The Terra-Belle Ghost, Chapter 31

“Yes, it’s me!” Her light-blue eyes glared at me with so much venom that if looks could kill, she would have poisoned me immediately! She flipped her blonde hair in a very nonchalant manner and rested her hand on one of her curvy hips in an attempt to convey indifference, but she clearly harbored too much bitterness over our history to pull that off! “What are you doing here, Connor?”

            “What am I doing here?” I echoed back to her. My mind was still in such a shock that I couldn’t even drum up something sarcastic to throw in her face! The possibility of running into her again never crossed my thoughts- I really believed that this chapter of my life had been closed, so my brain had to reprogram itself right then! It was like seeing a ghost! Uh, that is to say the sentiments that currently overtook my senses felt like how a normal person would feel upon seeing a specter- it was not what I went through each instance that Damon popped into the vicinity! “Last I heard, you were with that Lucas guy in Canada! Why are you here? Did he kick you out?”
            With a full force of fury aimed in my direction, she revealed, “No! Canada did! And it’s all your fault!”

            Her claim caught me slightly off-guard from its outrageous nature, but I quickly collected myself and queried, “How is that my fault? Oh, ‘cause I refused to take you back?”

            “Yes!” she roared. “When I drove back home, Lucas confronted me on why I had been gone so long, and when he figured out that I was with other guys, he-.”

            “Guys? As in multiple men?” I questioned her.

            She grew somewhat flustered at what she let slip out, and then she felt compelled to admit, “Well, when you rejected me, I got too upset to go home, so I went to this really classy bar to drink, and… Is it a crime to get wined and dined by a lonely billionaire?” I rolled my eyes, and she let out an angry exhale before continuing with her saga, “Anyways, Lucas tried to tell me who I could and couldn’t be friends with, so I stormed out. My new friend, and yes, we were just friends, let me stay with him for a while, but since I refused to return to Lucas, he reported me to immigration! I never filled out a visitor’s visa, so they deported me!”

            I started snickering at her misfortune, so she stared at me reproachfully. My first instinct was to apologize, “Sorry! I…” I contemplated this notion for a flash, and then I reversed courses, “No, that’s not true! After all you put me through, I deserve to laugh at how karma made you suffer the consequences of your actions!”

            “What I put you through?” she bellowed. “You’re responsible for all of this!  If you hadn’t neglected me at your old job-!”

            “The job you begged me to go back to ‘cause you wouldn’t accept me in my teaching position” I shot back.

            Aleck hesitantly jumped into the conversation, “So, this would be the ex-wife, Lilith?”

            Lilith confirmed that for him, “Uh-huh, that’s right! I see he’s been talking about me! Anything good?”

            “Uh…” Aleck trailed off. I imagined that if we had been in any other circumstance, he would have given her an honest response, but since we needed something important from the other occupant of this household, he tried not to hurt her feelings. Too late- his reluctance to speak on the subject gave her the reality of the situation, which prompted her to pout.

            “Listen, we didn’t drive all day to hear you gripe about your romantic drama!” Fletcher curtly addressed her. “We’ve come to see… Ferny something-or-other…”

            I picked up where he left off, “We need to speak to Ferneus G. Adramnelech. Does he still live here?”

            Lilith fibbed, “No, he doesn’t!”

            “Did someone say my name?” an elderly fellow’s voice rang out from another room.

            “No! Now sign those papers I gave you!” Lilith barked at him. When she caught on to the astonished expressions we all bore, she sheepishly relayed to us, “He’s my boss. I work for his realty company. He… needs a lot of assistance…”

            Her behavior struck me as suspicious, so I inquired, “You’re an admin now? Isn’t that kind of a pay cut for you?”

            The old gentleman piped up again, “Do we have visitors? I want to see them!”

            “They don’t wanna talk to you! Stay in the living room, lambkin!” Lilith ordered. Prior to anyone interrogating her on this outrageous display, she justified herself, “Okay, he’s here, but he isn’t really. He’s a hundred and seven years old and a smidgen senile, he needs a firm hand to keep him in line… You know, for his own safety…”

            “Well, lucid or not, we have an urgent matter to discuss with him,” I informed her. “Please act like a civilized human being and-.”

            Lilith refused, “Absolutely not! You have no business with our firm! He’s a helpless centenarian, what could you possibly need from him? How dare you try and take advantage of an innocent soul like that!”

