“Geneviève! Get your head out of the damn clouds!”
No matter how many times Mom told him to stop, Dad still yelled every morning to make sure I was up. His daily bellow had to travel all the way up the worn wooden staircase of our pint sized townhouse, making its way to my converted attic bedroom, and I rolled my eyes while snapping shut my sketch book. My dad was under the impression that “thinking” is synonymous with “dreaming”, and “pissing your life away”.
Yeah, and he also thought beef bacon was a real “delicacy”.
I unfolded my stiff limbs from the window seat of my parents’ old brownstone and commenced in a much needed full body stretch. Time had a way of always getting away from me when I was curled up, sketching away, hence the yelling. But I’m the oldest of four, (one pain in the ass 17-year-old sister and a pair of hell raising 14-year-old twin brothers), so could you really blame me for wanting some me time? And I’d learned that the only time I was going to get any real peace and quiet was going to be that peaceful time of day right when the sun rises, and my sister hasn’t set foot out of her bed yet.
“Genevieve, I mean it, move your ass! Let’s GO!”
Ah, good old dad. Always reliable for a kick in the pants, or at least a deaf ear. Arturo “Art” Franzino, of Franzino’s Dry Cleaners, was nothing if not a hard worker, that I did have to say about my old man. But when he worked as hard as he had to work, his whole life, to open up the family dry cleaning business, (a clean one at that, no mob ties, honest), he tended to think that his “work” was more “work” than anyone else’s “work”. If any of his kids said we were tired, my father would give us a look over the top of his square wire rimmed glasses, plant one beefy fist on his hip, arch one beyond bushy eyebrow, point his calloused finger at all of us and recall one of seven bajillion stories about him being over worked and under paid, all of which started with, “Let me tell yous a thing or two, about being tired, alright?”. For some odd reason, Dad’s dream had always been to own a dry cleansers. Not so sure why he picked that as his life’s ambition, just knew that he had a passion for owning his own business that made getting up at five o’clock every morning, not seeing his bed until close on midnight some days, then getting up the next day to do it all over again, worth it to him.
Dad wasn’t a big fan of my “dreaming”, and had advised me to “pull my head out of my ass” on more than one occasion. I lamented the fact that my father thought little to nothing about my skills as an artist as I wiggled a pair of khaki pants over an ass that somehow just seemed to keep getting bigger no matter what I did or didn’t do (Like seriously, it wasn’t this unreasonable yesterday). It wasn’t that he didn’t want me to have my own dreams and ambitions, it’s just that he wanted my dreams and ambitions to mirror his own at least somewhat. I think all parents worry about which direction their kids are going to choose, and he did that and then some. Don’t get me wrong, Dad and I might argue and he may rant and rave at me while swearing I was trying to drive him to an early grave before he even hits 50, but at the end of the day I was just like him, and that’s probably what drove him crazy the most.
Sweeping my chestnut brown hair into one hand, I hunted the disaster zone that was my bathroom counter for a hair tie and was beyond grateful that the summer heat was finally being chased out by the autumn wind. It’s not that I’m messy, it’s just that I have a tendency to clean while I’m on the phone with Hannah, and when I get off the phone I don’t always know…exactly…where I put everything. Ponytail finally secure, I took a moment to clean my face, checking myself out briefly in the mirror.
This guy I was kind-of seeing, Adam, told me I didn’t look like the typical Italian girl, and I was still trying to figure out if I should be insulted by that or not. I mean, sure maybe he’s calling my looks original on one hand, but he’s also implying there’s clearly something distinctive about how the majority of Italian girls look, and that gave me pause. Hhmm. I have curves and more than my fair share of butt, enough chest not to look slutty in spaghetti strap dresses, but definitely filled out a strapless. My nose was the kind of button nose that always made people say I was “cute”, you know, not exactly gorgeous or poetry inspiring. My features were delicate, high cheek bones, no one in the family could figure out where I got my cupid’s bow lips from, and my eyes were the only thing other than my hair I was glad to get from my dad, so I was really hoping he didn’t go grey too fast. My grandfather on my dad’s side used to say I had Jack Daniel’s eyes, the color of whiskey, but my mom never liked that saying much. My mother was a little conservative at times, being as she was about as apple pie American as they come.
Sally Camp Franzino. True story, her maiden name is Sally Camp. My parents met when they were in high school, when my dad and some of his buddies went up to Maine for spring break to “get into some shit”. He saw my mom on the beach with her sister, never looked at anyone else ever again. My mom still looks at him like he’s the captain of the hockey team, when she thinks none of us are looking. Ugh, so gross. Something so sickeningly adorable about parents who still really love each other, you just wanna throw up. Married at 22 and 21 years old, just long enough for my mother to finish school so grandpa would finally let her marry my dad, my mother told my father she was pregnant with me the day after he put a down payment on Franzino’s. Story goes that he fainted, right in front of the building inspectors and everything.
