Just One Look

Chapter 10


Okay, Charlaine thought, mind your own business.
She drew the curtains and changed back into her jeans and sweater. She put the babydoll back in the bottom of her drawer, taking her time, folding it very carefully for some reason. As if Freddy would notice if it was wrinkled. Right.
She took a bottle of seltzer water and mixed in a little of her son's fruit punch Twister. Charlaine sat on a stool at the marble kitchen block. She stared at the glass. Her finger traced loops in the condensation. She glanced at the Sub-Zero refrigerator, the new 690 model with the stainless steel front. There was nothing on it-no kid pictures, no family photographs, no finger smears, not even magnets. When they had the old yellow Westinghouse, the front had been blanketed with that stuff. There had been vitality and color. The remodeled kitchen, the one she had wanted so much, was sterile, lifeless.
Who was the Asian man driving Freddy's car?
Not that she kept tabs on him, but Freddy had very few visitors. She could, in fact, recall none. That didn't mean he didn't have any, of course. She did not spend her entire day watching his house. Still a neighborhood has a routine of its own. A vibe, if you will. A neighborhood is an entity, a body, and you can feel when something is out of place.
The ice in her drink was melting. Charlaine had not yet taken a sip. There was food shopping to be done. Mike's shirts would be ready at the cleaner. She was having lunch with her friend Myrna at Baumgart's on Franklin Avenue. Clay had karate with Master Kim after school.
She mentally ran through the rest of her to-do list and tried to come up with an order. Mindless stuff. Would there be time before lunch to do the food shopping and get back to the house? Probably not. The frozen goods would melt in the car. That errand would have to wait.
She stopped. To hell with this.
Freddy should be at work now.
That was how it'd always worked. Their perverted little dance lasted from around ten to ten-thirty. By ten-forty-five, Charlaine always heard that garage door open. She'd watch his Honda Accord pull out. Freddy worked, she knew, for H amp;R Block. It was in the same strip mall as the Blockbuster where she rented the DVDs. His desk was near the window. She avoided walking past it, but some days, when she parked, she would look over and see Freddy staring out the window, pencil resting against his lips, lost.
Charlaine found the yellow pages and looked up the number. A man identifying himself as a supervisor said that Mr. Sykes was not in but was expected at any moment. She pretended to be put out. "He told me he'd be in by now. Doesn't he normally get in at eleven?"
The supervisor admitted that he did.
"So where is he? I really need those figures."
The supervisor apologized and assured her that Mr. Sykes would call the moment he arrived at his desk. She hung up.
Now what?
Something still felt very wrong here.
But so what? Who was Freddy Sykes to her anyway? Nothing. In a way, less than nothing. He was a reminder of her failures. He was a symptom of how pathetic she had become. She owed him nothing. More than that, imagine, just imagine, if poking around got her caught. Imagine if somehow the truth came out.
Charlaine looked over at Freddy's place. The truth coming out.
Somehow that no longer bothered her all that much.
She grabbed her coat and headed toward Freddy's house.