            At that moment, the most ancient-appearing person I had ever seen shuffled over to the foyer. His purple, velvet robe didn’t have a blemish on it, and the few gray hairs that remained on his head seemed perfectly groomed. If I hadn’t known Lilith so well, I would’ve commended her for the level of caretaking she relinquished to him! However, I recollected that she didn’t have an ounce of domestic skills in her and would flinch at the slightest hint of dirt, so either he had other individuals tending to him or he handled his well-being by himself. Simultaneous to me wondering if we would legally need a nurse or something with us for this discourse, Ferneus stated, “I don’t understand those forms you gave me! Who are you giving me power of attorney over?”

            We all gawked at Lilith for her sheer audacity, and she hung her head low to hide her blushing cheeks. Ferneus took notice of the three men in his doorway, and he merrily greeted us, “Oh, we do have some callers! Welcome to our home! Won’t you please come in and have a seat?” Lilith looked horrified at the prospect, but she couldn’t stop what Ferneus had set in motion, so we brushed past her as we followed him inside.

            His living room looked like something staged for a museum exhibit! The couch and chairs seemed like furniture pieces that my grandparents would have said was too antique for their tastes! The only thing that didn’t convince me that they weren’t squatting in a vacant property was how dust and cobweb free the walls and fixtures were! I might have been persuaded that we had stepped backwards in time if it wasn’t for the mountain of paperwork with recent dates on them as well as Lilith’s cellphone charging in one of the outlets! Ferneus invited us, “Sit down, my hep guests!” the amenities appeared rather delicate, so we all hesitated, especially Fletcher, but in order to proceed, we knew we had to comply. Once we had carefully situated ourselves, we got surprised by the strength of our perches! Ferneus sat on the sofa across from us and posed, “How can I be of service to you chaps? Would you be the local draymen?”

            “Um, I’m not really sure what that is,” I responded honestly. During the lengthy car ride to this joint, I planned out a whole line of questions for this dude, but with Lilith in the perimeter, it all went out the window! Not that it would have mattered if her opinion of me got lowered, but I certainly didn’t want to endure any of her smugness from any sort of presentation of unsoundness on my part! Plus, if she had valuable insight on our recent endeavor, she could get put in danger by Damon and his allies, and even though I had an intense dislike of her nowadays, I couldn’t put her in peril! It wouldn’t have been right, but also, it would have been tortuous to rescue that tramp and have her owe a life debt to me… in addition to the financial ones that were significantly overdue! Despite my misgivings on the concept, I couldn’t allow my discomfort to affect our odds of success in this mission- countless lives were at stake! So, I gritted my teeth and accepted that she would have to be privy to our venture, at least some of it! “Actually, we were hoping to talk to you about one of your properties…”

            “Oh, splendid! Are you fixing to buy? You fellas seem like quite the darb! I’ll sell you whatever you like!” He began pilfering through the various forms on the coffee table.

            His avid willingness to unload one of his properties to us startled everyone! I don’t think any of us in the Ghost League ever anticipated this as a potentiality! Owning that abandoned abode could have been advantageous to us; once we destroyed the key to that Netherworld portal, we could have the structure destroyed and ensure that no other soul tried to open it ever again! I had no clue if anyone in our trio would have the money or credit score for that sort of purchase, but how much could that burnt down hovel have been worth? I briefed him, “We’re talking about a house on Dusk Lily Lane…”

            Ferneus’s mood swiftly soured, and he stopped rifling through his documents upon hearing that. “Anything but that one! It’s too… important to give away!”

            “Dusk Lily Lane?” Lilith puzzled. “Wait, that’s where you live!” She indicated to me, and then she addressed Ferneus, “Uh, lambkin, do you own that lot with the wrecked estate on it?”

            “It’s not completely mutilated, turtledove!” Ferneus disagreed with her. “It still has crucial elements remaining inside…”

            Fletcher, Aleck, and I all knew exactly what he was referring to, but Lilith got completely taken aback by his remark! She unwillingly sided with me, “I don’t blame you for wanting that eyesore gone! It’s totally bringing down your property value! I’ll try and convince him to-.”

            Ferneus insisted, “Turtledove, I can’t sell that one! Not to them! Not ever! It’s… special…”

            “It’s a dump!” she argued. “Don’t tell me you have sentimental ties to that disaster zone!”

            “Can you tell us about who used to live there?” Fletcher asked him before Lilith could prolong their bickering.

            Ferneus jogged his memory, “Hmm… First there was the sexton, then the milliners, then the steward…”

            Aleck groaned, “Ugh, I wish Ellie were here to translate this!”

