I got all moved into my new place and had everything unpacked on day one. I’d met my downstairs landlady for the first time as the two bulky removalists were lugging my bed up the stairs. I was at the bottom of the stairs watching them, not entirely ogling, when a tiny, five-foot-tall woman stood beside me.
She didn’t say anything for a while, just stared at the men straining to get the wooden bedhead up the flight of stairs. Still without looking at me, she hummed. “Nice arse.”
I almost choked on my sip of water. “Uh…”
“Don’t tell me you weren’t looking. I might be a little hard of hearing, but I ain’t blind.”
I held out my hand. “Name’s Griffin Burke.”
She was wearing a sleeveless tank top and a flowing skirt. Upon closer inspection, she looked like a hippy that peace, love, and time forgot. Her face had seen too much sun as well, wrinkled and leathered, though I imagined she would have once been stunningly beautiful. Her blue eyes still had spark, her long once-blonde hair now ash grey.
“Come with me,” she said, turning on her heel and walking toward the roller door. When she turned, I noticed her left arm. Old, mottled blue tattoos went to her elbow, as well as two scars that looked like lightning strikes. They looked surgical and my first thought was shoulder reconstruction, but then I noticed one scar ran underneath her shirt and up her neck. She turned the latch on the roller door, and using her right arm only, lifted the door to review a storage space. Inside was a lawnmower, wheelbarrow, and some gardening tools.
Ah, right. I was the resident mower of lawns.
“I’d do it myself,” she said. “But the old arm doesn’t work like it used to.” She lifted her left arm rigidly. It didn’t hang useless but there was definitely restricted movement.
“It’s fine,” I said. “I don’t mind mowing lawns at all. My weekends will be Monday and Tuesday though, not Saturday and Sunday. If that’s okay?”
“It’s fine. Don’t much care what day you do ’em.” She nodded to herself. “Last tenant was a nice girl. Started out with good intentions, and she was gonna do all sorts of things to help me out, but that didn’t last long.” Bernice looked up at me and stared for a good long minute. “You’re not the churchgoing type, are you?”
“I don’t mind if you are, I just don’t wanna offer you one of my special brownies and for you to totally hash out on me and start mumbling biblical shit at me every time you see me.”
I fought a smile and lost, and I tried not to laugh but couldn’t help that either. “Not biblical. Not in that sense, anyway. Unless you consider my earlier staring at that guy’s arse a religion. As for the special brownies, I haven’t had any for a while. Not since college, anyway.”
Bernice grinned and nodded slowly. “So you know what I mean when I say special brownie. Not like the last poor girl who thought it was my grandma’s special recipe or some shit.” She shook her head slowly. “Dunno what she was thinking. Do I look like Betty Fucking Crocker to you?”