Wife Swap

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5

Rome Pov

My hand rests on the doorknob, squeeze it and pull it down before pausing as second thoughts rush through my head. I shut my eyes and take a deep breath hoping by breathing out it will free me. Every time I stand outside this door, I am back to my reality again. Esme is not on the other side and I can’t call my friend and laugh about trivial things. I dread it more especially knowing who I will find, her.

I don’t hate her but the way she carries herself makes it uncomfortable to be around her. She never makes any conversation, snubs you if you attempt to. Just too awkward.

With a final resolution i twist it open. There is a dim light and low volume that originates from the TV. I check my phone, it is eight minutes past eleven. She is awake! I inwardly sigh.

I switch the lights on when I realize I can’t see clearly where my next step will land.

She looks up and her expression turning to anger.

It is my house! I itch to tell her that.

She decides to refocus back on her show and pulls the blanket close to her chest. Covering her entire body.

“There is food in the microwave.” She states without turning to me and turn the volume a little bit high.

There she goes, I made her angry earlier but still, things around her don’t stop moving. Why could she not get angry enough to act? It was the driving force for change. Still behaves as if everything is fine when it is not.

“I am okay,” I declared.

Silence.

She does not even attempt to coerce me like yesterday to eat. It pathetic that i wish she did.

“I am sorry for what I said earlier, ” I say.

More silence.

“I could not go to that orgy.” I find myself explaining myself even though I feel I don’t owe her any.

Another agonizing silence.

I take a deep breath and look around; my body, despite my best efforts, remains immobile. At times like this, I wish I wasn’t a minimalist and had more furniture.

The sofa she is sitting on has a small empty space between her feet and its arm. I decided to squeeze myself into the sofa’s small unoccupied space. The silence falls. My heartbeat quickens; I try not to think about her scent, but I recognize it, the scent of vanilla and burned sage.

She moves further to her side, uncomfortable with the closeness.

The show she is watching attracts my attention, it is a true crime documentary about a man that murdered his wife and kids. I get sick to my stomach listening to what some humans are capable of. And wonder why she is watching it.

“If you went missing how long would people notice?” She all of a sudden asks, her tone calm like she has thought about this before.

I am caught off guard by her eerie question.

I look up again at the Tv, the mother and grandmother of the victims is narrating that it was after no phone call for a day that she called for a welfare check-up. Somehow the show starts to intrigue me.

“Are you always this depressing?” I swivel my head to look at her, She turns and her eyes meet mine and turns her lips down.

“Just answer!” She says displeased.

I do not need to think hard, I know my family I can rely on them. As for friends that ship is sailed, as I think of Mason, “Less than a day,” I answer.

“It’ll probably be Mason in three days.” She responds.

She exhales deeply and chuckles ruefully. “He is the closest thing to a family I have. It’s pitiful.” She pauses and thinks hard, “What’s more unfortunate is that he’d only be concerned about why I wasn’t thinking about him by calling him or texting him.” she sniffs, purses her lips together, holding back tears.

I wait for her to compose herself. I’d like to ask about her family, but I’m afraid it’ll be too soon.

She wipes her tears, "I am not always like this." She says.

“The person I am becoming is not the person I am sometimes.” I give a half-truth.

She gives me a side glance, the corners of her mouth lifting slightly, ” And here I thought you were always jerk.” She says with a trace of humor surprised she has any.

“Depends on the person.” Now that the opportunity has presented itself, I decide to taunt her.

With the little perception of her, i expect her to be annoyed and to come at me hard.

“What have I ever done to deserve your treatment.” Her reaction is surprising.

“You have never earned it.” I say and raise my hand when I see her open her mouth armored to defend herself. She shuts her mouth and slightly nods her head, allowing me to carry on, “You are antisocial.” I state.

“But that is who I am. To do all that would be pretending.” She shakes her head in confusion.

“Not once did you ever say hi, anytime I visited. You immediately left the room which I found rude.” I tell her. “You know the people in the building did have a name for you, ” The first year of Mason’s marriage we lived in the same building. People knew Mason as my friend, so they often talked about how she never spoke, greet or answer back greetings.

Esme would wax poetic. She had expectations that maybe they would become friends and we would go on double dates. Have our kids at the same time and so on.

To her disappointment, Athena kept to her self and never indulged her. It pissed Esme, and I was glad after a burglary we moved and stopped to hear her non stop complain of Athena.

“What is rude is trying to force someone to be somebody else to accommodate your feeling. It is disrespectful.” She announces leaning back on the sofa.

“Fine, but it throws people off.” I decide to leave the topic all together.

She turns and silently stares at me as i wait for to say something. She finally sighs, “You shouldn’t judge people yet you don’t know them.” She says.

“Okay, get dressed, I’ll show you some place.”

She eyes me skeptically, “Nope! It is a trap.” She emphasizes the p in nope.

“Did you have plans?” I ask.

“It is midnight.” She

“And it is the perfect time of the night. So?”

“The perfect time for serial killers, rapists, cults, night runners ...” She is too negative.

“You should take a break from those crime shows.”

“Fine i am sure i will probably regret it.” She again says inclining to the negative outcome.

She releases the blanket from her body and I release a sharp breath. She is wearing teddies; a satin chemise and shorts that only cover her butt.

“You have great legs.” The words slip out before i can stop myself

“Uh?” She sighs, confused, then it dawns on her and she becomes embarrassed. She picks up the blanket and drapes it around her skinny body and rushes to her room while the image of her legs leaves an imprint in my mind.

She comes back dressed in black high waist jeans, a yellow floral crop top and blue boyfriend jacket.

It is a simple outfit but way off the picture I have of her.

"Let's go." She claps her hands together.

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