Not every woman starts her day with a man falling at her feet. I knew when I got up that morning and spread K-Y Jelly on my toothbrush that the day was going to be, well, memorable.
I hated the Monday meetings with my friend and therapist, Brenda. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t Brenda I had the problem with, but her building. It’s one of those old wanna-be high-rise monsters in Santa Ana where they try to make you think they have class because they plant palm trees on the roof. Usually the only place to park is in the parking structure. It’s dark, huge, and filled with exhaust fumes. Every time I park there I picture some dude wearing a wife beater and a skull tattoo on his over-exercised, veiny, bicep, hiding behind the sign that says, No Loitering.
So when I pulled into a spot on the street, I yelled “Yes!” banged my palm on the steering wheel of my Lexus, smiled and waved at the guy in the red Porsche who I’d cheated out of the primo parking spot.
Crap! I was five … make that ten … minutes late. I swung my legs out of the car, pushed lock on the key fob, and hit the pavement at a run.
I’d barely slung my purse strap over my shoulder when something big from above flashed by my eyes and slammed onto the sidewalk at my feet with a sickening whomp.
I couldn’t stop my step, stumbled, and fell face down onto a man in a suit who stared blankly at the sliver of sky between the buildings. “Oh, shit,” I whispered. It wasn’t like I had fallen on just a body, but a body that had deflated in some horrible squishy way that I had never imagined possible.
Okay, I’m making it sound like I was observing all this in a sort of calm and controlled manner. Hardly. I was so creeped out that I couldn’t really think or scream or shudder or vomit.
Dark blood spread into a pool on the gray sidewalk from beneath the well-groomed, flattened, head. The body sagged as the poor guy’s last breath left his lungs. I snapped back into the reality of what had happened.
Later I remembered a flash thought at that moment, “This guy looks familiar,” before I ripped loose with a truly blood curdling, ear piercing scream that left me half deaf.
Something human and big jammed hands under my pits and lifted me off the body and onto my shaking feet.
That night I threw my three-hundred-dollar-plus Aramus jeans, and favorite tee and sweater into the trash. They weren’t torn or stained, but I never wanted to be reminded of the last thing the Attorney General of the United States saw before he hurtled to his death right in front of my new Miu Miu shoes. I never have, however, been able to throw the shoes out. I hope that doesn’t show something twisted about my character.
The news made the Attorney General’s death their breaking story——horrible pun but they kept using it. My pale, shocked face, the picture a passerby had taken with his cell phone right after the incident, aired on TV and splashed the front pages of newspapers.
Terrance Donaldson, fifty-nine, four children, three grandchildren, bereaved wife. What was he doing in Orange County, California? Where was his security detail? Why had he jumped off a twelve-story office building?
It was rumored that they’d found a note on the roof, explaining that he’d been depressed. He confessed to having an affair and couldn’t forgive himself.
Two days after his death, his oldest son read a statement from the family disputing the note and possible suicide.
The police, FBI and Homeland Security announced they hadn’t come up with anything concrete. Another unfortunate choice of words. Oh, sure, there was plenty of speculation. Everything from his own private investigation of a possible terrorist cell working out of the building, to a last-minute tryst with his lover.
I couldn’t force myself to actually sit down and watch the news, so my husband, Cole, recorded several news broadcasts on our DVR for me.
I even received a call from 60 Minutes requesting an interview. I declined.
“Why don’t you do it, baby?” Cole had asked. “It could help your business.”
It was times like this I really wondered about him, even though he quickly said he was kidding.
On the fourth day after the most horrifying thing that had ever happened to me, I sat in front of the television alone and watched the recording three times. On the third I paused the scene where, shocked and white, I stood above Donaldson’s body. I barely recognized myself. My horrified blue eyes looked like two navy blue holes in a snowman-white face. Where were the freckles? The hundred-dollar-a-bottle tint of barely-beige makeup? I’d had my hair styled that morning, but the frazzled blonde head on the screen looked like it had been caught in a food processor set on high. And who could miss that mouth? It used up most of my face with its scream. Deal with it, I whispered, Donaldson, poor dead bastard, looks better than you.
No matter how hard I concentrated, I couldn’t remember exactly what had happened. The photo had caught the back of a man walking away. A big man. Maybe the one who had pulled me off the body? In the distance, a black SUV was leaving the parking structure. A crowd hadn’t formed, no news cameras or helicopters, just my panicked-self, and whoever snapped the picture, the man walking away, and poor, dead Mr. Donaldson.
