Savage Row – Britney King

God, it feels good. Not vacation sex good, but almost, and if I squeeze my eyes shut, I can picture a beach, and when was the last time we went away on vacation, just the two of us? Two years ago? Or has it been three? I grip the sheets. Fuck. I shouldn’t be thinking about this now, recounting the details of my life, and it makes me wonder if Greg does this too. I make a note to ask him, a reminder that brings me back to the here and now. Until I realize I did ask him once. The memory of him kissing my nose, the way he told me not to be silly. He didn’t elaborate, and I didn’t ask for further clarification, but I got the sense that he was telling the truth, and also that he didn’t want the conversation to go any further. Some things need to stay safely in the corners of your mind, married or not. He shifts his weight, then brings my leg up and pins it in place. My God. I’m going to bet my husband’s fantasies are a lot different than mine—that he doesn’t organize his calendar or draft his dinner menu while he fucks. Not even occasionally. He’s too good for that. Studies show that only ten percent of people let their mind wander during sex, and in this moment I am bummed to be the odd one out.

“Greg.” I release the sheets and push against his chest. “We should take a vacation.” He groans, something inaudible, but he doesn’t slow down. “I don’t mean tomorrow or anything…but sometime in the new year.” He looks down, and his eyes search mine. He clamps his hand over my mouth, a little over my nose, too—the way he knows I like. It’s a playful gesture, but it’s also a question. How far do you want me to go? I don’t give any particular sign, so he rapid fires, using all the ammo he’s gleaned over the years. He whispers in my ear the things he’s come to know get me where I need to be, and for a moment, it works.

That’s the thing about being married. Sex is like the neighborhood playground: you know the best areas to play. He fists my hair and bears his weight down, pressing me firmly into the mattress so there’s no wiggle room, not for my body and not for my thoughts. It’s what I love most about Greg, how easy it is to lose myself in him. Unfortunately, I never stay lost for long. I’m afraid that maybe I’m not built that way. My husband is happy-go-lucky most of the time. I just try to keep up. I hear a door open and shut and then footsteps. “Hey,” I whisper, writhing, trying to break free of the hand that covers my mouth.

“Did you hear that?” He didn’t hear it. He never does. “I think someone’s breaking in.” “I set the alarm.” He says it in a way that makes it sound as though I am crazy, as though the idea is far-fetched, and he’s right. We have an alarm and a dog that would alert us, and my God. His hands and his—nothing bad can happen in a moment like this. “Hit me,” I say, and that does it. He pulls back. He looks at me longingly.

“Are you sure?” A flicker in my expression is all it takes before I feel the sting of his hand across my face. He strikes me once, forcing me to the present. It’s the second blow that keeps me there. “You like it when I hurt you,” he whispers against my ear, and he isn’t wrong. There’s comfort in pain. “Mommy?” My eyes spring open to the sight of feet. Little feet. They come into focus as they move closer. Naomi. “Fuck,” Greg huffs into my shoulder, language I’d normally object to in the presence of our child.

But the damage is already done. My mind races forward, flinging itself into the future, before retreating into the past. How long has she been standing there? How long since the first noise? Two minutes? Three? Did she hear the things her Daddy said? How early is too early for the talk? How much explanation is too much? This is uncharted territory, and although Greg says he’ll handle it, I can’t help but wonder if he’ll fuck it up. But I know Greg won’t mess up, and so when he tells our daughter to go back to bed, that he’ll be there to tuck her back in, I watch him go. He returns sooner than I thought he would, looking less weary than I’d imagined. He has a glimmer of fresh mischief in his eye. “She had a bad dream.” “What did you tell her?” “Nothing.” “What do you mean, nothing?” “Just that your back was hurting, and I was rubbing it for you.” “What?” “Relax,” he says, reaching for me in a way that tells me he’s hoping to pick up where we left off.

“I took care of it.” “What did she say?” “That you should try laying on your stomach next time so I can reach it.” “God. You’re kidding.” I swat at him, but he’s quick. “No. Seriously?” He smiles and then buries his face in my chest. “I am serious.” “So you didn’t talk to her?” “No. I let her go back to sleep.

