So where do I go from here? Do I just sit around and pretend that none of this has happened? I know I can't do that. Nonnie and Crystal have been great, but now all I want to do is to get back to Annie. I miss her sweet face and her beautiful smile. God I'm never gonna want to wake up anymore. If sleeping means I get to see Annie again, and then sleep sounds really good to me. Then again, if it was just a dream, I need to get over it and live my life.
"Frankie? Where are you babe?" Crystal asked breaking me away from my thoughts.
"I'm just thinking about my options at this point Crystal. Is Nonnie going to come out and tell me if she finds anything out?" I asked. Nonnie went to her room and hadn't come out in a long time.
"I promise you if she finds out anything, she'll either tell you directly, which is her style as you know, or she'll tell me and I'll relay the information." She explained.
"Alright. I guess I need to learn how to be patient, just like she said. I really hate being patient though." I said as I started to pace back and forth like a caged animal.
"Let's do something Frankie. It's the middle of the afternoon, what would you like to do?" She asked hopefully.
"Sleep." I answered truthfully.
"Now cut that out. My best friend is not going to become a part of her furniture. I won't let that happen. What would I tell people?" She smiled.
"You'll tell them to mind their own business just like
you always have. That's what I love about you Crystal, I know that all of my
secrets are completely safe with you."
"Right back atcha babe." She smiled. "You know they always will be safe with me."
"I don't doubt that Crys." I took her arm with my hand. "Let's go to the movies." I smiled knowing that she would love that idea.
"What? Really? Like in the theater? Frankie since you bought that home theater you never want to leave your house! You really want to go?" She got so excited it was like I was talking to a child.
"You pick the flick and that's what we'll see."
"The 400 is showing an oldie but a goodie."
"You don't want to see a new movie?"
"I love the classics. You know that. C'Mon, you know how much I love them."
I felt my resolve weakening with every plea coming from her mouth. I loved the classics even more than she did. "Fine, whatever you like my friend. I owe you big for your help with this but especially for not making fun of me."
"Frankie, I would never make fun of you with something like this. I know how hard it was for you to even tell me about this. I have known you my whole life just about, and I know that you have never seen any of the things that I do to be real or truthful. I think it has been just nonsense for you."
"Crystal, I " I started.
"No, it's ok." She held up her hands in defense. "I know
that you are not the only one to think that supernatural stuff is hoaxy, I
deal with that every time someone walks into my door with a non-believer. It's
OK, you have many redeeming qualities in you that surpass your stubbornness."
"Gee, thanks. I think." She smiled at me.
We walked into the theater and Crystal started to order food from the concessions area. She ordered everything necessary for a good film: a large popcorn, a large soda, Raisinets, and of course cherry licorice ropes. After she made me pay, we found a good seat in the direct center of the theater. I never could understand how people could watch a movie from the front row. If your neck wasn't broken by the time the movie ended, it sure as hell felt like it was.
We sat down and noticed only a few other people in the theater. There were some couples but there were mostly women. I'd say it was a favorite for the female race.
As the movie started I watched the screen and felt myself begin to finally relax. I looked over to Crystal who was munching away on popcorn and sipping her soda without a care in the world. The look on her face brought a smile to mine. She was truly a wonderful friend. She still looked to the little things in life to make her happy. That was rare these days. She made me feel a lot younger than I truly was, and for that I will be forever grateful. I never want to feel as old as I am. I don't think I ever will.
Half way through the film Crystal and I were singing our hearts out. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this film. The fellow theatergoers stared at us with smiles on their faces when they weren't singing along with us. Barbra herself, would have been proud of all of us funny girls. The poor guys that came with their girlfriends just sat back and endured. That in itself was a noble quality, I thought.
The movie ended two and a half hours later. Crystal and I walked out into the fresh air and breathed deeply. I loved the smell of popcorn, but after that long in a theater, enough is enough.
"So now what?" She asked.
"Umm I really hadn't thought past the film. Is there something that you would like to do before nightfall?" I asked.
"Well, we could go window shopping. There is a great boutique just down the road a bit here. It's safe for us since it's not open. I can't remember the last time you and I were able to go shopping without spending a mint." She said and started to giggle.
"Isn't that the truth? The shopkeepers see us coming and they grease up their cash registers." I laughed.
