Carolyn sat at the dining room table alone. She didn’t bother to make Luke a plate for dinner, the past few months taught her better than that. Even when he said he’d be home for dinner, he wouldn’t be.
So, Carolyn pushed uneaten peapods across her plate in an attempt to stimulate her appetite. It wouldn’t work. Why would she be hungry after doing nothing all day.
Ugh, she finally broke down and pushed the chair out. The scratchon the floors echoed out thorugh the empty house. ‘Have kids’ Carolyn’s sister said, ‘you wont be as lonely.’
“Yeah, but it takes sex to have babies,” Carolyn said to the empty house. She was doing that a lot lately, talking to the house.
After she claned the three dishes she dirtied in order to make dinner, Carolyn figured she had nothing to do.
“Might as well sit on the proch,” she said, again to the empty house. Scratch paper in hand she layed her legs out horizontally on the top step. The sun wouldn’t set for another hour. Most people dreaded the winter, and they looked forward to thes ummer. Carolyn disagreed. At least when itw as dark in the winter she could go to bed after dinner. She didn’t have to sit up and pretend that she had a reason to be awake.
Carolyn’s pen carved arcs and paths into the sketch paper. A bird across the yard caught her eye, so it came to life on the paper. A squirrel, a parked car, a child.
“Hi, Carolyn,” a woman said from the street. Carolyn couldn’t tell who the woman was in the fading light. It was almost impossible because she hardly knew any of the neighbors anyway. “It’s Karen from down the road!”
“Hi,” Carolyn waved, smiled, but didn’t know what else to say to ‘Karen from down the road’. Karen on the other hand walked right up the path to the house. I didn’t say she could do that, Carolyn thought, suddenly territorial over a house that she would have handed to any bidder two minutes ago.
“Hi,” Carolyn said again when Karen stood in front of her. It was hard to realize that Carolyn had almost missed Karen. Her jogger suite practically glowed.
“Ya’ll have lived here for almost a year and I still don’t know you,” Karen said, “why’s that?”
“I know, probably my fault. I keep to myself a lot and luke is always at work.”
Karen scoffed, “Oh hunny, the men are always at work.” Carolyn smiled, but didn’t respond. “Well,” Karen said to fill the quiet, “the girls in the neighborhood and I normally go to Julie’s on Thursday n ights for wine and snacks,” she giggled, “It’s time you started to join us.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Carolyn tried to backpaddle.
“Don’t be silly. You’re coming. I’ll be around at five to get you.”
Karen gave a few other details of the night or herself before power walking way down the street. When Luke arrived to the house later that night, bedraggeled and not talkative, Carolyn convientntly left out her plans for the next night.
Maybe he would beat her home and worry. Maybe he would call to see where she’d gone, scared. The typical night routine that Carolyn so badly wanted to break sounded like a one sided telephone call. Not even a real conversation, because they never looked at each other, let alone touched.
Carolyn sat, dressed and ready to go at four o’clock the next day; even though, Karen wouldn’t be around until five. A glass of rum, Carolyn decided, that would loosen her up. Carolyn unscrewed the bottle and poured half a glass over ice into a regular glass. Luke night have actually asked about it if he saw a used Tom Collins glass. If he noticed.
The glass disappeared too fast, but Carolyn didn’t let herself pour another glass. It had been a while since she drank, because drinking alone was a line she didn’t think her failing marriage deserved to cross.
The knock, thank God, came a little before five.
“Hi,” Carolyn said in the doorway.
Carolyn could have run back inside, let the neighbor women think she was weird, but running inside meant pretending to have a reason not to sleep. She walked outside.
“Which house is Julie’s?” Carolyn asked.
“The yellow one,” Karen said, “and no worries, Julie sends her bratty kids to Ashley’s house with a babysitter on Thursdays.” Carolyn laughed. She had never met Ashley, or her kids and hearing Karen openly insult them took her aback. Had her mother’s friends spoken this way about Carolyn and her sister?
“So how was your day?” Carolyn asked. She reminded hersle fhow to have a conversation. SHe talked to the house, but the house didn’t care if she asked stupid questions or cussed or challenged herself to speak only in Spanish all day.
