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Shelia Brady glanced up the street through the yellow curtains that she had brought when she first moved into this apartment. When was that?  It must have been about ten years ago. The windows needed cleaning, and the paint on the frame was chipped. A woman’s work is never done, Shelia thought as she picked at a paint chip. She noticed that her red fingernail polish was also chipped. She glanced again out the window and saw Mr. Henry walking his dog with a piece of clothesline that was wrapped around his right wrist. The grey mangy looking dog was trotting behind him, sniffing the ground for just the right spot to drop his dump. It stopped and lifted his leg to pee on the ground while Mr. Henry picked at his nose and wiped his finger on his black dress pants.

“Where the hell are the girls?” She said out loud and looked at the kitchen clock and saw that it was well after five pm. They were late and hadn’t called, which was something she had drilled into their heads to do several times. She had put them on punishment  and took their phone privileges from them? How many times will it take for them to get the message! This wasn’t always a safe neighborhood, and she didn’t like worrying about her girls. Too many wannabe pimps and creeps hanging and driving around. 

She hoped they hadn’t stopped at Franklin Park to hang out because the last time they did that after school, Shelia had to stake out the park looking for a white man in a grey Chevy who held up a sign on cardboard for her daughters to read. It said, “I’ll give you $25 to let me touch your panties.” Jean and Sara were both upset about it, Jean crying, and Sara fussing. Shelia was livid and called some of her soul sisters together and they walked that park for three weeks after school until they caught that pedophile red handed, saving a girl that was eleven years old from getting into his car. Those sisters pulled that white man out of his car and almost beat him to death. Then they put him back in his car and drove him to the nearest police substation, parked the car and left. They didn’t see anything about it in the newspaper, didn’t really expect too, but the mission was accomplished as he didn’t show up in Franklin Park again.

Shelia heard Jimmy approaching before she saw him. He always walked like he was carrying a ton of bricks. Stomp, stomp, stomp, and then plop his big ass into the nearest chair. She swore he was the laziest man she had ever known. Sure, he worked all right, but all he did was sit on his butt all day at the cab company and dispatch calls to the cabbies in the streets, and he still complained of his back and feet hurting whenever she saw him. Like she gave a crap. All she wanted was his room and board money that he paid every two weeks without fail. When he started talking about quitting his job, then she would give a crap. Until then, he was just another person to help her pay bills and feed her girls. She had to be careful with him though because she wasn’t supposed to sub-lease her apartment and could lose it if the landlord found out.

Shelia looked at Jimmy as he placed his two hundred and fifty smelly pounds into the kitchen chair. He grunted as if in pain and then smiled his toothless grin at her. God! The man was only forty-five and he didn’t have a tooth in his mouth. 

“Hey Shelia” he managed to get out in a breathless voice. Jimmy was a big man with a soft voice. Shelia nodded to him and turned back to the window.

“Where are the girls at, they should be coming soon, shouldn’t they?” Jimmy asked.

There he goes again she thought, sticking his nose in my business. “Yes, they should” she responded without glancing at him this time.

“If they were my kids, I’d be kicking butts when they come in. I don’t be takin that shit from no kids.” Jimmy said.

What kids? The only kids Jimmy ever had were in his dreams cause no woman would want to lay with that funk box. “I’ll take care of my own kids Jimmy, just mind your business!” Shelia glanced at the clock again. Five fifty-five. No girls. 

“Now don’t you be getting mad at me Shelia, I’m just trying to help you. You know that. Shucks, who else can help you? Your old man don’t, so I do. Don’t be mad.” Jimmy pleaded.

Shelia turned to face Jimmy, crossed her arms and just looked at him, making him squirm in his chair. Shelia hated it when Jimmy talked about her male relationships, as if he knew anything about her life outside of this apartment. Who did he think he was, saying he was trying to help her? Help her do what? “I don’t have the time or inclination to be mad at you.” She walked out of the kitchen into the living room and looked out the front door. I’m gonna kill those girls when they get here. Where are they! I’m gonna have to look for them if they don’t get here soon.