They gathered as they did every morning during the school year, first in ones and twos and then finally a whole gaggle of laughing, loud-talking children. A mix of grade school age kids with a smattering of older ones probably in middle school, they would mill around the street corner waiting for the bus that would pick them up precisely at 7:25 A.M.
Josh Raskin stood at the large bay window in the front of his house, smiling at the throng as they played and gossiped. A few sat on the grass that was technically part of his yard with their school books across their legs writing frantically trying to finish some forgotten homework assignment. Josh didn’t mind their small bit of trespassing. He wished he could say that for his spouse.
“Are those kids trampling our lawn again?” called his wife, Veronica, from the kitchen.
“They’re not hurting anything, Dear. It’s just grass, and they’re sitting on it.”
Veronica swept into the room, a steaming cup of coffee clutched in one hand, pushing her long, straight brunette hair out of her face with the other.
“I caught a bunch of them running through my flower bed last week. I swear I’ve complained to the school three times that they should move the bus stop somewhere else. I don’t need this aggravation.”
“The bus stop has been on this corner for many years, and besides your flowers will be dying off with the coming of fall in a month.”
“That’s so like you always defending those children. To Hell with what your wife wants…”
“It’s not like that, Veronica. I just think you’re being a bit unreasonable.”
“Whatever,” she said dismissively turning to go back into the kitchen.
Josh pulled his attention from the kids outside starting to call after his wife but thinking better of it at the last minute and closing his mouth. It seemed like most of their conversations ended this way these days with Veronica turning her back and walking away. This was especially true when the subject involved the bus stop, or anything having to do with children in general. The issue had become too sensitive to touch lest they find themselves in another fight, another in the endless arguments that went nowhere. Not that it mattered anymore, the time to fix things had long past, and now it was just a regret one of many that haunted the halls of this place they called home.
He rubbed at his jaw, remembering a time when things had been different.
They had met during their final semester of college and started dating not long after graduation. Veronica was a newly minted lawyer ready to make her mark in the legal profession, and Josh, the technical genius prepared to take the engineering world by storm. The attraction between them had been instant and fiery, leading to the two of them finding themselves in bed together after their first date, and on every subsequent one after that for several months. They had been inseparable in those days, and Josh had the teeth marks to prove it.
Their whirlwind courtship had quickly turned into a marriage, and at first, it seemed as if the storybook romance would continue unabated. They had been in lockstep back in those days about everything.
The best place to buy a house.
The right investments to make for their future.
The type of dog to get to protect them and their property.
Even on the subject of when to start a family, which by both their reckoning would be when they had their careers well established and some money in the bank.
The years had passed, and from time to time, Josh would mention the empty guest room. The one they had agreed would make a perfect nursery.
Veronica was patient at first.
“Our time will come, Sweetie. First, I want to make Associate and get out of the cube farm.”
Josh hadn’t made waves. They were young yet. There was no rush…
A few more years, and again, Veronica demurred.
“I have a shot at Senior Associate if I can just keep my head in the game,” she said with a laugh.
Josh would sigh and keep his mouth shut, thinking they were only in their early thirties there was time enough.
The thing was that every year after that Veronica always seemed to move the bar. Then it was Junior Partner, Senior Partner…A slew of important sounding titles, but not the one that Josh wanted to see bestowed upon his blushing bride.
The one that he would genuinely have been proud to call her was the mother of his child.
Time has a way of getting away from you, and it had run from Josh and Veronica Raskin like a horse from a burning barn. One day he looked up and realized he was about to turn forty years old with a guest room that was still just a guest room.
That was when things had changed.
The fighting had started over little things as it often does. The typical elements that married couples resent each other for, leaving up the toilet seat, forgetting to turn off the coffee pot, playing your crappy Bon Jovi albums too loud at one in the morning. All trivial, and hiding the ataşehir escort bayan real reason you’re shouting at each other over who left the cap off the toothpaste for the hundredth time.
“You should have just said you didn’t want children from the beginning!” yelled Josh one night after way too many shots at Hammers Sports Bar.