“I went to yoga this morning, and gardened a bit. My mother really wants me to take up gardening, probably so she can give me all her old yard tools. She’s about ready to move to a yardless condo.”
Karen chatted on, not needing anymore encouragement than the occasional nod or well time ‘aah’. The yellow house came into view around the next bend. Carolyn knew this house. It threw all the block parties, superbowl parties, and new years eve parties. Now, Carolyn would meet the woman behind the curtain: Julie.
The door was unlocked, so Karen let them inside without even knocking. Laughter floated thorugh the spotless house.
“Kitchen,” Karen said. Carolyn followed. Either the rum had kicked in or she really never got out. The house was amazing. All the pale wood accents stood out against the blue and gray decore. The occasional spark of yellow jumped out at her.
“Oh you’re here!” a woman said when they wlaked into the kitchen. It must have been Julie, “I’m Ashley.” Or not.
“Carolyn, hi,” she said, shaking Ashley’s hand. The other woman in the room was Suzanne.
“Julie will be down in just a second, here, wine,” Suzanne got up to pour Karen and Carolyn glasses, two whites.
They wanted to know all about Carolyn. She was their new toy, fresh out of the box. Where had she gone to college? What sorority had she rushed? What was Luke like? How long had they been married? Kids? Why not?
“Ladies, let the woman drink before we scare her away,” a woman stood in the entrance to the kitchen. It had to be Julie, Carolyn didn’t even need to be introduced. she looked like a modernized version of Mrs. Beaver, but with a twist some darker inkling that Mrs. Beaver wouldn’t understand if it hit her on the face. Mrs. Beaver meets the higschool meangir; except, this mean girl is in her early thirties.
“Carolyn, thanks for finally coming to meet everyone,” Julie said.
“Thanks for having me.”
They moved form the kitchen to a sittin groom where a plate of brie cheese, apples, and crackers awaited them. Don’t be the first one to dig in, all the women reminded themselves. And the food went untouched.
A few things Carolyn committed to memory: all the women were married, all of them had children. Karen’s little girl turned seven last week. Ashley’s three children were all under the age of five. Suzanne’s twin girls were eight, and Juliet’s three kids ranged from ages three to nine. No wonder they went to Ashley’s house on Thursday nights.
Carolyn remained the odd woman out with no children to brag about. Julie twirled her hair as she talked about back to school shopping. She needed to win over everyone there, so her daughter would be given name brand day planners and pen sets, despite her being nine years old.
“Carolyn, be hones,” Suzanne said after a few glasses of wine set in, “do you like hanging out with us? Be honest, no really,” she insisted as she leaned over her chair towards Carolyn.
“It’s the most entertaining night I’ve had in weeks,” Carolyn said, because it wasn’t a lie. She wasn’t sure she liked it, but it was better than sitting at home. All the women laughed. Carolyn checked her phone. Seven o’clock, no texts or calls from Luke. They kept talking, not worrying about when their husbands got home, so Carolyn tried not to worry either.
“Is it time?” Julie asked. The women nodded and smiled, all except Carolyn who would later remember this moment as her height of confusion. It was her last chance. She could leave at that moment, tipsy but happy about her progress towards making friends. She stayed.
No one just starts doing methamphetamines. Except Carolyn.
“What is Juliet getting?” Carolyn asked Karen after Julie walked up the stairs. Karen smiled, her lips pulling back over her teeth. Carolyn thought she even noticed blood coloring her cheeks, as if she should be embarrassed.
“The night hasn’t even started, yet,” Karen assured. no one asked Carolyn anymore questions. Instead, the room was quiet. Too quiet, quiet enough for Carolyn to overthink what was happening and wish she had gone home. Before she could charge out the door, away from the women whose eyes were locked on the entrance to whatever room Julie disappeared into, Julie returned. She carried a tray with six pills laying ono it. They were white, plain, could have been asprin. Please be aspring, Carolyn thought.
“Take one and relax,” Julie said and passed the tray around. Carolyn picked up a pill and held on to it.
“She said take on, Carolyn,” Ashley made direct eye contact with Carolyn as she slid a pill into her mouth. Her throat bulged slightly, the wine glass tipped back into her mouth, and the pill was swallowed. Carolyn closed her eyes.
