So Much for My Happy Ending
Tammy climbed three flights of stairs. Her breath hitched as soon as she spied her apartment door.
In snakeskin stilettos, she tippy-toed down the stained blue carpeted hallway. The place reeked of industrial disinfectant. As she stepped into the vast emptiness of her home for the last seven months, she screamed. “Help! Fire! Fire!” There wasn’t a fire, but that always elicited quicker responses than Help! Police!
Nobody came. She blazed a trail through the apartment, checking every room and closet. Her possessions were all gone. Nothing remained but pink shower curtain rings dangling in the bathroom and a few shards of her Manhattan skyline mural clinging to the living room wall.
She sprinted down the stairs two at a time while groping the cold metal railing. She had a flashback of running down Beverly Boulevard in pumps and a thong tankini, but this was no publicity shoot for the gym.
Like the Bionic Woman, Tammy ran across the parking lot and stormed into the rental office. A couple sitting at the manager’s desk twisted around to look at her. The husband smiled, ogling her sculpted mocha thighs exposed up to there in a short white skirt. The wife glared at him.
“Where are my belongings?” Tammy demanded.
The manager said, “Excuse me one moment,” to the couple.
He slipped his fingers through his greasy gray hair as he scurried around the desk and motioned for Tammy to join him near the restroom. In a hushed tone he said, “Ms. Payne, you were evicted.”
“When? Why? How dare you!” She threw her arms up in the mildewy office air and then sliced through it with fists dropping at her sides.
The manager stepped back.
“My brother is Judge Perry Payne and you’ll be sorry—”
“You were given the required notice. You know there is no grace period here at Arundel Forrest.” He shot an eye over his shoulder and spoke up. “We are the most sought after luxury apartment community in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region. You knew that when you signed your lease. There is no grace period. You failed to pay your rent. Our collections department set the wheels in motion.”
“What? My rent gets paid automatically by my—my money manager. Check your banking records. You lying little insignificant power tripping nobody.”
Tammy placed her hand on her cleavage, trying to keep her runaway heartbeat under her skin. She remembered an official looking letter from the Sheriff’s office that she chose not to open, thinking it contained a summons for parking tickets. Her rent was automatically deducted from her father’s checking account... Oh-Donna! When Daddy died, she became executrix of his estate. She must have cut me off! I’m gonna kill that sissy-girl!
Tammy clenched her fists and stamped her feet. Her blistered right pinky toe rubbed sorely inside the shoe. “There has been a terrible mistake. I’ll write you a check.” She sifted through her Kate Spade bag.
The manager said, “We have no vacancies.”
“Nobody is in my apartment. It’s empty. And I want reimbursement for my Manhattan mural. No. I want you to find another one and have it hung at your expense. And I expect my personal property—”
“Your apartment has been rented to another tenant. We have no vacancies. Ms. Payne, you no longer live here.”
“Well I’ve never been so insulted in my life. Just wait until my brother the judge hears about this!” Tammy flipped open her cell phone. The battery was dead. “And I want my belongings right now!”
“The sheriff’s department hauled everything to the curb. What the other tenants didn’t want was slam dunked into the dumpster.”
Tammy huffed out of the office and was smacked in the face with the Maryland August humidity. Scanning the parking lot, she drew in a deep breath. Good. At least my car is still here. She dug her keys out of her purse and clicked the door open on her teal Thunderbird. Grabbing the top frame of the door, Tammy stared at the dumpster across the lot.
She swallowed the wad of humiliation in her throat, threw her head back and marched up the wooden ramp. Her nose wiggled at the ode de diapers. She clapped one hand across her mouth and nose. Tammy swatted at a yellow jacket as she peeked over the top of the green metal Mecca of waste. Broken terra cotta pots, burst open plastic trash bags oozing out coffee filters and apple cores and somebody’s old webbed aluminum chaise lay scattered on the bottom.
Tammy fought back tears at the realization the dumpster had recently been emptied. She raced back to her car, climbed inside and slammed the door on her ebony pony tail. “Ouch!” She opened it up, pulled her hair in and shut it. After engaging the locks, Tammy shoved the key in the ignition and cranked it. Good. It started.