tagRomanceThe Neighbor Lady

The Neighbor Lady


Dedicated to my friend Eric R.

Todd was the happiest man on the block. Maybe the happiest in the entire development, or for that matter how about the state? That was certainly possible. He looked over at Claire, asleep in the watery moonlight. A full moon hung near the horizon, its lower limb just grazing the top of the slat fence surrounding her back yard. Todd half-expected, half-wished for a tomcat ambling across moon's the white face. That would make things perfect.

Todd was 36 years old, Claire a few years older. He guessed her age at 40ish, though he'd never asked, and she'd never volunteered the information. She was his next-door neighbor, and the fence supporting the moon separated his property from hers. Claire's husband was away on business, Buffalo this time, Claire had explained with a shake of the head. He'd be gone four days.

Todd eyed the engagement ring, wedding band and anniversary ring on the third finger of her left hand, curled limply against her right cheek. He felt alternately jealous, disturbed and guilty about those rings; he was intruding upon a 15 year old, solid marriage. All the years Claire had laid in this bed alongside Carl, well that just made his chest ache. A week ago he'd sat down at the dining room table and calculated the number of times Carl had probably done with Claire what he had done with her tonight. The number had left him staggered, disheartened and depressed. Experiencing some disheartenment now, he reached over and gently brushed the back of his fingers against hers. She stirred and murmured unintelligibly. Then she turned on her side away from him and tucked the covers up to her chin.

It had started so unexpectedly. Todd was an insurance adjuster and one afternoon he'd headed out with four claims to investigate. The first and last claims were both roof damage caused by the series of violent thunderstorms two nights before. The 3rd claim was also weather related, a tree down in the back yard and a damaged garage. To his surprise, he recognized the address. He should, it was right next door: Carl and Claire Langley, the insured. Brand new to the development, Todd had seen his neighbors a few times, but hadn't yet introduced himself. Claire, huh? He liked that name.

Gingerly pinching the bedclothes with his fingertips, Todd exposed her bare shoulder. She stirred and shifted uncomfortably, muttering again. But Todd waited her out, and then slid the bedding down and uncovered her right arm, her waist, and finally the rise of her hip. He let the bedclothes settle and took pleasure in observing her naked upper body. A shame she hadn't turned toward, instead of away from him; she had such beautiful breasts.

At 3:35 P.M., on the afternoon of August 17th, Todd pulled his company car into the driveway at 1335 Clement Drive and turned off the engine. Mrs. Langley was home, evidenced by her powder-blue Audi parked before the garage and the open front door. He performed his usual pre-inspection activity in the car, and then got out, following the driveway to a set of flagstones set between the driveway and front walk, and crossed over. Claire answered the ringing doorbell in a matter of moments.

"Good afternoon, neighbor." He grinned deprecatingly and motioned to his own house next door. "I'm Todd Corliss. I'm your insurance adjuster also, and I'm here to look at your damage?" He raised his eyebrows expectantly, and tried not to show how embarrassed he was. Later, it seemed impossible that he hadn't been knocked out by her grace and charm, if not by her looks. Her smile made his smile falter slightly.

Oh, my God...how did I miss that horrible scar on her right cheek? It was hidden at first by reflections on the storm door glass, and then by the edge of the doorframe as she held it open. It was only when she smiled and extended her hand to shake his, necessitating a step down to join him on the stoop, that her injury began evident. He realized the scar didn't only deface her, but whatever event had inflicted it had also mauled her right ear. Barely half remained, and what did remain was unnerving to look at. As was her slightly drooping left eye.

"Glad to meet you finally, Todd. My husband Carl planned to invite you over for the game tomorrow night. Are you a Steeler's fan?"

Todd couldn't immediately find his tongue. She grinned again, lopsided due to the scar. It was actually two scars, Todd saw, separated by half an inch of shimmering white skin; between the two, they ran from her jaw line to the roots of her hair just above the temple. Todd felt momentarily sick at his stomach. Claire laughed.

"Would you like a glass of water?"

Todd blinked in confusion. "Excuse me?"

"I'm used to people's first reaction to my face." She touched her fingertips lightly to her left cheek, not self-consciously, but almost unconsciously, Todd felt, as though reminding her it was there.

"I'm...no...I'm not..."