My mother was petite, and gave me my delicate nose and high cheek bones, but kept her alabaster skin and blonde hair (her family is still up in Maine, and we don’t see them much. Something about marrying below her. Grandma Lacey’s crazy anyway). Those she gave to my sister. She wears sweater sets and kitten heels to mass every Sunday, and she never once put up with my father’s bullshit, which is probably why he married her. My mother was sweet, but stern, and had an amazing talent for simply tuning out anything she didn’t like. That was Mom, living in a cone of silence, her very own stress free zone. But if I had four kids like me and my siblings? I’d need a cone of silence and a pitcher of tequila.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, GENEVIEVE!”
“Art, stop screaming, it’s too early for all that!”
I heard my mother answer him as I snagged my canvas bag, shoved my feet into a pair of Toms, and made sure my Franzino’s shirt wasn’t on inside out. Back to the salt mines I go. I jogged down the stairs quickly, stepped around the twins’ hockey crap and Gwen’s ratty old backpack that Mom kept threatening to throw away. I swear I saw that thing scooting around the house, it was seriously self-sustaining.
“Ready when you are, Dad,” I muttered as I slipped past the kitchen where my mother was putting dinner for tonight into the crock-pot. It was a regular day: Dad would drop Mom off at the shop in the morning and continue on to his second job working with my uncle at his car wash, then Gwen would come into the store when she got out of school to relieve Mom, who would go pick up the twins and take them to whatever practice they had, and I simply stayed at the shop all day. Oh there was plenty for me to do: laundry, alterations, etc., but it still wasn’t the most glamorous job. When I graduated college last year, I assumed I’d be doing something more than working in my father’s shop, but apparently that’s all anyone else expected of me. My father and I fought about it a lot my first month back home, until I realized that to my dad, wanting to “be an artist” and “destroying your family legacy” were also synonyms.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there were times when it was slow as hell in the laundering business, and today just happened to be one of those days. On days like this, I parked my butt on a stool at the front counter and sketched anything that came to mind. One of my favorite things to sketch was Navy Pier and the buildings all up and down it. Some of my favorite memories as a kid are of me riding that ferris wheel, and my father chasing me up and down the pier, hair flying as I laughed. I loved Chicago. It was the best place in the world to me, and while the artist in me sometimes craved escaping and experiencing other cultures, it would always be home. That sky line, it just called to me. I put pen to paper, and was humming along to John Mayer crooning just to me through my portable stereo, when the bell over the door chimed and I looked up to see Adam strolling in.
Adam and I had been dating for about two months now I guess. I guess you’d call it dating, I mean. We’d been to the movies together, but we came separately so that one I don’t really count, even though he walked me to the “L” afterwards. He even kissed me last week, though it was quick and close mouthed, I suppose that counted. It’s pathetic, really, I’m twenty-three and my seventeen year old sister’s had more boyfriends. I didn’t have a lot of time for dating in high school, was too busy working my ass off to get a full ride scholarship to Northwestern. My parents had started a college fund for me, but that was before the surprise twins, and before the roof had to be redone, and a million other things. By the time I was a freshman in high school, it was obvious the only way I was going to go to the college and not get stuck at the community college, was if I did the work myself. So that’s what I did, sacrificing trips to the mall and playing spin the bottle in Molly Garcia’s musty basement that was the height of everything cool. Besides, I went to the same elementary, middle, and high school as everyone else who lived around me. By the time I was in high school and finally started getting a little of my now permanent boobs and butt, I had already been placed firmly in the friend zone of every boy I knew. Genevieve Franzino was reliable if you needed a partner for your English project, but she wasn’t the kind of girl you took behind the comic book store to see if she’d let you touch her boobs. Definitely not.
I’m not sure about that kiss though, I’ll have to ask Hanna. Hanna always knew what the real deal was, she’d had way more experience figuring out men than me or Gwen. Hanna’s skin was a mix between chocolatey caramel and café con leche; it was coffee, but with some cream and some extra flavor thrown in. Big almond shaped brown eyes that always caught me when I was full of shit, stacked with killer curves and lots of attitude, Hanna was a knock out and always had been. If she wasn’t my best friend, I’d hate her out of simple principal. She hit high school and it was like the same boys we’d once stormed imaginary fortresses with had never seen her before, and they all wanted to. She had more invitations to hang out behind the comic book store than she knew what to do with, I mean, she was double booked. Yeah, Hanna was a certified kiss expert, and would know exactly how to classify it.
