Write a short fiction, 750 words or less; it must begin with the first line of your favorite song.
“They heard me singing and they told me to stop.”
“Yes! It was crazy! I was walking to the mailboxes and Mr. Thompson followed me. He started in right away saying that they heard me singing in the kitchen this morning and it was bothering them. Then he said his wife didn’t like it and wanted me to stop!”
“What did you say?”
“I told him I was surprised they could hear me and he said ‘Ms. Carpenter, in the suburbs everyone can hear everything.’”
“Tell me about it.”
Samantha turned to walk away as her husband went back to working at his desk. Since they had moved to the quieted suburbs outside of Los Angeles, Chris had to work for a few hours every evening to make up for the time he spent in commute. She didn’t mind the working at night so much as she did the fact that he had to get up every morning at 5:00 to be in the office in time for the East Coast markets to open. As Samantha returned to the kitchen, she wondered again just why they had chosen the suburban doldrums in the first place, rather than moving to a nice neighborhood in L.A.; but she was quickly reminded of why they moved in the first place. She returned to preparing their dinner, and let the chopping of the onions and smashing of the garlic blur her thoughts until they were gone.
“So what did you do today?” Chris asked, as they ate dinner, sprawled out on the couch. Since they had moved, their dining room table became a receptacle for stacking things they didn’t know what to do with. Old cards, a doll, unwanted mail – it didn’t matter, anyway: there were no more exotic meals or dinner parties. Chris spent so much time at work now, and Samantha quickly learned that people kept to themselves around town, so without realizing it, they soon were eating on the couch every night. This is what people in the suburbs did.
“You know, the usual: ran errands, read my book– “ Samantha paused as something outside caught her eye. “Oh my God, look, Chris! You can see the city lights all the way out here!”
“Yeah, it was a pretty clear day today, so I’m not surprised,” he replied. He knew how much his wife missed their old life. In New York she was a successful stockbroker, working for the same firm that he did. She loved the nightlife and the noise; the honking of horns and the hot dog stands at every corner. The city pulsated through her veins, which was why she seemed an entirely different person. Now, Samantha avoided the city: New York, Los Angeles – it didn’t matter what it was, if it was a city she wanted to stay away from it.
Tonight, though, as she looked out the window at the lights in the sky, Chris thought he saw a glimmer of the old Samantha. “You know, Martin has season passes to the Lakers. I can get a couple tickets from him and we can go to a game one night if you’d like. Maybe we could grab dinner downtown before the game, too.”
Samantha’s face dropped and she turned away from the window. “No,” she replied. “It’s too soon.”
They ate the rest of their dinner in silence, then prepared themselves for bed. Samantha drew the shades; Chris leaned out the front door and set their car alarms – all things unnecessary in their new, safe town; and yet, habits neither of them could seem to forget.
On the way to their bedroom, the couple stopped at the alcove positioned at the top of the stairway. Placed delicately below the skylight was a pedestal on which lay a piece of concrete, a red scarf, and a potted begonia bush.
“Good night, sweetheart,” Samantha said, “we miss you.”
Chris stood in silence; he refused to talk to their dead daughter anymore. Moving out of New York, he understood. Moving across the country, he grew to accept. But talking to a shrine composed of materials from the place their daughter was shot just six months prior, he just could not bring himself to do.
They continued on to their bedroom and Samantha began to hum. It was 9:00, the neighborhood was dark and quiet; Samantha remembered the conversation with Mr. Thompson that morning and silenced her tune.