” My brow furrows, and when I say nothing more, he looks over at me. There’s a question in his eyes, one he knows I won’t answer until he tells me what I need to hear. “She’ll think it was a part of her bad dream, and we’ll let her,” he says, his hand trailing down my thigh. With a sigh, I allow my eyes to close. “We should start saving for therapy now.” M C HA P T E R TW O orning is usually a mad scramble to get the girls ready and out the door. Today is sunny and particularly pleasant; I have that to be grateful for. It’s a Saturday, which helps, and so far it seems to be the kind where the stars have aligned. No one is cranky, no one lost their socks, the toast comes out just right, and the dog hasn’t puked on the floor. Once I’ve rinsed my coffee mug and loaded the girls’ breakfast plates into the dishwasher, I turn my attention to the kitchen window.

Green grass. Tall trees. Fall leaves. Calm mornings. I take a deep breath in, hold it for a count of four, and exhale. A warm home. Coffee. The dishwasher. Catching my reflection in the glass, I roll my eyes. It’s silly.

This new habit. But Dana swears by it, and well, no one can deny it certainly seems to be working for her. I make a list of the things I am grateful for, something I would’ve balked at only a year ago. Maybe even a month ago. As I watched Dana and then the others transform their lives, I thought, what the hell. Mentally listing things to be happy about while performing routine tasks isn’t going to kill me. As I wipe down the table, I reflect on last night. Greg’s three-day stubble rubbing against my inner thighs, the twinge of soreness that lingers, serving as a reminder of what we did. That we have a lifetime to keep doing it. To be so lucky.

I think about the girls happily chatting about something they saw on YouTube. I wonder, briefly, if we let them watch too much YouTube, and the answer is probably yes, but I catch myself as Dana says to do. I shift my attention back to the window, back to our street. We really are fortunate. I can’t think of a better place to raise a family, so I add our neighborhood to the list. Sure, it’s not our old place, and sure, there’s no beach and no mountains, but the people here make up for it. Across the street, Mr. Crowley shuffles down his driveway, leans over, and picks up his newspaper. He surveys his grass, seemingly blade by blade, before hobbling back to his front porch, where he slowly eases down into his faded wicker chair. He’ll sit there for the better part of the morning, giving the stink-eye to the dog walkers, a gentle reminder to clean up after their pets.

It’s routines like this that bring me comfort. The simplicity feels like the kind of thing you can count on. A man jogs by with a stroller, stopping to speak to Mr. Crowley. I smile as the old man hoists himself up. He makes his way to the curb, at a snail’s pace, delivering a lollipop from the stash he keeps next to his chair. My girls know it well. I add Crowley to my list and smile. Scenes like this make me believe that we made the right decision about where we chose to live. Greg had not been so sure about the house the first time I showed it to him.

He didn’t outright tell me no, but I could tell he wasn’t in love by the way he pointed out minor flaws. And the name, he’d said. Who would want to live on a street with a name like that? He was testing the waters. He wanted to see how deep I’d sunk my toe in. I would, I’d told him, and that was that. My phone vibrates on the counter, causing my breath to hitch in my throat. I scramble for a dishtowel, quickly dry my hands, and then swipe to view the text in full. It reads that an offer was made on one of my listings. I smile at the heavens. Maybe Dana has a point.

Maybe it can’t hurt to spend more time counting one’s blessings. Before placing the phone back on the counter, I glance at the screen. There are two missed calls from my broker. I sigh and lay it face down, throwing the dishtowel over the top of it. It’s family day, so she’ll have to wait. Greg and I made a deal early on to be present when we were at home with the girls. So I try to keep my phone out of sight, and on vibrate as much as possible. It vibrates again like a siren calling. I walk away. And then turn back.

I can’t help myself. Another text has come through. Also from Dana. Girl, if you don’t call me back in two minutes, I’m passing this on to Sharon. Tapping her name on my screen, I brace myself. “Dana,” I say, scooting out the back door and onto the patio. “What’s up?” Rocky flings himself forward, knocking me into the doorframe with a thud. He circles me several times, stopping only long enough to press his wet nose up against my upper thigh. Before I can get my next sentence out, the girls are out the door behind me. They chase after the dog, making a proper game of it.

