Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wish Upon a Djinn by Sammie Jo Moresca

“Why didn’t you tell me Lieutenant Lydia ‘kiss-the-men-and-make-them-come’ Laverty was working at your firehouse yesterday?” Kim’s face heated as her stomach churned. Lieutenant Laverty answering the phone had been a disturbing surprise when she called her husband last night. She turned away from him, adjusting her Coke-bottle thick eyeglasses. Her eyes focused beyond the French door at the cardinals feasting on sunflower seeds in the feeder hanging from a snowy maple.

“It’s no big deal. The transfer list took effect last tour.” Roger rinsed out his commuter cup and jockeyed it into the dishwasher. “Is there hot water in the carafe?”

“Yeah. I’ll make you a cup. So she wasn’t just detailed for one shift? She’s the regular lieutenant at Twenty-Three Engine now?”

He mumbled affirmatively and sat in the green bow-backed chair, fumbling open the morning newspaper on the kitchen table. The slight palsy in his fingers had afflicted him since adolescence.

He smelled of smoke, hadn’t bathed in twenty-four hours, but damn was he handsome. Brown flat-top. Chocolate brown eyes with long, curly lashes. And she loved his whiskers. Too bad he couldn’t grow a beard. Safety requirement. He needed a tight seal on his facemask.

He said, “Her daughter is attending Piedmont Academy. She’s living with Lydia’s parents since they are just a couple blocks away.”

“And this impresses you because her kid is smart? What kind of mother doesn’t even live with her child?”

“You know she’s on twenty-four hour shifts. It’s just easier.”

“Yeah. Eight days a month. Lydia could make other arrangements.” Prying the lid off a cookie tin, she set it on the table for Roger. “She’s single again, isn’t she?”

He grunted again and looked over his shoulder to the carafe.

Kim felt a curl of satisfaction in confirming that the calendar girl couldn’t keep a man, but she was also alarmed that the lovely Lydia was on the prowl again. She scooped instant coffee and powdered creamer into a yellow stoneware mug and poured steaming water into it. It sizzled as she stirred the brew. She plopped it down in the middle of the article Roger was reading. A little slopped out. She smiled.

“Thanks,” he grumbled, grabbing a napkin from the basket in the middle of the table.

Kim brewed her third cup of tea so far that day, and sat across from her man.

“Do you want the last oatmeal cookie?”

“Go ahead.” He picked a green star sugar cookie out and bit into it.

She gobbled the oatmeal. Okay, perhaps I’m blowing this all out of proportion. It’s not Roger’s fault the department transferred the husband-stealing-hussy to his station. It’s all in a day’s work. He’s the sergeant, she’s the lieutenant. She’s his boss now. So he’ll have to kiss up to her. Kim shook her head. No, that was not an image she wanted in her brain.

“How are the roads?” she asked.

“We hardly got any snow in town. I’m surprised how much you got, and yet they didn’t close school.”

“Our three little snow bunnies weren’t too thrilled, either. So’d you get any sleep last night?”

Roger flipped to the next page as he slurped his coffee. “Yeah, slept like a rock. The only run after midnight came in at about four-thirty. Lydia had to kick my bunk to wake me up.” He chuckled. “It was for an unconscious male outside a bar. Another fallen down drunk—”

“Wait a minute! Back the fire truck up, Sergeant. Isn’t there only one room for the officers’ quarters at your station?”

“Yeah. So?”

“And the crew’s bunkroom is upstairs and the officers are downstairs, just two bunks in the back room?”

Roger grinned. “Lydia doesn’t mind.”

“I mind! And with good reason! She’s taken two firefighters away from their wives that I know about. I’m sure there must be other incidents which you have neglected to mention—”

“There’s nothing to be upset about, Kim. Lydia and I…we’re just good friends.”

We’re just good friends. Four words that harbinger the beginning of the end to many marriages. The tea in Kim’s stomach tried to make its way back up past the cookie. “Lydia has every good quality that I’m lacking.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

The look on his face told a different story. Kim had put on nearly thirty pounds since they married right out of high school. She’d spent the last fifteen years rocking babies and chauffeuring them across the county. Doctors, orthodontists, soccer, lacrosse, ballet, guitar lessons, debates and play dates. Her mother’s uniform consisted of sweatshirts, jeans, and sneakers. Long, mousy hair pulled into a loose ponytail.

Lydia still did modeling on the side. She was last year’s calendar girl, posed with nothing on but a strategically placed fire hose draped around her. She had a career, was advancing and making a nice chunk of change. So she’d been divorced a few times. It wasn’t Lydia’s fault there were too many hot men out there to sample.

“Don’t they have regulations against a male and female officer sharing the same bunk room? How about the shower? I’m calling Chief Charlie.”

“Why are you acting like this? You’re making such a big deal out of nothing. You don’t trust me, do you? Damn it!” He kicked his chair back and stomped over to the basement door. When he shut it hard behind him, the ornaments on the Christmas tree shook.

Kim stormed upstairs and slammed the bedroom door. Climbing in the unmade bed, she pulled the covers over her head and waited to cry. The tears wouldn’t come. He didn’t appreciate her anymore. They never went on dates or walks or had any couple time. If it didn’t involve the kids, they really were speechless. Nothing left to say. She went over this morning’s awkward small talk. Why had she been so stupid to pick a fight?

Or did he deserve it? She should leave him. March right out the front door and not look back. Then he’d appreciate her. He never complimented her looks or cooking or cleaning or anything. He was quick to point out when she fell short, though. Kim admitted she was a sub-par housekeeper, and she didn’t put much effort into cuisine. Yeah, buddy, I’m just a faded housewife to him. Mother to his three children. We made great babies together. Healthy, happy, smart, thoughtful.

Where would she go? To the arms of a new man who would adore her. Yeah, right. Nearsighted, fat, frumpy and old. She’d have to get a job. No experience, no education. Images of greeting shoppers at the super center caused Kim to shudder.

And lonely days, lonely nights. She’d miss him under the covers. He was so skilled. Knew just what to do to rock her world. No other guy could do that. Well, sure, other guys could. But one urgent element would always be missing. When their souls collided. True love.

Fine. She’d stay for the lovemaking. And the kids, free room and board, clothes, cable TV, Internet, books, and any silly thing she wanted to buy. He never questioned her choices. He was so good to her. Why’d she have to be so childish at times?