Ultimately, I decided to stick with this story until it's done, especially since having an audience will make me stick to it more stringently than I would otherwise do. Hopefully, that's good news.
They got back in the elevator, which Brekkyn seemed to consider a sort of carnival ride.
“There’s a basement room at the bottom of the stairs. The maintenance guy sometimes has stuff there people have left when they move out or forgot in the halls. I told him to save me a kitten or baby if he finds one.” This was yet another random comment from the girl. Tanissa tried to remember if she had ever had an imagination like that, and frankly couldn’t remember.
They went outside and looked around the building, around the block. There were rosebushes lining the whole street, and each girl picked one and put it in their hair. It was a warm day, but a light breeze blew from the west, making everything nice. An ice cream truck drove by, and Brekkyn asked if she wanted anything. “I didn’t bring my money.”
“That’s okay,” the other girl said. “I didn’t either.”
That, for some reason, struck Tanissa as funny, and she was surprised to see a scowl on Brekkyn’s face. “Do you want a ice cream or not?”
The truck was at the stop sign, about to make a turn, so Tanissa said, “Not this time,” and let it drive on. She had had a growth spurt over the last year or so, and seemed to always be hungry, but she didn’t want to go chasing after a Good Humor man only to find out he didn’t deal in IOUs.
“Let’s go to my place,” Brekkyn announced, and turned back the way they’d come. Tanissa would’ve liked to stay outside a little longer, but followed her new friend back to the complex, and to the first floor. Number 4 wasn’t locked, and the girl walked right in, leaving the door open behind her. The air conditioner was blowing in the apartment, so Tanissa went back and closed the door.
The apartment was set up exactly the same as her father’s, and immediately, her eyes went to the massive flat-screen that took up most of one wall. The television was tuned to a talk show, and a rail-thin woman on the couch immediately turned it off.
“Mom, this is Tanissa,” proclaimed Brekkyn. “She’s--”
The girl stopped, looking around suspiciously. Tanissa looked around too, wondering where the fire was. “Have you been drinking coffee again?”
“What, sweetheart?” the woman asked. “No, just Lipton.”
“I smell coffee,” Brekkyn said, looking at Tanissa for approval. “Yuck!”
“I like the smell of coffee,” she said. “I even kind of like coffee ice cream.”
“Don’t make me barf,” Brekkyn said. She squared her shoulders. “Mom, Tanissa is my new friend, from the third floor. Her dad is Mr. Gunn.”
“Who?” Brekkyn’s mother asked, turning to stare at Tanissa. The woman looked ghastly, her hair thinning and messy, her eyes and cheekbones sunken, her bony shoulders stooped. “I don’t know any Mis—“”
“What’s his first name?” Brekkyn asked.
“William,” Tanissa said to the lady. “Sometimes Willy.”
“William,” the girl said. “The fat guy who helped us with the couch.”
Tanissa swallowed down any sign that she didn’t appreciate that description. Especially since Dad had described Brekkyn in much the same way.
“Oh, oh, yes, sorry,” the thin woman said, apologizing to one of them. “N-nice to meet you, Vanessa. Would you like any--”
“Tuh-neesa,” Brekkyn corrected rudely. “We’re gonna play in my room.”
Tanissa didn’t know how the dynamic worked in this house. She was surprised to hear how the younger girl spoke to her mother, but some of her friends had strained relations with their parents, and she’d snapped at her own mother a time or three.