Chapter Five: The Arrival
It was just after sundown that Zorell and Leland reached Chicago. Never having been to the big city before she was a little overwhelmed by what she was seeing. Even when she was away at nursing school she was living in a smaller city. She was surprised that so many people were out at night. She would have thought that there would be less, and she thought back to all the stories her father told her about how horrible the city was at night, and how dangerous it could be. Perhaps he wasn’t exaggerating, after all. Even still, she was excited to be there. Leland gave her the directions to his apartment building, and she followed the path he instructed.
“So, this is where you’ve been living the past year,” Zorell said, looking at the drab building. She said it in a teasing manner.
The city was full of people who lived in buildings like this. Only the truly rich had full houses, and they were usually located outside of the city. She figured that she would be living in one of these buildings before long. She was excited about it, but just hoped that she didn’t have any loud or obnoxious neighbors.
“It’s nicer than you think,” he said, after she had parked his car in the back lot. He led her to the back entrance and down the hall where the elevator was located. They waited for the small wooden and metal box to open.
“Hello, Stan,” Leland said and looked over to see an old man with a grayish white beard. He as dressed in a simple gray suit.
He looked a little tired and worn down, but Zorell couldn’t tell if it was just from a long day at work, or was it just old age creeping up on him. He had a beard that went down to his chest, and to Zorell he looked like he could have been Santa Clause, but that was just the image that most people thought of as Father Christmas.
She hesitantly stepped inside not really liking the idea of an elevator. When she was away at nursing school, she read in the paper about a horrific elevator accident at an expensive hotel where a sixteen-year-girl and her mother were killed when a wire snapped and sent them plummeting to their death. She wasn’t one to give into paranoia, but it just was not the way she envisioned her own death.
She stood as still as she could, not wanting to do anything that might cause the elevator to malfunction. Leland looked over at her and saw her face go pale. She didn’t like anyone seeing her like that, but right now she felt so vulnerable. It was a feeling that she loathed.
He took her hand and squeezed gently. He knew of her fear of tiny enclosed spaces and gave her comfort quietly and discretely. He didn’t say a word, not wanting to embarrass her in front of a stranger. She let out a breath once the partially wooden and metal contraption stopped.
The man called Stan opened the doors, and she quickly exited without hesitation. She felt a little shaky and weak after the ride, but she managed to come back to her senses while Leland led her to his apartment.
Being an unmarried woman on her way to a man’s apartment who was also unmarried, was not the act of a proper young lady, but Leland was indeed a relative even if only by marriage.
“Here we are,” he said and led her inside. He did the gentlemanly thing and carried her suitcase as well as his own. He set one of the suitcases down so he could open the door. She walked in and looked around curious and observed how a bachelor lived.
The living space was small, having only a small sofa, with a lamp on a small table with a set of matching chairs. On the other side was a radio and phonograph and saw he had a small collection of records stacked on a shelf next a phonograph. He also had a collection of books on the two-tier shelf as well as a tall potted plant on the other side of the room. She could tell it was a hyacinth plant with small white blooms. She had kept a few of those herself over the years but was forced to get rid of them. Her father complained that they made too much of a mess when the blooms fell off.
There was also a long red velvet curtain that blocked the windows behind the sofa and wooden hand carved long table that sat in front of the sofa. It seemed to her not to be Leland’s taste and she wondered if it was Shanee who picked that piece out.
“It is nice here,” she said as she turned to him. “Except for the elevator.”
He let out a laugh at that. Zorell considered herself to be strong and independent, but she feared something as simple as an elevator. She usually avoided them when she did encounter them, which were only times when she was able to visit nearby cities.
When she was at nursing school, she lived at a boarding house where her room was in the third floor, but in that instance, she used the stairway. She was teased by her follow nursing students about her phobia. She could deal with a dying patient with open wounds with blood flowing out if every pour, but not a wooden and metal contraption held by a few wires.