I turned off the TV, but the scene etched into my brain, probably forever.
I called my old friend and therapist Brenda, and she answered on one ring.
“Hi, Olivia, thought you’d be calling. Ready for a make up session for the one you missed? Two o’clock today? Let’s have a late lunch.”
“I don’t know Brend, how’s the weather over there? Raining cats and dogs? Government officials?”
“Not so far, but the day is young. That’ll teach you to be late. Hey, they opened a new VIP restaurant on the top floor of my building.”
I curled my toes, not really wanting to go to Brenda’s building, especially the top floor.
“The chef’s Italian, and I hear he’s fantastico. Olivia, are you still there?”
“Yeah, Brenda, sounds great.”
“How about parking in the garage this time?”
I shuddered. “Will do.” I hung up. Damn, I hated parking garages——and now top floors.
“Get a grip,” I told myself.
“Your husband is a sociopath.”
Brenda’s words echoed in my head. I grabbed my purse from the chair next to mine and pushed myself away from the glass table of the upscale rooftop restaurant to make a quick exit. “I guess biased opinions are what I deserve for hiring someone who knows I used to belch the Pledge of Allegiance in sixth grade. I should’ve gone to a regular, uninvolved therapist who doesn’t violate the rules of their profession.”
“Look, friend, I took this chance because I didn’t want to trust your case to another therapist. Cole is cagey, and could snow someone who doesn’t know him. Come on Olivia, we’re about done with lunch anyway. Let’s finish this conversation in my office,” Brenda said and crammed the heel of her raspberry cheesecake into her mouth.
By the time we gave each other the silent treatment in the elevator and whisked past Brenda’s receptionist, I’d calmed down.
“I’ll give you the names of a couple of books describing sociopaths and a website to check out.”
“I know what a sociopath is. I used to watch Law and Order,” I said with a forced smile. I grabbed the note she poked toward me, jammed it into my purse, rushed out the door and down the hall, glad to be shed of Brenda and her office.
I took a deep breath. It had been one helluva week. The sixth-floor hall, leading toward the elevator, was empty. Good; Brenda hadn’t come after me. I bent over the water fountain for a drink, jerking my head up mid-slurp. Hey, doctors weren’t supposed to blurt out a diagnosis like that, were they? After just a couple of sessions? Brenda had called me an enabler. What was an enabler supposed to mean, anyway? I’d had enough name calling for one day, even if it was a friend-discounted hundred-dollar-an-hour name calling.
I glanced at the wall clock. Four forty-five. If I drove like the maniac I was, I could make it to Capistrano before the very worst of rush hour traffic. Everyone would be hurrying home from the beach. A minor price to pay for living in SoCal. I headed toward the elevator.
Cole didn’t know I was seeing Brenda professionally. He hated her and was relieved when I made plans with her that didn’t include him.
Was Cole a sociopath? I’d have to think about that. I stopped in front of the window and stared at the scene below. “I wonder if they built this dump earthquake proof?” I whispered with a shudder. Even though it was still early, the freeway in the distance tangled in a snarl of honking cars. Everything gray: the street, weather, buildings, and now my mood. Days ago a man lost his life on the sidewalk below, and it was already old news. But not for me. I’d thought about that day and Terrance Donaldson almost constantly. I needed Brenda to work me through the trauma of the incident.
“I know it must’ve terrified you to think how close you came to losing your life,” Brenda had said.
“Gee, thanks Doctor Bistini. Now it will, for sure.”
“You mean to say it hadn’t occurred to you?”
“Not really. I’ve been too busy thinking about the poor guy and trying not to remember how flat he looked.”
Brenda had cracked her knuckles, a sure sign something bothered her. “I’ve known you for a lot of years, Ollie. How come you’re not at your high level of wisecracks? That’s usually how you handle stress and fear.”
“I’m not in the mood.”
Now I had two more depressing things to think about: almost losing my life, and my husband’s pathology. What did I actually know about sociopaths? Lies, yes, I’d caught Cole in plenty of those. But didn’t everyone lie sometimes? What else was on the list of traits? No conscience, self-centered, willful, sometimes criminal … what was I thinking? I mentally slapped my forehead. I knew Cole better than Brenda did. So what if he had a few flaws?
For sure I had my sharelike talking to myself in empty hallways. Were those footsteps I heard? Oops, another imperfectionparanoia. Ever since that awful Monday, I’d been seeing black SUVs drive slowly through my neighborhood. When I asked Cole if he had noticed, that was the word he’d used, paranoia.