"Especially that shop that carries those great China shoes. God I love that place!" She said as we started to walk home.
We walked and sang down Sheridan Road. It was turning into a beautiful spring night. The temperature was around sixty-five and there wasn't a cloud to be found. All I could think about was Annie. The diner that she worked in wasn't even a diner anymore, it looked to be a convenient store of some kind now.
"Hey Crys, can we walk down to the beach for a minute?" I just needed a little more of a reminder of Annie.
"The beach? You got a sudden urge to go swimming?" She joked.
"No, it's just so nice out and days like these are rarities. C'Mon, just for a minute?" I put on my best puppy eyes for her. There was no way she would deny me.
"Oh God! Not the eyes
fine. We'll go for a bit
Frankie, but it's getting dark out and I don't want to end up walking home
"Yay! Thanks Crys, we'll only stay a minute. I just want to see the water."
"Let's go." She said as she headed for Lake Michigan.
We jogged a bit to save on time and headed towards the lake. We finally arrived and my thoughts were flooded with Annie. God I missed her.
What the hell is wrong with you Frankie? You barely even know this girl. Get a fucking grip on yourself. You don't even know if she is a real person.
"She's got to be." I whispered out loud after fighting within myself.
"What?" Crystal asked as we stared into the changing sky.
"Hmm? Oh nothing. Sorry, just thinking out loud."
"God this is really beautiful. No one thinks that Chicago has more than just big buildings to offer someone. Take a look around us. This is just gorgeous." She marveled,
The sun began to make it's decent and I promised Crystal a cab ride home if she would stay and watch the sunset with me. She agreed only because she knew how much I wanted to stay. I felt a real connection to Annie here. There was something special about her and there was a reason that we were brought together the way we were. I just didn't know what that reason was yet.
We made it back home before the news came on. I was nervous. Bedtime was approaching and I wasn't sure if I was ready to go back there again, or if I was meant to go back at all. I looked around my apartment and remembered what I had seen just the night before. My Pop and Ma were here in my kitchen! This place looked so different back then. There was a whole different feel to it than what I remembered. Maybe Pop got rid of a lot of stuff when Ma left. He never told me anything like that so it's hard to say. We never really talked about Ma and what made her leave. Knowing my Pop, it couldn't have been his fault, he was too loving and kind.
As I started getting ready for bed, Crystal came into my bedroom and plopped onto my bed. She was teasing me by watching me as I dressed. She would scan my body with her eyes, but we both knew that she did it to make me blush. She had done this since I could remember, and I'll be damned if it didn't work everytime.
"You know, I hope you know one day I will get over that blushing thing." I said as I pulled my T-shirt over my body.
"You have been saying that for so many years Frankie,
I'll believe it when I see it. Besides, I know it feeds your ego."
"Whatever, babe. I think you just are denying your true feelings for me and this is just a way for you to ogle."
"Ogle? I haven't heard that word in ages." She said as she started giggling. "Aren't those pants gonna make you hot when you sleep?" She asked as I was throwing on my blue jeans.
"If I go back there tonight, I want to wear clothes that will work for me as well as everyone else in 1974." I stated flatly. I took a wad of cash out of my wallet and stuffed the bills into my pocket. I didn't want to be without money this time around.
"Frankie, you can't necessarily bring anything with you to the other side. Remember what Nonnie said, 'Do not try to control the situation.' You may not even get back there again." She explained again.
"I know, but I have to do whatever I can to get back
there Crystal. I felt such a strong connection with Annie that I can't just
let it go. I have to get back there Crystal. Can you help me?"
"Help? What do you mean?" She asked.
"Can you do anything to help me get there?" I asked filled with hope.
"Honestly Frankie, I don't know. We can try hypnosis
if you'd like. Sometimes I have had luck with my customers with this kind of
thing. We might be able to help you get back there if you are completely calm
"I don't want to get hypnotized Crystal. I will take my chances when I go to sleep tonight." I said. There was NO way I was gonna do that.
"Suit yourself, but if it doesn't work, we can try that if you change your mind."
"Thanks." I said as I finished getting ready for bed.
I grabbed a large, thick blanket and opened my window. I stepped over my sill and landed on the fire escape. Crystal looked at me with concerned eyes.