“Oh! So it’s all my fault! I was building something, Josh. Something important to me!”
“I thought what was important was what we were building together!” he shouted back.
“So…What…Because I didn’t pump out some babies for you all of a sudden, our life is shit! If it meant that much to you, why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“Would it have made a difference? Would you have slowed your climb up the legal ladder if I had asked you?”
A long silence had followed that question. It was clear Veronica didn’t want to answer, perhaps because she didn’t know what the answer would have been, or just as likely because she knew the truth would hurt Josh too much.
They had stopped talking for a time after that night.
Slowly, they reconciled. There had been lots of couples therapy and more than a few nights spent sleeping on the couch, but in the end, they had decided to go on together. A brief discussion about the possibility of adoption had come up, but Veronica had postponed deciding until after the partners voted on bonuses for that year. It didn’t surprise Josh in the least that the idea was never revisited.
He had considered walking out a few times, but somehow, call it relationship inertia if you like, he was never able to muster the strength to leave.
This was how he found himself facing his fiftieth birthday in a lovely, expensive house with a BMW in the garage, and a pool in the backyard, but not the thing he truly coveted.
The truth that rankled Josh the most was that he had only himself to blame, and he knew it.
“Can you take out the trash please it’s starting to smell,” asked Veronica as he walked through the kitchen.
The children had left by the time he tied up the black plastic bag and carried it to the can at the curb. The neighborhood had returned to a state of quiet repose, and only the clanging of the can’s aluminum lid broke the silence. Josh was just about to head back into his house when the creak of a door opening drew his attention.
The house next door to Josh and Veronica had for years belonged to an old retired couple named Jim and Margret Deshaies. A nice pair of old birds, they could often be found puttering around their garden together arguing over whether it was better to plant carrots this year or squash. Jim had been a very gregarious type and often would stop Josh if he saw him in the yard engaging him in conversations about a diverse array of subjects from politics to whether the Yankees would ever win another series. As much as it sometimes annoyed him, Josh had come to look forward to these visits, and when Jim had taken ill and wound up in the hospital, Josh had gone to visit him.
Sadly, Jim had not gotten better, and after his death, Margret had sold the house which was far too big for her to live in alone anyway and gone back east to move in with her son. The Deshaies home had stood empty for a full year before the “For Sale” sign suddenly came down one day. Whomever it was that had bought the house had some pretty serious Ninja skills because other than the moving truck that had shown up months ago Josh had rarely seen anyone coming or going from the big two-story. He knew that it was a man and woman and that they were young, but neither one had ever bothered to come over and introduce themselves and Josh had been too shy to want to pry.
He stopped now, standing on the edge of his yard and watching with curiosity as a tall, thin young man stepped out onto the porch stretching his arms over his head. He wore sunglasses that concealed much of his tan face, and from this distance, Josh couldn’t make out his features very well. The gentleman seemed to have no knowledge that he was under observation, or if he did, he certainly didn’t care since he never once turned in Josh’s direction. Instead, he left the porch walking to the mailbox at the end of the driveway and after emptying the contents made his way back toward the house leafing through a stack of letters before stopping to unlock his car door. The vehicle was a sporty model and roared to life with a growl that startled the birds out of the trees in the yard around the house. As Josh looked on, the young man pulled out of the driveway and took off in a cloud of exhaust headed to parts unknown.
Josh was about to walk back inside his own house when he noticed something on the driveway where the young man had just been standing. The rectangular shape was a letter, and it must have fallen from the other man’s hand as he was getting into his car. It was none of his business, but it seemed unneighborly not to do something about the situation now that he had recognized it, so escort kadıköy Josh made his way across his lawn and onto his neighbor’s driveway stooping over to pick up the letter from the ground. It was addressed to “Mr. Travis Owen” and looked official. That at least cleared up the mystery of the young man’s name. He considered just returning it to the mailbox, but he hesitated as it dawned on him that he had the perfect excuse to meet his neighbor without seeming like he was intruding.
