“Go check on Mrs. Reeves,” my mother poked her head into my room. “I think she has her window open.”
“So…” I rolled my eyes.
“It’s going to be hot today, and if she keeps her window open, she’ll never get cool.”
“How can you even see that her window is open?” I sat up and put my phone down.
“I just can,” she insisted. “Go check.”
“Listen to your mother,” I heard my father say on his way downstairs.
I slipped on a pair of black slides, grabbed my house key, and walked to the end of our driveway, crossing diagonally to the orange house across the street. As my mother had said, there was an open window, one on the second floor, so I rang the bell. Mrs. Reeves’ shoes were loud against the tile, and then she looked out the peephole at me, fiddling for a moment with the door before it swung open. The entryway was dim, darkness growing where the hallway stretched into the den. Dank air seeped out, thick and hot.
“Your window is open…upstairs,” I said, stepping back.
“I know,” she said. “It’s hot in here.”
“Did you turn on your air conditioner?”
“I tried,” she looked down the hall at the thermostat. “It didn’t come on like it usually does when I pushed the button.”
“Do you want me to check?”
“If you want,” she opened the door, and I walked past her to the white panel in the middle of the hallway.
“It’s 93 degrees, Mrs. Reeves,” I looked at her, but her face stayed flat, sweat beads trickling down the sides of her face.
I pushed the ON button, adjusted the temperature, and waited for the familiar sound of the AC unit coming on, pushing out hot air first, then cool. We both stood there, ears wide open until we realized nothing was going to happen.
“Do you have something cool to drink?” I asked, concerned but ready to get back to an afternoon of nothingness. “Try to stay cool, okay?”
“I will…thanks for coming by.”
My mother was in the kitchen when I got home, stirring a pitcher of lemonade. I climbed onto a stool and motioned for a glass.
“Is everything okay over there?” she asked pouring ice cold lemonade into a glass.
“No…her air conditioner is broken.” I reached for the glass.
“It’s like 93 degrees over there…”
“You just left her over there?” she put the glass on the counter, just out of my reach. “Go back… tell her to come here,” she said, her face disappointed.
“Why me?” I huffed, but knew it was no use. “Can I at least drink my lemonade first?”
“Listen to your mother,” my father said. “See you in a bit,” he headed into the garage, touching his hand to the opener on the wall, and then starting his car and driving away.
My mother tossed me a lukewarm bottle of water and sent me on my way. Mrs. Reeves was surprised to see me again but quickly jumped on the invitation, taking a minute to put together an “activity bag.” She slipped the handle over her shoulder and followed me back to our house, where I assumed my mother would take over, filling the living room with loud banter, old stories, heavy silences they wouldn’t try to avoid.
“Mom,” I yelled as we entered. “Mrs. Reeves is here,” I showed her to the kitchen where she sat at the table.
I waited for a moment, and then came the sound of her coming down the stairs.
“Dad forgot his papers,” she held a stack of papers to her chest, the silver ends of an extra large binder clip hitting her chin. “I’ll be back in a bit.”
“So what do you want me to do?” I complained.
“Sit with Mrs. Reeves,” she rushed out the front door.
I watched the door close, frustrated by her request.
“Do you know how to play dominoes?” I heard Mrs. Reeves ask.
“No,” I said, pulled out a chair and sat down, staring into my phone.
“I’ll teach you,” she poured the tiles onto the table.
Soon I was strategically lining tiles on the table, counting points, enjoying the silence as I awaited her next move, calculated mine. We sipped lemonade, nibbled on Mrs. Reeves’ secret stash of peanut brittle, and between games participated in competitive banter that made us both smile.