Sunday evening. No kids on the street. Few lawn mowers buzzing in neighboring yards; got to start the week manicured. Grills cool. Moms sneak out onto the deck for a glass of wine and a cigarette. Dads go downstairs into their caves and put on the game, open a beer, doze. Idyllic lives.
And then the scream.
Jessica drops her cigarette. Watches it slip through the gaps in the boards. She sits very still.
“This is over!”
Jessica knows the man’s voice. It’s Bobby Rhadigan. Big guy. Former jock who plays like he still is. Keeps his edge by teaching world history to ninth graders. Coaches football. He and Allison just had their first baby. A little girl. Sheryl Ann.
“We are no longer involved with any of you!”
Allison screams. Begs Bobby to stop. Begs him to be quiet. Begs him to go inside. She promises him it’ll stop. She promises him she’s through. She promises him.
“Shut your whorin’ mouth!”
Bobby is pissed. Jessica twitches. So much raw power in him. His hand on her back as he walked around her at deck party almost launched her over the rail. Days later, alone with him, that power filled her.
Jessica slips out of her reverie.
Odd sounds. Smack. Uhnn. Hands striking flesh. Dazed response.
Jessica wants to look. Wants to look. Wants.
“Jesus, Bobby, stop it!”
New voice. Jessica stays in her plastic Adirondack. Strains her ears. It’s Mikey Prough. Lives in the house between Jessica’s and the Rhadigans. He’s telling Bobby to stop something.
“Go to hell, Mikey.”
Bobby tells Allison to go inside. Allison screams. Tells Bobby to stop hitting Mikey. Mikey yells for help. No one shows. Mikey curses his neighbors.
“I’m warning all of you. This. Is. Over!”
Quieter voices. Bobby tells Allison to get in the house.
Jessica’s glass of wine trembles in her shaking hand. Two houses down Allison steps out on her deck. She hasn’t bothered to do more than smear the blood from her nose. It makes her mouth look like a child tried to apply lipstick. She lights a joint. Looks over at Jessica. Flips her off.
Bobby steps out onto the deck. “Get your ass in here, Alli.” He looks around at Jessica just as Mikey and Kylie step out onto their deck. Kylie is trying to put a bag of ice on her husband’s eye.
“Kylie, stop it.”
“But your eye.”
Kylie turns her wrath on Bobby. Throws the bag of ice at him. “It didn’t have to be like this.”
“How else was it going to be, Kylie? The people on this court have a fucked up understanding of bedroom community.”
“It was ending,” Kylie said.
Bobby looks directly at Jessica. “Was it?”
Jessica sits paralyzed by Bobby’s glare. Those dark, menacing eyes. Eyes she knows hides who he is when the neighbors aren’t around. Eyes that Brad doesn’t have.
The screen door behind her slides open. Brad steps out with his own drink in hand. He stares at his neighbors then looks at his wife and asks. “So tonight’s off I take it?”
The doors on the cul de sac close.
At least for now.