Here’s part of a scene from Missing Brandy. Fina’s talking to the reader, telling her backstory.
I decided to take a walk down Henry Street to see how my cleaning service, Lucy’s, was doing.
This part of the Heights is my old neighborhood, and I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach—the elevator, I call it. It rides up and down between my gut and the back of my throat. You see, Lucy’s occupies the ground floor where we used to live, Mom, Gran and I. It’s the cleaning service I started after Dad left us. I named it after a song Mom used to sing, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
In the early days, my business starred just me. I’d clean apartments and offices to make ends meet, some nights not getting home until almost midnight. I thought of all the weeks we had to eat stale bread warmed and softened in watered-down soup for dinner; I thought of Mom and her last years plagued by money worries and nasty rumors before she met her untimely death. Lately my business had been good, at least the cleaning side of it, too late for Mom to enjoy the financial ease it would have given us. It would have lengthened her life. Gran’s, too. And with that thought, I slammed a fist into my thigh before running down the steps and opening Lucy’s door.
Minnie, my office manager, was wearing one of her usual work outfits, a green print dress with black heels and pearl necklace. Not that I expected her to dress up, far from it, but she told me once she wanted to look nice just in case a client was passing by or we got a walk-in. In one hand she had a bag of baked potato chips, and in the other, her phone. She crunched chips as she talked with one of our regulars. Her half glasses balanced on the tip of her nose and wobbled a little, like an unsteady skater pirouetting on ice.
With smiles and florid gestures, Minnie conversed as if the caller could see through the wires. “Thank you. I’ll pass it on. I’m sure the boss would love to hear it.” There was a pause as Minnie waved me in and crunched a bite out of her chip. “Please. We’d be happy to help.” Another pause. Minnie nodded. “Your check came last week, thanks. We appreciate it.” Click.
She brought me up to date on Lucy’s, and I was about to leave when she handed me a packet of mail. “Lots of junk, I think.”
I went through it in a jiff, tossing most of it unopened into the garbage, but there was one envelope containing a glossy job from a stone carver on Elizabeth Street in Manhattan, where Mom’s ancestors lived when they first came here. I’d been thinking of buying one of his angels for Mom’s grave, so I shoved the brochure into my bag, waved goodbye to Minnie, who was deep into another phone call, glanced at the pile of Trisha Liam’s briefs, and closed the door.