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George, I realized as we turned onto our street, had ruined my life. His eagerness to play big provider made it too easy to just be a mother. Our daughter barely looked up from chatting with her new dorm mates when I waved good-bye. Now I was nothing.
He sucked all the air from the car and used it to toot his own horn. George was proud that his wife didn’t have to work. He spoke as if making a grand and generous gesture, offering me fluffy pastimes. “Why don’t you volunteer?” he said. “Or take a class. Watercolors, belly dancing. What would you like, Sylvia?”
I would like to yank the oblivious buffoon down to the seatbelts by his ear. Make him swerve and crash the car straight through the picture window and into the living room. I said, “I’ll think about that, George.”
At bedtime he shimmied over in the dark, pressing his erection against my spine.
“Certainly,” I said. “I am here to please you, the customer.”
George bounced up and fished a twenty from his wallet. He tucked the bill into my red push-up bra.
“Is Mona coming?”
“Of course.” I made him wait while I donned stilettos and a long red wig. Being paid for sex excited me deeply. That’s how I knew I wasn’t nice, deep down. “Mona is here, you big hot thing.”
Later, I needed Tylenol because my bottom hurt. Otherwise I wouldn’t have wandered into the computer room and picked up the opera glasses. I had vowed to end this new hobby.
Something was wrong with a girl who didn’t shut her drapes at night. What a clueless woman, to feel so safe in the world she didn’t worry about who might lurk in the darkness. My neighbor, Deanna, read in bed by muted light from her bathroom. She wore her ugly army green robe. Tom, her handsome husband, hung his pants over their treadmill.
My computer room and their bedroom were both on the second floors and not far apart in this era of huge houses on tiny lots. Their king-sized bed had a black comforter splashed with big red poppies. The Deanna and Tom Show played nightly on the movie screen of their large rectangular window.
She turned him down again. Keeping a man wanting to do things for you was easy. Let him have sex with you every night, and like it. That’s all. Well, that and hopping on the treadmill once in awhile. But you couldn’t tell these young women anything.
Deanna was my past, the busy, glorious years you don’t appreciate at the time. Life swirled around her, meaning abounded. She had two small children and a garden out back that she kept tidy as a formal dining room.
Tom switched on their television and then I was watching a show of them watching a show. Deanna unpinned her hair and shook it out. She removed her large pearl earrings and put them on the bedside table. Empty nest, full nest… Nature abhors a vacuum. I’d even things up a bit.
The next morning, Deanna packed her car with stroller, dog, and children. The house key was under the planter, same as last summer when they went to Disney World and my daughter fed their basset hound.
The pearl earrings remained on her nightstand. Heart thumping, I scooped up the gleaming beauties and hurried home. My coffee was still hot.
All that day, I dug up grass in my back yard. Finally, I covered the plot with trash bags weighted down with bricks. The autumn air energized me. On the other side of the fence, Deanna talked to her kids.
I stroked the pearls in my ears with dirty hands. In the spring, I’d put in a garden, too.
The robe stayed on my mind. If Deanna didn’t keep her husband satisfied, someone else would. Nature filling a vacuum was not limited to science. For her children’s sake at least, Deanna needed to get it through her thick head. I slipped into her house at the next opportunity and confiscated the gloomy grey robe.
My television was tuned in to a celebrity housewife reality show. As I collapsed on the sofa, giddy from my mission, one of them shouted Girl, you cray-cray.
On The Deanna and Tom Show that night, they searched for something. She wore a large t-shirt, probably Tom’s. Much better, anyway. The hair was unpinned and shook out. Tom rubbed her back for a long time but it didn’t get him anywhere. She slept on top of the covers, fat thighs on display. Apparently, the silly creature needed an educational video.
I spent the week deep-cleaning every room except my daughter’s bedroom. She’d be home for Thanksgiving, but things would never be the same. I couldn’t bear to see the artifacts of her childhood.
“George,” I called one night after the leaves had fallen from the trees. “Mona’s here. Bring a twenty.” The spare bed in the computer room was freshly made up, lights on, drapes wide open. I waited in stilettos, long red hair pinned up above pearl earrings.
George fell on the stairs and cursed. He tucked the folded up bill into my black push-up bra, then pounced, pushing me onto the bed.
“Hey, did you go shopping?” he said. “Cool bedspread. Whose housecoat are you wearing? Is it one of mine?”
The big red poppies shone against the black comforter. “Make me do what you want,”
I whispered, stretching out my long, lean legs. “Take it, you big hot thing.”
Afterwards, the big hot thing went downstairs for a snack. I snapped off the lights and tuned in to The Deanna and Tom Show, the end of the season finale. It featured a close-up of Deanna and Tom with wide open eyes and twisted mouths, just before the curtains closed.
About the author:
Carly Berg is a heart-shaped box with a couple of chocolates gone. Her stories appear in over a hundred magazines and anthologies and she’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Micro Award. She welcomes visitors here http://www.carlyberg.com/index.html