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, an especially good view of the apartment house across the street. Visible, a family on their patio. Together. Close. Nelly felt safe. The room, like an attic, with its octagonal shape and low ceiling. Warm. 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 smile.
Nelly, in a hurry for success. No patience, peace, schooling or game plan. She started an array of odd jobs: disco dancing, hostessing, dating men for escort services, waiting tables. Nelly met a wide array of 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. She 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 from Nelly. 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 had left. Sleeping and eating were not daily events. Nelly made trouble for herself. She wouldn’t go topless, wouldn’t perform sex acts for the men, mixed up customers’ drinks. Hunger pangs distracted Nelly. She developed a food fixation. Nelly found that booze dulled the pangs. Nelly was lost. There was a little church. Sometimes she sat on the steps for comfort. She never went inside. One night Nelly did. Go inside. She wandered into the small church. Warm. Safe. 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 Nelly 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. Nelly felt warm enough to think. Think about what she wanted, wrapped in new possibilities, Nelly.