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Authors: Blair London

Young Squatters

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Young Squatters

 

By Blair London

 

 

Copyright:  © 2015 by Reality Today Forum.  All rights reserved

 

No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of author.

 

Chapter one

 

Ding-dong ding-dong, ding-dong ding-dong, ding-dong-ding-dong-ding….

Nick Donnelly groaned.  The sounds of church bells permeated the vague memory of a dream.  He squeezed his eyes and scrunched his brows, trying to regain access to his blissful unconscious mind, but the ringing continued.  Waking up a little more, he grunted and rolled over, fingers fumbling across the flat surface of the nightstand until he found his iPhone and slid the button on the screen to the right with his thumb, switching off his alarm.

The ringing of the faux church bells ended, and Nick allowed himself a moment to fall back against his pillow. 
What’s today?  Wednesday?  Nine o’clock meeting with the editorial staff?  Ugh.  Stupid editors.

He groaned once more and put his hands to his face, rubbing it with the palms of his hand.  From beside him came an answering groan.  The bed shifted as the figure beside him rolled over, tugging the covers over her head and away from his body.  His wife, Nora.

Nick ground at his eyes with the heels of his hands until the pressure became uncomfortable, then grudgingly put the bed covers aside and sat up, wiggling his toes to get some feeling back into them.

A sharp pain shot up his back, making him cringe.  He’d been doing some yard work yesterday, but his age was catching up with him.  He thought of a quote from the original Indiana Jones movie: “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” 
Ain’t it the truth
, he thought miserably.  Coming up on forty-five, and he still wasn’t taking good care of himself.  He still wasn’t sure that all the gross slimming shakes and tedious exercise at a cold, impersonal gym would be worth a perfect figure, especially with all the energy that kind of stuff took; he had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, for God’s sake.  How the hell was he supposed to work for a living and get “healthy”?

As he attempted to rise, he grit his teeth as the pain flared, starting in his lower back, reaching up toward nerve endings he hadn’t even known he had.  Maybe stopping by the gym occasionally wouldn’t be too bad.  Nora had bought them a membership at the one down the street—a high-class work-out facility called “The Fitz,” supposedly a pun on all the “ritz”-y folk in the neighborhood—just a couple of months ago, resolving to make use of the brand new stair steppers and treadmills.  Neither of them had had much time to go there, though.

He made his way to the master bathroom, glancing at the mirror, at the gut hidden beneath his white t-shirt and his Calvin Klein boxer shorts, which had been a gift from Nora a few years ago. 
Looks like I tried to steal half a soccer ball and stuff it under my shirt
, he thought, as he despaired over the state of his abdomen, peeing into the toilet.  No six-pack of abs there.  A few lines of grey peppered his black hair, making him despair even more. “It is a painful experience to be perfect,” he thought out loud.

“Put the seat up!”  Nora’s voice was muffled by the bathroom door, but it was the same old song.

Once upon a time, he had enjoyed his wife’s instructions.  Twenty years ago, if she had told him to wear the white shirt instead of the blue shirt, or to put the seat up for that matter, he would have listened to her with a smile and that warm feeling in his chest that he used to get every time he was around her.  That time had passed.  The blissful years of their beautiful marriage had ended after their first child, Colin.  Suddenly, her instructions had turned into nitpicking, and he didn’t have the energy to argue with her anymore.

He took a few sheets of toilet paper off the roll and wiped some spots off the seat.  “I did!” he said, and then flushed the sheets down with the rest of his bladder’s morning contents.

Nick loved his wife, but he did wish she didn’t nag him so much.  He knew he loved her because they had been a team all these years, had lived and suffered side-by-side, and there had been no talk of divorce.  They had raised two beautiful children together, had built this house up from the ground and made it into a loving home.

Still, her words were the same thing every morning, and they really did irritate him today.

“Don’t be in there too long, Nick; remember you’ve got your meeting today,” Nora shouted from the bedroom.