"Frankie, what the hell are you doing?"
"What does it look like? I'm gonna sleep out here tonight."
"Why the hell are you going to do that?"
"Because if I get back there, I don't want to be inside the house again in case my Pop sees me. Duh!"
She gave me a great look after that. "Oh, silly stupid me. Why didn't I think of that? Frankie are you crazy? You could get attacked outside." She was trying to talk sense into me.
"There is no way that anyone can get up here. I brought
up the ladder, so no one, unless they come from inside my home, can get to me."
I stated. "Don't worry."
"I worry Frankie. I worry a lot. As much as I want you to be able to get back there, I don't want you to get hurt." She paused to look at me with her beautiful brown eyes.
"Crystal, I know you mean well. Just let me do this. If it doesn't work, then I'll stop because then I'll know that it was just a dream. Until the morning comes, I have to believe that what I experienced was real. It was so real for me that it couldn't have been just a dream."
"I believe you Frankie. I really do. I truly believe that Annie is real, and that she will call for you again. Just be careful. Promise me?"
"I promise. Thanks for your support Crystal."
"What kind of friend would I be if I didn't support you? Especially since you are experiencing things that are right up my alley." She said with a smile.
I leaned inside the apartment and grabbed hold of Crystal. I held onto her with everything I had. She was the greatest friend I would ever know.
"I love you Crystal. Thank you so much." I said as I kissed her cheek.
"You're welcome Frankie. You know there isn't anything
I wouldn't do for you. It's the least I can do. I'll make sure that I pay extra
attention to the sounds outside tonight. I don't want anything to happen to
"Thanks for your concern, but I'll be fine. You forget I can take care of myself." I said as I wiggled my eyebrows.
"I should have taken those classes with you."
"Then I would have no one to protect." I smiled. "Now go on, get some sleep. Hopefully I'll have a new story for you in the morning." I tousled her hair and she hugged me again.
"Good night Frankie. You want to leave this window open?" Crystal asked.
"Yeah, if I have to go to the bathroom in the middle
of the night, I need to have easy access inside. My luck the lock would break
and lock me out completely. That would be ugly."
"True. Are you sure you'll be warm enough out here? You want another blanket or a jacket or something?"
God she is adorable.
"No darlin, I'll be just fine. Now shoo. Off with you.
I'll be fine. I even have a pen and paper here to write down anything specific." I
said as I held up the items to her.
"Good. Alright. I'm going. See you in the morning. If I don't see you by nine, I'm coming up for you."
"Ok babe, I'll be here. Mario still has the keys to the shop, so if I don't open up, he'll be here. I'm covered so don't worry."
"It's my job as the best friend, I'm supposed to worry."
"Good night Crystal." I pretended to sound exasperated.
"Good night Frankie." She said as she slipped out of the window and back into the apartment. I watched until her shadow disappeared.
"OK, this is it. I just wish I was tired." I said to the clouding sky. "Don't get any ideas, it's not supposed to rain for another couple of days. Back me up Pop."
The night was quiet and my neighborhood never seemed more still. It had been awhile since I had slept out here. I used to do it all the time after Pop died. It would remind me of all the hot summer nights we would hang out here. I always loved those times with him. We would just sit out here and suck on Popsicle's and just watch the city lights go out one by one.
God I miss you Pop.
I couldn't help but shift as I felt the hardness of the fire escape dig into my back. When I opened my eyes I was looking into eyes I hadn't seen in years. It took every ounce of my control not to scream.
"You need a place to stay?" I heard him say.
"Wha..." I couldn't speak. I rubbed my eyes and cleared my throat and tried again. "Excuse me?"
"I asked you if you needed a place to stay." He repeated.
"No... I um... " Think fast Frankie. "I thought this was my balcony. I guess it was late when I got home last night, and I went up the wrong ladder." I looked at my father and he still had the most warmth I had ever seen in anyone's eyes. "I'm sorry, just let me get off of here and I'll get out of your way."
"It's no problem. I just wanted to make sure that you were ok."
"Thanks P " I stopped myself. "Mister. I appreciate the concern."
"You want some breakfast?" He was always so nice to people.
"Breakfast? Um " Would this be a good thing or a bad thing?
