- I -
"… And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever"
Jen sat motionlessly for several minutes, staring at the last page of the book. Finally she blinked and there were tears in her eyes. She got up and slowly walked to her mahogany book case. The last book of the Twilight saga was closed and gently put on the shelf next to the first three volumes. Jen tenderly touched each one as if saying a silent Thank You and slowly walked to the kitchen.
The coffee maker was humming softly letting her know that her coffee was done. Jen poured herself a mug-full and sat down at the window, sipping hot coffee and staring blindly outside. "Oh my God, - she thought, - that was amazing…. It was… God, it was everything I've ever wanted… As if she wrote the whole thing from digging in my head…" She blinked without noticing drops of tears that fell into her coffee mug. "I always wanted….. And I never had any of that… " She looked around with dull eyes, at her spotless spacious kitchen with so many gadgets that she gave up on trying to figure out how most of them worked. Thomas knew all of them, he was good with the gadgets. He was also good at cooking, decorating, fixing cars, and making enough money so their small family could easily afford to live in one of the snottiest and richest neighborhoods of the city. Thomas was good at everything. He was also excellent at being away for sometimes three weeks out of each month. Of course, being a rare antiques dealer - one of the most successful antique dealers in the city - came with the price. He was away. A lot. Sometimes Jen felt like she couldn't even remember his face anymore, couldn't remember the way he smiled, the way he smelled. Hell, sometimes she had difficulties saying right away what color his eyes were. (" Brown…. No, black… No, I mean dark-brown, almost black")
A big moving truck noisily parked in front of the house that used to be for sale for almost four past months. Jen blinked and looked at the lawn where "For Sale" sign used to be. It wasn't there. She shook her head. Apparently house was sold and somebody was moving in right now. Jen sighed. She was never good at paying attention or remembering small details, especially when she was preoccupied with something else. And the last couple of weeks she was completely lost in those four volumes of the Twilight saga. No wonder that she never noticed that sign being gone.
She looked more closely at the moving truck. The passenger door swung open and a young woman jumped out of the cabin. She must've been Jen's new neighbor. She stood on the driveway, her hands stuck in her jeans pockets, head bent slightly to the right, looking at her new house. The drivers door of the truck opened and a big beefy guy in his middle forties heavily stepped out. He said something to the girl, she nodded enthusiastically and pointed somewhere towards the garage. Truck driver walked towards the back of the truck and opened the back doors.
Jen found herself wondering what the girl was saying and what was in the back of the truck. She leaned forward and opened the kitchen window. The girl on the driveway turned her head to the sound and looked directly at Jen. Jen froze for a second, feeling totally stupid ("Like a nosy neighbor should!!!") and then girl smiled widely at her and waved. Jen smiled somewhat tentatively but waved back with relief.
"She's not irritated at me", Jen thought. "That's good. Would be a bad start…. She is young!" She eyed the newcomer with growing curiosity. "She is what? Maybe twenty five? Maybe more but definitely not thirty… Is she alone? Moving to that big house alone?"
The thought was bizarre to her. A young single woman moving into such a big house all by herself, with only the truck driver helping her - that was really unusual for the Emerald Heights. This neighborhood consisted of rich older women and their rich and even older husbands. When Jen, Thomas, and Ralphie moved in, Jen found that she was the only woman on the entire block that wasn't in her forties. In fact she was thirty two. The way other women were looking at her made Jen slightly uncomfortable and even embarrassed. She was feeling guilty about her age, as if she didn't deserve to have a successful husband - who was only three years older than her, thank you very much! - and an adorable five year old son with rosy cheeks and angelic smile, and to live in this huge house, and , basically, to have it all. Ralphie was bugging her about having a dog and at first she was thrilled at the idea but then she let it slide from her tongue during one of those fancy tea parties that one of her neighbors was throwing at least once a week and at which Jen was going gritting her teeth…
("I don't belong there!! They hate me!" she remembered saying to Thomas one of those days. "Don't be ridiculous Jenny", he said then. "They don't know you, that's all. Give them a chance!" Jenny…. He always called her Jenny, even though she hinted several times she didn't like being called Jenny but he ignored all the hints, as usual. Jenny…. Never Honey or Love or Baby….. Just Jenny)
…and Melanie , one of those "Stepford Wives" in her middle forties, with long pink manicured nails that made Jen hide her unpolished short-nailed fingers, raised one perfectly shaped eye brow and said in a very dignified tone of voice:
"But Jenny…", Jen winced "… Jenny, darling, to be quite honest with you, I must say that a dog", she said it with such tone of voice as if she were talking about a pile of dung that got stuck to her high heeled Manolos, "Wouldn't be a great addition to our neighborhood…", she smiled here letting Jen know that if she was stupid enough to get a dog, she'll never hear the end of it. " Plus", she added. "Dogs could be such a menace to little children!"
"Menace" - that was one of Melanie's favorite words. Jen nodded and smiled sheepishly.
"Of course, Melanie", she said. "It's just…. Ralphie always wanted a puppy…."
"Oh pish-pash!" said Melanie. "He is five, for goodness sake! He doesn't know what he wants!"
Jen laughed politely and the story with the dog was closed. Ralphie was disappointed for several weeks after she firmly told him no but after a while he became his usual cheery self.
