My eyes snapped open and I rose from the bed as if being pulled by strings. My movements were automatic and with no control, I felt like a robot and commanded to wake. When my eyes had first opened, the brightness from the moon was peering in through the windows, huge windows that still had no blinds. I kept telling James to nail the damn curtain rod on the wall already. However, none of these thoughts were running through my mind at that time because I didn’t care, I hadn’t noticed.
The light from the moon illuminated the room so I could easily slide my feet into the silk slippers waiting for me on the ground after sitting straight up, perfectly erect, and numbly swinging both legs over to the side of the bed. It was all so fluid I hadn’t woken James.
I remember I had to walk out of the bedroom, I had somewhere to go. My legs knew and my feet knew, but my mind held black answers. The door was already open, which James and I never do, and I made my way to the bathroom across the hall. I swiped the knobs of hot to the right and cold to the left. I was washing my hands. And then I looked up into the mirror and smiled.
James doesn’t think anything of the dream because that’s all it was: a dream. Even after I told him how menacing the grin was. It was evil, I woke up startled, scared of myself. James only shook his head as he walked over to me. He placed both hands on my shoulders, kissed me on the forehead, then departed for work. I sat on the kitchen stool deflated and afraid. I left out the part about me waking up and hearing the faucet running in the bathroom. I even tried to forget about when I got out of bed and fell, slipping on liquid. James didn’t even mention hearing my collapse, springing up and getting me back to bed. But my white nightgown had now been dripping in red.
Somehow I woke up this morning clothed in a pajama set with James in the shower. The bedroom floor was spotless. My white nightgown bought in the Caribbean was gone. And when James emerged wet with his towel wrapped around his waist he hovered over me as I remained in bed and rubbed his thumb over my lips. He gave me a smile. But this smile wasn’t affectionate. It was a warning. And now I am afraid of my husband.
I don’t quite know what to think. The day is halfway gone, the afternoon sun hangs in the air and I sit home alone watching the view from the living room couch. There are no curtains in this whole house. We’ve been living here for four months and James still has yet to do me this one favor. I got such nice curtain rods from the city, so beautiful. I drove for about an hour, this town being a recluse from the outside world. It’s a nice change from fast paced life though, everything seems to be in slow motion here.
Only the elite can live here. Huge houses line the streets with the most successful and important beings living inside them. Stores and restaurants and hotels are in the town square giving all of us an excuse to drive our BMWs and Porsches if we don’t have to make a trip into the city. The really good stores are still trapped in the city near where James works. A gate secludes us from the outside world and opens when one has to enter the world of the lower class and those who can’t work enough to get to where we are. It’s annoying, making a community like this for the hard driven people yet still making us have to encounter those who flip burgers.
The curtain rods I purchased are so intricate with detailed leaves etched in the metal. Extremely expensive for a metal stick, but I don’t care. I grit my teeth and take another swig from my wine glass. I let the Chateau Margaux 2009 Balthazar slide down my throat with ease. We only drink this on really special occasions. It is five forty six now. I will have to put it back in the wine cellar before six thirty.
Only three of these bottles had been put on sale and, I forget which year. Maybe 2013. Maybe earlier. But James and I had gotten flown out to France for a private tour of the vineyard to experience the tenth most expensive wine in the world being created. The $4,062 was worth it. I taste rich. I feel rich. Every time I think about having the bottle, every time I sip the alcohol poured in my wine glass I feel the warmth and security of my life. I grit my teeth harder together, feeling them graze in pain. Lydia and Andrew have the fourth expensive bottle of wine in the world. I could spit in their face. I put my glass down on a coaster so I don’t compromise the wine. I walk over to the window in the dining room and peer at their house. I can feel my breathing steadily increase, but I can’t help but keep my eyes on their home. The beige painted on the outside is a lighter shade than ours and I hate them for it. The french macaroon is better, it’s prettier and I keep telling James we need to call Simon to come over with a stack of swatches to repaint. It won’t be the same color of course, that would be pathetic. It’ll just be a better color like maybe navajo white. That’ll make Lydia call her decorator.
I want to stop looking at the house and their perfect life, but I can’t look away. I want to get this anger out, I can’t keep all of these emotions inside. I reach inside my back pocket to call Sherri and talk s*** on Lydia and Andrew. It’s funny how quickly I made friends here. The quickest way to start a bond with someone, or in my case with a whole town, is to hate the same person. Well, people, that’s the more appropriate word. The whole population here hates Lydia and Andrew and their pompous ways. They did used to like Andrew, love him actually. Everyone is like a family here and Andrew was like a child or brother to them. Him and his past wife Kelly.
