He pushed the doorbell repeatedly until someone answered the door. That someone happened to be Henry.
“What are you doing?” Henry looked at Jack like he was a crazy person.
“ You’re never gonna believe it,” replied Jack as he ran into Henry’s house. “Are your parents home?”
Henry turned to look at Jack as he shut the door. “No man, they’re not home. What is going on with you? You weren’t at school today and you didn’t answer my text.”
“I know, I know, I know. I pretended to be sick this morning. Well, I kinda was sick, but I was mostly tired. Anyway, you’re never gonna believe it.”
“You already said that. Slow down. What am I never gonna believe?”
“I went to 327 today.”
“I went to apologize to the lady. I felt bad about last night.”
“Are you crazy? Now she knows who you are. Did you tell her about me and Kevin?”
“She asked about you two herself.”
“Did she call the police?”
“I’m standing here aren’t I? Do you think she called the police?”
“Oh, right. I guess not. Then what’s the big deal?” Henry asked, curious as to why Jack was ready to burst with information that was making him appear maniacal.
“She’s Genevieve Malloy,” he nearly screamed. Henry didn’t react. Jack stood there looking at him, waiting for recognition to kick in. “Genevieve Malloy? The actress.” Henry still looked clueless.
“Dude, am I supposed to know who that is, ‘cause I don’t?” said Henry with a shrug of his shoulders.
“She’s a famous actress. She's from the movie that my Grandmother just sent me that I made you and Kevin watch with me, Before Tomorrow Ends.
“That’s her?” Henry asked, the surprise all over his face.
“Yeah man, it’s her. She won an Oscar® in 1964”
Henry let the Oscar® comment and the way Jack said it – like he should know it – go. “Why does she live in that dump 327 here in Astoralyn?”
“I don’t know. We didn’t get that far today when she was telling me about her life.”
“She talked to you about her life?” Henry was skeptical but interested.
“Yes. She told me about her family; where she grew up. She got as far as wanting to move to Hollywood and you sent your text and I realized what time it was. She wants me to come back and I wanna go back. She asked if I might bring my friends with me. That’s you and Kevin. I hope you’ll come with me. Even if you don’t, I’m definitely going back. She was super cool and not upset at all about last night.”
“What if it was just pretend? I mean she’s an actress after all. What if she just wants all of us there at the same time so she can call the police on all of us?” What he was suggesting made perfect sense to him.
“She’s not like that, Henry.” Jack took offense at his best friend for thinking his newest friend was dishonest. He started to walk out of Henry’s room.
“Jack, I’m sorry. Obviously you know her better that I do since I haven’t even met her…yet.” Jack smiled at Henry when he added the word “yet” to the end of his sentence. “I’ll go with you and I’m sure I can convince Kevin to go too. You know he’d drink piss if I told him it was the cool thing to do.”
They both laughed. “Thanks, Henry. You’ll love her.”
A quick text to Kevin and he was out on the street at the end of Henry’s driveway. Jack began to recount the amazing experience he had had with Genevieve earlier that day. All the information he had told Henry. Kevin just stood there, looking at him, absorbing all of it. Kevin being Kevin though, got stuck on what he thought most astonishing about the story.
“You went into that place by yourself?”
“Is that all you can say?” Jack gave him a questioning look that all but screamed you’re an idiot. “The woman is sweet and she’s lived a fascinating life and she wants me to come back and she asked that I bring my friends. If you’re too much of a chicken shit to go, that’s fine, but going into the house by myself was the least important part of the story I just told you.”
Henry gave Kevin a you’re on your own here look. Kevin had mere seconds to fight the demons of desire versus fear. Jack had already been inside, twice, and had met the woman. He knew in his heart there was no need to be afraid. He just had to convince his mind of that.
“Excuse me. I’m sorry for getting stuck on that part of the story,” Kevin retorted. “I was just caught off guard. It took me by surprise. I wanna go with you guys it just makes me nervous. You know that.” Kevin gave Jack a disdainful look.
“Kev, it’s gonna be okay, bro,” said Henry, squeezing Kevin’s shoulder. “Jack was in there today. She’s cool. I think it might be interesting to meet her. I mean why not? We should at least go once for Jack’s sake.”
“I wouldn’t wanna put you out or anything,” said Jack sarcastically to Henry.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” said Henry back to Jack. “I mean we should support each other. You wanna do this and you want us to come back with you. Then we should be there for each other. The next time I wanna do something outrageous you can sure as shit bet I’m making you do it with me.”
