“Hey hun, I’m going to be a bit late,” Todd said, his voice came from the car’s Bluetooth as I pulled into my parent’s driveway.
“Is the traffic that bad?” I asked.
“No,” a scuffling sound followed his answer. I presumed his bearded face scratched the side of his phone’s mic as if he were shaking his head at me. “Just a minor accident.”
“A minor accident? Like a fender bender?”
“Well, what happened?”
“Well you know, with the traffic and all I took my little scenic detour – you know, through the hills – no rush hour traffic there, plenty of cyclist though, saw a large group of a dozen or so on the shoulder.” Leave it to Todd to beat around the bush and say in a million words what could have easily been said in ten. I loved him, for all his strengths and despite his flaws, but his habit of burying the lead was so annoying.
“Yeah, I know the route,” it was his preferred route to my parents, traffic be damned. It was a beautiful route over the hill side, just on the outskirts of the city. You could see the city’s beautiful skyline from there, as it bobbed up and down like a buoy in the sea. It was better than sitting traffic, but it always took half an hour longer than the highways, regardless of the traffic. Sometimes I wondered if he did it just to spend less time at my parents’. “What happened? Did your truck break down? I can come get you. I don’t want to keep mom and dad waiting.”
“No, no, the truck’s fine. Although the grill’s a bit dented up,” he banged on something, the hood I assumed.
“Can you just get to the point?” I snapped, my fingers gripped the steering wheel as if to strangle it. I began to regret agreeing to take different cars to my parents, I should had just waited for him to get off work instead of rushing home, but I wanted to cherish the house one last time before it left me forever.
My parents had invited us out to help them with prepping the house for the market. It broke my heart seeing them abandon my childhood home. If those walls could talk they would tell stories of my childhood, from my first word “Doggy” (we didn’t have a dog, Tara, my older sister was allergic, but my neighbors had a puppy named Walker who I apparently had taken a minor obsession towards), to my first time drunk (Tara had returned home from college while my parents were out of town, she invited her friends over and threw a party. I hardly remember that night, and I’d rather not hear what the walls remembered from it). Even though I had changed within the walls, the walls themselves remained the same dull shade of green. And now my mom wanted to give them a new paint job to “spruce it up.”
“So,” Todd continued, “I passed by the scenic overlook, you know the one that gives you a clear view of downtown?” Of course I knew it, it was the only scenic overlook on the drive. “And the lighting was just perfect, the sunset shone through the cracks between buildings, reflecting off the glass like a warm light behind a diamond.” (Todd fancied himself a writer, trying to sneak in metaphors and similes where they didn’t belong. He was amateur at best, but I still enjoyed his stories when he didn’t pester me to read them.) “I knew I had to take a photo.”
“I slammed on my breaks,” he continued, here we go I thought, “and pulled a youie right there on the road.” I expected him to say he got rear ended or accidentally hit a passing car, Todd and situational awareness were not two things you’d find in the same room. “I rushed towards the overlook, trying to beat the sunset. Right at the entrance to the parking lot I saw this woman, her hair was a glowing strawberry red like yours. She was on a bike, focused on climbing the last few feet of the hilltop. I slammed on my brakes,” oh god, I thought, “they whistled behind me, and then suddenly bang!” A loud popping noise shot through the speaker, I jumped.
“Jesus Christ Todd,” my hands pulled at my hair, I wanted to rip it out. “Is she okay? Did you call the ambulance?”
“She’s fine,” he said, “got a little red on the grill though.”
“A little red? Do you mean blood?” I asked.
“I think so,” he said.
“How is she fine if her blood is on the grill?” I saw my mom step out of the front door, she waved. I waved back and feigned a smile, not wanting to alert her of my husband who had just presumably committed manslaughter.
“Relax, she told me she’s fine. Do you want to talk to her? She’s in the bed of the truck.”
“Sure, I guess,” I wanted to reach through the mic and strangle him.
I heard the crunching of gravel beneath his feet as he walked around the side of the pickup. His pace was slow and gentle, like a leisurely stroll.
“My wife wants to ask if you’re alright,” Todd said, his voice further from the mic.
I heard a woman’s voice on the other end, I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying. The car filled with a rustling sound as Todd passed the phone to the injured woman.
“Hey there,” a woman’s voice said on the other end, her voice was smooth and yet rough like frosted glass. It sounded new yet familiar. “I’m alright, how are you?”
