Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Californian Misadventures of Fran and Shaley

I met them many years ago and it’s been a very long time since I have seen them, so please accept my apologies in advance for my memories being somewhat splotchy. It was around 1999 when they moved into my apartment complex.  I saw a slender five-foot, one-inch, red haired woman carrying a box in, then a blonde girl of the same or slimmer proportions hauling some stuff past me.  They were both attractive with high cheekbones and a polite, folksy manner.  Fran, it would turn out, was a year older than me, and Shaley at this time was fifteen, just about to turn sixteen.

When the second one, the blonde one, passed by my door, I said hello.  I was always a bit hesitant with new people in the building, but they both appeared fun and energetic.  There were a couple of steps up from the pool and common walkway area to the hallway in front of my apartment, and their apartment, it would turn out, was inside the building from mine.  So it was impossible for us not to have crossed paths rather quickly after their arrival.  I thought to myself that I hoped they were moving into the vacant unit near me, and then, with their new door wide open I verified that they were indeed.  I wanted good folks on my end of the hallway. Their three-bedroom unit sat on the corner facing the park, while mine faced the pool on the inside of the complex.  I was paying nine-hundred fifty dollars per month at that time for my one-bedroom, and I knew that their unit went for one thousand seven hundred fifty dollars per month.  Did two women need all of that space?  Maybe they had a lot of clothes and shoes.  Maybe they liked to shop a lot and needed the extra storage.

The next time I saw them was when I was walking into the front gate from a jog I had done, and I noticed them with their small red SUV hatchback open and loading groceries into their apartment bucket-brigade style; Fran, pulling the bags from the vehicle, and Shaley, standing on the balcony, reaching down as far as she could to ground level with all of her might to carry the filled barrel sized paper bags up and into their apartment.  They both seemed to be at their extreme capacity in completing this task, rushing as if some timer would go off and their sliding glass doors would shut permanently. 

Upon seeing them this second time, I had several thoughts.  They certainly appeared to work together to accomplish things.  They seemed to like to save time and energy with their grocery assembly line.  And they seemed in some way to be winging it in their lives.  I don’t know what exactly gave me this third impression, but I tend to make very quick assessments of people.  I consider it bad and good.  Bad because I often stick steadfastly to my first impressions, and good because, being that I had to be somewhat street smart as a small child, my first assessments are usually quite accurate. 
Maybe a week later, I was reclining in my apartment unit, enjoying a quiet evening of relaxation and contemplation after a hard week in production, when I began hearing a lot of noise in and around the hall outside of my door.  I peeked out to see many youngsters of sixteen and seventeen entering the unit two doors down; Fran and Shaley’s unit.  It seemed that they were having a party for high school aged kids.  I thought to myself that it must have been some of Shaley’s new friends from the local high school here in the east San Fernando Valley.  It was a wonder how quickly she had made all of these friends, like at least fifty of them, and she must have found a couple of days when her mother, Fran, was out of town in order to have this party.

I spent more time that evening in my unit, having made some delectable spaghetti and warmed sourdough bread while watching my pre-taped and weekly heavily anticipated show, “Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser,” when suddenly, like the San Fransicquito Dam walls giving way to unforeseen pressure, I heard by then what had become about sixty kids pouring out of Fran and Shaley’s apartment and into the hallway.  I paused my VHS machine and then opened my door more than a crack out of curiosity.  Sure enough, the whole village of high-schoolers was departing, well actually, was being expelled out by none other than Fran.  She said such assertive things such as, “All right, the party’s over!  Everyone out! Out!” in her extremely syrupy Kentuckian accent; an accent which, by the way, she was very proud of, and she would later proclaim to me, “My accent stops traffic!.”

