The hall was not the most beautiful one she had ever seen. She had seen the legendary halls of New York, and of Boston. She knew that she was biased. She felt bad about it but in a way she accepted it. She was not at the location for good reasons. She was dedicated to discovering whatever truths that she could, now that Nate was giving her the cold shoulder. Since their failed date he had responded with one word replies. She was not yet sure what she had brutally messed up, but she knew that it was not easily solved.
And her curiosity about the door was beginning to keep her up at night.
Jim smiled at her with his hands in his pockets as she met him. He wore a nice pair of pants and a button down shirt. His face was clean shaven and his hair was cropped short. He had recently gotten the haircut from the way his neck was a bit pink in the sun. He seemed wholesome in a way, and certainly safe. “I didn’t realize that you were interested in meeting musicians.”
“Is this improper?” Alexis asked him. She didn’t care if it were, however. She had dressed in one of her best dresses, and had made sure her hair was perfect for this impression. She needed to look like she’d put effort into the meeting, even if talking to Jim was her actual goal. She had put on makeup and taken an amount of time that made her feel nearly foolish. She knew it was an act, but she had to be thorough.
“Improper?” Jim asked a bit confused.
“I feel like I’m using you to talk to them.” Alexis led him on her train of thought.
“If you talked to rich men in the world, they’d call that networking.” He laughed before motioning for her to follow him. They went through halls and past places that she was certain they were not supposed to go. They came to a room where musicians were gathering to practice and then Jim began to introduce her,
The actual meeting with the professionals was nothing special for Alexis. She was used to talking with music people and was able to blend in seamlessly. Her networking skills were terrible usually, but her worry from bringing up the door with Jim was far more frightening to her than any sort of talking with professionals. She talked to them for the short thirty minutes before their practice had to begin. She was offered tickets to watch their performance later that week, which she took happily.
They seemed to enjoy her company, and she had come up with some bullshit about wanting to consider being a music hall coordinator. She had surprised herself thoroughly and gotten a few too many contact numbers and emails to reach out to at a later date. Once they were done Jim invited her out for ice cream. The two laughed and joked as they rolled up to a milkshake parlor close to the music hall and got two milkshakes.
“I have no idea. I’ve never been this good at talking to people before.” She usually got nervous and clammed up on the first conversation. She had told him about the first time she talked to a professional and when she had froze. It had gotten him laughing, even though she was still mortified by the situation.
“Perhaps you got a bit of good will.” Jim laughed giving her a wink. When their milkshakes arrived, Jim was thirty seconds in to a good joke giving the punch line with excellent comedic timing. The waiter who gave them the drinks did a double take to the two of them, to make sure he heard right before shaking his head and walking away.
Alexis cackled. “Did you see his face?”
“It usually happens. All a part of the timing,” Jim laughed with her. He picked up his milkshake and began to sip it. “So how are you liking it here?”
“It is different. I’m used to everything being within walking distance and now it’s spread out over miles.” She too began to drink her’s. It was strawberry and light and fluffy. She was happy he recommended the place and fell in love with it in an instant.
“But we have beautiful parks.”
“You’ve never seen good parks then.” She smiled at him. He laughed. She then spoke soft. “Really, thank you for today.”
“No problem.” Jim smiled at her before he leaned closer to the table sipping on his straw. He placed his glass down and pushed it aside. Elbows to the table, he folded his hands together and rested his chin on them. “Now, to the real point of business. What do you want to know about the door?”
Alexis felt her smile freeze on her face. She sputtered. “I didn’t. I…”
“Nate said you saw it. Anyone who sees it always has questions.” Jim sighed. “Jordan likes to pretend it doesn’t exist. Nate hates it, which I know you saw. That leaves your questions for me.” He paused for a bit before he unclasped his fingers and still with one palm supporting his chin, he twirled his milkshake straw.
“Now Alexis,” The man smiled. “Let’s pretend for a moment that you actually wanted to talk to those music professionals.” He paused for her to say she did, but she could not lie. “Exactly. Now. What do you want to know?” He then began to drink his milkshake.
“What is the door? The hall? Why does Nate hate it? Why won’t he text me? Why does Jordan pretend it doesn’t exist?”
“I’ll start with the easiest question.” Jim said after he finished drinking a bit. “Its a records room. It holds the entire history of Jordan’s family lineage tracing back to the BC era. This is to say that yes, he can trace it back to then. Record keeping becomes a bit erratic for people around that time. Not for his family.” Jim sighed. He then sipped his drink again, raising Alexis’ tension. She sat, hands squeezing at the hem of her dress as she waited for him to continue. “Jordan may look white, but I can assure you, he most certainly is not.”
