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American Fiction

Alice

333 Brighton Avenue, Apartment #232. That was the only dwelling Alice ever known, she was born in the very bedroom she now occupied. The tiny three bedroom/one bath apartment would never be called large, upscale or luxurious and since it sat in a neighborhood known for its large and blue-collar families, it was not considered the hip side of town. The sheer white curtains slightly danced in the breeze on any given spring day; the elegant curtains were Alice’s idea and her favorite part of the bedroom she shared with her sister. Alice liked to keep the windows opened wide until the sun set, that way she can have ample light to read by. Her favorite way to pass the time was finding a book that can take her to a foreign land or better yet, to another time, unlike her own time. The two large windows in her room faced the street, on the weekends she liked to listen to the sounds that came from her neighborhood; she liked to watch couples holding hands as they walked down the street; and people lined up outside the Fox Theatre that was located on the corner. Alice herself liked the double matinees on Saturday afternoons. They always had entertainment, sometimes a magic show and one lucky Saturday, Alice won the weekend raffle. She’d never won anything before and felt that it was a turning point in her young life. That was two years ago, and she hasn’t won anything since.

“Alice…phone!” Alice could hear her sister Joan yell down the hallway. Her voice carried into Alice’s room as if she was just outside her door.

“Tell’em I’ll be right there!” she deliberately made her voice louder than her sister’s.

“Why don’t you tell’em!!” Joan’s voice sounded annoyed.

“Can you both stop yelling!!” Alice’s mom yelled at the both of them.

Alice carefully put the Tinkerbell bookmarker her aunt had sent her from Disneyland into her book, it was just getting good, she thought. She marched downstairs to the phone where her sister was holding the receiver and scrunching her face at Alice as she grabbed it from her.

“What took you so long?” Joan asked, still annoyed.

“There’s no phones upstairs, I can’t just beam myself here,” Alice took the phone from her sister and quickly took a deep breath to change her demeanor to prepare for her phone call. It was her friend, Shelly from Home Ec, she just wanted to know if Alice wanted to come over and listen to the newest Osmond Brothers album. Alice thought it would be fun to hang out with a friend after being inside all day, even if her music tastes were more Jackson 5. Alice continued chatting with Shelly because she knew her sister was listening and eagerly waiting for her to hang up so that she can use the phone. One day I’ll have a phone in my room, Alice thought, and I will not let my sister use it!

After the phone call, Alice walked out of her apartment and started walking down the three flights of stairs. She’d heard talk in the building that an elevator would be installed, that would sure make it easier for everyone in the building, especially those living on the fifth floor, she thought of those poor families who had to lug their groceries and laundry, since there was no laundry room, all the way to the top floor.

Rachel

After two months of residing at 333 Brighton Avenue, #232, Rachel could say it was starting to feel like home. At the age of 16, she could say she’d lived in 3 countries, 5 different houses, she went to 4 different grade schools, 2 middle schools and now she was a sophomore in high school. Her mother promised her she would get to stay at the current high school and graduate from it. Her parents were both in the military, her mother always reminded her that their family served their country, and she should be proud. While she felt global, she yearned to put down roots.

Rachel sat with her hands neatly piled, one on the other and her chin digging its way onto the pile. She sat on the window bench that sat under the middle window, one of the three over sized windows which brought light into her sizable bedroom. From where she sat, she could see into her bathroom. This was the first time she had her very own bathroom and her parents even gave her the freedom to decorate it as she wished. The colors she chose were Latte and Watery, which were just fancy ways of saying, beige and light blue. Rachel did have fun watching the looks on her parents’ faces when she said she wanted Latte and Watery as her bathroom color schemes. Her mother made a remark as to how her daughter is as uppity as this neighborhood.

Rachel looked down at the street from her third floor window. She could see the chic boutiques and fancy eateries in the bourgeois neighborhood and wondered what it looked like from the terrace above the fifth floor. Her parents talked about how their building was made before WWII and even the elevator was relatively new. Her father said that when his dad lived in this neighborhood back in the 60s and 70s, it was considered a working-class neighborhood and was patrolled regularly because of gangs and unlawful activity. She noticed that many people walking down below had a dog on a leash, there were people jogging in expensive jogging suits and even a limousine parked across the street at what looked to be an old movie theatre. If you looked real hard, you could see where the letters of the name of the theatre had peeled off, F-O-X. I’ll have to look inside and see what’s going on in that old theatre, Rachel created a list of to-do’s in her head.

Rachel heard a knock at her door, “Rach, come and eat, Dad brought burgers,” her mother said after knocking.

“Okay, be there soon,” she answered. As she replied, she noticed a loose floorboard. That’s something Rachel insisted on, she didn’t want rugs, like the rest of the house, she liked the feel of wood under her feet. She had to push her bed off of the loose plank and couldn’t seem to wedge it out of place. She knocked on it, it sounded hollow, not like the other floorboards. Rachel looked around her room, she found a letter opener and used it to pry the floorboard up. When she finally managed to pick it up, she found an envelope, it was blank and sealed. She took the letter opener and slid it under the top flap to gently cut through it. Rachel could tell that the envelope was old, it was stained yellow and felt brittle. Inside was a paper, it looked like it was pulled out of a notebook, it read:

“To Whom This May Concern: My name is Alice, this was my room. The year is 1972. I lived with my parents and my sister, Joan. I hope you’re as happy here as we were.”

Rachel took the note to her mother who read it and then with a look of sadness, she placed the note on the table. “I heard about this family, Alice and Joan went missing in 1973, they were never heard from again. The parents both died shortly after, it was very sad.”

Rachel went back to her room and knew that from this day forward she would never feel alone in this room. She wasn’t sure she’d ever feel comfortable again, but she’d never feel alone.

March 19, 2021 06:59

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