She leaned on her elbows, coffee forgotten, eyeing the newcomer. The girl was pretty tall, - about 5'8 or so - slim and she had the most unusual red hair Jen ever saw. She wasn't just a redhead, no. Her hair was almost crimson. "Hair color?", Jen thought. "Probably…" Girl's haircut was short and uneven, nothing compared to Melanie's and the rest of her female neighbors four hundred dollars haircuts. She was wearing tight pale blue jeans - which also was unusual for this neighborhood; jeans were considered a devil's tool, unless, of course, they were designer's models and cost as much as a small car - and a loose black top which looked strikingly beautiful against her hair.
Jen looked how the girl - hands out of the pockets by now - was gesturing energetically, explaining the truck driver where she wanted him to set the boxes. Suddenly she wheeled on her heels and - Jen could hardly believe it - whistled loudly towards the open passenger door of the truck. A huge dog lazily jumped out of the cabin. Jen set the mug on the table so strongly that coffee spilled all over but she didn't even notice. A dog - German shepherd - walked slowly towards her owner and sat by her feet looking around without much interest. Jen swallowed so hard that her throat tightened. "Oh my God….", she thought. "Oh…. My…. God….." She couldn't think anything else. It wasn't just a dog, it was a huge dog. Not just a menace but a triple menace. Jen couldn't hold back the smile when she thought of Melanie's reaction to the new neighbor.
Meanwhile the girl opened her garage door and the truck driver set several large boxes on the stone floor inside it. The girl jumped into the back of the truck and disappeared there for several minutes. Jen pulled the window more open and moved the curtains away. She was gawking and she didn't care. Suddenly there was loud clanking noise as if the girl was trying to pull something out of heavy chains. Probably that was the case because the next thing Jen saw was the truck driver helping the redhead ("Crimson-head, actually…") to pull out of the truck a big shining black motorcycle. Jen didn't think she could be shocked any more than she already was after seeing the dog but the bike was just too much. She sat - almost dropped - down on her chair, hit the coffee mug with her elbow which made it drop on the floor with sharp loud breaking noise. She winced when hot coffee got on her bare foot but was unable to move away from the window. The redhead was wheeling the bike into her huge three cars garage.
"I wonder if she even has a car", Jen thought. "If she does, I wonder what it is…. Probably a Porsche or a Mustang….. Or something else, very noisy and very fast…." She leaned on the window sill, not caring that the new menace of the neighborhood will most definitely see her staring.
The girl came out of the garage, wiped her palms on her jeans, smiled widely to the truck driver and gave him money. Apparently it was more than enough because the truck driver looked as if he just won the lottery. He shook her hand, saluted to the dog, got back into his truck and slowly pulled away. Jen blinked very rapidly. "That's it??" she thought. "Three boxes, a dog, and a bike??"
The girl looked at Jen again, smiled and waved just like before and walked into her garage. The dog got up and lazily followed her. Jen expected her to shut the garage door and turn the house into the still un-living fortress but she never did. The garage door stayed open like a gaping hole. After a couple of minutes the windows on the second floor of the house swung open and Jen to her utter amusement heard the opening of Brahms' Fourth Symphony. The newcomer was definitely different from everything and everybody else that surrounded Jen.
She pulled herself away from the window and slowly cleaned up the mess that she made with the coffee earlier. Then she opened the fridge and frantically looked around. Finally she pulled out a bottle of white wine and a small ice cream cake that she bought a night before. Ice cream cakes were Jen's weakness. One of her weaknesses, actually, except this one was menace-free and she could enjoy it without feeling guilty, although she never mentioned it to Melanie, afraid that her queen-bitch of a neighbor will find something wrong with that too thus taking it away from Jen.
She looked at the house across the street, bit her lower lip feeling very indecisive. "Just go there", - said her inner voice that usually gave her shockingly bold advices that she almost never followed… Okay, skip almost. Jen never was much of a strong-willed person and even if she made a decision that would affect someone negatively - even if it was what Jen, herself, wanted - at the last second she would always find some sort of excuse to not to go through with it. She thought about walking across the street, knocking on the red ("Crimson") head's door and saying: "Hi! I am Jen, I live across the street. Just saw you move in and just want to welcome you to the neighborhood!" It sounded so simple and not bold at all that Jen almost made it to the front door but then she stopped. The girl was interesting and bright and even mysterious but she also was (" A menace!!") somewhat of a trouble-bringer, Jen could tell. She thought about what Melanie would say if Jen were to follow through with her plan. "Jenny, darling!", she already heard her nasal voice. "You are so young that it makes you a bad judge of character! What were you thinking when you went to visit this…. Person!!"
Jen shuddered. She could never stand up to Melanie and even if she could that would probably ostracize her from the neighborhood elite for life. Not that she cared but she had to think about Ralphie and Thomas and how it affect them and… "Oh for Chrissake!!", suddenly her inner voice exploded in her head with such bitter anger that it made Jen jump. "You are thirty two year old woman!! Just do it! Ralphie won't care about any of those old prunes and neither will Thomas! He never gave a rat's ass about them except when he was trying to make you go to those goddamn tea-parties just so he can have the house to himself for a couple of hours!! If you want to go and say hi, just do it! Hell, who knows, maybe you will even make a friend!"
Jen was shaken. She never had such an outburst from her inner self before. The tension of the last six months has finally burst through the cracks in her so carefully laid mind walls. She grasped the neck of the wine bottle, grabbed the ice cream cake and marched out of the front door locking it firmly behind her.