Alexis thought to the hall and of the faces that changed races. There were a multitude of mixed race people of different types and mixtures. Alexis had to imagine that Jordan looked the way he did because of his most recent ancestors.
“That explains the hall.” Alexis asked. “Why keep the records?”
“Some sort of family legacy. It is a large relic room filled with things historians and museum poachers would die to get their hands on. Jordan likes to pretend it isn’t there so that people don’t try to take anything.” Jim answered. He eyed her drink and she quickly sipped it. He laughed and smiled.
“Nate made it seem like Jordan’s family were crimi—“ Alexis dropped her words when she saw the way Jim’s straight face did not change. “Are they?”
“Plausible deniability.” Jim repeated Nate’s words. “Jordan’s family are not bad people by they hold some things that people may hurt others for. They have copious amounts of wealth from selling off their artifacts. Its better to pretend you don’t know so that if someone does come to try to harm him, then you are safer.”
“Is that likely?”
“More likely than you think. Keeping their secrets has resulted in them making more than a few enemies.” Jim finished his milkshake then letting the thought rest. “Just pretend that you never saw it. I’ll tell Nate you talked to me.”
“Is he angry at me for bringing it up?”
“He was frustrated Jordan let you see it and possibly get you into danger. He then was frustrated in himself for snapping at you. Now I think he’s embarrassed for what he did and does not know how to apologize.”
Alexis understood that. She would have been embarrassed the same way. “Should I tell him I don’t mind.”
“Just pretend you forgot it. He’ll come around to make it up to you after a bit more time. If you could let it go, it would be for the best of both of you.”
“Easier said than done. It seemed like it was calling me.” Alexis sipped at her drink.
“Any good mystery does.” Jim sighed starring at his empty milkshake glass. Alexis continued to drink her milkshake with him in silence. “Its better not to get too heavily involved with Jordan, Alexis. Just a point of warning.”
“Aren’t you his best friend?” Alexis smacked her lips as she asked the question, tasting the milkshake on them.
“I am.” He laughed at her quick question.
“Are you supposed to say that?” She teased him.
“I’d rather not see anyone get hurt.” Jim’s honesty was admirable. She knew that Jordan was a mess, and that Jim cared but he did not want anyone else getting involved unless they were certain. “Now. Is there anything else you’d like to see or do you want to stare at my pretty face for the rest of the afternoon?”
“I’d love to stare at your pretty face.” Alexis smiled at him. With that, however, her thoughts on the door were quelled. She was at ease, at peace, and able to accept the answer for what it was.
When Alexis got home, all she could think of was some of the music that Jim had introduced her to. It led her to her room, turning on her record player and listening to her classical records. Laying on her bed, Alexis closed her eyes listening to the music and learned her mind. She thought of how she was going to tell Nate that they should go out again. What would be a good date?
The door didn’t matter anymore. She had new people and did not need to get involved with anything more. Plausible deniability. She continued to repeat the words to herself as she opened her eyes. She saw her mom before her mom knocked.
“Mom.” Alexis sat up. “Is there something wrong?”
“How are you?” Her mother walked in and sat next to Alexis on her bed. “I know this move has been hard on you.”
“Are you feeling better?” Alexis wanted to reach out to her, but could not. She was afraid her mother would reject her touch.
“Today is a better day. This place is different but…” She breathed deeply. “How are you?”
“You’ve made friends.” He mother seemed proud at that, as if she were worried that Alexis would not. Truthfully speaking, Aleix was amazed she had. She probably would not have, under normal circumstances.
“I have.” She liked the fact that she did.
“That’s good. Nia says they’re all boys.” Her mother’s teasing tone, the one Alexis had learned to use, peaked through. For a moment, Alexis was back in New York talking to her mom about boys as her mom teased her and told her to be safe because boys could break her heart. She was laughing and embarrassed, but safe, and felt as if she could trust her mother with everything. That had been years ago.
“They are…” Alexis saw her mother smile a rare smile. “I know to be careful.”
“You would not be with them if you did not have reasonable amount of trust in them. I trust you, but always always keep your wits about you.” Her mother reached for her, and kissed her forehead. Alexis swooned and reached out to hug her mother.
“I’m your daughter. I always will.” Alexis spoke into her mother’s shoulder, comforted and happy that she had her mother back in her arms for the moment. For the moment things were the way they once were, even if they never could be that way again.
“What are you listening to?” Her mother laid down on Alexis’ bed. It was the first time they had listened to music together in years. Alexis smiled at her mother and then hurried to get her aux chord splitter, so that she could let her mother listen with her. When they both had their headphones read, Alexis began to talk about it all. She explained the songs and the artists, and the emotions she felt. Alexis let herself get lost in the music.