She called herself Penelope, but that wasn’t really her name. She lived in a small but comfortable third-floor apartment in a large building. She paid her rent on time and never caused anybody any trouble. She rarely went out and knew none of the other people in her building except to pass them in the hallway.
Most of her days were the same, but she didn’t mind. She was happy with her life, as narrow as it was. If contentment was happiness and happiness contentment, then she had both.
Her baby, whom she called Alexander, lay in his crib in the bedroom. He was such a good baby. Never caused any trouble at all. And she attended to him assiduously. When she was in the kitchen washing the dishes, she thought she heard him whimper, but when she went in to check on him he was still asleep. A perfect little angel.
Feeling a little bit lonely, she picked Alexander up in her arms, carried him into the living room, and sat down with him in the rocking chair. She cooed at him, laughed, and sang him a little song that she made up. She felt him looking at her with his wide eyes, his bow-shaped lips drawn back over his perfect teeth in a sweet smile. He was such a handsome boy. So much like his father.
She held him, rocked him, and sang to him for a good part of the afternoon, thanking the Lord above all the while for giving him to her. Then when she heard the clock chime three o’clock, she knew it was time to start dinner. She took Alexander back into the bedroom and placed him carefully in the crib.
She went into the kitchen and put on her apron. She would fix a casserole with some leftovers from the refrigerator. It would be ready about the time Alexander’s father arrived home.
While the dinner was baking, she set the little table for two and then fixed herself up some, washed her face, combed her hair, and put on lipstick.
When she knew he would be arriving any second, she felt the blood quicken in her veins. She went into the bedroom and picked Alexander up and carried him to the front door. She looked out the little peephole in the door and, just like clockwork, she heard his footsteps in the hallway. He was dressed in a dark suit, carrying his briefcase just like always.
She saw him through the peephole as he opened the door across the hall and went inside. She held Alexander up to the peephole to get a glimpse of him before it was too late. It didn’t matter that Alexander was made out of plastic, had plastic eyes, and the man across the hall didn’t know her. The day for her was complete. She was as fulfilled as any woman could be.
Allen Kopp lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA with his two cats. He is the author of over a hundred short stories, appearing in such diverse publications as Abandoned Towers Magazine, Superstition Review, Copperfield Review, Burial Day Books, The Zodiac Review, Front Porch Review, Short Story America, Midwestern Gothic Literary Journal, Santa Fe Writers’ Project, Danse Macabre, A Twist of Noir, Midwest Literary Magazine, Dew on the Kudzu, The Medulla Review, Berg Gasse 19, Subtext Magazine, Best Genre Short Stories Anthology #1, Quail Bell Magazine, and many others.
Lead image: “Sleep tight” (via Flickr user freestocks.org)