I really like summer. It’s a cliché to say that I like the smell of freshly cut grass, but I honestly do. It’s one of my greatest pleasures when I do my morning jog across our neighborhood. Nothing for miles in each direction except for upper-middle-class houses with perfectly trimmed yards, hedges or picket white fences.
A really stubborn piece of Americana that seemed to resist the passage of time, which sweeps through and changes everything else, except for that specific turf lost somewhere in central Michigan. Maybe the architecture had changed a little over time, but the spirit of the suburb seems to be the same as it was in the 1970s. Perhaps much earlier.
My watch beeps and I stop, take a deep breath and spin on my heels to begin to move my way back home. It’s incredible the amount of free time I have now that both my kids are in college, and even more so in the past three days, as my husband went on his work trip. I jogged daily before all that, but ever since, I’ve been increasingly going further and faster.
Who knows? Maybe I can be one of those moms that finishes a marathon. Or maybe that is aiming too far for now, but surely it would be nice to do a half marathon. When I first started, I had this group of female friends who’d join me, but most of them are big flakes and skipped most days. They also prefer to jog at the end of the afternoon, and I’m definitely a morning person.
And so, for the last couple of months, here I am, running on my own just as most people are having breakfast and getting ready for work. And there are people on my usual route I always see, waving to them as they go out in their robes to pick up the newspaper. Who even reads the newspaper still, though?
As I’m making my way back home, another jogger overtakes me. She’s going much faster, and judging by her tiny ass and twiggy legs stuck in Lululemon exercise pants, I can tell that she’s in her early twenties. iPhone strapped to her arm and those earbuds in her ears.
She continues to gain distance, moving faster than me, but I don’t feel bad about going at my own pace. Doing this in your twenties is easy; call me when you’re looking down the barrel of fifty, sweetheart, and then we’ll talk.
I get home, a little red and covered in a sheen of sweat, and puff and pant for a second in my driveway. And that’s when I notice that the ‘for sale’ sign on my neighbor’s lawn has now been marked as ‘sold’.
It’s going to be a little odd not having the Hendersons as my neighbors anymore after ten years, but they really wanted to retire to less damp weather, and I couldn’t blame them. Last I remember talking to them, I think they were talking about New Mexico. Good for them, and good for them that the house was sold.
After catching my breath, I head back inside to make myself some kale juice and run a shower.
‘It’s not like I’m a health nut,’ I tell myself as I press the button to turn on my blender and process all those vegetables into an abhorrent-tasting drinking goo. A lot of this exercise and healthy diet thing started as a way to fill my time, which I simply have too much of.
Back when Michael and Sarah were in the house, I lived for them, but ever since Sarah, the youngest, went off to college, it became just me and Dave. And while I love Dave, dearly, he’s not always great company.
He was my first serious boyfriend, the first guy I kissed, and the first guy I had sex with. To this day, he remains my only one for all those things too. Back when we met, in high school, I was completely charmed by his quiet and reserved personality, as it made him appear so mysterious, and he was always a confident man, even though he wasn’t a popular one.
Like he couldn’t give a crap about what everyone else thought. That, his long black hair and the fact he was in a band, was enough to make me fall head over heels. And he probably liked the fact I had a big rack, a pretty face and luscious red hair.
But after years of marriage, and with the kids out of the house especially, I started to find that his quiet and reserved way also meant he was regularly a loner. He doesn’t talk or spend as much time together as I would like, and even when he’s at home, it’s up to me to find something to entertain myself with.
If he’s not working, then he probably just wants to relax, watch TV in silence and go to bed. And so, I got into reading, but that did not fill enough of my time, and I tried a couple more hobbies before finding out that exercising and getting those sweet endorphin releases at the end of a good satisfying jog was the best thing to help me cope with being an empty nester that didn’t involve antidepressants or blowing my brains in the garage.
After drinking my kale juice, I hop in the shower, and begin washing off the sweat from the run and feeling that subtle but powerful post-run high kick in as the cold-water rushes through my body and helps it cool down.
I feel my nipples tingle slightly as they stiffen from the cold, and briefly play with them with my fingers. I look towards the shower nozzle and contemplate having a little bit of me time in the shower before stepping out. But just as I made up my mind and reached for it, I heard voices. Surprisingly loud.
It startles me for a moment before I realize the narrow tall window in my bathroom was open, and it faced the Henderson’s yard. Well, the former Henderson’s yard. The voice, which I don’t recognize, comes from there. Deep, masculine and young, always a little louder than they had to be.
My concentration is gone and so is my mood, so I pass on the shower nozzle fun and step out, to wrap myself in a towel. Even within my bedroom, I continue to hear the loud talk and obnoxious laughter from the group of youths and I wonder if they are movers helping a family settle in. If so, they should probably shut up and get their work done. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but it does.
I dry myself and take a minute to look at myself, entirely bare, in the full-body mirror in the room. My breasts had sagged a little with age from what they used to be, but they were still in place enough for me to think they looked good, especially considering their size.