The front door was made of stout oak and had no windows or even a peephole built into it. Jim had installed a camera over it for security, but Josh had no idea if the new residents still used it. He cleared his throat and pressed the doorbell listening to the chimes echo in the house. Time passed, and no one came to answer, so he pushed it a second time, and again, silence reigned with no one seeming to be on their way. Josh was just about to retrace his steps back to the mailbox when he heard the voice of a young woman coming from the other side of the door.
“Who is it?”
“Um…Hello…My name is Josh Raskin. I’m your neighbor from next door…I…Uh…Have a letter of yours, and I just wanted to return it.”
Another long moment of silence followed, and Josh was starting to feel ridiculous, just standing there. He was beginning to regret ever coming up with the whole idea when the door suddenly opened, revealing the owner of the voice he had heard earlier.
It was possible that Josh had met a more beautiful woman before in his life, but he couldn’t recall when.
“Hello, Mr. Raskin. I’m Meghan Owen,” she said, holding out her hand.
Josh swallowed and reached out to shake it, trying not to stare like a moron and failing in the effort. Meghan was petite perhaps five-foot-four-inches with curly, golden blond hair that surrounded her oval face like a glowing wreath in the daylight. Her skin was tanned a deep brown, and when she smiled, it made her perfect white teeth stand out even more while her full lips, darkened with berry-brown lipstick, were the most kissable pair Josh had ever seen.
He fumbled to reach out and take her hand, feeling the silky smoothness of her skin as it slipped into his own.
“It’s nice to meet you, Meghan,” he stammered awkwardly.
She took a step out onto the porch, and Josh backed up to give her room.
“Beautiful day out,” she commented, looking around.
“Yes it is…” said Josh, but the last thing he was doing was looking at the great outdoors.
He couldn’t take his eyes off Meghan.
She was wearing a pair of denim shorts that looked like they had been painted on her tight body, hugging her ass like a second skin. The t-shirt she wore had a giant daisy on the front and was cut low enough that Josh had a good view of her magnificent, firm young breasts. The legs that stuck out of the bottom half of her shorts were slender and muscular from working out.
“You have one of our letters?”
“What? OH! Yes, right here, ” he said, “your husband dropped it.”
“It was nice of you to bring it to me. Thank you.”
Josh was just about to tell her that it was no problem when he heard a giggle from inside the house, and a small, blond-haired girl bolted through the door to crash into the back of Meghan’s legs.
“Well…Who do we have here?” asked Josh.
The tiny young lady, who couldn’t have been more than three or four years old in Josh’s estimation, didn’t speak but stared up at him from between Meghan’s legs.
“This is my daughter, Katie. Say ‘Hello’ to Mr. Raskin, Katie.”
Katie didn’t seem interested in speaking and retreated further behind her mother.
“She’s a little shy,” whispered Meghan as if she was giving away a state secret.
“That’s fine. I know I must look big and scary,” laughed Josh.
Katie peeked out at him briefly, and he marveled at what a perfect miniature copy of her mother she was which made him wonder if Veronica would have produced a child to mirror her in the same way. He quickly pushed the thought out of his head with a wistful sadness.
“I didn’t know any children were living over here.”
“Yes…Well, Travis…That’s my husband. He likes his privacy.”
“I can see that. It’s impressive that Katie keeps herself so quiet.”
“Oh…She isn’t always, but this house has very thick walls.”
“I’m aware. I knew the previous owner very well. He used to go hunting quite a bit, and he had this house built securely so that his wife would feel safe while he was away.”
“Is that why there is no glass in the front door? I never know who is here.”
“Yes, well, Jim, that was the guy’s name, he had a security camera installed instead,” explained Josh pointing to the camera built into the roof of the porch.
“I’m not sure that does me much good.”
“So they didn’t explain the system when they sold you the house?”
Meghan shook her head.
“Do you have a personal computer?”
“My husband does in his maltepe escort office.”
“I could fix it so that you could use the security camera. I helped Jim install it to begin with, and that way, you would know who was at your door.”
“I guess that would be alright,” said Meghan with a hint of reluctance, but she turned to scoop Katie into her arms and gestured back at Josh that he should follow as she went inside the house.