“Fine, I guess,” the tension relaxed a little from my body, just a little though. “I’m so sorry about everything. My husband can be oblivious sometimes.”
“No need to apologize,” she continued, “I was trying to lose some weight anyways and your husband here helped me out.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I mean I wasn’t that overweight, my ex always said I looked beautiful, but Renee, I could see her giving me side eyes whenever we went shopping. I could see it in her face, it was all like ‘Girl, those leggings are too tight for you. Those jeans really bring out your muffin top. Aren’t you a little heavy for a two piece?’ I mean classic Renee, am I right?” She paused, as if expecting me to agree. My mom walked closer to the car. “Hello?” She said. “I mean am I right?”
I didn’t say anything at first. I didn’t know what she wanted from me.
“This isn’t Renee is it?” She asked. Then her voice grew softer. “You’re wife’s name isn’t Renee is it?”
Todd answered, his voice a soft inaudible muffle. My mom stood at the passenger side window waving at me. I rolled down the window.
“What’s your name?” She asked.
“Everything okay Wren?” My mom asked.
“Wren,” the girl on the phone said, “such a beautiful name. Did you know my middle name is Wren? Who are you talking to? Are you with Renee?”
“Who’s your friend?” My mom asked.
“It’s nobody,” I said. “Everything’s fine, just something came up at work. I’ll be inside soon.”
I rolled up the window and my mom walked back to the house, glancing over her shoulder back at me every few steps. A quizzical look upon her face.
“You mom sounds sweet,” the-woman-with-my-first-name-as-her-middle-name said. “Do we work together?”
“I didn’t see she was my mother. And no we don’t, at least I don’t think so,” my fingers began rapping on the steering wheel. Was this one of Todd’s ridiculous excuses? He’s done stunts like this before to get out of seeing my parents, usually with over scheduling stuff at work or with friends, but never once anything like this. I mean my parents were fine, but high opinionated at times, which Todd had made perfectly clear he found annoying. But they were my parents, his in-laws, he had to at least put up with them for me.
“Where was I?” The woman asked.
“You were talking about losing weight,” my fingers increased in tempo.
“Oh yeah. So, like I said, Renee was judging me, but I didn’t let it get to me, I was like ‘No way Renee, my ex loves me just like he always did I don’t need your judgement in my life.” I mean I said it to her with my face, just like how she talks to me. Well things were fine and dandy until New Years Eve when my ex, was like ‘I’m sorry but this is over. I can’t be with you anymore. It’s not you it’s me, I mean you’re body is defined with three dimensions and I’m just a geometrical shape defined by two perpendicular lines running at forty five degrees to the x and y axis and intersecting at the origin. We aren’t even in the same plane.’ Men, am I right?”
She left room for an answer from me. I didn’t know what to say, this woman was clearly insane, or Todd had gone off the rails with his excuses.
“Are you telling me that your ex was literally an x.”
“Oh did I say ex? I meant ex,” she laughed, “I get those mixed up all the time.” She literally said the same thing twice, no change in inflection or anything. “So anyways, I was like ‘Don’t be ridiculous, we’re still defined in euclidean space, we have so much in common. I mean fuck the z axis! I didn’t choose to be born with a third dimension.’ But whatever, his mind was made up and all, so he just left the party. I spent all night drinking my sadness away and crying on Renee’s shoulder. She’s just the sweetest
“When I woke up I felt so lonely, and tired, but Renee was there by my side. She looked at me and I could just see it in her face, ‘I told you so,’ it said. I sighed and decided right then that it was time to take her comments seriously. I figured I’d start a new years resolution to lose some weight. So here I am, not just a day into the new year and I get some unexpected help from your husband. Funny how that works out right?”
“It’s not the new year,” I said.
“What?” She asked.
“It’s the middle of July, it’s not a new year,” I said.
“I must have stayed up really late,” she chuckled. “You know, me and alcohol. I just never sleep when I’m drinking. You have to give me a horse tranquilizer to put me to bed.”
“Well I’m glad you’re alright,” I wanted this to end quickly. “Look, T-” I cut myself off. I didn’t want to say Todd’s name, just in case she decided to stalk us. “today,” I corrected myself, “is a busy day for my husband and I, and I really need him with me. If you’re okay I’d like to talk to him now.”
“Wait,” she said, “I haven’t told you how Todd helped me lose all that weight.” Fuck, he told her his name.
“Alright fine,” my fingers tapped erratically on the steering wheel. “How did my husband help you lose all that weight?”