As the apartment emptied of it’s temporary teenaged citizens, I finally got a good look at Fran as she corralled the last of them down the hallway.  She glanced over to me with the weary look of someone who’s just lost control of all the horses in her barn, and said, “I’ve had it with this party for the night. They were smoking and drinking in there!”  I replied, ”Yeah, it’s probably a good idea to end it then,” as more of a response out of a bit of fear I now felt about her, rather than actual agreement.  I was slightly perplexed. Why had Shaley had a large party so quickly after moving in, and what was Fran doing exactly during that whole time.  Was she mingling with the teens, or was she just laying back in her bed in her own room watching television while all of the proceedings were occurring elsewhere.  Ahh, questions which couldn’t be answered that evening.  But, due to a serendipitous passing of Fran and I in the hall the next day, I did find out that she had allowed Shaley to have the party in an effort to get to know the other students better in her school since she had just joined the high school.  Fran said that it was originally supposed to be Shaley’s sweet sixteen party, but that it had quickly gotten out of hand as high school parties are wont to do.  She said that Shaley had gotten upset with her at the end of the evening because Fran had so quickly shut it down.  Shaley apparently didn’t speak to Fran for the rest of the evening.

Because of their proximity to me in our complex, and because Fran had a big personality, which was always friendly, outgoing, and ready with a new story, I felt drawn to them and I got to know them better.  I love stories and I love people like that.  There was also neighbor of mine, a woman named Rita of about my age with two young children, who had lived right next to me for the past two years.  We were friendly and I would often bring her children plush toys from the Walt Disney Company store since I worked there, but Fran and Shaley quickly became my favorite neighbors.  I say this because it is rare in my experience that I take onto people that quickly.  I usually require a slower getting to know period.  But I just downright liked the two of them.  They were a sort of dynamic duo, and being that they lived on their own, I felt a bit, not only like a friend, but also like a protector of them.  I had relocated from the beach areas about two years prior to be closer to the studio, and now I felt like I had some friends I could count on seeing regularly; people I could take care of.  About a year prior to their moving in, I had gotten into country music.  As it turned out, Fran and Shaley were from a heavily countrified area when it came to music, so we had in common our love of country music stars and songs.

Fran told me that she worked for her sister’s contracting company.  This was not her full sister, but a half sister who was the product of an affair that their father had had at one time.  Fran didn’t enjoy working for the sister, but she made the best of it because the work was her way out here to California and could sustain her in their oversized apartment and L.A. lifestyle.  Her work here involved resurfacing flooring in industrial buildings and markets, often in the middle of the night when the businesses were closed.  I would often see Fran return from one of her work projects very late at night, or early in the morning, looking rough, frazzled and slightly unapproachable with dirty Levi’s and huge steel-toed work boots, shoes that were slightly out of proportion compared to her small stature. In all the time that I knew them, I never got the skinny on why they left Kentucky; I think it was just to have an adventure in California.  But Fran did tell me that Shaley’s father had not been in the picture since she was two years old, and had even gone to start another family, so they were definitely on their own.  I had to guess that their move out here was a way to start anew and have some different experiences, leaving all of the old behind.

When Shaley graduated high school, they asked me to attend the proceedings, which were on the football field.  Fran, her half sister, a few of her sister’s office workers, and a young man that Fran and Shaley knew from back home in Kentucky, named Paul, who had flown out here to watch her graduate.  Shaley was impressed that he had come all of that way to watch her graduate. Paul was sandy blonde, and in good physical shape.  He had just enlisted with the U.S. Military and was about to go to Iraq, and so this was one of his last outings as a civilian.

Fran had purchased two similar styled, yet different colored dresses for each of them to wear on the day of the graduation ceremonies.  They were made of thin, silky material with light flowery patterns; akin to half-length sundresses.  The lengths were midway between their knees and a short skirt line.  Fran said several times jokingly that she thought they both looked like two-dollar hookers.  I took this to mean that Fran felt she hadn’t been able to spend enough money for more elegant dresses.  I told her the truth, “I think your dresses are pretty. You two are gorgeous!”  I had compassion for how Fran must have felt inside to say something like that, and yet, I knew she was free to make jokes even at her own expense.  I liked that about her.  I would soon buy Shaley her prom dress in an effort for Fran not to have to feel that way again.