In this incidence, she couldn’t avoid it and put her fear aside if only barely. She didn’t like showing weakness, but Leland already knew of her phobia. Two of her brothers Zach and Trevor would always tease her about it, but Devlin and Leland never did. Everyone had some kind of fear, and this was just something she had to deal with.
“It’s at least a few hours before we can go to the hospital, so why don’t you get some sleep?” she asked, but Leland looked restless and anxious.
“Why can’t we go now?” he asked, but Zorell looked at him like he knew it should be obvious.
“Because the sun as not yet come up and the doctors and nurses are not going to admit visitors in the middle of the night,” she said and sat down on the sofa with him. Her argument was rational, but he was not in a state to see logic.
“I know you’re right, but I just want to see her,” he said and looked over towards the other side of the room.
He was staring at a painting. Zorell didn’t know why she didn’t notice it before. It was of a young woman with red hair and the most hypnotic green eyes she had ever seen. She wore a half smile and was dressed in white.
“Is that her?” Zorell asked, as she stood up and walked over to the painting. She turned back to see that Leland nodded in answer to her question. “She’s very beautiful.”
“The most beautiful girl in the world,” he said and forced a smile. “Last year she had that painting done and gave it to me as a birthday present. After she left me, I thought if getting rid of it, but I just couldn’t.”
“I can understand why,” she said, still not able to take her eyes off the painting. “Despite the fact that she broke your heart you still love her.”
“I can’t help it,” he said and she turned to him, and anyone else would think he was foolish for pining over a woman, even one this beautiful.”
“Don’t feel ashamed, Lee,” she said and came back over to where he was sitting. She stood there as he looked up at her. “Not everyone is lucky enough to find a love like that or any love at all. Don’t be embarrassed about how you feel.”
“Thanks, Zorell,” he said, she felt a sudden exhaustion come over her. He noticed it right and away and stood up fearing that she might fall over. “Why don’t you get some sleep too? You can have a rest in the bedroom.”
“You need rest as well, and I wouldn’t think of taking your room,” she said, but he put his hand over her mouth to stop her from saying anything more.
“Being your host, I must insist,” he said and took her hand and led her towards the bedroom. “I’ll sleep out here on the sofa.”
“That little thing,” she said, pointing to the small davenport that couldn’t even accommodate her size.
“I’ve slept in worse places,” he said, and she couldn’t argue that fact.
“Alright, you win,” she said and held up her hands in defeat. “Just promise me that you’ll get some rest.”
“I will, now go,” he said, as he opened the door to let her inside.
She walked through the bedroom door and discovered something she wasn’t expecting. She looked around and saw that the bed was positioned in the center to the back wall that had red silk sheets adorned atop it with two plush pillows matching the comforter. She was surprised by the red and white fringe around the pillows and guessed that had been the female influence in his life.
There was a large translucent white curtain overlaying some red silk drapes covering the back wall of the room behind the bed. There was a small dresser made of tiger oak angled in the corner with a square mirror rounded at the edges. The top of the mirror had a wood carving that looked like a crown. On top of the dresser were a collection of pictures in frames. Some of the faces in the pictures she recognized and some she did not. She saw a picture of herself with Leland and Devlin. She stood in the middle between the two young men smiling. She thought back to when this picture was taken, and it dawned on her that this was right before she left for nursing school. It was in a silver frame that had a rounded design in the middle of each side except for the bottom. She felt the material and guessed that it was real silver and quite expensive.
She also saw a picture of the woman she believed was the woman in the painting. It made sense that he would have a picture of Shanee on his dresser. The frame was in gold and seemed to shimmer in the dim light of the room. She looked around to see some from his childhood posing with his two sisters, his father and even his mother. In each photograph, he looked happy and content. She wished she had more pictures herself and her family being like that, but there was a big difference between the Deprees and the Freemans.
She scanned the pictures further until there was one in particular that caught her eye. It was one of Leland with another man. They were standing side by side smiling into the camera, and she assumed that it was one of his city friends.
