A Little Step Before a Leap

The apartment was bigger than it looked in the photos online. Real estate must be cheaper in a small town than in the cities. I didn’t know. I’d never lived anywhere but one big city and apartments were even more expensive than renting a small house. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I guess if you’re willing to pay for the benefit of not having a lawn to mow, someone might as well take your money.

I also wasn’t used to having the super live offsite. Though she wasn’t the super, she was the apartment manager. Or owner. I should get that straight. She and her husband lived down the street in a nice little house by the lake.

“Right up the road if pipes burst or you lock yourself out,” Mrs. Wright had said. Mr. Wright was housebound so she had taken care of our business arrangements.

“Now, there’s lots of young men for neighbors, dear, but they’re polite and well-behaved or I wouldn’t have them. So you just make yourself at home.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Wright. I’m not worried about them.”

One eyebrow twitched, and she smiled.

“No, I supposed you’re not. I’m off, then.”

Maybe her intuition works better than mine. Maybe I was advertising more than I realized.

No young man was getting anywhere near me until my heart grew back in the hole left by the young man I’d just left forever.

This is an excerpt from next year’s romantic mystery Anacrusis.

Hole in His Chest

His habit was to pop out of bed the instant he awoke. Today it felt good to lie there, eyes closed, sun glowing through the window onto the bed.

bedroom-dark-light“Know what I want to do today?”

The room was silent.

She’s still sleeping, he thought. Lazybones.

He rolled over to put his arms around her, knowing she’d open one eye, give him the grumpy face, then snuggle into his chest.

Her side of the bed was empty.

He opened his eyes.

Properly awake now, he threw himself down on her pillow.

His wounded animal cries made no difference. He’d done this every morning since he’d been able to sleep again, and it made no difference.

She was still dead.

You and Yew

yewI’d heard the construction equipment even before I trudged across the lawn to where my car was parked in the driveway because the garage was too full of stuff.

A backhoe was ripping the 10-year-old foot-tall yew hedge out by the roots.

When I could move again I shut my mouth and marched to the sidewalk. I raised my voice over the sound of the backhoe. In my current emotional state it was not difficult.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY HEDGE?”

The guy on the backhoe leaned back, eyes wide. The front bucket paused with the third or fourth yew plant dangling by its roots from one of the teeth.

“Um, we’re widening the curb cuts. You got a letter.” He still didn’t move.

“DID THE LETTER SAY YOU WERE GOING TO DESTROY MY HEDGE?”

He shut the machine down, but he was still leaning back, still eyes wide. The wide eyes flicked to his right, my left, and his shoulders slumped down from “high alert” to “someone else’s problem” status.

“Can I help you?” Important looking man in suit approaches. Well, not suit, now that I look, but he’s management, not labor.

I’ve started breathing again, so there’s no more screaming.

“This hedge takes decades to grow. These little twelve-inch plants have been here since the house was built 10 years ago. What’s going on?”

“Everyone got a letter, sir. Widening the curb cuts for handicapped access. Federal law.”

“Yes. Letter. Did the letter say ‘move your plants or we’ll tear them out with a backhoe’?”

Blank stares. Stare. Management. Labor had its eyes down, inspecting the instrument panel on the silent backhoe.

Management, to Labor #2 at the next house over: “Run to Home Depot and get some 5-gallon buckets for this gentleman’s plants.” Then to me: “I’m very sorry about your plants. We’ll get them planted in some potting soil and put them wherever you like so they can be planted again when the work is done.”

He wasn’t quite fidgeting, just shifting his weight slightly from foot to foot. Hoping for peace. Ready for a fight.

I was sick of fighting.

“Okay. Sorry. Thanks.”

He may have answered, I don’t know. My ears were ringing as I trudged back across the lawn to where my car was parked in the driveway instead of the garage.

When I moved out months later, the yew plants were still in buckets in the back yard.

Last time I saw the buckets, just before she filed for divorce, the plants were all dead.