Despite being told in the first person, this is entirely a work of fiction. I'd gotten a promotion to a position in another city. A real estate friend of mine found a nice house in the suburbs of the new city. The old house was in a prime location, close to schools, stores, and jobs, so it sold fairly quickly.
My wife, Cindy, and I packed up the house and her two kids into to U-Hauls and made the move. Cindy was my high school sweetheart, but we drifted apart when we both went to different colleges after graduation.
I met someone else, got married, moved to another state. She ended up with my best friend, got married, had a couple of kids. Both of our marriages crashed and burned, and we ran into each other at our 10 year reunion. Drinks that night led to dinner the next, then her spending the night in my motel room. Six months of calling and writing each other after I went home, then I proposed.
Her and her kids moved to be with me, and Cindy and I had a quick wedding in Vegas. That was two years ago. Now, our marriage was rocky already. The dreams and anticipation of being married to each other didn't match up with reality.
The main problem was her kids. I understood from the start that I was going to be a step-father and accepted the role. It was a hell of an adjustment to go from being by myself and carefree to having kids, but I managed. However, it sucked the romance right out of our marriage. It's every mother's right to dote on her children, but she took it to extremes.
Nothing happened without it involving the kids. If we went out, she refused to leave the kids with a babysitter and insisted that they come along with us. Even when we got married, she brought the kids with us to Vegas even though her parents offered to watch them while we were gone. It's hard to have a honeymoon with two kids in the other bed in the hotel room. It didn't help that her oldest, Adam was a spoiled little seven year old shit.
Glenn, my best friend from high school and Cindy's ex-husband, doted on him and spoiled him rotten. When he misbehaved, I wasn't allowed to punish him because Cindy thought it would be "mean" and was afraid that Adam would want to go live with Glenn if I did. Luckily Melinda, her daughter, was a sweet little thing. She had only been 4 when Cindy and Glenn divorced, so Glenn didn't have much chance to spoil her. Her and I got along well.
That was the situation when we rolled up the driveway to the new house. I'd known my real estate agent for years and trusted her judgment, so we'd only seen pictures of the house. She did well, and the house was just about perfect. We all explored it and Adam tried to claim the master bedroom as his, throwing a temper tantrum when I laughed and told him "no". We'd arrived in late afternoon, so we quickly unpacked the essentials: Dinner was fast food, and Cindy found a store nearby for essentials like milk and bread.
The next morning, we unloaded in earnest. Adam kept wandering off and I glared at Cindy to get him under control. He was bored with unpacking and made it plain that he didn't think he was supposed to pitch in. It contained a lot of Cindy's and my personal mementos. Quite a bit of it was glass. He glanced around to make sure that Cindy wasn't around, stuck his tongue out at me, then deliberately dropped the box off the U-Haul and onto the ground.
The crunching sound of glass was sickening, and my heart dropped to my stomach. I beat that boy's ass. He was screaming and crying when Cindy walked out of the house. That set up a huge argument between us.
She refused to believe that he'd done it on purpose, and I refused to apologize to the little fuck when she demanded I do so. Cindy took Adam into the house, and I continued unpacking. Some of it was stuff we didn't need any time soon, so I loaded a bunch of boxes on a dolly and carted it around to a large wooden shed that was in the huge back yard.
I didn't want to go into the house any time soon. Seeing Cindy comfort the little monster was more than I could stomach. I was backing out of the shed when I heard a voice behind me. I turned around and saw that there was a gate in the privacy fence between the back yards.
A heavyset Hispanic woman stood in the open gate. If I had to guess her age, I'd say it was mid's. My husband and I live next door. We talked for a few minutes, and she told me about the previous owner.
Heller was such a nice young man. He and his wife were killed in a car accident a year or so ago. He and I used to have such long talks out here by the shed.
Every time I started to leave, she'd start a new branch of the conversation. I found out that they'd lived there since the subdivision had opened, they had no kids, and that her husband was a grumpy old man that didn't like people.
She deftly pried our story out of me and at some point in the conversation, I brought up my issues with Cindy. She commiserated with me, her hand patting my shoulder and stroking my arm. I thought "Now why did I tell her that? Cindy was sullen and refused to talk to me. Dinner was a horrid affair, and when we went to bed she rolled herself up in the sheets, turned on her side away from me, and ignored me when I reached out and touched her.
We finished unpacking the next day, and got the house in order. I didn't go into the back yard at all, so I didn't see Veronica.
The third day, Cindy left with the kids to register them in school. I was puttering around the house, putting up pictures and other decorations. I remembered that I had put the box that Adam had dropped in the shed, and decided to finally open it and see what the damages were. I was so heart-broken over the possibility of losing all those prized items and didn't want to look inside before. As I came out of the shed, carrying the box, Veronica was standing in the gate again.
I knew it was going to be a long conversation. I told her that everyone was fine, and that Cindy and the kids were out getting registered for school and buying school supplies. Her eyes seemed to brighten at that.
I'd like to see what you've done with the place. Heller was a wonderful decorator and I'm curious how you did things differently than her. I showed her around the kitchen, living room, and Melinda's bedroom. Adam's room was trashed, as usual, so I skipped it. She ooh'd and ahh'd at the house, which was a bit strange since there was nothing spectacular about what we'd done. Every time she pointed out something she liked, she would reach over and stroke my arm.
We stood in the hallway outside of Melinda's room. I was ready to end the tour and check the damages in the box, but she had other ideas. Heller had painted the trim so beautifully. I'd love to do the same thing in my house but I never really got a good look at it," she said.
I knew what she meant There was also a floral pattern painted across the top edge that looked like it took quite a bit of time and effort. I nodded and led her into the bedroom. Veronica looked around, examining the paint scheme closely. She made a full circuit of the bedroom, and ended back up at the door. Closing it, she remarked that Mrs. Heller never got around to painting the inside of the door. She turned towards the bed and sighed deeply. He was such a nice man, and it's sad that he's gone.
He was such a Was she suggesting that the previous owner and her had a thing going? Suddenly, I realized I was alone in the house with a woman that I really didn't know that well.