We got off the train in the most unlikely of neighborhoods. There seemed to be an orchestra of car alarms going off, and a whole cast of unsavory characters loitering in doorways and standing in the middle of the streets having loud arguments. I was the fish out of water, yet Aurora could have been walking through a meadow of wild flowers. There was a skip about her walk, as if she was gliding. The sun caught her dark hair, showcasing red and caramel highlights, as tendrils of hair pulled loose and danced around her face.
I noticed the attention she got, as she strode purposefully, but there was also a great degree of respect there. A few heavily inked men leaning against an old Chevy called out to her, and she waved back, and as we turned the corner, she embraced a man I'd probably have crossed the street from at a fast pace.
'Jenson.' She smiled. 'I've got some cherry pie for you! Don't forget to come and collect it later!'
Either cherry pie was a euphemism for something else, or she was providing a wrestler sized man who reminded me of Keith David with confectionary. Had I crossed into another world?
We arrived at a large town house, the outside immaculately tended to, hanging baskets and sprays of colorful flowers decorated the exterior. This reminded me of something from a cheery daytime tv film, minus the location. I half expected a bespectacled grandma to poke her head out of the door and ask if we wanted lemonade. Aurora unlocked the front door and I must have been in my own world because she called out to me twice.
'Danny are you coming?'
I looked up the steps to find her standing on the small porch, one hand on her hip. The sight of her standing there made me laugh, I didn't know why. Maybe the absurdity of what my life had become. Why was I here? Why didn't I answer Trey's phone call and head back home.
She disappeared inside the house and I heard the tinny sound of the radio, and her off key voice as she sang along. Keith David-alike appeared again and I decided to follow her. He may like Aurora's home baked pies but I had nothing sweet to offer him and with my current track record I didn't bank on him taking a liking to me. I noticed how rickety the wooden steps were leading to the house, and on closer inspection how everything would benefit from a generous coat of paint.
As I stepped over the threshold what hit me first was how bright the place was. One wall was painted red, the fireplace surrounded with butterfly shaped lights in pinks and oranges. The opposite wall was a pale yellow, and plastered with photographs. From wall to ceiling, there were photographs of a variety of different people at Christmases and birthdays and by the sea. Then I noticed her collection of fairies. A shelving unit was stacked with glittering porcelain figurines with multi colored wings. Then I noticed a vast array of greetings cards on the window ledge. There were so many that she had tacked some along the walls where the curtains ended.
I craned my neck to read a card, but before I caught a glimpse at the text inside, Aurora appeared with a tray. She'd poured two tall glasses of what looked like milk shake, beside them sat the most mouth watering looking creations I'd ever seen.
'Is it your birthday?' I asked curiously, nodding over to the cards.
She shook her head, an amused glint in her eyes as she took a gulp of her milkshake. She lowered the glass, and I noticed the milk moustache. She made no attempt to wipe it away.
'When people give me birthday cards they write such lovely things inside, I just can't bear to throw them out. I could put them away in a box but look at them. Somebody picked out a card for me. And they wrote a message inside, maybe about a memory we share, or how they feel about me, or maybe a joke or an anecdote. They can stand up for a reason, they're supposed to be seen.'