Jack rolled his eyes and smirked at Henry. “Whatever you need, dude.”
“Okay, so when do we have to do this?” asked Kevin.
“We don’t have to do anything, but I’m going back tomorrow after school,” said Jack. “If you guys wanna join me then, we’ll just stop on the way home.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Henry. He extended his arm with his hand curled into a fist at its end. Jack and Kevin each looked at it. Jack bumped the fist and he and Henry pulled back and did their finger explosion bit. Then they each extended their arms and waited for Kevin. He was apprehensive, but he too bumped his fist with each of theirs. With the finger explosion, he smiled at the two of them and shook his a head little.
“So, tomorrow on the way home from school we’ll go talk to Miss Genevieve,” said Jack to the two of them. “You guys are gonna love her, but even more than that, she’s gonna love you. She just wants a little company. Our visit will definitely brighten her day.”
Tuesday. Jack could barely contain himself through the last class of the day. Henry was Henry, nonchalantly passing notes to the girl in front of him, only thinking about what she might write back. Kevin, for the first time he could remember, wanted the hour to drag on as long as possible. Inevitably, the bell rang. They left the classroom and joined the hoards of people in the hallway heading to their lockers. Backpacks loaded, they each headed to the front doors of the school. They met at the bottom of the steps and headed toward home.
“Anybody got cigarettes?” asked Kevin.
Henry did. He produced the pack, shook it to expose the cigarette in the opening and offered it to Kevin then Jack. Jack declined. Kevin took one and waited for Henry to take the lighter out of its makeshift pocket between the paper and plastic of the cigarette pack. Henry lit the cigarette for Kevin and then one for himself. They each inhaled, Kevin a little deeper than Henry.
They weren’t quite finished with their cigarettes when they arrived at 327. They stood on the sidewalk in front of the gate and finished. Henry inhaled his last bit of relaxation, Kevin his last attempt at courage. When the butts were stamped out on the ground, Jack unlatched the gate and the three of them walked through. Jack assured them both that the rickety porch could indeed hold their weight and crossed the porch to the front door, opened it and proceeded inside. Henry having been inside the house two nights earlier was familiar with the surroundings and the smell. Kevin, however, was unprepared for both. He coughed a little as the mustiness hit the back of his throat. He looked around bewildered that someone would actually live in a house this overwhelmed with junk.
Jack stood at the bottom of the stairs staring at both of them. “Come on guys, it’s not like this on the second floor where Miss Genevieve lives.” He started up the stairs. He continued to talk to them without turning around. “The stairs are sturdy enough to hold us, just like the porch. Just be cautious.”
Kevin noticed the open Bible with the highlighted verse on the table at the bottom of the stairs. He wondered who would do that, just as Jack had wondered when he saw it. Without acknowledging it, Kevin started up the stairs. He wished he wasn’t the one bringing up the rear of their climb, but chose to keep his trepidaton to himself and look straight ahead at the back of Henry as they took one step at a time.
Jack didn’t wait for Henry and Kevin to reach the top of the stairs before he knocked on the door.
“Miss Genevieve, it’s Jack,” he called out through the door.
“Come in, Jack,” she replied in the same gentle voice as the day before.
When he opened the door, she was sitting in the round chair, wearing her peach-colored robe, just like yesterday. The music was playing and the lights still gave a pink glow to the room. Jack stepped into the room so that Henry and Kevin could follow after him. As they entered the room Jack introduced them both to Genevieve.
“Miss Genevieve, this is my best friend, Henry.” Henry waved and walked toward her. She extended her hand and he took it.
“Nice to meet you,” he said.
“And you, Henry,” she replied.
“This is my other best friend, Kevin.” Kevin didn’t seem the least bit nervous now that he was inside. He walked directly to her and took her hand from Henry.
“It’s nice to meet you, ma’am,” he said.
“Thank you. Likewise, Kevin,” she smiled at him and took her hand out of his.
“Come sit on the sofa. I know it looks like it won’t hold you, but Jack can attest that it will. It’s not as shabby as it looks.”
They each crossed behind her chair and sat on the sofa. Henry first, then Kevin, followed by Jack. That put Jack right where he wanted to be – in the same spot as yesterday.
©2010 Michael Rohrer