Friday, April 5, 2013

Your Season FINALE

“This is so intense!   I can barely stand it!” 

The crowd has gone.  The band is putting away the last of their instruments and equipment.  Juniper, Bethany, Tish and Alesandra  are gathered with the accountant, realtor and attorney awaiting a final tally of the night’s profits.  The accountant is pecking mercilessly at his keyboard entering in the numbers.

“If you don’t hurry up I think I’m going to lose my mind!”  Alesandra wails in anticipation.  So much depends upon decent numbers tonight.  If the sale did as well as Juniper thought it might, the possibility of owning the building will become that much more affordable. 

Everyone seems to be holding their breath as the accountant enters in the last few numbers and pencils in something on his ledger.  “Ladies, this event has earned you a grand total of $120,476.”  The accountant glares around with an exaggerated grin about his face.  There is silence.  “I was expecting more squeals of delight and less…nothing,” he sarcastically scoffs while gathering his materials to exit, realizing that their expectations must have been a bit unrealistic.  The now sad and disappointed faces glance at each other.

“So, I guess we just take the money and apply it towards the repairs for the sale of the building,” Alesandra suggests.

“No, wait.  Who mentioned anything about selling the building?”  Bethany nudges for Juniper to speak up.

“You heard those numbers.  That’s not enough to put a dent in this thing for us,” Tish rubs Alesandra’s arm in consolation.  “Or for anybody.  That’s barely thirty percent.”

“But why give up?  We could just put our heads together and come up with some other projects to raise more cash,”  Juniper sounds off as the voice of reason.

“We probably would’ve collected more if we hadn’t had that impromptu performance by the drunk lady.  That painting –“

“Wasn’t going to change the bottom line that much,” Tish interrupts her sister.

“Actually, paintings by dead people usually rack in some impressive dollars.”  Juniper sounds disappointed about the entire ordeal.

“At any rate, playing the coulda shoulda woulda game isn’t going to get us anywhere.  By the way, anybody know how she’s doing?  The drunk lady?” Tish sounds tired.

“I called and checked on her half an hour ago.  Her daughter said she was resting.  The ex husband is there with them.”  Bethany takes a seat, removes her heel and massages her foot.

“Poor thing.”  Juniper shakes her head.

“No, the real tragedy is going to be for that old lady.  I mean, we’re all able to move although we’d rather stay.  But that old lady has been in that building for years.  She doesn’t seem to have family.  No one ever comes to visit except recently when that old man started coming around.”  Alesandra begins to gather her catering utensils that have been neatly boxed.  Tish assists with the bags of some other items.  “I’m tired.  And this is too much to think about right now.   You guys let me know what you come up with.”

“Thanks, Alesandra.  You’re on your way to becoming the city’s most fabulous chef!  The food was exquisite!”  Juniper waves as they head way toward the exit.

“Thanks!” Alesandra calls out, not bothering to look behind her.

Juniper is smiling as she takes a few small steps back to where the accountant left the tally at the table.  Her smile fades as the reads the numbers and picks up the paper.  “There simply has to be more we can do.”

“I think it might be time we consider the only option we have remaining.”  Bethany slides off her other shoe and stands.  “Pack.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

Some pretty impressive items are on display to be auctioned.  Among them is none other than a painting by now deceased artist F. Lamar Dollison donated by the family.  The crowd gathers around and carefully examines the artwork along with other items of interest to prepare their bids.  The money will go into the general building fund towards the purchase of the property.  

“These things seem like common household junk!” Geneva detests as she and Quincy peruse the display. 

One particular item catches hers and Quincy’s attention.  They carefully examine it trying to figure out just what it could possibly be.

“Suppose the person who donated this had a special commodity shop?”  Quincy asks aloud.

Geneva squints trying to read the description written underneath.  “It’s a Bloo?  What’s that?”

“A Bloo?  Never heard of it.” Quincy narrows his eyes attempting to make out the small scribble on the paper before deciding to save his face the wrinkles and extract his reading spectacles from his breast pocket.   “Let’s see here.  A Bloo…”  Quincy freezes in amazement.  Then he removes his eyeglasses, wipes them down and repositions them on his face. 

“Well, do you recognize it?” Geneva asks, still studying the contraption.

“I haven’t the slightest idea what it could be, but some poor soul is willing to pay $8100 for it.  It wasn’t a ‘Bloo,’ my dear.”  Quincy returns his glasses to his breast pocket.  “That’s a bid that reads 8,100 of someone’s hard earned dollars.”

“You can’t be serious!”  Geneva takes a step back and re-examines it with added peculiarity.

“I wish I wasn’t.”  Quincy just shakes his head in disbelief.

“I know.  I can’t figure out exactly what it is either.”  Alesandra joins them in marveling at how someone could be willing to pay so much for something that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.  “I mean, it isn’t much to look at if it’s supposed to be some sort of abstract art sculpture or something.  And then, if it has a purpose… well…I just can’t seem to figure out what it could possibly do.”  She shrugs.  “I hate to sound cliché, but as the saying goes…One man’s trash-“

“Apparently makes him wealthy and someone else a foolish pauper.”  Bethany glides past them, smiling.  We have quite a few attractive bids for many of the items on display.  However, this piece has been the topic of conversation among many for the better part of the night.  Bethany looks stunning in a long, flowing evening gown.  She is hardly the shell of a woman that was being beaten a few short months ago.    

Ms. Wyndham scurries past them and scribbles something on the bidding sheet that corresponds with the artwork donated from the Dollison family. 

“I do believe that’s artwork from the young fellow that shot himself, Geneva,” Quincy whispers.  He and Geneva inch closer to the bidding sheet, both seeming to have the same idea about checking for the highest price.   “My, my.   That’s more than I would’ve expected.”  Quincy stands back and takes notice of the painting again.  “Kind of resembles our old camo gear, but with more color.  Certainly wouldn’t pay that much to hang on the wall.”

“It’s strange what people will give their money to,” Geneva chimes in.  “I had to work two jobs for a number of years to support myself, and that never amounted to anything remotely close to what someone is willing to spend on… this.”

“Likewise, after the war was over we returned having to scrap for work.  None of us have probably seen that kind of money.  Nor the families who lost loved ones.”  Quincy shakes his head in disdain then ogles the painting once more until he hears quiet sobs from over his shoulder.

Beth notices that Quincy has heard her tears.  “I’m sorry.  It’s just that he was… we were very close.”  She manages a faint smile to lighten the mood.  “He’d not ever made that kind of money selling his artwork.  This would definitely be a good night.”  She gazes as if lost in thought.

“That’s right.  You’re the young lady he was there to see that night.”  Geneva takes a closer look.
Beth smiles and nods.  “Yes.  Yes, I was there that night.”

“You poor dear.   Tragic,” Geneva makes a failed attempt to console her.

“Nothing tragic about getting rid of someone whose primary form of stress relief is targeting your head with his fists multiple times.  I’d say he did you a favor, sweetie.”  Maria is slurring, drink in hand.  Standing unsteadily.  “God be praised!  Ding, dong! The dog is dead!”  She raises her glass as if to toast then takes a sip.