"Of course you are," Claire said, laughing again. "Everyone is the first time they see me. I can't believe no one filled you in, warned you about the ogre lady next door." She crossed her eyes and bared her teeth in a comedic grimace, clawing the air with her free hand. Todd almost stepped back, feeling a momentary, thoughtless revulsion. She laughed at his resulting expression.

"It was an auto accident, 15 years ago. We'd just flown back from our honeymoon in the Caymans, and were heading home from the airport. A man cut us off on a curve and Carl lost control in the rain and we slid sideways into the guardrail. It was the guardrail that did this to me, surprisingly. Somehow we hit it just right and the rail peeled up like a banana skin and punched right through my window. Since we were going backwards at the time, you'd think it would get the left side of my face rather than the right side. Not that it really matters, though, right?"

The question, the entire explanation, had a well-worn and practiced quality to it. Todd wondered how many times she had allayed a new acquaintance's discomfort with this easy demeanor and matter of fact storytelling. It had certainly worked on him. His heart had calmed and his blood pressure dropped from the danger zone. His reaction had been the same as seeing pictures of children disfigured by harelips or facial deformities in a magazine. He felt thoroughly ashamed of himself.

"My face and ear weren't the only victims of the railing unfortunately. It decided I'd look better without a right breast, and neatly amputated it in a stroke." She made a downward slicing motion with her right hand that made Todd wince. "When it got to my stomach, it decided I was better off without children and neatly scooped out my uterus like a big spoon and deposited it neatly on my lap. I was not a pretty sight, believe me."

Todd realized her knew Claire Langley, or knew of her, anyway...as everyone did in the tri-state area. Her accident and horrible disfigurement had dominated the news for months, especially the marathon surgeries to reattach her amputated right breast, and to undo the carnage inflicted upon her midsection. He remembered hearing that rescue workers had indeed found her uterus sitting neatly in her lap, as though removed by a surgeon. And although surgeons had saved the breast, and had somehow replaced her uterus, Claire's days of being a prospective mother were over.

"Would you like to come in?" Claire asked.

From right out of nowhere, shocking in the circumstances, a thought came into Todd's mind: What I'd like to do, Claire, is make love to you.

"Yes, thank you very much." He stepped past and into a small foyer laid out mirror image of his. He realized the entire floor plan was a mirror image. Smiling, she led him down the long hallway to the living room, decorated nicely in powder blue overstuffed furniture consisting of sofa, chair and loveseat—the walls were painted a matching baby-blue color, which should have be ugly, but wasn't--and into the brightly illuminated kitchen. For the first time he noted her clothing in detail. She wore a simple white sleeveless top tucked into blue Capri's, a black belt at the waist. On her feet were thin black sandals. Her fingernails and toenails were both a pale shade of pink. Her dark blonde hair brushed the back of her neck and was just the perfect length to frame her oval, nicely featured face. Prior to the accident, she must have been a strikingly attractive woman, he thought. She was still attractive, in profile, and he was quickly becoming accustomed to her post injury features. He loved her slightly bobbed nose and her emerald green eyes. Her lips, at one time, would have invited kisses the way pollen invited busy little bees. He felt like a busy little bee himself. Yet totally, unexpectedly at ease with this woman.

"Can I ask you a question?" He lost track of the question as he caught the hint of something peripherally, and then snapped to the right and focused in. "What...?" He blinked in confusion and stepped past her, closer to the window.

"Well, my goodness," she said. "Look at that."

Todd nodded dumbly. In the back yard were a man and woman. The woman stood with her arms crossed loosely over her chest and her head cocked interestedly; the man wrote busily on a white lined pad of paper inside a thin, folded over leather notecase. Todd looked down at the notecase under his arm. The man wore a blue suit identical to his own, and the woman, though her face was turned away and features obscured by her dark brown hair, wore the same sleeveless white shirt and dark blue Capri's as Claire.

"Uh...I'm sorry. Is that your sister out there?" Maybe she had a twin, he thought. It was possible she had a twin. Many women have twins that dress identically. The woman certainly had Claire's slender figure and guileless bearing. And her profile, he noted as she moved her head slightly, was identical.

"I don't have a sister," Claire confided, pulverizing that theory.

"She certainly looks like you though. Your mother?" he asked, feeling foolish.

