The Girl Next Door
Author: Margot Le Faye
Disclaimer: Not mine, but no infringement intended. Commentary on the original, not a derivative work as that term applies to the rights of Whedon, et al.
Spoilers: Post Chosen and NFA
Author’s Note at end.
The girl next door...
...is an odd one. She’s friendly enough, exchanging pleasantries in the elevator, or in the basement laundry room, or at the corner store, if you run into her. When the kids come to her door on Halloween, there’s a large bowl of good chocolates for them to dive into, scary/funny decorations visible in her entry way. But, no one’s been invited in past the entryway, and she hasn’t crossed the threshold of anyone else’s apartment in all the years she’s been here. Seven? Eight?
We don’t know what she does for a living, but her night job pays enough for her to afford the kind of exorbitant rent you find in New York, and keep her in trendy clothing, killer shoes, and fabulous make-up. And, no, she’s not that kind of working girl. She doesn’t dress, talk, look, act like one, and the few men who visit are clearly friends and family.
She used to date, when she first moved in. Everyone remembers the aristocratic-looking Italian who was a frequent visitor her first year. Mrs. DiDonato who has the apartment across the hall thinks it’s a shame nothing ever came of that. She also thinks it’s a good thing nothing ever came of the other one, the blond Brit who still comes around, now and then, but never alone.
There’s a sister who visits, but lives somewhere overseas. London, perhaps, or Paris. An older, male visitor, who might be her father. After all, some people do call their parents by their first names.
But mainly, it is only her, alone in the apartment in New York. One of millions of single women. Which is a shame, because she’s such a pretty girl.
Not such a girl, though, now. She was in her mid-twenties when she moved in, so she must be thirty-something, mustn’t she? But, her skin is still smooth and fresh, her petite figure spare and lithe. In the right light, she could pass for a teen. Sometimes, even in the wrong light, as she smiles her greeting, or if you’ve struck up a conversation about the weather, or how slow the elevator is, when you look into her hazel eyes, she seems effervescent, youthful, full of life.
But once in a while, if you come home really late, and happen to ride up on the elevator with her when neither of you is in the mood to chat, once in a while, the look in her eyes is something terribly, terribly old and terribly, terribly sad.
Rachel Flaxman-Hynes in 22F, who got to know the sister a little bit one summer, swears that there was a tragic romance in her past, and that’s why she didn’t marry the Italian and won’t marry the Brit. No one believes that. Except for Madam Yvonne in 15D, who reads tea leaves, cards, and palms in a tea room on Bond Street. Madam Yvonne always does a reading when a new neighbor moves in. Seven or eight years ago, she told Mrs. DiDonato that the Tower surrounded the new girl, but that it was reversed, so the destruction was of old ways, bad ways. There’s a knight in her future and a knight in her past, but the King of Pentacles holds her heart, and his way is blocked by the Ten of Swords. It’s not clear if she’s the High Priestess or the Empress, but with Death on her heels and the reversed Chariot ahead, she’s going to have a long, hard road to the Four of Wands. If she can even get there, ever. Mrs. DiDonato said she was happy that Madam Yvonne didn’t tell her the poor girl was going to die young, but then Madam Yvonne said that she already had.
No one believes Madam Yvonne, either.
What we believe is, she’s good people. You wouldn’t think a little thing like her could do it, but she lugs Mrs. DiDonato’s groceries the whole ten blocks from the supermarket, every Wednesday afternoon. Whenever the kids are selling candy, or collecting for UNICEF, they can count on her, and even though she’s not Catholic--there’s a silver cross around her neck, but she’s not a member of any church around—Father Freedman says she’s been a big help to him, though he doesn’t specify exactly how. There are other things, other people, other kindnesses.
And it’s enough, but it isn’t all.
When eight-year-old LaKeesha ran home crying because the ugly men--men whose skin was blistered and teeth were crooked and clothes smelled bad-- had taken her best friend Ricky, it wasn’t the police who brought Ricky back. When sixteen-year-old Tom O’Hara started running with the gangs and stole his father’s gun, it wasn’t the social worker or truant officer or the school counselors who took him out one night, showed him something he never talked about, and got him off the streets. Today,LaKeesha and Ricky are junior high school sweethearts, and Tommy takes night classes at CUNY.
No one ever saw the ugly men again.
So, we don’t tell the too-smooth man in the stretch limo anything, but we tell her he was asking questions. And, when Mr. Lewis in 23K finds her bleeding in the alleyway behind the building, he listens when she says no hospitals, and just helps her to her door, runs to the all-night pharmacy for the things she asks for and leaves them in a bag outside her apartment. A few days later, she’s got Mrs. DiDonato’s groceries again, and she’s not showing a single bruise.
No one comes around with any more questions.
But, someone does come around.
