Face, Meet Sidewalk

Violet Meets Dave

Posted on: May 24, 2011

The cab dropped Violet at the end of her driveway. It was difficult to get out of the warm car. The air was frigid and it was dark, although at this time of year it got dark almost before she left for her bridge game. She was grateful for the spikes on the end of her cane as they bit into the icy sidewalk leading up to her house. Ever since she’d broken her hip a year or so ago she hadn’t been so steady on her feet. The extra cup of tea at bridge hadn’t helped, either. Thank goodness she’d canceled the visit from the home care nurse tonight – that nosy old bat would have been sure to say something about her blood sugar. But who could stand that chemical sweetener? Sugar was the only real way to drink tea.

It was not until she had almost made it to the front door that she noticed something was amiss. The door was splintered at the deadbolt and a small piece of plywood had been screwed across the broken part. Violet’s heart began to race painfully. She had lived in this house for 62 years, and never once had she been robbed.

She looked back down the driveway, but the taxi was long since gone. What to do? Should she go in? What if they were still there? The street was deserted and still in the chill winter night. She started to shiver, but she wasn’t sure if it was with cold or fear.

From down the street, she heard an engine coming closer. A vaguely familiar car pulled up at the curb a few houses away and idled for a moment before falling silent. A young man got out and hurried down the sidewalk, away from Violet’s house. She had seen him before, maybe at the store, or walking past the house. He lived in the apartment building around the corner.

It was eleven at night and no one else was around. She was scared to go into her house. After deliberating for a split second, she called out in a shaky voice.

“Young man!”

He looked around, obviously unsure of what he had heard.

“Over here!” she called again, and began walking cautiously toward him, ready to whack him with her cane if this turned out to be a bad decision.

He noticed her, and she watched him shift from suspicion to wary curiosity when he realized it was an old lady hollering at him.

“Hi,” he said hesitantly, staying carefully just out of striking distance of Violet’s cane.

“I think my house has been broke into,” she said.

He looked confused. She half expected him to ask what she wanted him to do about it. To her immense relief, he nodded once and shifted his weight toward her and the house behind her.

“Do you want me to take a look?” he asked.

Gratefully, she smiled. “Would you mind?” Suddenly he looked less like a thug and more like the son she never had.

“No, I don’t mind,” he said.

As they approached the house together, Violet realized that one small fragment of her mind was utterly furious with the fact that she was at the mercy of this stranger. She did not know him from Adam, yet here she was, letting him into her house.

On the other hand, the larger part of her was extremely grateful he had come along when he did. She had not really had time to consider what she would do, alone, late, without one of those cell phones everyone else seemed to have… and ever since that boy fell through the ice, she had been avoiding most of the neighbours to save herself the awkward conversations. It would be would be a large lump of pride to swallow to have to go and ask them for help now.

The young man climbed the porch step and looked at the splintered door. “What…?” he started, obviously confused by the splinters and the plywood patch.

“When did this happen?” he asked.

“It was fine when I went to bridge at 6:30 tonight,” she replied.

He rattled the knob. It came off in his hand. Violet laughed involuntarily, a harsh cackle of poorly suppressed hysteria. She covered her mouth quickly, embarrassed.

The door remained firmly closed. The man looked at her.

“What do you want to do?” he asked. “I have a phone, I could call the police for you.”

“I don’t know,” Violet wrung her hands. “Do you think we should?”

Somehow, this stranger had become her lifeline. At this moment, she would have walked into the creek behind the house if he’d told her to.

“Well, let me try one more time,” he said, leaning his shoulder against the door and applying some pressure.

The wooden frame splintered with a crack and gave way, just as the next-door neigbour’s porch light snapped on and his front door opened.

“Violet!” called Gus, the neighbour. “Are you alright?”

Gus was obviously just heading for bed. He stepped across the icy yard in his robe and slippers. Irritation and profound embarrassment flashed through Violet, tempered only by the thought that maybe Gus wasn’t just a shameless cultivator of dandelions, but someone who was actually concerned about her.

