There was a girl living right next door to us. Her apartment was not sound proof for on some nights, there was some harsh language and mean talk. She, of course, was not part of that and neither were her brothers and sisters.
Her last name escapes me, for some reason, but not her mannerisms or her charm. She was two years older at that time and fourteen years of age for her was about like ten years of age for me. Annette would often talk with me with an accent that was, of course, pretty cool.
All the guys I hung out with liked her and we often laughed at the way she said things like: “Hello, what are you eating? Don’t pull away; is it so much for you that you can’t share? Is it because you are an asses’ horse or do you forget to think of others?”
One time she broke us up by saying: “What is in your faces? It looks like your dog ran away from home and you stepped in the poop.” She then would laugh and say: “You boys are looking for sometimes the thing to do and you have not found it.” Of course she meant, “You are all bored but keep looking, something will turn up.”
We would see her around and always stop and talk with her. She just had a good way about her and we accepted her as a friend.
One time it was getting late and I went outside to get some fresh air and there she was sitting on the sidewalk with tears in her eyes. I said: “Annette, is something wrong?” She looked up at me and shook her head while the tears kept coming. I sat down by her and said nothing and just waited. Finally she said: “My foot sticks in my mouth but I am sad for my mother.” She took a deep breath and went on. “My way to go is to beg her to not do it but she does not catch on.” “Do what?” I said. “You know, the fooling around with men and picking up ones that are – “ She shivered and said: “So strange and stupid.” “Stupid?” I asked.
She put her finger to her head and turned her finger around. “You know to have bugs in your head.” She sighed and said, “I am not just off the boat; these men are danger types.” I understood what she was saying for the other day, I went to have a shower in the common washroom, which was in the center of the apartments for us all to use, where this friend of her Mother’s was shaving. He had such a scary look and it frightened me enough that I didn't shower at all but went home. I met him one other time in the hallway and it sent shivers up and down my spine. To look at him was to see a really stocky guy with short-cropped hair and strange appearance about his clothes and manner.
Annette continued: “It is better for me to be away here tonight and wait until he is gone.” I kept her company for a while until he left and, when he was gone, she returned to her apartment.
I felt uneasy for her and did not go to sleep for some time as I thought about how scared she was. I saw her two days later and she said her mother had not come home last night or the night before. The look on her face was a worried one and finally she said: “Something is fallen to the ground and it is too heavy for me to lift.” I said, “What do you mean?” She thought for a moment and then grew quiet and started to speak.
“I am so saddened and I am scared for the night to come.” Toward evening there was some commotion going on next door. The word was that the police were there. I could see a police car on the street and a couple of other cars. I watched as she and her brothers and sisters left with the police officers. I was standing real close to where she came out. She saw me and gave me a halfhearted smile and then hung her head down and walked away.
Many times I have pictured her at that moment. To see her with eyes swollen from crying, confused and weighed down by it all and still with the presence of mind to be the one in charge for the other kids.
It wasn't until the next day the story came out. Her mother was found in a motel room and had been stabbed many times with an ice pick. They had caught the guy and it was the fellow I had seen in the washroom.
My knees went weak when I heard who it was and I immediately thought of her and tears came to my eyes. I remember thinking, “What is to become of her and the others of her family?”
Several years later I was taking the bus to work at the Canadian Pacific Railroad when a voice said: “Digby.” I looked up and it was Annette.
She explained she had been in a government home for kids. She had been separated from her brothers and sisters. She introduced me to a fellow with her. She said he had been her lifeline and that they were drawn together as they had both lost a parent in something ugly. She did not mention the heartache in the past but smiled and said, “You were a good friend and I have often thought of you.” I smiled and clasped her hands and remarked how good her English was. She laughed and said, “This is our stop,” and suddenly hugged me and left with her friend.
The sadness came back but I was left happy at the thought of her well being now.
The choices made by others can so affect our lives.