We’re not quite sure how he managed to get in past the security, because she didn’t buzz him in. She didn’t know he was here. She was already on the elevator coming down to do whatever she does in the evening when he pressed the button to go up, so when the doors open, she’s surprised. More. She’s not moving, she’s shocked, everyone in the elevator can see. And they can see the smile that spreads across her face, and if you didn’t know, you’d swear she was sixteen. She breathes something out, Madam Yvonne thinks it’s his name, but Mrs. DiDonato thinks it’s a prayer, because whoever heard of a man like that with such a girlie name?
She finally gets off the elevator.
“I wasn’t sure...” he says, softly, hesitantly.
“Be sure,” she laughs. His eyes flick to her bare ring finger. She arches a brow. “Sunlight and fat grandchildren were never gonna be part of the picture,” she says. “Unless, and until.”
He nods. He asks about cookies, and she says she didn’t have an address to send them to. He looks down at the floor and doesn’t say anything. She takes his hand and leads him into the elevator, presses the button for her floor, tells him that there will always be cookies.
Mrs. DiDonato allows that he’s at least as nice as the Italian aristocrat. Madam Yvonne decides to do another reading, which shows that even though the King of Pentacles still has obstacles in his path, the outcome is going to be the Two of Cups, and the Four of Wands is close, very, very close, to finding her at last.
For the few nights he stays, she’s radiant, but she’s only a little less when he leaves. And he does come back, every so often, and once in a while, she goes away.
She doesn’t have plants to water or cats to feed, but she makes sure someone gets Mrs. DiDonato’s groceries.
The girl next door is an odd one, but this is New York, where odd is pretty much the norm. She is good people, and she’s ours.
And everyone is rooting for the Four of Wands.
AN: Those of you who don’t read Tarot--and some of you who do-- will want to know what the hell Madam Yvonne is talking about in her readings. The meanings of Tarot cards are not as absolute as you might think. Interpretations differ slightly from deck to deck, and from reader to reader. The best way of explaining this is that they are primarily a tool for the person reading the cards, and they mean whatever the reader thinks they mean. That said, The Four of Wands is usually regarded as a positive card, whose meaning remains the same even when it is reversed. Harmony, balance, prosperity, joy, the foundations of a happy home are traditional meanings of the card. Some interpretations also associate it with “fiery love” but the romantic meaning is not absolute in everyone’s interpretation. Obviously, it is in mine. Googling can give you more interpretations, if you’re interested.
Meanwhile, here are my interpretations of the other cards mentioned in the layout:
Ten of Swords: Card of disaster. Really. Everything that can go wrong, will
The Tower: Destruction, ruin and loss. But, like I said, reversed, so it’s the destruction of things you want destroyed. At least, in this reading.
High Priestess: Secret knowledge. Okay, technically, that’s Willow. In fact, an article in Wikipedia lists Willow as an example of the card: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_High_Priestess But, I was influenced by something Joan D. Vinge said in her recap of that year’s anime and manga in the “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror – Eighteenth Annual Edition” anthology, where she points out that Buffy is very similar to a type of Japanese anime figure, the “magic girl,” based on a goddess whose purpose is to empower champions. Vinge uses Spike and Angel as examples of men who become empowered by her, but you could say Riley does, as well, along with Xander. And, if you believe that her act of rescuing him even after he treated her so badly may have changed him, you could even throw Parker into the mix. (Though why would you want to?) The other thing that influenced me in choosing this card was that it also represents intuitive knowledge, which Buffy had in spades, and suggests mysteries.
Properly speaking, Buffy ought to be Strength (the card name kind of speaks for itself) but I liked the contrast with the Empress. Speaking of whom.
The Empress: Fertility, feminine power, creativity. Wife and mother
Knights and the King of Pentacles: Okay the court cards (page, knight, queen and king) of the Minor Arcana (suits of Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles) in Tarot can be people or influences, and as people, the four suits can describe either their astrological elements, their traits, or their physical characteristics. Knights are young men, Kings are mature men. Physically, the King of Pentacles has very dark hair and eyes. Astrologically, he’s an earth sign, (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn). His traits are that of a powerful businessman, a good husband, someone who gives to charity. I chose it to represent Angel because of the physical characteristics. One can argue that it fits DB to a T because he’s a Taurus, doing nicely in business and he’s been very (quietly) generous to charity. If you ever get a chance to read his cards, you can decide, then. *G*
Death: Yeah, so, every time this card shows up on a Tarot reading in a film or TV show, everyone gasps in horror because it means that someone’s gonna die. Right? See, that’s not the meaning of the card. The actual meaning is the passing away of old ways. Resurrection, rebirth, renewal. I’d be more worried if the Ten of Swords showed up in my reading than if Death did. However, Death CAN mean physical death, if other cards around it so indicate, so let’s leave it at that.
The Chariot: Can mean triumph, but can also mean vengeance, war, jealousy. If it’s reversed. Finally, there's the
Two of Cups: I know, I know. Why didn’t I just go with the Major Aracana card, The Lovers? Because while The Lovers can mean love and union, it can also mean a struggle between sacred and profane love. The Two of Cups, on the other hand, means engagement and--wait for it--the union of souls. Need I say more?
Thanks for reading while my muse goes off on her weird tangent.
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