by Floyd Looney
“I work hard to support this family!” Alice said, ending the argument at the dinner table. Her mother-in-law still looked at her from the corner of her eye suspiciously. The meal was hardly touched, which was another waste, Alice thought to herself.
“I work, I shop, I clean the house. What more do you want me to do?” She mumbled to herself. She looked over at the kids, they still seemed a bit stunned from the yelling. “Finish dinner and you can be excused”.
Her husband, Matt, was silent as always. He never argued with his mother, he never defended Alice from her tirades and suspicions either. She could feel resentment growing within her, how could she have lived like this for fourteen years?
“Lucy, I told you not to wear make-up, you are too young” Alice told the girl, she thought she detected the rolling of the eyes. She didn't expect the girl to obey, she was a bit of a wild child after all.
She cleaned up after dinner and washed the dishes. Tomorrow was her day off and she would do the laundry but otherwise she could breathe easier. After setting the nightlight in the kids room, she climbed into bed and rolled over to face away from Matt. She just couldn't look at him at that moment.
The following day she schlepped baskets of laundry to the complex laundry room. This was one of the few times of the week she could interact with neighbors. A woman with an English bulldog puppy on a leash was already in the room, moving her laundry to the dryer. Her name was, with some thought, Gladys she finally recalled.
Gladys was a grumpy older woman, always found with a cigarette in her mouth, like some stock character from Hollywood. After acknowledging each others existence, Gladys went back to what she was doing. She was never too friendly.
After loading her own laundry into four of the five available washing machines, a young man named Doug walked in carrying a small cloth bag. He lived alone and always had very small loads to wash on his days off. He was a bit younger than Alice but he was always very nice to her.
“Hello Alice!” he said as he entered “Same old grind, I see”
She nodded. “Too true”
Alice knew that growing feelings for Doug was exactly proportional to the resentment of Matt and his mother. She felt like she was suffocating at home and maybe Doug could be an outlet, she could let off some of the pressure. Matt would never have to know.
No. She would have to make a clean break from her old life. End it. Finish it for good and run away with Doug.
I was concerned about the woman in apartment 290 because no one had seen or heard from her in a long time, usually she was seen coming home with groceries or hanging out on the bannister watching the kids play in the pool and the small park in the courtyard but mostly in the laundry room is where most who knew (if that was the proper term) her got to talk to her.
One day I decided to ask the landlord. I knew it was not my business, but I had taken care of everything else on my list and I happen to be in the office to pay the rent. So I asked about the woman, I learned that she had not been paying her rent. The manager said she was going to open the apartment soon to see what was going on. I asked to tag along.
The dirt on the floor, the cluttered and messy kitchen with dirty dishes piled in the sink and the stench of rotting garbage wasn't close to the most disturbing thing found in the apartment. The manager had stood there in the kitchen doorway shaking her head.
“What a freaking mess! I don't know why people can't clean before they move, they don't want that security deposit back? Maybe deposits should be high like in Korea”.
When she looked in the bedrooms she choked back a yell and ran out of the apartment shaking her head much more vigorously than she had about the trash in the kitchen. So I walked into the short hallway and looked into the first bedroom.
The ugly green bedspread had been thrown off the bed, on which laid two plastic mannequins with stab wounds and one had been beheaded. In another bedroom were bunk-beds and mannequin children that had also been “murdered” in a similar fashion.
There was no sign of the woman who once lived there, I think her name was Alice.
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