Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April
Welcome to… The Apartment Building
It took hours to clear all the debris. Photos were taken for insurance purposes, information was taken, and the injured were carted to hospitals and the dead…the dead were taken away, for a second and final time. Mrs. Beatty was the last to be removed from the scene.
Her daughter, Cynthia, with tear streaked cheeks and neck, viewed the left side of her mother’s face. It had relatively remained unscathed, which the forensics team had noted in detail in their reports. The medical examiner stated, when asked, that she had most likely died instantaneously and felt nothing past the initial burst.
This was no solace to Cynthia and was a complete lie for Mrs. Beatty.
A modicum of awareness remained while she flew through the air. It was only instants, moments, a trickling of time, but she had enough presence for things to flit through. “David” was the last mental picture she had before she, indeed, “died instantly” before hitting the SUV.
Veronica James and David Beatty married in the late fall of 1959; she felt that the changing of the season, with the colorful array of leaves, was a splendid backdrop for the life she intended to live with the man she loved. David thought of fall as a season of dying and endings, and to him it was slightly depressing, but he did not tell her he felt that way, ever. They lived with her parents in their basement until the summer of 1960, when they moved into Swan Rise Apartments.
Cynthia was born in 1963, and the Beatty’s moved into the first two bedroom apartment that became available. They hadn’t thought of moving away. In the three years since they took up residence the couple had grown into the vertical community of the building. It was close to shopping, the bus stopped right in front, and David found that while their might be more exciting places to live, this suited him fine. Veronica was happy here, so he was happy here.
As the years passed, he noticed changes in her. Never totally an outgoing woman, Veronica (never Ronnie) slowly withdrew from places with large crowds. They gave her headaches, she said, and that “itchy” feeling. Shopping was done very early in the morning, or very late in the evening. Eventually David took over most of the shopping duties. They would socialize with family, but their friend base dwindled with each gently rejected invitation.
“Nothing is wrong” she’d say when he asked. He let things sit. Cynthia pushed her as she was assailed by her teen years. Veronica just smiled, or stared off, letting it roll off her back. David had suggested she see someone; Veronica tried, going one time, and never talked about why she did not go back.
She remained pleasant, growing quieter, smiling when he came home, holding his hand when they went to bed. They watched TV and read, played a couple of card games, went to very few movies.
It was Cynthia who got her mother to join the tenants committee. There was a big stink over changes in the building, loss of the playground in the back, elevator repair issues, leaks, the water heater and more. She dragged her mother down with her and finally offered her services to take the minutes (Veronica had been in a secretarial steno pool when she met David, and would help him at home; she taught Cynthia how to type). Veronica could bury herself in the writing, being part of the proceedings while still distant. It suited her, and she kept it up, long after Cynthia moved away.
David passed away years later. All the old timers in the building came to pay their respects, leaving platitudes and condolences and food. Cynthia stayed with her mother for a couple of weeks, both of them needing to make that contact. She asked her mother to move in with her when she was feeling that Veronica was not strong enough to live alone, but the decline was a foregone conclusion.
Over thirty years living in one place…it was hard, very hard to let it go.
Veronica continued to take minutes at meetings. Her interactions with others in the building were light, but all knew her. She became friendly with “the boys” (Marc and Sean) when Marc found her struggling with dropped groceries early one Sunday morning. He helped her upstairs (she had a bruised knee from tripping, which resulted in the fallen food, but she wouldn’t say so), she made them both cups of tea, and formed a nice bond. Sean was included in later; they spent some holiday meals with her when Cynthia was “busy” and visited with her every Christmas after they left the building.
Patty was happy to have her as a sounding board as she railed at the stupidity of the other building residents. The Laundry Room Mafia found her easy to deal with to get their ways, even though they joined in on her sorrow over their own deceased spouses. New tenants and old would open doors for her and they’d get a polite “thank you”. The children would careen past her slow gait down the hallways, and they would make her smile. They always got good treats at Halloween from her.
She was loathe to complain about things, and would only report stoppages and leaks to Andres the super when these things had to be fixed. At first, the smell of gas was not strong in the kitchen. She pooh-poohed it away, thinking that it was just the old stove being an old stove. It was during one of Cynthia’s rare visits that brought the stove problem to Andres attention.
Chastising her mother, Cynthia had her mother call Andres immediately. He didn’t answer the phone (it was a Saturday, and he was watching a game and couldn’t be bothered) but Veronica did leave a message that “there is a gas smell in the kitchen.” Cynthia tried to get her to leave with her until it was fixed, but all she got was a promise not to use the stove until the super did something about it, and to leave the windows open. She could live on microwave and toaster oven cooked food until then.
Veronica did just that, but the temperature dropped two nights later and a passing thunderstorm was sending water into the apartment window. Veronica, woken out of her sleep, closed the windows and went back to bed.
They remained closed for two more days. Veronica wanted a cup of tea.