Shady Grove Ch. 7
Abigail had always felt fortunate to have a corner apartment. Most units only had windows facing the courtyard, but hers also had a kitchen window above the sink. She couldn’t see much from it aside from the adjacent building and a couple of trees, but even that made washing dishes less onerous. It also came with the added benefit of allowing a cross-breeze through her apartment, which she appreciated more now than ever, during a late summer heat wave with no air conditioning.
When Gerald passed below, Abigail felt an impulse to call down to him. Since talking with Madeleine a few days before, Abigail had an urge to play matchmaker. She knew he wasn’t at all her type, but Gerald was the only man Madeleine’s age Abigail knew. Madeleine was a talker, an extrovert; someone who loved discussing books, movies, art and even politics. But Abigail meant it when she told her friend how quickly the years would pass, but didn’t think Madeleine heard the seriousness of her warning. Abigail almost didn’t recognize Gerald at first, dressed in nice-fitting jeans and a plaid, button-down shirt; had he not been carrying his toolbox, she wouldn’t have even noticed him. But before she could call to him, he had disappeared around the corner.
Entertainment Tonight would be starting in twenty minutes, so Abigail washed the rest of her posts and pans quickly. She loved to cook and was quite good at it, but hated cooking for one. She set her tea kettle on the stove to boil and dried a casserole dish. Realizing how much food she had left over, she covered some of it with foil and pulled a greeting card from her drawer. Marty, I hope you like this—Abby, she wrote, and taped the card to the foil.
When Abigail’s kettle whistled, she turned off the burner, filled a cup with hot water and dropped a chamomile tea bag inside. When she set the kettle down with a clang, her ears picked up, thinking she heard something else. She did—a giggle—and seconds later, she heard it again, this time followed by a flirtatious purring. Abigail tip-toed to her living room window, where she listened intently but heard nothing. When she looked out into the courtyard, she recalled seeing Quinn with a man Abigail hadn’t seen before. Abigail kneeled, which wasn’t an easy maneuver anymore, and eventually lay flat on the floor with her ear to the carpet. But when she heard a sudden moan, she knew it hadn’t come through her floor.
Abigail stood, turned on Entertainment Tonight with the volume lowered, and crept back to her kitchen. The heavy breathing her ears picked up was so clear it could have been coming from Abigail’s own bedroom. Leaning against her sink, she peered at the windows in the adjacent building. Shady Grove was so quiet that Abigail could hear the echo of whispers—“Oh, my”—followed by a soft moan, as if someone were tasting a delicious chocolate mousse. A sudden squeal was followed by another giggle.
It wasn’t until she looked through a window one floor below that she made out a shape—the curve of a woman’s bare back and part of her shoulder. The window was a couple of units to Abigail’s left, which didn’t give her a clear view. She dragged a kitchen chair to the sink, stood on it delicately, and now could see more of the woman, whose bare ass sat on a countertop identical to Abigail’s. A pair of hands—a man’s hands—held her hips. I need to call Maddy! she thought, and climbed down from her chair and dialed her phone. She went to voicemail: “Maddy! It’s Abby! I’ve identified the fornicator! She lives in your building! Fornication in progress! I repeat, fornication in progress! Call me immediately!”
“I can’t believe I cracked the case!” Abigail said aloud. She wished she could see more, but could hear plenty: an especially loud groan, more pain than pleasure, followed by a series of more sensual moans. Abigail wiped sweat from her neck as the woman’s gasps grew louder, and leaned as far as she could without toppling from her chair. It was enough for her to see the tops of the woman’s thighs, spread around the man’s lean, rippled and deeply tanned torso.
It had been decades since Abigail saw a man’s erection. Long before the time her husband passed away, he and Abigail only made love in the dark, under the sheets. Now, she was only able to glimpse his member enough to get a sense of it, but it was enough to transport her in her mind to another time—of drive-in movies and ballroom dances and dates to soda fountains, all of which ended the same way. As aroused as she was, Abigail needed her glimpse of manhood to be paired with a face, but it remained beyond her line of sight.