"Are you hungry? My wife and I were just sitting down to eat and I heard you out here. We have plenty if you want." He said just smiling his beautiful smile at me. How could I resist an opportunity to eat one more meal with my father and actually get to meet my mother.
"I would love to, thank you." The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
He held out his hand and helped me into my bedroom. I had the same clothes on that I was wearing the night before. I checked my pockets and felt the bulge of the money I had put in my pockets too.
So much for not being able to control the situation Nonnie. I smiled to myself.
Pop led me into the apartment and through the hallway I knew so well. My Ma was in the kitchen and looked a little astonished to see me walking into her home with my Pop. I looked at her and smiled.
"I'm Frankie. Your husband was nice enough to invite
me in for breakfast."
She outstretched her hand to me. I shook it and felt a great softness in her hands. Maybe that was where I got my baby soft skin.
"I'm Myrna, I see you've met Frank." She said as she looked over at my Pop. He gave her the look that said, "we'll talk about this later". God I knew that look all too well.
"Yes I have." I looked at him and smiled back.
"Well, please, make yourself at home."
Lady this is more my home then it will ever be to you.
"Do you like scrambled eggs?" She asked.
"Yes ma'am. Can I help out with anything." I didn't want to be completely useless.
"No dear, that's ok. I have everything ready. I'll just bring it in. Go on and take a seat at the table."
"So Frankie " My Pop started. "You look really familiar to me. Do I know your father?"
Do you ever
"I don't think so. I actually live on the other side of the street. I must have been really tired when I crawled up the ladder last night." Nice cover.
"Mm I see." He replied. That was his way of saying he didn't believe anything that I was saying.
"Thank you again for inviting me in. I am grateful you didn't have me arrested."
He laughed out loud, God I missed that sound. "Nonsense. If you had meant us any harm you wouldn't have stopped at the fire escape, you would have come right in. In fact I think we had someone in the house a couple weeks ago. By the time I got to the fire escape they had already disappeared though." My heartbeat sped up instantly.
At least he didn't see me. A couple of weeks ago? God I wonder what day it is.
"I'm harmless actually. Just a little misplaced." I said with a smirk, which made him smile.
"Are you sure we haven't met before?"
"Yes sir, I am sure of that." Liar.
"Oh Frank, give the girl a break, if she had met you before she would say so." Ma came in with breakfast and came to my rescue.
There's a first. Where were you my whole life lady?
I couldn't help but look at her with wondering eyes. I was an exact replica of the two of them. I had her eyes and his smile. I had his dark coloring, but her soft skin. I found myself feeling extremely lucky.
How many people actually have breakfast with their parents before they know you are their kid? My guess is none. I knew this couldn't be a dream.
"So Frankie, what do you do?" My Ma inquired.
You do NOT work downstairs. You do NOT work downstairs.
"I don't have a job right now. I love the movies and
am looking to get a job at the theater down on Sheridan."
"The 400?" My Pop asked.
"Yep, that's the one." I replied.
"I love the movies too. My shop downstairs has a bunch of keepsakes from the movies. I have costumes, pictures, and memorabilia of all kinds. You should come down after breakfast and take a look around." He said with pride in his voice. He always loved his shop.
"I have been in there before. Maybe that's where you have seen me." I suggested.
"Could be." He said while taking a mouthful of food.
"Thank you again for breakfast Ma'am."
"Please call me Myrna." She said.
"Thank you Myrna." I have to say she did cook a mean breakfast. I just didn't know what else to say to her.
"Do you have any children?" I couldn't help but ask.
"No we don't." She answered immediately.
"But we want them, don't we dear?" My Pop chimed in.
"I don't think we should discuss this now." She said with a hint of anger in her voice. I think we struck a nerve.
"I'm sorry. I didnt mean to pry. Please forgive me."
"Don't worry about it Frankie." My Ma said as she stared
at my Pop. "Frankie, that's an odd name for a girl."
"Well my real name is Frances. My friends have called me Frankie for as long as I can remember." I explained.
"I see." She said as she stuffed the rest of her breakfast into her mouth. She didn't seem very happy at the moment.
My Ma picked up her plate and walked into the kitchen and put the dish into the sink. Without saying a word to either of us, she began cleaning up the kitchen.
"I'm sorry Mr. Camarelli, I didn't mean to upset your wife." God that sounded weird coming out of my mouth.
