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When Fig Coxbury buys a house on West Barrett Street, it’s not because she likes the neighborhood, or even because she likes the house. It’s because everything she desires is next door: The husband, the child, and the life that belongs to someone else.
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The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
I see you getting things you don’t deserve, living it up. It fucking sucks. I feel resentful because I deserve it more than you do. I could be a better you, that’s what it boils down to. I’m every woman; it’s all in me.
The little girl had blonde hair. When the wind blew, it rose around her head in a tickled cornsilk halo. I imagined I had hair like that as a child. I wouldn’t know because my mother was too busy working to take any pictures of me. Why have children if you don’t have time to take pictures of them, you know? Different day, different issue. Though, let it be known that my mother is a cunt. I lifted my phone and took a picture of the little girl mid-run, hair streaming behind her. It was the type of picture you had blown up and framed. I marveled at my eye for beauty.
As soon as I saw her I woke up from a very long slumber, bones creaking, my heart beating with renewed strength. I closed my eyes and thanked the universe for delivering this gift to me. Then I lifted my phone and took another picture of her because I wasn’t going to be a shitty mother.
It was her. I knew it. All I’d wanted, all I’d hoped for. I was paralyzed as I watched her walk to a car with a tall, dark-haired woman. Was it the mother? A nanny, maybe? There were no shared features between them aside from their eye color—brown. But, then I heard the little girl call the woman Mommy, and I cringed … wilted … died. She’s not who you think she is, kiddo.
I followed them home from the park in my white Ford Escape, freshly washed and gleaming—sticking out like a sore thumb. I was afraid it would draw attention and the mother would notice someone following them. I overthink things, yes? My mind is like a computer with too many tabs left open. I’m very clever, so there’s that. Very smart people have lots of thoughts, but they’re all brilliant thoughts.
I calmed myself down by opening a tab of reason in my mind—most mothers didn’t notice things, not the right things, anyway. They were too busy, too fixated on their offspring: is your face wiped, are you putting germy things into your mouth, do you know the alphabet? They were too comfortable in the bubble of the modern world, if you asked me. Back in the day, mothers were afraid of everything: dysentery, influenza, Indian scalping, polio. Now all everyone worries about is if there’s too much high fructose corn syrup in their kid’s juice box. Get a grip, you know? Everyone is always getting salty about the wrong things. Assume there’s a stranger following you home in a very clean, inconspicuous white SUV, assume you’re raising a narcissist, assume in twenty years your kid will hate you because you didn’t set up enough boundaries.
They stopped for gas, so I circled the block then waited in a parking lot next door, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice. A homeless man knocked on my window while I tried to watch for their car. I gave him a dollar because I was in a very good mood, and also I wanted him to go away. I could see the mother from where I idled. She re-latched the gas pump, her hair falling all over her face, and walked around to the driver’s side. I slipped my car into drive and off we went.
I wanted to see the father’s hair, assuming she had one, of course. Nowadays anything went in regard to parenting: throw two men together, two women, give them a kid. Nothing was the same as it used to be. Not that I was homophobic or anything, but it was unfair that the gays were being given babies and I was not.
When their car pulled into a driveway, I parked across the street, under a tree heavy with fat, pink cherry blossoms. It was the time of year when the world was bright with life, all the new things peeking through after a hard winter. Except me. I’d watched the blossoms coming, knowing I was void of life, but that wasn’t really my fault. Humans were leeches, deserters. I felt lonely and isolated because there was no one like me. People said, find your tribe. But, who was my tribe, and where were they? The small town girls I’d grown up with? No. The women in the office where I’d held my first job? Hell no. I’d accepted at a very young age that I’d be alone. I played with friends who only I could see, and as an adult most of my relationships were through the internet. I watched as the mother unbuckled the sleeping girl from her car seat and lifted her to her hip. I felt a pang of jealousy, but then the child’s head lolled off her shoulder, and I wanted to rush over and … and what? Fix it? Take the child? I tsked behind the wheel at the oversight. Bad Mommy. Some people shouldn’t have children.