Lyrics of a Small Town, Page 2Abbi Glines
The second thing on the list was taking a box Gran had left on her dresser to the penthouse at the Hendrix IV Condominiums. She didn’t explain anything about why or who it was to, which made it all the more strange. There was a silver and black key card on the box and it would get me into the private elevator that went to the penthouse. I was to take the box and inform whoever opened the door that it was from Honey. That was it. I could then leave.
I had no other plans for the day, and until this list was completed, I wasn’t going to look for a summer job. Part of finding me again was closure. I needed closure after Gran’s death. She had been taken so quickly and I hadn’t even been able to say goodbye. This list was the last thing she had asked of me, so I would complete it for her no matter how odd the seven requests on the list may be.
Although I had never stayed at the Hendrix IV, I knew where it was. The Hendrix Condominiums were the most luxurious condominiums on the gulf coast. Just like the Hendrix Hotel chain was a five-star hotel found in very exclusive locations around the world. When the condominiums had come to Alabama’s coast, it had made major headlines. Even my mother had talked about it. That being said, the issue I had with this item on Gran’s list was that it was intimidating. Pulling up to the guarded gate around the place did not help my anxiety.
A bald man wearing a black suit walked up to my window and my first thought was he had to be burning up, my second thought was what the heck was I supposed to tell him. Gran had left me this key. She had said nothing about a man at the gate. I rolled down the driver’s side window and took off my sunglasses. He was large enough that he was blocking any glare from the sun.
“Name,” he said.
“Uh, well, see,” I started and realized I sounded nervous and guilty but of what I had no idea. Trying to pull it together and successfully pull off Gran’s second request on the list, I cleared my throat.
“Name,” he repeated louder as if I hadn’t heard him the first time.
“Yes, my name is Henley Warren, and you see my grandmother, she passed away and she left me this list.” I stopped then and swallowed nervously. I could see my reflection in his sunglasses and I looked as nervous as I felt.
“Do you have a reservation, ma’am?” he asked me then.
I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to explain the list and what I was to do for my deceased grandmother to this man and successfully get away with it. He appeared ready to have me turn my car around and leave. I wasn’t good with words or coming up with things on the spur of the moment. I often forgot how to speak altogether when put in a corner such as this. Will had been the one who was good at this. Will would have known what to say. He would have charmed his way right inside that gate.
“She’s with me,” a deep voice said from somewhere outside the car.
The bald man looked from me to the vehicle behind me then he nodded once and walked back into his fancy brick headquarters, that I hoped was air-conditioned for his sake, while the gate opened up. I looked into the rearview mirror, confused by the sudden rescue, and the familiar old blue Ford truck was there. Was this guy everywhere?
Not waiting for fear the bald man would realize neither me nor the blue truck belonged here, I pulled forward and turned right following the arrow for the parking deck. I kept glancing back to see where the guy in the truck was going, but he turned the opposite way and I realized he was probably headed to staff parking. Twice in one day he had shown up when I needed some help. It was as if Gran had sent him as my helping hand to get this list done.
Wishing I had been able to thank him and at least get his name, I found a parking spot then grabbed the box Gran had left for whoever was in the penthouse. There was a letter taped to the outside, but I hadn’t opened it and it wasn’t addressed to anyone. Thankfully there were six elevators. One had a gold-plated sign over it that read Penthouse. I took out the black and silver card and swiped it. The doors opened.
Stepping inside the plush expensive interior of the elevator, I began to worry I might be arrested for this. Gran had a key, but she wasn’t here anymore. Just because she was allowed up this fancy entrance did not mean I was. I glanced around, looking for a camera and then preparing myself for the doors to open and security guards to attack me. Mr. Blue truck could not help me out of this one.
My heart was racing and my palms were starting to sweat by the time the door opened and I exhaled in relief at the empty white and gold hallway in front of me. White marble floors with white walls and gold-framed mirrors lined the walls leading to double doors with a large gold lion head knocker on one side. I walked slowly so that if anyone was watching they could see I was of no threat. I considered leaving the box in the hallway, but Gran had asked specifically for me to give it to whoever opened the door.
“I feel you owe me big for this one,” I whispered, just in case she was hanging around to make sure I did all she had asked of me. “I thought the stories from old people were bad,” I added. “This is much worse.”
When I reached the door, I noticed it had a fancy flat silver doorbell. Perhaps the gaudy lion was just for looks. I pressed the doorbell and took a deep steadying breath while I waited. This wasn’t so bad. Whoever opened the door would know Gran. She had a key after all. I had made it this far.
A couple minutes passed and I studied the doorbell, trying to decide if I should press it again or if I should give up and just leave the box. Gran could see, if she was watching, that I had done my best. Besides, if I left with this box, I quite possibly would never get back in this place again.
