The Sound of Breaking Glass
by James Shaffer
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
He went downstairs, hung his suit coat on the back of a dining room chair and popped two slices of bread in the toaster. Julia was already seated, finishing her bowl of cereal and staring at her iPhone. Her world revolved around its message screen.
Choose your battles, someone said. He knew it was one he couldn’t win; he opened the newspaper she’d brought in for him from the front porch. It was her way of diverting his attention away from her and her phone, a mixed message. Between the crunch of his toast and the message beeps on her phone, they ate in silence.
He glanced at the clock and pushed his chair back from the table. “Time to go, Julia. Grab your stuff.”
“I don’t need a ride to school today.”
“Oh?” It was news to him, but no surprise. He was usually the last to know about any change in his daughter’s plans.
“Yeah. You remember the Harrisons’ daughter, Peggy?”
The next door neighbors’ daughter. Peggy. Right. He remembered. “I thought they went to Vegas or somewhere.” His spinning world wobbled a little and the air seemed thinner, harder to breathe.
“They did. Peggy stayed behind. She’s got senior finals to study for. Some parents are understanding, you know?” Her fake smile dropped off her face as quickly as her eyes dropped to her phone.
He stood up and pulled his coat from the back of the chair. Julia stared at her phone, acting oblivious, impervious to his leaving. George smiled as he crossed the kitchen to the door that led to the garage. He paused just a second as he reached for the doorknob.
“Bye, Dad,” Julia said in a small voice, her attempt at reconciliation.
“Bye, Julia. Have a good day at school,” he offered in return. No response. Her silence was the best he could hope for.
He backed the car out of the garage then stopped and watched the garage door close. Movement caught the corner of his eye. Peggy Harrison came out the door of her house alone and headed for her car in the driveway. She looked up as she was unlocking the driver’s side door and saw him staring at her. She gave him a big wave and a warm smile.
He lifted his hand and feebly waved back. He would have been weak at the knees had he been standing. He was sure it was the bottom half of her naked body he’d seen from his bathroom window. What were the odds? She was walking over to his car. What does she want? He heard a door slam. He turned his head and looked through the windshield. It was Julia coming out to join Peggy.
A rapping on his door window brought him back to ground zero. He peered up through the window. She was on the other side of a thin piece of glass just like she’d been earlier, only this time, closer.
Smiling, Peggy made a winding motion with her hand. She wants me to put down my window. Got it. He fumbled with the button. Normally, it gave him no problem. Get a grip, he told himself.
Julia was now standing next to Peggy. His window somehow magically descended. Peggy bent down. She wanted to speak to him. His eyes locked on her bright blues. He didn’t look beyond her eyes, but he sensed her breasts pushing insistently against the thin fabric of her white cotton blouse. Knowledge corrupts.
“Hi, Mr. Lindquist. Hope you don’t mind me taking Julia to school.”
He searched for his normal voice. “No problem. Julia told me you were taking her. I didn’t know you were here. Thought you went to Vegas with your folks.” He was rambling.
“I had too much school work to do. Going to college in September. Got to score on those exams, you know?” Julia was getting impatient, moving from one foot to the other just behind Peggy.
“College is very competitive. I know. Good decision.” Standing behind Peggy, Julia stuck her finger down her throat and stared him down. “You staying all alone in that big house?” He moved on quickly. “I mean if you get lonely and want to come over for dinner, tell Julia. I’m sure she’d like the company.”
“Thanks. That’s very nice of you.” She looked back at her house. He knew she was thinking of the guy lurking behind the closed front door. Then she turned back to him. “I’ll let Julia know.”
“OK. It’s a deal,” he said.
She stood up straight. “Got to go. Can’t be late.” She gave a little wave and smile. “Nice to see you again.” Then she spoke to Julia. “Let’s go.” Peggy headed for the car. Julia looked at him and gave him a little wave and smile, mocking Peggy, as she walked toward the car.
“You, too. Bye,” he responded weakly. He watched them get into her car then he backed down his driveway and headed off for work. As he drove down the street, he raised the window and snapped on the air conditioning. The cool air did nothing for him.
He arrived home from work at 6:00 pm sharp. His spot in the garage was still there, and he carefully slid his car into the space. The garage door dropped on cue behind him. When he exited the vehicle, he felt more than heard the music. The door from the garage into the house vibrated with the bass line’s beat.
As he opened the door, the lyrics to “Freak Out” blasted through the house. The music was coming from Julia’s room upstairs. He threw his keys down on the stand by the door and braced himself at the bottom of the stairs.
“JULIA!!” After a few seconds, “Freak Out” stopped abruptly.
“Dad?” Julia appeared at the top of the stairs then pounded down the steps to his level. “Sorry. We didn’t know you were home.”
“What? Sorry. I think my eardrums have burst.” He dropped his briefcase by the kitchen island and headed for the fridge.
“Ha. Ha. I said ‘sorry’.”
“Who’s we?” he asked.
“Peggy’s here with me.”
“Oh. She staying for dinner?” he asked nonchalantly.
“What’re we having?”
He pulled the refrigerator door open. Sour cream, ham and mushrooms stared back at him. He pulled open the freezer and found a loaf of garlic bread. “Looks like spaghetti carbonara.”
“I’ll ask.” Julia sprinted away up the stairs.
Turned out Peggy liked spaghetti carbonara. Michelle wouldn’t be home from her shift until after eleven; it was just the three of them.
“So, Peggy, what are you going to study at college?” George thought of one thing she wouldn’t have to study for.
“Media studies with a major in film. Not journalism. I like drama,” Peggy answered.
“You mean like the movies? The real movies?” Julia asked excitedly.
“Yeah. There’s a whole lot of jobs that go on behind the scenes. I’m interested in all of that.”
“It’s a good field to go into, a lot of diversity. If you’re good, there’s a lot of money to be made,” George added. And a girl with your talents... thought George.
“Maybe you’ll meet Brad Pitt!” Julia was into her fame mags.
Peggy turned to Julia. “That’s the glamour side of the business. Making movies is hard work. When you see it on the screen, it looks easy.”
Or through a window, George imagined.
Peggy turned to George. “Thanks for dinner, Mr Lindquist. It was delicious.”
“You’re welcome, Peggy. Call me George. We’re neighbors, after all.”
She smiled. “Then, thanks, George.” Julia rolled her eyes. “Julia and I will clear the table and do the dishes.”
“We will?” Julia piped up. Then looking at him and then at Peggy, she sighed and surrendered. “OK. OK, we will.”
He sat at the table while Peggy and Julia cleared the dishes, rinsed them and stacked them in the dishwasher. Watching Peggy move at the sink, he was sure it was the same body he’d seen through the bathroom window.
Headlights washed across the dining room wall behind George, accompanied by the sound of tires crunching on gravel. He got up from his chair and moved to the window. A car had pulled into the Harrisons’ driveway.
“Looks like you’ve got company, Peggy.”
She joined him at the window. “Oh. That’s my boyfriend, Rob. He said he was going to stop by.”
Did he imagine it or was she blushing a little?
Copyright © 2014 by James Shaffer