Claire's bent grin became wry. "Not my mom, no. She's in Minnesota and weighs about two and a half of me." She laughed, delightedly, but with a solid undercurrent of discomfort. She cleared her throat. "I have something to tell you."

Todd's heart assaulted his ribcage as the man, down on one knee inspecting the exposed roots of the tree crushing the rear of Claire's garage, stood up and turned in profile. "No way. Wait a minute..." He took a step away from the window and started at the touch of Claire's hand on his shoulder.

"This happens only once in a great while."

"What does?" Todd muttered. Just a little more, turn to me a little more so I can see, he thought.

"That something is revealed to me."

Todd half-turned his head, giving her his attention, if not his gaze. That was locked on the blue-suited stranger.

"It's happened only four times in my life...well, five now."

"What? What's happened only five times in your life?" he asked frantically. Only the hand on his shoulder kept him in place. And the knowledge of what her close proximity was doing to him. But it was so hard to breath, like a big-handed monster had one paw either side of his chest and was squeezing it shut.

As Claire turned Todd in order to face her, and then slipped into his arms in order to be kissed, she explained: "That I was told beforehand that I'd make love to a man."

* * *

It was 4:40 P.M., and Carl would be home at 6:00. They faced each under, comfortable between the satin sheets, holding each other's hands. Looking into those green eyes, Todd barely noticed her imperfections. What an incredible woman, he thought. What an incredible story.

"Not to sound full of myself, but it pleases me no end that you've only been with four other men in your life."

Claire smiled, almost timidly, Todd thought. She had such incredible, mesmerizing green eyes. He thought he could drown in their quarry-like depths.

"In that case, it should please you even more to know that you're only the second man since my early 20's. I've been an exceedingly loyal spouse. I never even considered sleeping on Carl until today. Well, that's not true." Her brow furrowed. "Actually, I suspected the first time I saw you." She laughed. "I'd have died of embarrassment if you'd caught me peeking the day you moved in. I also knew beforehand with Alex--he was my 3rd."

Todd shook his head. "I'm having a hard time wrapping my intellect around this. You didn't even question it?"

Claire grinned wryly again. "I questioned my sanity, is what I did. The first time was in middle school. For the sake of etiquette, I won't get into the nitty griity sex part. That's between my maker, myself and Jose. It didn't happen overnight though. After my sighting, I resisted the pairing strenuously, but fate kept throwing things in our, steering us inexorably into each others arms. It took two months, but I finally tripped and fell, and he caught me neatly.

"Michael my second took two weeks. It was my freshman year at State and I watched the two of us crossing the quad hand in hand, big ridiculous grins on our faces, obviously in love. Two days later Michael approached me a dorm party, and for decorum's sake, I held out another 12 days. We finished college together and then drifted slowly apart, both emotionally and physically. Michael was from Philadelphia; I was born and raised right here in Delaware. Alex, I spent a weekend with in the Pocono's, and never saw again."

"And Carl, you married," Todd concluded.

"Yes I did, and that was 15 years ago." She sighed. "And now here's you. Why, I wonder? A better question might be why you'd jump in bed with Frankenstein's monster?"

Todd only stared at her.

"Let me guess: My injuries are meaningless to you."

Todd thought that over. "No. Your injuries affect me greatly, on a subconscious level, I think, mostly. If I can be honest with you—"

"Please do," she interrupted.

"They pretty much horrify me. The injuries, not you. I wanted you the second I entered the house. It was like a black hole opened and wanted to suck you in, capture and hold onto you forever. I've never experienced that before. I immediately imagined you in bed...well, doing what we just did."

Claire laughed softly. "It's been a while since some of those things were done to me, Todd. You should be ashamed of yourself."

Todd felt himself blush.

The truth was, her injuries were truly horrific. The railing had raked her entire right side, starting below the collarbone and ravaging everything between it and the top of her right thigh. It had surgically removed her right breast and left a gaping wound in her abdomen. Her body was a roadmap of Hell, wide superhighways of raised scar tissue running north and south, secondary roads going in every direction, infernal railway lines, and swaths that looked like recent lava flows. Her right breast though...despite the circling loop of ragged stitches he'd traced in wonder with his fingertips, it appeared almost pristine, flawless, as it must have the day before the accident. She responded well enough to his touch, proving tactile sensitively remained, and her right nipple hardened just as quickly and arousingly as her left. What truly amazed him though was that buried beneath all that tortured landscape was an efficiently functioning woman. He'd never had such an intense--and intensely enjoyable-- sexual encounter.