Beth, Geneva and Quincy are at a loss for words.  They stare blankly at her.  She takes notice as she is lowering her glass.

“I’m sorry, honey.  Did I interrupt your pity party?  I thought we were supposed to be having fun?  Huh?  I didn’t bring any pity with me.”  She pretends to look inside her clutch, searching.  “Nope.  No pity in there,”  She slurs with laughter.  “But the good thing is that you definitely supplied the F-U-N!”  She holds her drink up.  “And this is the good stuff, too!  A fancy party and no BYOB!  Shoot, you can put me up for auction!  One bottle of Jack! Sold!”  Maria is laughing, drinking in between and getting louder by the gulp.

Quincy and Geneva simultaneously tip away so as not to be an audience for her embarrassment.  Bethany signals for Jun, who rushes to her side as soon as she notices.  Maria continues to drink and provide a monologue for a disproving audience.

As soon as Jun realizes what’s happening, she intervenes.  “You’re the lady from-“

“Right now, I’m Mrs. Jack Daniels,” Maria retorts, seeming bothered by Juniper’s introduction.
“Is there somebody I can call for you?”  Juniper attempts to remove the glass from Maria’s hand.

“Lady, you have no idea what to call me, but you’d better turn loose my drink!”  As Maria attempts to retain hold of the glass it slips from her grip and bolts through the air piercing the canvas, ruining it.  There is a hush that falls over the entire room.  Only the sound of the jazz band playing in the background can be heard, uninterrupted because they are oblivious to what’s happening just a few yards away.

“Look at that.  Now if you think I’m going to pay for this you’ve got another thought coming.  I want my drink back.” 

Juniper glares at her. 

“Humph, is this how you treat guests?  Was I only invited to this fancy party just to be treated as if I’m unwelcomed?  Or am I your entertainment for the evening?  Cause in either instance, I ain’t been paid!”  Maria looks around the room at all the eyes staring back at her.  “That’s ok.  I’ll just go get my own drink then.”  She turns toward the bar and takes two steps before collapsing to the floor.

Friday, March 22, 2013

“Jun this turned out beautifully!  How long did you work on the decorations?”  Ms. Wyndham is in awe at how the little rinky dink community center has been transformed into such a lavish formal space. 

“I and a friend worked most of the evening getting it together.  I think we did pretty good.”  Jun is dressed in a beautiful, flowing full length navy gown with jeweled accents throughout the neckline and bustier.  

“You definitely have a creative eye.  There’s no way I could ever have visualized this, which is sad to say given that I deal in real estate.”  Ms. Wyndham laughs while eying the fabric that has been suspended from the ceiling and draped to cover the dingy walls.  There are chandeliers with accented beads and luminaries that make this appear as if it costs tens of thousands of dollars to prepare.  “How much did all this cost?”

“Not more than a couple hundred bucks.”  Juniper smiles. 

Ms. Wyndham looks astonished.  “A couple hundred bucks?  How?” 

“You’d be surprised what you can do with some of the things at your local second hand store.  It’s really not that difficult.  You just have to know where to look.  And I have a crafty friend.  She can almost always make something from what we would just toss in the trash.” 

Ms. Wyndham removes her wrap to unveil a beautiful knee length black dress that is brought to life with jeweled heels and a matching evening bag.  Her look is classic.  “The two of you should be in business.  This is impressive.”

“Perhaps we’ll consider it.  In the meantime, enjoy the evening.  The program with begin shortly.  For right now we’re just mingling.  There’s a champagne fountain near the ice sculpture and some hors d’oeuvres.  Oh, and if you plan to participate in the auction don’t forget to sign in for your number there.” 

Juniper points out sign-table and directs Ms. Wyndham toward the others gathered near an area where Alesandra has created some beautiful dainty hors d’oeuvres.

“Tish, it really doesn’t look good for you to be standing here playing with the food.  Can you please stop rearranging those platters!”  Alesandra is trying  to smile, but Tish is her usual annoying self and is working her nerves tonight.

“It’s just that I can’t decide if it looks better this way….”  She rearranges the platters again.  “Or like this.  What do you think?”

“I think nobody is paying as much attention to that as you are.  Now leave them as they are.”  Alesandra smiles as another guests places some foods on his plate. 

Tish sighs as if in distress.  “You really should be a bit more appreciative.  The Epicurean has made a formal debut with this fundraiser.  These mouths seem pretty happy,” Tish giggles and adjusts the catered by nameplate that boasts of the business she has assisted her sister in forming.  “We’re sure to get some business after tonight.”

A stocky gentleman with a limp nears the table.  “Pardon, ma’am.  Would you mind filling a couple glasses with beverage?  That pretty lady over there would like to wet her throat.”  He points over to Geneva seated near the center of the room.

“Certainly, Sir.”  Tish ladles the beverages and carefully passes the glasses to Quincy, who thanks her and makes his way back to his date.

“There you go.  For you, my lady.”  Quincy hands Geneva the punch.  She’s giggling like a school girl again.  He takes his seat.  They’re both looking around, taking in all the excitement.

“This is really nice.  I don’t think I’ve been to anything like this since my high school prom.”  Quincy gives a few bellowing chuckles.  “Did you go to prom?”

“No, Quincy.  This is the first formal event I’ve attended in all my… 40 plus years.”  They share another laugh together and sip some of the beverage. 

“In that case, the evening wouldn’t be complete without a dance.  So if you’ll do the honor of dancing with an old fart before the night is over, that would make this a magical evening I’ll likely never forget.”

“It would be my pleasure, Quincy.”  Geneva takes another sip of beverage and smiles.  She and Quincy are distracted by a lady that accidentally bumps into their seats. 

“Pardon, I wasn’t watching where I was going,” she smiles down at them. 

“That’s quite alright,” Geneva smiles.  Nothing is going to ruin this evening for her.

Maria nods again and eases over a couple rows before taking a seat.  She feels somewhat awkward here alone.  She’s not been to a formal event since happier times with Gabe.  As she continues to look around, she notices the beautiful flamingo ice sculpture that illuminates different colors.  Her mind begins to wonder how much less those tenant association dues that have been collected would have been had they not opted to invest in a fancy waste of money like an illuminating ice sculpture.  Then again, Juniper seems quite resourceful.  She could’ve gotten it donated or discounted.  Subconsciously she checks the time, wondering what Valissa is doing at this hour.  She’s made arrangements for her to spend some time with her father, but hasn’t settled the most recent disagreement between them.  Her feelings are still a bit fragile at the thought of what happened.  It has finally dawned on her that she never really found out where Valissa was or what happened that she skipped school.  Her actions only closed the line of communication between them.  Reminiscing of how close the two of them once were causes tears to well in her eyes.  So much has changed.  Things are so different now.  Maria fans her face to keep from ruining her freshly applied cosmetics.  She needs something to curb her now increasingly emotional state.  As she continues to fan at her eyes, she notices some people gathered around what looks to be an open bar.  At first she struggles with the notion to get a drink.  But at functions like this, the liquor is always watered down.  There’ll be just enough in the drink to taste, not nearly enough to do any damage.  She eases from her seat and begins a slow tread towards the bar, bypassing the champagne fountain. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Contessa gives a few rapid knocks at the Coucilman’s door and enters.  “Sir, another few dozen of letters have arrived with the morning delivery.  Plus, I can’t get to city business because my email is flooded with responses to the Millford Estates project.  Are you planning to make a public statement soon?” 