He put his hand on mine and rubbed it. "Don't worry about it. It's just a subject we disagree on." He leaned in conspiratorially. "I want a daughter one day who I can spoil, but she doesn't want children at all. Hopefully someday we can agree to have a baby." I couldn't help the smile that formed on my mouth.
"I think you'd make someone a great father. Don't give up on that." I could feel my eyes welling up which meant it was time for me to go. How was I going to explain that?
"I should let you get on with your day. I'm sorry again
for sleeping on your fire escape, I'll pay closer attention next time I'm out
"Don't worry about it Frankie. It was nice to meet you. The next time you are in the shop, make sure you say hello."
"Thanks I will." I turned back to my silent mother. "Thank you again for breakfast Myrna, it was really delicious."
She turned from her task and smiled. "You are welcome. Take care of yourself Frankie."
"You too." I said and looked at her one last time. I really didn't know this woman at all. I didn't know if that was a bad thing or not.
"I'll walk you out. Let me get your jacket."
"Oh I didn't have one." I corrected.
He went into his hall closet and pulled out a jacket. "Here you can wear this home. It's kinda chilly today. The sun is out, but you know how the Windy City is. It looks beautiful outside until you take that first step out the door." He said as he slipped the jacket over my shoulders. I had forgotten what a warm man he really was.
Thank you whoever you are that gave me this chance to see him again.
"Thanks Mr. Camarelli. I'll get this back to you." I
said as I pushed my arms through the sleeves of the jacket.
"Take your time. I have a few others to wear. Just drop it off the next time you are in the neighborhood." We stood smiling at each other. It was as if he knew.
"Well, thank you again for breakfast. It was very kind
of you." I didn't want to leave.
"You're welcome. Tell your folks that they are welcome over too."
"I will." Before I could stop myself, I leaned in and gave him a hug and kissed his cheek. He didn't even flinch at the contact. He just looked at me with his loving eyes and waved as I walked out the door.
"Bye Frankie." He said as he closed the door.
"Bye Pop." I said quietly to no one.
As soon as I knew it was safe I completely broke down and cried. I wasn't sure if I would ever be strong enough to see him again. It was so hard not to tell him who I was. I sat on the bench at the bus stop and composed myself. It took me a few minutes to pull myself together. As much as I loved seeing him, it made me miss him all over again.
I had a better picture of my Ma though. It was quite obvious she didn't want any kids. I guess my Pop talked her into it. She didn't seem like the nicest person in the world. Maybe I should be glad that I didn't have her in my life. I had Pop and he was the most loving person I could've ever asked for to be my father.
I walked past Technicolor Classics and peered in the window. The lights were off and the Closed sign was on the door. I guessed it was Sunday since the shop wasn't open. It wasn't until I bugged Pop about the business that he opened his doors on Sundays.
I walked down to Sheridan Road just smelling my Pop on his jacket. God I missed that Old Spice smell. Rain or shine he would wear that stuff. I never remembered liking it more than I did right at that moment. I don't know what I did to deserve a chance to see him again, but I was extremely grateful.
I walked down towards the diner that Annie worked in hoping to find her there.
How am I going to explain my leaving her the last time and then coming back now? It has got to be a couple weeks since I have been here according to Pop's discussion of his unwanted guest in his house. Me.
I walked up to the diner and glanced inside to see if I could see her. I watched the activity at the bar to see if she was working, but there was no sign of her.
I entered the diner to ask if she was going to be at work at all today. I came upon a waitress with "Doris" on her nametag.
"Excuse me Doris, I am looking for Annie. I was supposed to meet her here, but I don't see her. Is she working today?" I asked while lying a little bit.
"No honey, Annie's been off the last couple of days. She's been sick. You may want to try her at the dorms." Doris suggested.
"Thanks. Is she at Mertz?"
"Yeah I do believe so. I think she is on the eighteenth floor."
"Umm Doris this is gonna sound funny, but I can't remember her last name. We are in a writing class together and we were gonna go over some notes, but I can't remember it. Can you help me out?"
"Sure honey, it's Parker. You aren't some psycho are ya?"
Like I would answer yes to that question.
