Your Dad came back today with your Mom. I was outside on my porch stringing shells when I saw them back their station wagon into a parking slot. Carrot is outside, too. Your Dad yells over, There she is! and I am not sure if he is referring to me or the cat, but he lies down full length on the grass and plays with her. Your Mom says, We have Frieda with us, so that’s a help. She’s a pretty woman, her eyes hidden behind oversized sunglasses. I’m relieved that your parents have taken your kitten. She turns to your Dad and says, Frank, we’re running late. They leave then, walking up the sidewalk to your apartment, carrying empty cartons and Chinese takeout. I note the small blue mason jar crammed full of your cigarette butts is still on the porch.
Well, I was wrong. I thought your Mom or Dad had taken your car back to Pittsburgh because I no longer saw it outside my window. Actually, they only moved it across the parking lot—a kindness, I think, to free up the spot for the commuters. Anyway, your parents are here again today and I came upon them as I emerged from the recycling shed. Your Dad has the trunk of your car open and pulls out a 6-pack of Poland Spring. Should we take this? he wants to know. Your Mom turns to me. We’re looking for receipts. Stephanie bought $200 of clothes right before. . .she gazes off, continues. We found them in a shopping bag, all with their tags. I nod. I’m sure they’ll take them back. My aunt works for Target and you don’t even need a receipt. I linger a moment, but there is nothing more to say.
The end of the month is four days away, so I expected your Mom and Dad sometime this weekend. Again I was outside stringing shells and again they backed their station wagon in, but this time I turned my back and concentrated on making six piles of various like-sized shells. My presence feels intrusive now, and I do not want to be seen as morbidly curious. They do not say hello, but go directly into your apartment where they stay for a very long time. Some time later, your Mom comes into my peripheral vision carrying a single box out to the car. I expect your Dad to follow with boxes too, but he does not. When I return from a long walk, both your car and theirs are gone.
The apartment manager called me today. I’ve lived here so long, we are friends after a fashion. She asks, Have Stephanie’s parents said anything to you? They haven’t called the main office and we don’t know what they want to do. I haven’t seen any moving trucks either. I tell her I have no idea. When I spoke to your Dad the first time, he said he’d probably need a truck for the “big pieces,” but I haven’t seen or heard anything. Much like I didn’t see or hear anything the night you died, even though the cops were here, along with the coroner. It was quiet. No lights, no sirens. A friend had found you, called your Dad, called the police. An ambulance started down the drive, then turned away.
The first time we speak, your Dad says, Stephanie had gone through so much. She was such a strong person. She’d been clean a long time. We called and texted every day, but we should have visited more often. I interrupt. No, no. Whenever I talked with Stephanie, she seemed content. This--this (here I ineffectually wave my hand) was a miscalculation. She did not mean to do this. I feel a little ridiculous making this pronouncement since you and I were little more than acquaintances. Still, I cannot bear for your Dad to blame himself.
I will close now, lovely girl. I will remember your head tipped back, your blue blue eyes half shut, your sultry voice talking to me through a scrim of smoke.
* All names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.
© Scwolfrom 2015. All Rights Reserved.