“Are the emails generally in support of the tenants?  Or are there complaints?”  Councilman Ford doesn’t even bother to look up from whatever it is that has his attention.

“It’s really hard to tell.  Quite a few have been supportive, but there have been some who’ve shared that this area could benefit from a change more like those you had in mind.”

“Hmmm….”  Councilman Ford reclines in his seat.  “And the letters?”

“The few I’ve opened have been supportive, but you know I hardly have time to read all those letters.”  Contessa laughs.

“You can reply that I’m preparing a statement after more talks with negotiators and the tenants.”  He resumes scanning over some reading material.

“I thought that –“  Contessa’s statement is interrupted by a knowing glance from Councilman Ford that lets her know she shouldn’t question but just do exactly as he’s instructed.  “-would be the best thing to do.  Yes, Sir.”  She gives an odd smile and exits his office, shutting the door.  As she walks toward her desk she realizes she forgot to mention something and makes a u-turn back to the Councilman’s office suite.  This time she just sticks her head in the door.

“Sir, I forgot to mention that you’ve received an invitation to attend a fundraiser two weeks from Saturday.  The RSVP reads  The Millford Estates Tenants Association care of Juniper Sturdevant.  How should I plan to respond?”

Councilman Ford looks surprised.  “A fundraiser?”

“Yep.  The funds are expected to go towards legal representation and purchase of the building.”  Contessa reads the Councilman’s expression.  He wants to know how she knows that.  “Of course, you know I called to inquire about what kind of function you’re being invited to attend.

“Was there mention of whom else had been invited or is expected to attend?”

“Try as I might, she wouldn’t give that much information.  There’s one for Mr. Trudeaux as well.”

“Plug that in, Contessa.  And sync the calendar.  Thank you.”  As Contessa nods and eases the door closed, Councilman Ford realizes that he didn’t take the tenants seriously enough.  It would help tremendously if he knew who else had been invited to attend.  His eyes are drawn to the illustration board sitting on the bookcase of the Millford they had planned for.    Although the tenants efforts make a good show, he still has concern that the area will not become what he envisions it to be.  Unless he can get those that are spearheading the purchase to buy into the future he has planned this could just be another good story that will be forgotten amongst a crowd of hopeless and misguided imbeciles that have no knowledge or ambition of growth.  There is a place for people with no will to thrive.  It’s just not here.  He lights a cigar and leans deep into his leather chair.  Just then the event Contessa has plugged into his calendar illuminates the computer screen.  Millford Estates Fundraiser  RSVP Juniper Sturdevant.  Juniper Sturdevant.  That’s one he’ll plan to get better acquainted with.  Find out what her angles are.  Who she is.  After a deep draw, he exhales a dense cloud of smoke and prepares to make a call to Keagan.    

Friday, March 8, 2013

Alesandra closes the door and leans her back against it in exhaustion, breathing a sigh.  Chef was challenging tonight.  She pauses for a moment with her eyes closed and drops her bag on the floor.  Graduation.  This won’t last forever.  Just a couple more months before graduation.  After having taken a moment to put things in perspective, she begins sifting through the mail.  Notices.  Junk.  Junk.  Then she comes to an envelope with Tish’s handwriting, but it’s from a financing company.  Alesandra gives a chuckle and tears the envelope open.  Apparently Tish has taken it upon herself to research some financing options for the purchase of the building.  As she pulls the brochure from the envelope she realizes her thoughts are correct.  Attempting to buy into this building seems too much of a financial responsibility for someone in culinary school and with limited resources.  Alesandra isn’t even certain that she’ll want to remain a tenant once she graduates.   She tosses the mail on the counter and walks toward the living room when a thud and yelling startle her.  There seems commotion coming from the neighbors.    At first she dismisses the noise, but curiosity gets the best of her and she leans toward the wall to listen….

“I can’t believe you’ve done this again!  What are you trying to do, Lissa?!?! Need I remind you of why we moved in the first place?”  Maria is yelling like never before.  Valissa has skipped school today.  The truancy office has left one of those recorded messages.  This child is so bold she didn’t even bother to come home normal hours, staying out well past nightfall.

“Uhh, can you remember how many drinks you had?  Can you remember screwing up daddy’s business dinner?  Can you say ‘divorce?’ YOU are the reason we had to move!”  Valissa  moves from the door that she just slammed and walks toward her room.

“You stand right there until I’m finished talking to you, Lissa.”  Maria places her hand over her forehead and sighs, trying to calm herself.  “Where were you?  Who were you with?”

Valissa stands with folded arms, trying to decide if she’s going to respond to her or not. 

Maria looks exasperated.  She stares at her in awe.   “Don’t think you’re gonna stand there and pretend that you don’t hear what I’m asking you!”   

“I was with my friends, ok!”  Valissa yells something just to get Maria to shut up. 

“I can’t believe you!  I mean, we move to get to a place where we both can start over.  You had a fresh start here, Lissa.  Instead of making some better friends, you find company with the same element that was the reason we moved in the first place!”

“PART of the reason, Maria.”  Valissa rolls her eyes and shakes her head mumbling, “ We moved because daddy put your drunk ass out.”  Evidence that what she thought she had mumbled under her breath was heard came with heat lighting what felt like fire across her face from her mother’s back hand.  She stood motionless.  “Did that make you feel better?” 

Maria’s words are met with yet another slap to her face from her mother’s palm.  “Now go have a drink and blame somebody else.”  Valissa scowls at her and walks to her room. 

Maria stands with a forlorn countenance, a woman defeated by her own actions.  Trying to drown her mistakes and feelings in alcohol.  Tears stream down her face.   Yet in all her pain and after having been confronted by the truth, she goes to the cabinet and pours herself a drink.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Your regularly scheduled episode of The Life of Orderly Chaos has been postponed due to scheduling conflicts.  Programming will resume shortly.

Friday, February 22, 2013


The buzzer has never been used.  Geneva was almost in need of a Depends from the fright it caused.  The property manager had shown her how it works when first she moved in.  That was quite a few years ago.  No one had ever buzzed her, not even in mistake.  She smoothes the side of her chignon down and waddles over to the intercom.


“Good evening, Geneva.  I’m downstairs.   Should I come upstairs or wait for you here?”

Geneva smiles before pushing the intercom button again.  “And who is this?”

There is a pause longer than she expected.  Perhaps she shouldn’t have pretended that she wasn’t expecting Quincy.  Just as she was about to push the intercom button to check if he was still there, he responded.

“This is Quincy.”

“Oh, oh yes.  Quincy.  Please pardon that.  I’ll meet you downstairs in just a moment.”  She releases the intercom button giggling like a high school girl and grabs her scarf, neatly covering her perfectly pinned do.  “I shouldn’t be long, PomPom.  There’s fresh food and water in your bowl.”  She swings her shawl over her shoulders and tucks it in place.  “Don’t go out there and get in that nasty garbage!”  PomPom is resting in his usual place.  Geneva grabs her bag and keys as she exits her apartment, double checking that the door is secure.  As she turns to make way toward the stairs that familiar feeling of weariness has been replaced with anticipation of entertaining the friend awaiting her downstairs.  Quincy has promised to have a friend talk with her about the possibilities that are expected to be a part of the changes with ownership of the building.  At first Geneva wasn’t very convinced that it would be a good idea, but Quincy caused her to think twice about it.  With the help of his realtor, Geneva could get the jump on what options she has.

