Home > Everything Leads to You(8)

Everything Leads to You(8)
Author: Nina LaCour

“Thanks,” I say.

“Anytime I can save you from making yet another terrible mistake with that girl please let me know,” she says. Which is a little harsh, but something I probably deserve.

“Did the old people call you?” I ask.

“No. I wanted to wait for you before trying again.”

I hop out of my car and cross around to hers. She puts her phone on speaker and dials. It rings. We wait. And wait. And then an old man’s loud voice says hello.

“Hi,” Charlotte says. “I’m sorry to bother you. I left you a message this morning. My name is—”

“Hey, Edie!” the man yells. “It’s that girl from this morning! Calling us back!”

Charlotte and I widen our eyes in amusement.

“Now,” Frank says. “I couldn’t quite make out your phone number in the message. Yes! The girl from this morning! Let me see if I can find what I wrote down. Tell me the number again?”

Charlotte tells him.

“Oh,” he says. “Two-four-three. I thought you said, ‘Two-oh-three.’”

“Actually, it is two-oh-three.”

“Two-four-three, yes.”

“Actually—”

“And your name one more time, my dear?”

“Charlotte Young. I was wondering if you had any information—”

“Yes, dear! We had the number wrong! And her name is Charlotte!”

I’m trying my hardest not to laugh but I can see Charlotte becoming serious. She switches off the speakerphone and holds it to her ear.

“Frank? Sir?” she asks. “Will you be home for a little while? I have some questions that might be better to ask in person.”

I wait.

“Okay. Yes. Hello, Edie. My name is Charlotte. Charlotte. Yes, it’s nice to talk to you, too.”

~

Frank and Edie are waiting for us on their porch when we arrive in Charlotte’s car. It took us a little over an hour to get there and I wonder whether they’ve been waiting this whole time, frozen in positions of expectancy.

“Now, which one of you is Charlotte?” Frank says.

“Don’t answer!” Edie says. “Don’t say a word, girls. I am an excellent judge of people. Let me guess.”

She peers at us. Her hair is a purple poof, like cotton candy. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be brown or if she’s getting wild in her old age.

“You,” she says to me. “Are Charlotte.”

I shake my head.

“Emi,” I say, and hold out my hand.

She scoffs, says, “You look like a Charlotte,” but her eyes have this fun glimmer.

Frank towers over her, surveying us through thick glasses.

“Come on in, girls,” he says. “Come on in.”

Inside, we sit on a plastic-covered maroon sofa with People magazines stacked up beside us, cookies and lemonade arranged on the coffee table. This elderly couple having us into their living room, serving us snacks with the fan blasting and the screen door flapping open and shut—it’s so sweet, almost enough to take my mind off Morgan.

“I hope you like gingersnaps,” Edie says. She thrusts a finger toward Frank. “He got ginger cookies. I said I wanted plain.”

“They didn’t have plain.”

“How could they not have plain?”

“You were with me, dear,” he says. “Lemon. Oreo. Maple. Ginger. No plain.”

She shakes her head.

“Crap,” she says. She lifts a cookie and eats it. “Crap,” she says again. And then she takes another.

“Do you live in the neighborhood?” Frank asks us.

“I live in Westwood,” Charlotte says.

“Santa Monica,” I say.

“Santa Monica!” Edie says. “Our son, Tommy, lives in Santa Monica. You may know him. Tommy Drury?”

I shake my head. “No,” I say. “He doesn’t sound familiar.”

“He’s a lovely boy,” Edie says.

“He just turned sixty!” Frank says. “He’s not a boy!”

“He’s my boy. Do you shop at the Vons on Wilshire?”

“Um,” I say. “I guess. I mean, my parents do.”

“It’s a good Vons,” Frank says.

“A nice deli section,” Edie agrees. “But too crowded.”

Charlotte compliments them on the lemonade (“Straight out of the box!” Edie confides) and then says, “We’re looking for a former tenant of yours. Caroline Maddox.”

“Who?” Frank turns to Edie, and it’s only then that I notice his hearing aids.

“Caroline Maddox,” Edie shouts.

“Oh yes, Caroline.” Frank nods.

“You remember her?” Charlotte asks.

“Yes, of course!” Edie says. “She was a very nice girl. Very nice. But she had troubles. The drugs and the men and that baby.” She shakes her head. “What a shame.”

Frank says, “Yes, yes. You girls must have noticed that the hedges around the path are all overgrown.” He says it so apologetically. “Caroline, she used to take care of those for us. It was years ago and I worked during the days and dealt with apartment business at night. Caroline, she helped us with some of the chores.”

“For reduced rent,” Edie adds.

“Do you know where she is?” Charlotte asks. “Or where she moved to after she left the apartment?”

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