“I haven’t forgotten, I’m going to take a quick shower and then I’ll be down,” he said, hoping his explanation would quiet her, but instead he could already hear her beginning to continue.

Nick put his fingers in his ears.  He didn’t want to hear his wife going on anymore; her high-pitched voice, which had once been a beautiful song to his ears, now constantly niggled his eardrums.

“Yes, will do,” Nick shouted back a couple of minutes later when he thought his wife must have stopped.

Nora rose from the bed, feet slipping into her brand-name slippers, ones that had special gel packs for her high arches.  She felt pleased with herself at having reminded her husband to check the travel on the radio in the Land Rover before he set off for work.  She knew he wanted to be in early and thought it may have slipped his mind.

Nora was blissfully unaware that her husband hadn’t heard any of what she had just said, and he may have lived to regret it.

Nick began running the water in the shower, hearing Nora’s steps leave their bedroom and go downstairs.  He felt mildly irritated with her.  He felt she treated him like a child, but he knew it was his fault for not putting a stop to it as soon as it had started.  He should have known, after meeting her mother, that Nora would turn out to be in charge at all hours of the day, controlling his every move.  There was no way he would be able to say anything to her about it now, due to it having been going on for so long.

He had to admit that Nora was right about this morning; he didn’t want to take too long getting ready.  He wanted to get into the office earlier than normal to get prepared for the meeting.

He shaved and showered, then dressed in one of his nicer suits, imagining the editors might be impressed by the expensive brand name that Nora had insisted he buy.  That would be good—he’d have authority over them.  He didn’t want to hear any more nonsense about getting freelance proofreaders on the budget.  He didn’t care if those self-publishing asshole authors had a few typos or a few commas out of place.  As long as their work got to Amazon and SmashWords, what did he care?  He still got paid up front for the privilege, and so what if their sales tanked afterward?  They should have written better books to start with.

Nora was up and about, rattling around downstairs in the kitchen, putting on coffee.  He could imagine her at the counter, switching on the small television they kept in the kitchen, listening to the news like she always did, in her slippers and bathrobe.  Nora was a beautiful woman; with long, blonde hair and a waist that still, even after the children, held its perfect shape, she could still drive him to his knees.  Not that she ever tried anymore.  Their love life had been put on an indefinite hold after their youngest, Clara, was born.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t attracted to her; she just didn’t seem to want him anymore.  At least not in that way.

As he finished dressing, she came back into the bedroom and started straightening out the bedclothes, folding them up into neat little piles so Sarah, the housekeeper, could get them later.

Nick was standing in front of the full-length mirror, straightening his tie.  As he watched his wife in the mirror, he knew that one thing she did excel at was being a good housewife.  However, she never liked to be called a housewife, as she was involved in many community groups—the Women’s Gardening Club and a book club that was not the least of her adventures—and didn’t spend all of her time taking care of the household like other women did.  He wished she would take it as a compliment though, when he said she was a good housewife.  Whenever he did, their conversation would usually go something like:

“I go out to work and work hard at my job, yet you still seem to look at me as a housewife even though I sometimes spend more hours out of the house than you do.”

“I don’t know why you take my complimenting you on doing a great job of looking after the house as a bad thing.  I know you are more than just a housewife, and I admire that you still have your independence.  Look, all I meant was you do a great job of looking after our home.  Can’t you just accept my compliment and not read too much into it?”

When Nick had seen that look on his wife’s face multiple times, he knew better than to push the topic anymore, and had decided he wouldn’t raise it again.

So instead of him opening his mouth and complimenting her with the fatal words, they exchanged a few pleasantries, and reviewed their plans for the day.  He’d be at the office late; she’d be stopping by Linens n’ Things to pick up new bath towels on her way home from the school; their daughter had a homecoming committee meeting; their son had a full-day of classes.