We all sat in the bleachers and watched under the warm June sunshine as Shaley walked through the graduation line to receive her diploma.  She wore a white tassel and white shoes to distinguish her from the rest of the graduates, where were dressed in the required darker colors.  Afterwards, we were all walking to our cars to then meet up the local El Torito Mexican Restaurant when a young, thin, curly brown-haired boy named Andrew, came up to Shaley to give her congratulations on her matriculation.  He handed her a greeting card, which Shaley tucked away in her tiny purse and gave him a hug.  It was a little awkward because I sensed right away that both Shaley and Fran knew that this boy had a crush on Shaley, and yet, there standing beside her was Paul as part of our party, who also seemed to have eyes for Shaley from back in their history together.  I quickly took a couple of photos of Fran and Shaley in their dresses standing together for posterity, and with that, we went off to get an early dinner.

While at the Mexican restaurant, which was busy with other graduates that evening, the four of us, Fran, Shaley, Paul, and I were huddled at a makeshift arrangement constituted of two small single dining type tables pushed together.  We were also seated smack in the middle of one of the server walkways.  It wasn’t the most elaborate of settings, and yet, we were all present in good cheer.  Paul quickly spilled a carafe of ice water, which mostly missed me, but directed itself immediately onto Shaley’s dress, with a bit of it getting onto Fran’s dress as wall.  Shaley was soaked, and Paul, embarrassed, played it off like it was all part of a good time.  Fran and Shaley took it in stride and just kept smiling and enjoying her evening.  I think that moment is what made me like them so very much.  Neither of them let little things throw them off.  It was probably the way they were both raised in Kentucky, the southern style of rolling with life.  I, on the other hand, am an anxious ball of frenetic neurons.  So I deeply appreciated her good humor in that moment of the dinner, and, as you can imagine, I even more deeply appreciated that it wasn’t me who spilled the water on Shaley and Fran.  During that dinner, Shaley’s cell phone rang.  It was Andrew.  “How did you like my card, Shaley?” he asked.  She said, “Oh, I liked it a lot.”  He probed further, “Did you like what I put inside it?”  At that moment, Shaley, who had been hurriedly digging in her little purse to find pull out the card that she had not actually read yet, discovered that it was not there, and that she had lost it, probably on the walk to the car.  She told him about this new development.  He reacted, “Oh my God, Shaley, I put a crisp new hundred dollar bill in there for you.”  When Shaley relayed this information to the rest of the table, we all thought that he and she were kidding.  But we realized that in his unending infatuation with Shaley, he in fact really had done so as a gift to her, and now, I was sure that there was some very happy graduate or family member who had left the high school ceremony earlier and found Benjamin Franklin’s crisp face staring up at them from a greeting card left on the sidewalk.

One time, in Fran’s understandable ignorance of the fact that even within moderately safe areas of Los Angeles, there are still pockets of dredge and unsafe zones, Fran made an almost fatal error.  After having received a frantic call from Fran’s half-sister at night that the family dog had gotten loose, she and Shaley drove to the southern most end of Glendale and began searching the residential streets of her sister’s home.  They crept along, combing the dark residential roadways in their SUV with windows open surveying left and right every dark corner and bush that they passed.  They came upon a dead end and Fran stopped the SUV to turn it around when three Hispanic gang members charged up to the car, two of them with handguns drawn, asking them who they were and what they were doing in the neighborhood.  Fran and Shaley shrieked with fear and started crying, which fortunately, was enough for the gangsters to know that they were harmless.  Fran never called the police on them.  When Fran told me the story the next day, I quickly taught her that one has to always know where one is in the Los Angeles area.  The change from good neighborhood to bad or violent neighborhood can occur within a block or two.  Her half-sister should have known that and not allowed them to go out searching like they did.  And apparently, the sister had stayed at home, “in case anyone called on the dog tag.”  Boy, thoughtful sister!

