Neighbors: Prologue

“It’s perfect,” she said, smiling at the front door. Our Realtor smiled as she changed the sign to read SOLD, each of us beaming with pride. She touched her stomach and sighed, “Our babies will love it.”

“I know,” I replied, looking into the windows as though I were looking into the future, trophies of our future children lining the walls of my study, There was a hot tub in the back yard, where likely one of our children was conceived. I pulled her tighter, noticing the curtain of the home next door fly closed.

A moment later, as we looked in the back yard a woman opened the gate, her smile seemingly wider than her face. “Hi!” she shouted as she closed the distance to us. “Are you our new neighbors?”

“Yes, we are. I’m Dan Thomas, this is my wife, Anita.”

She got closer, her hand extended, sandy, shoulder length blondish-brown hair bobbing as she walked. She turned to Anita first, and pulled her in for an intimate handshake. “Oh, we’ve waited for people like you for years now. The last folks that owned this house were never home. It was terrible.”

I smiled at her as she shook my hand, far stronger than I’d expected. “Well, that won’t be a problem. We’re both graphic designers and work from home.”

The woman guffawed and bent over, taking two steps backwards, her smile larger than it had been. “No kidding! My husband, Terry is a graphic artist, too!” My wife and I looked at each other and smiled, knowing what we were about to hear. That Terry was such a great artist in high school that he’d designed a menu or two for a local restaurant or athletic club, and that he’d been heavily involved in making a website for a friend who exaggerated his notoriety as an expert in a field that few people’d ever heard of.

“When he was eighteen, he got a job working at Q-Pon Jackpot, designing the ads for them,” she said, beaming with pride. “To think that people use designs he’s made for fifty cents off? What have you designed?”

“Anita just did the Pizza City ads,” I said.

“Pizza Country, Pizza City?!” she asked, jaw on the floor. Anita nodded.

“That’s the one,” she said with a shrug, as though it were nothing. And in truth, it was. They’d wanted simplicity; red and yellow to remind people of pizzas, with fonts in the shape of pepperoni and pizza slices. That initial bonus check put our down payment on this house.

“Wow. Celebrities next door,” the crazed woman said, beaming with excitement. “My name is Bethannie, spelled like Beth and Annie, together. Bee Ee Tee Aych, Ay Enn Enn Eye Ee,” she said, as though we needed the reenforcement of how to truly spell her name.

She stared at us longer than was comfortable before we both looked away toward the bushes along the outside of the property. “Oh, look,” I said, pointing at the burning bush between our properties. “I love burning bushes.”

My wife agreed, while Bethannie shook her head. “I hate that bush,” she said, frowning. “It doesn’t match my house when it’s in bloom. I’d hoped you would take it out.”

“Probably not,” I replied. Bethannie rolled her eyes.

“To each their own.”

“It was nice to meet you Bethannie,” Anita said with a hug and smile. Bethannie’s eyes lit up. “We’re moving in next month on the twenty-sixth. We should have dinner afterward.”

“I would love that!” Bethannie squealed. “I’ll see if Terry is busy and we can have the four of us over. Do you like wine?”

We both nodded. “Oh good! I’ll bring the wine! Okay. I have to go. I have to tell Terry the good news! Pleasure to meet you!” she said, rushing off to her house, turning to wave twice. I swear she pinched herself once or twice.

“Odd,” Anita said.

“What’s that?”

“Her,” she replied, the word her rolling off her tongue as though she were pointing at poison or the plague.

“I’m sure she’s harmless,” I smiled. “After all, her husband does work for Q-Pon Jackpot.”

“Ah, yes. The pinnacle of our professions.”

“We should both be so lucky,” I laughed, putting my arm around her. We both stole a glance at the house as we walked to our car. Our home. Her home.

But, mostly our home.

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