Ashlynn walked down the street absentmindedly sipping a soft drink that she got from a gas station. She felt amazed how she did not have to think about the route she took. It had been a very long time since she had been home, and yet everything was still muscle memory for her. A couple of shops had closed down, bu really, nothing had changed. Ashlynn didn’t really want the soda that much, but she had been feeling a little overwhelmed. She had to start completely over. She had no job, a shared home, and would have to establish a new social scene. So many things had gone wrong lately that she wondered when things would finally start to fall into place.
She passed by an apartment complex. It was two stories with doors close by each other. They looked cheap but well kept. The walls were light orange with a burnt orange tiled rooftop. Ashlynn used to walk by this route frequently because it was her first home. Her parents moved in as newlyweds and she remembered her early childhood was spent here. The walls were gray and the roof was blue back then. She used to play in the carport with her friends since there wasn’t a playground. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but she liked to pass by and think of fond memoriesof where it all began.
She noticed a woman smoking on the balcony of the second story railing. She had large, curly hair, thick-rimmed glasses, a pudgy body, and office attire. She looked exactly the same now as she did twenty years ago. She was her neighbor, Carla. She would often run into her while she lived there, and since she was such a chatty cathy, she would always stop her as she passed by to start a conversation. Sometimes it got annoying because she was so anxious to play with her friends. Carla eventually noticed that Ashlynn was in the vicinity, and Ashlynn did not realize she was staring and got embarrassed. Carla looked surprised at first, but then she smiled warmly. “Don’t I know you?”
“Yes ma’am,” Ashlynn replied. “We used to be neighbors. Well, I guess technically we are neighbors again. I’m moving back in..in the townhomes down the street.”
Carla conversed, “Oh right, you’re Jon and Patty’s kid! Didn’t you move to Manhattan?”
“I did,” Ashlynn responded. “I was the receptionist for a large real estate agency. But the business went under, and I ran out of money, so…”
Carla finished her sentence, “So you moved back in with your parents. That stinks!” Ashlynn made a face of agreement and nodded. “Ah, Jon and Patty are good people. You’ll be fine!”
“Thanks!” Ashlynn didn’t totally believe that but liked the sentiment.
Carla laughed. “At least you’re handling bad news well. A new chapter opened up for you too.” Ashlynn wondered if Carla was referring to herself or another person. Did she have some emotional baggage to unload on her? She suddenly felt like her childhood self and wanted to run away. Carla, however, caught her off guard by not referring back to that. “Listen, are you busy right now? Wait, you’re unemployed, so of course you’re not busy.”
Ashlynn was slightly offended by that comment. “I could be busy. I’m not, but I could be.” As soon the words left her lips, she knew the notion of her being busy anytime soon would probably turn out to be a lie. She really did not have a life anymore, and that thought made her feel kind of bad.
Carla seemed to sense what she was feeling but didn’t acknowledge it verbally. “Do me a favor, ‘kay? Watch my nephew while I run out real quick. I won’t be gone long.”
Ashlynn shrugged. “I guess I can do that.”
She walked across the parking lot and up the stairs. Carla put out her cigarette and thanked her, “You’re a life saver! He needs constant supervision, and I don’t mind doing it at all. I can even work from home on my laptop. I just need to run to my office and pick up some invoices.”
“Oh, I can handle a little babysitting. It’s gonna be…” Before Ashlynn could finish her sentence, Carla very hesitantly opened the apartment door. Ashlynn’s eyes opened widely in shock at what she saw…