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"Iris". . . A Novel By Tina Adkins

Chapter 8

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We were walking past a park with a Merry-Go-Round.

"Can we ride it John?" I held to his arm.

"Yeah, come on."

We walked over and got in line.

"Why do you want to ride this?" he asked.

"Well, I think it would be nice to ride this someone you love," I smiled.

"Really? You love me now?"

I stopped and thought. This guy had won my heart the night we met, and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to give up on me just yet. "Yeah."

John reached into his pocket to get money to ride.

"I could have sworn that I had more money than this," he said, pulling out a few dollars.

"Didn’t you give some to the guy at the caf?"

"Damn, that was all I brought." he took me by the wrist and tugged me out of line. He was leading me down the street.

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"To my apartment," he sighed. "I was hoping that I’d never have to take you back there, or not right now. It’s a mess."

"That doesn’t matter."

"Oh, yeah. It matters. Wait till you see it."

We boarded the metro and rode up to Ferry Street, the next stop after mine. We got off and walked about ten minutes west, heading to 19th Street where he lived. In a half decent neighborhood, we turned the corner onto 19th, and the farther we walked, the worse the apartments got. We apparently reached his complex and climbed a rusty flight of stairs and walked to the end of the hallway. The front window had been partially broken out and was poorly covered with plastic and duct tape. John opened the door, which looked like someone has tried to kick it in.

We walked into the apartment. It was smokey and dark. All the window shades were pulled down tight, which probably wasn’t a bad idea. There was only the light of a TV set. We walked toward the old couch that sat in front of it. Out from one of the side rooms, a small man darted out.

"Hiya!" he exclaimed in a loud, scratchy, jittery voice. "You must be Iris!" he tightly gripped my hand and rapidly shook it up and down.

"Yeah," I answered, smiling awkwardly.

"Nice to meet you. I’m Robby." he released my hand and calmed down a little.

"Yeah, this is Robby. He’s a little strange until you get used to him. He plays bass in the band," John laughed. Directing his attention from me to Robby, he ordered him to, "pull up a shade or something. It’s too dark."

Robby walked over to a window and pulled down the shade and let it go. It flew up, snapped a bracket, and came tumbling down, hitting him on the head. He began laughing hysterically. Actually, it was more like a strange, evil little giggle. I stood staring at him, with my mouth gaped open. He was incredibly...funny.

"Come one," John took me by the arm and led me through the living room.

We went into one of the side rooms. There was a mattress on the floor with an old, worn out blanket on it. John walked over and flopped down. He patted the spot next to him for me come sit with him. I walked over, dodging dirty clothes, empty bottles and cans, an overflowing ashtray and a guitar. I sat next to where John was laying.

"So, this is your room?" I asked.

"Yeah, wonderful, huh?" he said sarcastically.

"Well, it’s not that bad."

"Oh, come on Iris. Of course it is. I hate living here. But I have no other choice," he started, laying his head down on his small pillow. "This place is the only place my sisters and I could find for me. I mean, they had to have somewhere to stay too. I think they deserve better than this. They have to have money. They have to have food. The money Robby and I make comes from our gigs. Most of the time it’s only for a hundred dollars, two if we’re lucky, and a free case of beer. Iris, this is bad," he said sitting up on his elbows and looking around the room. I didn’t want to say anything that would upset him. He lowered his eyes and began again.

"Iris… half the time, we barely survive. If we don’t get gigs, we don’t get any money. When there’s no money, there’s no food. If something goes wrong, like a screw-up with our equipment, or our main amp blew. Sure, we could play, but it wouldn’t be the same old show. We only make fifty bucks. When we’re supposed to make two hundred. On account of one little thing we make only a fourth of what we should have. And that’s really hard. It really is." He concluded sounding so heart broken, so sad. The way he explained everything sounded so horrible. Two people sharing at the least two hundred dollars a week on food and bills. What do they do when one of them has to go to the doctor or the hospital? Or do they even bother going? My eyes were filling with tears. I felt so bad for them.

"Now there’s no reason for that," John said, realizing the tears in my eyes.

"But it’s awful." a single tear fell down my cheek. "John, if there’s any way that I can help you, let me know. I’m always gonna be there for you."

"And I’m always gonna be there for you too," he said softly wiping away the tear on my chin. We were in a trance, staring at one another again. John broke away from it and said, "Know what?"

"What?" I watched him get up off of the mattress.

"I’m gonna change. It’s getting warm out," he said as he took off his shirt.

As he pulled it over his head, his hair tumbled down over his face and onto his shoulders. It was hard to make it not so obvious that I was staring. I tried to keep my eyes moving about the room, but they seemed to always find their way back to John. He was built so well, but not too much. Muscles on his chest, his arms and his stomach. Underneath, you would think he was just lanky. His slight tan, dark hair, chiseled face, light eyes, ripped jeans, you would think he was a model. I squeezed my face between my two hands, exhaled loudly and dropped them into my lap. John walked over to his closet and looked in.

"How’s this?" he asked pulling out a red flannel dress.

"Is that your’s?"

"Hell yeah," he joked. "No, it’s my sister’s."

He put the dress back into the closet. "How about these?" He pulled out a pair of leather pants and pranced around the room like Mic Jagger.

"Oh yeah. Sexy!" I laughed.

He put the pants back on a hanger and got a pair of cut off green shorts and tossed them over on me. He then went over to a dresser and got out a beater and tossed it at me as well. Starting toward me, he unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans.

"What the hell are you doing?" I giggled.

"I’m gonna dance for you," he said sarcastically. "No, trunks, remember? Trunks."

"Oh yeah."

He dropped his pants and pulled the shorts up on him. Putting on the beater and his black skater shoes, he looked at me and said, "Ready?"

"John, what was the whole reason that we came here?"

"Oh! Duh." He went over to the side of the mattress and lifted it up. He pulled out a twenty from a small box. "Ok. Now we’re ready."

We went into the living room where Robby was walking around with the apartment with a garbage bag, picking up the cans and bottles, old food, wrappers, and junk mail that littered the floors and tables.

"Rob, what are you doing?" John asked.

"What? Oh! I wasn’t exactly expecting any visitors yet. I was surprised when you brought this lovely lady in here on such short notice. I felt ashamed of this mess."

My face reddened.

"No, seriously man. What do you want?"

"No John. Do have to want anything to be cleaning our apartment?"

"Well, from two years of experience, yeah."

"You’re wrong. That time..." Robby stopped and thought. "You know, that time..."

"Yeah, yeah, that time...I gotta go dude. I’ll catch you later." John picked up a can from a nearby table and tossed it into the bag.

John took me by the hand and we headed out the door.

"Iris," Robby shouted. We stopped and turned. "It was lovely to meet you." He took my hand and brought it up to his lips.

"Don’t you go hitting on my girl dude," John laughed as he shoved Robby away.


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