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Josie’s Place by Sid Powell

Josie turned over in her bed flipping the pillow over to the ice cold side just as the familiar clamor and strife began to rise in the apartment above her own. The man upstairs, Percell Watkins, and his significant other always managed to find the sweet spot right above Josie’s head to stage their dramatic arguments. Josie exhaled in one long exasperating sigh knowing that with nothing more than a thin floor made of cheap wooden planks between them, she was destined to be a third wheel in their tumultuous relationship forever. She tried soothing herself by running her fingers continuously through her soft, fluffy natural hair and accepted her fate knowing she was in for yet another long night.

Rolling onto her back, Josie’s eyes were fixated on the popcorn ceiling as she stared upward listening to Percy’s woman attempting to express her drunken opinion in a high pitched howl. Simultaneously, and in great contrast, Percy struggled to speak in a levelheaded manner wanting to maintain a semblance of respect and dignity behind their closed doors though a futile feat. What always followed was the slamming of the heavy front door coupled with the woman’s slippery and unfettered footsteps skimming over the hallway stairs. She was so intoxicated that she was utterly oblivious to how near the grim reaper loomed when she would launch herself down the steps for the final act in the drama to which Josie had become all too accustomed over the years.

To further accentuate the nonsensical behaviors regularly displayed by the couple upstairs, a newborn baby girl with an unremittingly shrill cry that pierced the air almost on cue nightly had arrived becoming an additional performer in the Barnum and Bailey style performance currently taking place. The child’s cry was of such a concerning nature that Josie would feel her own nipples perk up at attention in response to the carnal noise. At times she wished it was acceptable to storm up the stairs and pop her own breast into the infant’s mouth to quiet her down. On this night like all the others, the sounds coming from Percy’s place made it painfully obvious to Josie that Percy Watkins had no idea how to please his woman OR his newborn baby. But eventually, Josie would somehow drift off into a thin layer of sleep her fingers tangled throughout her hair only to be awakened an hour later by sounds of the city coming to life right underneath her bedroom window sill. Like Josie’s mother had always said, ain’t a damn thing under the sun that can keep it from rising.

However, today’s sunrise would bring with it an event so special that Josie could barely contain her own enthusiasm; her wedding day. She popped up as her alarm clock blared at six o’clock on the dot with no regard for the fact that she’d been tossing and turning all night long unable to get any steady sleep. Today was the day she would be wed to the love of her life and nothing was going to put a damper on the fact of that matter for Josie. She could only hope that the sheer excitement of it all would help her push through the fatigue and sleep deprivation that was running through her veins.

But first things first, the rent was due and the landlord, i.e. , Percy Watkins, would come tapping on her door shortly if her envelope wasn’t delivered as expected which for Josie meant 10-14 days late. He was always nice about it but she never wanted to take advantage of his kindness or the fact that they were very familiar with one other. Josie was aware that her budget had been completely thrown off kilter with all of the extra wedding expenses so she made a check out for the rent and threw in twenty extra bucks hoping to keep the heat off until the following month when things would be back on track. Every single solitary month Josie’s plan of action was the same. She would attempt to quietly slink up the stairs and then slide the envelope under Percy’s door into his living room without him noticing she had been there. But somehow without fail, Percy always seemed to know when she was on the other side of his door. She tiptoed up the stairs and stooped down to complete her monthly mission when the door swung open. Josie was so entrenched in her stealth operation that she was caught off guard by Percy’s tall frame standing tall and foreboding above her. She popped up stumbling backward and banged into the door across the hall. Percy lunged forward and caught Josie by the arm saving her from tumbling down the long stairwell that threatened to end her life on her special day.

“You ok?” Percell asked, though affectionately called Percy by his closest friends and people like Josie. Josie’s chest heaved up and down as she tried to regain her composure reclaiming her whole arm from Percy.

“Yes, thank you, you scared me opening the door like that.”

Percy was her neighbor, her landlord, an old friend, her high school prom date, and a boyfriend that never managed to quite seal the deal. Their love affair had been short lived, lasting from the beginning of their junior year until it fell apart only months later three short days shy of summer break. It had been a special time in both of their lives, a time she would always treasure. It was that time in life when it’s foreign to be touched by hands other than your own. When thoughts of the unknown can be so tantalizing that you can barely take the idea of what’s in store for you one day up ahead.