"Yes," she said.

He blinked, confused. "Yes, what?"

"You were wondering if my ovaries are there, and the answer is yes. Fully functional in fact. As evidenced by an ever so slight staining of my vaginal juices...and your semen, most likely."

Todd's eyes went automatically to her area in question. "It's okay. I've never been bothered by a woman's menstrual flow. But...how did you know?"

"That you were wondering?" Claire shrugged. "Just comes with the territory. I've learned to accept it. But I should warn you now that when we're together, I'll have the ability to anticipate everything you do, and everything you want. Like how I knew to turn onto my tummy when I did and let you take me from the rear." She laughed at his sudden furious blush. "I also knew that you wanted to have me anally, but didn't ask, out of respect for my feelings." She freed a hand and placed it gently against his chest. "I would have let you, you know. I would have enjoyed it." She flushed, catching his embarrassment.

They maintained an embarrassed silence, until Todd finally asked: "What other things was I thinking?"

"Well, for one thing, you were really relieved when my mouth worked the way it should." She laughed. "More or less, anyway. I have a more difficult time now, than I did before, giving head. You were also relieved that I could kiss normally.'

Todd laughed now. "Boy you can kiss. You kiss like two women put together, Claire. What's your middle name?"

"You'll laugh."

"Why would I laugh?"

"Because it's silly."

"All the more reason to tell me," he urged.

She shook her head. "My parents were idiots."

"What did they name you?" he pressed.

She sighed. Peevishly, she pronounced: "Claire Edward Larue Tolley Jamieson."

"What?" He burst out laughing, and then apologized when she turned away and onto the other shoulder. He urged her back again, which she did only reluctantly. He felt like a young man again, a college boy, in bed on his first date, discovering intimacies through playful coercion. She seemed almost like a college girl. Imagine her at 22, he thought, in full sexual and emotional bloom.

"I told you my parents were idiots."

It was then 5 o'clock, and Claire decided that prudence was in order.

"When can I see you again?" Todd was anxious, again like a college boy, fearing rejection. Claire grinned at him.

"You don't understand, do you?"

Todd waited.

"I'm supposed to be with you. Has this afternoon taught you nothing?"

Todd said, "I guess I'm slow to catch on. Does that mean yes?"

She laughed, delightedly, emerald eyes sparkling, teeth flashing white, color pinking her cheeks. "That is most emphatically, a yes, dear." She leaned in, and he gave her a kiss. I it dawned on him that for the last 20 minutes he'd not once noticed her jagged scars, nor her slightly tilted right eye. To him, she was perfect.

"Can I...?" he gulped.

"Can you what?" she asked innocently.

His face reddened dangerously.

"Spit it out, son."

He began to snicker appreciatively. "Thought you could read my mind, daughter?"

Her grin brightened the entire room. "Oh, there's no doubt I can read your mind. There's no doubt I want to torture you with it, either. If you don't ask, I'll make you take it by force."

Todd laughed, eyebrows knitting together. "Maybe I would like that, Claire."

"Maybe I would too," she countered, grinning even more impishly. "I might decide to fight though. I'm not to be taken lightly, you know. I could make it very hard on you."

For a moment, Todd wondered what exactly they were talking about. And then she said: "If you bring scarves, you can tie me to the bed and ravish me, face up, or face down. You can bring other things, as well. Just don't tell my mother."

* * *

It was 8 months since he'd first stumbled through her front door, stumbled into her bedroom, into her bed and then finally into her. A memorable 8 months, he thought distractedly. If she was becoming used to him, beginning to loose her edge a little, it was beyond his ability to tell. Every time they copulated she was just as energetic as before, just as demanding, just as fulfilling. He'd grown only more attached to her in the 8 months. It was torture, being so close, and having her just out of reach. Thank God Carl's business took him out of town two, maybe three times a month. Todd doubted he could survive a longer absence than that. Now, asleep beside him, he marveled at how completely she owned his soul. And his aching genitals.

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