Monday, September 23, 2019

Mystery Woman

Mystery Woman
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

            Brianna lived on the twelfth floor of an apartment building in the city. She was clever and curious and just a tiny bit nosy. She knew the woman in 1203 was a night nurse because she noticed her leave in the evening dressed in scrubs. The couple in 1211 had a new baby boy. Brianna saw the balloon announcing his birth.  When she walked down the hall and heard violin practice from 1208, she concluded the man who lived there was a musician.
            Only one tenant on the 12th  floor baffled her. A woman had moved into 1210 recently and lived alone. She had long black hair and didn’t wear much make-up. She wore clothes Brianna liked— long flowing dresses and dangly earrings, faded jeans with baggy sweaters and lots of bracelets
Unlike the other tenants, she didn’t leave for work in the morning and not in the evening either. When Brianna went to the park in the afternoon, she often saw her sitting on a park bench. One day she even saw her climbing the ladder to the slide, even though she was too old for that!
           The woman went to yoga on Saturdays— Brianna saw her get on the elevator carrying a yoga mat. She went to the farmer’s market afterwards, because she came back with net bags filled with vegetables and fruits. But, other than the few things Brianna observed, the woman was a mystery that piqued Brianna’s curiosity.
“Hello,” Brianna said to the woman one afternoon as she stepped onto the elevator. “I live in 1213.”
            The woman looked confused.
            “Down the hall from you. I’m Brianna.”
            “Nice to meet you,” the woman replied as the doors opened and she headed for the mailboxes. Only then did Brianna realize that the woman hadn’t mentioned her name.        
            Brianna began to suspect the woman might be a spy. Spies didn’t mention their names, did they? And, a spy would be a much more interesting tenant for the twelfth floor than almost anyone else. Maybe sliding down the slide was a signal to someone watching through binoculars. Maybe she passed messages to other spies at yoga, or the farmer’s market.
            Brianna’s suspicions were confirmed when she popped open a fortune cookie after Friday night’s take out Chinese dinner. “Upset the raven and risk all,” her fortune read. Brianna didn’t even know where to find any ravens, much less upset them. Unless— it didn’t mean a bird.  Maybe it was a code name. Raven, a perfect code name. And who had black hair like a raven? The mystery woman.
           Brianna’s heart raced. She wasn’t scared, just excited. Here she was in the middle of a spy story. All she had to do was watch and be careful. Never did she think  a summer on the 12th floor of her apartment building would be so exciting.
            Brianna found reasons to stroll past the mystery woman’s apartment every hour or so during the day. She heard music playing, but not much else. When she went to the mailroom and saw a package for apartment 1210, she tried to read the return address, but the doorman shooed her away. She only caught the mystery woman’s name: Ruth Bevins.
            “Aha! Ruth starts with an ‘r’ and so does raven. More proof!”
            Brianna googled the name, something she’d learned to do in school. Ruth Bevins’ website was at the top of the search. Brianna clicked on it eagerly.
Artist. Award winning illustrator of over 20 books, many of which Brianna had enjoyed.  
Living near an artist who illustrated books was even more exciting than living near a spy. And of course, it explained everything. Ms. Bevins worked from home, drawing and painting all day.
The next time Brianna saw Ms. Bevins, she whispered, “I really like your books.”

Ms. Bevins smiled and invited Brianna to visit and Brianna happily did.
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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be distributed, copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published August 3, 2019, Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

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