“So I was climbing up the hill, thinking of my x, trying to figure out where I went wrong. I was so in my head I hardly knew where I was. I didn’t even hear the sound of your husband’s pickup skidding to a stop to take his photo. Well, as fate would have it his truck ran straight into me. The world began spinning, I felt my torso fly into the air, up and over his truck, like I was going little cartwheels across the air. And then thud,” another loud popping sound came from the speaker, “I landed straight into the back of his truck.”
“Did you break anything?” I asked.
“I mean kinda,” she said, “less of a break and more of a shear.”
“Yeah, his truck ripped straight through me. Like a weed eater cutting through grass, my torso just popped right off my legs and tumbled through the air. And just like that I loss like two and a half Todds. I mean life hack, am I right?”
“Did you say you lost two and a half Todds?”
“No not Todd like your husband silly, I mean tod with one ‘d.’ It’s a very common weight measurement. Do you use stones? I think it’s like 4.7 stones.”
“Well you sound awfully happy for someone who just got cut in half,” I said really leaning into the sarcasm in my voice. I was really not having it anymore. “Can I speak to Todd now?”
“Todd’s out looking for my legs,” she said, “he should be back in a few minutes. Oh wait, speaking of the devil there they are now. Hey legs, long time no see! I don’t know where Todd is though.”
Great, now I had to worry about a missing husband while talking to a crazy woman on the phone.
“Aren’t legs so cute when they don’t have a torso attached to them?” She giggled. “No, no don’t go over there. I’m over here silly!” I heard a thud, followed by a giggle. “Silly legs, they ran straight into the side of the car.”
“Can you just let Todd speak,” I said.
“I would if I knew where he was. Hey legs, have you seen Todd? Oh they’re shaking yes. Okay legs, go find him!” She said as if she were addressing a dog. “So since we have some time to kill, what do you do?”
“I’d rather not say,” I said. “Just stay on the line until Todd gets back, please?”
“Fine,” she said, “you’re no fun.”
My fingers rapped and rapped on the steering wheel, until I grew tired of it.
“Awe, why’d you stop?” She asked.
“Playing music, I was really digging that tune. Better than most hold music to be honest.”
“Are you talking about this?” I began tapping my fingers again.
“Yeah, I love it!”
I kept tapping my fingers to entertain the crazy woman, wondering if this was the right idea. What if she had murdered Todd while we were speaking? My fingers tapped faster and faster, I started to think of ways to discreetly tell my parents to call the police.
“Oh, very tense, I love it. Like a movie soundtrack right before the climax,” she said. “Oh there he is! Hey Todd, Wren wants to know if you’re okay.”
I heard the crunching of gravel approach the mic, then a little shuffling through the speaker. “Hey honey, sorry for the scare,” he said, “I got lost looking for her legs. Turns out they found me,” he laughed. “Hey, I’m sorry for the delay, but I think we’re good here. Are you okay?”
I heard the woman’s voice in the background, muffled by the distance between the mic and her.
“Hey Wren,” Todd said.
“Yeah?” I asked.
“I was thinking, since she doesn’t have any legs anymore maybe she should join us for dinner, I’m pretty sure your parents won’t mind. Or if you’d rather I can take her to her place. I know your parents are looking forward to having us, but you know…”
“Jesus Christ Todd,” I shouted, “if you didn’t want to come you could have just said it. You know this is a hard day for me.” I banged the steering wheel, the horn let out a little honk. “You know what, just don’t come, I don’t even want to look at you after this stunt. I’m staying the night here, I’ll see you at home tomorrow and we’ll have to talk about your bullshit.”
“I’m serious,” Todd said. “I’ll send you a pic.”
“I’ve had enough,” I said. “We’ll talk about this at home.”
“Wr-” I hung up and fell forward. I wanted to reach through the mic and strangle Todd. This could be my last time home forever, and he had to fuck it all up with his elaborate and insane excuse.
My phone dinged, a new message from Todd appeared on the lock screen. I didn’t open it. I left the car, putting my phone out of sight and into the glove box. I spent the rest of my night at my parents, making excuses for Todd, and making up reasons why they should leave the walls the way they were. When I opened the glove box the next morning I finally had enough composure to open the message. It was a photo, a photo of a woman on the ledge of the scenic overlook, I could only make out the top of her torso. Behind her the sun shone brilliantly through the skyline, he hair was a strawberry red, just like Todd had said. Beside her stood a pair of disembodied legs.