Read Neighbors Online

Authors: Ashleigh Royce

Neighbors

Neighbors

 

By Ashleigh Royce

 

Neighbors

 

Copyright © 2013 by
Ashleigh Royce. All rights reserved.

First Print Edition:
September 2013

 

 

Limitless Publishing, LLC

Kailua, HI 96734

www.limitlesspublishing.com

 

Formatting: Limitless Publishing

 

ISBN-13:
978-1492352624

ISBN-10:
1492352624

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.

 

Dedication

 

This is dedicated to my husband
for teaching me persistence; my sons, who teach me how to be creative on a daily basis; my mother, who always loves and encourages me; and my friends, who believe in me unconditionally. Thank you for your support.

 

 

One

 

 

“…
You’re better off without him, Tracy.” I wait for her to speak between sobs.

She catches
her breath. “I can’t believe he’s been cheating on me, Mel. He’s such an asshole.”

I
crutch the phone between my ear and a shoulder while I wipe my kitchen table. Then I scoop the crumbs up in my hand as Tracy tells me about catching her boyfriend, well ex-boyfriend now, cheating on her with some amber-haired ditz at the local burger place the night before. There was no way he could talk his way out of the slobbering lip-lock she witnessed. She knows I’ll be sympathetic since I had a similar experience with my ex-husband, who I’d caught sleeping with one of my co-workers, although Greg didn’t stop with just one. 

Moving on to
the kitchen counter, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the door of the microwave. Still in my pajamas, my blond ponytail sways back and forth as I scrub the remains of a grilled cheese gone awry. Not very glamorous, but cleaning doesn’t warrant make up or a matching outfit, especially on my day off. “You’ll be okay, Tracy.”

“I guess I have no choice, right? He betrayed me, Melissa.
I threw all his shit out into the street. I’m changing the locks tomorrow after work.” Tracy’s voice shakes, but I can tell that she’s doing her very best to keep calm. She is better at this than I had been. Even though the signs were all there with Greg, I failed to see them until I caught him in the act, just like Tracy had. But I fell apart.
Men suck.

“I guess we should form a club or something, right Mel?
” Tracy says, bringing me back to her problem. “How about the I-Hate-All-Men Club? You could be president; I’ll be vice president.”

I laugh
. “Wanna come over? I’ll put up a pot of tea and we can drown ourselves in cookies. I just bought some of that ready to bake dough.” I try to get her mind off of the situation.

“Nah, I’m fine.”

As I offer the same words of comfort to her as she had to me months ago, I walk into the living room and try to straighten up the mess I had forgotten about from the night before. Replacing a beige throw pillow to the couch, movement from across the street catches my attention. A U-Haul truck comes to a stop in front of the house that had been for sale for only a few months.

“Hey, Trace, I think someone
finally bought that house across the street.”

“Yea
h? That was quick.”


There’s a rented truck out front.”

Two men
get out of the cab of the truck. They walk around to the back and lift the door. After a few moments inside it, they emerge, each with an end of a dining room table in his grip. The first man, maybe fifty, with dark brown hair that is just beginning to grey at the temples, lifts the end closer to the house. He has a nice build. The second man is at the opposite end and looks considerably younger. Straight blonde hair hangs in his eyes; way too long for my taste. His tank top and shorts leave hardly anything to the imagination.

“Oh my God, Tracy.”

“What?”

“This guy is
cute.”

Quickly, she forge
ts all about her ex-boyfriend. “Tell me, tell me.” When I don’t answer right away, she says, “Never mind. I’ll be right over.” The next thing I hear is a click. I guess her ex-boyfriend doesn’t mean that much to her after all.

I
position myself in front of the living room window and watch as the two men are joined by a third man, who drives up in a separate flatbed truck. He gets out and walks to the back of the flatbed. Two muscular arms support a series of stacked boxes. A crown of light brown waves moves with the rhythm of his body.

Yummy!
I hope he’s the one moving in
,
I think.

I pour
a cup of tea and have a second ready for Tracy. As I wait, I think about the last time I put up with Greg’s crap. I had worked a double shift. Gladys, the other ER nurse I work with most of the time, told me to go into the staff lounge to get a few hours sleep while the emergency room was manageable.  My feet felt heavy and my eyelids started to close the minute she had suggested it. As I pushed forward on the door to the lounge, I heard playful giggling. The room was dark and I heard someone say, “Sssshhh. Someone’s here.”

Now, I’ve been a nurse long enough to know that doctors and nurses, or doctors and doctors, or nurses and nurses, or any combination of medical professionals, will steal moments in the staff lounges.

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “I’m leaving.” But I didn’t leave. Not when I heard the other party’s voice.

“No problem.”

“Greg? Is that you?” I turned the light on and the flat white hospital sheet that covered the two of them flipped over so I could see my then-husband with a nurse from the fifth floor. Her hair was a tangled web and her makeup was smudged across her face. Greg looked up at me. Not a hair on his head was out of place. A sardonic smile filled his face.