I have a curvy waist and thick hips and thighs, but there’s a hint of tone beneath it all. Like my arms and my stomach, where there’s some softness and fullness there, all that exercise I do shows. I smile, a little proud of looking this good, as I dry my wavy, copper-coloured red hair, and then pick up a pair of simple black panties and a white floral summer dress as my outfit for the day.
Another look in the mirror and I feel a little concerned that my summer dress might have too much cleavage, as I can see the lightly freckled top of my breasts through it. I pull on the straps of the dress, which tie behind my head and tighten them, but it only serves to pull my breasts up and press them against my chest, making them appear even bigger and rounder.
But the dress is rather long and I decide that it’s nothing too indecent to show a little inner boob. If anything, it is in fashion. Probably. I don’t really keep up.
As I head downstairs, once again the loud chatter coming from the house next door breaks my train of thought. I can’t remember what I was going to do next, but I decide to finally check out what was happening at the Henderson’s former place.
Through the bay window in our living room, I can see the back of a moving truck parked in front, but the voices come from the backyard. So, I walk to the back of the house, deciding that I can probably find an excuse to strike up a conversation with a neighbor as I check on my small patch of a vegetable garden.
My khaki gardening apron covers the lower half of my cleavage too, and I put it on, alongside a wide-brim hat and my gardening gloves to go outside and see if there are any weeds that need to be removed.
Even before I get to the vegetable garden I spot a small dandelion, thinking itself so clever that it could grow on my back lawn and spread before I caught it. I kneel down, using my trowel to cut the dirt around it and unroot it, all the while the voices break into obnoxious loud laughter again.
I heard the words ‘dude’ and ‘bro’ a lot in the span of a couple of minutes, and by the time I plucked out the invading flower, I spotted something like a pole going up higher than our shared hedge fence.
Well, there it is. My excuse to check out my new neighbors.
I approach the fence and peek up, and I almost fall back in surprise. Four young men, all seeming just a little older than my eldest son, Michael, are shirtless, hanging around an open cooler, drinking beer even though it was morning, and putting up what I recognize now as being the pole for a basketball hoop. They are too focused on their chat and don’t seem to notice me, so I clear my throat and say:
“Excuse me,” to little avail, forcing myself to repeat it a bit louder. “Excuse me.”
That catches their attention and the conversation dies out near immediately. One of the boys, the tallest one, with big tattoo sleeves covering his tanned arms and legs, and the most chiseled chest, approaches. He has a stubble beard and hair that was both short and shaggy.
He walks towards the hedge, which, when I stand on the wall around my vegetable garden, hits me at chest height. He’s also about chest height with it, though without standing on anything.
“Oh, hey there, ma’am. Sorry if my friends are being a bit too loud,” he says, politely, but also passes the blame onto his friends when I’m pretty sure he was being just as loud.
“Are you my new neighbor, by any chance?”
“Oh, yeah,” he says, “Me and Jeff. The other two are just helping us set up. We have another friend coming though, later.”
I tried not to frown. Was this going to be a frat house or something? Well, that was none of my business, though I couldn’t help but find my eyes peering down that boy’s chest.
I’m not into the gym-rat type, so I’m surprised when I feel a certain tingle between my legs. I blame it entirely on my interrupted shower fun. And the fact that Dave and I haven’t done anything sexual in a while.
“I’m Laura. Your neighbor then, it seems.”
“Cool. I’m Kayden.”
‘Of course you are’, I thought to myself, finding it to be a fitting match for what I could glimpse of his personality and physique.
“Well, nice to meet you, Kayden,” I try my best to be polite. “Is that going to be a permanent fixture?” I indicate the basketball hoop with my head.
“What?” The boy doesn’t strike me as very bright at first before he follows my eyes and smiles. “Oh, yeah, I think so. We are still deciding. Is that not allowed?”
I didn’t want to be the bitch neighbor nagging on about the Homeowners Association guidelines, so instead of just letting him know outright, I offered a smile and a bob of the head as if saying ‘I’m not sure’.
“You might want to look into that, some people in the neighborhood can be quite strict about the rules.” It is best that I omit that ‘some people’ could occasionally include me.
“Right on. I’ll check on that,” he assures me and I didn’t feel much confidence that he would.
“Good,” I decide, “Well, was nice meeting you, Kayden.”
“You too, Laura.”
I realize then that I should’ve introduced myself by my surname. It feels weird to have such a young man calling me by my first. But that ship had sailed unless I wanted to be a total bitch, which I don’t.
I give him a parting smile and walk away from the shared hedge. I can hear one of those boys, who thinks he is speaking quietly, though his voice carries over my yard.
“Wow, dude. She’s a totally hot mom.”
‘Well, thank you, nameless young man!’ I think to myself with a small blush, and then sigh. I’m not looking forward to being neighbors with that crowd, but I reckon that at least this Kayden boy seemed like he could listen. So who knows, maybe he will end up surprising me.