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When I'm Gone; Chapter 7
Chapter 7-August 6, 2001 (Claire)
Clearing my throat, I glanced down at the hand-written note clutched in my fingers. I looked back up at the sign on the building, making sure I was in the right place.
“Twenty-second street,” I wondered aloud. The large brick building loomed over me, bigger than it seemed. I pressed on the button for the owner. The speaker crackled to life and I could faintly hear a lady’s voice shouting on the other end.
“Who is it? Who’s there?” she shouted. I swallowed my laughter and pushed the speak button.
“Hi. Mrs. Trinity?” I asked.
“This is her,” the lady said sharply.
“My name is Claire and I was wondering if apartment 2B was still up for rent.” I rushed to get my words out, stringing them all together into one sentence. Mrs. Trinity let out a throaty laugh.
“Of course, dear. Let me buzz you in.” Instantly, her voice was warmer and I could detect a smile as she said it. There was another crackling sound and I heard the click of the lock on the door. Pulling it open, I walked inside and found a larger lady sitting behind a window to my left. She smiled at me; a few of her teeth were missing.
“Mrs. Trinity?” I guessed, walking towards her. She nodded.
“You must be Claire,” she laughed and stood up. I took a step back as she came out of the little room. As she gave me the once over, I was doing the same to her.
Her graying hair was pulled into a tight bun and her pale skin was wrinkly and looked rough to the touch. She had bright eyes, that never seemed to sadden.
“So, about that room?” she offered. I nodded, glad to get back on topic. She led me to an elevator and pressed a button that had an arrow pointing upwards.
The doors opened and we stepped inside. Mrs. Trinity looked at me again and I smiled shyly. She laughed and I forced out a giggle myself.
“The apartment is three bedrooms, two bath. It has a large kitchen and living room. It also has an extra room that the old tenant used as an office, but you can use it for whatever you like,” she explained as the elevator doors opened again. She led me down a hallway to a door, emblazoned with a black ‘2B’. When I took a step inside, I gasped.
The apartment itself was gorgeous. It was furnished completely and the walls were a beautiful maroon. I walked into the living room and set my purse down.
“Why don’t I show you around?” Mrs. Trinity said. I nodded, speechless.
“It’s perfect,” I said as we walked back into the living room. I grabbed my purse and smiled contently.
The bedrooms were larger than the ones in our old apartment and were all furnished completely. The ‘office’ was large, bare, and had a hardwood floor. I decided that it could be the art room for Alex and me.
“I thought you would like it,” Mrs. Trinity touched my arm gently and I looked at her. I was starting to like her more and more. Throughout the hour we were together, I had gotten to tell her why I was in New York. I also learned about her; how she was an orphan as a child, but went to be a fabulous business woman before retiring to work at this apartment complex.
“The only question I have is about the price,” I sighed. Her mouth was set in a flat line and she seemed to consider this.
“It’s $831 for a month,” she said. I bit my lip, wondering how that was going to work.
“I’ll take it,” I said suddenly, surprising even myself. Mrs. Trinity stared at me for a moment before turning away.
“Okay,” she agreed and led the way out of the apartment.
Once back on the first floor, she went to her little room and found a stack of papers She handed them to me, along with a pen.
“You need to fill out these forms before you leave,” she said with a apologetic smile. I shrugged and took them from her. She pointed to a cluster of chairs in the opposite corner from her. I smiled graciously and walked over there.
I sank down into one of the chairs and set the stack of papers on my lap. As I started to fill them out, I let my mind wander.
The name entered my mind and I tried to immediately push it back out. However, it stayed there, branded in my mind like a stupid jingle.
“Stupid fire fighter. Stupid rescue. Stupid roses,” I muttered angrily. I found myself pressing down with the pen harder than necessary. Relaxing my grip, I tried to continue writing, slowly and with better composure.
Michael’s bright hazel eyes came back to me, full force. Groaning inwardly, I let myself think about how much I despised that man.
I doubt that his station really visits every person they rescue, I thought to myself. He just wanted an excuse. He is probably a big jerk who messes around with girls before throwing them away like a used tissue. God, how I hate him. Although, I haven’t heard from him a five days. Maybe he decided I wasn’t worth it.
Yeah right, another part of my mind argued.
He was cute, though. He had that whole ‘bum’ look going to him. Shaggy, black hair. A hint of a beard on his chin. The crumpled clothes.
I sighed and tried to push these thoughts from my mind.
“Why do I care so much?” I asked myself. “It’s not like I like him.”
I shuddered violently at the thought. As I started to finish up the application I heard Mrs. Trinity talking to someone on the phone. Careful as not to be obvious, I slowed my writing, wanting to eavesdrop.
“Yes Mikey,” Mrs. Trinity contiued. I saw her smile into the phone. Pausing, she looked at me and I shot my eyes down, blood pooling in my cheeks.
The ‘Mikey’ on the other end said a few things and she laughed.
“Actually, you will never believe what happened today?” Her voice rose a notch and excitement masked her usually flat tone. I stood up and walked towards her. She smiled at me and gestured for me to wait a few minutes. “I sold the apartment today. You know? 2B?”
A low voice on the other end was also excited and I could tell it was a man’s low tone. Mrs. Trinity glanced at me again with another smile.
“Yes. Her name is Claire...” she trailed off and confusion masked her face.
“Barnes,” I offered and shrugged.
“Claire Barnes,” she told Mikey and he said a quick reply. “Okay Mikey. Uh-huh. Okay. Bye-bye.”
She hung up the phone and held out her hand. I gave her the application forms and frowned.
“When do you want me and my brother to move in? I really need to get everything here before the seventh. That’s when school starts for both of us,” I explained quickly. She nodded and tucked away the papers in a manila folder.
“Whenever you want is fine with me. Another one of the tenants, Mikey, said that if you needed it, he would help you move in. He is strong and really good looking.” I smiled at her and laughed.
“Oh, please call me Joy,” she said.
“Okay then,” I started. “Joy, I have only known you for about two hours now and you are already trying to set me up?”
“Don’t be silly,” she scolded, but I could see a little twinkle in her eye. I stared at her while she gave me an innocent smile.
“Well, I will be back tomorrow to start moving in. Tell Mikey to be ready out front at 11 tomorrow morning,” I said and hitched my purse higher on my shoulder.
“Okay, bye Claire,” she called out as I walked out the door and into the blinding light.
“Claire, you will not believe this,” Alex shouted as he ran into his room. I was seated on the floor packing his things into boxes once again. I looked up and saw him clutching a packet of paper in his hand.
“I’m pretty sure I will,” I assured him. He handed me the packet and I glanced at the heading. It was from the school where Alex was going to go to and where I was going to teach.
“Okay, flip a few pages to page four,” he said and I did as he told me. When I got to the page, I noticed a schedule of his classes.
“Okay...” I still didn’t get what he was trying to tell me.
“Look down at fourth period on ‘A’ days.”
I scanned the list quickly and when I reached fourth period, I had to do a double check. My eyes wide, I looked up at Alex who smiled widely.
“Told you that you wouldn’t believe it,” he said smugly.
“There is no way-” I started.
“That you could be my art teacher?” he finished for me. “I think there is a way because it is legit.”
“Well, you better be good in my class,” I warned him. “That means no endless flirting with girls, okay?”
“You wish sis,” he laughed.
“That’s Ms. Barnes to you, now,” I commanded.
“Whatever. Good one,” he shouted over his shoulder as he walked out of the room. “Good one, sis.”