Luke hadn’t moved from the spot on the grass for almost twenty-five minutes. He was lying with his face towards the impossibly blue sky. She couldn’t see them from where she watched, but she knew the vacant expression she’d see if she could.
Jennifer knew he was in a state the moment he’d walked past her washing dishes, a glazed look in his eyes as he stumbled out the sliding glass door to the backyard. She’d watched him from the window above the sink. He hadn’t even bothered closing the door. He just collapsed himself in the middle of the grass that was desperate to be mowed.
Jennifer had glanced at the clock and then gone back to the sink full of dirty dishes. If she finished early today, maybe she could get home in time to take Izzy to the pool before nightfall. Izzy had been begging her for days to go to the pool, but Jennifer had been getting home so late that there was only enough time for dinner, a quick story, and then it was bedtime.
Drying her hands on the dishrag, Jennifer peeked out the window one last time. Now he’d been there for forty-three minutes. There was no telling how long he’d be out there, but Jennifer knew better than to interrupt Luke during these moments. She had already been told, if she finished her list and he was in a state, to just lock the front door and head home. No reason to stay longer than necessary just because Luke was “acting crazy”. Those were Luke’s manager’s words.
She ran through the list one more time. They were all typical household duties. Luke couldn’t work in an untidy house, so Jennifer was paid to come to the house three times per week. This was so Luke could focus his time and energy on writing. According to his manager, Luke was a brilliant author who put out two novels and several short stories or articles every year. He was an asset to the publisher, and they would bend over backwards to make sure he had everything he needed.
Jennifer had never read one of his books. When she’d signed her contract with his manager, she had also received a box of three of his bestselling novels. They were collecting dust on the bookshelf in the small one bedroom apartment she shared with her eight-year-old daughter. Izzy, an intellectual child, had read all three of them in a week. She had proclaimed them “cliched drivel”, but Jennifer knew to keep that to herself.
Jennifer headed towards the dining room to retrieve her purse. As she grabbed it, she remembered leaving the dirty dishrag on the kitchen counter. She turned on her heel and ran right into Luke.
“Oh,” she said, stumbling at the threshold between the dining room and the kitchen. Luke caught her by the elbow in an attempt to help steady her. She flinched at the offer of help, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Sorry about that,” Luke said, “I thought you had gone already.”