“Good morning Percy, “Josie gathering her composure standing at a sheepish height of only 5’4”. “What are you doing awake?” She asked shamelessly looking Percy up and down from head to toe. She couldn’t help but notice that he’d really let himself go over the last year or so. His once taut frame that had attracted her to him back in the day had now begun to lap over and sag in some very critical areas. In addition, gray hair had taken over the top of his head and was starting to hold his sideburns and beard hostage as well. His once shiny, wavy hair was a thing of the past and the bottom line was Percy looked run down, tired, and old. Percy was slow to respond to Josie’s question so she repeated it. “What are you doing up?”

Percy was always taken by Josie’s natural beauty. Her dainty features and tiny frame lead him to taboo thoughts of things he had wanted to do to her back in the day and now more than anything. His mind was trying to catch up with his tongue and finally he uttered, “My life hasn’t been my own since this little bundle of noise arrived. When she says it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up. Never mind that I’m sleep deprived and walking around on two and three hours of sleep on the daily”.

Josie leaned up on her tippy toes and peered over into Percy’s flaccid arms to see into the eyes of the little minion that was now at the helm of her old friend’s life ship. Josie twisted her lips in disbelief allowing a comment that only a single, childless woman could allow to slip out.

“You mean to tell me that little bitty thing is what keeps us both up all hours of the night Percy? All that screaming and crying at one, two, three o’clock in the morning and now she’s all smiles and quiet as a mouse! She ought to be ashamed,” Josie exclaimed.

“Tell me about it,” said Percy. “Would you mind holding her for a second? I been needin’ to relieve myself for the past hour but this rotten joker won’t let me put her down.”

Before Josie could answer, the swaddled child was out of Percy’s arms and resting in hers. She looked down at the little caramel colored baby girl searching her marble eyes for a feeling of some sort. But Josie had never been moved by children. She’d always been told that with her debutante looks, she’d make a harem of beautiful little people but that wasn’t enough to sell her on the idea. As a matter of fact, babies and little children were just walking and talking small people that Josie didn’t care too much about and couldn’t relate to at all. And there was no shame in Josie’s feelings her mother had always told her. Her momma had always said that there are some women who just weren’t meant to be mothers, and Josie was almost certain she never wanted to have a child or children of her own.

Percy reappeared just in time. Josie’s thoughts were starting to get away from her. She happily handed him the baby along with the envelope containing her rent check. She felt the need to provide an explanation as usual and stammered into one.

“I’m sorry it’s late Percy, and I appreciate you bearing with me but things will settle down next month.”

Percy didn’t bother looking at Josie when he responded.

“I know you’re good for it and I couldn’t put you out if I tried. You know my mother still has our prom picture up in her living room.” Percy shook his head from side to side as he adjusted his precious daughter in his arms.

“You have to admit we looked good together,” Josie said. Percy brushed Josie off with an unrelated comment.

“Congratulations on the big day by the way, I’m sure you’ll make one beautiful bride.”

“Thank you Percy, that’s sweet. Speaking of, I’ve gotta run.” Josie said as she spun around on the heel of her slippers closing the door behind her softly then bounding down the stairs leaving Percy and his stressful life behind her. Josie knew that the baby’s mother would soon arrive home half way sober at some point on Sunday morning. And Josie knew that Percy would take the woman back convincing himself that her actions had been fairly innocuous. And then the two would halfway function throughout the week just enough to get to another Saturday night and another circus performance. But that wasn’t any of Josie’s business and she was done thinking about it and done thinking about Percy too just like that.

Hours later, Josie’s wedding went off without a hitch. She was truly more beautiful than most if not all the women in the world as far as Percy and most of the men in the neighborhood were concerned. Percy peered out of the window and watched as the sleek black limousine drove away with Josie tucked away inside. The last thing he’d seen was a glimmer of her white shoe slipping into the door before it closed. Percy wished he could have her as his own Cinderella bride. She would have made the perfect black Barbie to his black Ken he thought.

As the years went by things changed and they didn’t, time went on and it stood still. Josie divorced and married again before finally returning to her old brownstone apartment, 17B, which just so happened to be available for rent. When she showed up Percy was upstairs making a baby bottle for his second daughter. His first daughter had died in her sleep for no good reason at all to Percy and the mother’s chagrin. He hadn’t forgotten about her though, not even a little bit, but time had somehow made it so he could move on. He had finally summoned the strength to get rid of the mother of both of his girls and decided he would be the best mother and father that he could be to his new baby girl. He considered it a second chance at fatherhood granted by God himself and he was determined to make the best of it.

