“Well hello Brian, come on in. It’s so nice to see you. It’s been a while, eh? Fred’s not here.”
Maria smiles and opens the door. I start following her up the stairs to the two bedroom apartment she and the kids and Fred moved into back in November. Back when I moved out from the three bedroom apartment where we’d all lived together on the main floor of this house. The apartment with the bloodstain in the middle of the living room floor.
Walking past the door to that place momentarily brings me back to that bloodstain and I suddenly realize that I had just (a few minutes ago) been next door. Next door where those dangerous men lived. The dangerous men who had made it clear that they had seen me when I used to live here. For a moment I wonder if they know anything about who’s blood is on that floor.
Perhaps they even had something to do with it being there.
Fortunately, I’m able to stop myself from thinking of that. I like Maria, and even though I’ve never really gotten to know her two boys, I like them too. They don’t need to hear anything of what I just experienced next door. They don’t need to hear that I was even over there.
“You want something to eat Brian?”
After having lived with this woman for over two months, I know full well to never say no when she offers food. I don’t know much about Maria’s history. I have no idea when or how she came to America from Mexico, how she ended up in Norfolk, Nebraska or even how she’d met Fred. Maria has always been very quiet and there have been very few occasions when Fred was not there at the same time as me. I know even less about her two boys. They’re also pretty quiet and not at all rambunctious like I’m used to from boys their age.
I can’t even remember their names now. I know that they are from relationships with two separate men in Maria’s past. One African-American and the other Native American. That’s all I know about that.
What I know plenty about though, is how well Maria can stretch a dollar and feed her boys (and the other boys in her life). Those first few weeks when we had to watch every penny after paying rent and deposit on that place with the bloodstain, before Fred got his job with Brandeis Department Store, Maria had fed us all. She fed us well too. We had so very little money and yet, Fred and I ate our fill every evening and every morning and it always tasted good.
I sit down and Maria puts a plate of beans and rice, tortillas and hot sauce in front of me and smiles. She sits next to me with a cup of coffee.
“Aren’t you guys eating?”
“We already ate.” Maria makes a gesture to her boys and they go to the other room. “Brian… I wanted to talk with you about something. It’s kind of important so I hope it’s ok.”
“Yes, of course Maria. What is it?”
“It really is ok if you say no, but I need to ask a favor.”
“Sure… what do you need?”
“I need you to help me get rid of Fred.”
To be continued…