Mrs. Henderson was a woman in her mid-seventies that lived across the street from the Rider home. She had been in that home long before the Riders came and she suspected she'd be there long after they were gone. After all, it was only a matter of time before the neighborhood found a way to permanently get rid of the hooligans across the street.
She was well versed in the ways of the neighborhood. This was a place of high morals, families, and hard working professionals. The family in the Rider home did not fit this mold and it irked her that they were all still there. After all, only one of them was actually a Rider and he might or might not be a juvenile delinquent, depending on which piece of news you heard.
As the neighborhood's oldest resident, Mrs. Henderson had taken it upon herself to get to know the more wayward inhabitants. And there was no family more wayward than that odd mix of people across the street.
Perhaps the most tame border of the Rider home was the lone woman. An American named Jack who, while free-spirited to the point of impropriety, did in fact know her manners. When Mrs. Henderson had been forced to finally undergo hip surgery Miss Jack Starbright had been kind enough to bake several casseroles for Mr. Henderson to eat. Mrs. Henderson hadn't appreciated the copious amount of bacon pieces that were in all three dishes but she could hardly expect anything else from an American.
However, it was her duty to invite the girl over for tea once she was feeling up for company. Jack came in a simple dress and Converse sneakers. Mrs. Henderson knew that the attire was suitable for people of Jack's age but Mrs. Henderson also knew that the dress was several inches too short and the shoes were entirely inappropriate.
There was no use informing Jack of such a thing and she graciously let it slide. Two days later though, Mrs. Henderson was tending her garden and saw the young woman in a scandalous lack of clothes. Mrs. Henderson was so upset she had to go straight inside and gather her wits before she marched right across the street to have a stern conversation with the woman on the porch.
"Darling," she started as Jack sipped her American coffee and read a gossip magazine in the morning light. It was unusually pleasant for that time of year and the woman clearly wanted to enjoy the sunshine before it disappeared. "I do believe you need a sweater." She refrained herself from suggesting actual pants as well.
The American woman's shorts barely reached her mid-thigh, her shirt was baggy in all the wrong places, and her hair was a mess. She looked very sloppy. It was thoroughly embarrassing and all Mrs. Henderson wanted to do was make sure she didn't embarrass herself in front of the neighborhood.
"I'm fine Mrs. Henderson," Jack replied with a smile. She clearly didn't understand. "Would you like to join me?" Mrs. Henderson was always surprised that Jack knew such manners. Her appearance always suggested otherwise. Not wanting to appear rude, Mrs. Henderson took a seat, pursed her lips, and allowed Jack to pour her some of that horrid coffee.
"Jack, honey, are you aware of what the neighborhood has been saying recently?" she finally asked and Jack gave her all of her attention.
"No, Mrs. Henderson," she replied. "What are they saying?"
"Well, it's quite awful really," Mrs. Henderson said, delighting in the opportunity to let the girl know the nature of the neighborhood's opinion. "You see, they are all very concerned about the incident."
She was, of course, referring to a few weeks ago when the Rider home had been broken into and several people had ended up dead or maimed.
"It's not good, love," Mrs. Henderson continued when Jack didn't appear likely to respond. "They think you are attracting the wrong sort."
"The wrong sort?" Jack questioned.
"Yes, love," Mrs. Henderson stressed, glad that Jack seemed to get it. "The sort of people that could make the neighborhood less desirable."
Jack didn't seem even remotely grateful to hear what Mrs. Henderson was saying but she maintained her manners fairly well.
"Thanks for letting me know," she said with a bit of a cold tone that Mrs. Henderson thought was entirely unnecessary. "I'll let the boys know that they can't be attacked here anymore because the neighbors are worried about what other people think. And you can let the neighborhood know that we're alright by the way. Not that they really care."
Mrs. Henderson was quite surprised by Jack's combativeness and she was equally surprised when the American got up and left her on the porch.
Andrew Rosten was perhaps the most perplexing man Mrs. Henderson had ever known. He bounced back and forth between rude and uncommonly kind. It was plain to see that Andrew cared quite deeply for Jack and by extension the little orphan boy they took care of.
Mrs. Henderson had been rather impressed at how well Andrew took care of the house and the children filtering in and out. He had tremendous paternal instincts but he also had a decent sized temper. It was well known that the man didn't spend very long in the house and then spent an incredible amount of time away. Jack said he and his friends were soldiers but she could never seem to name where they were. People weren't sure whether to believe her or not.
He had been around ever since the incident that had left him hobbling about with the help of a cane. He had appeared to be in a more congenial state as of late. However, Mrs. Henderson had managed to catch him on an off day.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Andrew stated, glaring at her in the most rude fashion. He was clutching at the pamphlet she had given him as if he could crush it into oblivion.
"All I'm saying is that the boy is at that age now," Mrs. Henderson replied.
"Yeah, I'm aware he's a teenager," Andrew said testily. "I see no reason to think he's in a gang."
"Well, the neighbors have seen him coming and going at all hours of the night," Mrs. Henderson said. She was honestly concerned that the Rider boy had fallen in with the wrong sorts and she was certainly concerned about what that could mean for the neighborhood.
