The Girl Next Door

By: Jordan Blake

1





Dakota




After the five-hour long drive home from college I finally pulled up to the house I’d grown up in and turned the car off with a sigh of relief. This was my first trip home since settling in at school two months earlier. This morning I’d woken up to my first bout of home-sickness, so I packed a bag and jumped in my car for a spur-of-the-moment visit.

As I sat in the driveway excitement bubbled up inside me like a soda can that had been shaken up. I couldn’t wait to surprise my parents. When the plan to come home had formed in my head my first instinct had been to call and let them know, but I fought against that urge. I wasn’t naturally a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal. But I wanted to be, and this weekend was the first step.

All my life I’d been a planner. I’d drafted my first ten year plan on my tenth, yes tenth, birthday. Eight years later, I was on track to meet every single one of the milestones I’d laid out. I’d graduated high school with a 4.2 GPA and been accepted into a prestigious liberal arts college. Those things had only happened because I’d spent my high school years taking AP classes, playing volleyball, serving in student government and volunteering at the local animal shelter and food banks. From freshman to senior year, every minute of my life had been scheduled, from the time that I woke up at six a.m. and went to bed after midnight. Spontaneity had historically been a bad word in my vocabulary. Which meant my mom and dad would never expect me showing up at their doorstep.

A large smile spread across my face as my anticipation of their reactions grew as I got out of my car and walked to the trunk of my car. With a click of my key fob it popped open and I pulled out my weekend bag out before slamming it shut. As I started walking up the driveway toward the front door, though, my smile fell. Something seemed off. It was still—too still. It had that odd heaviness about it that buildings get when there’s no one inside. Just something you could sense.

I unlocked the front door and stepped into the entryway, dropping my bag onto the bench that stood along the wall. “Hello?” I called and waited for a response. None came.

Hmm. That was odd. My Dad had retired from his law firm the spring before and my mom was a homemaker. They were very routine people. Mornings were spent reading. My mom loved romance novels, mysteries, and self-help. My dad preferred thrillers, biographies and non-fiction military strategy. Then, they were always home in the afternoons, puttering around and working on their projects, my mom either sewing or gardening and my dad out in his “man cave,” AKA the garage. In the evenings, they had dinner at five and watched shows until nine, then went to bed and woke up at six a.m. to start it all over again. They led a very predictable, ground hog’s day existence.

The apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree, which was precisely why I wanted to insert a little variety into my life. I wanted to really live, to experience life at its fullest.

Figuring they had probably just run out to the grocery store or to do some other small errand, I decided I would go up to my bedroom and set up my computer while I waited for them to come back. If I was going to have to kill time, I was definitely going to do it while connected to the Internet.

As I walked into my room a strange sense of déjà vu came over me. Nothing had changed since the day I’d left two months earlier. I walked over and sat in my pink and chrome Tiffany desk chair and opened up my MacBook Air. Instead of focusing on the screen that lit up in front of me, my eyes were drawn to the same view out the window that they always were, and I felt the same familiar, illicit rush of pleasure skitter down my back.

My bedroom window looked directly into the backyard of our next-door neighbors, the Sheffields. I could even see into the windows of their kitchen and den. Of course, I never intentionally spied on them. That would be wrong. But, hey, whatever I happened to see when I was just glancing out my bedroom window was fair game. Right?

The whole thing was made more complicated — and, I guess you could say, more amazing — by the fact that I had a gigantic crush on Drew, the husband half of the couple who lived next door. I knew it was wrong to crush on a married man. Of course it was. And then, there was the age difference — I didn't know exactly how old he was, but he must've been pushing thirty-five. And me? Well, I had just turned eighteen the summer before. So, obviously, I knew it was just a harmless schoolgirl thing — nothing was ever going to come of my feelings.