They hadn’t planned to live in the apartment long, but Justin and Kari couldn’t afford to leave. The couple often discussed moving away from the city, near a beach. They bought lottery tickets and looked for opportunities, reasons to leave their jobs as a server, a sales manager. They were bound by love but also immobility, and this kept Justin at the window.
Sightings of the woman were never without the sun. Justin watched her on weekdays, after work. The woman in the Adirondack chair appeared to him at dawn and dusk, a crepuscular being appearing in the absence of clouds. He watched her inhale. Justin didn’t approve of her occasional cigarette, but he admired the way she relaxed in that wide chair on concrete as though she were at the beach. From his place at the kitchen window, Justin couldn’t smell the smoke, so he imagined she smelled of salt water and sand.
The woman never seemed to appear as anything more than a scene, a reliable, slow-moving picture of what could be. He couldn’t see her face, not the details of it, so he imagined her faceless and lovely at once. She was always tucked away behind long, dark hair and a large hat; she was hazy but visible. He imagined her looking up and inviting him to join.
When he decided on his answer the next day, she was gone. Perhaps someone who lived in the apartment had asked her not to smoke. He glanced out at sunrise and sunset, just in case. He wanted to allow her to show him what was inside the frame, outside his window.
Kari, who worked second shift as a waitress, enjoyed the fact that Justin would be awake when she returned foot-worn and smelling of Indian spices. She often brought him desserts and tea. He would rub her sore wrist, the one that bore heavy trays, as the two compared stories. It was fun to rival each other’s complaints or stories about the ridiculous things people did at work.
That evening, Justin and his wife ate cups of vanilla yogurt and drank chai as they faced the window. A pair of their neighbors moved boxes from an apartment to the street below the veranda. Kari leaned into her husband as she took slow, sweet bites and sips, and something brought her eyes to the white chair scattered with leaves.
It was a strange thing about this neighborhood: everyone so cloistered, yet no one seemed to know each other. When he brought it up to Kari, she agreed this should change. Kari always agreed but not to be agreeable. She suggested they bake lime cookies soon and offer them to neighbors. It would be a way to settle in.
Kari found her husband at the window when she returned home the next day. She held a heavy bag of limes. Looking beyond Justin to the chair on the veranda, she savored the milky orange sunset, the scene. A woman was sprawled out in the dusk; her chest expanded and contracted slowly, as though her each breath and deliberate. And Justin seemed to be counting the number of times her chest rose. There was no way, Kari knew, that the woman could maintain such beauty if they met. She placed her arms around her husband’s waist, and he softened into the embrace.
Husband and wife ate lime chicken two nights that week. They never made cookies, but they made plans. The woman would appear less often and soon fade from Justin’s view as the tug finally reached and let go. Husband and wife would not settle into the apartment. They would work, settle into each other, and begin to count their own waves of breath. As mobility came and their scenery changed, Justin and Kari would become the view.
Jen Knox earned her MFA from Bennington’s Writing Seminars and works as an editor and creative writing professor at San Antonio Community College. Her writing has been published in Bluestem, Gargoyle, The Houston Literary Journal, Midwest Literary Magazine, Short Story America, Superstition Review, and Narrative. Jen is currently working on a novel. To read more of her work, visit http://www.jenknox.com.