Open House by Patricia Abbott

It began at the Bristol’s Open House. She rounded a corner and found him in the bedroom rummaging through the drawer, his hands lost in a mélange of brightly colored silk. Sensing her presence, he quickly elbowed the drawer shut. It was a slick, practiced move, neatly executed, and she wondered if he often found himself in such a situation. Perhaps he was a burglar, or someone a bit off, the sort of person who liked to fondle a stranger’s under things. He was what she’d been looking for without knowing it.  

“Are you the agent?” He was examining her rather openly through Mrs. Bristol’s ivory hand mirror, a glint of approval in his eyes. He was definitely her type. 

Did she really look like a realtor though: women who wore brightly colored suits and too much makeup, perhaps a faux jeweled broach on the lapel? She shook her head. ”Just window-shopping on a rainy Sunday.” She sat down on the Danish king, wrinkling the Moroccan duvet, and slid her heels off, emitting the slight sigh that always accompanied the removal of heels. She liked how her legs looked but lacked the stamina for wearing them.  

“Anyone downstairs?” he suddenly asked, gesturing with his head. “Besides the realtor, that is.” He sat down on the opposite side of the bed, slipped off his shoes, and quickly stretched out, testing the mattress with a light bounce.  

“No.” They looked at each other from a forearm’s distance. He looked pale, almost indistinct; she had a small mole on the side of her mouth. “The realtor’s attached to her cell.” She looked toward the sky-light. “No one will come out here in all this rain.”  

They looked up together as water flooded over them in sweeping dark waves. He winced. “The Bristol’s need a new mattress. Do they number coils the way they do vertebrae? I detect a definite break in number 8.” 

She smiled. “The room has nice proportions though. I’d give anything for such closet space.” 

“Women always notice things like that.”  

“And men always mention copper pipes and the dimensions of the garage.” 

“Size matters.” 

“Or so you say now.” And then she stopped talking and let the mood overtake her.  

She was up and put together when the realtor poked her head in. “Finding everything okay?” 

“It’s a terrific house,” she said, running a hand through her still-tousled hair. “Lots of closet space.” 

“Women always notice that,” the realtor agreed. “Shall I show you the kitchen?” 

They met often after that. She’d find the local paper stuffed in her mailbox, a Sunday open house circled in red marker. Sometimes there were too many people about, but often there was the empty room. She sought the swoon, the caresses he offered. She had been searching for this feeling forever: her hands opening drawer after drawer and finding nothing. Until now.  

They found her body at the Bristol’s second open house in May. ”Have you ever seen her before?” the detective asked.  

The realtor, in her canary-yellow suit, blinked nervously and nodded, her eyeliner caked from tears. “It was always a little eerie finding her in their bedrooms. All the realtors knew about her—joked about it.” 

“Ever see anyone with her? Anyone following her perhaps?” 

“Not once.” 

“She must have taken pills,” he observed. An empty plastic bottle lay on its side on the bureau.  

“I wonder if that’s what she was always looking for. Pills. Sometimes I’d come in on her going through their drawers. I shouldn’t have allowed it, but she seemed harmless. Never took anything. What could someone that old be up to?” She shook her head.  

“She must be seventy.” He corrected himself. “Have been seventy.” 

“At least.” 

Together, they looked at the pair of heels lying next to the bed: five inch spikes, blood red. It was hard to believe her feet, so swollen from pills, or old age, or death, could fit into such things. She should have been wearing something more suitable, something that didn’t give her ideas.  

Patricia Abbott lives and works in Detroit.

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2 responses to “Open House by Patricia Abbott

  1. Patti: Whenever I read your stories I never know where your going to take me, but I always know I’m going to enjoy the trip.

    [And I confess that although this story is poignant I laughed so hard I damn near hit the kerb when I drove by a 3 bedroom ranch that’s for sale. The sign says “Open House This Sat. Sun.”]

  2. Sandra Scoppettone

    “What could someone that old be up to?”

    “She must be seventy.”

    Other than that it’s a good story.

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