The man had dark wavy hair, but it was not overly shiny that looked like it was not deliberately slicked back. It was softer and more natural. His eyes were dark and even in a black and white picture she imagined that his eyes were very dark and haunting. There was a sparkle in his smile, and she wondered what kind of man he really was. The picture had her entranced for a few minutes, until she realized that she was actually tired. She put the picture back but positioned it so she could see it from the bed that she was about to sleep in. She changed into her night clothes and crawled into the large bed. She fell asleep staring at the picture, until her eyes finally closed with that image imbedded into her subconscious.
Just as the sun rose there was a ringing coming from the telephone. Leland was still sleeping in a somewhat strange position, and his body reacted to the sound by falling onto the floor. Still startled he raised his head up to see where the noise was coming from. Once he located it, he crawled over to the phone and picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” he shakily spoke into the receiver and heard the operator on the line.
“You have a call from Gavin Lorio,” a very professional female voice came through. “May I connect you?”
“Yes, please,” he said anxiously and sat up on the floor. He waited with anticipation not having heard from his old friend in quite some time.
“Lee, is that you?” he heard his old friend’s voice on the other line.
“Yes, I just got into town last night,” he said and looked over at the painting of Shanee. His thoughts became hazy thinking back to the happy times to once had. “How is she?”
“When I saw her yesterday, she was in bad shape, but still hanging on,” Gavin said and then cleared his throat. “I thought you would have come sooner than this. I sent that letter weeks ago, and I only did it because when I tried to call your father’s house, he said that didn’t wish to speak to me.”
“That’s not true,” he said in astonishment. “If my father told you that, it was a lie, and that letter you sent. I did even see it until two days ago at my sister’s wedding. I never would have seen it if it wasn’t for Zorell fishing it out of the trash.”
“Who’s Zorell?” Gavin asked in confusion. “Don’t tell me you have another sister you never told me about.”
Leland chucked and shook his head. “No, old friend, she’s my brother-in-law’s sister,” he said, and he heard Gavin give a long breath.
“Oh, I see,” he said with some coyness in his eye. “So, the girl likes to go through discarded waste looking for treasure.”
“Not actually, Gav, and she’s a grown-up woman who overheard what my father did, and only wanted to help me,” Leland said and lifted himself off the floor. He picked up the telephone base and paced around the room looking over at the bedroom room where Zorell was sleeping. “She came here with me.”
“Oh, is that so,” Gavin said, his voice rising a little. Leland knew what that meant. Gavin had always been a skirt chaser, but he was definitely not Zorell’s type.
“Forget about it, Gavin,” Leland said, trying to keep is voice down. “She only came with me to help me out, and she’s going to be working at the hospital in a few weeks… as a nurse.”
Gavin let out a breath and after a few seconds spoke again. “So, are you going to the hospital today?” Gavin asked, but it was a question he didn’t need to ask.
“As soon as Zorell is awake and visiting hours at the hospital start,” he said and walked over to the sofa and sat down.
“Then I’ll meet you there,” Gavin said and gave a long breath. “I’ve been there most every day since the accident.”
“Thank you for looking after her,” Leland said and closed his eyes tight. “She can’t die, Gavin. She just can’t.”
“What she needs is a reason to live, and you and only you can give her that,” Gavin said in soft voice.
“I’ll do whatever I have to,” Leland said, his hand shaking as he held the receiver.
“Visiting hours start in about two hours, so I’ll see you down there,” Gavin said as Leland listened closely. “It’s the second floor, the women’s trauma wing.”
“Thanks, pal,” he said, then removed the receiver from his ear. He held it in his hand, tossing it from hand to hand like a toy.
At that moment. Zorell came out of the bedroom wearing a white robe. Sleep was still in her eyes, and her face was pale and her hair was a mess. “Did I hear a telephone ring?”
“That you did,” Leland said, and he still had the receiver in his hand. He heard a female voice on the line. He then realized he hadn’t hung it up. “Sorry, operator, I finished.” He hung it up and looked over at his house guest. “I’m surprised the telephone company hasn’t turned it off.”
