The front door flung open. Big blonde Jim, his toothy grin and short round Mrs. Standler. Expectant.
“You must be Nelly. Come along. I’ll show you your room, it was just painted”, she said.
Sunlight flooded the narrow hall. The dark Victorian house. At the top of the stairs a yellow cream room. A view of the city and an especially good view of the apartment house across the way. Visible a family on their patio. Close. Nelly felt safe. The room like an attic with its octagonal shape and low ceiling. Jim’s room next to hers crammed full of books.
“I’m studying for the bar, my third try,” confessed wide-open Jim.
Nelly immediately liked him, his broad smile.
She was in a hurry for success. No patience, peace, schooling or game plan. She started an array of odd jobs: disco dancing, hostessing, escort services, waiting tables. Nelly met many people in a hurry like herself. At the end of the day she related her adventures to long-suffering Jim and woebegone Nina , an alcoholic blonde on the 3rd floor. Show and tell. Entertaining Nelly. She continually noticed the family in the apartment across the street playing games, standing close. She yearned, shrugged off empty and kept on with busy.
One night Nelly didn’t come home, nor the next, nor the next. The weeks and months passed and no word . Jim passed the bar and Nina stopped drinking. Wide eyed Jim and woebegone Nina grew inseparable. They got married. They moved into Nelly’s room, it was larger. She hoped they would.
Too ashamed to tell Jim and Nina she couldn’t pay the rent, she left. Sleeping and eating were not daily events. Nelly made trouble. She wouldn’t go topless, perform sex acts, she mixed up customers’ drinks. Hunger pangs distracted her. She developed a food fixation and found that booze dulled the pangs. She was lost. There was a little church. Sometimes she sat on the steps for comfort. She never went inside. One night she did. Go inside. She wandered into the small church. She started going often for the calm, to see the pastor’s eyes. The see through pastor talked to Nelly softly. Like her mother when she read stories to her, a little girl. The pastor offered her a place. In return general housekeeping, cooking and eating. He suggested school, college, direction. Nelly got on track and figured out responsibility. New feelings came along with safe. Pride was one. She felt warm enough to think. Think about what she wanted. Wrapped in new possibilities, Nelly.
Originally published in Nashville Review and Shine Journal.
Neila Mezynski is author of Glimpses and A Story (2013) from Scrambler Books; pamphlets from Greying Ghost Press; echapbooks from Radioactive Moat Press and Patasola Press; chapbooks from Folded Word Press, Men Who Understand Girls (2012), Nap Chapbook, Floaters (2012); Deadly Chaps Press, Dancers On Rock (2011), Warriors (2013), Mondo Bummer, Meticulous Man (2012), Mud Luscious Press, and At The Beach (2011).