            “Then the Widow Karro…” Ferneus rambled on entirely unaware that the surname he had just mentioned piqued our interest…

            “The Widow Karro? Was she related to anyone named Damon?” I inquired. I recalled that he had a sister, but we never found any marriage certificates in his records… unless he was lying to everyone about the status of one of his mistresses…

            Ferneus mulled that over for a minute. “Possibly. I knew she had a husband who died from diarrhea…”

            Lilith challenged that assertion, “Diarrhea? He died from diarrhea?”

            “It does happen,” I verified. “If you have too much of it, it can kill you! Dad’s had to operate on patients whose only symptoms were frequent diarrhea.” She obviously didn’t believe me and fold her arms as Ferneus resumed his account.

            “She relied on her brother for companionship,” Ferneus chronicled for us. “Then, one day, he disappeared, and no one ever knew what happened to the lad. Some say she went a little crazy after that! Apparently, she was even boasting that she had reached out to the beyond to locate him…”

            We all gazed at him in awe! My jaw hung wide as it sunk in that, during that very juncture, we had learned the origin of that portal! I had no inkling that it had any sort of connection beyond it serving as a source for his revenge against Martha! This realization was so bewildering that it took several seconds for us to absorb it! Once I did, I started to consider how to gingerly broach the topic of destroying that key, but then Lilith, who had grown quite miffed at how grossly we drank in his words, hollered, “Why are you engaging him with this crap? He’s clearly lost his marbles, you’re all making it worse!”

            Ferneus disputed, “What are you yammering about? I’m as on-the-level as I’ve ever been!” I pulled the spoon out of my pocket, and his eyes became as large as dinner plates! “You found the key?”

            “Oh my god! He’s totally bonkers!” Lilith exclaimed.

            “No, it genuinely does open a door!” I refuted her. I then faced Ferneus and probed, “To guarantee no one else can open that door, how do we permanently erase it from this earth?”

            Ferneus uttered, “If it could get eradicated from this earth, don’t you think I would have done it already?”

            He raised a possibility that I hadn’t envisaged until right then! “So, what you’re saying is we would have to go down to-?”

            Ferneus nodded as an ornate landline rang. Lilith picked up the receiver and politely regarded the individual on the other line, “FGA Realty!” After they gave her a reply, she reported to Ferneus, “It’s your accountant.”

            I got up and quickly commented to Ferneus, “We’ll see ourselves out. Thank you very much for your time, sir!” As Aleck and Fletcher tailed me to the exit, Lilith watched us leave with a rising wariness of our conduct.

            During our return to the truck, Fletcher pondered, “What should we do about the…?”

            “Don’t worry! While we were still inside, I already messaged a social worker about Lilith’s hideous scheme!” Aleck assured us.

            “Uh, I’m pretty sure he meant the new dilemma with the key,” I corrected him.

            His face fell at that acknowledgement. “Oh, right! Gosh! What do we do now?”

The Clearfront Balcony Club, Scene 10

Scene 10: A paper chain is wrapped around Brisa and Owen’s balcony. Owen stands outside in his dress uniform, and he looks excited but nervous. Rob stands outside in a polo and nice slacks. Jessica and Drew are also dressed nice and are ready to take pictures on their phones. Nedra and Theo stand on their balconies ready to watch. Juniper has a laptop propped up on her balcony. Mendel comes out and starts flying his drone, centering it around Brisa and Owen’s apartment.

 

MENDEL: And we are rolling!

 

JESSICA: Cue music!

 

Juniper hits play on her laptop, and a wedding march plays. Brisa slowly walks onto her balcony in her wedding gown. Brisa and Owen then face Rob, who begins speaking when the music stops playing.

 

ROB: Dearly beloved, we’re gathered here today to join this man and this woman in marriage! The couple will now recite their vows to each other.

 

BRISA: Owen, my life wouldn’t be complete without you in it! You’re my rock, my soulmate, my everything! When the world seems dark and scary, you make it all seem lighter. When life gets crazy, you make me feel sane again. When I feel sad, you make me feel better with just your presence! I don’t know what I’d do without you! As your wife, I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you made me! I love you so much!

 

OWEN: When I first saw you, I thought you were too pretty to want anything to do with me! I had no idea your heart was just as beautiful as your looks! You got me through a really tough time, and although we didn’t meet under ideal circumstances, I’m so grateful that it helped me find you! We face another difficult situation, but there’s no one I’d rather go through this with! You’ve made me into a better person, and I can never thank you enough for that! I still can’t believe you’ve chosen me, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of our life holds for us!

 

ROB: You may now exchange the rings.

 

BRISA: Uh… They’re late in delivery.