Sometime in about the year 2002, I had scheduled a two-week vacation during which I would visit several cities, beginning with Seattle, then Minneapolis, Chicago, Memphis, Nashville, St Louis, as well as a few others.  Just before the trip, I thought it would be fun to go see Fran and Shaley’s town of Shepardsville, Kentucky, and I grabbed a few photos of them in case I saw their relatives; I could prove that I actually knew them.  I knew that Fran had a brother and family in Shepardsville.  We had a common interest in things historical, and he managed some sort of historical society in the area. He and I had once spoken about the subject on the phone will I was at Fran’s apartment.  So, on my travels, I made a quick excursion into Kentucky and drove to Shepardsville, where I found via the local phone book her brother’s house.  I thought I would just ring the doorbell and say hi telling him who I was.  But amiably, he and his wife invited me in and we talked a while. I presented some photos I had of Fran and Shaley, two of which had been the graduation photos I had taken.  This family was very welcoming to me.

After leaving their home, which had been in the local suburbs, maybe ten minutes outside of downtown Shepardsville, I drove back into town and found an Applebee’s Restaurant.  I thought it would be funny to tell Fran where I was.  I found a payphone since my cell didn’t have service there, and Fran picked up.  “Hi Fran, it’s me, Fred.”  She was surprised. “How’s your trip going, Fred?” she asked.  I said, “It’s been great.  There’s so much to see out here.”  She replied, “Oh, wonderful, Fred.  Well, we miss you.”  That’s nice of her to day, I thought to myself.  “I miss you too!  It’s cold here,” I bated her.  She asked, “Where’s here?”  I said, “Shepardsville, Kentucky.”  Silence.  “You’re where??”  I repeated my location, “Shepardsville, Kentucky.”   “Well, what are you doing there?”  I said, “I just wanted to see your home town.”  She said something about how tiny and underdeveloped it probably looked to me. I said, “It looks like a nice town.  I just met Johnny and Kimberlina" (her brother and sister in law).  Again, “What??  Are you kidding me?” she still couldn’t believe it.  I said, “No, I just looked them up and went over.  They were really nice to me.  I showed them some photos I had of you.”  Silence again. “Which one’s?”  I said, “The one of us by the pool railing, and the two pics of you at the graduation.”  She exclaimed, “What???  The pictures of us in our two-dollar hooker dresses?”  “Fran,” I reminded her, “You two looked very pretty that afternoon in your dresses.”  I had also brought them because they were very recent photos of both of them.  She never forgave me for bringing those specific photos.  I’m sure it was a bit odd for them all, but I thought it would be a different way of bringing them to each other.  I had just been with Fran and Shaley two days before, and now I was with her brother and sister in law.  It was kind of a cool thing, for me at least.

Fran met my parents twice.  Once when they were dropping me off at my complex, and the other time, I invited Fran to a family dinner in Studio City at Teru Sushi Restaurant.  She and I first went to my parents’ house, and then we all regrouped at the restaurant.  Both of my parents, my aunt and uncle, my cousin and his new girlfriend and his daughter were all there.  It was a fun evening helped along by the fact that Fran was her talkative self, and so was my family.  My parents loved her.  My parents loved people who were from smaller towns and were not a part of the city chaos.  They loved stories about families, people, and different ways of life.  We all had a nice time with this mixture of people from Studio City, Beverly Hills, Kentucky, Northern California and Denmark. 
Fran and I often had long conversations in the hallways and inside my unit.  One night, we were talking at my door when a blonde woman, Michelle, who lived in the apartment just around the corner and adjacent to Fran and Shaley, came around the corner with her dog, Mayer, a mixed little black thing that looked like it had at least some terrier in it.  Upon seeing Michelle, Fran hissed at her, putting her hands up like claws.  Michelle abruptly stopped, and without saying anything, turned around with her dog and went the other way.  I asked Fran, “What the hell was that?”  She said, “I hate that woman.  She always gives me dirty looks whenever I’m going through the hall.”  I thought to myself, I don’t know what that’s all about, but whatever. I won’t ask any more about it.  And then we continued talking about other things.  But it was one of the funnier things I ever witnessed in my life.

