Which they do.
I drop to my hands and knees and peer into the grate, seeing mostly darkness within.
This isn’t good. Not good at all. I wonder if losing keys is also against the rules. Probably.
I still have my face pressed to the grate when there’s a knock on the door. Charlie’s voice rises from the other side.
“Miss Larsen, you in there?”
“I’m here,” I say as I lift myself off the floor. Before opening the door, I smooth a hand across my cheek, just in case the grate left any marks on my face.
I whip open the door to see Charlie on the threshold, two large grocery bags in his arms. Unlike the torn and mangled ones from the lobby, these are pristine.
“I thought you might need these,” he says.
I take one of the bags and carry it to the kitchen. Charlie follows with the other. Inside are replacements of every item damaged in my collision with Ingrid. New economy-size box of pasta. New jar of sauce. New oranges and frozen pizza. There’s even the addition of a bar of dark chocolate. The decadent, expensive kind.
“I tried to salvage what you had bought, but I’m afraid not much survived,” Charlie says. “So I made a quick trip to the store.”
I stare at the groceries, touched beyond words. “Charlie, you shouldn’t have.”
“It was nothing,” he says. “I have a daughter your age. I hate the thought of her going hungry for a few days. I’d be a terrible father if I let the same happen to you.”
I’m not surprised he knows I couldn’t afford to replace all the groceries. He saw what I had purchased. All of it implied the tightest of budgets.
“How much do I owe you?”
To my relief, he shoos away the offer like it’s a pesky fly. “No need to worry about that, Miss Larsen. It makes up for that unfortunate incident in the lobby.”
“Are you referring to the collision or to Greta Manville?”
“Both,” Charlie says.
“Accidents happen. As for Greta Manville, I’ve already shrugged it off.” I unwrap the edge of the chocolate bar, snap off a square, and offer it to Charlie. “Besides, everyone else here has been so nice that it was bound to end at some point.”
“You’re suspicious of nice?” Charlie says as he pops the chocolate into his mouth.
I do the same, talking and chewing at the same time. “I’m suspicious of rich and nice.”
“You shouldn’t be. Most people here are both.” Charlie runs his thumb and forefinger over his mustache, smoothing the bristly hairs. “I can only claim to be one of those things, I’m afraid.”
“Yes, the nicest. And I feel like I should repay you somehow.”
“Just perform a good deed for someone else,” he says. “That’ll be payment enough.”
“I’ll do two good deeds,” I say, biting my lower lip. “Because it seems I need yet another favor. My keys, um, sort of fell into the heating vent.”
Charlie shakes his head, trying to stifle a chuckle. “Which one?”
“Foyer,” I say. “By the door.”
A minute later we’re back in the foyer, me watching as Charlie presses his formidable stomach against the floor. In his hand is a pen-shaped magnet stick, the end of which he lowers through the grate.
“I’m so sorry about this,” I say.
Charlie wiggles the stick. “Happens all the time. These grates are notorious. I think of them as monsters. They’ll eat up anything that comes their way.”
The comparison is apt. The longer I look at the heating vent, the more it resembles a dark maw just waiting to be fed.
“Like keys,” I say.
“And rings. And pill bottles. Even cell phones, if one falls at the right angle.”
“You guys must get calls about lost toys all the time.”
“Not so much,” Charlie says. “There aren’t any kids living at the Bartholomew.”
“None at all?”
“Nope. This place isn’t exactly child friendly. We prefer our tenants to be older—and quiet.”
Carefully, he removes the stick from the grate. Dangling from the end is my key ring. Charlie plucks it off and gently places it into the bowl on the foyer table. The magnet stick goes back into his jacket’s interior pocket.
“If it ever happens again, just grab a screwdriver,” he says. “The grate comes off real easy, and you can reach right in.”
“Thank you,” I say with a sigh of relief. “For everything.”
Charlie tips his cap. “It was my pleasure, Jules.”
After he leaves, I return to the kitchen and unpack the groceries, overwhelmed not just by his generosity but by the care he took in replacing them. Other than the chocolate, everything in the bags is exactly what I had purchased.
I’ve just put away the last of the groceries when I hear a telltale creak rise from the cupboard.
The dumbwaiter on the move.
I lift the cupboard door as it rises into view. Inside is another poem.
“Remember” by Christina Rossetti.
Seeing it causes a slight hiccup in my chest. My heart skipping a single beat. I know this poem. It was read at my parents’ funeral.
Remember me when I am gone away.