiled at her. Jack had been taught to respect his elders. It just didn’t seem right to him to call her by her first name alone.
“Okay. I think I can handle Miss Genevieve. Miss Malloy just seems way to formal for two people sitting around talking, especially when you are going to be listening to me tell you about my life.”
“You make it sound like you’re holding me against my will and making me eat worms. Trust me. I can’t wait to hear it.”
“You kids,” she chuckled. “You have such an interesting way of saying things. I would never make you eat worms.”
He looked at her with rapt attention. He felt like he was in his favorite class and couldn’t wait for the teacher to start teaching. He was a sponge just ready to absorb all the information she could throw at him. His anticipation was disrupted by the buzzing of the BlackBerry® in his back pocket. He was annoyed at the interruption, but knew he had to check the caller ID.
“I’m sorry Miss Genevieve, it’s my mom.”
“Hello…Hi Mom…I’m okay…No, I got up a little while ago…I’m feeling better actually. I think I just needed some sleep…Yeah, I ate some cereal…Okay Mom. I’m probably gonna lay back down for a little while. Maybe watch one of the movies Grandmother sent…Okay. I’ll see you when you get home…I love you too.” He pressed the “end” button, locked the keyboard and put the BlackBerry® back in his pocket.
“Sorry about that,” he said to Genevieve.
“That’s okay, Jack. I understand you needing to answer a telephone call from your mother. Tell me, why did you tell her you were going to lie back down? Why didn’t you tell her where you are?”
“I didn’t feel well this morning so she let me stay home from school,” he said with a little bit of regret in his voice. Of course the regret was that he had lied to his mom. He didn’t regret sitting with Genevieve at all. “It’s because I didn’t sleep very well last night. After I saw you I was scared and confused and I just couldn’t fall asleep.”
“I see,” said Genevieve. “Shall I begin?”
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Jack unable to hide the eagerness in his voice.
©2010 Michael Rohrer