“Why would they do that?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest.
“I haven’t paid the bill since I left two months ago,” he said, looking embarrassed.
“We’ll take care of it, and I’ll be moving out today so you can have your bed back,” she said in a lighter tone. “Now, I’m going to take a shower, and then I’ll make breakfast, okay?”
“No, I’ll make breakfast while you go get washed up, and as for moving out, not until we find you a proper place.” She tried to speak up, but he raised up a hand. “That’s not up for negotiations.”
“Fine, but I’ll start looking today,” she said and headed towards a washroom to freshen up.
He gave a smile, knowing she was going to be stubborn about it. Well, he could be just as stubborn. He owed her for telling him the truth, and he was going to make sure she was in a place she was safe, and if that meant staying with him, then that was what he would insist on.
Leland’s bathroom was small, but adequate for her daily morning ritual. All she needed was a hot shower. When she walked in, she saw a round sink with an oval shaped mirror hanging above it next to a white porcelain toilet. It was adequate, much better than the cheap motel they stayed in the night before.
She noticed the green and blue peacock design, and it didn’t seem like Leland’s taste and wondered if it was in fact Shanee who influenced the décor. Perhaps he had come back to his parents’ home because it was too painful to be in this apartment and be bombarded by all these memories constantly.
She turned on the shower hoping for some hot water. It took a while, but it did warm up. She slipped off her robe and nightgown and stepped in and stood under the water. She washed her hair with the bottle of shampoo she found in the small cabinet by the toilet.
Once she was satisfied that she was clean enough, she stepped out and used one of the towels to dry off. She thoroughly dried her hair using one of the bathroom towels, which made her hair curl up even more. She used her comb to smooth the curls down and pinned her hair back to the side.
She had brought a change of clothes in with her and slipped on her silk stockings and undergarments. She decided to wear her blue dress which was casual but still dressy. It was a simple style that was knee length with a belt around the waist. It was embroidered with a flower design that traveled across the front and down to the belt that was sown in at the waist. It was sleeveless, but she had a blue jacket that complimented the dress perfectly.
She walked out of the bathroom, when she smelled something delicious. She just wondered when Leland had learned how to cook. “Something smells good,” she said as she walked into his small kitchen. She was barefoot in her stockings and the slick floor made her slide right to the table, where he had to plates set down with freshly cooked bacon and an omelet on each plate.
“So where did you get the food?” she asked, thinking that he didn’t have the time to take a trip to the market.
“My neighbor down the hall,” he said and poured two glasses of juice. Zorell sat down in the wooden chair. “Somehow, it’s all over the building that I was back and she came to my door with a bag a food. She is like a mother to everyone in the building.”
“It must be nice to have someone to look after you like that,” she said and took a sip of the juice that sat in the glass that was placed next to her plate.
She didn’t realize before now how hungry she was and devoured the food in record time. She saw the clock hanging on the wall. She could hear the faint ticking with the pendulum swinging back and forth within its wooden and glass case. She loved the design and thought it looked like a miniature grandfather clock.
“It’s almost nine,” Leland said as he turned to see the time. There as an anxious look on his face, even more so than the night before.
“Then we better getting going,” she said and looked at her plate to see her omelet was only half eaten. She took another bite and quickly finished it off. Leland had waited long enough to see his beloved Shanee, and she didn’t wish to delay his reunion with her.
She walked into the living room where she found her shoes and quickly put them on. He waited for her to finish off her dressing for the outing. She grabbed her purse, and they both left the apartment together. Leland was suddenly nervous as they reached his car and hesitated opening the door to enter.
Zorell walked over to the driver’s side door and touched his hand. “I’ll drive.”
He looked up at her and saw that sympathetic look in her eye. He didn’t argue the fact and simply handed her the key. She opened the door and got in and waited for him to enter the car. They drove off, their journey almost coming to an end.