Abigail’s neighborhood, Brentwood, was made up of quaint shops, row houses and apartment buildings. Ginny wasn’t aware of Brian’s reaction to the community until she maneuvered into a space in the apartment building’s parking lot.
“Geez. Except for the cars, I feel like we just entered a movie set for a film that depicts life in the 1950’s. I didn’t spot a house, shop or apartment building that is not at least fifty years old.”
“But did you notice how clean the streets are. I didn’t see one overflowing trash can, one beer bottle or any other litter.”
“I did notice. That’s why I said a movie set. I had no idea that so many people lived in apartment buildings. Do you think that it's because that can't afford a home?"
“No. People have different priorities. I’ve met a few people who are hesitant to take on the responsibilities that homeowners face. There are recurring repairs, electrical issues, plumbing issues, heating and cooling issues and roof issues with homes. Some people are perfectly content to remain renters, but it doesn’t mean that they are old or poor.”
“What about Abigail? Maybe she agreed to be Molly’s caregiver because she needed money.”
“Not according to Nick. She and her husband owned a neighborhood deli for years. She didn’t sell it until her husband died. That was ten years ago. She isn’t wealthy, but she has money in the bank. Nick thinks that she agreed to help out Julie because she was lonely.”
“Did Julie have an apartment in the same building?”
“She did. Abigail met her the day Julie and Molly moved into the building. Did you by any chance notice the names on the storefronts?”
He nodded. “Zsengeller, Hoffman, Varga and Horvath. The names sound Hungarian.”
“According to an article I read several years ago, more than half of the people who populate Brentwood migrated from Hungary. I only remember bits and pieces of the article, but some of the information was memorable.
“It’s ironic that you mentioned the 50’s. On Oct 23, 1956 a huge crowd of students in Budapest protested. Their complaints were primarily human rights issues. Communists were infiltrating the government, and the working class was fed up with what was happening to their country. At that time, hundreds of Hungarians migrated to the States. Several families, and friends of the families, migrated to Virginia.”
Ginny reached for the door handle. “Nick just drove in and parked. If you want to know more about Brentwood, search the New Hanover Times archives.”
Ginny was instantly drawn to Abigail; maybe because she had been such a good friend to Julie and Molly. Or perhaps it was because she resembled an eccentric aunt that she had adored. She was tall and reed-thin. She was neatly dressed in a mid-calf floral skirt and a bright pink t-shirt. Her eyes twinkled, but she looked tired. Ginny wondered if having a seven-year-old around was getting to be too much for her.
The décor of her apartment was what Ginny thought of as shabby chic. The warm patina of the mahogany furniture and the hint of lemon oil that tickled Ginny’s nostrils suggested that Abigail took pride in her home. Brightly colored afghans placed casually on the back of the sofa and on a recliner brightened the room. The butterfly designs on the hooked rug matched the colors in the afghans.
A bookcase, tucked into a corner, captured Ginny’s attention. A collection of gaily colored miniature carousels filled the top shelves; the bottom shelves were filled with leather-bound books. At first glance, Ginny assumed that the grouping of photos on the wall behind the desk were family photos, but she was mistaken. The photos were of Julie and Molly.
As soon as Nick introduced Ginny and Brian, Abigail excused herself. “You’ll want to meet Molly. Give me a minute. She’s in her room.”
She was back in moments with Molly trailing behind her. Molly’s face lit up when she saw Nick. She skipped across the room and threw her arms around his legs.
He picked her up and gave her a tight hug. “Hi there, funny face. I brought two of my friends to meet you.”
Molly patted his face. “Hi, Mr. Nick. I know. Ms. Abigail told me.”
When Nick put her down, she gazed at Brian with a puzzled expression. “My mommy told me about Ginny Roark, but she didn’t say anything about a teenager. She said that Ginny Roark had a little boy.”
“That’s because I was a little boy when your mom knew my mom.”
Ginny stooped down until she could look Molly in the eyes. “Brian and I are very happy that you are coming to our house for a visit. I liked your mom a lot. I do hope that we can be friends.”
“Mommy told me that you were her friend.”
“We were friends. We met before you were born. Did she tell you that I saw you when you were one day old?”
While Ginny and Molly were chatting, Abigail whispered something to Nick, and then slipped quietly out of the room. Nick followed.
“Ms. Abigail and Mr. Nick are going to serve refreshments. She does that when guests come. She made cookies for you this morning.”
“That was kind of her. Were you a good helper?”
She nodded. “I like to help. When my friend Emily comes over, Abigail lets us both help. Emily thinks that she makes the best cookies in the whole wide world. She made some for Mr. Nick one time, and he said they were a rare treat.”
The rest of their visit was pleasant, but there was an underlying tension that Ginny attributed to the ambiguity of Molly’s future. When good-byes were said, Abigail slipped a folded piece of paper into Ginny’s hand. When she opened the note later that evening she smiled. Typical mothering. Abigail had listed some of Molly’s likes and dislikes.
For most of the drive back to Archdale, Molly stared out the car window. Brian make an effort to draw her into conversation but she was unresponsive until he mentioned pets.
“What kind of pet do you have.” She asked.
“A macaw. Do you what a macaw is?”
“A talking bird, silly. Mommy and I used to go to a pet shop that had a macaw. His cage was right by the front door. When customers came into the shop, Joe would say ‘Hello friend.’ When customers left he would say ‘Come back.’ What’s your macaw’s name?”
“His name is Mac. He can talk, but he’s moody. If he’s having a bad day he’ll tell you to go away. On a good day his vocabulary improves. He likes company, so feel free to talk to him any time you want to.”