Kelly and Andrew, high school sweethearts who went to the prom together, went to college together, got married and sworn to love each other until death did them apart. Well, at least Kelly had kept her share of the bargain.
I go in my contacts to find Sherri’s name, almost bouncing on my toes to share our feelings on Lydia’s elderly wardrobe, dressing older than she really is. She tries to act so pristine and proper when all she is is nothing but a mistress. The other woman. The homewrecker. She’s ten years younger than Andrew yet she could pass as a thirty eight-year old with her red Gucci Viscose Jersey Dress and her black leather mid-heel loafers. It makes me cringe.
Sherri’s phone goes to voicemail and I pout, tossing my phone on the dining room table. What’s the point of having a best friend if they aren’t there for you in your time of need? But then again I could just pick a random door in town and have hours upon hours of discussion about how repulsing Lydia and Andrew are. I mentally shut imaginary blinds, forcing myself to walk away from the window. I have the perfect burgundy drapes for this room, I got them on sale from Neiman Marcus. Of course I would never tell Lydia that. I would say I paid full price and even tipped the shopper who helped me pick it out, maybe even enough for him to take a week off of work and treat himself to a trip in the Bahamas.
“Ugh!” I pick up a pillow from the couch and throw it across the room. It tumbles on the floor. I make a mental note to get it dry cleaned tomorrow. I sit down and take a gulp of the wine. When I place the glass back on the table I suddenly remember that Sherri would be in the city shopping for her daughter’s birthday. I frown, not knowing how I know this information.
An image flashes through my mind of it being dark outside. I see the gate of the community in the distance. Sherri is chuckling beside me, alongside my many other friends of the town. It’s as if almost everyone is out there in the woods talking, laughing, having a good time. Everyone seems so carefree. I’m holding a beer. I think Jeff gave me the beer. I’m so confused. I almost never hang out with Jeff, he’s made passes at me many times and James has threatened to knock him out whenever he would get too inappropriate. I press my hands to my head, afraid of where these memories are going to take me.
I remember Sherri turning to me as I took a drink of beer and telling me about her plans for today. I said “that sucks” and I think she told me what she wanted to buy, but I can’t tap into that part of my memory right now. We then didn’t say anything, we were just watching Sheriff Gonzalez, James, Sherri’s brother Thomas and I don’t know who else. They had shovels in their hands and they were digging two holes, two of them on each hole. Jeff shouted something to James and James actually laughed. They were getting along. Why was everybody so happy?
I turn to the dining room window and slowly creep up to it again, peering through it. My mind is so far gone I mindlessly touch the clear glass.
I quickly retract my hand and make a mental note to have Wendy spray the windows first thing tomorrow morning before cleaning anything else. I look back out again and can see a yellowish tint emanating from the windows from their dining room. I angrily whip my head away and walk back and forth from the dining room to the couch and back again. I always thought yellow for a kitchen was nicer. Yellow for a dining room is better. I throw the other couch pillow and it flies into the kitchen.
Suddenly an odd feeling swarms me. I should be happy, why am I so angry? Something happened last night that was supposed to make me so happy. I sit back down and go back to last night. The men were digging holes. People were hooting and hollering. I think Sherri and I were engaging in the commotion. When I had woken up this morning I had a terrible headache and I vomited a lot. James didn’t say anything to me, he just kept eating his breakfast and asked how I slept, thus inviting him into my dream. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure last night I got incredibly drunk.
I can feel a sense of embarrassment, I think I did something stupid in front of everyone. A flash of those in the woods giving me dirty looks makes me rub my eyes. I shake my head and think again, trying to gain control of my breathing. When my breath comes in steady shifts I allow the memory to resume itself.
I had gotten another beer because Sherri asked me if I should maybe lay off. I laughed her suggestion away and told her it was a special occasion. My hand goes up to my cheeks because I remember smiling so much my cheeks had been hurting. Sherri cackled and gave a gentle shove.
“You look devilish, stop it.”
“Only until I never have to see their faces again.”
I gasp and jump to my feet, my knees hitting the glass coffee table and the wine glass crashing to the floor, giving the light wood a spark of color. I clutch at my heart, thanking the lord I hadn’t received the rug I ordered from Dubai yet. Keys jingle in the door lock and I curse to myself. My watch is five past six thirty. How long had I been staring at their house?
James drops his briefcase by the door and plops his keys in the ceramic dish on the table beside the coat rack. He reads my face and sees the shards of glass and color of alcohol on the floor.
“What the hell, Charlotte?”
He makes his way to start collecting the pieces when he notices the bottle. He rises and glares at me, absolutely furious.
“The Balthazar! What the hell Charlotte?”