I had tried to convince him. “But their windows are heavily tinted, and they drive like five miles an hour, they never pull into a driveway, and I get this creepy feeling, like they’re watching me.”
“Let’s see,” he’d said. “You’re nervous because the cars are black, they drive the speed limit, and you don’t know which houses they’re from?”
“Well, yes … but the tinted windows.”
“Of course, how stupid of me,” he’d mocked. “I forgot SUV owners are required to sign statements that they’re villains sensitive to the sun.”
Too bad smartass wasn’t one of the definitive traits of a sociopath, then there’d be no question about Cole.
There they were again. This time heavy footsteps sounded from behind. Without thinking, I glanced over my shoulder. Two men walked toward me. They looked menacing … yeah, that was the dramatic word all right … menacing. A little neurotic sounding, but what else was new? It was the determined look on both of their faces that caused my gut to clench, and they walked fast … and straight toward me. I clutched my purse tighter, like a designer handbag would help in some way, and rounded the corner leading to the elevator. I knew I was probably in big trouble if they also turned the corner. I told myself to calm down, that they were probably on their way to the elevator too. But my gut was busy instructing adrenaline to attach itself to every nerve ending in my body.
And … here they came. They turned the corner. Now what? If I entered the elevator and they slipped in behind me, I’d be trapped.
Okay, stay calm. Maybe they belonged in this building. You’re just all jacked up from the other day, I whispered. Take a deep breath. Walk as normally as possible in shoes that are too tight, too pointed and too high.
I heard my dad’s voice in my head. If you’re ever in a tight spot, act like you’re in charge.
So, I swung around and walked toward them, as if I’d taken a wrong turn.
Without a word to each other, they spaced themselves across the corridor, one standing directly to the right, in front of me.
I reverted to eighth grade soccer, stepped to the left and ran through the space between them. If I could make it back to Brenda’s office, I’d be okay. Brenda would call security and the police.
Damn my high heels. Whose stupid idea was it for women to wear heels with jeans? Where were my sneaks when I needed them? Puffing sounded from behind. Don’t look back. Don’t look. I jammed my hand into my purse, searching for my cell phone. Damn, I’d forgotten to charge it. I pulled it out anyway and pretended to punch 9-1-1. “Two men are following me,” I said in a loud voice. “Okay, you’ll send a unit? Yes, I’ll stay on the line.” I clenched my useless phone, gritted my teeth, and swung around to run through them again. But this time they were ready for me. I steeled myself for a fight. I hadn’t been raised with five brothers for nothing.
I screamed as sweaty arms circled my waist and pulled me to the floor. A hand covered my mouth as I twisted fast, knowing I probably only had one chance to get free.
The burly one wearing a white tee shirt scrambled to position his body on top of me. I jerked my knee to my chest before he got the chance and kicked him square in the jaw. The kick gave me the second I needed to wrestle free. I scrambled crab-like toward the office door. Taking a precious second to push up using my palms, I took off at a run.
Someone grabbed my ankle. Probably the one who’d been on the floor with me.
I screamed again. Where was everybody? A beefy hand slapped over my mouth. I bit downhard.
“Damn!” he shouted, fisting his other hand.
“No.” The shortest one gripped the man’s arms and tugged it. “Get her to the elevator.”
His words hit me with a jolt of fear that shot to my stomach.
The man I’d bitten, and with a snake tattooed around his neck, grabbed one arm, and the second man clutched my other. The adrenaline flooded in. If I screamed again,they’d slug me in the faceprobably knock me outbut I just couldn’t let them take me into the elevator.
“Help! Somebody help me!”
The snake-man covered my mouth so hard I couldn’t sink my teeth into his palm. No one came into the hall as the men dragged me past door after door.
So, I did what always worked with my brothers——went limp.
The one on the right lost his hold, freeing my mouth. I used my teeth again and bit into the Levi-leg of the other.
A swift kick into my stomach stole my breath and took the fight out of me. But only until they started for the elevator. No way would I go in there without the fight of my life. Someone just had to come out into the hallway, or maybe security might catch them on camera, but once inside the elevator, I’d be history.
“Don’t push me off the roof,” I gasped, trying hard to catch my breath. They probably thought I’d seen something I shouldn’t have the day of Donaldson’s death. I wondered if they drove a black SUV?
The one who saved me from a slug in the face tapped the down arrow on the elevator panel.
They were going down? I breathed a sigh of relief. At least they weren’t headed for the roof.
