Shady Grove Ch.6
For the next two weeks, Quinn and Abigail watched from their windows every evening as small platoons gathered in the courtyard, and dispersed in pairs to patrol the complex. Although Shady Grove included eight apartment buildings and a community room, the property was rather small overall, and roaming scouts repeatedly crossed paths or found themselves trying to hide in one of only a few possible hiding places. But this didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm, as residents saluted each other in passing, sometimes chanting, “Vigilance is deterrence! Deterrence is vigilance!” Not one report of disruptive fornication had been filed since these patrols were formed.
Several residents moved away during this time. Moving trucks were regularly parked near one building or another on the weekends. Quinn wished one of them was for her, but with three months left on her lease, and not having enough money to forfeit her security deposit or pay the fines for leaving early, she had no choice but to stick around. Shady Grove began to feel like a ghost town.
Abigail didn’t mind so many vacancies. Shady Grove was never a rowdy place, but seemed more peaceful now than ever. On a pleasant July afternoon, she sat in the courtyard with her friend, Madeleine Embers, who not only volunteered for patrol duty, but had been promoted to team captain. “I just don’t understand why you’re involved with this nonsense,” Abigail said. “Isn’t it obvious that whoever it was is no longer here?”
Madeleine shrugged. “When I was little, I always wanted to be some kind of spy,” she said. “This isn’t what I had in mind, but I actually enjoy it.” Abigail shook her head. “You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve found out about some of our neighbors. Those mics pick up a lot.”
“Well, I don’t want to know any of it,” Abigail said. Then, after a pause, asked, “Like what?”
Madeleine leaned in. “Well, you know that Brazilian airline attendant, Carmella? The one all the young men around here used to follow around, panting like dogs? Well…they're not her type, if you know what I mean.”
“Nooo,” Abigail said in disbelief. “I’ve seen her flirting with men all over place.”
“It’s all an act! I was on a stakeout and picked up a strong signal from her unit and, let’s just say, she’s into some kinky stuff.”
Abigail felt her cheeks burn. “You mean…like…blindfolds, and—”
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m talking handcuffs and whips.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave. But get this…Linda Williams…”
“Shady Grove's secretary?”
“Yes, ma’am. She’s not as kinky as Carmella, but she gets down and dirty.”
“With Mister Williams? With Gary? You’re pulling my leg. They’re almost my age! They’re accountants! And besides, Gary had replacement hip surgery last year.”
Madeleine smirked, waiting for Abigail to settle down. “Not with Gary.”
“What? You mean—”
“She’s got another fella. A much, much younger fella. I don’t have a positive I.D. on him yet, but he comes around during the day when Gary’s at work. He’s a looker, so I kept asking myself, Why Linda? Turns out our secretary has a few naughty tricks up her sleeve.” Abigail was stunned. She should have been feeling anger toward her friend for spying, but her curiosity overshadowed everything else. “I could go on all day,” Madeleine said, amused.
“You don’t happen to know anything about…never mind.”
“Who?” Madeleine prodded, making it clear she would be happy to divulge more. “C’mon, Abby. I’m your friend.”
“Well, I sometimes wonder about…Marty.”
“Ohhh, I see,” Madeleine teased. “You’ve got a little thing for—”
“No, I don’t have a thing. Just wondering.”
Madeleine straightened her face the best she could. “Marty’s off limits. We took an oath.”
Abigail wasn’t sure if she believed her friend. “So then…who’s spying on you?”
Laughing, Madeleine said, “No one. That’s also part of our oath—we don’t spy on each other. And don’t worry, I made sure everyone knew you were off limits too.”
“Gee, thanks,” Abigail said. It sounded sarcastic, but she actually meant it. For a stretch of time Abigail had been rediscovering her long-ignored erogenous zones, enhanced by an old People magazine cover photo of Paul Newman.
Wanting to change the subject, Abigail said teasingly, “So, with all this spying on others’ love lives, is my friend Maddy—”
“Maddy!” Abigail exclaimed. “Seeing anyone, I was going to say.”
Madeleine sighed as she said, “No one new. It’s just me and Big Red.”
“Big Red? You never told me about anyone named Big Red.”
Madeleine giggled. “I haven’t? Well, shame on me! Big Red is sort of the strong and silent type. He doesn’t fuss or complain. Very trustworthy…never goes out at night with the boys.” Observing Abby’s perplexed face, Madeleine needed to provide more direct clues. “Big Red may be big, but not too big to fit in my nightstand drawer.”
Abigail buried her face in her hands. “I’m so embarrassed,” she said through her fingers.
For the next ten minutes, Abigail appreciated more than ever how few people were around Shady Grove these days, and that she could sit in the middle of the courtyard listening to her friend talk about her dildo. They were interrupted, finally, by a bare-chested Gerald dragging his hose across the lawn. “Speaking of the strong and silent type…” Madeleine said, causing both women to giggle.
“You should ask him out,” Abigail said, causing her friend to burst with laughter. “He seems like a nice man, don’t you think? And obviously keeps himself in good shape.”
“Abby, he’s a maintenance man. What on earth would we have to talk about?”
“Who said anything about talking?” Abigail said, holding back a smirk.
“Well, whaddya know?” Madeleine said emphatically. “I mention my dildo and now you want me to get it on with the gardener! You dirty bird, Abby.”
Together they giggled like school girls as they watched Gerald’s tanned skin glisten in the sun. “He definitely knows how to use his hose,” Madeleine blurted, hysterical with laughter.
“I think he’s been eyeing you,” Abigail said.
“Or maybe he’s eyeing you!”
After their laughter subsided, Abigail was more serious when she said, “Time goes by so fast, Maddy. You’re almost fifty. The next ten years will go by so fast that—” Abigail couldn’t finish her thought, and merely shook her head.
Two days later, Quinn returned from her daily run and, had her shoe not come untied, wouldn’t have seen the man carrying boxes into Building Three. She only caught a glimpse of him, but enough to know she wanted another. She was desperate for a drink of water, but sat down in the courtyard and began stretching. The man emerged a few moments later but didn’t see her as he walked toward the parking lot. He passed once again with an armful of boxes.
Yoga was the last thing Quinn wanted to do at that moment, but when the man reappeared, he was stopped in his tracks by Quinn holding a standing split pose in the grass. She listened for his footsteps, thinking, I can’t do this for much longer, before finally hearing his steps trail off toward the parking lot. When he returned, he found her in a full backbend. Once she heard the apartment door close, she collapsed on her back in the grass, thinking, I think I hurt myself. Before Quinn could find a way to her feet, she was looking up at him.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” she said, in a raspy voice that was part-exhale, part-groan. He was holding a bottle of water, and Quinn was thirsty enough to kill for it. He seemed to be waiting for her to sit up, or at least say something else, but she only lay there starting at him.
“Oh,” he said, “I thought you might want this,” handing her the bottle.