 

OWEN: Here’s what they would’ve looked like.

 

Owen pulls out his cellphone and quickly pulls up an image of their order. He then sets it aside to continue the ceremony.

 

ROB: Well then, it’s my great privilege to now pronounce you husband and wife! You may kiss the bride!

 

Owen and Brisa kiss, and everyone cheers. Mendel lands his drone, and Nedra pulls out a set of frosted cupcakes that are individually wrapped.

 

NEDRA: Okay, Juniper, I used your rice flour to make you and Mendel vanilla cupcakes. Everyone else is getting chocolate.

 

DREW: Sounds good to me!

 

Nedra pases out the cupcakes, and once everyone gets them, they wait to unwrap them until Brisa and Owen open theirs. They feed each other a bite, and then everyone else starts eating theirs. Carla comes out with a swaddled baby.

 

JUNIPER: Oh, hello dear!

 

JESSICA: Hey, Carla!

 

BRISA & OWEN: Hi!

 

NEDRA: What are you doing out of the hospital so soon?

 

CARLA: They were out of rooms, so I just promised I’d take it easy.

 

MENDEL: Who’s the newest member of Clearfront?

 

CARLA: Well, originally I was gonna name her after her daddy, but I decided I didn’t want her to be anything like him! So, her first and middle name went from Blake Finley to Jessica Drew!

 

Jessica and Drew both look surprised and touched.

 

JESSICA: Wow, I’m honored! I don’t know what to say!

 

DREW: I can’t believe it! I… Who wants a drink?

 

Everyone expresses interest in that. Drew passes out champagne glasses to everyone.

 

DREW: Okay, everyone except for Carla and Mendel, hold your glasses as close to my balcony as possible. Sorry, it won’t work with a balcony separating us.

 

Mendel and Carla don’t look offended. Everyone else holds their glasses close to Drew’s balcony. Drew pours champagne into each of their glasses with flair. They all applaud when he’s done. He passes the champagne to Jessica, who pours some for Mendel. Carla grabs the bottle and drinks straight from it.

 

CARLA: Yes! I needed this!

 

JESSICA: A toast to the happy couple!

 

EVERYONE BUT BRISA & OWEN: Here, here!

 

BRISA: Owen and I would like to make a toast to all of you for helping us out with our wedding! Especially you, Jessica! Without you, none of this would be possible!

 

JESSICA: Oh, I was happy to do it!

 

OWEN: Cheers to all of you!

 

BRISA: Here, here!

 

Brisa and Owen clink their glasses together and take a drink.

 

JUNIPER: Would you guys like me to play some music for your first dance?

 

BRISA: Nah. It would feel a little silly since no one else can do it. Well, I guess you guys could…

 

Brisa indicates to Theo and Nedra.

 

THEO: Nah, I’m good.

 

NEDRA: He’s not that good of a dancer.

 

THEO: I didn’t say I was a good dancer! I’m just good not dancing!

 

NEDRA: I knew what you meant! I was just making another point!

 

THEO: (to Brisa & Owen) This is your future, you know! After almost fifty years, you’ll turn into this!

 

OWEN: I can’t wait!

 

Brisa and Owen clink their glasses together again and give each other another kiss.

 

JUNIPER: So, that’s a no on the music then?

 

MENDEL: That’s a no. I think the cupcakes and champagne are the extent of their wedding traditions.

 

ROB: How about a wedding present?

 

Rob pulls out a gift bag. They open it to find toilet paper.

 

OWEN: Oh, heck yeah! I think I’m more excited for this than the gravy boat Brisa’s mom sent!

 

As they set it aside, Brisa notices her wedding bouquet on the ground.

 

BRISA: Oh, I know another tradition we can do! I can toss my flowers!

 

CARLA: Don’t you dare throw that to me! I don’t need another man in my life right now! You know, at first I was worried about doing this by myself, but I’m kinda liking the break, actually!

 

JUNIPER: I would also like to politely decline your flowers. I had a great romance once, and no one else can top it! The universe may change my mind one day with someone special, but until then, I would rather enjoy my life of singlehood.

 

Brisa shrugs and turns to Jessica.

 

BRISA: Here, catch!

 

Brisa throws the bouquet to Jessica, but she misses and it falls to the street. Brisa looks down and apologizes to someone on the street.

 

BRISA: Sorry!

 

Brisa turns to Jessica.

 

BRISA: Sorry!

 

OWEN: Don’t worry, I think she’ll do okay anyways!

 

He looks at Jessica and Drew and winks. Jessica grins and blushes.

