The Double Life

By: Nia Wilson

Like most six year olds, James was full of wild energy. His books had lost their covers within a few weeks, and little stains that looked suspiciously like chocolate appeared on several of the pages. He was a delight and I was glad I didn’t have a student after him.

I closed the door when he was safely in his father’s car and turned to see Johann eyeing me.

“Don’t you have a toy to play with?”

He meowed at me, looking wistfully at his bowl.

“You’ve had enough today, my friend. I’ll give you a little snack before bed, but you’ll have to wait until then.”

I walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. It was mostly bare, with a gallon each of orange juice and milk that were nearly gone and a few boxes of mystery leftovers from a few nights before.

The freezer wasn’t much better and I realized I was going to have to go out to get dinner.

“When are you going to start pulling your weight and doing some grocery shopping around here, Johann?”

Johann ignored me, melting into a pitiful puddle of orange cat beside his empty bowl. The container that held his food was full. I might not be the best house wife, but I was a damn good cat mom. Good thing too, because I didn’t have a husband, but I most definitely had the world’s neediest cat.

I took my purse off its hook and grabbed by car keys. A stack of un-cashed checks were in my check book, waiting to be deposited. At least the trip wouldn’t be a waste of gas.

I shoved the swollen check book into my purse and opened the door from the kitchen to the garage. I hit the button on the wall and opened the car door while the garage opener pulled the heavy door up to let me out.

My grandmother had left me the house and her car. It was a gas-guzzler, but I didn’t have the heart to sell it. Nina Gregory had worked her entire life to be able to afford nice things, and the maroon Jaguar convertible was her baby. She’d taken pride in caring for the vehicle, and it showed. The leather seats, though four years older than Joy herself, looked brand new. The car was shiny and clean and didn’t look close to thirty-one years old.

I would have loved to have something a little more practical, or at the very least a little green. But the Jag was the only thing I had left of my grandmother besides the house. The sentimental value meant more to me than practicality.

The engine roared to life and I looked behind me before backing out of the driveway. I doubted the little boy from next door would mistake my house for his again, but even with the ever-popular white picket fence surrounding my property, I couldn’t be too cautious.

I backed onto the street, grateful that the moving van had been moved to the opposite side of the street for the night. I put it into drive and snuck a glance at the house next door.

The new occupants hadn’t had time to hang curtains yet, so I had a clear view of the little boy sitting at the dining room table with the man that was surely his father. I didn’t see anyone else in the house, though that didn’t really mean anything.

I drove down the street and headed into town. I swung through the drive thru ATM at the bank, carefully feeding the stack of checks into the deposit slot on the machine before collecting my receipt and headed for Yung Lew’s. Chinese take-out was calling my name, and Lew made the best egg foo yung I’d ever had.

I parked the Jag in the front space reserved for take-out orders and walked inside. The restaurant was loud, but not overwhelming. A large group of people sat at the first table, their laughter good natured as one friend finished sharing a joke.

I noticed the man beside him before he noticed me and I turned away quickly. I wouldn’t call myself a recluse, per se. But I also wasn’t interested in dealing with my ex-boyfriend when I was so exhausted. Luckily, he hadn’t seen me before I turned. At least I hoped not.

I moved into the shadow by the register a pulled out my card to pay. Lew already had my order rung up and my food in the box. I arched my eyebrow at him.

“Am I that predictable?”

“Every Saturday night at 7.”

He was right. I don’t think I’d missed a Saturday yet. I handed him my card and he swiped it and handed it back to me. I pulled the receipt out of the printer before he could grab it.

“No tip, you’re my favorite customer.”

“Forget it, Lew. You know me better than that.”

I wrote down the tip and signed the paper. I handed it to him and grabbed the small cardboard box with my tiny, white take-out boxes arranged inside.

I pushed the door open with my elbow and walked to my car, balancing the box on one hip while I fished in my pocket for the keys.

“Let me help you with that.”

I froze. Too late, I realized I should have kept walking; pretended I didn’t hear him.

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