“Ready to go?” Mowgli looks disgustingly fresh for someone who hasn’t had his eight hours of sleep. He is wearing dark brown slacks, a black button-down, and a charcoal-gray tie. In other words, he’s dashing. I refrain from rolling my eyes as he’s doing me a favor and doing it willingly. I nod, slipping my backpack-like carrying bag containing my laptop on my back, throwing my duffle bag over my shoulder then point at the garbage bag. Mowgli picks it up gracefully, and we’re out the door.
“Delilah!” Mrs. Sanderson, an old lady from across the hall, totters towards me, a smile wreathed on her wrinkled face. “I made you some chocolate éclairs!” She holds up a bag that is moist with grease. She knows that I love her éclairs even if I’m not crazy about chocolate, and she makes them for me at least once a week. “I know how much you love them.” She beams up at me—she’s five-foot nothing to my five-six. “Who’s this handsome boy? Is he your beau?”
“Mrs. Sanderson, this is Roberto. You remember him—you’ve met him before.” Mrs. Sanderson’s memory is failing as is most of the rest of her, but she remembers me and likes me for some unfathomable reason.
“Roberto?” Mrs. Sanderson squints up at Mowgli, trying to look at his face.
“Nice to see you again, Mrs. Sanderson,” Mowgli says obligingly, bending forward so she can see him better. He shifts the trash bag to his left hand and holds his right hand out. When Mrs. Sanderson places her bird-like claw into his hand, he kisses it, making her blush.
“Oh, it’s you! I remember you! You gave me a carnation once.” Mrs. Sanderson stares up at Mowgli with adoration. He’s not only kind to animals, but to the elderly and the infirmed as well.
“A lovely lady such as yourself deserves some beauty in your life,” Mowgli says gallantly. “It was the least I could do.”
“Oh, you,” Mrs. Sanderson blushes, a pleased smile on her face. “What would Mr. Sanderson say if he heard you?” As Mr. Sanderson is the same height as Mrs. Sanderson and in a wheelchair, not to mention deaf, it’s safe to say he wouldn’t say or do much of anything. “What’s your favorite pastry?”
“I love scones,” Mowgli says solemnly. Like I said, the boy has a hard on for all things British.
“I hate to break up this chat-fest,” I say, an artificial smile on my face. “But I have a plane to catch. Remember, Roberto?”
“A plane?” Mrs. Sanderson claps her hands, forgetting she’s still carrying the bag. “Where are you going, Delilah?”
“To, ah, Connecticut. My mom’s sick, and I thought I’d visit her. I’m going to be gone at least a week.”
“Oh, your poor mother!” Mrs. Sanderson says, her eyes moist. “My own daughter, Ellie, is no longer with us, but there’s no use talking about that.” She swipes her eyes with her hand. “Here.” She thrusts the bag into my hands and gives me a peck on the cheek. “Your mother is lucky to have such a good daughter.” Sure. The mother I haven’t seen since she and my father gave up on me when I was seventeen. Not that I blame them—I drove them to it. “Have a nice trip, dear. I’ll keep an eye on your place while you’re gone. See you, Roberto.” Waving to the both of us, she totters back to her apartment.
“Nice old lady,” Mowgli says cheerfully. As we go down the elevator, I tell everyone we run into the fabricated story about going to visit my sick mother in Connecticut. By the time we leave the apartment building, I’m beginning to believe it myself. Mowgli dumps the garbage before we head to our cars. “Shit, your face,” Mowgli says as he hops into his car.