Another time, our complex had a fire alarm go off at about 3:30am.  The alarms in that building were both outside of the units as well as inside.  This meant that with their excruciating decibel levels, there was no way one could stay inside and endure it, always resulting in clusters of people congregated near the bottom of the stairs.  This occurrence was no exception.  And next to me happened to be Rita from next door with her two children, Fran and Shaley, and Michelle.  Michelle, knowing better of it, kept some distance between herself and Fran.  But in the early morning hours, as dulled as my perception would be at that time, I sensed that no one was talking to each other.  It was an inconvenience to be out there in pajamas and the woman having no make up at that hour, I get it.  But it seemed that a minimum of neighborly acknowledgement was appropriate, and yet, it was a cold feeling among us.  We were eventually cleared to go back into our homes by the fire department.

The next day, Fran happened to stop by my unit, and in catching up on the day’s events, she recalled the evening before, asking me if I had sensed some frigidity in the air.  I said, yes indeed that I had.  She said she could explain it.  Rita, who had known me before Fran moved in, really liked me a lot.  She had told Fran this upon first meeting her, before Rita knew that Fran would become good friends with me.  The passing of that information, apparently, had been Rita’s indirect attempt at letting Fran know, hands off me.  Fran also sensed that Michelle felt the same way about me as well.  Fran said that since she and I had hit it off so well, that she had gotten the cold shoulder from both of those neighbors, Rita and Michelle.  “Oh, so that explains it!”  I realized.  Strange, because Rita had never given me the direct feeling that she was interest in me, but that may have been the way of her personality.  She probably appreciated that I had always been nice to her kids, giving them plush toys during Christmases and on their birthdays.  Inversely, I did have the sense that Michelle had intermittent feelings for me.  We had hung out a lot before Fran and Shaley had moved into the complex.  Michelle and I used to sit in my apartment, drink beer and binge-watch episodes of, “Sex in the City” together from DVD boxes I had collected from the library.  When Fran moved in and we got to know each other, all of the other stuff stopped with Rita and Michelle, other than friendly hellos.  So I might have also been part of the tension as a result of my change of behavior.  But there was no comparison for me.  Fran was just so fun and full of life.  I wanted to spend time with her over any of my other neighbors and friends.  And as we got to know each other, Fran had gotten a bit territorial about me in all of this, but I honestly didn’t mind, because as I said, I enjoyed Fran’s company and felt closest to her.  I remember feeling the same way when I went to the laundry room one time to find a well built, athletic guy from one of the other apartment units flirting with my Fran.  It pissed me off.  “Stay the hell away from her!” I felt like saying.  So there was definitely a mutual feeling that had grown between us with some sort of belonging to one-another.

I deliberately made myself available for Fran and Shaley.  One evening I had just gotten off of work, and I had turned my cell phone off.  When I turned it back on, I discovered a recent a message left maybe forty-five minutes before from Fran who was sobbing.  She said that their little white Chihuahua, Widget, had gotten very ill and she needed to take him to the emergency hospital.  She had mentioned one in Glendale near Interstate 5, which I had never heard of and didn’t know of its location.  I felt that whatever was going on, the call was really about Fran not wanting to be alone and that she was scared to lose her dog.  I wouldn’t let her be alone.  After some quick searching the phone book, I located the animal hospital, and with Fran’s cell going directly to voice mail, I ripped my sapphire blue Mustang across the 134 freeway and down Interstate 5 directly to the clinic.  When I arrived, Nan was nowhere to be found.  Just as I was about to leave, my phone rang and it was Fran.  She said that she had made it there to the hospital about a half hour before and that Widget was now okay.  I was relieved for her, and in my heart, the real lesson from all of the rushing and speeding and wanting get to Fran, was that I loved both her and Shaley.  I cared for them like family.  I really would do anything for them.  Fran confided in me one time that she and Shaley had a joking rivalry about me.  When Shaley took note that Fran and I had become good friends, Shaley said to her pointedly, “I saw him first!”  She was just a girl then, but still, that was a sweet thing to say.  There was a time when Fran was over at my house and while we were talking, she started to feel very badly.  She made a run for my bathroom, where she threw up.  I held her hair and got water for her.  There was also a time when Shaley first found out that her boyfriend had started cheating on her.  She came to my apartment, sobbing inconsolably on my couch.  I had pulled the coffee table so that I could sit directly across from her and could be as present as I could for her.  Her eyes were red with tears and when I gave her a nose tissue, I saw that she had been crying and blowing so hard that her nose was bleeding a little.  I felt so badly for her, and I felt lucky to be the person to be sitting with her as she went through this.  She wasn’t alone.

