She could hear a cartoon on the TV inside and a couple of fighting kid voices. Nora could smell…Hamburger Helper? She rang the doorbell.
Gina came to the door, baby on her hip and a brown scrunchy holding back her bleached hair. “Hi.”
“Hi. I’m Nora. I live across the hall. I thought this might help you.”
Gina looked surprised, and a little moved. “Thank you. That was really nice of you. You didn’t have to do that.”
“It’s no problem.”
After a beat, Gina introduced herself. “I’m Gina Majuri.”
“I’m Nora. Nora Bell. It’s nice to meet you.”
“I’ll let you go. You’re making dinner.”
“It’s OK. Want to come in?”
“I don’t know-“
“No, it’s fine. Come on in.” Gina stepped back into the apartment so that Nora could enter.
“Just for a minute. I have to…” Her voice trailed off as Nora realized that she didn’t have to do anything. Paul wasn’t coming back. “Who is this,” Nora asked, taking the baby’s outstretched hand and stepping inside Gina’s apartment.
“Frankie. He’s 14 months old. Over there in front of Spongebob are Vic and Nino. Boys, say hello to Miss Bell.” Vic and Nino had a hard time looking away from the TV. “Boys! Say hello!”
“Hi,” the boys said in unison, waving halfheartedly in her general direction as they watched Spongebob and Patrick. The yellow cartoon sponge’s hold on them was too great.
“Hi,” called Nora.
Gina went to the stove, Frankie on her hip, to stir the Hamburger Helper. “I’m glad you came in. I haven’t met many people in the building. It’s hard when I go out with the boys. It’s sometimes like herding cats. Don’t get a lot of time to talk to other grownups. Are you on your way home from work?”
“Yeah. I work in a law firm.”
“Oh. What do you do there?”
“I’m the receptionist for Carroll, Carroll, and Splint.”
“I’ve seen those commercials on TV. That’s the one with the guy in the body cast and the lawyer in the cowboy hat, right? ‘We’ll get what YOU deserve!’”
“Yeah that’s us. Cowboy hats only on Fridays.”
Gina chuckled. “You must meet a lot of people in your job.”
“Yeah…” Nora’s voice trailed off. She noticed Gina’s wedding picture on the wall by the TV. “Is that your husband?”
Gina swallowed hard and adjusted Frankie on her hip, pulling him closer. “Yes. That’s Frank. He passed away a year and a half ago.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s OK. I keep thinking it will get easier to answer questions like that. He was crossing the street and was hit by a truck. He hung on a couple days, but he was hurt really bad and just couldn’t.... Frankie was born a little after his daddy died.”
“Wow. Just-wow. Do you have family nearby?”
“Yeah, my mom lives close, and so do his parents. I have help.” Gina turned and gave Nora a smile, but the corners of her mouth turned down just a little. “Want to stay for dinner?”