At 9 a.m. I once again opened the door for Chloe.
“Hi, Harrison,” she said.
I looked down at the young girl next to her that had dark hair. A brunette. In Petrarchan style, I would say her hair was a beautiful black, like the night sky, with all the constellations.
“Yes, that’s Dana.”
I looked and smiled at her. “Hi, how are you?”
She turned her head away and said nothing.
“Dana, tell him hello.”
She said nothing.
“Chloe why don’t you come in?” I asked.
I kept the door open with my back as they went inside. Dana was holding a book that had birds on the cover. I could barely make out the title Encyclopedia of Birds, for she hugged it so tightly with her arms.
“Your book looks interesting. What’s it about?”
She went past me. Chloe brought her in to sit on the couch, and she pulled me into the kitchen. “Look, Harrison, It wouldn’t bother me if you change your mind. She’s a good girl, and nice, if you get to know her, but she has a problem and I don’t like talking to people about it.”
“I’m not changing my mind.”
“I have nowhere else to bring her.”
“What about your family?”
“I don’t want to talk about them. Not now.”
“She doesn’t say much,” she said. “The thing is, she’s, she has, well the doctor said she has Asperger’s Syndrome.” She folded her arms defensively and leaned against the sink. “When Dana was four my parents begged me to take her to a doctor, to find out what was wrong with her. So I did.”
“I see. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s touchy. A lot of people don’t understand. So I don’t go around telling people.”
“How come she has black hair?”
“My hair is dyed. I’m not a real blonde.”
“Well, you fooled me. Don’t you like black?”
“I do. I love the color of my hair. I really do, but I was starting a new life and wanted a new look.”
“A new life?”
“Anyway, she’s obsessed with birds. Dana. She can tell you so much about them. I’ve been homeschooling her for the last three years. She had an awful experience in first grade. I want to try with her again, this year.”
“How old is she again?”
“I brought breakfast. I made it this morning, something simple.”
Chloe drew out a bowl from her carrying bag. She put plates on the table and distributed the food.
“It’s vegetarian sausages, and lots of vegetables,” Chloe said.
“It’s always lots of vegetables,” I said.
“I have some fruit, too. Dana, come eat.”
Dana twisted her lips and said, “I don’t like it, Chloe.”
“I have nothing else, so you have to eat it.”
I sat down at the table and started eating. Chloe sat next to Dana, who pushed the sausages around with her fork.
“Why don’t you tell Harrison hi?” Chloe asked.
Dana stared at her food. “Because I don’t want to.”
“Your mom told me you’re into birds. I have something I think you’ll enjoy seeing.”
I got up and went into the living room. I took a file from the cabinet, went back into the kitchen and handed pictures to Dana. “I took these in the park.”
Her face brightened. “A hummingbird! You know they can fly backward? Their eggs are tiny. They can beat their wings 70 times a second, and they can move their wings like this.” She rotated her arms and knocked over a cup.
“Dana, that’s enough,” Chloe said. “Please, eat your breakfast.” Then, turning to me, she says, “I’m sorry, Harrison, I’ll clean it up.”
“No problem, I enjoyed hearing her speak.”
“I’m going into the garden now. I’ll leave her on the couch.”
“I’ll watch over her.”
“What about your work?”
“I’ll work mostly here. Most of my equipment is here anyway.”
Chloe added, “I brought some CDs for her to look at. I have a DVD player and she knows how to use it. That should keep her occupied for most of the day. I have fruit and vegetable snacks in a bag, which she can get herself. I’ll come in later for lunch.”
“Okay, I’ll see you around noon.”
“Don’t try too hard with her, Harrison, you’ll only frustrate yourself. She’s a good girl, just give her some time to feel comfortable.”
“I will, Chloe.”
She took Dana to the couch and said, “Okay, Mommy will be outside in the back. If you need anything, just call me and I’ll come.” She kissed Dana on the forehead and went upstairs. Dana sat back on the couch with the portable DVD player in her lap and pressed a CD into it.
Hoping to befriend her, I took a chair from the dining room table and set it in front of the TV, close enough to change the channels by the knobs. I turned on the TV.
“What are you doing?” she asked, almost shouting.
“Looking for something to watch.”
“But I’m watching cartoons.”
“I’ll put it low.”
“You can’t have that on and this on at the same time,” she said.
“Can I watch cartoons them with you?”
“Because, you’re a stranger.”
“I’m Chloe’s friend.”
“I don’t like Chloe’s friends.”
I got up. “I’ll just go to my room.”
“My babysitters never leave me by myself.”
“You can watch cartoons with me, but you have to stay over there,” she said, pointing to my chair. It was about seven feet away from the couch.
“I’ll not die,” I said.
I sat down, and she shifted the DVD player a little so I could see. There was Bugs Bunny, seven feet away. Whenever I laughed, she’d tell me to stop doing that. I tried to stop, but couldn’t. I held it in and put my hand on my mouth, but a laugh just exploded out. Dana slammed the DVD player shut. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Are you going to keep doing that?”
I shook my head no. “I’m sorry, Dana. I promise I won’t.”
