[This story is a continuation from a story previously posted here.]
The shrill ring of the doorbell has stopped my heart. Or at least, that’s what I’m thinking as I have to remind myself to breathe. My feet feel stuck to the floor and I stand at the kitchen sink unable to move, my pink washing gloves dripping onto my apron at my sides. I realize that she can probably hear the water running and I quickly shut it off. Then I realize that she probably heard the water stop. I can hear the blood in my ears like the Doppler effect, sound going in one ear and out the other.
“Hello!” says the strange woman beyond the door in a friendly yell. I try to disappear into the sink so that she can’t see me but I know that I’m being ridiculous.
“Avon calling!” I hear her cackle a little to herself and mutter something inaudible under her breath. The heel of her boots are taping on my porch and then I hear her sigh and begin to turn around to go.
“Wait,” I say too softly for her to hear and it comes out like a croak. “Wait!” I say more loudly and I hear her boots hesitate near the top step.
I wipe my gloves on my side, half missing my apron and dampening my chiffon blouse. I toss them on the tiles in a careless way that Jim would definitely disapprove. I reach the front door in a few leaden steps and fumble with the locks, my hands shaking. I open the door too quickly, the harvest wreath bouncing against the brass knocker.
“Can I… Can I help you?”
“Well, yes ma’am. Yes ma’am, you can.” Her smile is wide and her teeth brilliant and numerous.
“Won’t you come in,” I say, my Southern politeness taking over in autopilot mode. I notice that my hands aren’t shaking, but clutched together as I feel for my wedding ring. As I turn it around my finger, watching this woman pass over the threshold and enter looking around curiously, I feel as if the entire center of my being is turning at the same time. I have to remember to breathe again and straighten my shoulders.
“Won’t you take a seat? Can I get you some coffee, tea?”
The woman in red looks around the living room, appraising.
“That would be just fine, hon. That will be just fine.”
She sits in the armchair, meaning that I will have to perch on the couch, as I often do. I gather all of the supplies in the kitchen while she continues to appraise and watching me with a slow smile.
“How long have you lived here?”
“Oh. We, uh, we’ve been here for a little under a year.”
“I see.” After a long pause, smiling and making eye contact for what seems like forever, making the Doppler effect start to heat up, she says, “So, tell me about yourself.” I can tell now that she’s closer and I can concentrate a little more that her left canine is yellowed. It gives her a rakish air, like a charming rodeo announcer, brash but open and friendly.
To be continued…