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I loved my new apartment from the first moment I saw it.  In fact, I loved my new life that began with this new apartment.  It wasn’t that it was a big, new, fancy apartment… it was a small, old, cosy apartment, and one of the most cosy things about it was that it was mine, and mine alone.  After three years sharing life and home with Larry Morrow, of which the only decent part was the first half-year, I was renewed and invigorated by his absence from my life.  I just turned twenty-nine, and it felt good to put my name tag on my mailbox downstairs.  Virginia Madison looked so good to me.  Larry had always insisted on calling me Ginger, even though I often told him how much I hated it.  Now I’m Virginia, and that’s it!

 When I picked up two new clients, it provided me with the income to get a place of my own.  I’m a freelance typist, and I’ve been making a decent living transcribing material for a couple of lawyers when they audio-record their clients’ depositions.  It’s boring work, but it’s fairly steady and it pays pretty well, but not well enough for me to get my own place.  When one of the lawyers sent me Mrs. Clarkson, it was a big help.  She’s writing her memoirs with a dictating machine, and I’m transcribing it for her.  She’ll pay better than the lawyers do, and the work might not be nearly so boring.  Usually, I don’t even really read the stuff I type for the lawyers ‘cause it’s rarely interesting… except when it’s a divorce case and I see what the plaintiffs are blaming on their spouses.

 Mrs. Clarkson’s stuff is probably going to be interesting.  The lawyer who referred her to me said she was hot stuff when she was young, and if it’s true, it might be interesting to read her memoirs.  She was a sixties party girl, I guess.  It’s a ‘tell all’ book I’m told, and it’s going to be quite something to hear her sixty-seven-year-old voice coming from the machine, describing in graphic detail some of her sexual exploits.  She’s a wealthy dowager now because of the fortunes each of her three husbands left her. I’ll bet each of them died with great big smiles on their faces.

 The thing that most convinced me to choose this apartment was the courtyard.  It has a real courtyard, with an arched entrance that a small car could pass through.  When this place was built, cars were rare, and horse-carriages were narrow old things, but now the entrance is closed off with a beautiful wrought-iron fence and an elegant gate that only we tenants can open.  I can go through the main entrance if I choose, but I prefer to go through the courtyard and up the outside steps to my third floor paradise.  There’s a small garden in the courtyard, with a little fountain that keeps the flowers fresh, and a bench nearby.  It’s like a private mini park. 

 The steps go past the apartment below mine on the second floor landing, and continue on up to my landing on the third floor.  I’m glad I’m on the top floor, because it means nobody will be climbing the stairs past my kitchen window.  On nights when it’s too hot and humid to sleep, I sit out on the landing and listen to the night sounds from the city beyond my courtyard.  Three other apartments face on the courtyard.  To the right of me is a little old woman that I see from time to time hanging some things to dry on her railing.  I spoke to her only once when I went to my mailbox and she was there at hers.  I’d often seen the name on her box, and I said “Good morning Ms. Rossita.”

           “I am not Rossita,” she barked with a scowl.  She slammed her box closed and said, “She was here before me, years ago,” and shuffled away.  I’ve never bothered to speak to her again.

 On my left there is a gay couple.  They are quiet and courteous, and their landing has a lot of potted plants on it, most of which are marijuana, some are geraniums, and one is a tomato plant.  Donald seems to work at home on a computer, and Ivan goes out in work clothes, like a trucker.  Directly across from me there’s a couple sharing the apartment.  I can’t understand why they’re together.  He’s a nice looking man in his mid-forties, with thick hair greying at the temples.  She’s about my age, a bit heavy, with very big tits and very bad taste in clothes.  According to their mailbox tag, he’s James Gordon and she’s Rhoda Blum.  I’ve never seen her go out to work, or even do much around the apartment.  He goes out early every morning in a suit and carries a cheap briefcase.  I think he must be a low-level white-collar worker, and she just lazes around the apartment smoking and drinking beer.

 That first summer passed quickly into autumn and my life was filled with work.  I was happy to be busy and earning some good money.  It wasn’t all work, of course.  I still meet Shirley at least twice a week: once a week for lunch and once a week for an evening at a club or a quiet bar.  We just relax together and catch each other up on what’s happening in life.

 One September evening I returned home just as it got dark.  It was a mild night for September, and I sat out on my landing to enjoy it.  I can’t see into the apartments to the right and left of me, ‘cause they’re at right angles to mine.  The old woman never shows a light anyway, but I can see the glow from the windows of the boys on the left on their landing, but I can’t see into their place.  It’s different when I look across the courtyard.  Their curtains are always open, and the woman – Rhoda, I guess is her name – must be afraid of the dark or something, because she keeps lights all the lights on all the time.  On this particular evening, the man – James – was not yet home.

 While I watched, Rhoda went to the door to her apartment.  I supposed James had come home through the front entrance rather than mounting to the landing from the courtyard.  Rhonda opened the door, and I was surprised to see a tall black man smiling at the door.  I was even more surprised when Rhoda threw her arms around his neck and kissed him while he groped her ass with his big hands.  They broke apart and Rhoda closed the door behind him.  I watched fascinated as Rhoda immediately knelt in front of the guy, right there at the front door, and reached up to pull his zipper down.  No way was I going to stop watching at this point.

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