"Well that would depend on who you asked that question to." Her eyes got huge and her skin blanched. "I'm kidding Doris, like I said, we are in class together. Don't worry, Annie is in no danger, I promise you." I gave her my best calming smile and she seemed to be more at ease.
"Well you are definitely a lot safer than that boyfriend of hers. I want to wring his neck for what he's done to her." I could feel my anger boil.
"What did he do to her Doris?" I said through clenched teeth.
If he has done ANYTHING to her I will kill him myself.
"Well he didn't pick her up the other night and it was raining out, she nearly caught pneumonia from that storm. That's why she ain't been here in a few days." I felt my temper calm down.
"Nothing a little chicken soup and some TLC won't fix." I smiled knowing I could take care of both of those things.
"It's good to know she's got friends like you then."
"Yep, it sure is." I agreed. "Well, I'm gonna get going. Thanks for your help Doris."
"You're welcome honey. Tell Annie we miss her down here." She smiled.
"I will. See ya." I said as I left the diner.
I walked towards campus and right up to Mertz Hall. I went up the stairs and walked up to the little security desk. A guard with a bunch of sign in sheets sat there eating his lunch.
"I'd like to see Annie Parker please." I said to him. He didn't even look up at me.
"Sign in please." He said as she slid the clipboard over to me.
I filled out as much information as I could sans Annie's room number since I had NO clue what that was. I was just hoping to get in the elevator before this guy got a clue and tried to stop me.
I got in the elevator and pressed the eighteenth floor button. The doors closed and the elevator began it's ascent to the eighteenth floor. The door opened and closed letting on and off many students along the way. I finally reached my floor and stepped out hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
I walked slowly past rooms listening for that sweet voice I knew so well. I turned a corner to hear laughter from the corner room. I got a little closer and heard a familiar voice; it was Betsy from the volleyball game. I walked up to her door and knocked. I heard her hang up the phone. The door opened and Betsy stood there in nothing but a towel and a smile.
"Well, look what the cat dragged in. How the hell are ya Frankie? We thought you disappeared into thin air." She jokingly said.
God how right you are. If you only knew how right.
"Hey Betsy, how have you been? I've been alright I guess
no complaints anyway."
"Come in girl have a seat. I am in the middle of getting dressed I hope you don't mind." She said as she dropped her towel and stepped into some clothes.
I immediately looked away and felt my cheeks flush with a bit of embarrassment. It's not everyday you have a woman you barely know show you her naked body. It's not a bad thing mind you, it just doesn't happen all that much.
"Hey have you seen Annie? I don't know what room she is in and I need to talk to her about the other day." I said hoping I wasn't too off with my timing.
"I think you pissed her off with your disappearing act. That was over two weeks ago Frankie. I don't know how great of a reception you are going to get. You can go over and see her though, it may help. She is just next door actually. I haven't seen her in a couple days though, I have had lots going on with class and all. You want me to come with you?" She asked.
"No I'm a big girl, I can take it."
"I bet that is true." She replied very flirtatiously. I needed to leave her room and fast. I liked Betsy and all, but I could tell she was looking for love in all the wrong places.
"Thanks for your direction Betsy, I appreciate it. Wish me luck." I said with a laugh.
"Just apologize Frankie, I'm sure whatever made you stay away so long was a good reason. She'll understand, really. Just don't lie to her, she hates that."
"OK, thanks again Betsy. Bye." I said as I walked out of her room and went to Annie's door.
I could hear feint sounds coming from her room. I felt like a child waiting to walk into the principal's office.
What the hell am I going to say to her?
"Hi Annie, I'm sorry I vanished on you a couple weeks ago, but I had to return to my own time " Or I could say "Hey Annie, I'm sorry I bailed on you, but my time here is limited, you see I'm from the future " Or I could use the old "Hey babe, sorry about the other day, but something suddenly came up." AAHHHH!!! OK Frankie, calm the fuck down and breathe.
I calmed my thoughts and my breathing. I wiped my sweaty hands down the length of my pant leg and brought my hand up to knock on her door. I knocked on the door and heard footsteps approaching the door. This was not the time to vomit. My stomach was thinking otherwise.
Then the door opened and I saw her face for only a moment.
"Hi Annie " I said as the door slammed in my face. "Shit "
I turned around and leaned my body into her door and rested my head on the wood.
Fuck. This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.
To Be Continued in part 7
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