PLAYING HOUSE - JARRETT RUSH
He held the red coat by the waist and stared at the woman in the bed. This was it. This is what he wanted, the life that everyone said was normal. But he knew it wasn’t something he could have, not with her anyway. Theirs was a working relationship. He didn’t even know her real name. He called her Paisley, and the last few days with her had been perfect.
She’d collapsed on the bed in her dress and shoes after their second Christmas cocktail party in as many days. It was the cost of doing business. If you’re going to take the new neighbors for all they’ve got you have to get a look inside their homes.
It wasn’t the best life, he knew it. But most of the time he didn’t care. Most of his conscience had fallen away years ago. But occasionally he’d get these feelings looking at Paisley. He wondered how he’d handle a normal life. A life that started early in the morning and included work, kids, and dinner when he got home. He told himself he didn’t need it. It was just something to ponder when he felt like feeling down.
He met her a month ago and she’d been charming. Could have popped corn she looked so good. Getting to play house with her the last few weeks had been fun, almost normal. It gave him hope, for a moment, that he could be this thing that he wanted to be.
He‘d told everyone his name was Joe McAvoy, a computer engineer who moved to the neighborhood because it looked like the perfect place to raise kids. The new neighbors told him it was. The schools were good, there was a park just down the street, and everyone looked after everyone else. He and JoAnn were excited to be part of it, he told them.
When he’d come in this afternoon to get ready for the party, the scent of her perfume was still in the air. He paused for a moment to enjoy it, and then saw her in the dress and was shell-shocked. At the party, he watched her work the room, bouncing as she walked, and realized that as much fun as he was having playing house it was all going to be over soon. Here she was on the bed, so worn out that she didn’t have time to get undressed and three wallets next to her. She had picked them during the party just for fun, to keep from getting rusty.
BIO: Jarrett Rush lives with his wife, Gina, near Dallas. He’s been previously published at A Twist of Noir. He blogs at JarrettWrites.