"That doesn't mean anything other than he's a teenager," Andrew said, his knuckles turning white. Mrs. Henderson had taken it upon herself to let the boy's guardians know of his nighttime wanderings as well as provide them with information about how to approach the problem.
"And teenagers do as they see," Mrs. Henderson said and Andrew's eyes narrowed perceptively.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that children follow the examples given them," she replied. "And I do believe you have set several examples of your own."
"Are you talking about my friends?" Andrew asked.
"Rather unpleasant looking people," she said.
"My friends are perfectly pleasant," Andrew defended but he looked as if he was sucking on a lemon. He leaned heavily on his cane and threw the pamphlet into the drain.
"I'm just trying to help you dear," she told him gently but he glared at her so fiercely that she actually feared he might do something.
"My family and friends are just fine," he seethed. "And don't ever tell me that Alex needs help because I can guarantee you that I know more about him than you ever will."
And with that he turned and hobbled back into his house, leaving her on the curb.
The boy-the hyper one, not the polite one-was literally bouncing around his guardian as they walked down the street, drinks in hand. Mrs. Henderson hoped that the teen would not spot her but of course he did and he immediately ran up to her to say hello. Normally, Mrs. Henderson would have thought that a sweet thing and unusually well mannered for someone so young.
However, wherever this boy was his surly and rude guardian was usually swift to follow and he was exactly the type of unpleasant sort she wished to bar from her neighborhood.
"Hello Tom," she said pleasantly.
"How's your hip Mrs. Henderson?" he asked, as his guardian pulled up level with him.
"Quite well, thank you," she said. It was impossible to tell whether or not Andrew had told them about their disastrous conversation.
"'lo Mrs. Henderson," the guardian mumbled, clearly about as pleased to see her as she was to see them.
"Hello," she greeted. She couldn't remember his name and she didn't much care to remember either. "How is Andrew?"
"Fine I guess," the man said.
"He's crippled you know," Tom said unabashedly and didn't seem to notice when his guardian pinched him on the arm. "But I heard everyone already knows that."
"Yes, the neighborhood is perfectly aware of what happened to Andrew," she sniffed resolved that she wouldn't rise to the bait. Tom Harris liked to pick on people and she would be mortified if she would let a teenaged hooligan get the best of her or her neighborhood. "How is the family?"
"Fine," Tom said, his tone telling her that he was picking up on the fact that she didn't consider the group of people across the street to actually be a family. "Although Alex might have to stop sneaking out with his gang members because it could lower your property value."
The guardian tried to stifle a laugh.
"I don't know why you're laughing," Tom told him. "You're the ganged up person she was talking about to begin with."
"I'm not a gangbanger," the man said, blinking stupidly.
"That was not what I said," Mrs. Henderson butted in, feeling the need to defend herself.
"No, you just called them all unpleasant," Tom replied with a sickly sweet smile.
"I'm a perfectly pleasant person with perfectly pleasant manners," the guardian said and he too sounded as if he was laughing at her. "So let me ask you this Mrs. Henderson, if I get a tattoo of the busty stripper that lives around the corner will that make me more trashy than the neighborhood gossips?"
Mrs. Henderson was able to make a quick escape after that leaving Tom Harris laughing so hard that he had fallen down on the pavement. As she closed her door she heard the guardian say, "Get the hell off the ground Harris. It wasn't that funny."
And while she could fully agree with this statement it didn't stop her from resolving to never speak to those people again.
They were all outside and while Mrs. Henderson could not fault them for enjoying such a fine day she did wish that the boys would be quieter. The two of them were yelling and their teenaged friends were all playing a street version of rugby.
The noise was drifting in through her open window and it was disrupting her tea with Anna Topaz from down the street. Anna was much like Mrs. Henderson and she too was wary of the occupants in the Rider home.
"I have heard some rumors lately," Mrs. Topaz told her. "About what happened in the Rider home last Saturday."
There had been yet another incident last Saturday that involved rowdy teenagers, what apparently had been a glitter gun, and the police. The neighborhood had been abuzz about it ever since. Mrs. Henderson had come to understand-through a loud conversation between Tom Harris and his guardian-the entire thing had been the fault of Tom.
"Oh," she said. "And what were these rumors?"
"Nothing incredible," Mrs. Topaz said, sipping her tea. "Just that it was practical prank gone wrong. Apparently, Tom and Alex were trying to glitter bomb the upstairs bedroom."
"And why would they wish to do such a thing?" she asked not entirely sure what a glitter bomb was.
"Well, according to Jonathan it was to congratulate Miss Starbright and that boyfriend of hers on upcoming nuptials."
Mrs. Henderson barely managed to keep from spitting out her tea. She had known that the couple had been dating for a while but quite a bit of that time they spent apart from one another. She had been hoping-dearly hoping-that there would a break up on the horizon not a marriage.
"Perhaps they'll move after they're married. There isn't much growing room in the Rider home."
"Oh, yes, that is true," Mrs. Henderson said delightfully. "Perhaps they will decide to leave." After all, it would be best for the neighborhood. She wondered it Jack would except listings if she brought them over. Probably not. It would be best to just slip them into the mailbox.