I had the lapse of good sense once while they were living in my complex to consider moving somewhere in another part of our same city.  I looked at an apartment that was about two hundred dollars per month less and was considering taking it.  Then I thought to myself, is it worth two hundred dollars to be away from the two people I so much enjoy being around?  No.  I told the owner when he called me at Disney during lunch one day to collect his deposit and first month’s rent, “No, not interested anymore!”  It was a stupid thought to try to save money and give up neighbors who felt like family.  I’m glad to this day that I made that decision.  Because things don’t always last forever, and I wanted as much of them for as long as was possible.

As a sort of humorous and inexplicable example of how we were on the same wavelength, I was driving back from Disney one evening, and as a form of self-entertainment I suppose, I was saying the Sylvester the Cat dialogue out loud, “I taught I taw a puttie tat!  “I taught I taw a puttie tat!”  I must have said this five or six times while driving up a street towards my complex, trying to perfect my Mel Blanc impression.  I parked my car, walked up the stairs from the garage, and sitting against my door is a little gift bag from Shaley, who had gone to an amusement park that day.  I opened up the bag and there inside it was a plastic Tweedy Bird cup.  The hair stood up on my head.  How could that have happened?  It’s more than a coincidence!  I had somehow known with my spirit that something of Looney Tunes essence was in my immediate future.  And the three of us were somehow of the same mind.

Like Fran, Shaley could make me laugh with her basic instinct about things.  I had a friend at that time, a sort of scientist type, who though he was a genius, had a very flat affect in his speech.  He didn’t really have an exciting personality to girls at face value. I was talking to this friend in my apartment, when Shaley knocked on my door for something.  I let her in, and as a kind of prank, I just handed her the phone and said, “Say hi to my friend,” thinking to myself, this will be interesting because the friend on the phone is not the most improvising of souls.  Shaley got on and said, “Hi, this is Shaley.”  I was standing there, and there was absolute silence.  I assumed that he was saying something to her.  Just then, she handed me the phone and said, “Well, no conversation here!” and continued on into my living room to get whatever she had come for.  I took the phone back, trying to hold the laughter inside of how she has just assessed both my friend’s affect and success with girls with such preciseness.

Sometime later, Shaley got a new boyfriend who I really didn’t like very much.  Was it the surrogate father in me? He lived in the area, and they had met by accident in our complex.  I sensed that he just wanted to use her, and also that his family was manipulative towards her.  The boyfriend wanted to see her when he wanted to see her, and then made her wait until he wanted to spend time with her again.  He also cheated on Shaley, which he admitted to her; I refer you to the sobbing episode on my couch noted earlier.  Sometime in there, Shaley, who had experienced no religious inclinations at all up to this point, decided to convert her religion from the Southern Christian faith of her family’s heritage, to Mormonism.  Now, I have nothing against Mormonism.  I was raised Jewish by my adoptive parents, and before my adoption I had been lightly brought up Roman Catholic, but was never baptized.  But in all of this, I was never raised with a lot of religion in my life and have never been die-hard about any one faith, other than that one should treat people well and equally.  I would have had the same concern if she had said that she was converting to Judaism or to Catholicism so seemingly quickly, and so I had no dogs in this fight.  But it felt like the boyfriend and his parents pressured her to change her religion, partly to be more similar to them, and partly on some idea that Shaley's mother, Fran, somehow hadn’t brought her up right or done a good enough job, which was not at all true.  To me, something about the decision to convert felt undermining.  And I also didn’t feel comfortable that Shaley was considering doing this with what seemed like nil forethought at age twenty.  When I asked her why she was considering it, she said that she liked the religion, but she didn’t give me any specifics as to why she was drawn to it.  For that reason, I felt that it was something rash and impulsive motivated by the appeasement of her boyfriend’s family.  The bottom line was that it didn’t sit well with me.  And yet, Fran didn't seem to have any problem with it Shaley's choice to do this.  This stumped me, and yet, looking back, I should have not given any of it another thought since, ultimately, it was none of my business.