The second the door slid open they forced me to the rear. One of them hit stop, then the close-door button, while snake smashed the security camera on the ceiling to their right with something black in his hand.
“Dear God,” I whispered. I felt totally hopeless for the first time. The two men settled at the front of the elevator, forcing me to the back. Just like I’d feared, I was trapped.
Quick, think, I told myself. My purse miraculously still dangled from my arm. Nothing to help me in there. I decided to try pleading.
“Don’t hurt me. I didn’t see anything.”
The one by the door looked confused. “Carbón, your cheating husband, roughed-up my sister, Nina, and gave her a black eye.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t know anyone named Carbón.”
I closed my hand and clenched it tightly, fingernails biting into skin. Snake-man pointed his gun at my head.
"Carbón Paxton, your husband. There’s no mistake.” He smiled, nodding his head.
“This is about Cole?”
He grabbed my shoulders and turned me to face the other man. I wanted to scream but knew I couldn’t find the breath. Who’d hear anyway? I swallowed hard, trying to calm the quiver in my voice. “What do you want from me? You’ve mistaken me for someone else."
“No, we know who you are. Carbón got my sister pregnant and roughed her up. Nobody hits my sister, and now she will have a pale, gringo baby, and no honorable Latino man will have her.
I strained against his armsheart racing faster with each of his words. There was no way I could see to break free from them. But I had to try. Maybe someone would send for the elevator.
He tightened his grip.
My lunch surged upward from my stomach. Keep calm. Keep clear. How could it be that Cole had gotten this guy’s sister pregnant? Cole and I had been trying to have a child for over a year.
As if reading my mind, he said, "Nina tells me you have no children. Too bad. Nina is young and fruitful."
The smaller man checked me out with his cold blue eyes. "What are we going to do, you ask?" he said. "All we want is justice for Raul’s sister.”
Raul nodded. “I punished her. She was a bad girl and has paid for it.”
I told you she should’ve gotten rid of the––"
"Quiet,” Raul said. “You see Señora, he is not Catholic, like my family, and he doesn’t understand it is wrong to kill an innocent baby for the sins of the parents."
Raul pushed his face close to mine. "That's why we are here. We’re going to beat the shit out of your husband. He deserves it, no?" He smiled. “From the look on your face, maybe you’d like to help?”
I bit my lip so hard I tasted blood. This Raul was right. No matter how bad things looked for me, I would have loved to wrap my hands around Cole’s neck and squeeze with all my might. That bastard. Concentrate on the here and now, I said inside my head. I had to think of a way out of this. Maybe they’d listen to reason. "But it was my husbandthat"
"Yes, I know, Señora, but just beating him is no good. Soon he will forget, and the next thing you know he'll be sniffing after another Nina in the barrio. I'm sorry, Bonita, but he hurt our sister; we hurt his wife. That’s justice.”
"Please don't kill me. Please."
"We'll try not to. But we must make sure Carbón stays where he belongs." Raul hit the garage button and the elevator jerked downward, past the ground floor.
I stiffened, knowing the door would open onto the parking garage any second. In a flash I knew what to do; and it wouldn’t be that hard. In one quick movement I faced the men, I gagged first, then forced up the lasagna I’d eaten for lunch, making sure I swung my head so they’d each get a sample.
“Ayeee!” they yelled as I bolted through the partially opening doors and ran to the concrete stairs leading to the parking structure. I heard them behind me. If I could make it to my car, maybe I could get away.
One of them launched his body at me as I ran down the concrete ramp. His weight flung me over the steel cable railing and onto the hood of a car parked about five feet below. The car alarm went off and a searing pain registered along my stomach where it had hit the cables.
Someone bent close to my ear. “She’s breathing,” he said. “Shit, I told you to just scare her.”
A beep sounded. "Send an ambulance to …" the voice became faint.
Retreating footsteps … then nothing.
I woke up once in the ambulance, then again in the emergency room. I knew it was the emergency room because tubes ran from my arm to an IV bottle. The overhead lights were bright, and someone had pulled curtains around me. A quiet beeping came from somewhere. I heard women talking from beyond the curtains and probably the bed next to mine.
A soft, nurse-like voice said, “Come now, Mrs. Hendricks, you need to cooperate with me.”
The woman who spoke next sounded ancient, with a quivering voice. “You’re not putting that tube in my nose or any other hole in my body. Keep away.”
