I'd spent the entire morning on the phone looking for estimates. "I'll have to think about it. Thanks," I hung up, depression weighing on my shoulders. I couldn't afford anything that any company had offered so far, even with a bank start up loan.
Just before the doorbell rang, Minnie barked frantically, jumping at the door excitedly. "Be there in a minute!" I called, setting aside my notebook full of prices. I pulled Minnie away from the door and managed to open it.
Standing outside was my neighbor. Mrs. Lynn was an old woman, who had been my neighbor since I was in diapers. "Hi Mrs. Lynn, what do you need?"
"My grandson," Her aged form quivered. "My grandson Michael. You remember Michael." Her grandson happened to be around the same age as me, so we'd played together long ago as children.
"Of course I remember Michael. He's in the army now, isn't it?" As the words came out of my mouth, I realized what I'd said. An old woman didn't come to your door on the verge of tears babbling about her grandson in the army for no reason.
"An-an IED they said? What is that? What does that mean, Alina?"
I opened the door wider. "You can come sit down, Mrs. Lynn."
She stumbled toward my couch, where Minnie greeted her happily. "What is the IED, Alina?"
Somehow, I couldn't bear to explain to the old woman how her grandson had really died. An explosion seemed too horrible for someone so weary. "It's a disease," I lied. "He must have been very sick."
"He never told me he was sick."
"Um," I struggled for a reason. "It can kill you within a few hours. He probably had no idea that anything was wrong. That's why he wouldn't have told you."
"So no one shot my Michael?"
I shook my head as confidently as I could manage. "No, he died naturally."
"Good, good," She dabbed her old grey eyes. "I never wanted Michael to go. I told him what would happen. I knew something would go wrong. But I guess sickness is better than a bullet." She stared at me coldly. "You've made such an awful mistake, Alina."
"Me?" I was genuinely surprised. Even Minnie cocked her head.
"That boy you were living with. Little Beckham? He joined the army, didn't he?"
"The Marines," I corrected softly.
"You'll lose him, Alina. Don't make the mistake of loving that boy. I couldn't abandon my family, but you can certainly cut ties with some boy overseas."
I stammered, unsure of what words to even use. "Mrs., um, Mrs. Lynn, I know you're upset, but it's not like that. Becks isn't going to die, and I love him. I wouldn't just stop talking to him for no reason."
"Oh, there's a reason alright! And if you have any sense, you'll listen to me! Never talk to him again! Never use a telephone, a computer, a letter, or anything other technological thing. Break all contact and find yourself a good man like a doctor."
"Mrs. Lynn, you're grieving. I think it's best if you leave."
"You can't take criticism then? You're making a childish mistake, Alina!"
Minnie whined lowly. "I really think you should go." I clenched my fists.
"You're a fool! Stupid kids these days! Find a new man! Get yourself a family or something. You're old enough! Don't sit around waiting for a boy that will never come home to you!" She eventually made her way to the door. "You could make a smart choice, or you could be a coward and encourage this boy. Do the right thing, Alina!"
She slammed the door behind her. Minnie jumped in surprise, trotting to my side for comfort. I petted her gently, whispering soothingly, "It's alright, Minnie girl. She's just upset. Becks is coming home, so you don't you worry."