Custom Windows | Flash Fiction | Chicago Reader

Custom Windows 

Flash Fiction 2018

Paige takes her spot in the window seat of the upstairs guest bedroom at 7:45 AM as her husband pulls away. The workers have been arriving no later than 7:51 all week. She sips coffee and appears not to hear her daughters when they call out from another bedroom to come play.

The van rolls up at 7:51, so we don't see how Paige would react if, in defiance of her expectation, it had arrived any later. Nate Atkinson and his partner unload sawhorses and lumber onto the LaChances' lawn. Paige can't make out the lettering from across the street, but last week when she first recognized Nate she took a picture. She grabs her phone now to zoom in on Atkinson Custom Windows and the 773 number she has memorized.

As the men are setting up and taking measurements, Paige runs down her list of questions. She wants to know how Nate came to own his business, if custom woodworking is lucrative, if he's not wearing a wedding band because it's a work hazard or because his marriage is on the rocks, and if today is the day she will walk over to say she forgives him for ghosting her in the weeks following senior prom, ghosting being a term that did not exist then but that seems apt when she recalls with incredulity how he had the balls to disappear after she'd made herself available.

Before Paige can suggest answers and rank them according to how true she wants them to be, her daughters come in to show her how they've dressed Stella the Seal.

"That's nice. Aubrey, fix your ponytail. It's a mess."

Aubrey touches her hair self-consciously and turns to leave the room. Her sister follows.

Not to be deterred from her routine, Paige inventories Nate's attire of plaid shirt, jeans, and work boots. His hair is longer, shaggier than it was in high school. She bets he has a big penis and says to herself, That's not fair, as she swallows more coffee.

Nate climbs a ladder to inspect their progress on the LaChances' bungalow windows. He thinks about how he and Jim work well together, which takes him back to partnering up with his best friend Al in shop class, which cannot be thought about without also remembering the car accident that killed Al the week of graduation. He runs his hand along the unfinished trim, because in thinking about Al's death that is as old as he was young, Nate had begun to disbelieve the present. The wood reminds him that he is in the middle of a project.

Paige gets up to use the bathroom, knowing she has until 4:35 p.m. to watch Nate. She figures there are two days left on the job, max, so she'll decide upon her course of action this afternoon. Now she has other concerns.

"Aubrey, Olivia, come downstairs for breakfast. You didn't like my French toast yesterday, so you're having oatmeal."   v

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