Between his barking and their shrill giggles, I can’t make out a thing Dana is saying. But whatever it is, I can guarantee she knows I don’t want her to pass anything on to Sharon. I have every intention of hitting gold status this month, and I’m close, so close. “Hello?” “I’m here,” I say, before pressing the mute button. “Naomi, go find your shin guards. Tell your dad to help you with them.” “Amy?” “I’m here.” When there’s silence I realize the phone is still on mute. “Blair, stop coloring on the dog.” Dana sighs so heavily I’m forced to pull the phone away from my ear.

“Are you there? Maybe I—” “Sorry,” I say, taking her off of mute. “It’s chaos around here.” “I can hear that.” I figure she’s about to launch into one of her tirades about how every time we speak it reminds her why she doesn’t have children, but today she surprises me. She must be pressed for time. “Anyway—,” she says. “Listen, I’m supposed to hold this open house at eleven—it’s the Clairmont listing—you know the one?” “Sure.” I realize what’s coming next and I’ve already prepared my response. “It’s pretty much a done deal, the sale—” “That’s great,” I say, cutting her off. “Well…sort of.

A few clients are coming over to take a look. I wanted to hold the open house, just to see who else the cat might drag in… you know what I mean? A house like that draws attention. For sure, there will be multiple offers.” “Right.” Blair changes up her color of choice. Instead of yellow, the dog is quickly becoming a pale shade of purple. I wave her off, but it’s pointless. My brow furrows. I remember specifically telling Greg to put the markers up. As Dana prattles on about comps, and God knows what, a dry cough catches my attention.

When I look up, Mrs. Crump is peering over the fence. I give a cheerful wave. She nods, a familiar look of disapproval written on her face. I don’t take it personally. Her face is always fixed like that. I sold her the house, and Greg likes to tease that I could have, that I should have found a more cheerful neighbor. At least she’s quiet, I tell him. And anyway, by the looks of it, I can’t imagine she’s had an easy life. “So you’ll do it?” The dog brushes up against me, smearing purple onto my favorite pajamas.

“Huh?” “You’ll handle the open house?” “Oh, I’m sorry, Dana—but Naomi has a soccer game.” “You weren’t even listening, were you?” “Of course I was…but…it’s family day.” “Realtors don’t get family days,” she says dryly. “I—” “Well, if you were listening, you would’ve heard that I promised you a cut of two thousand dollars. With that and a little extra push, you’d be almost guaranteed to hit gold. You’d probably even have a little extra left over to put toward our couples trip.” She scoffs dramatically. “I knew I should have called Sharon.” I smile. Bless her.

She means well. “Two thousand…” I say, but really all I’m thinking about is a white sandy beach with no children in sight. “See! You weren’t listening.” “Well—” “I bet she won’t even notice you missed the game. Come on, Amy—do the math—the kid’s eight. How many more soccer games do you imagine she’ll take part in throughout her adolescence?” This is why Dana runs the top agency in the county. She knows how to sell. She knows which buttons to push. I do the math in my head. “11:00 to 1:00?” “Sure, you could probably even cut out by 12:30 if you want.

At this price point, you know how buyers are. They don’t dilly-dally.” She isn’t wrong. If I cut out at 12:30, I could make the last quarter of Naomi’s game. I want to say yes, but then I see Greg out of the corner of my eye. He’s bent down in front of our daughter, wrangling with her and the laces on her soccer cleats. I’ve never been more in love. He looks up at me and gestures with his hands. The signal for starting an ignition. He’s lost the car keys again.

I mute the phone. “The spare set is in the drawer.” “Amy? Are you there?” “I’m still here.” “Listen—Trevor’s absolutely beside himself. The cleaners dropped one of his singing bowls and it’s irreplaceable.” Greg senses me watching him sift through the contents of the drawer. He makes a gesture as though to ask who’s on the phone and why this person is more important than locating our car keys so we aren’t late. I hold up one finger, signaling I’ll only be a minute. “What’s a singing bowl?” “You know—a singing bowl. This one was valued at over five grand.

From Tibet—he warned me, Amy, he did. I should have fired that crew long ago. They were even drinking our LaCroix. Can you believe that? Trevor counted,” she says incredulously. “Anyway, I really need to be around here to cheer him up. You know how it is.” I do not, in fact, know how it is. But I think about easy money and gold status and the sand between my toes. “Okay,” I say. “I’m in.

.

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