She sighed, opened the DVD player again and continued the cartoon. I used to love cartoons when I was younger. I had to grow up out of them as my case had been extreme. It was just before my teens that I had been the most fanatical. I’d watch cartoons all weekend, and Mom would complain all weekend. She wanted me to study for school and do productive things with my time. She didn’t find it funny when I said Elmer Fudd was my mentor, and I’d grow up to be a hunter, an unsuccessful one, that is. Anyway, I broke off the habit after something like a thousand lectures.
Chloe came in after we’d watched one hour and fifty-three minutes on the DVD. Her face was covered in sweat, her sleeves and pants all muddy.
“How are you two getting along?” she asked.
“He was disturbing me, Chloe. Fire him.”
“This is his house, Dana. He’s my boss. And he was nice enough to let you come here.” She sighed. “Sorry again, Harrison.”
“Well, now I know she can speak very, very well. She’s very good at expressing her feelings.”
Chloe went into her bag and took out four bowls.
“I’m not hungry,” I said.
“When will you be?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I’ll leave some for you in the bowls by the microwave.” She picked up one of the bowls that had an inch of masking tape with the number “1” marked on it. “Bowl one has spaghetti.” She put it down and picked up another bowl. “Bowl two has lasagna.” She put it down and picked up another bowl. “Bowl three has vegetarian meatballs.” She put it down and picked up another bowl. “And bowl four has salad. Make sure you don’t warm up the salad.”
“I will remember that.”
Chloe arranged a plate of food for her and Dana. They went into the kitchen and I began rehearsing what I was going to say to her. They started eating at the kitchen table.
“Chloe,” I said.
She quickly swallowed her food to acknowledge me. “Yes, Harrison . . .”
“How are you getting home?” I asked.
“By bus. Dana doesn’t like it though, especially when it’s crowded. I might just take a taxi.”
“Chloe, I have an extra room upstairs. That was my mom’s room.”
“What are you trying to tell me?”
“I know. But I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to stay here. I’d like to, it would save me rent money. But I have Dana. I trust you. I know you’re just trying to help. But I have Dana.”
“Think about it.”
Chloe got up and threw the paper plates and plastic forks into the trash can. She took Dana to the sink and washed her hands together with hers, dried them with a paper towel and turned to me. “I’m going back out.” She knelt in front of Dana, brushing her hair with her palms. “Be a good girl.”
“Tell him to be good, Chloe.”
She pointed her finger at Dana. “Be good.” Chloe kissed her on the forehead and stood up.
“I’ll be back by four.”
She opened the fridge, took out a bottle of water and went to the backyard.
I looked down at Dana. “So, what are we watching?”
“You’re annoying. You make all those annoying sounds.”
“So what will you do?”
She sat down on the couch and covered her face with the Encyclopedia Of Birds. I took the earphones I had had in the living room dresser, then grabbed the DVD player on the couch and plugged the earphones into it.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m going to watch it with earphones.”
“No, you can’t do that.”
“Well . . .”
“After I’m done reading you can do that.”
“Well, I’ll just go up to my bedroom and watch it.” I wrapped the earphones around the DVD player and got up.
“All right, all right,” she said, blocking my way to the stairs.
I sat back down and put the earphones in my ear. Dana kept watching me from behind her book. When I had watched two hours and thirty-six minutes of the DVD, she put her book away and sat down on the couch. I pressed the mute button.
“Did you know that birds do not have teeth?” she asked.
“Well, I never really thought about it.”
“They have bills that are made from protein. Did you know that the largest bird is an ostrich?”
“Well, did you know they can grow up to nine feet tall?”
“And their eggs weigh 3.5 to 5 pounds?”
I shook my head no.
“And their eyes are larger than their brains? Did you know that a hummingbird’s brain is 4.2 percent of its body weight?”
I shook my head no.
“And they can remember all the flowers they’ve gone to?”
She went on like that until Chloe came in. I was amazed at her memory.
“That’s it today,” Chloe said, passing through the living room to head upstairs to change. When she came back down, she said, “I planted several new ones, Harrison.” She steered a comb through her hair.
“New ones are good,” I said.
She went into the kitchen, put her bowls back into her bag and returned to the living room. “Ready, sweetie?” she asked Dana.
Dana picked up her book, and Chloe put the DVD player in her bag.
“Tell Harrison bye.”
“Bye, Harrison,” Dana said.
“There you go. That’s my girl.”
“And, Harrison,” Chloe said.
“Yeah,” I said.
“I was thinking about it.”
“I’ll take your offer.”
“On trial, though. I’ll stay maybe for a week and see how Dana likes it here. If she feels comfortable I’ll stay longer.”
“I’ll set up the bedroom for you.”
“Thanks, Harrison, you’re wonderful.”
“Tell me more.”
“No, I don’t want to please your ego.”
I heard a honk coming from outside.
“I called a taxi from upstairs,” Chloe said.
“Great,” I said, escorting them to the door.
“Bye,” Chloe said.
“Bye,” I said softly.
I watched them get into the taxi. It had been a new experience for me, meeting someone like Dana. She was special. The taxi drove off as I waved to them.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish