Every time I collect my mail from the paint-spattered box in the lobby and see my name printed over and over in bold black ink, I’m reminded that I’m named after a rock star.
Not an endlessly cool rocker like Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, or Madonna. No, my name is Henley Rose Evans, and my parents consciously named me after the lead singer and drummer of every boomer’s favorite easy listening band, the Eagles.
Too bad I’m the furthest thing from a rock star you can find on planet Earth. My landlord barely remembers my name, let alone hordes of screaming fans, and I’ve trashed precisely zero hotel rooms. I do have dreams though. Big dreams for a shiny, successful career. Just not one that requires me to sing in public.
Tucking my stack of mostly junk mail inside my tote, I huff my way up the carpeted stairs of my downtown Seattle apartment building. By the time I reach my floor, my thighs are burning. I could have taken the ancient matchbox elevator, but I still needed to get my steps in today.
Floorboards creak as I trudge down the hall while the smell of lemon cleaner hangs in the air. My phone buzzes and I pull it from my pocket. It’s a text from my sister, Walsh.
I have a big surprise…
My stomach drops like a stone chucked off a cliff. Walsh’s “surprises” are surprises in the same way that getting hit by a bus is a surprise. I stop to respond, water droplets rolling off my coat and soaking into the patterned green carpet.
What’s his name?
Not a guy. Tell you tomorrow.
Come on what is it
The door beside me opens with a wash of music and laughter. I jolt and my bag slips down the slick fabric of my raincoat to the crook of my elbow, wrenching my arm, and I almost drop my phone. Fumbling, I shove it into my bag.
“Oh,” says my neighbor Sophie. Or is it Sophia? Sophie and Sophia moved into 4E last month, and they’re both roughly the same height with long, highlighted blond hair and the same generically pretty features. They remind me of Walsh. “Hey, Hannah.”
“Henley,” I enunciate. A by-product of having a name outside the mainstream? No one ever gets it right.
“Are you just getting home from work?” Sophie/Sophia asks, glancing at the window at the end of the hall. It’s well after 8 p.m. and completely dark outside.
“Cool.” Looping a slim purse strap over her head, she closes the door behind her and the music and chatter that had filled the hallway is reduced to a dull rumble. “We’re having a little get-together. Nothing fancy. I’m headed out for a beer run, but feel free to swing by.”
I offer her a genuine smile. “Thanks. Maybe I will.”
My laptop and strategic management textbook weigh my bag—and my mood—down like a couple of bricks. My temples throb with exhaustion from the long day, and it’s not even over yet. I still have the almighty task list to address.
Guilt twinges my gut as I turn the corner, but I brush it away. I like my new neighbors even though they’re younger than I am; I’m twenty-eight and they’re fresh from undergraduate-ville. We’ll just have to hang out some other night. One where I don’t have work or classes hovering over my head. So, sometime next century, maybe?
Reaching my apartment, I shove my key into the lock and shoulder open the door. A raspy yowl greets me. I set my bag on the floor and flip on the light.
“Hi, Noodles.” I hang my keys on a hook by the door and my coat in the narrow front closet. Noodles the cat saunters into the foyer. He’s a long-haired gray tabby with wiry fur that sticks out every which way, no matter how much I brush him, and golden-green eyes that focus in two completely different directions.
One time I googled “What’s the opposite of cross-eyed” and the term “divergent strabismus” popped up, which sounds more like a sci-fi novel than a medical condition, but the vet said in his case it’s hereditary, so nothing to worry about.
Whatever it’s called though, Noodles is one rough-looking cat. Hence his status as the veteran resident of the local animal shelter before I adopted him last summer. I reach down to scratch Noodles under the chin. He croaks a meow like he’s been smoking two packs a day for a decade.
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