 

DREW: So… Do you wanna go out sometime?

 

EVERYONE BUT DREW & JESSICA: Yes!

 

Drew and Jessica laugh.

 

JESSICA: I’d love to!

 

Drew smiles broadly. Carla’s baby starts crying.

 

CARLA: Sounds like someone is hungry!

 

THEO: Yeah, I’m starving!

 

Nedra shakes her head.

 

NEDRA: Are you sure you’re okay by yourself?

 

CARLA: I’ll be fine! If I need any help, I can always reach out to the Clearfront Balcony Club!

 

ROB: Absolutely!

 

Carla goes inside.

 

BRISA: The Clearfront Balcony Club… I love it!

 

JESSICA: Me too! I don’t know how long this virus thing’ll last, but I’m so glad I have you all to go through this with!

 

DREW: Here, here!

 

An ambulance rolls by.

 

JESSICA: Saluté!

 

EVERYONE BUT JESSICA: Saluté!

 

Everyone takes a drink. They then chitchat until the lights fade.

 

 

 
Wedding Day

The Clearfront Balcony Club, Scene 9

Scene 9: Jessica eats soup on her balcony. Drew comes outside wearing a bandanna around his nose and mouth.

 

JESSICA: Did you make a trip to the bodega?

 

DREW: How did you know?

 

Jessica points to her mouth. Drew suddenly remembers he’s wearing a bandanna and takes it off.

 

DREW: Oh, right! I guess I’m getting used to it. It’s weird that this is becoming normal!

 

JESSICA: Yeah, totally!

 

Drew almost steps forward more but realizes that there’s something there. He picks up a wrapped bowl of food.

 

JESSICA: Nedra made potato soup for everyone.

 

DREW: Oh, sounds much better than the TV dinner I was gonna make!

 

He unwraps the bowl and drinks from it.

 

DREW: Mmm! This is so good!

 

NEDRA: (from inside) You’re welcome!

 

DREW: Thank you!

 

He grins and continues to drink the soup.

 

JESSICA: Is there more food at the bodega now?

 

DREW: Yeah, there’s a bit more. I didn’t do any food shopping though. I thought I’d get some champagne for the wedding tomorrow. I have a pouring technique I’m dying to try!

 

JESSICA: Sounds like fun!

 

Nedra steps outside.

 

NEDRA: That reminds me, what kind of cake does everyone want?

 

JESSICA: I’m okay with anything.

 

DREW: Same here.

 

Juniper points her head outside.

 

JUNIPER: I’ll eat anything as long as it doesn’t come from an animal.

 

Nedra mulls this over.

 

NEDRA: Hmm.. I’ve never made a vegan cake before…

 

Mendel pokes his head outside.

 

MENDEL: I’m good with a vegan cake since I can’t have anything with lactose, but I also have Ciliac Disease, so…

 

NEDRA: So, I gotta make a cake with no dairy or gluten? You guys aren’t leaving me with a lot of ingredients!

 

Juniper and Mendel shrug as they go back inside. Nedra shakes her head in frustration and then goes back inside. Brisa and Owen step outside. Owen is holding a notebook.

 

BRISA: Can you guys help Owen with his vows?

 

OWEN: There’s nothing wrong with my vows!

 

DREW: What do you have so far?

 

OWEN: Days may not be fair always, that’s when I’ll be there always…

 

BRISA: It’s repetitive!

 

JESSICA: Very repetitive considering it’s from an Irving Berlin song.

 

Brisa glares at Owen.

 

OWEN: I thought it was cute!

 

BRISA: You didn’t even try to write your own vows? Don’t you love me?

 

OWEN: Of course I do! That’s why I’m marrying you!

 

BRISA: But why can’t you say it then?

 

OWEN: I love you more than anyone in the world! I don’t know how to say it any longer than that!

 

Brisa gets exasperated, but Jessica steps in before she can argue.

 

JESSICA: We’ll help with your vows!

 

Brisa hands him a pen and goes back inside. Owen sits down to write.

 

OWEN: We were supposed to surpise each other with the vows, but she got suspicious when I finished too fast. I love her, I just don’t know how to express it poetically.

 

JESSICA: How did you first meet?

 

OWEN: In the principal’s office. We both got caught up in the tardy sweep.

 

JESSICA: What did you first think when you saw her?

 

OWEN: I didn’t think she’d talk to me ’cause she looked like one of the popular girls.

 

JESSICA: But eventually you did.

 

OWEN: Yeah! Well, she did. I never got in trouble like that before. She saw how upset I got and made me feel better. We became good friends after that.