Dark, dark, dark, too dark. How long had her eyes been closed? She opened them again. Julie stood over her now, fake tits swinging around in their bra. “Do you like hanging out with us now?” she asked.
“What?” Carolyn yelped. She rubbed her eyes. Julie sat in her chair across the room, but her tits still looked fake.
“I said do you still like hanging out with us?” She laughed, “Look, I know it’s a little unorthodox, but we have to unwind sometime right? It’s a lot more entertaining than scrabble.”
All the women nodded. Their heads moved faster and faster. Hair flung, wiped in front of eyes until their faces were obscured in bushes of hair. How could their heads stay on like that? Carolyn wondered. She wondered if her own head could move that fast, but when she tried to nod it felt as though her neck might snap. Better stop.
“It’s fine,” she said, though she wasn’t sure how long she had let the question sit in the room, “It’s the most entertaining night I’ve had in weeks.”
Entertainment, Carolyn thought. Weird word. Enter-tain-ment. En-terta-in-me-nt. She laughed. The other women laughed. Laugh. Dammit, laugh, she told herself. If she didn’t laugh what would they think. That was why Carolyn never hung out with women like this, they always had something ot think.
“Oh, Luke,” she said, having forgotten to check her phone for a few minutes.
“Leave the husband alone, Carolyn,” Karen said, “None of us are worried about our husbands, but let us assure you. The sex with this stuff, is fantastic.”
Sex, Carolyn repeated it to herself a few times. Sex, sex, sex. Something about that didn’t sound right, oh yes, because she and Luke didn’t have sex. They should, she decided. If he was ever home . Tears formed behind her eyes but Carolyn pushed them away. She put her hands to her eyes and forced he water back in, one drop at a time. Except her head began to throb, because it wanted to get rid of the tears. No more room for the tears in here, it yelled back at her. Hopefully none of the women could hear it, it was being awfully loud.
“What?” Karen asked, “Does that sound good to you?” Oh no they had heard her head. Carolyn mentally shushed herself, stop moaning.
“She does think it sounds good,” Julie laughed, “We haven’t done that in a while.”
The doorbell rang. Carolyn never found out what they hadn’t done in a while, because Julie forgot when the doorbell rang. Julie got up to see who it was, which didn’t seem like a good idea to Carolyn. She tried to reach out a hand to Carolyn, but the hand only danced in front of her face. What good was that. The door swung open on it’s hinges faster than Carolyn’s own door swung.
“My rose!” Julie yelped, she moved out of the way. A rose? A rose walked inot the living room mumbeling something about pajamas. How could it talk? “My rose, you are so perfect,” Julie continued to gush at the door. Rose yelled something from her room, and when she returned, pajamas in hand she was Julie’s nine year old daughter.
“I’ve never seen a rose like that,” Carolyn whispered.
“Julie waters her everyday, and sings to her so she’ll grow faster,” Karen said, “That’s what you do with Roses. You have to be patient for them to grow into beautiful things. They are worth it thought. I wish I had a rose.”
“I don’t have on either,” Carolyn said, dejected.
The door handle to her house was a rose. Carolyn couldn’t touch it at first. It’s silky petals seemed like they could be crushed by the wait of her giant hands. Oh no, giant hands. Carolyn couldn’t imagine how she’d touch anything without breaking it anymore. She had to get inside, though. Not for Luke, because Luke never texted her, but for herself. What if there were more roses inside that needed to be watered.
Karen was not a rose, she looked more like the sun when she dropped Carolyn at the door. But, Karen had been gone for a while. How long, Carolyn didn’t know.
The door handle returned to being a door handle, and Carolyn pressed her giant hand into the brass to turn it. Open. Darkness welcomed her, so it was impossible to see the roses in her house. Carolyn went upstairs, Luke ,Luke, Luke, she thought. Where was he? Was she saying that out loud, maybe it would wake him up.
The bedroom door was ajar and dirt blackened Carolyn’s feet at the entrance. It felt cold and moist between her toes. A lump in the bed moved when she pushed on the door. Luke? She leaned over him, and a weed lay in her bed, it’s roots creeping over the edges of sheets, to the floor, and around her ankles.