“Well we only use it for special occasions and this is a special occasion isn’t it?” I shouted back at him, tears sliding down my face. “Did last night really happen? Tell me it didn’t really happen.”
“Oh, Jesus Christ Charlotte shouldn’t you be past your antics now or did you get yourself even more wasted than last night?” he kneels down and puts the shards in his hands.
“I hate them just like the next person, but mur-”
“Oh shut it right there Charlotte!” James spat at me. He dropped the glass on the table that was now between us. I added the table to the list of things Wendy had to clean first thing tomorrow. Some of the pieces of glass had wine on them and they were going to leave a dried stain on the glass of the table. It’s bothering me so much knowing at this very moment the wine is leaving a mark.
“Ever since they came over to welcome us to the neighborhood when we first moved in you were penetrating with hate. Ever since she commented on those curtain rods you got. You hate them more than anyone else in here, it’s an obsession. At least everyone else actually has a legit reason because of Kelly but you just hate how Lydia looked at you as though you were beneath her-”
“They both look at us as if we are beneath them. We live here too, just like them. They’re not better, especially not her. She looks at me with disgust and distaste and I just want to smack the looks off her face. Along with her lipstick! She cannot pull off nude, she is way too pale and freckled.”
“I don’t care Charlotte. All I know is that you can’t have these meltdowns like the one last night and the one now when you had it out for them way more than everyone else.”
I wipe away my tears and cross my arms. I swear, the way she had eyed the curtain rods. I had been raving about them, explaining how I found them and how they inspired me to decorate the rest of the house. She gave a stiff smile with her pursed, nude lips and said, “How lovely.” She then turned to Andrew and he took his right hand out of his pocket to shake James’ hand.
“Well, it was nice to meet you.”
“Oh, leaving so soon?” James had asked. They had been there for maybe a little more than five minutes.
“Yes, I’m afraid we have somewhere to be.”
“Oh, well come back anytime. We should plan to maybe have dinner sometime.”
“Yes, that could be quite nice. Maybe that could get arranged one of these nights.”
“That would be very nice,” I had offered. I looked to Lydia and caught her eyeing my shoes. Her eyes shot up and met mine. She gave a smile. Oh, how fake that smile was.
“It was nice meeting you . . .?” she extended her hand to me.
I gritted my teeth and touched her hand. “Charlotte.”
“Yes. Well, have a nice day you two.”
She’s younger than me! The little girl is twelve years younger than James and I and a decade younger than Andrew. He left his loyal wife for someone who doesn’t even have a job of her own. Andrew ruined a life to be with this tramp. They show no remorse, hold no accountability for Kelly’s suicide. They still have the audacity to live here and try to be the friends of Kelly’s friends and family. God my teeth hurt from grinding them all day. I turn to James who has been watching me this whole time.
“So, you over pretending to have a conscience? Everyone was really pissed and worried about you. They thought you were going to leave and tell.”
I flinched, seeing my tantrum in my head. I had so much to drink, I began crying. I ran to Lydia’s body and tried to shake her. I went to Andrew and kept shouting his name. James grabbed me and covered my mouth while Sherri tried to console me. I bit James and told everyone we had made a mistake, what we had done was wrong. I laid on the ground in fetal position and I just kept crying.
“How did you get me home?” I asked James.
He sighed and walked over to me. “Henry sedated you. He’s a doctor in the city.”
“Oh . . . and the dream I told you about last night-”
“You woke up in the middle of the night and went to the bathroom, I heard you turn on the water. You were so groggy, the sedation had worn off. When you came back to bed you shook me and said you wanted her pearls and her diamonds. Then you laughed liked a psycho and went back to sleep. And then some time later you woke up again, crying hysterically, and you fell. You kept mumbling about how it was wrong and a mistake and s***. You went out like a light again.”
“There was blood on the floor.”
“I didn’t clean off my shoes when I got in the house; I had to pay Wendy extra so she would take care of everything before you woke up in the morning.” he pauses. “You really were concerning me, you know.”
I stroll over to the window with the perfect view of their house. My reflection is showing a woman who is trying to hide her excitement.
“Her mid-heel loafers too.”
“What?” James comes behind me and wraps his arms around my waist.
I turn to face him. “I also want her black mid-heel Gucci loafers. Along with the pearls and the diamonds.”
“You can have whatever you like,” He kisses me.
“And, to keep me in a good mood since I’ve come to my sense,” I break away from him and go to the kitchen for two extra wine glasses. “You can finally put up the hooks for me. I don’t want to look at their goddamned house anymore.”
James smirks. “I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”
He gets the bottle and I meet him in front of the couch. We pour each other a drink then raise for a toast.