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Bedtime for Bonsai
Penelope Porter pulled her car up in front of her ex-husband's house.
Her friends were going to kill her. Her family might disown her. Her father, in particular, would call her the worst kind of fool. But they would all, she knew, come around in the end.
Once she and Glenn had gotten back together.
Her heart pounded and her palms were damp as she ran them back and forth over the top of the steering wheel, looking toward the glowing windows of the house.
Only one window on the first floor shone with light, and none on the second floor.
Penelope grabbed her purse off the seat beside her and rummaged inside until she found her brush. Running it through her hair, she practiced: Glenn, I was driving by, saw the lights on and thought I'd stop by. I haven't been in the house for so long...I wanted to see if you kept the yellow kitchen.
With that she would smile her gentlest smile, recalling with him how they'd argued about the color. He'd wanted red...claiming that restaurants were always red...but all her life she'd had a yellow kitchen. She even had one now. She'd finally managed to win that long-ago battle by saying yellow put her in an amorous mood more than any other color in the spectrum. He hadn't believed her, but he had laughed as he'd conceded and told her she'd be called upon to prove it once the painting was complete.
She had. That part of their life together had been good, at least in the beginning.
Penelope plopped the brush back into her purse and looked resolutely at the house. First she'd have to make sure he didn't have any company. Then she could implement herplan.
She got out of the car, closing the door with a push instead of a slam...just in case...and walked across the lawn. The air was warm, fallen leaves still few and far between this early in October.
The curtains on the front window were drawn, but there was a gap that she'd be able to see through if she could get in close. It would require pushing past the bushes, but that was okay. She had dressed carefully, wearing jeans and a light sweater with her brand-new boots. She could wrestle with a bush or two without coming out the worse for wear.
She hefted her purse up higher on her shoulder with one hand while holding branches back with the other. The bushes only came to about her waist, but a few ragged stems protruded and what was low was thick. Glad of the darkness, for fear of neighbors thinking she was an intruder, she peered through the window into the lit room where Glenn sat...alone...in a recliner, a remote control resting in one hand on his thigh.
She sighed and watched him a moment. Was he lonely? His curly hair was mussed, but he still wore his suit pants and button-down shirt from work, though the tie was gone and the collar open at the neck. Underneath she could see his white tee-shirt. He hated wearing shirts without a tee-shirt underneath because he loathed the way some men got sweat stains in their armpits.
Or was it she who had hated that? In any case, he still wore the undershirt.
She smiled to herself, turned to push back out of the bushes and dropped her keys. She heard them hit the ground with a soft clink and backed up a step. The stacked heel of her brand-new boots hit something solid and her car horn blasted to life, jarring as a marching band in a library.
She jumped and spun on her heel, looking down into the brush at her feet. She'd obviously stepped on the panic button and there was no stopping the damn thing until she could find her key fob and hit it again.
As the horn honked over and over and over, head and taillights flashing in time with the noise, Penelope struggled not to panic.
"Noooo," she wailed, her voice...now needlessly...quiet. "No no no no no."
She squatted in the bushes, hands scrabbling in the mulch. Nothing. She rose up and stomped around with her boots again, reasoning if she'd turned it on that way the reverse could work too. But they were nowhere.
What if she'd buried them when she'd stepped on them? She bent down again, digging under the branches, dirt shoving up her fingernails and azalea branches catching at her hair. She'd planted these damn bushes, she thought. Why had he let them get so big?
A minute later, the worst happened. From her position near the ground she saw light spill across the front porch.
Glenn had opened the door.
Staying low, her fingers crawling through the mulch like spiders, she kept her eyes trained on his feet. He'd never see her here.
But then, he would see her car. Her silver Mercedes Benz C-Class sport sedan...not altogether common...flashing like a UFO directly in front of the house.
Still, he might think it belonged to somebody else, especially if she could find her keys and get the damn thing turned off. Her fingers continued to sift through the dirt around her feet.
Glenn's legs stepped out onto the porch. She could tell from the way his feet moved that he was looking up and down the street. He thought it was her car, she just knew it.
Did she come out now and confess? Or did she wait and hope he went back inside? Who came outside to investigate a car alarm, anyway? They went off all the time. A nuisance, mostly.
On the other hand, this was a quiet neighborhood, and the neighbors might come out soon too.
But how could she reveal herself? What reason could she possibly have for being in the bushes, other than that she'd been looking at him through the window?Bedtime for Bonsai
. Copyright © by Elaine Fox. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.