This is the opening scene of a novel I began several years ago, but abandoned because there were too many problems I couldn’t seem to fix. I recently brought it out again. The first half isn’t bad; the second is awful. Anyway…
Spring snuck into Oregon sometime during the afternoon, the perfect end to a perfect month. The long winter of mottled clouds and endless rain had given way to clear skies, warm sunshine and the earthy scents of new grass and fresh daffodils.
Cindy took off her coat and tossed it into the backseat for the drive home, a smile plastered over her face. Children shouted in play on the far side of the cyclone fence separating the playground from the parking lot. She’d had her share in her class this afternoon, so anxious to enjoy the day that it had taken every trick in Cindy’s arsenal to keep their attention on spelling and math.
She started her car and drove out of the parking lot, noticing as she joined the traffic on Trevor Street that the line of maples in front of the school was now in bud. She hadn’t noticed that yesterday.
Cindy rolled her window down, enjoying the sweet air washing warm over her face and wreaking havoc with her hair. But that was okay. Better than okay, everything was fantastic. The last four weeks had been the best in her twenty-three years. She had finally gotten her chance at a full time position in the extremely competitive Eugene school district. It was unfortunate that Mrs.Wright had to get cancer, but it was a chance. After nine long months pinching pennies on a substitute’s erratic wages and Bryan’s stipend as a graduate teacher, she had seized the opportunity and run with it.
To top it off, Bryan had taken her out for dinner on her birthday and surprised her with a ring and proposal. She had accepted in a heartbeat. Waiting at the traffic signal leading onto the Delta highway, she glanced down at the ring and its diamond. It still caused chills to break out up and down her spine.
The light changed to green and she accelerated into the heavy flow of traffic on the freeway heading south into Eugene. It was the start of the weekend and it promised to be a gorgeous one. The change in the weather made her want to do something. She didn’t have anything specific in mind; she just wanted to do something.
She passed through the office buildings of downtown–quickly emptying them onto the streets–and turned west onto 18th. Within blocks, the office and retail buildings gave way to apartments interspersed with family houses and swatches of park space.
Everywhere, it was spring. They tinted every tree with bright green buds; every yard and garden splashed with the fiery yellows of daffodils and the softer pastels of tulips and rhodys. She could swear none of them had been there the day before. Neither had the people. After the long winter, the parks and sidewalks were full of citizens taking advantage of their new freedom. They rode bikes and roller blades, walked their dogs and just walked. Nearly everyone wore a smile as broad as her own.
Near the west end of 18th Street, Cindy slowed and turned into the drive of her apartment complex. She paused to allow a soccer ball, then a handful of young boys to spill into the roadway, then continued to the end of the drive and the last building in the complex.
They designed all the buildings in the Californian style so popular in the seventies–two stories of six apartments, with each apartment opening into a covered–but otherwise open–walkways, with the walkway for the second story forming the roof for the first. A concrete and steel stairway at each end of the building provided access to the second floor.
Right now, the parking area in front of the building seemed to have been turned into a car wash. Bryan was spraying suds from his jeep with a garden hose, while Jen and Stacy–their neighbors–laughed and ducked away from the cold water. Bryan was bare chested and wore cut-off jeans and sneakers. Both girls, who were students at the University, wore tight, water-soaked shorts and bikini tops.
Cindy felt her mood sour. She didn’t really doubt Bryan’s faithfulness anymore, but he was an incorrigible flirt and always would be. He couldn’t help himself, she supposed.
She parked beside Bryan’s jeep, grabbed her book bag and stepped out into the warmth of the evening.
“Hey there!” Bryan dropped the hose and came around the Accord to kiss her.
She accepted his kiss, but not a hug. “You’re all wet.”
“Sorry,” He smiled wryly, looked himself over and shrugged. “I guess I am. How was your day?”
“Good,” she told him. “But not as good as yours. Classes cancelled today?”
“You look really nice, Cindy” Jen said with a big, almost honest smile. She was blonde and blue eyed with the boobs and sweet, tight ass of a Barbie doll. Of the roommates, most of their male visitors initially came to see her.
“Thanks.” Cindy smiled. Jen’s nipples were dark and quite erect under the wet material of her bikini. “Hi, Stacy.”
Stacy smiled and pushed dark hair out of her eyes with a wet hand. “Isn’t it a gorgeous day?”