Quincy looks particularly nice this morning in a nice shirt and slacks.  He even has a new cane.  Geneva smiles as she tackles the last couple of stairs.

“Good morning, Quincy.  Hope I wasn’t too long.”  She pauses next to him as he prepares to open the door.

“Who would mind waiting for such a vision of beauty?”

Geneva giggles as she passes through the open door that he has held open for her.  “Such a gentleman!”

“Well, you’re quite a lady,” he smiles.  They enter the street and walk towards the coffee shop where they had their first meeting, totally lost in each other’s company.  Geneva is smiling.  Quincy is showering every compliment he can come up with upon her.  As they slowly approach the coffee shop he again extends his arm to open the door.  Once they’re inside Quincy points out his acquaintance.  A young woman seated near a window seems lost in whatever information she’s typing and viewing on her handheld device.  She’s so engrossed in fact that she’s slightly caught off guard as Quincy clears his throat to alert her of his presence. 

“Oh, sorry!  I hadn’t noticed you there.  Please have a seat.”  She places her device aside to give them her attention. 

“Ms. Wyndham, this is the lady I was telling you about, Geneva.”  Quincy pulls a chair out and awaits Geneva to be seated.  “Geneva, this is Ms. Wyndham.  She assisted with the property settlement I had a while ago and she can probably help answer some of your questions about the things that are happening with your building.”

Geneva smiles and nods, suddenly overcome with shyness and at a loss for words.  She’s unsure what questions to ask.  Fortunately though, Ms. Wyndham bails her out of the moment.

“It’s good to meet you, Ms. Geneva.  I don’t mean to rush, but I have another engagement shortly.  So, I’ll get directly to the point.  I’ve been following this story on the news, and it seems that the tenants of your building are interested in purchasing the property?”  Ms. Wyndham smiles and awaits a response.

“Yes.  But I’m not certain that I have enough of anything to buy something.  I’m not sure how I’ll be affected.”

Ms. Wyndham goes on to share stories of similar occurrences.  Geneva learns that this is no unique situation. Quincy also participates in the discussion.  But Geneva can’t seem to understand much of what they’re saying.  The sound of their voices go in and out.  Some of what they say sounds garbled.  Others words fade.  Then she sees PomPom prop up on the ledge outside the window and becomes concerned that the garbage has again become a substitute for the fresh food she’s placed in the pet bowl at home.  Not wanting to seem impolite, she continues to try and focus, with smiles and nods.  After a few moments, Ms. Wyndham has concluded their discussion with an invitation to exchange contact information for further questions.

“Once you gather a few more details, I’ll be glad to sit down and go over as much as I can with you.  How about that?”  Ms. Wyndham stands, reaches inside her purse and extends a contact card.

“That would be very nice of you, Ms. Wyndham.  Thank you so much.”  Geneva smiles and arises from the table as well, accepting the information presented to her.

“Nice to have met you, Geneva.”  Ms. Wyndham waves and exits. 

Soon Quincy and Geneva are back strolling down the sidewalk toward her building.  These details are really too much for Geneva to think about.  She just wishes that the entire mess could somehow take care of itself.  It’s so refreshing to have Quincy there.  After she’s reached the building, he bids her good afternoon and leaves.  Upon entering the building she again looks at those stairs, challenging her aged knees.  They seemed much less bothersome on the way down.   Perhaps the shift in ownership could mean getting that elevator fixed.  Yet as she begins the climb, thinking of the morning she's spent with Quincy makes it much easier to climb.  Finally she reaches her door.  After entering, she notices that PomPom has returned and is seated in the exact same place as before she left.  Fresh food and water remain untouched.

"Such a naughty pet you are, PomPom!" She playfully scowls as she removes her wrap and scarf.  She eases to PomPom and gives a loving pat before settling in to her favorite rocker and looking out at the busy streets down below.  As the rocker glides back and forth, Geneva gets lost in thought watching the people on the streets rushing about their day.     

Friday, February 15, 2013

The quiet chatter of the room decreased to a low murmur as the presence of Councilman Ford and Mr. Trudeaux was made known.  Juniper was again standing before them ready to begin.  Small groups that had gathered near the refreshments began to disperse as people slid between the aisles of neatly lined chairs to take their seats. 

“Thanks for coming out, everybody.  I’m pleased to announce that this time we have Councilman Ford with us.  I’m told that he works closely with the other levels of city government and will represent them as well.  So having made mention of that I think we’re ready to get started.”  Juniper walked to the first row of seats and grabbed her notepad and pen to hand to the person seated next to her chair.  She instinctively knew to sign in.

“What I’ve found after having spoken with the building manager – who couldn’t be here tonight – is that the owner is unable to be located.”  Juniper scanned the crowd and took notice of the puzzled looks on most faces.  “I know that seems strange.  You all are probably wondering just as I am who we’ve been paying rent to.  The building manager stated that the rents are deposited into an account that has been established long before he took the job a few years ago.  Perhaps that’s something we could gain clarity on once we hear from Councilman Ford.  Surely he knows who they were about to purchase the building from and how to contact them.”  Councilman Ford gave a nod and smile that was difficult to read.  Juniper couldn’t read his nonverbal cues.      

“I’ve researched our options and… I’m particularly the most excited about having the opportunity to buy the building if we’re serious about staying.”

Part of crowd began to whisper among themselves while others again looked puzzled.  Councilman Ford and Keagan seemed equally bewildered by her statement.

“You mean you gonna pay for the building?” someone asked out of confusion.

Juniper laughed.  “No.  What I’m saying is that WE  have the option to purchase the building and become property owners.”  Juniper was all smiles, proud of her findings and hopeful that the other tenants would be in agreement.

“How’re WE gonna do that?  I ain’t got any money!” Someone yelled out from the back. 
Councilman Ford nervously shifted in his seat. 

“It really isn’t that difficult.  If we can collectively come up with some collateral, we can begin make a bid for the building.  I have a realtor on standby that would be willing to discuss the negotiations with the city.  They should already have something in place from their former plans.  It’d just have to be modified and tweaked a bit and we could form a workable agreement.”

Some tenants tsk and exit the meeting, shaking their heads.  “I might as well get ready to move.  I ain’t interested in going through all that,” one gentleman scoffed as he made his way through the aisles toward the exit.

“Yeah, what if all of us can’t ‘buy in?’ That leaves us in the same predicament,” another tenant questioned.

“Not really.  Those of us who decide to purchase the property will take the role as owners.  You’ll still continue to pay rent as you have been doing.  It’ll actually work out better because now you’ll have contact with the owners.”

There were more statements and questions coming from the tenants.  Keagan leaned in to Councilman Ford.  “This was unexpected,” he whispered.