He was prepared for the sleepless nights that come along with an infant and welcomed them as long as he didn’t have to deal with the child’s mother’s nonsense any longer. It was on one of those sleepless nights that he had been walking his daughter back and forth across the living room floor when he heard that precious sound. The top stair outside his front door had creaked, the one he had never fixed for this very purpose and moment that was here right now. He knew what it meant and snatched the door open before her knock came. And there she was. Her hair thrown up in a thick afro ponytail that made her look unassumingly gorgeous and irresistible to him. Her eyes sparkled like copper gems that had been plucked from beneath the glass of a fine jewelry counter. Josie Holloway was simply breathtaking. It had been two years since he’d seen her drive away on her second wedding day just in time to see that white slipper disappear into the limousine for what he thought would be forever. The years had been kind to Josie and she was radiant as ever even at 6 in the morning. The newspaper headline needed to read, “Josie’s back”. Percy was glad as ever.

“Hi Percy,” Josie said. Hearing her voice made him realize that he had missed her dearly. Even though they never said more than hi and bye in passing all the years that she’d lived there, he knew she was just a few feet away and reveled in that fact. More importantly he had never minded her being late with the rent because it meant he could always look forward to a brief visit with Josie explaining why she was a week or so past due. While she explained her late payment, Percy imbibed her beauty barely listening to her rambling. He had loved Josie since the day he’d seen her so many years ago in their high school gym. When she had said yes and let him take her to the prom and then been his girl for a short while thereafter, it had been like a dream. As time marched on, Josie started to realize that more athletic and cooler boys existed and had slipped through Percy’s fingers like the sands of time. Failed attempts at love with men that simply wanted her as a trophy to have on their arm is what always brought her back to the brownstone apartment on Cleighborne Lane. She was pretty to have but they never bothered with keeping Josie you see. But Percy had always seen past the beauty to her heart, the most exquisite part of Josie. She was still waiting for Percy to say hello.

“Hi Josie,” Percy retorted.

“I see you have another baby,” Josie said.

“Yeah, it’s my own fault,” Percy said shyly. “I managed to find me another broken woman to have a baby by; if it’s all the same it’s fine with me if they leave me the hell alone and let me and my babies get on with life,” Percy explained. “But for some reason they choose to stick around and give me hell instead.”

“Must be all that good lovin’” Josie joked. “I’d stay too.”

Percy’s heart leapt in his chest and almost came flying out his mouth. He knew Josie was just making small talk but the sheer thought of her being his again made him want to shout from the rooftop of the building. He had to be careful not to drop his own baby at the fantasy that was playing out in his head. Josie’s voice snapped him back to reality.

“I’m so sorry about what happened to your first daughter,” Josie said. “I wanted to come back for the funeral but I just, I ….”.

Percy interrupted sparing Josie the burden of explaining something that needed no explanation. They both knew what had really kept Josie away. A preoccupation with her own life and more important things like getting used to yet another husband who would find a way to abuse her mentally, emotionally, and eventually, physically. Some things need to keep going without saying.

“There’s no need to talk about old news,” Percy said. “What’s done is done and it was always up to God anyhow. My Lily, she’s resting in his peace.” Percy responded ending the topic.

“And how about you?” Josie asked searching Percy’s eyes for the truth before he responded with a rote answer to shut her up. She couldn’t help but feel like Percy had always been hiding something when it came to her. He was hands down one of the nicest men she knew, simplest too with a gentle spirit and well intentioned soul. But Percy was almost too nice.

“I’m always steady Josie,” Percy said with a stoic look plastered across his face. “Not looking for anything that ain’t looking for me. Minding my business and getting on in this life.”

Josie digested Percy’s response.

“And how are you Josie?” Percy asked.

She looked up seemingly surprised that someone was asking how she was doing.

“I know when you show up back here it don’t mean nothing good for your husbands,” Percy continued surprised that he had verbalized his true thoughts.

He wished he could take it back; maybe he’d offended Josie into silence because she still hadn’t said a word. But he really wanted to know how she was doing. A desire to take care of her always overcame him when he saw her and even when he hadn’t laid eyes on her for years.

