Ophelia Williams stepped out onto the balcony that jutted out from her small but efficient apartment. Looking up and down the street from the raised first floor of the building she had the vantage point she liked. Sophie, a friend who lived two stories up from her thought her longtime buddy had rocks in her head.
The friend couldn’t understand the attraction of being where people on the street could speak so freely to her, let along could burglarize her home. Howbeit, Sophie readily agreed it was better than the garden level. They were dark and depressing, not letting in the natural light. Those units were like being in a dungeon.
Ophelia had been renting her home on twenty-sixth avenue for five years. It was better than what she had before, with the grocery store two blocks away, the bus stop at the farther corner, the subway at the nearer one, and a three-block walk to the park where the recreation center resided. As far as she was concerned, the location was perfect for a woman past her prime.
Leon trudged up the seven steps to the front door of the apartment building hugging a bag of groceries in each arm.
“Give me a minute, Leon, and I’ll open that door for you.” She hurried inside, stuffed her key in her pants pocket, and rushed out the door into the dimly lighted hall. The door closed behind her with a smack.
Standing sideways to let Leon pass, she asked, “Didn’t you just go on Monday?”
He gingerly maneuvered the stairs going down to the garden level. Reaching the bottom, he finally answered, “Having my daughter and the grandkids over. They like my spaghetti. The only ingredient I had in the apartment was the Parmesan cheese.”
The breeze from the street rushed in, ruffling Ophelia’s short wavy hair. She brushed the silver curls back away from her face as she strode up the five steps to the first floor. Before taking that last step, she turned towards the railing and said, “Tell Linda hello for me.”
She nodded even though she didn’t really hear his faint muddled reply and continued down the hall to her doorway. She glanced at the oval mirror hanging on the wall of her living room near the door she entered. She glared at the jowls developing on either side of her face. She pivoted and headed for the bathroom. The counter was clear except for two jars of cream, some liquid makeup, powder blush, an eyelash wand, and some beauty cleanser. She carefully opened one of the jars. Darn, almost forgot. She tucked what hair she could get behind her ears and filled the basin with warm water. After washing her face, she opened the other jar of cream and sparingly applied it to her face. She took a little of the cream she had originally opened and smears it on her jaw-line.
Why am I doing this. I haven’t dated anyone, nor do I plan to. Jerry’s been dead for nine years and I rather like my single life. So what’s with this trying to keep up appearances?
With her face made up, she stood at her closet doors, still in her capris and button-down shirt she had put on after her shower earlier, deciding what to wear to the meeting at the art center. The seconds on the clock sitting on her nightstand conspicuously ticked in the otherwise silent bedroom. It beckoned her attention. She twisted her body around to peer at the dial. Still have over an hour. Her look grazed pass the window.
She saw it. She knew she saw it. Yet her body continued to swivel around to face the closet again.
The long multi-colored A-line skirt, the cream silk blouse, and the black blazer were determined to be the best for the occasion. She hung them carefully on the rack next to her chest of drawers. She pulled off what she had been wearing and tossed them onto the one chair in the room. After all under garments were on, she slipped on the blouse, and then the skirt.
The sirens blazed outside the window. There were shrill voices added to the sound of another discharge.
Ophelia skated into her slippers and pulled the open blinds up to see the street below. A young woman laid on the sidewalk. Blood flowed to the gutter. A police officer looked up at her and motioned her to her balcony at the adjacent room.
“Ma’am, did you see any of this?” he said taking off his cap.
You ass! Why didn’t you go to the window and peek throw those blinds?! “I didn’t see much. I’ll tell you what I can though.”
The man climbed the stairs to the apartment building door. The buzzer went off and he enters. Mounting the few stairs, he saw her at her front door.
“Would you like coffee or tea?” Old habits she learned growing up still abided within her.
“No Ma’am, but thanks. What did you see?” he asked as he turned on the mini recorder.
“I didn’t see the woman until afterwards, but I did see the man’s head and shoulders. I was standing on the other side of the room though.”
She motions to the bedroom.
“Do you wear glasses?”
“Yes, to read. After all these years, I’m still farsighted. Anyway, he had a black baseball cap on, and it looked like the hair peering out at the bottom was black, or at least dark. His skin was tan.”
“Was there an emblem on the cap?”
“Don’t know. He was standing looking up the street.” She uncrossed her legs while in the chair she chose to sit in. She leaned forward slightly. “Officer, I didn’t see a weapon, but I did see the angle of his right shoulder. It was positioned as if he was pointing at something in front of him.”
“Good observation. Did you see which way he went?”
“Sorry, no I didn’t. I saw him seconds before I heard the bang. I was look out from across the room when the bang exploded, you know. Then I turned away. Nothing registered until I heard the sirens. I’m so sorry.”
He reach across from where he sat and touch her hand for a brief moment. “What color was his shirt?”
“It was a green t-shirt, the kind of green the military wear with fatigues.”
“Thank you for your help, ma’am. We may be calling you. Just so I have it, what is your name?”
She obliged him with name and phone number.
Opening the door, he plopped his hat on his head and strode toward the entrance.
Ophelia continued to sit. Her mind was void of conscious thought.
It took her a full ten minutes to get her mind in gear again. She made her way to the bedroom and peered at the clock. Still have time. She kicked her slippers off, pushing them under the bed. Using the wall for support, she slipped into the black pumps. After adorning the look with the blazer, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door.
There was still some bustle on the street, but the lookers had vanished. The officer she had spoken to waved at her as she hurried to the subway.
“Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as think.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson