I (Ani) went back to school and because I had missed so much, approached the same vice principle who had helped me earlier. She agreed to allowing me (Ani) to take grades 12 and 13 together as I had been an honour student. I worked very hard that year and graduated on the honour roll again - just to show everyone I could do it. During that year I met a guy and fell madly in love. I thought he was the one. About half way through our first year in university he approached me one day and told me there were just too many fish in the sea for him and that he was breaking off the relationship. I was heartbroken - and remained so for the rest of the term - and longer.
During this time I was rushed to the hospital (from the university). I underwent an emergency appendectomy - and remained hospitalised for a week. My parents never visited me once and a friend had to bring me home. I was a little surprised by their actions - but only a little.
I was still heartbroken when my first year of university ended and was very disillusioned about school as well. I was majoring in English with a minor in Psychology - and none of it was living up to my expectations of post-secondary schooling. My father approached me and offered me the opportunity to run a branch of their business in another city - the one where I was born - and loved. I thought about it for a short time and accepted - and I now post a bit about that.
(an excerpt from Chapter 12 of The Wailings - my book in progress)
As fate would have it, the building that housed the fur store where Margaret had apprenticed, stood empty. A warped sign sat propped up against the dusty front window of the showroom; the information on it fading in the sun’s rays. Ani stood staring into the shadows that swallowed the backrooms and tried to imagine her mother at work here as a young girl.
Buses pulled into the curb behind her and she watched the reflection of the passengers in the huge plate glass windows as they disembarked and hurried off. Jerome was in a phone booth at the corner talking to the real estate agent whose number appeared on the sign in the window. The diesel exhaust wrapped itself around her lungs and she coughed asthmatically, wishing their schedule would kick in and move the buses on. A bored driver eyed her curiously as she stood in the doorway of the building and she glanced away, aware of her disheveled state after the five hour drive.
“He’s coming to let us in,” Jerome said as he abruptly appeared beside her. Sniffing the air, he turned and looked at the buses idling against the curb before grunting and turning back to face her. “The fumes get trapped here against the building. You’ll have to keep the door closed.”
“So we’re going to rent it then?”
“If the price is right we will. What could be better than a fur store in the exact place where Lafreniere’s Furs was for all those years? I hope the storage vault is still in there.” Lapsing into silence, he put his huge hands up beside his face as he pressed against the glass and stared into the depths.
Just before the buses pulled away, a small man with a yellow bow tie and round glasses approached the duo. In his left hand he held a clipboard and a set of keys, his right hand he extended without hesitation in Jerome’s direction.
“You must be Mr. Black. I’m David Abson. We talked on the phone earlier.”
Jerome shook his hand and introduced Ani. The realtor smiled as he nodded in her direction while he fiddled with the keys, trying to find the one that unlocked the front door. A wave of stale air washed over them as he pushed open the glass door, and the line of dead flies that were pressed up against the draft stop lifted as one and scattered into the room on the incoming breeze. The constant noise from the traffic stopped abruptly as the door swung closed and Ani shivered as the dead air pressed against her with little vampiric mouths.
She stayed close to Jerome as the realtor found the fuse box and flipped some switches, activating the fluorescent lighting. It sputtered and hissed spasmodically as it flickered into life, complaining of being brought back from the dead. Dust coated the floors and covered the shelving left by the last retailer, and it puffed up around their shoes as they made their way through the two front retail rooms. Wood paneling covered the walls and the tiles on the floor were broken and stained. As one, they peered into the tiny bathroom that had obviously been added sometime in the 50’s. Both men grunted their approval while Ani shivered with disgust before they turned their attention to the back rooms.
The vault door stood open and Jerome hastened towards it with an eager look on his face. He flapped his hand around the opening looking for a light switch and was rewarded when a single bulb came to life overhead. Rows of metal rods stretched to the walls in two layers with an aisle down the middle. On the back wall, an old air-conditioning unit dripped cobwebs, the louvered vents on the front caked solid with years of accumulated dust. Jerome plugged it in and flipped switches, but it remained impassive to his touch.
“I don’t believe that thing has worked in years,” the realtor said as he flipped through some papers on his clipboard.
“Too bad,” Jerome said with a great deal of disappointment.
They wandered through the remaining rooms while Jerome checked the barricades on the back door. Wire grid covered the windows and Ani found it hard to believe that Margaret had happily learned her trade in this building. She hesitated when they opened a small door and looked at stairs descending to the next level. Silence saturated the inky blackness and the damp smell of raw earth tickled her nose. Again Jerome led the way, and Ani was startled when she remembered that her father had probably been here many times while Margaret was an apprentice.
A few bulbs hung from the rafters, their glow barely piercing the dark expanse. Old wooden tables stood about and Jerome leaned on one briefly before moving away as the legs wobbled beneath his weight.
“They use to do the blocking down here when your Mother worked here.”
“It’s hard to believe that this is where Mom worked,” she said as she rubbed the goose bumps on her arms and peered around.
In a corner she could see a door propped open, and she squealed as her hand passed through cobwebs while she searched for a switch. A bulb hanging on a long cord eased into life above her head and she stared into a rust-filled toilet bowl, its yellowed toilet seat cracked and stained. A small sink with separate taps hung on the wall. The drainpipe had been disconnected and Ani could see a clump of hair with dried soapsuds clinging to it hanging from its rusty mouth. Someone had tried to brighten the little room in the bowels of the building by papering the walls. The dampness of the basement had stained it in patches, and it hung in tatters beside the toilet where someone had picked at it with their fingernails. The smell of decay and urine made Ani gag and she hurried back to the men as they headed for the stairs and the fresher air on the main floor.
While the men negotiated the rent, Ani wandered from room to room, listening to the old wooden floors creak beneath her feet. The place was way too big for what they needed, and she felt overwhelmed by the job that lay ahead of her.
“Mr. Abson told me of an apartment for rent on Waterloo Avenue. I suggest we get over there and have a look at it right away. That way you’ll have a place to live and we can get this project rolling.” Jerome jangled the keys in his huge hands as he looked around the space again. “Don’t worry Ani, I know it looks impossible, but I do have some ideas that might work out just fine for here.”
The one-bedroom basement apartment was available immediately, and Jerome wrote a check for the first and last month’s rent and handed it to the superintendent. By the time they had dragged their sleeping bags and overnight bags into the apartment they were starving and headed out for supper.
Jerome slowly drove the van past the houses they had owned before they moved to Sudbury. They were both silent as they stared at the small modifications that had been made to each house, aware that these slight changes were painful for both of them. After they had eaten, Jerome drove around the city, noting changes and pointing out places where he and Margaret had shared experiences. Ani watched his face carefully in the dusky light. He hadn’t ever talked to her this much, and she wondered if it was the beauty and memories of Guelph that caused it, or something else. When they returned to the apartment, Ani set about cleaning the bathroom and kitchen while Jerome spread the newspaper in front of his face and disappeared behind it.