“Yes, Gus, I’m fine,” she replied, not really trying to keep the irritation from her voice. Why did people insist on referring to her by her first name? Where Violet came from, people usually showed more respect to their elders than that.

The young man shifted behind Violet and she turned her attention back to him for a moment. He looked extremely uncomfortable, as if he was trying to decide whether to defend Violet, or run away.

“What’s your name, young man?” she asked quietly.

“Uh… Dave,” he responded.

“Very well, Uh Dave,” she drawled with momentary sarcasm. “Would you mind staying here for just another moment?” She glanced subtly in Gus’s direction.

Dave nodded, and looked uneasily toward Gus.

She turned back to the neighbour, who was by now nearly at the porch. His hairy white legs stuck out from under his robe. He looked positively frozen already.

He waved an envelope at Violet.

“Your home care nurse was here earlier, and when you didn’t answer the door, she thought you were dead or something,” Gus said. “She called the fire department and they broke down the door. You weren’t there.”

Another bolt of embarrassment shot through Violet. She wondered if her red face was glowing in the dark.

“I most certainly was not there. And I am very much alive, obviously!” Violet said indignantly. What on earth would the neighbourhood be saying about her now? She would be having a talk with that nurse tomorrow – not only did they come when she had canceled, they broke down her door, and now everyone on the block, including this nice young man, Dave, was it? knew she had home care. God only knew what that woman had told Gus about why she needed it! And how many neighbours now had another reason to pity the decrepit old widow!

“Well, er, yes,” Gus agreed. “Obviously.” He thrust the envelope at her. “Here – this is the note they left you. They asked me to give it to you when you got home. I’ve been watching for you for hours.”

“Thank you,” she said dismissively, ignoring the subtle rebuke. Who was Gus to tell her when she could come and go? Fury ate at her as she turned back to Dave and the shattered door. Her hands shook and the envelope slipped out of her gloved fingers and fluttered to the ground. Tears of shame and frustration pricked at her eyes. Dave quickly bent and picked it up, and handed it to her. If she was going to choose one of these men to ask for help, it was going to be the kind stranger before the nosy old busybody, hands down.

“Goodnight, Gus,” she added as an afterthought, trying to cover her humiliation with suitable gratitude. Her voice quivered and she could not bring herself to look Gus in the eye. “You should get inside before you freeze.”

“Ok, then,” Gus replied hesitantly. “Do you need a hand getting inside?”

“No, thank you, Gus,” she said. “My friend Dave here will help.”

She turned back to Dave. “Shall we?”

She heard Gus mumble something and crunch back across the snow to his own house. Dave opened the door and held it while Violet entered the vestibule.

There were wet footprints everywhere. Violet fought tears again.

“Can I help you clean up a little?” Dave asked kindly, seeing her dismay at the mess.

“No, that’s fine,” Violet said. She shook her head to clear it, set her face in a hospitable mask, and looked at Dave. “Would you care for a cup of tea?”

Dave smiled. His nose was pink from the cold outside. “I would love one,” he said. “Why don’t you make it while I fix your door enough that it will close? You can call to have it repaired tomorrow.”

She hadn’t even thought of that. Gratitude toned her embarrassment. “That would be lovely,” she said. “I have tools in the basement.”

Fifteen minutes later, the floors were wiped, the door was sealed against the cold, and the tea was brewed. Violet and Dave sat at the worn Formica table in the kitchen.

“One lump or two?” she asked, passing the sugar bowl.

A man after her own heart, he plunged the little tongs into the bowl. “Two, please, thank you, Mrs…” He trailed off.

Violet clapped her hands in surprise. “We’ve never been properly introduced!” she realized. “I am Mrs. McLean. But you can call me Violet.”

They clinked their china teacups together, and Violet felt better for the first time all night.

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2 Responses to "Violet Meets Dave"

This is great! Love the writing; keep it coming!

I like how the stories always turn out way different then I think!

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