But, in fact, this opened up a short-lived rift between Fran and I.  Fran called me one Wednesday evening and asked me if I would go to Shaley’s Mormon confirmation the coming Saturday.  I said, “This Saturday?”  She said yes.  The problem was that my girlfriend, who I was getting closer to as time had gone on, had her birthday the same Saturday.  I told her that it was not possible since I had made plans for my girlfriend’s birthday during the daytime followed by a dinner.  I told her that if I had known about it sooner, I am sure my girlfriend would have understood and we could have had her birthday another day, but that it was just too short notice now.  Fran seemed to understand.  But then two days later, I received a note on my door, just kind of taped together in a wad without an envelope.  The note was handwritten by Fran and said something on the order of how I had disappointed Shaley, that I was like a father figure to her, and that the lesson from my being unable to attend the confirmation, still a day away, was that Shaley couldn’t count on any man in her life.  It was really kind of a load of heavy emotional accusations, which I felt to be untrue.  Both Fran and Shaley could always count on me.

I called Shaley up and asked her if she was upset, and she said she wasn’t at all.  That her mom had decided to invite me.  I told Shaley that I was sure that if it had been really important for me be there, that I thought she would have invited me herself, and sooner, to make sure that there were no plans on that day for me. She said she totally understood and that it was my girlfriend’s birthday and that she didn’t feel hurt at all.  I then called Fran and asked her why she had written the note instead of talking to me about it all.  She said that she had done it impulsively.  I got angry with her and yelled at her on the phone, telling her that a friend shouldn’t put another friend in a corner like that.  And if they had wanted me to come, they should have invited me sooner.  Fran cried on the phone.  Afterwards and ever since, I have felt bad about that conversation because I feel that I shouldn’t have responded to her letter with anger, but rather, with understanding.  And I should have calmly explained to her why I didn’t think that the content was fitting to write to me in the way that she did.  But I felt hurt because I had indeed happily done so much for them and to read what she had written made me feel like I hadn’t been appreciated at all.  At the same time, another reason I wished that I hadn’t gotten angry is that, I believe that for Fran, the note was really about my choosing to spend time with my girlfriend over them, and that as my relationship with my girlfriend was strengthening, it meant to her that there would be less room for them in my life.  That perception and resulting disappointment must have been very painful for her, and I was insensitive in those moments.  The truth is, that would always be a place for Fran and Shaley in my life, no matter what, and my girlfriend has always known and been okay with this.