Adam was the type of guy you brought home to your parents and they didn’t worry about you hanging out with him, he was so nice. I’d officially met him at Franzino’s of all places, when he’d come to pick up his Dad’s dry cleaning, but we had seen each other around the neighborhood for years, and had friends in common. He had a mop of blonde/brown hair that fell in choppy pieces across his forehead, he was always flipping it out of his eyes with a careless tilt of his head. Kind of cute in a puppy dog kind of way. Okay, it was super cute.
“Hey Genie,” Head toss. “What’s shakin?”
“Hey Adam,” I replied, super nonchalant like I didn’t think it was awesome that he came into the shop, even though it totally was. Jesus, almost 24 and I still felt like a kid around a hot guy. “Just you know, workin. What ah, are you up to?” I closed my sketch book quickly and straightened my shirt, trying to channel the essence of Zen.
Just. Act. Natural.
“I was just in the neighborhood you know, wanted to stop by. You ah, doing anything tonight?” He leaned casually against the counter, flipped through the few dress shirts hanging from the rack there, bagged and waiting to get picked up.
“Well I’m here until close, about 12, but, no plans after...” I trailed off, left it open for him, biting my lip.
Come on, ask me out, ask me out…
“Ohhh, well I was going to this um, thing tonight, somebody said DJ Pauly from Jersey Shore was going to be spinnin’ there so I figured why not stop in.”
“DJ Pauly D?” I blinked at him. “You’re going to see him? I mean, you actually listen to his mixes?”
Adam looked at me like I was the only person on the planet who didn’t listen to Pauly D. Yeah, right. “Well, yeah, why wouldn’t I? He’s a genius on the tables.”
Hmmm. Bad taste in music? This was definitely going on the con list. “Right, well I mean, I have to work so...damn, guess I’ll just have to miss it.” Dodged a bullet with that one.
Adam leaned across the counter towards me, my sarcasm clearly going over his head, and I almost forgot how terrible his taste in DJ’s was when I looked at his pretty blue eyes. He was so handsome, in like a boy next door kind of way. You could just tell that he was the kind of guy who settled down easy, had two point five kids and a golden retriever. “Hey, do you think you could lend me one of these fancy shirts, Genie?”
I blinked at him again, surprised. “Huh?”
“I mean, for tonight. I swear I’ll bring it back in perfect condition, you know I will. Just one of these, that no one is gonna pick up for like forever,” He gestured to the shirts hanging above and around us. “Come on Genie, didn’t you say you were the assistant manager? Well, make the executive decision.”
“I can’t, Adam, if my dad found out-”
“He won’t though,” Adam insisted. “I’ll bring it back, come on. No one will even realize it’s missing.”
I glanced up at the shirts, biting my lip. God, I didn’t want to think about what my dad would do if he knew I let someone borrow another customer’s shirts. I could just hear him going on and on about the customers trusting us and blah, blah. But it’s not really stealing, I mean, he is gonna bring it back…and it’s not like I don’t know him, I mean this was Adam we’re talking about. He was practically a boy scout.
“Swear, next time my dad gets tickets to a Childish Gambino concert, I’ll totally take you,” He threw in, and I sighed as I got up and looked through the shirts to see which one wouldn’t be missed.
“You owe me,” I called over my shoulder, and Adam grinned lazily at me. “I want a meet and greet, not just shitty nosebleed tickets.” I insisted, grabbing a light blue dress shirt that matched his eyes perfectly.
“No, let me get that other one, the dark blue one.”
I pulled that one without looking at the tag, and handed it to him with express orders not to get anything on it, and to bring it back to the shop first thing tomorrow morning.
“So what are you working on in that sketch book of yours?” Adam asked, laying the shirt across the counter and checking his watch.
“Oh nothing big, just, well a sketch of the skyline. Did you um, want to see it?”
“Whoa, really? You never show anyone what’s in that book. Lemme see.”
I was a pretty shy person. Well, it isn’t even that I’m shy, because I’ll smile at strangers and stuff, but it’s just rare for me to get close to people. Plus, I usually don’t have much time for hanging out or friends. I definitely didn’t show people my work that easily but, I mean, if I’m going to seriously date him I guess I should at least see what he thought. Hanna was always telling me that I needed to open up with guys more, get out of my shell. Impulsively, I ripped the sketch out and handed him the paper. “Here, keep it.”
Adam’s eyebrows rose. “Um, thanks, Genie, listen I gotta get going,” He stuffed my sketch in the pocket of the dress shirt, patted it, and I tried not to wince as I thought about how wrinkled it would get. Men. They wrinkle everything. “I’ll be sure to ah, look at this. See you around.”
With a kiss on the cheek and a promise to do just so, I watched Adam walk out of the shop, and immediately wondered what in the hell I’d gotten myself into.