Though she referred to her neighbors as “girls,” they were both only a year or two younger than she was. The fact that she’d graduated last year into the real world of job hunting just made her feel years older.
“You should change and come help us,” Bryan suggested. “Get out in the sun for a little while.”
She smiled, but shook her head. “You guys seem to have it under control.”
“Want us to wash your car too?” Jennifer asked, holding up an oversized soapy sponge in one cute hand. Sudsy water ran white down her arm to trickle off her elbow. “We’re pretty good at it.”
I’m sure you are, Cindy thought. But she smiled and nodded. “Sure.”
“Everything okay?” Paul asked, his face growing serious.
She nodded. “Just tired. I’ll change and come out and watch for a bit.”
He nodded and turned the hose on her Accord.
Cindy climbed the stairs toward their apartment, fighting to keep the jealousy smouldering in her breast from bursting into open flame. There was no reason to think there was anything going on but innocent fun. They were just enjoying the warm weather.
As she reached the top of the stairs, a shriek sounded below. She turned as Jennifer skittered away from the car, her back arched and dripping water from Bryan’s hose. Both Bryan and Stacy thought this terribly funny.
Cindy turned away and entered the pigstie that was their apartment. Neither of them were very big on housekeeping and almost nothing was done until the week-end. She ignored the clutter and went into the bed room where she stripped off her blouse and skirt and let both drop to the floor with the other dirty clothes that formed a kind of second carpet, then sat on the foot of the bed in her bra and panties to remove her hose.
There was no reason to suspect anything was going on, so why did she feel so jealous? He had cheated before, it was true, but that had been over a year ago. He’d apologized in tears, sworn it would never happen again, and pleaded for her forgiveness. Since then, he’d lived up to that promise of fidelity. She’d forgiven him long ago and agreed to be his wife, why was it so hard to trust him?
She tossed her rolled up hose on the dresser and slipped into a tee shirt, nylon running shorts and a pair of sneakers.
He hadn’t even had the decency to ask her about her performance evaluation.
She touched the diamond on her finger and told herself to quit being so insecure. He had asked her to marry him and she’d said she would. Did she plan to spend the rest of her life worrying every time he talked to another woman?
Besides, she wouldn’t let a nagging insecurity ruin her mood.
The high pitched sound of women’s laughter floated up from the parking lot.
Cindy half-heartedly gathered and armload of dirty clothes and dropped them on the hamper. Tomorrow was laundry day and it was a good thing. They wouldn’t be able to walk through the bed room in a few more days.
She took a deep breath, smiled, and went outside.
The girls had her little Accord covered with a thick layer of soap suds and were busily scrubbing away, their tits bouncing in counter rythmn to their exertions, while Bryan waited with the hose to rinse.
Cindy climbed halfway down the stairs and sat on one of the concrete treads. It was warm from the afternoon sun.
Bryan glanced up at her and smiled. He said something to Stacy, dropped the hose, and walked up to sit on the tread beside her.
“You’re sure you’re okay? You seem kind of bummed.”
She smiled and shook her head. “Just tired.”
“How did your evaluation go?”
She smiled. He had remembered after all. And he’d walked away from the other girls to come sit with her. Sometimes she was too stupid for words.
“It went well,” she told him. “She said I was really good with the kids. Their test scores are improving and unless I screw up big time in the next few weeks, she’ll recommend I be hired permanently next fall.”
Bryan beamed. “Really? That’s terrific. Congratulations!”
She couldn’t help but smile at his reaction. “Well, I don’t have a contract yet, but I’m so close I can taste it.”
He leaned over and hugged her with strong arms. “When I saw your face, I thought it had gone badly . . .”
Cindy returned his embrace. She loved him more at that moment, than she ever had, more than it seemed possible.
“I didn’t know what to say,” he continued, still keeping one arm tight around her waist. “You’re heart’s been so set on this. I didn’t know how I could make you feel better–”
“But it’s all right,” she told him. “I’m all right.”
“You’re more than all right. You’re wonderful.” He kissed her, then turned to the girls and announced the good news to them. As she accepted their congratulations and explained again that she wouldn’t actually have the job–and the generous benefit package that went with it–until the fall, all thoughts of anything but friendly flirtation between Bryan and their neighbors left her head as though they’d never existed, leaving only the faintest shadow of guilt.