We all know I don't Highlander, or Tessa, or the antique shop, or any of it. I do own Frannie, (Or she owns me, not exactly sure which)
I'm watching her, as I do ever day. How can I not? She's the most beautiful thing I see on my delivery route. I'm a good lookin' woman, don't misunderstand me. I'm one of those big breasted, big-butted black ladies that the boys all howl over. But her, she's an angel, all white and gold and cream, I think. Like the nuns used to preach on us about.
She moves through the storefront as though on auto-pilot, opening the boxes I've just delivered and checking the contents. Each vase is lifted to the light, each delicate ceramic unwrapped and turned. I wait patiently. I get paid by the hour, and most of this stuff is worth ten times my monthly salary.
Usually, she's cautious, her crystalline blue eyes reflecting the light that filters through the windows as she inspects every item for cracks or chips. Today, she holds a cut crystal goblet to the light and her hands, the finely calloused hands with the short nails of an artist, tremble.
I watch more closely, seeing that she's not looking at the glass, but through it, out the window, as though waiting for something.
"Missus?" I ask cautiously, "Is it broken?"
"What?" Her rich voice, laden with some accent, French, I think, sounds too loud in the empty shop. "No. No. It's fine. I'm sure they're all fine."
She reaches for my clipboard and pen, but I pause, suddenly. What makes her eyes narrow, her perfect pink lips purse? Why does my heart suddenly pound with a fear I can't name.
"You didn't check that one." I say, concerned. She always checks them all.
"I'm sure it's fine, Frannie."
How does she always remember my name? I tore the embroidered badge off my uniform shirt months ago, sick of hearing my name; my Mama's name and my grandmama's before that, shouted through wearhouses and dingy storefronts. Doesn't matter who broke the stuff, or how badly its packed, it's always Frannie's fault. Blame the driver.
Not her. When she says "Frannie", it's like... like a friend would say it, you know?
"Are you sure, missus?" I look at the box dubiously, "You always check. If you don't check.."
"I can't make any claims." She finishes my regular lay for me as she takes the clipboard and signs with a wavering hand.
I look at the signature and frown. Her hand is bold, swirling, with all those curly-cues and stuff they tried to teach me at the parochial school. I never got the hang of it. But her signature today is tight, contained, only a waver on the beginning of the N giving her away.
"Thanks, Missus." I say, and turn towards the door. Suddenly, I turn back, I don't know why, really, except sometimes, you see people every day, and think you know a bit about them, even though all you really know is what they buy and how they sign their name. "Where's the mister, today? The car ain't out front."
It's a bit of a joke on this street. Her big white car is always parked in the loading zone, yellow tickets stuck under the wipers. Today, my truck slid right into the loading zone and I saw her car parked where his black one usually is.
She glances at me, just a glance, but I see something there. That was the look I saw the day that Daddy died in the factory fire. We was all waiting for news and that was the look Mama had when she was waiting.
She swallows hard, and looks away again, out the window. "He'll be home soon."
I nod and start to step out into the winter sunshine, and hear her whisper it again, like a talisman against the voodoo my great granny used to murmur. "He'll be home soon."
As I fasten the gate of the truck, I hear the door open and look up as she sticks her head out and looks up and down the street. I wave, and she waves back.
"Take care, Missus." I call, as I climb into the cab of the truck. I feel the engine rumble to life and watch in the side mirror as I drive away. She stands in front of the shop door, her white clad arms crossed tight over her chest against the winter cold, and maybe something else, too. Just standing there with her eyes gazing down the road.
As I head down to my next stop, The China Junket, I send a little prayer upwards. "Lordee, now you just let him come home soon. Missus, she's one of your angels, and you gotta treat them better than that, Lord. You gotta keep em here on earth where the rest of us can see 'em."
Next time I had a delivery there, the shop was boarded up, and that blond haired boy, the one who used to make trouble with the scamps down on 17th Street, you know the one I mean, he was there, cleaning up. He was real quiet-like. Just asked me to send it all back where it come from.
I don't pray anymore. I think God shouldn't give us angels and then go and take them away. But I don't think I've given up all hope in him because I still watch for her. Everytime I pass that big sculpture down in the park that she did, or deliver packages to the museum gallery, I watch for the Missus. Sometimes, I think I see her.