“Didn’t we just get new bath towels?”  Nick still didn’t feel awake; he never really felt awake before his first cup of coffee, but he had a vague recollection of new bath towels appearing in the bathroom just recently.

“That was a year ago!  Besides, there’s a new Fall line of colors from Martha Stewart that would look
fabulous
with our window treatments.”

He grunted again.  It seemed like no matter how much money he made, she found a way to spend it on something frivolous. 
Whatever
.  He straightened his tie in the mirror, kissed her cheek, slapped her on the ass, and went on down to the kitchen.  The actions were more of just a ritual now, a sort of satiric representation of what their relationship had been, before all the money, the kids, the house. 
As long as it keeps her happy.

As he came into the kitchen, he put his watch, wallet, and keys down on the granite countertop.  Nick opened a cabinet and took down his favorite travel coffee cup.  He’d gotten it from REI a few months ago, and although it was really meant to be a camping accessory, he liked the stainless steel and the hefty weight of it in his hands.  Nora, of course, had a fit when she saw it.  It wasn’t professional, she said, but this was one thing he wasn’t willing to give up for her.  A man should be able to drink his coffee out of a cup of his choosing, dammit.

As he turned around to find the coffee pot, the sound of church bells filled the kitchen.

Ding-dong ding-dong, ding-dong ding-dong, ding-dong-ding-dong-ding….

He fished his iPhone out of his pocket, deciding that he needed to change his alarm sometime soon.  The church bells were a little excessive.  The television in the corner blared with some rotten news that he didn’t care to hear about.  Sometimes he wondered if news stations these days ever reported on anything good in the world.  But no, instead they were talking about the country’s financial state, as usual.  All doom and gloom.  People living off the system, taking advantage of the hardworking folks.  Nick grunted.  He and his family tried to stay away from people like that, and they had always tried to keep the kids away from them too, enrolling them in only top-notch programs.  Although their school had a mixture of classes, Nick was sure that both kids knew the difference between them and the riff-raff of the world.

He would be late getting out of the house, and he still had to fix his coffee.  Hurrying now, he flipped off the television and poured himself some coffee, filling it with sugar and creamer until it turned a milky brown color.  Nora always drank hers black, and made fun of him for being such a pansy when it came to the bitter-tasting liquid, but he didn’t care.  He liked to drink his coffee his own way.

“Good morning,” a cheerful voice came from the doorway.

Nick turned to find the housekeeper, Sarah, entering the room from the hallway.  Her faded red hair was bundled up on top of her head, exposing her grey roots and weary-looking face.  Although she wasn’t quite as old as Nora, who kept her hair a crisp brown color with the help of Pablo the hairdresser, her hair and lines of worry on her face made her look older.  Today she wore functional black dress pants and a short-sleeved blouse; Nora insisted on her dressing up, wanting to set a good example for the children.

For as long as he had known Sarah, she always looked tired or stressed.  He expected her only son, Jonathan, gave her trouble.  She used to take days off all the time to go and tend to his needs—Jonathan had been put in jail the previous night in a different county, for example—but Nora had put her foot down on those instances right away.  Rather than risk losing her job, which paid more than well and kept her busy for three or four hours each day except Sunday, Sarah had stopped leaving work for family troubles.

“Sarah,” he acknowledged her presence, staring down at his phone as she brushed past him and began taking the dishes from the dishwasher.

His iPhone buzzed with incoming email and texts.  Some eager beaver was in the office early this morning.  He sighed.  It was going to be a long day, and he didn’t feel ready for it.  Come to think of it, when was the last time he had ever felt ready for it?

A clatter of silverware caught his attention.  He slid his phone into his pocket, looking up at an apologetic Sarah.  She had dropped some spoons on the floor, but did not bend to pick them up, her hand on her back.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, looking at him sheepishly.  “I think my back might be out.”

Welcome to my world
, Nick thought, suddenly aware of the lingering pain in his own back.

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