Councilman Ford kept his focus on Juniper.  “Something of a pleasant surprise,” Councilman responded.

“So, you’re on board with this?  What about the urban renewal project?  These faces don’t communicate upward mobility,” Keagan challenged.

“Ah, but the public loves to watch the underdog overcome adversity, Keagan.  Besides, from the tone of the crowd they’ll likely weed themselves out.  The undesirables will move to rent somewhere else.  Too much responsibility for them to own something,” the Councilman quietly chuckled.  “Whatever you had planned, put that on pause.  I think being a part of this would be to our benefit.  Let’s see where it takes us.”

As Juniper continued to answer questions, Keagan excused himself to make a phone call.  Councilman Ford continued to take notice of those who sounded reluctant and those that seemed interested in going further, the thought resting in his mind that things don’t always happen as planned but sometimes can turn out better than expected.

Friday, February 8, 2013

“Fellas, is this the correct mic?  I don’t want any fade-outs like last time.  Need I remind you that accuracy and quality are two essential components to –“

“Blah, blah, blah Skye.  Yes, that’s the correct mic.  We’re on in 5…4…wait for the light..and –“  the cameraman points as the lights glare toward the news anchor.

“This is Skye Petersen with NewsChannel 8 coming to you on location from downtown Millford Estates where the newly formed tenants association is about to discuss their plans for this residence.  The first attempt the tenants made to discuss the renovations were tragically interrupted with the suicide of local artist F. Lamar Dollison.  Dollison was removed from consideration for negotiations to purchase original art for the former ‘Millford’ as it was being called, had experienced harsh criticism from a recent art exhibit and was also having problems with a girlfriend that was in attendance at the tenants meeting when he turned a .32 caliber on himself.  Tonight, the tenants have reconvened and I have standing by Juniper Sturdevant who has been appointed president of the tenants association.  Juniper, what’s expected to be the outcome of tonight’s meeting?”  Skye thrust the mic near Juniper’s chin.

“The plans to redesign Millford Estates caught us all quite by surprise.  Tonight we hope to gain some clarity from the owner and city officials…to bring us up to speed with exactly what’s going on and at least give us a chance to be heard.”  No matter how many times she rehearsed possible responses, Juniper remained a ball of nervous energy fumbling through sentences.

“Who of those city officials are expected to show for tonight’s meeting?”

“Councilman Ford’s office has responded and is expected to attend.”

“Well, I’ll be the first to wish you and the tenants of Millford Estates the best and please keep us informed.”  Skye shifts her attention to the camera.  “This is Skye Petersen, NewsChannel 8.  Keep us tuned in as we continue to bring you updates on this and other news around the city.  We’ll now switch back to our studios where Mary Weathers is standing by with a quick check of our local traffic and weather.  Mary… “  Skye is distracted by a car that pulls up to the curb.  The camera crew shift attention toward that direction. “Just a moment.  Councilman Ford’s car has just pulled up to the building.”  Skye glances toward her crew.  “Guys, do we have time to get a few comments in?”  The camera crew nod in agreement and near the automobile.  Skye stands by, mic in hand.  Juniper has shifted away from the commotion.

Councilman Ford is fuming, but the cameras will never capture that as he is well concealed behind heavily tinted glass.  “Keagan, I hope this isn’t a part of your little surprise.  This is exactly what I was hoping to avoid.”

“Come on now, Sir.  Media coverage is expected, despite your hopeful thinking.  Paint on a happy face and let’s get going.  You ready?” 

Councilman Ford opens his door and his demeanor almost instantaneously transforms into that of a welcoming smile and caring elected official.  He exits the vehicle impeccably dressed and walks directly to where Skye is standing on the pavement.  Keagan bypasses the commotion, always preferring to remain unseen.
“Councilman Ford what are the results of the negotiations with the building investors?  Are there plans to proceed with renovations?”  Skye again thrust the microphone toward Councilman Ford, awaiting a response.

“At this time I’m unable to disclose those details.  I can say that we’re working very hard and are very much involved in doing what’s best for everyone.  Our city thrives on citizens who have such a passion for growth and welcome prosperity equally as much as we do.  They’re the reason why I am in such a privileged position to serve in this capacity, and I’ll do everything within my power not to disappoint them.”  With that Councilman Ford gave a nod and excused himself.

“And that was Councilman Ford coming to you live from Millford Estates.  Now back to our studios with Mary.”  Skye smiled into the camera and awaited her cue that taping had ceased.   She and her crew began to pack up the mobile unit while the Councilman entered the building behind Juniper, Keagan holding the door for both of them.     

Friday, February 1, 2013

“I know it’s been said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but right now no woman could possibly compare with the sheer fury I have at this moment.  This potential renovation was not only a long-awaited change to attract more desirable citizens, this was my major ticket for re-election and pursuing a higher seat!  Now, I want to get a foothold on this mess!  And I mean as quickly as possible!”  Councilman Ford was growing angrier and angrier by the moment.  Keagan couldn’t help but to feel some degree of empathy for his assistant Contessa, who had to fear that her ear drums were about to burst each octave his voice escalated.  She was assigned the displeasing task of relaying to him the final decision about this deal, and needless to mention it wasn’t at all what he’d hoped for.  Better to have to tell him over the phone rather than face to face though. Keagan just kept his eyes on the road and continued to listen.
“...Now, I’m en route to this tenants meeting that I’ve been asked to attend.  It just wouldn’t be good not to show up.  But there’d better not be any surprises, or I’m going to have to impose sanctions, Contessa!”  Councilman Ford disconnected the call and tucked his cellular in his breast pocket, looking out of the window.
“I’m assuming that the business associates decided not to reconsider the deal.”  Keagan rounded a corner almost a block and a half from their destination.
“They wouldn’t even hear the revisions out.  Something about too much negative publicity and building codes.  Not only are they not willing to relocate, they don’t even want to entertain the idea at all.”  The Councilman fell silent for a second before speaking again.  “What investor would dare take a risk with this now after our original investors have reneged?  What a pain in the-“
“Eh, so what are you prepared to say to the tenants?”  Keagan was quietly amused by the councilman’s anger.  He usually keeps a cool head.  This is one of the rare opportunities that he’s ever heard him raise his voice.
“No matter what they say, my response is that I’m on board and we’ll all get through this together.”
“Well thought out, sir.  Very good.”  Keagan smiled and shook his head. 
“Besides, I’m not certain if the media is scheduled to appear or not.  I don’t want any more hang-ups with them.”  Councilman Ford glanced in Keagan’s direction.  “You seem quite entertained.”
“Sir, I’ve been working for you quite some time now, and I’ve just never known you to be this upset about very many things.  After all, I’m paid very well to do your dirty work.  I’m beginning to think I’ve lost your confidence.”
Keagan’s words lightened the councilman’s mood.  “It seems that after this meeting we’ll know where to begin with Plan B.”
“Already one step ahead of you.  We’ll just see where this meeting takes us.”
Dennis was so fine.  Valissa hadn’t been spending nearly as much time with her old clique as she once did when she lived closer to them.  So seeing Dennis after all this time kind of conjured up some weird feelings.  She’d crushed on guys before.  But she’d never looked at Dennis twice.  That is, until she was reunited with Larque and her old crew.  They came through to see what was up, especially with all the attention that the building was getting.  He was looking all brand new and stuff.  Got himself toned up from taking up martial arts. Grew some dreads that were in a neat bob.  A little facial hair.  Even got a brand new used whip.  Yep. He definitely had changed from the snotty-nosed, booger-eating yuck mouth that she once hassled in the halls between classes. As she neared where he was parked she took a second to smooth her wrap and adjust her denim skirt that seemed to keep riding up.  Good thing she decided to put the leggings on.  Dennis seemed to have caught sight of her in his peripheral vision and did a double take, but tried to play it off.
“Is that how you s’pose to treat a lady?”  Valissa had finally made it to where Dennis was leaned against his car playing BrickBreaker on his android.
“Where’d she go?  Where did you see a lady?”  He cleared his screen and shoved the phone in his hoodie, smiling.
“Ha ha.  Very funny.”
Dennis walked around to the drivers side door and opened it.  Valissa was standing there looking wide-eyed.
“Aren’t you gonna open my door?” 
“Is something wrong with your hands?  Or is it your head?  You’ve forgotten how to open the door?”
Valissa smacked her lips.  “Boy you know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!”
“What I do know is that you better hurry up and get in this car before you’re left standing on the sidewalk.  My bladder is full.  Shoot, I was just about to duck between them buildings if you had’ve been two seconds later.”  He placed his leg in the car and was about to be seated before he realized that Valissa was still standing on the sidewalk looking stupefied.  “What?”
“I want you to open my door,” Valissa demanded.
“It looks like you want to get left.  This ain’t a date.  You asked if I’d take you to get some grub and that’s what I agreed to do.  Now get in or get left.”  This time Dennis got inside the car and closed the door.  He tried to crank it up, but it stalled.  One more time he turned the ignition and the car sputtered a few times before going dead again. 
Valissa began to wail with laughter.  “Look like you ain’t leavin’ nobody tonight, playa!” 
Dennis glared at Valissa then turned the ignition, this time successfully getting the car started. 
Valissa opened the door and hopped in.  “Don’t worry.  I got you if you need to take the bus home,” she snickered between laughs.
“Keep it up and you’ll be needin’ that bus fare for yourself.”  Dennis shifted gears and off they drove.