 

JESSICA: When did you become more than friends?

 

OWEN: Pretty much after they released us from detention. As soon as they let us leave, we were inseparable.

 

JESSICA: That’s cute! Now, how do we put that into something more romantic sounding?

 

OWEN: Now you see my problem?

 

DREW: I got it!

 

As he speaks, he looks forward but makes shy glances to Jessica.

 

DREW: When I first saw you, I thought you were too pretty to want anything to do with me! I had no idea your heart was just as beautiful as your looks! You got me through a really tough time, and although we didn’t meet under ideal circumstances, I’m so grateful that it helped me find you! We face another difficult situation, but there’s no one I’d rather go through this with! You’ve made me into a better person, and I can never thank you enough for that! I still can’t believe you’ve chosen me! I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of our life holds for us!

 

Jessica blushes furiously as Owen scribbles all of it down.

 

OWEN: Wow, this is gold! How did you come up with it so fast?

 

Drew still can’t meet Jessica’s eyes.

 

DREW: Oh… It just came to me…

 

Drew cautiously peeks at Jessica, who stares at the ground but grins broadly. As Owen writes, they’re quiet. Suddenly, Rob bursts outside with a bag in his hand.

 

ROB: Whew! I’m glad it’s the weekend for me now! Anyone thirsty?

 

He pulls out a six pack of beer.

 

DREW: I’ll take one!

 

JESSICA: Me too!

 

Rob hands one to Drew and Jessica, and then he offers one to Owen.

 

OWEN: I dunno, I’m a little nervous about tomorrow. I think I need to keep my head clear.

 

ROB: Man, you gotta have a drink! You didn’t get a bachelor party!

 

OWEN: I guess this is like my bachelor party!

 

He accepts a beer from him. Jessica hold her beer up.

 

JESSICA: To Brisa and Owen!

 

DREW & ROB: To Brisa and Owen!

 

They hold their beers as if they were clinking glasses and take a drink. Drew notices something on his beer.

 

Drew: Hey, Mendel!

 

Mendel pokes his head outside.

 

DREW: This beer is gluten free. You want one?

 

MENDEL: That sounds really great actually! Thank you!

 

Rob happily hands over a beer to Owen, who passes it to Mendel. They sit on the balcony and chitchat as the lights fade.
Drew & Jessica

The Clearfront Balcony Club, Scene 8

Scene 8: Jessica, Drew, Brisa, Owen, and Juniper are all outside. Juniper passes a white gown over to Drew, who passes it to Jessica, who passes it down to Brisa and Owen. Brisa looks at it fondly.

BRISA: Oh my gosh! It’s so pretty! I think I’m gonna cry!

JESSICA: It looks gorgeous!

DREW: I can’t believe it used to be a tablecloth!

OWEN: How much do we owe you?

JUNIPER: Oh, I could not ask for money for a favor! You did me a service by keeping me occupied for a couple days, so I think it would generate bad karma if I asked for a payment!

OWEN: We couldn’t ask you to do all this work for free!

BRISA: We wouldn’t feel right if we didn’t pay you! There must be something you could use the money on! Like… crystals? Do you like crystals?

JUNIPER: (considers her offer) I could use more crystals…

Carla comes out very slowly with one hand on her stomach and one behind her back.

JESSICA: Are you okay?

CARLA: Oh yeah, I’m fine! I just wanted to thank you guys for being so nice to me, so I wanted to contribute to the wedding too. I didn’t hear anything about a veil or how you’ll wear your hair, so I thought I could help with that.

BRISA: Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that! What did you have in mind?

She takes the hand out from behind her back to reveal a beautiful tiara.

BRISA: (gasps) I love it!

 

CARLA: Well, you’re welcome to use it as your something borrowed. I would like it back when you’re done.

 

BRISA: No problem! Thank you so much!

 

Owen reaches up and takes it from Carla. He then hands it to Brisa, who admires it.

 

BRISA: It looks like the crown of a princess!

 

CARLA: It’s actually a queen’s crown. I was prom queen my senior year (sighs) Back in my glory days!

 

JESSICA: (to Drew) Oh, she was prom queen! I guess their lives don’t always turn out perfect, do they?

 

DREW: I said I was sorry! I was wrong, and I apologized. What is it gonna take for you to forgive me for that?

 

From inside his apartment, Theo laughs uproariously. He comes outside and addresses Drew.

