Danielle looked up from the bag of garbage she was dumping into one of the trash cans by her garage. She found a round, pink face, covered by a wide-brimmed hat and two hands bearing gardening gloves, one of which was holding a trowel. The hand with the trowel waived at her. “Hi there,” Danielle said. “Harriet, isn’t it?”
“Yes. And you?”
“I’m Danielle. Pleased to meet you.” Danielle finished putting away her trash and went over to the fence that separated her from her new neighbor.
Harriet dropped the trowel, removed her gloves, and extended one bare hand for a shake. “And where are you from, Danielle?”
“Dallas. Just moved in.”
Danielle blinked, not sure how to respond to that. After a moment she said, “What about you? Husband? Wife maybe? Kids?”
Harriet snorted when Danielle said “wife.”
“I’m very old fashioned. Husband and two-and-a-half kids and all that.”
“That’s great. Does your two-and-a-half kids mean two or three? Or do you literally have half a child running around somewhere?”
Harriet’s already-broad grin widened. “I’m pregnant with number three,” Harriet said in a stage whisper, hand raised to shield her mouth from an imaginary audience.
“Congratulations! That’s wonderful.”
“Why are we whispering?”
“I haven’t told anyone yet. I just got back from the doctor’s this morning and I am just so excited I can hardly contain myself.”
“I bet. Do you know yet if it’s a boy or a girl?”
Harriet shook her head. “And we weren’t planning on having a third, so we don’t have any names picked out or anything.” She looked at Danielle out of the side of her eye. “But Danielle sure is a pretty name.”
“It is, isn’t it? I can’t say I’ve had any complaints about it. So when are you going to break the news to your husband?”
“Over dinner tonight. If I can wait that long. That way I can talk about it with him and the kids together. They’re still so young, they probably won’t even know what we’re talking about. But Caleb is already such a good big brother to his sister that I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to have another sibling to look after.”
“I’m sure he will. Well, let me know if you need anything: a babysitter, food, someone to run errands for you. Anything at all.”
“That is just so sweet of you. Thank you. I’m very lucky to have a wonderful support group with the other mothers in the area, but I’ll be sure to let you know if I need an extra pair of hands or an emergency babysitter. Listen to me, babbling on about myself. What about you, dear? What brings you all the way up here from Dallas?”
“I just needed a change. You know, get away. Start fresh.”
“And what do you do for a living?”
“I haven’t exactly figured that out yet. I used to work in communications back in Texas, but it’s been a few years. I haven’t decided yet if I want to get back into that or try something new.”
“As long as you’ve moved all the way up here, you should try something new, don’t you think? Really start fresh.”
Danielle nodded in the polite way one nods when a stranger tells one what to do with one’s life. “Yeah, well, I’m just looking around right now and keeping an ear to the ground for anything that sounds interesting.”
“Good for you. You know, there is just nothing sadder than a woman who lives alone and never gets out of the house.” Her eyes darted off to the left side of her head for a second, and even though they couldn’t see her house from their back yards, it was clear she meant Kiera.
A little snort escaped from Danielle before she could stop herself. “Yeah, nothing worse than ending up as a crazy cat lady, right?” She was being sarcastic, but it was lost on Harriet.
“So you’ve already met her?”
“No, but Gloria filled me in on some of the neighbors and the goings-on around here. She said Kiera mostly keeps to herself?” She raised her voice at the end to make it into a question so Harriet would feel free to give her own perspective.
“Yeah, she’s a strange one. I know you were only joking when you asked if I had a wife, but, well…”
“You think Kiera’s a lesbian?” Danielle wasn’t sure why she went back to whispering.
Harriet shrugged and joined Danielle in whispering. “I can’t think why else she’s lived alone so long. And we’ve never seen any men going in or out of that house.”
“Have you seen any women going in or out?”
Harriet tilted her head slightly as she considered the question. “You know, come to think of it, I don’t think I have.” Her eyes lit up. “You don’t think she’s one of those asexuals, do you?”
Danielle held her hands out, palms up, in a helpless gesture. “I don’t know. I haven’t even met the woman.”
“I read an article about them,” Harriet said in a deliciously scandalized tone. “They have no sex drive at all. The … you know … parts are there, but not the desire. For men or women.”
“Really,” Danielle said, unconvinced. “Well, it takes all types.”
“I suppose so,” Harriet said, but she didn’t look convinced. She just kept looking in the direction of Kiera’s property, as though she could see it through the walls of her own house and determine what shady things might be going on in there.
“Well, it was nice meeting you,” Danielle said as she backed away slowly.
The scandalized gossip was quickly replaced by the bright, sunny personality Danielle had first met. “You, too, Danielle. I’m sure we’ll be seeing lots of each other from now on.”
Danielle nodded with a polite smile before retreating into the safety of her new home.
To be continued…
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