“I’ve seen better days Percy,” Josie said. “I appreciate you making room for me in my old apartment. It’s the second time marriage has failed me, about time I start looking at my choices and seeing what it is I’m doing wrong. Maybe I can learn from you Percy. You just forego marriage altogether, maybe that’s the answer.”“Like I said Josie, I ain’t looking for nothing or no one that ain’t looking for me,” Percy stated adamantly. “It keeps me from believing in things that ain’t real.”

“But don’t you get lonely?” Josie asked.

“When I do, I put me on my Sunday’s best and go hang out across the bridge. I have me some grown man fun and come on home. Every now and then I slip up and bring the fun back across the bridge with me and end up with babies. But that’s how I get by. I learned that you gotta keep it on the surface with surface people, don’t’ give em’ no more or no less.”

Josie handed Percy her envelope with a tearful look in her eyes.

“I’m so lonely I could spit Percy.” Josie said.

He accepted the envelope and decided not to respond t her comment. He didn’t want to say the right thing the wrong way and scare her off.

“I’ll do my best to pay on time this go round; I wouldn’t want you to have to put me out.” Josie said. “I’m headed into town today to find me a second job to take up some of this free time I’ve got on my hands now that I’m a single woman again.”

“Good luck Josie and welcome home,” Percy said freely. “I meant welcome back.”

Percy wanted to sever his own tongue off for betraying him. He closed the door quickly embarrassed by his own remark.

Josie stood on the other side of the door for a brief moment. She liked Percy but she didn’t like him like that she thought. Although he was in far better shape than he’d been in when she’d left two years ago. Probably just her desperation fooling her into thinking Percy was something to look at now. But she couldn’t help but acknowledge that she didn’t seem to mind his gray hair as much and that the overlapping had receded. Bottom line, Percy looked damn good Josie thought!

Percy stood on the other side of the door smiling at the secret he would always keep close to his chest. The last two times Josie had pulled away from the apartment building in her wedding limousine he always hoped she would return. He never prayed for her marriages to fail, he just selfishly wanted to have her just one short flight of stairs away from him. And thankfully, the fates had made it so.

After marriage number one and her first departure, he had been so sad he decided not to rent her apartment to anyone else stubbornly holding vigil for his old friend Josie. When she had shown back up on his doorstep dejected and single the first time, he decided that he would leave the apartment empty in a silly attempt that its emptiness may draw her back yet again. His silly voodoo tactics proved to be fruitful. Seeing her back this time had made him far happier than the first for reasons he himself didn’t quite understand.

When he’d received her desperate calls after she found out that husband number one or two would be keeping the house and putting her out of it, he’d always told her that she had called him at just the right time to ask about renting her old place. He would tell her that he had just gotten off the phone with a prospective renter who had been on their way to pay a deposit to hold apartment 17B. For good measure he added that since Josie had been a previous tenant that always paid albeit late, he would let her have the place this time. But in truth, 17B would always belong to Josie. It would be Josie’s place whenever she wanted or needed it. But she could never know this was really the way it was. She might do that thing women do when they know you love them and start taking advantage of Percy; the sheer thought pissed him off royally. So with this in mind, he would keep it to himself and take it to the grave. Percy’s momma hadn’t raised a fool, not by a long shot.

Soon Percy’s second daughter Pippa was walking and talking. Two winters had turned into two springs and summer was blazin’ up and down the city block. Josie hadn’t had much good fortune with finding a job and so as luck would have it, Percy hired Josie to be Pippa’s nanny. The arrangement had worked out well for all parties involved, with the exception of one party--Josie. As time passed by and Josie’s dating life slowly shriveled up and died it seemed as though Percy’s love life was just as spry and lively as ever. Josie couldn’t help but shiver with the jealousy that rippled through her body. Not once had Percy ever made a pass at her, not even when she’d put in the extra effort to put a hot curler to her hair and to let her summer dress drape extra low at the neckline pretending she didn’t know. All Percy ever did was say hello in his friendly way and give her the details of what the baby would need throughout the day. Sometimes Josie felt like Percy’s maid; cookin’, cleanin’, keeping house. But where were the womanly frills, thrills, and perks to go along with all that work? Sure she was getting paid but not in the currency that she had wanted.

On this particular day, Josie was tending to Pippa as Percy disappeared in and out of the living room adding one piece of clothing every time he reappeared. And that cologne of his was a panty dropper for sure Josie thought. But Josie made it a point to act like she didn’t smell that cologne or notice Percy’s gorgeous outfits and clean haircuts whatsoever. Jealousy can in fact be blinding. In his haste to leave the house he often had questions about where this shirt was or where his black socks were. Percy needed Josie and she knew it. She even liked it. Sometimes when the envy was at its peak she would let him call her name two or three times acting like she was interested in what was between a magazine cover and couldn’t hardly hear him.