Though Fran and I had discussions about it later, and Fran passed off the whole argument that we had as being in the past and not of importance anymore, she became more distant and reclusive in her apartment.  She didn’t want to go out as much anymore.  Shaley and I continued to interact and I would help her when she needed something.  I once left the Disney Studios at lunch, drove Shaley, who didn’t have a car at that time, down to her boyfriend’s university in Orange County, and then made it back to Disney only a half hour late, which I had already arranged with my production manager, so there was no problem.  Another time, my girlfriend and I were just leaving Manhattan Beach on a late Saturday afternoon, when Shaley called me and said that she and her boyfriend had just had a terrible argument.  She was again way down at his university and asked if I could pick her up.  I checked with my girlfriend, and we agreed to go down and get her.  We arrived some forty minutes later and parked outside the student housing of her boyfriend.  I called Shaley’s cell phone.  She picked up and said that they were just finishing their discussion and that she would be out in just a minute.  Tens of minutes went by, and I called again. Same thing.  A third time. Same thing.  It was now an hour later, and my girlfriend was beginning to get upset for agreeing to come down to Irvine when Shaley didn’t seem serious about leaving.  I finally called one last time and told Shaley that my girlfriend and I needed to leave.  Shaley said she was really sorry, and to let my girlfriend know that she was sorry that she had wasted our time.  Shaley stayed there and we left, and that sort of changed things with Shaley and I.  She seemed a little irreverent and maybe confused at that point in her life. 
But as a little more time went on, a few more things happened.  Fran and Shaley stopped getting along with each other in their California adventure.  Fran didn’t like her half-sister, or the work that she was doing and just stayed at home.  I could sense that Fran really didn’t like being out here in her California anymore, and that staying in her apartment and watching television in her pajamas was more to her taste than going out into the city and getting together with people.  She missed her home and her family in Kentucky.  Shaley, after graduating, never got a job while with her mother, and instead, stayed at home all day, rarely doing chores either, waiting for the opportunities to see her boyfriend at his university an hour away.  This lasted for a good year.  Fran got fed up with everything.  And I also felt that she saw me as someone who had failed her in some way.  She wanted something more with me rather than being only friends, though we never went beyond the friends boundary other than friendly kisses goodbye.  During this time, I was driving out of the subterranean garage with my girlfriend, passing the elevator, and we saw Fran coming back from throwing her trash out.  She had pajamas on and a short t-shirt.  She looked defeated, tired, and ready to give up.  She was cordial to us, but I could tell that her California adventure looked about done.  Such a shame because this was a very special woman.

To my complete surprise, one day Shaley called me and said that her mother had left.  “What do you mean, she left, Shaley?” I asked in almost utter confusion.  She said, “I mean, she just left me. She’s gone back to Kentucky.”  I asked her, “So what does that mean for you? Did you guys pay like six months’ rent for you to stay here or something?”  She said, “I’ve got one month left here since this month is ending, because there’s the deposit.”  “Oh crap,” I said to myself, realizing that she was not understanding her situation. “No you don’t,” I told her,  “The deposit has nothing to do with rent.  It’s just held for damages.  It can't be used for last month's rent.”   Fran, in being ready to leave her California adventure, had given Shaley the choice to either come home to Kentucky with her, or to stay and start her own life independently.  Shaley chose to stay…alone in their apartment with her mom gone, without really understanding how rent and lease terms work.  And sure enough, Shaley received on her door on the fifth day a pay or quit notice, then on the seventh day she received an unlawful detainer notice, followed by the Sheriff’s department asking her to leave on the fifteenth day.  They gave her four hours to get out.

The complex manager agreed to hold a few things for her until she could get them out including a huge, wood framed mirror, I recall.  But there was no way, other than a bed and a few other things, that Shaley would be able to move all of the contents of the apartment.  My girlfriend and I went with Shaley and her boyfriend, caravanning in tow, and we drove around looking for storage facilities for her to put whatever furniture she could in from the apartment.  I co-signed for the storage facility, and Shaley was able to get someone to move a few of her things to the storage unit.  She then moved in with the boyfriend’s family for a few months, then in with a family from her church.  After that, we lost touch.

Relationships are an interesting creature.  They can fit two people’s lives well at one point, and then they can be outgrown later.  It just depends on the people and the circumstances.  I think Fran and Shaley worked well together when Shaley was younger and needed a parent close to her.  And Fran wanted to have a fun adventure with her out west.  But because Fran’s dreams of being in California, whatever they were, resulted in a lack of fulfillment for her, and also because Shaley grew up and I suppose wanted something different from her mother, they no longer needed the same things from each other or for their lives.  Fran wanted Kentucky again, and Shaley had become used to Southern California and wanted to stay. And for better or for worse, that’s just the way it happened.  Life is messy, isn't it.  But when I think of the times we had together as close neighbors and friends, well, that was definitely a sweet spot, and I enjoyed it thoroughly!  Just as a sort of emotional tribute, I went back and walked by their old apartment just the other day while writing this piece to see how being near their door would make me feel.  It made me feel sad…happy…thankful.  Mostly happy and thankful for having known them.