Monday, January 28, 2013

“Maria, how about I stay up here and get dinner started while you go to that tenants meeting.  I’m still too shaken up about that dude offing himself from last time.  I don’t want to go sit down there.”  Valissa is seated at the kitchen table rummaging through her backpack and pulling out all of her school materials.  She’s been conjuring up an excuse to get out of going to the tenants meeting, but not at all for the reason she’s giving.

Maria looks at Valissa sideways.  “Huh…stay here and get dinner started,” she scoffs, unconvinced.  “ I’ve known you all your life, Lissa.  What are you really up to?”  Maria rambles through a drawer to gather a notepad and writing utensil. 

“Ugh, why I always gotta be up to something’?  I’m a teenager-”

“That’s exactly why-“

“I want to move.  I just ain’t got no interest in y’all’s li’l meetin’.  Besides, I have homework and tests to study for and –“

“So what were you planning to serve for dinner then with all that going on?”

“I don’t know.  Probably some ravioli.”

Ravioli, Lissa?  When have I ever heated something from a can and called it dinner?”  Maria closes the drawer and places her hand on her hip while propped against the counter.

Valissa starts to giggle.  “You could’ve been having ravioli for dinner, Maria.  All you had to do was add some bread and heat up a vegetable or serve a salad.  What’s the difference?”

Maria shakes her head and gives in with a chuckle.  “You get that lesson done and I’ll worry about dinner when the meeting is over.  Hopefully, it won’t run too long.”  Maria cradles her pad and prepares to leave.

“Thanks, Maria.”  Valissa pretends to review her assignments.

“Thanks nothing.  I don’t want any mess out of you, Lissa.”

“Dag, that was quick,” Valissa sighs, noting the sudden shift in tone.  “Why don’t you wait until I’ve actually done something sometimes before you start with that?”

Maria opens the door and turns toward her before exiting.  “Homework and study.  I’m gonna want to know how you did on those tests.”

“And you’re gonna feel terrible when you find out I’ve been doing exactly what I told you I was doing.”  Valissa smiles to try and lighten the mood again.

Maria shakes her head again and laughs.  “I’ll lock the door.”  She eases the door shut and uses the key to lock it, checking before heading to the stairs.  In her heart of hearts she wishes things could be the way they were between her and Valissa before the divorce, when they were a family.  But Valissa has disappointed her so much.  To think too much of anything she says is setting herself up for disappointment.   Yet, Maria dare not mention her role in the deterioration of their relationship.  She could tend to drink too much.  But the reality of it is that she wouldn’t turn to the alcohol nearly as often if Valissa would behave.  And if Gabe had been home more.  But that’s neither here nor there, now.  This is the life that they have now and she can only try to make the best of it.

Meanwhile, Valissa squints trying to look through the peephole on the door.  Just a couple minutes more to make sure she hasn't forgotten anything.  Knowing her the way she does, if she remembers something after she's started down those stairs she won't climb back up to get it.  Kind of lazy.  Seems like the coast is clear.  Valissa dashes to the entertainment armoire where the phone is placed.  Almost without thinking she's dialed and is awaiting a connection on the other end.  Finally he answers.

"What took you so long?"

"Don't trip.  You know I had to wait for Maria to leave.  You close by?"

"I'm exactly where I told you I'd be."

"Give me 10 minutes and I'll be there."

"Hurry up.  I've waited long enough as it is."

"Then 10 more minutes ain't gonna kill you.  See you in a few."

Valissa disconnects the call all smiles.  This is just too good to be true. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Emotionally exhausted, Juniper collapses on her chaise and carefully removes her heels before relaxing. 
She watches Bethany follow with her duffel bag.  Bethany of course has an open door policy until she can vacate the property she and the deceased shared and get it sold.  Bethany drops her duffel bag beside the davenport and eases down to take a seat herself.  Her eyes remain bloodshot from crying and she moves as if entranced.

“Sweetie, why don’t you relax and I’ll draw you a bath.  The spare room is all made up and you can lay down.  I’ll wake you when dinner is ready.”

“Huh?” Bethany responds in a blank fugue.  

“Oh, honey,”  Juniper rises from the davenport and sits next to Bethany, embracing her.  More tears resume their trail down her face.  “How about you just lay down right here.”  Juniper eases Bethany into a more comfortable position, removes her shoes and covers her with a blanket. 

“Oh, Nip please add the young lady in the building to the list of those needing Thank You cards.  The food was outstanding.”  Bethany snuggles onto the davenport and closes her eyes.

Juniper returns to the chaise and watches as she quickly slips into slumber.  Attendance was so sparse at the funeral that she couldn’t help but wonder if there had been some confusion about the date or time.  Or was he an imbecile in more than just her eyes?  Assisting Bethany with the arrangements because he was disconnected from his family was even more insulting - more difficult than she had let on.  Bethany insisted on a traditional funeral.  Juniper was more in favor of a cremation.  Yes, it seems cruel and void of compassion to think of the deceased in this way.  But how can she feel anything else for a man who repeatedly abused her friend?  A party in memory of this momentous occasion would seem more appropriate to Juniper.   