 

THEO: Son, women may move on from your offenses, but they’ll never forgive you for it! They’ll remind you of how you messed up for the rest of your life! When Nedra and I were first dating, we saw a movie with Raquel Welch in it, and she looked gorgeous, so naturally, I couldn’t help but admire her. Nedra noticed and got really jealous. She asked me, “Is Raquel Welch gonna cook dinner for you after a hard day of work?”

 

JESSICA: What did you say?

 

Carla takes a really deep breath and rubs her belly.

 

THEO: I didn’t think I could make the situation worse, but I said, “I didn’t know Raquel Welch can cook!”

 

Jessica and Brisa groan, but then they laugh along with Drew and Owen.

 

THEO: Fifty years later, Nedra still-

 

Carla interrupts him when she lets out a large groan.

 

JESSICA: Something’s wrong!

 

CARLA: The baby’s coming!

 

Mendel pokes his head out of his apartment.

 

MENDEL: I’ll call an ambulance!

 

He goes back inside to make the call.

 

CARLA: No, it’s coming right now!

 

DREW: Right now? Are you sure?

 

Carla screams in pain.

 

JESSICA: Theo, go get your wife!

 

THEO: Oh! Oh, yes!

 

He goes inside for a moment and comes out with a book.

 

THEO: She’s indisposed and can’t come out at the moment. I have one of her old college books you could use.

 

He tries to pass it to Juniper, but he can’t raise his arms. Rob comes outside.

 

ROB: What’s going on?

 

Carla screams again.

 

ROB: Got it!

 

THEO: Take this!

 

Rob hastily grabs it and passes it to Owen.

 

CARLA: It’s coming! What do I do?

 

Owen quickly opens the book but then gets distracted by a picture.

 

OWEN: What is that?

 

DREW: Looks like this book predates women shaving their bikini zone!

 

OWEN: Good lord! Hey, it looks like the bodega cat!

 

Carla screams again.

 

BRISA: Owen!

 

OWEN: Oh, sorry! (reads) Lie down on your back with your legs spread apart.

 

Carla lies down with her head pointing towards her balcony and her legs pointing towards her apartment.

 

OWEN: Help your baby move through your vaginal canal by pushing with your contractions.

 

CARLA: Okay!

 

She pushes as she feels another one. Mendel comes outside.

 

MENDEL: The ambulance should be here now.

 

JESSICA: They just pulled up.

 

Carla groans as she pushes again. They hear a baby crying as the paramedics arrive. Nedra runs outside.

 

ROB: She did it!

 

Everyone cheers as the paramedics load her onto a gurney. They keep celebrating until she disappears.

 

NEDRA: Wow, she must have been in labor for a while without realizing it!

 

BRISA: Hey! Her daughter’s birthday will be the day before our wedding anniversary, Owen!

 

OWEN: Oh, that’s true!

 

Owen passes the book to Rob.

 

ROB: (looks at the book) Hey, that does look like Crumbs!

 

Everyone laughs as Drew offers a beer to everyone in celebration.Baby is Born

The Clearfront Balcony Club, Scene 7

Near sundown, Drew watches as Jessica puts the finishing touches on the paper wedding bouquet.

JESSICA: And… Voila! They’re done! What do you think?

DREW: When you said that you wanted to make paper flowers, I didn’t have high confidence in how they’d come out, but I gotta admit, I was totally wrong about this one!

JESSICA: That’ll teach you to never doubt me again!

DREW: I won’t make that mistake twice!

They both laugh.

DREW: I think Brisa will love them! Well done!

JESSICA: Give yourself some credit! You contributed too!

DREW: You spearheaded it. I just followed your directions!

JESSICA: We did this together! We make a good team!

DREW: I’d like to think so!

Drew smiles at her, and she smiles back bashfully. They’re quiet for a moment.

JESSICA: So… I guess I should give these to Brisa.

DREW: Oh, yeah… She’ll probably want them at some point, huh?

Jessica giggles as she kneels down in order to knock on Brisa and Owen’s back door. A moment later, Owen comes outside.

JESSICA: Oh, hey Owen! We finished Brisa’s flowers!

OWEN: Oh, awesome! I’ll get her. (Peeks his head inside) Hey Brisa, come here!

Brisa comes outside wearing oven mitts.

BRISA: What’s up?

Owen points upstairs, and when Brisa sees them, she is delighted.

BRISA: Oh, they’re so pretty! Thank you so much!

Brisa tries to grasp them but can’t with her oven mitts on.

BRISA: Oh, sorry! I just pulled dinner out of the oven.

Brisa hands Owen the oven mitts so she can grab the flowers.

DREW: What’d you guys make?

