By 11 they’d unpacked every box in the kitchen, pulled some textbooks and paperback novels out of boxes in the front room and stacked them along the baseboard, and leaned a few of her framed photos against the books, all scenic shots with strong light and long shadows she said she’d taken on her vacations before the divorce. They sat at the kitchen island, drinking from cans of beer. She’d carried a small portable television from the bedroom and plugged it in on the kitchen counter, and a college football game was playing with the sound turned most of the way down.
“How long have you lived here?”
“Mmm. Four years, I guess.”
“You like it?”
“Yeah, it’s quiet. Maybe a little boring. It’s kind of hard to get to know anybody.”
She smiled. “Unless you just walk into their house when they’re not looking.”
He raised his brows and shrugged. She leaned over and punched at his ribs lightly, playfully. He twisted quickly in his chair to dodge her jab, grabbed her wrist and squeezed—hard—then slowly released her.
“Christ, you’re strong,” she said, rubbing her wrist. “I mean, not that you wouldn’t be, but…”
“Did I hurt you?”
“A little, I guess. But I started it.”
He took a long drink of his beer, draining it, then set the empty back on the counter. “Yeah, you’re kind of looking for trouble.” He smiled at her.
Out from the direction of the main highway they heard a siren spiral up to a wail, then another. They sat and listened as the sirens grew louder, moving toward them then past them and up the street behind her house, where they abruptly stopped.
“Is that your street?” she asked.
He turned his head, as if to listen for the location of the now silent sirens. “I don’t think so. I’m a couple of streets farther.”
“Oh. I thought you said you were on the next street over.”
She cocked her head, furrowed her brow. “I swear you did.”
“No. I’m on Acacia. It’s farther.”
She shrugged. “Whatever. I don’t know the streets yet.” She got up from her chair and went to the refrigerator, looked inside. “Are you hungry? I don’t want to go out there, but I could order something, if you know a good place that delivers.”
“No, I should get out of here.”
“Really? I’d like to do something to thank you for carrying all my crap.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He got up, looked quickly around the room, patted his pockets.
The percussive beating of an approaching helicopter thumped into the room. As it passed overhead, she walked to the back patio door and pulled the curtains aside. “I can’t tell if it’s police or news.” The helicopter sound tailed away from behind the house, then they could hear it grow louder as it circled back again.
“This is freaky,” she said, still watching out the window. “Let’s see if there’s anything on the news.” She turned back and he was gone.
Look for part 6 in early October.
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