My father would be disappointed. He’s always saying, “Leah, honey, you need to be friendly with the people you live around. They’re the ones who are closest to you if something bad ever happens.” Normally, I would agree with him, and with all my other neighbors, I’ve adhered to his advice. I’ve always made a point to be welcoming when someone new moves to my block; I take over cookies, introduce myself, and suggest we exchange numbers just in case there’s ever an emergency. I can admit I’ve been less than welcoming to the guy next door ever since I broke into his house to rescue my cat.
For a week, I’ve been doing everything within my power to avoid another run-in. I check to see if he’s outside before I even open my door to get my mail, and I never go out when I see him working in his yard, which he seems to do a lot. Okay, so I might spy on him from behind my curtains, but there’s not a woman alive who wouldn’t watch him working in his yard wearing a backward baseball cap, his shirt plastered to his big body.
Mouse runs my way and circles my feet when I get into my house. On my way to my bedroom, I pause briefly and scoop him up in my arms, kissing his head even as he hisses and bats his tiny paws at me. He’s been angry at me, mad that he’s cooped up within the confines of the house when there’s so much for him to explore outside. I see him eyeing me and the door every day, like he’s waiting for me to slip up so he can make his escape. I’ve been extra cautious over the past week, because the first chance he gets he’s going to disappear, and with my luck, he’s going to disappear right into my neighbor’s house, through the window that seems to always be left open.
In my bedroom, I strip out of the all-black clothing I wear to the salon that I co-own with my mom and grandmother. A salon that’s been a part of our town for over twenty years. Growing up, I planned on becoming a nurse and ended up getting my practical-nursing license and working in a hospital. But after three years of passing out pills, writing in charts, and witnessing death so regularly that it became normal, I decided nursing just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t really happy, so I quit my job and started working at the salon while I tried to figure out my calling.
I honestly didn’t expect that working alongside my mother and grandmother would be my passion, but it is, and long story short, I went to cosmetology school and became a stylist. After I graduated, I officially joined the family business and have worked at Bleach Bomb Shell’s—named after my grandmother, Shelly—for the last five years.
I love my job, even though there are days when working with my mother pushes me to the edge of insanity. My mom acts like a typical mother: in my business, slightly nagging, and concerned I’ll spend the rest of my life alone with no man to take care of me, because, in her words, I “don’t date enough.”
At thirty-three, I’ve had a few boyfriends but just two semiserious relationships. One in high school, and the most recent, Chris, lasted two years before I threw in the towel and ended it about a year ago. Chris was great when he wasn’t sending me mixed messages by telling me one month that he wanted to be with me and he’d never been happier and the next month not knowing if he wanted something so serious or was ready to commit. I couldn’t understand why a thirty-nine-year-old man had issues committing, especially when it seems normal to be married with children by thirty-five. After the last time he gave me the same runaround about commitment and our long-term prospects, I told him he could have all the time he needed to figure things out, because I was done.
That relationship taught me that chasing a man isn’t the way to catch one. My grandmother always says that if a man is interested in you, he’ll make that clear without any kind of games, and after Chris, I finally listened. Where that man is I don’t know, but I’m hoping he shows up before I’m fifty and I’ve adopted five more cats.
Shaking off those thoughts, I change into a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, then head to the kitchen for something to eat. Just like yesterday when I looked in my pantry and fridge, I have no food. Well, I do have food. I have a ton of cat food, a box of crackers, and a bit of hummus. I hate grocery shopping. Shopping for clothes or house goods I love. Grocery shopping I avoid like the plague. I have no real self-control, and I always end up with a cartful of junk food, then feel guilty when I eat nothing but garbage for a week straight. Maybe it would help if I didn’t go when I’m starving and think that every item in a colorful box looks delicious.