“Yes?” Josie finally yelled toward the back of Percy’s apartment rolling her eyes flipping a magazine page.

Percy came flying into the kitchen rather purposefully attaching a sparkling gold watch with diamonds round his left wrist. Since when did he wear watches with diamonds Josie thought annoyed by the whole scene playing out in front of her. Her life had become Pippa and by default Percy, but she didn’t have him like she wanted him. Percy started in on his checklist.

“So you girls are good to go then right?” I just bought a brand new jug of chocolate milk and those vanilla wafer cookies that the both of you love.

“I don’t like those, Pippa does,” Josie said huffily. Percy smiled on the inside knowing his plan to pay Josie no damn mind was finally working.

“Oh, well if there’s anything I can get for you in the future just let me know,” Percy said.

Josie wanted to scream. You can get me you Percy Watkins. A real man that knows how to treat the omen across that stinkin’ bridge.

“How do I look?”Percy asked flauntingly.

Percy knew how he looked. Irresistible. He had taken a great deal of pleasure in Josie’s buckeyed response when she returned after her second failed marriage to find that he had pulled himself all the way back together looking more like the head turner she’d known years prior.

“You look fine, I’m sure they just love to see you coming across the bridge to spend up all your money,” Josie said antagonizingly.

“That’s what it’s for ain’t it?” Percy asked sarcastically. “To spend?”

A soft cry came from the back of the apartment as Pippa stirred up out of her Sunday afternoon nap.

“That’s my cue, I’m gone,” Percy said coming as close as he possibly could to the side of Josie’s face then stopping himself cold. They both stared over one another’s shoulders.

Josie wanted the kiss so badly she could cry. Percy acknowledged his deliberate fumble.

“I’m sorry Josie, for a second there I was thinking you were my old lady,” Percy said with a perplexed look on his face. Josie looked mystified. “Just an old habit, my mistake, it won’t happen again.” Percy declared. Kiss Pippa for me would you?”

Percy slipped out of the front door.

“And you kiss my ass Percell Watkins,” Josie muttered under her breath when he was gone. She could feel the blood pulsating in her ears she was so mad. More than anything mad as hell cause she cared and cause he didn’t. Mad cause she was sick and tired of him going off gallivanting with women in the city and leaving her behind like the help. Who did he think he was anyway?! She ran to the baby’s room and peered out of the window just in time to see Percy’s dress shoe disappear into his car door as he sped away in a mighty big hurry. She would fix Percy. She would fix him damn good too.

The weekend passed and when Monday came Josie handed Percy two envelopes this time. One was her late rent check and the other was her resignation. She wanted to treat the situation just as formally as Percy had treated her all these years. It had always just been business to him and so she wanted to make sure that’s how it stayed. Percy opened the envelope that said BUSINESS in large black block letters on the front.

“What’s this?” he asked without opening the letter.

“Read it,” Josie said in her feelings.

Percy read the letter silently then looked up into Josie’s eyes. “I sure hate to see you go, especially for Pippa. You’re the only moth…the only babysitter she really knows but I understand you need to do what’s best for you. Percy left it at that and it was enough to make Josie’s head spin all the way around twice. She maintained her cool and said, “My last day is this Friday.”

“Understood,” Percy said.

Friday came and went and with it Josie’s presence that had once filled Percy’s apartment with a womanly softness and flair. He couldn’t deny that he was sad to think that eventually, her smell would follow her physical presence. Soon it would no longer smell like Josie in his place. He had to admit she had caught him completely off guard with the overly dramatic resignation but that was Josie’s way. He knew good and goddamn well that the only reason she was taking her ball and going home was because he wouldn’t give her the attention she wanted from him.

They were at an impasse. He had kept his desire for Josie to himself all these years and she’d never truly had a desire for him until now. Now that he was indifferent about her, beauty and all.

From that Friday on, Josie only traveled to the top of the steps to deliver her rent checks and Percy never opened the door when he heard the stairs creaking announcing her presence. If he didn’t know any better, he would swear that Josie stood out there making an unnecessary amount of noise hoping to make sure her presence was known. In a million years he wouldn’t give her the satisfaction she was looking for mainly just cause. Why did she deserve him now after the husbands she had slobbered and ran behind had let her all the way down?

