>> Monday, June 22, 2009
The front of Alberta's apartment complex was much too dark for Gabe's liking. He and she stood under the street lamp in front of the car to say good night when the door to her apartment building opened and a shady guy walked past with a wave and a greeting of, "'ey, Alberta."
Gabe glanced down at the top of Alberta's head as she waved back swiftly. He had to resist the urge to grab her and pull her close. Her surroundings did not match her at all. What had happened in her life that would leave her in a place like this?
Then Alberta surprised him by turning around and asking, "Would you like to come up?"
"So who was that?" Gabe asked when Alberta had shut the door. He didn't want to sound like a complete douche, but he needed to know.
Alberta stood before him with her head slightly down. She brought a finger to her lips as Gabe glanced around the room. The door to the bedroom was open and Gabe could see two twin beds. Both were empty, as was the living room and kitchen.
"Alberta, where's your grandmother?"
It seemed to him that she purposely answered the question he was begining to care the least about. "That was just one of the neighbors. He usually leaves late to head out to the bar."
"Alberta, what about your grandmother? Where is she?"
She stood quietly for a moment, hesitantly poking her soft bottom lip before she answered him. "She passed away a few months ago."
"What? Alberta, why didn't you tell us?"
"Please don't tell Kate!" Alberta looked him in the eyes pitifully as she pleaded. "I don't want her to worry too. But, I just couldn't keep it from you anymore. You kept asking-- more than Kate ever does, and and..."
"Oh, Alberta," Gabe wanted to scoop her into his arms and squeeze her tightly, but he knew enough to know she wouldn't let him. She wouldn't sit still for it. He could never tell if it was simply because he made her nervous or it was just because it was him. (He still wondered what Kate had told Alberta before the dance.)
Alberta glanced at him shyly from the corner of her eye. "Would you stay and watch some TV with me? Just for a little?"
Gabe could only nod, and they both sat on the old couch together. A house with no adult was generally meant to be a good thing to people their age, and Gabe and friends had often taken advantage of such situations. But Alberta... There was always that sadness to her eyes, even when she smiled or scruntched her face in confusion. It was a part of her he wished he could reach so that he could somehow extract it from her and finally allow her to be a normal girl with normal worries.
Gabe's hand found Alberta's and wrapped itself around hers. He was so removed from her living on the hill in that big cold house. But he promised to himself that he would do whatever he could to help her.