I would’ve laughed any other time, but instead I forced myself to remember: the hallway in Brenda’s building, the elevator, throwing up, and the chase into the parking garage, but no matter how hard I tried, my mind went blank after that. How long had I been here? And what was hurt or broken?
The bed squeaked next door. “Hold still, Mrs. Hendricks, this will only take a few seconds. No. No, don’t pull that. Leave the machine alone.”
My head throbbed, so I gave it a feel. No bandage, no stitches. I patted my face, paying close attention to my forehead, nose and eyes. Everything seemed all right. My neck felt stiff——chest tender. I was afraid to stretch my back, but gave it a try. Same as everything else, sore, but nothing seemed serious.
The gentle voice of the nurse on the other side of the curtain now turned shrill. “Oh, Mrs. Hendricks, shame on you. Tying a knot in the tube just makes things more difficult. Shame.”
Okay, I couldn’t help myself. I giggled. Big mistake. A nasty pain hit my stomach, causing me to clench my abdominal muscles. No more laughing. I bent my legs at the knees and wiggled my toes. Great. Everything functional. Time to go home. I spotted my purse hanging off the back of a chair.
The word home brought on a headache and a pain in my upper chest. A whole list of things to think about lived in my head right then, but I didn’t want to take it on just yet. First: get out of the hospital; Second: take care of the body; Third: Face the list.
A loud smack shot through the curtains from my neighbor.
“Ouch.” It sounded like the nurse.
The quivering voice yelled out, “Stay away from me, you cow.”
The curtain next door sliding open. No longer the voice of a controlled nurse, but a sixteenth century fishmonger yelled through the ER. “Chan! Help me with Mrs. Hendricks. She hit me.”
I took a deep breath. I had to get out of here. A tear skittered along my cheek. I swiped it off. Save crying for later. Cole had cheated on me, gotten somebody named Nina pregnant, and had physically abused the poor girl. Brenda’s words sounded inside my head. “Cole’s a sociopath.” I swung my legs over the side of the bed. Whoa! Too fast, too fast. A toe stretching, mouth-gaping pain shot through my head. So I sat at the edge of the bed that seemed ten feet off the ground and took deep, yoga-esque breaths.
A male voice, probably the sought-after Chan’s, boomed from outside the curtain. “Where’d she go?”
The nurse gasped. “She was here a second ago. She must’ve crawled out the back.”
“Mrs. Paxton?” A Doctor Callahan, or so his badge said, pulled the curtain surrounding my bed open without looking up from his clipboard.
“Yes?” I answered.
“Oh good, you’re awake. And sitting up! No, no, Mrs. Paxton.” He lifted my legs onto the bed. “No sitting quite yet.”
“But I feel fine. When can I go home?”
He scanned the chart, turning pages, biting his lower lip. “Not for another twenty-four hours.”
Chan’s voice called out again, “There she is, running down the hall!”
I ignored the commotion. “What exactly is wrong with me?”
“Since they scraped you off the hood of a car, I’d say there could be any number of things wrong with you. So far though, you seem to be pretty lucky. You’re especially fortunate you landed on the hood. It cushioned the impact. From what we can tell, the worst injury is where you must’ve flipped over the cables along the walkway.” He said all this as he poked my abdomen.
“That hurts,” I said, grimacing.
“It’ll be sore for a few days but no permanent damage. You’ll need to contact the police. Of course we phoned them. They have questions about why you fell. They want to know if anyone was chasing you.”
“Security, Code red. Code red,” a shrill voice barked through the speakers.
“Code red?” Callahan said, his forehead creased. “We must have a runner.”
“You operate a real asylum here.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled, “I could be an inmate for all you know. You don’t sound like a woman who’s been hurt.”
“Sarcasm is how I handle stress, Doctor. Sometimes it gets me in real trouble.” I said the last part under my breath and changed the subject on purpose. “My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant. Will falling on the car hurt our chances?” What was I talking about? Was I even going to stay with Cole?
“We tried to reach your husband before we treated you.” He glanced at my purse, probably to indicate where he got my name. “But no one answered. Because of where your injury is located, we performed a pelvic exam and took a swab. We needed to be certain you weren’t pregnant and make sure of what we were dealing with before we x-rayed the area. Nothing to worry about, you’re not expecting.”
I knew in my head I wasn’t pregnant, but the words hurt anyway. Silly, since I’d learned about Cole’s affair while trapped in an elevator surrounded by scary men, it should have made me glad I didn’t have that particular complication.
“You look familiar,” the doctor said. “Have we met?”
