It was two days before I could make time for Sella. It wasn't on purpose. Beggars can't be choosers and when I'm hungry, I do what I have to do. The oxycontin was completely my fault, though, since no one else made it slip out of the bundle I was delivering for a contact, and even then, I didn't have to swallow it with a chaser of cheap gin. Some things are just too big a temptation, though, and so it was that three days after Father Cash's appeal, still a little foggy-headed, I climbed the stairs and knocked on the door of his apartment.
There was no answer, of course. Father Cash was often out during the day, spreading his seed and the word of the Lord. Left to her own devices, it wasn't likely Sella would open the door to a stranger, or even a neighbor. I thought of going back to my room and calling my duty done, but that would only postpone the inevitable. Father Cash would soon come pleading for my assistance, this time on his schedule instead of my own.
I knocked again. "Sella! I know you're there. It's Judith, from upstairs."
Still no response.
"Your Uncle Marcus said I could come for a visit, so let me in."
"I have nothing to do today. I can wait right here until your Uncle Marcus comes. What do you think he'll say, Sella, when he sees you wouldn't even come to the door?"
When there was still no answer, I paced a little and pondered. No way was I going to be out-maneuvered by a teenager. On an inspiration, I scurried back to my apartment and returned a moment later with an umbrella. Out of fairness, I gave Sella one last chance.
"I'm going to knock on this door without stopping until your uncle arrives or you open up. Your call."
Then I sat down as comfortably as I could, and began swinging the umbrella at the door. I fell into an easy rhythm where I could keep it up with very little effort, letting gravity do most of the work.
It took several minutes, but finally there was a scrabble at the lock. I stopped swinging the umbrella and stood up.
Sella opened the door just enough to peek out. "Go away."
"I can't do that, so why don't you let me in?"
After a tense hesitation in which she tried and failed to stare me down, she turned away, leaving the door slightly ajar. I went inside and walked over to the sofa, where Sella had already lain back down. Since there was nothing I could say that wouldn't be awkward, I asked how she was doing. In answer, she closed her eyes and turned her face away.
"You uncle is worried about you. You know that, right?"
Since I thought I detected a slight shrug in reply, I continued. "You're not fooling anyone. Something is wrong at home, otherwise you wouldn't have come here. We can't help you if you don't talk, and if you don't want our help, you can at least get up and do something. Lying on the sofa for weeks on end is no way to live." In the silence that followed, I leaned in close. "You do want to live, right?"
She turned her face back toward me and our eyes met.
"Get up. We're going for a walk."
I said it in a tone that brooked no argument, and with a sigh, she heaved herself off the couch and went to fumble in a small chest by the window, where she took off her robe, pulled on some jeans, and began dressing to go out.
This was going better than I had hoped. "A little fresh air will do you some good. It'll just be a short walk. I bet you haven't even gotten a chance to tour the neighborhood."
Sella paused in wrapping a crimson scarf around her neck. "You don't need to play like this is some kind of tourist destination. There's nothing to see out there."
She was right, of course. "It'll be good for you, nonetheless."
After she was ready, I took her upstairs with me so I could get my coat. No way was I letting her out of my sight, having gotten this far. She looked around my cold, bare flat with an expression I couldn't read, while I tucked my hair under a knit cap. "I haven't got much, but it's home," I said in a flimsy effort at good cheer.
Sella gave a slight shiver.
We went down the wooden staircase, with its musty odor of damp, and out into the weak sunlight of afternoon.