Quincy and Geneva stroll arm in arm on a busy street in the crisp afternoon air, oblivious to the chaos surrounding them.
“My home is only a few houses further,” Quincy informs Geneva before gently removing her arm and facing her. “Now, Gloria’s bark is much worse than her bite. Trust what I tell you. She and my wife had become very close and… truthfully they didn’t really warm up to each other until after we were married the better part of about 5 years. Now, I don’t want you to be nervous-“
“I’m NOT nervous, Quincy. You on the other hand are on the verge of a panic attack.” Geneva and Quincy laugh.
“I know. It’s just that I’ve not had anyone else in my life since Loretta died. And… I’m really excited about you, Geneva.”
“And I couldn’t be more thrilled about meeting your family, Quincy. I’m sure it won’t be nearly as awkward as you’re anticipating.” Geneva smiles at Quincy and gently strokes his face.
“Well, we’re definitely about to find out.” Quincy holds her face and kisses her forehead. They rejoin arm in arm and continue towards Quincy’s home. Within what seems like seconds they are about to climb the stairs of a beautiful brownstone.
“Watch your step. I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve fallen twice.” Quincy wants to usher Geneva up the stairs, but needs both hands to keep balance. Geneva seems to understand.
“Here goes.” Geneva begins her climb up the stairs with Quincy following behind. “On-lookers must be laughing it up at two old farts trying to make it up these stairs.”
“I’m too busy concentrating on not falling than to care anything about that.”
They arrive at the doorway. Quincy rests his cane on the beautifully etched glass door frame and begins fumbling in his pocket for the keys as Geneva looks around. The clicking of the door latch from the other side grabs their attention. The door creaks as it cracks open just enough for a pair of eyes the size of golf balls to peak out at them from the inside.
“Eh, Gloria it’s Quincy. Got my lady friend. Remember, I told you she was coming.” Quincy retrieves his cane.
“Umm Hmm,” a deep, thick hum seems to moan from behind those bulging eyeballs. The door slowly opens to reveal a woman of about medium height and build with brown hair gray at the roots. She stands there looking Geneva over.
Slightly uncomfortable, Geneva extends a hand. “How do you do. I’m Geneva.”
“Yes, I suppose you are.” She looks disapprovingly at her. Then redirects her attention to Quincy and does the same. They stand there in awkward silence.
Quincy finally breaks the silence. “Geneva please pardon my sister, Gloria. Mind isn’t that good. I guess now would be a good time to go inside so the two of you can get better acquainted.” Quincy places his hand on Geneva’s back and begins to lead her through the entryway. Gloria refuses to budge.
“I don’t need you making any introductions nor excuses on my behalf, Quincy. I’m perfectly capable of speaking for myself. And I have every right to examine just who you’re trying to bring into my house.” Gloria snaps back.
Geneva stares at her in disbelief. Quincy tries to suppress his impatience. “Well, if you’d rather we stand in this doorway in this cool afternoon air so you can end up bedridden with pneumonia like about this time last year I believe it was, then yes let’s have company right here. Or better yet, Geneva and I will leave and return once you’ve decided to behave more like an adult –“
In mid sentence Gloria turns her back and walks inside before Quincy can complete his statement. “Why don’t the two of you come in and close door before the city ends up owing us for heating the outdoors,” she declares as if Quincy’s not said a word and disappears toward the back of the house.
Geneva and Quincy make their way inside. The house is warm and has an inviting kind of charm despite the seemingly unwelcomed introduction given by Gloria. Geneva gives the place a once over as Quincy helps her out of her coat. She unties her scarf and neatly folds it before placing it in her pocketbook. Quincy neatly hangs her coat on the coat rack and proceeds to remove his coat and hat to do the same.
“Oh, please have a seat. Make yourself at home.” Quincy very gentlemanly ushers Geneva towards the sitting room.
Geneva walks very delicately, almost as if she’s uncomfortable. Quincy takes a seat on the davenport. He fluffs a sofa pillow and props it then pats the seat next to him, inviting Geneva to sit down. She eases down, clutching her pocketbook. “I should never have doubted you, Quincy. Your sister definitely has quite an air about her.”
“Is there something you’d like to say?” From nowhere Gloria has appeared holding a tray with a tea set.
“Oh, no. I was only telling Quincy that he was right about you. You’re very… eh, lovely.” Geneva smiles nervously, trying not to offend Gloria.
Gloria glares at her as she places the tray on the coffee table. “Not very honest, is she Quincy? My dear, Quincy and I have been brother and sister all my life. Lovely is never a word he has nor shall ever use in any sentence offering my description.” She eases back from the coffee table and sits in the beautifully upholstered Victorian chair adjacent to the sofa. Gloria crosses her legs and begins to bounce one on top off of the other.
Quincy tries to laugh to ease some of the nervous energy forming. “One thing is true, Geneva. Gloria is best there is at boiling water than any other form of cooking she’s ever tried!” He eases toward the edge of the sofa. “Would you like some tea? She’s got green, oolong, and that plain stuff.”
“Certainly, Quincy.” Geneva smiles as Quincy pours her cup and carefully passes it to her before preparing his own. The awkward silence is a loud indication that they aren’t hitting it off as nicely as Quincy had hoped.
