Izza had just lit a cigarette when Allie came through the doors.
“Hey,” she greeted shyly.
“So, where are we going?” Izza asked, blowing out a stream of smoke through her pursed lips.
Allie looked a little cautious as she eyed the snow-covered pavement in front of them. She tried to come up with some way of avoiding bringing her home when she realized the perfect solution. “My brother and sister are in this afterschool program at the library. I’m supposed to pick them up, but maybe we could start working on the assignment there?”
“Okay,” Allie repeated, happy that she had thought of a way out of bringing Izza home with them as she led the way to the L.
It proved to be more than a little difficult though, focusing on the assignment with a bunch of kids running around. Davie, Allie’s 13-year-old brother kept nagging them for when they were to leave, wanting to go home and play computer games. It ended when he stormed away angrily, calling Allie a bad name. Allie’s 11-year-old sister Corie, proved to be just as distracting. She seemed very fascinated by Izza, staring at her nonstop with her big brown eyes. And every time Izza returned Corie’s gaze with brows wrinkled in confusion over her staring, Corie would ask questions about Izza. It didn’t help the pace of their work at all.
“Maybe we should just do this another day?” Allie suggested with a little sigh as she dropped her pen onto her notebook.
“We’ve only been here an hour. And half of that time has been used on your siblings.”
“I know, I’m sorry about that – about them.”
“Can’t we just go to your place so they can do what they want without bothering us? We have the books we’ll need now. Lets just get it over with.”
“Uhm, it’s just… the neighborhood I live in is kind of… it’s not that great a place and you might not like coming there…” Allie tried to excuse.
“Please, if you can live there, I think I can handle it.”
Allie looked at Izza a moment, weighing her options, and came to the conclusion that it probably was the only thing they could do.
Allie sighed a little, closing her notebook. “Okay.”
They left the library, caught the L back to their tough neighborhood and walked to a tall worn-down high-rise apartment building where they lived, the external galleries lining the front.
“Uhm, yeah, it’s not the nicest of places . . .” Allie looked apologetic going into the elevator, ashamed that this was in fact where they lived. People who didn’t live here usually stayed away from the area. “I’ll try and ask my mom if we can work on the assignment some place else.” Allie informed as they entered their small two-bedroom apartment.
Izza was left alone in the narrow hallway as Davie went into his tiny bedroom and Corie disappeared into the bedroom that she and Allie shared. Allie went into the living room, waking her mom as she slept on the sofa. Allie had guessed correctly, there were a couple of empty beer bottles sitting on the coffee table, and Allie could smell the alcohol on her mom’s breath. Izza could hear Esme cough loudly as she told Allie no, they were to stay there as Esme was too sick to look after Davie and Corie alone.
“Okay, but Mom? Please stay in here? We’ll be in the kitchen, just call if you need anything.” Allie pleaded with her mother. If she couldn’t avoid Izza seeing where she lived, maybe she could at least avoid Izza seeing her mom drunk.
Allie made sure to close the door into the living room before showing Izza out into the small kitchen right next to it. The kitchen was kind of messy as Allie hastily closed a large folding door leading directly into the living room. She started to apologize again as she tried to clean up the worst of the dirty dishes, beer bottles and mess that had been left out on the counters and the small dining table. Izza saw how Allie became more and more red in the face with embarrassment, and Izza now understood why Allie had tried so hard to arrange for them to work somewhere else. The neighborhood was bad; the tiny apartment was old, worn and dirty. It really wasn’t a place she would have entered alone. She remained silent though, as she sat down by the table and dug out their schoolwork.
“I’m sorry, but we have to work from here. I share my room with my sister.” They had just gotten back to work when the sound of loud ‘Miley Cyrus’ music started up. Allie sighed and closed the door as her phone announced she’d gotten a text message. It was from her older brother, Eddie, asking if she was home. She replied that she was, but that she was doing homework and didn’t have time. She had only just picked her pen back up, when they were disturbed by a loud banging and Davie, who yelled for Corie to turn down the music. Corie responded simply by screaming back through the door.
Allie sighed as she got up. “Excuse me.” She out into the tiny hall and Izza could hear Allie telling both of them off.
“David Cullen will you cut it out!”
