The suburban noise proved her undoing. One little girl screamed every five minutes as if a hell-demon nipped at her $120 sneakers and then there were the lawn mowers constant growl, the car alarms, the woman shouting at her kids, and maybe worst of all the teenager next-door with his synthetic music.
“Noise? Hell, Drea, you’re in a damn rock band,” Charles said.
Pointing out the obvious, she thought, but didn’t say. Her descent into unhappiness was nearly complete. She shook her head, held her palms outward, knowing that there was nothing she could say that he would understand. It had been an experiment, a leap of faith to think she could live this staid kind of life. Thank god it was before the 2.4 children and her assimilation into the supercilious and sanctimonious legion of disapproving mothers association of Grove Heights. Although when the crazy shouter smelled gin on her breath one evening as she was chasing her beagle, Brute, that pretty much sealed her non-invitation into that pious cloister. Evidently the fine women of Grove Heights only sipped chilled California chardonnay on rare occasions and if you drank g&ts, you were an alcoholic.
Drea felt bad for Charles, though. When he had viewed her as sweet and uncomplicated, a Barbie princess adorning his arm, who could thrust out tiny Charles’ through her loins, she had almost allowed herself to be absorbed into the glowing little land of “what if.”
She placed her hand on his arm, hating the tingly texture of his wool blazer, but she didn’t move it until he looked down at her nails.
“You’ve broken a nail,” he said.
She snorted. Her nails were what she had become. Until she entered this house, she’d never had a manicure; she never needed one. She kept her nails at playing length, clean and strong. She hated French manicures and someone applying nose-hair twisting, carcinogenic chemicals to her nails and cutting her cuticles as if the fate of the nation hung on her nails—her nails that she painted black for all of the time that she and Eddie and Jerry and Nick tripped the light fandango of garage band grunge. And, yep, sometimes the black chipped and her nails looked like the pattern of a Holstein cow, but the guys loved her anyway, mostly like a crazy sister, but they never complained about her nails.
Drea picked up Brute’s leash and raised the pull-handle of her suitcase, she waved her hand. “I am sorry, Charles. We both knew it was a long shot.”
“You haven’t tried,” he said.
She sighed and looked down at her carefully painted toes.
“I’m kind of dying here, Charles. People bitch at me if Brute’s paws touch their zoysia. I feel like a pariah. And, yeah, I get that it might be in my head. But we both agree that it’s my head, right?”
“Maybe. And maybe I just don’t get the life of the people in this neighborhood and what they care about. I guarantee they don’t get me and don’t want to. And, maybe, Charles, just maybe, you don’t get me either.”
“You’re not that complex,” he said.
She nodded. This was where Charles would tersely inform her that in the grand scheme of things she was not that special. Despite feeling bad for leaving him, Drea was not going to miss Charles’ insatiable need to put her in a place that was remarkable only for its dreary darkness and boring sameness.
This morning she realized that maybe her place in this world was to bear music and not children and to nurture rescue dogs and not a man who wasn’t happy unless she became a suburban drone. Now, knowing freedom was close, just through a closed door, a melody sprang to her mind. When she got to her ancient wreck of a car, another gripe of the neighborhood undoubtedly, she would text Eddie and hum it to him.
“Drea, if you walk out that door, you can’t come back.”
Drea smiled at him, opened the door and led her dog into the breezy evening where the scent of freshly mown zoysia drifted. Who knew freedom had an odor?