Millie had a splitting headache when the bus pulled into the George Washington Bridge Bus Station. Finally, they were in New York City. After twenty-eight hours from the moment Uber had dropped them off in Toledo, they’d reached their destination, weary, disheveled, and in desperate need of a hot shower.
Molly stuffed a novel and her journal in her book-bag, and stared at her phone. “Note the time,” she said handing her mother a glove she had dropped on the floor.
“Pretty amazing, huh?” Millie replied, popping three Tylenol in her mouth. It was 7:35. The exact NYC arrival time Greyhound had promised when Millie had purchased their tickets in Toledo.
Mother and daughter stood and started making their way down the aisle toward the EXIT. “Mom, remind me, when it’s safe, to post a review for Greyhound. Molly slung her book bag over her shoulder. “I think it’s a quasi-miracle, especially given the snow storm we went through.”
Millie smiled and nodded, wondering if that day would ever come.
During the last hour waiting in Newark and the thirty-minute drive to NYC, Millie had made a number of calls. The first was to Youngblood Properties, her and Molly’s new landlord. Just thinking of the 576 square foot studio apartment made Millie claustrophobic, not to mention the near-total lack of privacy. The bedroom, living room, and kitchen were inside the same four walls, thus her and Molly would be living, eating, and sleeping in one open room. The six by six foot bathroom was the sole exception. However, one bright spot was the apartment should be quiet since it didn’t face heavily-trafficked 79th street. Plus, it had floor to ceiling windows along the outer wall which should provide more-than-ample daytime light.
The Youngblood rep delivered good news and bad. The painting had been completed and Ikea had delivered their order: a set of twin beds (including sheets, pillows, pillow cases, thermal blankets, and comforters), two bedside tables, a high-back naugahyde couch and two matching arm chairs, two glass-top desks with accompanying three-caster cushioned chairs, a small pine-constructed dining room table with two matching chairs, and a starter set of pots, pans, glasses, dishes, Tupperware, and cutlery. Thankfully, the kitchen was furnished with a refrigerator, a two-burner stove, a microwave, a dishwasher, and a Keurig coffee-maker. The bad news was the central heating system wasn’t working. It would be Monday before the service company could respond but the rep assured Millie the apartment was well-insulated and should maintain at least fifty degrees unless the outside temperature dipped below zero. The bottom line was Millie and Molly had a place, a safe place, far away from Colton.
Millie had also called Catherine for an status report, hoping Colton had not contacted her again. He hadn’t. The call ended with Catherine gently reminding Millie to keep her in the loop with photos, and frequent updates on her new job.
Millie had also called Matt who, uncharacteristically, had been too busy to talk, but, had insisted she call him as soon as they arrived in New York City.
Inside the nicest bus station so far, they made a quick trip to the restroom before locating luggage pickup. While waiting, Millie ordered an UBER and dialed Matt, who, again short, asked if she and Molly were going straight to their apartment. Odd. Matt’s normally respectful, attentive, and interesting. Fifteen minutes later, a talkative, pinkish-haired Greta raced her Cadillac Escalade south on Harlem River Drive determined to deliver Molly and Millie to their new home on East 79th Street before heading to LaGuardia Airport to snag a $130 fare to Peekskill, where ever that was.
Within a minute after exiting the UBER, a boy of maybe 15 on a bicycle approached and asked if they were Millie and Molly Anderson. After showing him a photo ID he handed her a key and a business card with a four-digit code on the back. “That’s changed every month. Have a good life.” The kid said and pedaled away.
“Well, that’s efficient. The Youngblood rep had requested Millie send him a text when their bus arrived in New York City. “Yeah Greyhound, UBER, and Youngblood Properties. Now, all’s good if our home is better than expected.
The apartment building was old but well kept. The security door worked flawlessly after she entered the code in a keypad protected by a metal umbrella. Inside, the foyer smelled of new paint and the carpet was hardly worn. The elevator to the tenth floor was relatively new, having been replaced in 2016 according to the certification plaque beside the floor control panel. “This is so sterile, so unlike our home and street in Chicago.” Molly remembered what it was like before Colton moved in. Her and Millie, in spring and summer would work in the flower beds, they even had a small garden they’d created in raised planters in the small back yard.
“Baby, we knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but, as you’ve just witnessed, good things can happen.” Molly squinted and gave her mother a look wondering who this oft-negative woman is. The elevator stopped, the door opened, and Millie’s phone rang. It was Matt.
“Hey, we’re here.” Millie followed Molly to the right, down a long hall to Apartment 10-D, and handed over the key.
“Your surprise should be there in no more than ten minutes. Be sure to answer the knock. Call me later if you want.” Something was up but Millie couldn’t put her finger on it, but she’d trust Matt with her life.
Apartment 10-D was better than expected. Not only had the landlord perfectly matched the mauve paint sample Millie had mailed, the sandstone low-pile carpet was the perfect compliment. And, even better, it was new.
“Wow, I didn’t know you ordered a TV?” Molly asked setting her book-bag and suitcase beside the dining table.
Millie slowly conducted a 360 degree pirouette. “I didn’t.” She had no doubt Matt was involved.
Molly walked between the arm chairs and couch, selected the twin bed on the left, and plopped down. “Not bad. A lot firmer than mine at home.”
Before Millie could join her, there was a knock at the door. “I’m going to kill Matt. He’s lost his mind.”
“Let me get it.” Molly said, standing and racing across the room. “Practice.” Her and Millie had talked at length about the process she should use when responding to a knock at the door. “Yes, who is it?”
“Delivery” was the complete response from a high-pitched voice that sounded safe enough.
“We didn’t order anything.” Molly said, sliding the dead bolt to the right. She knew they couldn’t be too cautious.
“Miss, I’m delivering groceries from Gristedes Supermarket. They were ordered by a man named Matt Quinn. This is the address he gave.”
“Hold on just a minute.” Molly quickly grabbed her phone from the table and asked. “How do you spell that? The name of the grocery store.” After the man slowly pronounced the nine letters, Google did it’s thing and returned several listings. “That’s a real grocery store.” Molly said looking at her mother.
Millie gave Molly a thumbs up and joined her precocious daughter as she slid back the dead-bolt and opened the door.
Two large boxes were setting on the floor in front of a man about Millie’s height wearing a pair of green pants and a thick pullover gray sweater. From the exposed collar, he was wearing a yellow shirt underneath his sweater. One box was weighted down with can goods which made Millie and Molly wonder how the older gentleman could carry it and the other box at the same time. Although the other box contained lighter items such as chips, bread, cookies, several types of noodles, and large sleeves of napkins and toilet paper, it was still big and bulky. After depositing the two boxes on the kitchen counter, the man announced, “there’s more to come so don’t abandon me.”
The man with a low melodious hum made another trip, delivering two similarly sized boxes. Millie palmed him a ten-dollar bill, thanked him profusely, and closed the door.
Molly unboxed and shelved can goods in the cabinets, while Millie stuffed packages of hamburger, hot dogs, boneless chicken, two large rib-eyes, and at least a dozen frozen dinners inside the refrigerator. The pair worked together on the fourth box concluding Matt must love mayonaise, ketchup, mustard, Dale’s sauce, Ranch dressing, salsa, and dill pickles, since he sent two containers of each. He’d also included a five-pound bag of onions, ten pounds of Russett potatoes, one pound each of whole carrots, and slaw and salad mix.
“Unbelievable,” Molly exclaimed, “pretty nice Christmas present don’t you think?”
All Millie could say was, “we won’t need to buy groceries until Spring.”