She knew where Todd had gotten the idea to drink from the container. Leave it to Jeremy to undermine her and justify his nasty habits.
Todd screwed the cap back on the milk and stuck it back in the fridge, in the wrong place.
Jamie came to stand next to her dad, a smudge of dirt on her cheek.
I can’t believe this, Peggy thought, just look at her face. She knows it’s dirty. She’s flaunting it in front of me because she knows her dad is here to protect her.
She put the phone back to her ear.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
“Perhaps you should—correct—the problem, Margaret,” suggested the neighbor. “Perhaps you’ve been too lenient with your family. When you’re done, you can go and feed the roses.”
“You’re right of course,” she answered pleasantly. Jeremy was watching her, still waiting for an answer about his dinner. She smiled at him, more a slight baring of her teeth than an expression of affection.
“Thank you for calling. I really needed to hear your voice,” she said warmly, her eyes pinned to her husband.
“My pleasure, my dear.” She hung up. Peggy gently put the phone back on the hook and turned to her family.
“Why don’t you go in the living room and watch TV, kids, and I’ll start dinner.
The kids went to the living room. She could hear the noise of cartoons blaring. Her headache’s pounding twisted up a painful notch.
Jeremy went back to the bar for a refill of scotch, leaving a condensation ring on her counter.
She stared at it. The pounding came harder. Her eyes were throbbing in time with the pounding.
She turned to the freezer, grabbed a package of frozen salmon he had caught that summer (leaving the tiny remainders of the entrails in her sink, she remembered). There were several salmon in the package. She weighed it in her hand and glared at the back of his head as he poured his scotch, leaving another condensation ring on her clean bar.
Yes. Salmon would do nicely for the whole family.
That evening, the neighbors didn’t wonder at the sound of the chipper in Peg’s beautiful yard, although they did shake their heads a little at the sound. She often worked in the yard after dinner. One or two wondered if she would ever lighten up and enjoy life a little, rather than working in her house all the time.
Later that evening, after the neighbors had gone to bed, the worms feasted.
Peg’s house was finally clean.
One Year Later
Jenny stood alone in the back yard, gazing at the wilting roses and listening to the drone of the real estate agent’s voice drifting through the window as she tried to gloss over the unfortunate incident which had happened here months ago. This was a state that enforced the full disclosure laws, and the woman, by golly, was going to spin it into a sale if she could.
“Well, she was unstable, Mr. Quint,” she explained to Jenny’s husband.
“Those roses used to be lovely,” a voice commented, cutting through the other woman’s grating patter. Jenny thought the voice was coming from behind the fence to her right. She glanced over, trying to see between the slats, but couldn’t catch a glimpse of whomever was talking to her.
“I’m sure they haven’t been fed in at least a year, since the house was last occupied,” the neighbor (she was sure it was a neighbor) continued.
Jenny shook her head sadly. “What a shame. They could be so beautiful!”
“Well, dear, they will when you move in and feed them what they need to grow and be beautiful again.”
And just like that, Jennifer decided she would convince David to buy the house.