Hi guys! I'm working on a new feature for the NAturals- our first serial. Every Sunday, I'll post a few new pages. Enjoy!
Theresa, as a rule, never spoke to her neighbors. These people saw her in curlers watering the flowers, in heels going out, and in bare feet staggering back in. Occasionally, a full day would pass in between the latter two events. They knew too much already, and therefore didn’t need to know any more.
Her townhouse was an end unit, luckily. This did much to encourage her seclusion. From her vantage point of the front office, Theresa could see most of the complex. If a Girl Scout or Jehovah’s Witness was approaching, there was ample time to turn off the lights and remove herself from the vicinity of the window. A lifelong snoop, she assumed her neighbors spent as much time observing her as she did them.
Theresa loved her job as a virtual assistant. She worked from home and set her own hours. She spent as much of the day as she wanted without pants. Best of all, the work was varied. Occasionally, it was fascinating. Which was why, on a particular Tuesday in spring, she was too absorbed to notice her neighbor two doors down approaching her doorstep.
By the time the doorbell chimed, it was too late to pretend she wasn’t home. The neighbor was waving enthusiastically through the sheers at Theresa. Wonderful, she thought. Just wonderful. An invitation to a Tupperware party? Bible study group? Participate in the neighborhood rummage sale?
Whatever the question, Theresa had a flat “no” prepared.
Which was why, on this particular Tuesday, she was entirely taken aback when the neighbor was not what she expected.
For one thing, the young woman standing on her step had purple hair. She had a copious amount of tattoos. Also, she was the singer in a band Theresa rather enjoyed.
“Hi! I know this is a ridiculous question to be asking someone in real life, but I’m in the middle of baking a welcome cake for my brother, and well… Can I borrow a cup of sugar?”
Theresa blinked twice.
She surprised herself by being entirely polite, if stilted.
“I’ve seen you play before. You’re a good singer.”
“Oh, really? Thanks so much! I swear every time I’m on stage I’m as nervous as the first time. We’re playing the Blue Room in two weeks and I am losing my shit just thinking about it. You should totally come out! I’ll buy you a drink. You are such a lifesaver today.” The singer was a rambler, Theresa thought, but not in an unpleasant way.
They chatted for a few moments as she carefully decanted exactly one cup of sugar into a glass measuring cup.
It was exactly one week to the day later when it occurred to Theresa that her cake-baking neighbor had failed to return the borrowed measuring cup. As she reluctantly found a pair of pants to wear, she considered how correct she had been in her initial assessment of the people she lived near. When her business really took off, she reflected, she would move to the country and only receive visitors that had been invited well in advance.
Satisfied that her choice of black pants and grey button-down reflected a severe attitude towards thievery, Theresa tucked her auburn hair into a bun and headed for the door. She stepped out into the sun and squinted. Theresa was not overly fond of the sun. Or the outdoors. She removed the dog-walking, lawn-mowing, and baby-sitting fliers from her door and dropped them into a flower pot. Her assumption was that one day the moldering pile of papers may deter the neighbors from piling more on. That day was not today.
Two doors down, she rapped three staccato knocks. She squared her shoulders. She was prepared to deliver a brief lecture, kind yet firm, about neighborliness. No one answered. She knocked again. There was still no answer. Perhaps a note, then. She turned to go just as the locks noisily disengaged.
“Yeah?” came a voice, much deeper than the purple-haired girl’s should have been. Theresa steeled herself to deal with some miscreant boyfriend. She spun smartly on her heel and came face to face with six feet of biceps and dimples, capped off with pale green eyes.
“Um,” she replied like the professional she considered herself.
“Can I help you?” the tall chiseled man asked. He raised an eyebrow at her as his grin deepened. Oh, the dimples were on both cheeks and his chin. Oh, there was hair. Artfully tousled light brown hair. Why was she noticing all of this? Not the reason for her visit.
“I came for. Um. I gave. I needed… a cup of sugar.”
That did not come out as planned. What kind of simpering undergrad must she sound like? Theresa Marie O’Donnelly was a grown woman. She was a small business owner, a supporter of fair-trade products, and an accomplished home cook. She did not simper.
“Come in.” The man’s muscular back rippled through his t-shirt as he turned, clearly expecting her to follow.
Theresa took a deep breath, prepared her speech, stepped inside, and simpered.