Apparently the kindergarten scribbles he was able to pass off as art sold enough to pay for burial insurance.  Surprisingly though was that he had a life insurance policy.  With the statements that were given to the police, the death was ruled as accidental suicide.  Insurance remains obligated to make payment and Bethany is the sole beneficiary.  Once she’s cognizant enough to discuss it, Juniper will definitely have a conversation with her to find out the amount and what her plans are for the money.

A knock at the door interrupts her train of thought. 

“Just a moment!”  Juniper scurries to the door to keep Beth from being aroused from her sleep.  After a quick glance into the peephole she opens the door.

“Alesandra, please come in,”  Juniper widens the door, inviting her in.  “I have the check right over here.”  Juniper retrieves her purse and begins rambling for her wallet.  “The food was excellent.  You are quite talented.”

“I hope it isn’t too much of an imposition to stop by, but I have class tonight and I thought it’d be rude to wait much later.”  Alesandra is standing close to the door.  Her eyes fall on Bethany, sleeping.

“No, now is good.”  Juniper finally removes the check from her wallet and extends it to Alesandra, noticing that Alesandra is staring at Bethany.

“How has she been?”  Alesandra accepts the check and awaits a response, not wanting to just accept payment and leave.

“As well as can be expected I guess, under the circumstances,” Juniper nods.

“Please give her my best.  And if there’s anything I can do-“

“Thank you so much, Alesandra.  Oh, and I’ll be calling on you again to do something for the next tenants meeting.  So, keep an ear out.”  They smile and nod at each other.  Alesandra exits and Juniper quietly eases the door shut.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

“…and in local news tonight Artist F. Lamar Dollison has died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  Dollison showed up attempting to reconcile with his girlfriend Bethany Greggs at a tenants meeting to discuss the city’s decision to convert Millford Estates into luxury hotel “The Millford” as part of the city’s Urban Renewal and Expansion program headed by Councilman Ford.  After Greggs refused to leave with him, he reportedly pulled out his .32 caliber revolver and shot himself.  Investigators say Dollison has recently experienced harsh criticism for his work at an art showing for the esteemed  Tres Noire Gallery over the weekend.  He had also been removed from consideration for a $200,000 contract to provide artwork for the newly redesigned “Millford” and was given the news preceding the incident.  Services for Dollison had not been planned at the time this report was given.  Now let’s turn to Mary Weathers with a look at our local weather and traffic.  Mary…”

“Damned media always giving too much information with subtle inaccuracies.  She said a mouthful, but it sounded like I was at the tenant’s meeting with them.”  Councilman Ford uses his remote to click the television off.  He gets out of his oversized mahogany leather chair and walks over to the bar, reaching for his cognac.  “I have a meeting with the investors first thing in the morning.  Then with the city.”  He pours the cognac and extends an offer to Keagan Trudeaux who refuses with a shake of his head.  “Damned prick probably staged this on purpose because he was withdrawn from the art deal.”  The Councilman takes a swig of cognac. “The way I’m thinking, this could go either way.”

“Yeah.  Hate to do this to you, but let me be the voice of reason here.” Keagan eases further back into the couch. “The truth is that for what we’re planning, and what the investors had in mind, this bit of publicity could put the project on hold at best.  I mean, luxury suites at what has become a crime scene?  The one thing that we were pushing that had us in the running was that the crime stats were low.  And eventhough this guy offed himself, I just don’t think it’ll sit well with what we’re hoping to attract.”

“They don’t necessarily have to know.  How many people research if a renovated business was once a part of a crime scene?”  Councilman Ford is pacing while taking swigs of his cognac.  “Damn, this was my major reelection ticket.  And I want to attract some higher income residents!  These poor, disadvantaged nobodys are comfortably parked at the expense of our city’s progress.  Now, I might not get them out of this district with this deal, but believe me I will eventually make this what I want it to be.”

“Councilman,” Keagan playfully scorns.  “What a way to talk about your cherished voters who have elected you to represent them.”

Councilman Ford stops pacing as if that comment has sobered his conscience.  That is, until he notices the malicious grin on Keagan’s face.  He quietly chuckles as he returns to his mahogany leather chair.  “Keagan, the people elect someone to represent them.  Make decisions on their behalf in their ignorance.  He places his glass on a coaster and reaches in his pocket to retrieve his lighter and a cigar.  Whether they realize it or not,”  Councilman Ford rests the cigar on his lips and lights it, taking a long, deep draw before exhaling a thick cloud of smoke and returning the lighter to his pocket, “ this move is actually what’s best for them.  We’ve already seen evidence of that.  Violence has penetrated their community.  They no longer feel safe there.  They’ll want to move.”

“And we’re just the people to make them understand that.” Keagan smiles.


Monday, January 7, 2013

“Beth, why haven’t you answered my calls?”

Bethany stands looking as though she’s unsure of herself.  She’s about to speak, but doesn’t know what to say.  Just as she parts her lips, she notices that he has a pistol tucked in his trousers. 

He notices her eying the gleaming steel.  He draws the weapon from his pants and looks at it.  “I don’t know why I brought this.  It really doesn’t seem necessary, does it?”  He begins examining the gun as if it’s something foreign to him.  As if in some transient state, slightly detached from the reality of the situation.

Bethany can’t take her eyes off of the gun.  Juniper runs into the foyer.  Her pace is abruptly halted when she sees the gun.  “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!?!”

He points the gun at Juniper, startled by her presence. 

“NO!” Bethany yells, grabbing Juniper and attempting to shield her.  They embrace each other, feeling helpless.

Realizing it’s Juniper, he gives her a unintentional grin.  “What?  Do you think I’m really going to hurt her?  I love her!”  He shifts his focus to Bethany.  “I love you, Beth,” he whispers with pleading eyes.  Noticing that neither of them have taken their eyes off the pistol, he tries to make light of the situation.

“This thing isn’t even loaded,” he assures them as he turns the gun on himself.  “See.”

Gunfire reverberates through the foyer and a warm body collapses to the floor. 

Time seems to have flashed forward, yet moves ever so slowly.  The place is not occupied by police and the media.  Beth stays crouched beside her abuser who has once again managed to make himself appear the victim. Paramedics move in to assist.   Juniper stands staring at her in disbelief, wondering what kind of fool’s love or drugs she could possibly have gotten into to care so much for that man.  Her thoughts are interrupted.

“Ma’am, I know this might be difficult for you, but we need you to try your best to explain what happened while it’s fresh on your mind.”  A female officer places a blanket over Juniper’s shoulders and walks her toward the meeting room, where she takes a seat.    She’s shivering with terror but trying her best to control her body movements.  The meeting room once full of angry tension is now weighed with sorrow and disbelief.  Some others remain present and are also answering questions while talking amongst each other.  The officer offers her a tissue. 

“This maniac just came in here and tried to get her to leave in front of all of us.  He’s been beating her for most their relationship.  But I can’t believe the nerve of this idiot.”  Juniper sniffs and tries to hold back the tears that are forming.  “I tried to get her to leave him, but she wouldn’t.  She kept going back.”