Quincy takes a sip of tea and clears his throat. “Ah, where are those old photo albums? I promised Geneva I’d show her some pictures,” Quincy asks Gloria. “We kind of want to make sure we aren’t related before we… get serious.” Quincy and Geneva snicker like giddy school kids.
Gloria looks down her nose at them. “Get serious? Hmmm.” She places her cup on the saucer and returns the saucer to the coffee table. Geneva notices that her movements are very careful and proper. She reminds her of those old socialites from her youth, back during the time that the only people black folks were better than were each other. For a brief second it’s as if Lucinda Forbes is there suggesting that she wear a hat if she can’t afford to get her nappy edges pressed in between routine visits to the beautician.
“Dare I say that at this point it wouldn’t make that much a difference anyway. That is, unless Geneva is still having her monthly visits.” Geneva watches Gloria get up from her seat. Seems that someone so prim would take better care not to let her roots go that long without coloring them. And her comment would’ve gotten a laugh, but she hasn’t been that impressionably funny. Quincy gives a soft chuckle, more out of politeness than anything else. Gloria goes to a credenza and extracts a few old photo albums. She walks over to Quincy and hands them to him before returning to her seat and continuing to sip her tea.
“Ah, let’s look here. That’s Gloria. We’ll set that one aside for now.” Quincy thumbs through the first quickly then sets it aside before moving on to the next. “This… Yes, this is mom and dad. We can start with this one.” He hands the photo album to Geneva, who’s barely taken her eyes off of Gloria but welcomes the distraction.
“Thank you, Quincy.” Geneva opens to an old photo of Quincy’s parents. “My, what a handsome couple!” Next to their photo is a family tree with names of both families written on lines from the branches. Some names have small photo inserts beside them.
“Gloria, I might as well bring things a little closer to home.” Geneva looks up abruptly from the photo album at Quincy. He slides more comfortably into his seat and eases his back into the chair. “I was hoping things would go a little smoother with the two of you…eh, so much for hoping.” Quincy has been lenient in his description of his sister. He’s decided to change the plans he and Geneva had previously made about when to discuss this topic with her in hopes that including Gloria now just might encourage her warm up to Geneva a bit more. “It’s possible that Geneva’s building will… well, she could have to move soon.” Quincy looks at Geneva and reaches for her hand. Geneva extends hers and they lace their fingers together. “Right now she lives alone. Oh, with the exception of PomPom.”
“What’s a ‘PomPom’?” Gloria scoffs. “An animal? Quincy, your allergies!”
“Surprisingly, I think I might have found one species of feline I’m not allergic to. I’ve not had any problems being close to Geneva although she owns a cat.”
Geneva feels flushed. She feels a little itchy. Quincy squeezes her hand, reassuringly. That relieves some of her uneasiness, but not too much. Does he know?
“Well, at our ages living is troublesome enough without having to move. The price of everything steadily increasing. And what you get is a gamble unless you’re planning on giving up your independence and moving into one of those homes or something or the other.” Quincy gives a light chuckle as if trying to ease his own anxieties about saying what he wants to say. “These new places… this world… well…it just ain’t much accomodatin’ they do for us old folks. So, we have to look out for each other.” Quincy scoots up to the edge of his seat and reaches for his cup of tea. He takes a quick sip and sighs before placing the cup back to its rightful position. “I was… ah, I was thinking that… well, we have the extra room. And it’d cut down on our expenses if we accepted Geneva for a live-in.”
“Absolutely NOT, Quincy!” Gloria abruptly responds almost in anticipation of what he was going to ask. “I will NOT agree to animals domestic or otherwise runnin’ around this house. And we DON’T have a spare room. I was planning to use that room –“
“You’ve had no plans for that room beyond this moment!” Quincy’s tone is stern and Geneva can tell that he’s upset.
“If that’s the only problem, I’ll make other arrangements for my pet.” Geneva has spoken before she even realized what she was saying. For the first time she’s actually come to terms with how much Quincy’s presence in her life has really come to mean to her. Quincy releases her hand and rubs her shoulder.
“There. Problem solved.” Quincy takes another sip of tea as if things have been made final.
Gloria glares at them both. “I will NOT allow you to bring some strange woman into my home and move her in here as if I have nothing to say about it. This isn’t some bed and breakfast or residence of convenience. This is my home!”
“OUR home, Gloria!” Quincy stands and the chair gets pushed back slightly, startling both women. “I contribute to a little over half the expenses here. And if you won’t be more open-minded about my request, then perhaps it’s you who should spend what’s left of your years alone and miserable.” Quincy’s tone has quieted, but remains fiery. He reaches for Geneva’s hand and helps her to her feet. They move toward the door. “Geneva and I will make plans to find a place to live together… elsewhere.”
“What?! You can’t do that! Why, momma and daddy would never approve of such an arrangement, and they’re –“
“Dead, Gloria.” He helps Geneva put on her coat. “12 years now buried side by side in the cold ground.” He opens the door and Geneva carefully steps outside the threshold. “But together.” He looks back as he steps outside the door. “And when it’s my time to go in the ground I’d like to know that there is someone else laying to rest on the other side, just like momma and daddy.” Quincy shuts the door.
Gloria stares as if she can see beyond the closed door.
“Dammit, he can’t leave,” she mumbles. “Just goes to show what that ol’ fool knows. He pays ALL the expenses and then some. Hasn’t been a mortgage on this place in 2 years.”