BRISA: Oh, well, we don’t have much, so I just combined the leftover chicken nuggets with canned spaghetti and some mixed veggies to make some sort of casserole. I hope it’s good!

JESSICA: That might be good… I gotta figure out what to make for dinner too.

Nedra comes outside.

NEDRA: You kids hungry?

OWEN: Always!

NEDRA: You like pizza? I got extra!

JESSICA: Oh, pizza sounds great! Thank you!

BRISA: Yeah, thanks!

NEDRA: Oh, no problem!

Nedra goes inside.

THEO: (from inside) Hey, I was gonna eat that!

NEDRA: (from inside) You said you were full!

THEO: (from inside) I didn’t say I was gonna eat it tonight! Maybe I want it for breakfast!

NEDRA: (from inside) Since when do you eat pizza for breakfast?

THEO: (from inside) Well, I’d at least like the option!

NEDRA: (from inside) Oh, you hush!

Nedra comes outside with four paper plates that have giant slices of pizza on them, and each are wrapped in plastic wrap. She passes them up one by one to Drew, who passes three over to Jessica, who passes two over to Owen and Brisa. They unwrap it and take a bite. Everyone looks pleased.

JESSICA: Mmm! This is amazing!

OWEN: It’s really good! Where’d you order it from?

NEDRA: Order it! I made it from scratch!

DREW: From scratch? You have a gift! You could open up your own restaurant!

NEDRA: I’d love to! I can’t work anymore! If I could, I’d go back to nursing since they’re desperate for more help. Unfortunately, a few years ago, I got blood clots in my lungs and lost sixty percent of my breathing capacity. I’m too high risk to help fight this virus! And now I can’t even see my grandkids! So, now I’m just looking for ways to make myself useful around here! It gets me through the days…

BRISA: If you want, you can help us with our wedding! I gave up on the idea of having a cake to cut, but maybe you could…

NEDRA: Count me in!

Rob comes outside.

ROB: Oh, hey guys! I got my…

He sees everyone finishing up their pizzas.

NEDRA: Don’t worry, I have one more slice!

ROB: Oh, thank you!

Nedra goes back inside.

ROB: I was just gonna say that I got my certification! I’m officially an ordained minister!

OWEN: Oh, perfect! Tomorrow, we should get the dress, so we can probably have the wedding-

BRISA: On Sunday! Oh, I can’t wait!

She happily celebrates. Nedra comes outside and gives Rob a slice of pizza. Their general merriment comes to a halt when Carla comes onto her balcony with a total poker face. Everyone is quiet for a moment.

CARLA: Is Mendel here?

Mendel cautiously pops his head outside.

MENDEL: I can hear you.

CARLA: I just wanted to apologize for yelling at you! You were only trying to help! Honestly, I knew I needed to get out of that situation, I just didn’t think I had a lot of options! Especially now! I can’t go anywhere! Not because of the pandemic, I mean, I’m so sore that I can’t even make it to my mailbox let alone the store! I need help, and I thought he was my only option.

MENDEL: If you need help, you have plenty of options right here!

JESSICA: That’s right! If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask!

ROB: Yeah, I work at the bodega, so if you need anything before I go to work, just holler!

NEDRA: You hungry?

CARLA: Well, honestly, I haven’t eaten anything all day!

NEDRA: Oh no! We can’t have that! I’m out of pizza, but there’s some leftover pasta in the fridge. I’ll get it for you!

Nedra goes inside to get it.

THEO: (from inside) You’re giving that away too? I wanted to eat that too!

NEDRA: (from inside) You haven’t eaten it so far!

Nedra comes outside shaking her head. She passes the plate to Rob, who passea it to Owen, who passes it to Carla.

CARLA: Thank you so much!

ROB: Yeah, thanks for sharing your food with us!

NEDRA: Oh, it’s just nice to have people to share it with!

Carla smiles gratefully and goes inside to eat it. Mendel also goes inside,but his mood is clearly elevated. Owen and Brisa finish up their food.

BRISA: Come on, Owen! Let’s go work on our vows!

They go back inside. Rob’s cellphone rings.

ROB: Oh, hey Mom! Guess what I got today!

After everyone else goes inside, Drew looks at Jessica admirably.

JESSICA: What?

DREW: It’s just amazing! You volunteer to help a couple of strangers with their wedding, and now everyone’s benefiting from this project! It’s crazy how your one act of kindness has had such a ripple effect! What would we have done without your help?

Jessica smiles and blushes.

JESSICA: You’re too kind!

DREW: No, you are!

Jessica shyly laughs. They continue to casually chitchat as the lights fade.