“The two of you are friends?”

“Yes.  Most of my life, since like second grade or something.”  The tears flow endlessly now.

Another officer interrupts and whispers to the officer interviewing Juniper.  Almost simultaneously, a scream can be heard from the foyer, startling Juniper.  She turns around in her chair.  “What’s happening?”

“The man involved has just died,” the officer answers while jotting down notes.  “Self-inflicted gunshot wound point blank range to the head.  Not many survive those.”  The officer hands her a card.  “If you have questions, you can give me a call.  And of course, if we need any additional information I’ll be in touch.”

Juniper takes the card and the officer leaves.  She rushes back to where Bethany is kneeled in the foyer and envelops her in an embrace as the paramedics hoist the body onto the gurney and proceed to exit the premises.  Bethany is crying and rocking back and forth.  “No, Jun.  I never wanted this to happen,” she quietly sobs in a disillusioned hysteria.  “I just wanted him to get some help.  I didn’t want him to…to die.”

Juniper wishes she could offer some consolation, but the moment he flashed the pistol keeps replaying in her mind.  The only thoughts she has are that she’s glad he killed himself and didn’t injure her, Bethany or anyone else for that matter.  As painful as this moment is for Beth, it’s finally over.  He’ll never beat her again. 

A tall, well-dressed statuesque gentleman is being accompanied inside the building by an officer and another gentleman dressed in business attire.  Juniper is distracted, still hoping to get a chance to speak with the owner of the building or some city official.  The gentleman is being brought up to speed by the officer regarding the course of events.  Juniper tunes in to their conversation.

“…and apparently the man 86ed himself because of some disagreement with a young lady that was attending the tenants meeting,” the officer concludes.

“But she doesn’t reside in this building?”

“No, sir.  She’s friends with one of the tenants.”

“Look, we’ve got a pretty decent deal going on this property.  What can we do to minimize the press on this?  I don’t want to jeopardize these negotiations.” 

“Not much can be done, now.  As you can pretty much tell, the press are already all over it.”  The officer motions toward the people taking pictures that are with the newspapers and some camera crew setting up to do a live feed.  He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a card.  “If you have questions, you can call the station.  If you’ll excuse me.”  The officer nods and resumes conversing with other law enforcement personnel.

“Well if they wanted to save the building, this certainly isn’t the right way to go about it.  This has not only potentially ruined our plans, but put a dent in the crime rate and added another thorn to our statistics.  We haven’t had a violent crime in this area in quite a few years.”  The tall, well-dressed gentleman turns toward the other beside him.  They look around seemingly disgusted and puzzled at the same time.  A teenager bumps into them trying to squeeze by.  She’s chatting nonstop on her cellular.

“…and how about some dude shows up trying to get his girlfriend to leave in front of everybody.  She doesn’t at first, but then runs out behind him after he finally decides to go.  Then her friend runs out after her.  And girl the man end up blowing his brains out in the foyer.  I mean, what kind of mess is this?  It’s like some crap you’d see on tv.  There’s police all over the place.  Folks with the newspapers and from the news askin’ questions and stuff.  Ooo, what if they shut the building down and I get to move back home with daddy…”  Valissa strolls beside the refreshment table and reaches past two ladies to get herself another appetizer.  “Hmm.  These things are good.”

“Thank you,”  Alesandra gives a weak smile and watches the teenager make way to a seat beside a woman she assumes is her mother.

“Why did something like this have to happen today?  I had a surprise for you,” Tish scoffs.

“And just what kind of surprise is that?”  Alesandra inquires while beginning to pack up the serving trays.

Tish reaches in her messenger bag and pulls out a flyer, holding it visibly in front of her chest.  “Ta Da!”

“”The Epicurean fine cuisine and pastry,’” Alesandra reads.  “What is this about?”  She takes the flyer and continues reading over it.

“I was going to help you get paid, girl,” Tish squeals.  “You’ve been getting called upon quite often to do these little favors, and it’s time you started raking in some dollars.  After all, this is your chosen profession.”

“Tish,” Alesandra glares at her.  “Let me put you on pause there for a second.  My plate is full just trying to finish school.  I can’t tag on any additional weight right now.  I’m focused on finishing so I can get on at –“

“Ok, let me stop you right there because you’re not making sense.  Aren’t you taking  time to do these favors anyway despite all that you have on your plate trying to finish school?”

Alesandra hesitates for a moment in thought.  “Yeah…” she slowly utters.

“All you’ll be doing is getting paid for what you’re already volunteering to do.”  Tish’s argument is reasonably sound.  “We could start by hitting this guy’s family up to do the food at the repass.”

Alesandra stares blankly at Tish.  “Sometimes I really can’t believe you’re my sister.”  Her eyes catch a glimpse of an elderly lady walking behind her.

Geneva barely can make her way to the foyer because there’s so much commotion.  The few moments she spent watching were more than just to satisfy her own curiosity.  It had occurred to her that an officer might want to speak with her.  She had a bird’s eye view of everything from the back where she was seated.  At first she thought nothing of the gentleman that leaned against the doorway.  He looked a little rough.  Had a five o’clock shadow and bloodshot eyes.  Geneva figured he was just hung over or something.  These young people these days party hard like the world’s coming to an end.  And, she’d never seen him in the building before, but then again she’d not recognized most of the other tenants.  On second thought, he did have a strange kind of wild look in his eyes as he scanned the crowd.  Oh, but what’s an old woman like Geneva know about strange looking men.  Just about every generation is full of strange looks to her nowadays.  No one asked her any questions.  And from what she could gather, the young man probably didn’t survive.  So it probably wasn’t necessary to get any additional information.

It certainly would be a dreadful misfortune if she’s forced to find another building.  It took quite a while to find a place that could accommodate her fixed income.  With all the prices going up it would be too difficult and too much of a financial strain to start all over again.  She laughs to herself.  It’s funny how the citizens can become an inconvenience to the city in the name of progress.  She pauses and takes notice of the people buzzing around, then looks up the stairs.  These cruel stairs.  So steep for an old woman to have to climb.  The elevator hasn’t worked since she’s lived here.  Then she thinks about Quincy.  If he calls, she’d have something to talk to him about.  He’s sure to see the story on the evening news.  Just as she’s about to begin her climb a woman eases past her, a teenager walking alongside.

“So, how about we move back to the west side.  We don’t have to live that close to daddy.  And I can go to that other school if you don’t want me back at the Academy.”

“And have you reunite with those hoodlums?  Absolutely not.  What we’re gonna do is wait and find out what they plan to do about this first.  I doubt any deal is gonna happen now with a mess like this drawing attention to this building.”

“But Maria who wanna walk through the lobby everyday knowing that’s where that man blew his brains out.  It could be too traumatic for me and…”

Maria gives Valissa a sideways glance and laughs.  “Then you are traumatized each and every step you take out there on that concrete.  This is the city, baby.  Lots of folks have met their end right out there on them streets.  Besides, like that lady was saying in the tenants meeting, it’s too expensive to keep moving.”

“Ahhh!”  Valissa stomps up the stairs ahead of her mother mumbling.