One of the guests who had been listening to the radio warned the last of the party stragglers of an approaching rainstorm. They began making their apologetic excuses of wanting to try to make it home before the worst of the storm hit. Joanna said she understood while barely containing her happiness. She was so glad they were leaving. She thought they would never go home. She was so tired of laughing at their awful jokes and of listening to them chatter on and on about their nails, hair, designer shoes and about their stocks and bonds, and the killings they made e-trading. What did she care if so and so had on a thousand dollar outfit or how much money this one or that one had made? She was exhausted and wanted to kick off her shoes and relax.
It had been a long day that began with a foolish argument with her husband Steve over the party. Joanna didn't want to play hostess alone because most of the people who would be attending the party would be her husband's associates, but he had to stay late and finish a business deal with investors from out of town. It couldn't be helped, but Joanna thought otherwise and accused Steve of skipping the party on purpose, so he could spend more time with his secretary which was far from the truth. When he left this morning she wasn't going to say good-bye to him but gave in to his broad smile as he stood by the door waiting. She whispered a quick good-bye and smiled weakly back at him just before he walked out the door.
Perhaps turning forty a few weeks ago has made her this insecure and jealous, plus the fact that her husband is six years younger than her sometimes brings her to mistrust him with younger women. Steve adores Joanna and would never have an affair with another woman or ever do anything to hurt her, but sometimes Joanna is blind to how devoted he is to her. Her deep-rooted jealousy has from time to time become a barrier between them and was almost the cause for their divorce a few years ago.
She was still a little angry with Steve for having to entertain those boring pompous idiots alone and wanted to let him know that she did not like having to do so, but she was willing to talk about it calmly. The last couple of nights have been very lonely with him sleeping on the couch and with her in their bed alone. She wished he would hurry home as she poured herself a shot of bourbon and stood before the fireplace for a few seconds warming her hands.
Joanna plopped down on the couch adjacent to the fireplace, slid off her pumps and basked in the quiet of calm. The nothingness was soothing and relaxing. The crackle from the logs burning in the fireplace was the only sound. She used the remote to turn on the CD player. A little music always settled her nerves. There is something incredibly comforting about a sexy baritone voice to her. She was grooving to the music when she heard yelling coming from the apartment across the hall followed by the slamming of doors.
She hurried over to her front door, cracked it open and saw her neighbor Tony standing by the elevator. It was a weekly thing with him and his girlfriend, Katrina. They would argue over nothing, he'd storm out, speed off in his car and then come back with flowers and candy to make everything alright again. "Dumb ass." Joanna whispered under her breath as Tony got on the elevator. She closed her door and stretched back out on the couch thinking she and Steve were becoming too much like Tony and Katrina lately.
It's a shame she thought to herself that Steve wasn't here to curl up with her by the fire. She had let go of her childish anger and longed for his presence. Desperately, she wanted to lie in his masculine arms and apologize for this morning and for the past few weeks. They have been arguing almost daily and mostly it was because of Joanna and her petty jealousy, but she was ready to start talking things out with Steve and get back to the warm and loving relationship they once had.
She glanced at the clock over the fireplace and saw that it was a little past one in the morning and wondered what in hell could be taking Steve so long to close the deal. She thought about calling him but decided not to. She hoped everything was going well. If it did they would be buying a house next summer and would finally see some real money coming into the house. And she would be returning to college to take some art classes. It was always her dream to learn how to paint like Picasso or Da Vinci.
As she poured herself another shot of bourbon thunder interrupted the peacefulness in the room and rattled her thoughts. "Damn, this storm is going to be a bad one." She said to herself as rain began sheeting down and lightening streaked though the black night sky causing the lights in her apartment to briefly flicker off and on and the street lights to go out.
She looked out the window at the blue-black sky and hoped Steve would hurry home. It was quiet again and she started humming along to one of the CD tracks when just a few minutes later she heard another loud sound. It sounded like another round of thunder and then again it didn't. It startled her and made her spill bourbon on the front of her blouse and on the newly reupholstered couch. "Damn it!" She said out loud. She dabbed at her blouse and decided to change clothes. She didn't want her silk blouse to spot.
As she was crossing the living room over to the bedroom to change clothes she heard loud voices coming from outside her apartment building. She went over to the window and peered down. She was on the twelfth floor and could not see much from her vantage point. She noticed a crowd gathering on the sidewalk and wondered what was going on. As she was changing into a sweatshirt and jeans her curiosity arose. She debated with herself whether to stay dry and warm in her apartment or go out and investigate.
Joanna didn't want to go out in the pouring down rain, but of course she would. It was her nature to know what was going on and something was nagging at her to do so. She slid on a pair of tennis shoes and put on her husband's cardigan sweater that was hanging on the coat rack by the door and took an umbrella from the hall closet. The elevator ride seemed to take forever. When the doors finally opened she saw two policemen with their backs to her waiting by the other elevator and wondered if Katrina had called them again?
She thought nothing more about it and walked out the front door of her apartment building. She heard echoing sounds of sirens slowly descending as she walked down the steps. "Crap, I missed it!" She whispered aloud as she watched the ambulance driving away.
Rain pelted her umbrella as fierce late October winds ripped beneath her sweater. She trembled from the cold, buttoned her sweater and wove her way through the crowd. Some people were very silent and others seemed to be very upset. Joanna noticed that some had a look of sadness locked on their faces as they glanced at her.
As she eased her way to the curb's edge, she saw that a car had slammed into a tree and had flipped all the way over crushing the driver's side completely. As she stared down at the mangled twisted metal of what used to be a car she noticed red roses were scattered across the sidewalk and a crushed box of chocolates was laying nearby. "Oh my God, she said under breath. "It must be Tony!"
Joanna looked up and noticed Katrina sitting on a bench across the street. She hurried over to her. It appeared to her that Katrina had been crying, and she asked her if she was alright. Katrina peered up at Joanna with an inquisitive glance and seemed startled by her presence and question when Joanna asked if Tony had been hurt bad.
A look of sorrow quickly fell over Katrina's face as she said, "It wasn't Tony!"
Suddenly Joanna sensed she knew what Katrina's answer would be when she quietly asked, "Who was it?"
©2004 Lisa Arnold