It was bound to happen. After managing to avoid her for the past three months, I saw her standing in the doorway of Bernie's Good Times Tavern, watching me with those seductive green eyes. It was an awkward moment. Should I acknowledge her with a brief nod, just for old times sake, or walk past with eyes straight ahead. After all, what harm could she do now I was aware of her beguiling ways? I licked my lips. No, it wasn't worth the risk. Besides, I'd promised Peggy...
"Hey, stranger," she called as I passed by. "Let me buy you a drink."
My stomach lurched with a familiar yearning. I must admit, she looked pretty good in her sequined dress and matching auburn hair - maybe too good. Realizing what I had to do, I hurried past without a sideways glance.
Her name was Desiree. We met during a particularly confusing time in my life and became friends. No, we were more than friends. Fact is, I didn't think I could live a single day without her. But all that was finished now. It was time for me to move on.
Arriving at the outskirts of my neighborhood, I couldn't shake the uneasy feeling of being followed. I quickened my pace, hoping to reach the safety of my house before she could overtake me and force a nasty confrontation. She certainly wouldn't try to cause trouble there, especially if Peggy was home. However, when I rounded the final corner and spotted the empty driveway I knew I was on my own.
In my haste to escape, I nearly walked across the newly-seeded lawn which had taken me five years to accomplish. My keys seemed to purposely evade my trembling fingers as I groped through my pocket. Finally managing to get inside, I collapsed onto the couch and cradled my throbbing head in both hands. I was safe - for now, anyway.
"You didn't think I'd give up that easily, did you?"
I raised my head and found myself staring into a pair of seductive green eyes. "H-how did you get in here?" I asked, trying not to appear rattled.
"You gave me a key, remember?" laughed Desiree. She sauntered over to the overstuffed armchair across the room and poured herself onto the cushion. "That means I can come and go as I please."
A surge of guilt washed over my soul and my eyes lowered. "Things are different now," I explained. "I have a new life, new friends. I even started a new job today."
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow. "That calls for a celebration, then. Why don't you pull one of the bottles from your secret stash and we'll drink to your success."
I shook my head. "There are no more bottles.
"Nope, not one."
She frowned deeply and folded her arms firmly across her chest. "My, you really have become a bore, haven't you?" she taunted. "And after all I've done to help you."
I swear I could actually feel my blood pressure rising. "What did you ever do for me?"
"Who offered you comfort after a particularly hard day at work? Who spent countless nights at your side when you could not find a friend? Who helped you escape when everyday life got too tough for you to handle? Oh, yes, now I remember. It was me."
"Yes, it was you," I shot back. "But at what cost? My job? My car? My family? Quite frankly, my dear, you charge far too much for your services."
"How dare you!" she shrieked. "Are you calling me a -"
Her outburst was cut short by a sudden rattling of the front door. Peggy was home at last.
Desiree smiled wickedly and settled deeper into the chair. "Don't think for one minute this is over," she sneered. "Every bad day you have, every celebration you attend, every fight you have with your wife, and I'll be there."
“Daddy! Daddy!” Lizzie shot across the living room and catapulted into my lap. Peggy followed close behind and greeted me with an identical smile.
“How did things go on the new job today?” she asked, plopping herself into the overstuffed armchair. “Any... problems?”
“No, nothing I couldn't handle,” I replied, bouncing Lizzie on my knee. “Y’know what? I really think I’m going to make it this time.”
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