The woman moaned deeply, repeatedly, as if the man was more than she could handle. Abigail’s legs quivered as his steady tempo increased. “Forgive me, Lord,” Abigail pleaded, crossing herself. She could feel the imminence of the woman’s orgasm, no more than seconds away. But suddenly, the man wrapped his muscular forearms around her back, and squeezed another giggle from her as he lifted her from the counter and carried her away. “No!” Abigail cried. “Don’t go!”
She stood motionless on her chair for ten minutes before accepting that the show was over. She dialed up Madeleine again, and again went to voicemail: “Maddy,” she said flatly, “call me when you can.”
When Madeleine finally called back, she awoke Abigail, who had been asleep in her recliner for an hour, too groggy to answer.
Hoping to catch Quinn before her morning run, Abigail awoke early, delivered her dinner from last night to Marty’s front door, and returned to tinker in her garden. To her surprise, Quinn was already returning from her run when Abigail spotted her. “Aren’t you the early bird?” she said, noticing a dazzling sparkle in the younger woman’s eyes.
“Guess so!” Quinn exclaimed joyously.
“So then,” Abigail said.
“So then,” Quinn replied, eyebrows raised.
“Yep! She’s back!”
“Oh,” Abigail said, realizing they were thinking about different things. “I meant…I saw you with a handsome man the other day. Who’s the lucky fella?”
Quinn’s cheeks flushed immediately. “Oh, that. I thought you meant—. Anyway, that’s Clint. He’s new here, so I’m just giving him some time to settle in and…you know, helping him out with…you know, the settling in…Because it’s so much work, you know? Moving? All the boxes and stuff? And the utilities, and the… He’s not from around here and doesn’t know anyone, or have anyone to—. I’m babbling, aren’t I?”
Abigail smiled. “Not at all.”
“Okay, good. But yeah! But about that other…thing! I must’ve missed something, and just caught a bit of it. Sounded…close, didn’t it?”
“I haven’t seen the Night Watch patrolling lately. Think they captured anything?”
“Guess we’ll find out,” Abigail said, thinking, My god, I hope they didn’t.
It wasn’t until after her heart slowed the night before that Abigail realized whose apartment she had been spying on: Madeleine’s. And she was furious, and not because her friend was having indiscreet sex. Abigail wasn’t even all that bothered to discover that Madeleine was the disruptive fornicator who had caused so much upheaval in their quiet community. She was angry because her friend—her only real friend—was a liar; a liar who climbed the ranks to captain of the Night Watch just to keep attention away from herself. And worse was the enjoyment Madeleine got from spying on others, for no justifiable reason.
But Madeleine’s worst lie of all was about Big Red. Her claims of not needing a lover and being content with a dildo was an insult to Abigail. It was as though her friend had been judging her all along, as if she were too old to appreciate Madeleine’s unbridled love life. I never did it on a Formica countertop, Abigail admitted to herself, but until you’ve felt the sizzling hood of a ’67 Chevelle under your behind…
Still, talking to Quinn, Abigail didn’t want the Night Watch to discover her friend’s secret; she’d deal with it herself. She felt ashamed for how she wanted to go about it—to shame Madeleine. “Nice seeing you, Quinn, but I’m afraid I have to tend to a personal matter.” Before the younger woman replied, Abigail was halfway to her apartment.
Once inside, she sat down at her sewing machine with a wicker basket full of fabric, needles, scissors, and thread. Abigail unfurled a bolt of red satin, and snip-snip-snip went her scissors. Holding her mildly arthritic hands high, she directed her vengeful gaze upon her lovely creation: a gleaming, scarlet capital letter “F.”
Now all she needed to do was sneak into her friend's apartment and abscond with Madeleine's favorite sweater.