“Hey, Mel. What are you doing here?”

I leaned against the doorjamb and crossed my arms over my chest. “Apparently, I’m notifying you that we will be divorcing.” I shut the light and walked straight to Gladys’s desk, picked up the phone, and called the number for the lawyer that Tracy worked for.

Tracy
pulls up to the front of my house, parks, and sprints through my front door twelve minutes after she hung up. Her straight black bob bounces as I pull her inside and hand her the tea. We look at each other without words and then turn our attention out of the window as we watch the three men unload the contents of the truck.

“Which one do you
think is moving in?” Tracy asks as if she’s a kid ready to open a Christmas present.

“I don’t know. T
hey’re all very good looking. I don’t have a problem seeing any of them every day. But if I have to pick, I hope it’s the one with the dark curls. I may have to run out of sugar a lot.” We both laugh.

After a few minutes,
Tracy breaks the trance. “So, how’d you manage a Sunday off?” She takes a long draw from her tea.

“I switched my rotation. Now I’m on four, off three.”

“Won’t the ER fall apart without you for three days?”

I laugh
. “I’m not the only competent nurse in the ER, Tracy. Gladys is on one of the days I’m off. And the other ladies are very good. After all, it is the life force of the hospital. They can’t have people who don’t know what they’re doing working in that department.”


Yeah, but you’re the best ER nurse in the world, Mel.” She dons a huge grin. “And the most organized.”

I smile at m
y friend, who is always finding ways to boost my self-esteem. “Thanks, Trace.”


I’m sure you’ll have to fix everything when you get back.” She says as she flips her straight black bangs away from her eyes.

“Probably,” I chuckle
. “But Gladys won’t let anyone get away with anything. You know how stern she is.”

“Speaking of the hospital
let me see that dress you bought for the Night Under The Stars ball.” Although I don’t like to attend social functions, I relented to Tracy’s insistence that I attend the hospital’s annual summer event. “It’s to raise money for future building projects. You have to support it. Besides, who knows, Mr. Right could be there.”

My divorce from
Greg was eight months old, but we had been separated for well over a year. And even though I was doing fine on my own, I was beginning to crave attention. I thought about how much attention he lavished me with before we got married. He’d say wonderful things to me and compliment me on practically everything. We had a beautiful wedding. I wore an expensive designer gown. The photos were gorgeous and Greg was a stunning groom. Once the honeymoon was over, he began treating me like an insignificant piece of property rather than his wife. He worked more shifts and avoided me when we worked the same days. When we did have the same days off, he’d make plans to golf with his buddies or tell me he wanted to just relax by himself. “I’m around people all day, Mel. I need some alone time.”

“Mel, the dress.” Tracy brought me back to the present.

I place my mug on the coffee table and disappear into the other room. Although not a large house, my brother said I could use it while I looked for my own place. It gave me a place to keep the little stuff I have while the ink on my divorce was drying. It’s a nice place; somewhere to be alone while I figure out where I went wrong in my twenty-six years of life and how I could have been so stupid when I married Greg. I look in the paper every Sunday because I’m unsure how long my brother’s current relationship will last. He moved in with his girlfriend, but said he doesn’t want to give up his ‘bachelor pad,’ of which I’m grateful for, temporarily.

Tracy gi
ves me a play-by-play of what the moving hunks are doing while I push things to one side of the bar in the closet. I pull out the hanger with the new dress. The clear plastic makes a crumple noise as I pluck it from its resting place.

“It was on sale. The sales woman said
it would look perfect with my blonde hair and blue eyes.” I hold it up to my body as I walk back into the living room. “I figured it would be—“

Tracy
isn’t listening to me. Instead, she’s transfixed on the handsome men who are moving items from the truck.

“What?” I ask.

“They’re taking a water break. Oh my god, Mel. You’ve got to see the muscles on this one.”

I
toss the dress onto the love seat and race to the window. The three men are sitting on the back of the moving truck, each sipping from a bottle of water. The older man’s shirt is stained dark with sweat. The other two are shirtless and their chests are glistening in the sun. My eyes grow wide and my mouth drops open.

“It’s a good thing
you’re a nurse,” Tracy says, “because I think I’m going into cardiac arrest.”

Hanging
over the back of the couch, we gape out the living room window, watching them for most of the move.

“You have to go over and
introduce yourself,” Tracy finally breaks our drooling session.

“What? Not today. Whoever he is, he’s just moving in.
I look awful. I’m still in my pajamas.”

“C’mon,” she says
pulling my hand. “We’re going to make cookies so you can welcome them, like a good neighbor.”

“Tracy,” I protest but she pushes
me toward the bedroom.

“Go put something sexy on,” she commands
. “I’ll start the cookies.”

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