The interior of Jim and Margret’s old home had changed radically in the hands of its new owners. Gone were the antique furniture and homey wall hangings, and in their place were much more modern and antiseptic fixtures and furnishings. Frankly, Josh had liked the old world look and feel better. He hated houses that didn’t feel lived in, and this place looked more like a model home all staged and fake. Meghan led him to a well-organized office that originally had been Jim’s study. The oak desk that had stood in the middle of the room was gone replaced with a black steel monstrosity that seemed wholly out of place against the backdrop of wood paneled walls. Josh took a seat behind an expensive looking computer.
“I see you’re using the house network,” he said, referring to the fact that the computer was plugged into an RJ-45 jack on the wall.
“I guess so…” said Meghan uncertainly.
“It’s fine. That means that since you’re plugged into the same network as the camera. I just need to download the software to access it.”
His hands danced across the keyboard, playing it like a maestro while Meghan looked on, and Katie played at her feet, trying without success to do a flip.
“How long have you lived here, Mr. Raskin?”
“Please, call me Josh. My wife and I have been in our house for twenty years now.”
“Wow…That’s a long time to live in one place.”
“I take it you and Travis move around a lot?”
“Not really…This is our first house together.”
Josh raised an eyebrow at that, a house like this one wasn’t precisely a starter home. He knew Margret had listed it for 1.2 million and didn’t see how a couple as young as Travis and Meghan could have afforded it.
“Maybe they won the lottery,” he thought absently as the software download completed.
Since he had set things up, Josh still remembered the passcode to the camera, so it didn’t take long to connect to it. The monitor in front of him came alive with a flickering image of the front porch.
“There you go! Now you can see who is banging on your door.”
Meghan came around the desk to look over his shoulder, bringing the strong odor of her perfume with her when she leaned down. The smell was delightful, and Josh felt his arousal returning.
“Thanks, Josh. This is very cool. I appreciate your help.”
“What are neighbors for…I was glad I could be of service. If you ever need anything I’m just a knock away,” he replied pleasantly while getting up to put some distance between himself and this gorgeous young woman who was making his head fill with all kinds of naughty imaginings.
He stopped short when he realized Katie had stepped right in front of him and was holding something out to him in her hand.
“It looks like Katie thinks you deserve a reward for your efforts,” said Meghan.
Josh took the scrap of paper from Katie. It turned out to be a sticker of a ghost ripped from some children’s book that likely had contained a number of such things. The spirit was definitely of the friendly variety with big eyes and a happy smile. He removed the sticker carefully from the backing and stuck it to his shirt.
“Thank you, Katie. I always wanted a happy ghost for my shirt.”
The little girl’s face broke into a smile, and she giggled running away.
“I think she likes you. She doesn’t usually warm up to people very fast.”
“She’s a real sweetie you and Travis must be very proud.”
Meghan’s expression clouded over for a second as if his comment had brought an unpleasant memory to the surface, but her smile reasserted itself so fast it was hard to tell.
“Thanks again for your help, Josh.”
She walked him back to the door, and he left with a wave over his shoulder.
“Took you a while just to walk to the curb and back,” commented Veronica when he returned.
“I know. I ran into our next door neighbors finally,” replied Josh giving her a brief rundown of his visit minus his opinion on Meghan Owen’s looks.
Veronica had changed into her business attire while he had been gone, and was holding her briefcase in one hand. Her long brunette was now pulled up into a bun on top of her head, revealing her thin face that was starting to show the wear and tear of years of hard work at the law firm. When they had first met, he had been captivated by her lively green eyes and bright smile, but now those eyes were sunken and dulled no evidence of the spark that had once danced in them.
“They do seem young to be able to afford such a big house,” she agreed.
“I’m sure there is a story there perhaps we will get it out of them over time.”
“So you plan to try talking with them again?”
“They are our neighbors. It doesn’t cost us anything to be friendly.”
“Like they’ve been so far? Does this have anything to do with that sticker on your shirt?”