The door swung open before I had time to think much further on the matter. A woman dressed in a red satin robe, long dark hair piled atop her head in a messy bun, what I would guess were real diamond earrings in her ears, gold bracelets on her wrists, several flashy rings on her fingers and a cigarette between two of her fingers that showcased sharp red fingernails stood in front of me. This was not at all what I expected and I was, once again, at a loss for words.
“Can I help you?” she asked then put the cigarette to her lips.
“I need to give this to you,” I said, holding the box out.
She glanced down at it but didn’t reach for it. “I don’t accept deliveries. The front desk knows that,” she replied and started to close the door. I had to stop her or I was going to be forced to ring the doorbell again.
“No, wait, I am Honey Warren’s granddaughter. She left me a list of things she wanted me to do. This is on the list. She wanted me to bring you this box and,” I paused and reached for the key to the elevator in my pocket, “the key too.”
The lady’s face changed then. Her annoyed expression became one of sorrow. She stared at the box as if it held something more valuable than the jewels she was wearing and I was sure that it did not. My gran did not own anything that valuable. I waited as the woman stood there and took her time looking at the box. Her eyes began to fill with unshed tears then she sniffled and lifted her eyes to meet mine once again.
“Henley,” she said my name.
I nodded, surprised she knew me.
“Please, come inside. I’ve heard so much about you from Honey,” she told me and the emotion was thick in her voice.
I stepped inside and if I had thought the elevator and hallway were elegant, they were only a small preview of the inside. There were no windows looking out over the gulf, the walls themselves were the windows. It was a complete wide open view as if you were sitting there on the beach while lounging on the sofa or standing in the kitchen. I found myself caught up in amazement and forgot for a moment where I was.
“Honey loved this view too,” the lady said as she came up beside me.
“She loved the water,” I said, remembering how she said it was the only thing that could heal the soul.
“Yes, she did. God, how I miss her,” the woman said then and I turned to look at her just as she wiped a
tear from her face. She smiled at me sadly. “I’m sorry. Haven’t introduced myself. I’m Lily. Your gran was the truest friend I have ever had. When I was at my lowest, and let me assure you I have had many low times, Honey was here by my side.”
“That sounds like my gran,” I said.
Lily laughed softly and held out her hands for the box. I gave it to her and watched as she held it as if it were precious. “I’ll leave so you can be alone to read the letter and open it,” I told her.
She nodded her head but didn’t look at me. She was still looking at the box. “Thank you,” she whispered.
I turned to leave and saw a child’s drawing in a frame on the wall. It seemed so out of place here. Just as I reached the door, Lily called out my name. Looking back at her, she held out the key I had given her. “Take the key. Come visit anytime. The view is always here,” she said.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about having a key to the penthouse elevator or how I would ever get through the gate again, but at this moment with tears on Lily’s cheeks, I didn’t have the heart to mention it. I took the key and I would figure out the rest later.
“It was nice to meet you,” I said not sure what else I should say.
She smiled through her tears.
Once I was back in the elevator and headed down to the parking garage, I slid the key back into my pocket. Perhaps I could find her phone number at Gran’s and call her in a week or so to explain about the guard at the gate. She had been Gran’s friend and as odd as it was with all her wealth, she seemed lonely to me. Maybe I had read it wrong, but there had been a brokenness deep in her eyes. One I recognized.
When the elevator door opened, I started to step out but instead came face-to-face with Mr. Blue truck once again.
“Hey,” I blurted out, surprised to see him.
He smirked as if he was amused and stepped back so I could exit the elevator. “You leaving already?” he asked.
“Yes, I just had to drop something off,” I explained then added, “thank you for earlier, at the gate.” My cheeks heated and I knew I was red. Thanks to my pale skin, any and all embarrassment was clearly broadcasted on my face.
“No problem,” he replied.
“Saul, you ready? I’m fucking starving,” a guy called out, and Mr. Blue truck turned his head toward the voice.
He had a name. His name was Saul.
“In a minute,” he replied then looked back at me.
“I swear I’m gonna take your truck and leave your ass if you don’t, well hell-ooo. Who is this?” the other guy drawled as he walked around the corner into view. His hair was as light as Saul’s was dark and his eyes were a hazel color that could be considered pretty because his eyelashes were so thick and long.
“I said I was coming,” Saul repeated.
The blond was wearing a pair of jeans that hung low on his hips, no shirt and no shoes. “I’m not in a hurry,” the guy said smiling at me. “What’s your name, sugar?”
I didn’t particularly like being called sugar, but I was in Alabama so I let it slide. “Henley,” I replied, glancing from the blond to Saul then back to the blond.
He held out his hand toward me. “Drake,” he said and I slipped my hand in his and instead of shaking mine, he lifted it to his mouth and kissed the inside of my palm.
“Jesus,” Saul muttered.
Drake grinned and winked at me. “He’s just jealous because I’m the pretty one.”
I would greatly disagree with this statement, but I would do it silently. While Drake was, in fact, nice to look at and his lashes were things Maybelline would give billions for, he was not the better looking one. However, this was neither here nor there. It did not matter. I was leaving.