The Fall blew in sooner than everyone in the city expected and Percy started taking Pippa for bundled up walks to the park. Pippa loved being outside and Percy loved to make her smile so it was a win win situation for the happy couple; Percy and his Pippa. One day on the walk back to the brownstone, Percy saw Josie walking home from the corner bodega with two hands full of groceries. He hurriedly walked over to her and relieved the majority of her load with just two of his fingers while he held Pippa’s tiny hand with his other one. It was a manly gesture that reminded Josie that she didn’t have one in her life and it stung.

“Thank you,” Josie mumbled.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Percy said.

At that moment something broke in Josie’s spirit. An emotional damn slipped and the waterworks began to flow from both of her eyes. The undoing was caused by Percy just being Percy. The way he’d offered himself to be of assistance, how he trotted happily up the street with his daughter to Josie’s rescue and just the way Percy was and had been all their lives. In that unsuspecting moment the perfect storm had been fashioned and Josie broke down. The three of them walked into the apartment and stood in front of 17B while Josie jiggled the keys in her door damn near breaking them off out of frustration. When she got it open she snatched the bags from Percy and closed the door shutting Percy and Pippa out literally and figuratively. Percy and Pippa stood looking at one another confused. Percy knocked on the door and Josie yelled through it.

“I’ll be fine!” she said.

“You left a bag out here,” Percy said happy that he had an excuse for Josie to open the door again.

“I’ll get it later,” Josie said.

“Ok, we’re going.” Percy brought his finger up to his lips to make sure Pippa didn’t give up the ruse. Seconds later Josie fell into Percy’s trap and opened the door. Before she could slam it again Percy held it open firmly. She looked at him in silence but her eyes said a plethora of things. They said that she wished she was strong enough to close the door on Percy Watkins and all men forever. They also said that she wished he loved her and not all those other women across the bridge.

Percy and Pippa entered Josie’s apartment and stood quietly as Josie retreated to the bathroom to clean herself up. When she returned she put on a happy face for Pippa and knelt down to join her on her level.

“Now Pippa, Miss Josie is fine, I just had something in my eye,” Josie blinked in an exaggerated manner hoping to fool Pippa. Pippa stared at Josie blankly. Josie turned the TV on and put it on Pippa’s favorite show and just like that Pippa was no longer concerned with Josie’s tears in the least bit. As Josie turned to walk into her kitchen Percy followed.

“What is it?” Percy asked wholeheartedly.

“Nothing Percy, nothing that you can fix anyhow,” Josie said trying to keep her voice from quivering.

“You’re crying from your soul Josie,” I can tell. “Now what is it?”Percy asked hoping Josie would come clean and be vulnerable for once.

Josie looked at Percy and for the first time acknowledged at least to herself that she was in love with him and had been for quite some time. She couldn’t bring herself to tell him.

“I’m just a little sad Percy, that’s all,” Josie said. “It’s that time of the month.”

“That time of the month?” Percy questioned. “The time when you realize that you’re all alone and don’t have anyone to call your own?”

The tears spilled out of Josie’s eyes with fervor. She cupped her hand over her mouth to muffle the pain and suffering so Pippa wouldn’t hear. It was too late to hide anything from Percy at this point.

“Or that time of the month when you can’t hide from yourself any longer?”

“I don’t want to talk about it Percy,” Josie stuttered adamantly.Percy had to admit he was disappointed that Josie was too stubborn and bull headed to admit she loved him. He had known she did for awhile but sometimes it was good for pretty women not to get what they wanted. He hadn’t given Josie her way. And he didn’t intend to start now. Not completely.

“Pippa let’s go sweetheart,” he called out. At the sound of Percy announcing his impending departure Josie came undone grabbing him by the arm spinning him around.

“Percy, P..P…P…Percy,” Josie stuttered. “I, I, lov…love you.” And with that, the world stood still in Josie’s kitchen and two lives became one. Percy took Josie in his arms and kissed her for as long as they both could stand it.

A love that had been enslaved by silence was now free to sing its song.

Percy and Josie were married less than one year later and Percy eventually rented 17B out to new tenants. Josie never knew that 17B had been her place for the having the whole time and Percy was never gonna tell her. Like Percy’s mother always told him, sometimes it’s good to hold back on a woman and it’s most certainly necessary to hold back on a pretty one like Josie Watkins.

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