I smiled, though I didn’t feel much like it. I looked up at him, opened my mouth as if I were screaming, widened my eyes, and waited.
“Ah, the woman … the one who … the Donaldson thing.”
I smiled, telling myself I might as well get used to people recognizing me from my horrendous fifteen minutes of fame.
“Sounds like you’ve had a rough week.”
Running footsteps sounded past the curtain. “She’s heading down Newport Boulevard. Damn! Her hospital gown fell off. Get the ambulance after her. Call the police.”
A grinning Doctor Callahan peeked through the curtain, shrugged, and faced me again. “Of course, you’d better get your Chlamydia under control before you have a baby.”
“Chlamydia. You know, your Sexually Transmitted Disease, well an STI, really. Infants born to mothers with the problem can develop anything from eye infections to pneumonia.”
“This day just keeps getting better and better,” I said.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Paxton, I assumed you already knew. I can give you one pill that’ll take care of the problem right away.”
Chlamydia? Jeeze, it sounded like seafood. That bastard Cole. The thought of him cheating on me, getting someone else pregnant, and then giving me an STD, surged something loose in my stomach. I swallowed hard to keep myself from throwing up again.
“If we caught it in time, and I think we have, we won’t need to worry about scar tissue growing in your uterus. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can sometimes lessen your chances of conceiving.”
“I’ll take the pill. Can you get it for me here? Tonight?”
“I happen to have some samples. I’ll be right back.”
“Thanks. I want to go home.”
“I’d rather you stay for twenty-four hours, but I can’t make you.”
“They got her,” a voice echoed through the hall. “Police are bringing her to the ER.”
For some reason, Mrs. Hendricks’ capture made me incredibly sad.
It took forty-five minutes to check out of the hospital. I swallowed the pill, signed a release form, dumped sample pain meds that I found on the table by my bed into my purse, promised Callahan I’d notify the police the minute I got home, and called a taxi. I’d make arrangements for someone to pick up my car at Brenda’s building the next day. For now I didn’t want to go near the joint.
I could have called Cole but wasn’t ready to see him yet. When the cab pulled along the curb of our house, reality caught up with me. Cole’s cream BMW sat in the driveway. I settled in my seat and stared ahead.
“Did you want me to take you anywhere else, ma’am?” the driver asked.
I glanced at him for the first time. He looked and sounded like he came from the Middle East. “No, I just want to sit here for a while.”
“I must keep the meter running. Company rules.”
“That’s fine. Would you mind locking the doors?”
After the locks clicked, I closed my eyes, trying
not to notice my sore back, stomach, and aching head.
Cole and I had been married two years. We’d done well for a couple in their early thirties, Cole with his investment firm, and my interior design business. Building a house on the beach was a stretch financially, but we made it work.
Yes, a beautiful home, thriving businesses, handsome husband, and an STD. Perfect. I tensed, and the muscles in my abdomen jerked. I didn’t want to take the pain pillswanted to keep a clear head for when I talked to Coleso I pulled a small, silver pillbox from my purse and swallowed a Tylenol without water. The driver had reclined in his seat and was reading a newspaper. The cab smelled like stale cigarette smoke, mold, and ink from his paper. I stared out the side window.
A man pushing trash cans through the front gate caught my attention. Derek, our gardener as of yesterday. He gave new definition to the word gardener, with his tidy appearance and studly physique. Oh, yes, trash day tomorrow. The setting sun cast a glow on the ocean, our house, and even the new Derek guy.
I leaned back and closed my eyes, recalling the day before; an event I fully intended to use as avoidance behavior so as not to think of Cole, infidelity, STDs, elevator attacks and government officials falling from the sky.
Yesterday I’d opened our bedroom draperies about ten in the morning. Green filled the window——bushes, grass, and trees. The hibiscus, with its pink blossoms and yellow stamen, nestled in the far corner. Silver dollar trees lined the block wall. I remembered the disagreement I’d had with Cole when we’d designed the yard. He demanded privacy. I insisted on a view of the ocean. He was right. "If you want to stare at the water, go onto the balcony. We need a place to barbecue and enjoy our seclusion." The glassy water of the kidney shaped pool sparkled amid green.
An irritating noise caught my attention that morning. A cloud of dust drifted from the side yard leading to the front of the house. I had strained my neck and tipped my head to see what it was. The Weed Eater next door?
Gardenias lined the patio. Another scheme of Cole's. Their fragrance filled the bedroom when we woke in the morning, while night-blooming jasmine made the air redolent with perfume during the evening.