Jimmy's Girl Friend
Seeing is believing. Isn't it?
by Ben A. Vanguarde
The car horn beeped once. It wasn't rude, it was our prearranged signal. On this crisp winter day, the bright morning sun favorably illuminated the doctor's well maintained, expensive two story white house with aquamarine trim. Stepping out of the car, I opened the trunk and then opened the rear passenger door to await Jimmy.
A young woman I'd never seen before strode purposefully before Jimmy. She wore a 70's style peasant dress over her well formed and classically proportioned figure. Her smooth, olive complexion and dark, naturally curled hair, which ranged down her shoulders, screamed Italian. Italian goddess. Her large brown eyes and muted red lips smiled sincerely at me. It was clear she was happy and welcoming. Few times in my life have I ever seen a woman so beautiful.
"Hello," I said looking at her. She did not answer but lifted the skirt portion of her dress and slid into the car, scooting over to sit behind the driver's seat. She left a strong trail of delicious fresh gardenia perfume.
"Hello Jimmy," I greeted my charge. "You look good today, young man." Jimmy had both good days and bad days.
"Hello Mr. Hazlette," Jimmy answered. "Thanks for volunteering in my hour of need."
"What did you say Jimmy?" I asked. "Remember I can't hear well." I cupped my better, left ear.
"I said, 'thanks for volunteering'," Jimmy yelled. "I really had no one else to take me today."
"You're welcome son," I replied. "Sorry for the annoyance. I should receive new hearing aid batteries later today."
Jimmy rolled his wheelchair over to the open door. He handed me his book titled Spooky Haunted Houses and lifted himself into my car. While I folded the wheelchair, I stole a glimpse at both pimply Jimmy, who fooled with his ipod, and the beauty beside him. Her inviting eyes locked onto mine. I stowed the wheelchair in the trunk and got into the car.
Her eyes caught my glance into the rearview mirror. "I'm Enrica," she said. Her voice was perfectly clear and spoken in a timbre and pitch as if I were her lover. Her generous smile seemed as if I had just presented a rare and precious gift.
I responded, "Nice to meet you." Then I glanced as Jimmy untangled the ear bud wires. "Do you like ghost stories, Jimmy?"
Jimmy inserted the ear buds into his ears and opened the book. "Talking to himself," mumbled Jimmy and he settled into his seat fully absorbed.
"You're never too old for a good ghost story," Enrica said with a bewitching smile. I backed the car out. "If you don't mind Mr. Hazlette, while Jimmy's registering for classes, would you drive me by my old home so I can pick something up? It's only six blocks from the university and I won't be long. I promise."
Looking into the rearview mirror, I answered, "I'd be happy to." I continuously stole looks at her and each time her pleasant gaze met mine. She did not signal annoyance or a come hither look but radiated joy, perhaps as if being freed from prison. How did little Jimmy score a beautiful girlfriend like Enrica? In the best of my days, she would have never looked twice at me. Enrica appeared about 26 and I knew Jimmy was 18. Did her personality match her looks? I wondered if Jimmy appreciated this rare treasure.
"How long?" I tilted my head towards Jimmy.
"I've stayed with Jimmy and his parents for almost a month now," she looked slightly sheepish. "They're such sweet people."
"Yes, they are," I replied. "They were so kind after my wife passed." I paused and glanced into the mirror again. I asked many questions about her life and experiences but she masterfully got me to babble on about my life and career instead. I learned nearly nothing about her.
Finally, I could no longer hold off the question which screamed inside my mind. "It surprises me that Jimmy never said anything about you, Enrica. You've heard it all your life, I'm sure, that you have looks to kill for." Enrica immediately flashed a sad expression. "I mean, I don't mean anything bad. I just don't know why he never showed you off before. I certainly would, all the time."
"No offense taken, Mr. Hazlette," Enrica replied. "Perhaps he didn't want your competition." She chuckled.
I responded, "At seventy-three…"
Jimmy interrupted, almost shouting at me. "Mr. Hazlette, please make the next left and then you can let me out anywhere near a sidewalk, okay?"
"Yes sir, Jimmy," I responded.
Wheelchair out. Jimmy out. Back in the car. Enrica now in the front seat.
I tried to make small talk with this beauty. "You wear that peasant dress well. I really haven't seen those dresses in decades. I'd forgotten them, actually. You'll probably bring back the style, if you're seen in a magazine."
"Thanks. It's comfortable and what I like."
As we seemed to get closer she appeared apprehensive, as a child faces a new rollercoaster ride. "Is there someone to let you in, Enrica? Or, do you have a key?"
"I can get in. I've lived there a very long time," she answered.
"Do you have a career?"
"No," she seemed annoyed. "I really just like to stay at home."
"Do you have any children?"
"One stillborn. Otherwise, no, I have no children. I wish I had," she said sounding of regret.
"Had? You are still young enough to have children. You just have to meet…"
She interrupted sternly, "Mr. Hazlette, please. Don't make me any sadder…"
"Sorry. I'm an idiot. Of course you know," I apologized. "But sad? You seem the picture of joy. I can't remember anyone so happy."
"It's the two story house with the aquamarine front door," she pointed out.
"Looks like... Yes, its the same house as Jimmy's folks, only this house is older, like it's the original model. Needs a bit of work."
"Would you mind just pulling onto the swale?" The car nosed onto the grass. "A little further up, please?" The car came to a rest at the property line and the street. "Leave the engine running, please." She just looked at me expectantly.
Finally, it dawned on me. "May I get the door for you?" I asked.
She smiled but her countenance had turned to look like she had smacked her thumb with a hammer, "Mr. Hazlette, you're a true gentleman." The old house seemed to signal some strong emotions for her.
I got out and opened the door as gracefully as I could. "Actually Enrica, I appreciate the opportunity for gallantry. Not much call for it anymore."
As I opened the door I noticed the aroma not of gardenia but of freshly dug sod and soil. She affected a smile. "Why don't you find some good music on the radio?"
I punched up some music and looked back but she was gone. The front yard had numerous patches of dried sand surrounded by brown grass. The hedges and foliage had only a few leaves on the dark, skinny branches to support their lives. The white and aquamarine flaked paint screamed neglect, despair, and inhospitality. Downstairs the drapes were open but upstairs the old faded drapes were closed tightly.
After longer than I cared to wait, the front door suddenly swung open and a woman and man in their mid-sixties bolted to the sidewalk. "God damn her!" she yelled, turning to face the house. "Why did she have to come back?"
"She can rot in Hell!" he screamed. I could hear them clearly. "What are we going to do now?"
"I thought that priest got rid of her," she said. "Lying bastard. This is all your fault, you know. We'll have to pay him again."
"You're not innocent. Remember, you had a hand in it." Suddenly, they realized with horror that I, now an intruder, also occupied their private world on the sidewalk. I turned away from their savage expressions and toward the ramshackle house.
Immediately, my eyes were drawn to the large window, curtains open, on the second floor where I beheld the pained and anguished expression on the face of Enrica, as she glared out at the couple below. My focus lowered to the large crimson red stain, which soaked the white top of her dress. Just above her left breast protruded only the handle of a very large steak knife. Obviously a fatal wound.
Enrica turned her gaze to me and spoke as clearly as if still in the car, "This has been my home for the last forty years. I want to stay here. Good bye, Mr. Hazlette."
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