“It was nice to meet you,” I said then looked at Saul. “Both of you. Thanks again.” I started to take a step to move around Drake when he moved with me.
“Wait, we were just headed to a friend’s house. There will be free food, beer, cocktails, whatever. She’ll have it. Come with us,” Drake asked.
“Drake,” Saul said his name as if it were a warning. He didn’t want me there. That stung and my deep bedded insecurities came bursting forth yet again.
“What? She’s going with me. My friend. Not yours. Fleur can’t bitch about it,” Drake replied, sounding annoyed then shot me a flirty grin.
I stood there, wanting nothing more than to get to my car and go back to Gran’s. I did not fit in with people like this and Saul knew it. Drake might possibly be drunk and not realize it just yet.
Saul was not pleased with any of this and I was taking it personally. He had been so nice up until now. “If she wants to go with you that’s her call,” he said, not sounding like it was fine at all then walked off leaving us there.
Drake turned back to me and gave me what I was sure he considered his most charming smile. “Saul can be a moody son of a bitch and when I say that I am being very literal. You have no fucking idea how literal. Ignore him. He will get a few beers in him, Fleur will lick on him some and he will be fine. Not that he is ever what one would call fucking happy. We love him anyway.”
I glanced toward the parking deck and my car. “I would need to change,” I said, thinking that might get me out of this.
“That’s fine. Are you staying here?” he asked.
“No. I had to drop something off. I’m staying in my Gran’s house on Sunset Street,” I explained.
His grin only got bigger. “No shit. That’s where Calli’s house is. We can stop by on the way.”
“My car,” I began.
“I’ll ride with you.” He glanced out at the parking deck. “I’m fairly certain Saul left me anyway.”
I was stuck.
And it sounded like I was going to the loud party house down the street. Who had parties every night? It was Wednesday for goodness grief. It was possibly the very last thing I ever wanted to do though, my good manners were making it difficult to just be rude.
“Now that we’re friends, how do you feel about blow jobs?” Drake asked me so casually, he could have been asking me if I enjoyed sweet tea.
I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Had he really just asked me how I felt about blow jobs? Who does that?
The Ford truck pulled up in front of us. “Get in. We got to go bail Rio out of jail,” Saul called out the window to Drake.
“Shit, again?” Drake asked as if this was an annoyance and a regular occurrence.
Saul nodded his head once.
‘What the fuck he do this time?” Drake asked.
“Are you comin’ or not?” was Saul’s response.
Drake glanced back down at me. “Another time, sugar,” he said, then walked away, leaving me there, which had been what I wanted in the first place. I waited until he climbed into the truck. Just as it began to pull off, Drake turned his head back in my direction and winked.
The Alabama license plate told me what I had already assumed: Saul was a local. Once they were gone, I headed toward my Mini, ready to go back to Gran’s and take a shower, eat some dinner, and read a book. My typical evening. It was free of beautiful yet strange boys one who inquired about my feelings on oral sex and one with obvious mood swings. Those two were trouble and I wasn’t here for that.
Walking back into Gran’s house, the smell of vanilla and cinnamon always welcomed me. Even after the house had been closed up the three months since Gran’s death, the house still smelled the same. Years of baking had made its mark on the place and it made it feel like she was still here. My love for baking had come from Gran.
Tomorrow I would need to make a stop at the health food store and pick up some things. Then I could begin my own baking this summer. It was my form of therapy. Gran had once told me it had been hers too.
One long hot shower later, I was eating a turkey and provolone sa
ndwich with pretzels and watching Jane the Virgin on Netflix when I heard the faint music coming from down the street. I didn’t have to look to know the party had started up. Rio must have been freed from jail and I was curious how those two were able to bail him out.
I reached for the remote and turned the volume up on the television, until I could no longer hear the sounds from down the street. Taking another bite of my sandwich, I leaned back on the sofa with my feet crossed in front of me and didn’t give Saul or Drake one more thought. At least I tried my best not to give them one more thought.
The third request on Gran’s list was my goal for the day, then I thought I might find the library and spend a few hours there. I was procrastinating and I realized that but there were only seven things on Gran’s list and yesterday I had completed two of them. This process made me feel as if I had Gran here with me. I needed to slow it down. Once I finished it, I was afraid it would feel as if she had truly left.
Standing outside Signed Sips, I held the letter in my hand that I was supposed to bring to a Mrs. Hillya Garry. Gran had said I was to tell Hillya Garry it was from Honey and that I was to wait on her to read the letter. Again, another awkward request. Thanks a lot, Gran.
Signed Sips however was interesting. From outside you could see the walls lined in books. There were thousands of books inside. In front of all the books was what looked like a coffee shop with bakery items. The place was unique as was the name. Luckily it didn’t appear to be too terribly busy at the moment.
I opened the door and instead of the smell of coffee hitting me in the face, it was the books and I decided this was the best coffee place I had ever been. Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of coffee but nothing beats the smell of a physical book that you can hold in your hands.