The tax was the only thing on her mind since Ted’s call, several days ago. He had to be wrong about the tax. After going through the phone book several times, she finally dialed a number, and asked a few questions. Then she sank into the rocker which was near the phone. She had rocked her child into complacency here. Now she rocked herself into distraction.
“Ten thousand dollars,” she said aloud. Ten thousand dollars was what they still owed on the house. It was more than it would take her three years to earn, with her limited knowledge. She stared absently at furniture while her mind raced through marriage vows and family crises. The aftermath of problems had always been a deeper relationship; between her and Jim. Hardships often tended to knit people more closely, to make them realize that love was the only thing in this world that mattered, that lasted. She had a cold feeling in her bones that told her this time was going to be different.
By someone’s definition, life was simply a series of crimes, some more devastating than others, but a chain of crimes that could make or break a marriage, even the best of them. She smoothed her hair up and out of her neck and stood up slowly. She found herself at the hall mirror. The face that stared back at her was cold and detached. She pulled her hair more tightly away from her face, liking the feeling it gave to her eyes. Sophistication stared back at her and a look of assurance she knew she did not possess. She dropped her jeans and loose fitting blouse and stared at the slender figure in beige panties and bra. How long would she have, she wondered. She stood there a long time, not moving, caught in a daydream. She was another woman in another time.
The doorbell rang and self-consciously, she grabbed for her clothing that lay in a crumbled heap at her feet. She looked guiltily at the closet door. “Be right there,” she shouted.
The man who stood there was fairly young, a messenger in a grey uniform. He held a large package while she signed the invoice on his clipboard. He gave her a copy and the package. She handed him fifty cents from her purse on the foyer table. She steadied herself on the door frame and stared at the beautifully wrapped package.
Alone again, she placed the box on the center of the shag rug. She wrung her hands. She should call the delivery man back and refuse the package without looking at it. She had no right to claim anything so valuable. She wrestled with being practical, yet she made no move toward the door. It was definitely too late to call him back.
She sat on the floor and stared at the box with the large red bow. Her fingers moved to the ribbon and gingerly picked at it. It was such a pretty package, a Pandora’s box.
The bow became undone in her fingers. She tugged at the lid, which stubbornly refused to yield. Jenny sat back again and took the deep yoga breaths that had once relaxed her. Slowly, she lifted the lid again and this time it came up smoothly. Soft tissue paper lay across the treasure beneath. She wanted to remember each step in the process. Parting the tissue so carefully, she felt the first moment of pure luxury. Then it was in her arms, burying her face and then on her back, falling to just the right length. She was crying, running to the hall mirror.
Her body was enveloped in a cascade of gorgeous fur. Her breath came in short stabs of pleasure and she fell against the wall, laughing.
She ran to the bedroom and threw the coat on the bed and snatched at her clothing, even her under garments. She stood in nakedness, feeling the satin lining caress her body, giving her almost climactic pleasure as it slid across her breasts and buttocks. She lay back across the bed and ran her hand up and down over the silky fur. A look of complete pleasure was etched on her face.
At that moment, the doorbell rang. Slowly she got up. “Damn,” she muttered.”