The elevator’s acting up again, so I take the stairs to my attic studio. On the third floor, I bump into Elana Elisa.
She puts a hand on my forearm. “Do you have a couple of minutes?” she says.
I wait too long for any lie to sound natural. “Sure,” I say.
“I was just going down to get the mail, and I thought I’d tell you some things. Seeing as you’re new here, it wouldn’t hurt to know a little more about your neighbors.”
The elevator works fine for her, and she asks me the usual questions about how I’m settling in, and how things are going, but she gives the air of listening to the things I don’t say rather than the ones I do.
After she sorts through her mail, with little snorts and shakes of the head, and stuffs it into her purse, she pulls me outside to the veranda, where we sit on a pair of wicker basket chairs.
For the next half-hour, this is what I get from her:
- Hugh is a lush, or used to be. But he could be a nice healthy man if only he’d stop brooding.
- Dora is a dried-up witch whose arrogance knows no limits.
- Anjelica could stand to smile more.
- Zeb is a wonderful human being but incompetent at managing an apartment building. (She sometimes tells tenants to consult with magical creatures in the Feral Woods in order to take care of certain problems like backed-up pipes and roaches.)
- Mario is bad with his hands and probably doesn’t know how to satisfy his wife in bed.
- Michiko has all the appeal of a wrung-up mop, but she could be so much more beautiful and confident.
- Max is an ok boy, nice enough but unremarkable (not like Elana Elisa’s son, who was a chess whiz and soccer prodigy by the age of 10).
- Mika has learning issues, maybe a learning disability. (But everyone calls everything a disability these days!) A good girl, though Elana Elisa caught her eavesdropping once, which is very rude.
- Mrs. Selby probably murdered at least one of her late husbands. (That’s only what some people say, and Elana Elisa has a hard time believing it, because Mrs. Selby is such a dear.)
- Lewis isn’t going anywhere in life.
- Eben didn’t go anywhere in life.
- Gilbert Sullivan Frisch is such a sweet man and could be even more handsome if he’d only get some more confidence and maybe do something about his receding hairline.
- Howard is clueless and harmless and has so much potential. He has a scrumptious ass too.
- Sigrid is strange. Something’s nutty about her. A girl that beautiful who never goes on a date and spends time painting furniture?
- Hank & Ivy. Sweethearts, but joined at the hip a little too much? And who knows what kind of parents they’ll be when the baby comes along. If they can even tear themselves away from their computers to parent responsibly…
- John smiles too much and no one knows much about him. He looks like a man who’s got his life together, so what’s he hiding? Why’s he living here? Maybe he’s a fugitive and stole someone’s identity; there’s no proof of it, but it’s just something to consider.
“Aren’t you worried that people will know you’re saying these things?” I ask.
Elana Elisa waves her hand dismissively. “I’m not popular here. That’s because people fear the truth.” She pats my arm. “I’m only trying to help you.”