“Well, tell her to turn down the goddamn music then!” Davie shouted back.
“I will. Just, go back to your room. Cora! Turn it down, please!” The volume was turned down and Allie returned to the kitchen. “Sorry ‘bout that.” They got back to work when a new text message ticked in on Allie’s phone. It was Eddie again, stating that he was coming over. “No…” she complained under her breath.
Izza looked questioningly at Allie, who had gotten red in the face as she quickly texted back that he had to stay away. As she hit sent, Esme came stumbling into the kitchen through the folding door. Her bleached hair was messy and she was only wearing a pair of panties with a plain tee.
“Mom, I told you to call if you needed anything. You need to stay in bed.” Allie sounded a little embarrassed as she quickly got up and went to her.
“Oh, hey–“ Esme started coughing as she noticed Izza sitting at the table. Izza gave Esme an awkward wave, letting her hand drop quickly.
“Mom, come on, I’ll help you back to bed.”
“I just wanted to get something to drink,” Esme explained as Allie helped her back into the living room.
“I’ll get you some water, come on.” While Allie helped her mom another message arrived. Izza alerted Allie to the fact as she came back and started to fill a glass. This time she simply ignored it as she went back into the living room. While she was still in there, Izza heard a soft knock on the front door. She could see the shadow of a tall person through the obscured window standing outside before the person moved out of sight. She wrinkled her brows, finding it a bit odd.
Allie made sure to close the folding door carefully as she came back.
“Someone knocked on the door,” Izza informed just as another knock sounded.
Allie excused herself and Izza peeked curiously out into the hall to see who was by the door as Allie opened. She got a glance at what looked like a young, rather attractive, guy with a short Mohawk hairstyle. Her interest was piqued.
“Hey, sis.” Eddie smiled, his eyes slightly hooded with dilated pupils as Allie pulled the front door close, coming out to the external gallery with him. His voice was hoarse as if he had been drinking and smoking, which he obviously had.
“What are you doing here? I told you not to come. Mom’s right inside.”
“She’s not hanging at the bar like usual?”
“Stop it.” Allie closed the door to the apartment completely. “She’s got the flu. What are you doing here?”
Eddie leaned up against the wall as he smiled down at her, trying to charm her. “Do you think you could borrow me some money?”
“What? No.” Alice shook her head.
“Ah, come on. LeRoy won’t pay me until Friday. I just need like, 50 bucks or something. I’ll pay them back.”
“We don’t have that kind of money, Eddie.”
“Well, what do you have?”
“I don’t have enough for food, Allie. Please, just lend me a little bit?”
Allie sighed with irritation. “Wait here.” She went back inside, going to the kitchen where she climbed onto a stool in order to reach a can, sitting on top of one of the cabinets.
“Who was that?” Izza asked, looking over at Allie as she climbed back down.
“Hold on.” Allie walked back out to the front door with a couple of five-dollar bills and a few pennies. “It’s what we have,” she told Eddie as she stood in the door, handing over the money.
“Thank you, Allie.” He grabbed the money in one of his fingerless glove-clad hands, while he grabbed her head caringly with the other, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “You’re the best, I owe you one. Say hi to Davie and Corie from me,” he greeted over his shoulder as he disappear down the gallery.
“Please don’t say anything about this to my mom. She doesn’t want us seeing him.” Allie begged as she sat back down by the table.
“Why not? Who is he?” Izza asked, her curiosity growing.
“He’s my brother – half brother.”
“Really?” Izza looked surprised. “How old is he?”
“21. Mom doesn’t want us having anything to do with him, so you can’t let her know he was here, okay?” Allie looked pleadingly at Izza.
“I won’t say a thing.” Izza pretended to lock her lips. “So why aren’t you supposed to see him?” She looked at Allie with curiosity, a smile flirting on her lips.
“Are you interested in him?” Allie looked puzzled at Izza, who simply shrugged, still wearing a sneaky smile. “No, Izza.” Allie looked at her with a serious face. “He’s my brother and I love him, but you wouldn’t want to date him.” Thinking that the conversation was over, Allie grabbed her pen and continued writing on their assignment.
“What’s his name?”
Allie stopped writing at she looked back up at Izza. “Edward – Eddie…”