by Louise O’Brien

“There’s a little bit of excitement in this,” she thought as she rang the doorbell. Most of the time she pretended not to be excited about things. Not when she met someone new. Not when she went to a party. Not even the first time someone asked for her hand in marriage. She figured that way she would never appear disappointed when things didn’t work out. No one would ever see her face crestfallen upon finding out something or someone wasn’t that great, wasn’t worth getting excited about. She hopped from one foot to the next in the cold, waiting for him to answer the door.

It had taken weeks for her to return his call. “I loved meeting you,” he whispered into her voicemail. “Maybe we can hang out sometime. Dinner or something. I’m going to be near your office next week. Call me back.”

She vividly remembered meeting him. She remembered his smile and the slight lisp she heard when he talked. She remembered that his face was smooth and hairless. She remembered thinking he looked like he just graduated from college, even though he was much older. She remembered thinking, “There is no way this is really happening, that a man this good-looking is talking to me.” She remembered the way the light hit his wedding ring, how that light hit her eye, and the control she used so he wouldn’t see a reaction in her face, crestfallen.

“You got another message. That guy, Dan,” her roommate muttered while bent over with his head in the refrigerator. “Who is this guy? He calls every night. Did you drink my milk?”

“Nope, I didn’t even see your milk.” Deflecting questions you didn’t want to answer was easier when there were two questions asked in a row. Her roommate barely noticed she hadn’t answered the first question.

She looked at the slip of paper with the message written on it. Dan, a ten-digit phone number, and the words “6th Unreturned Phone Call” underlined. She was curious as to whether this was her roommate’s addition to the message or if Dan had asked that this point be stressed.

She picked up the cordless phone and snuck into her bedroom before her roommate could come up with any more questions. He was still rifling through the refrigerator.

She took a deep breath. She dialed.

Now she was standing outside an apartment building in Brooklyn. She was looking at the name on the label next to the doorbell she had just pressed. “Mr. and Mrs. Brennan.” Typed neatly, centered in the middle of the white label, it looked perfect. What a great idea, a mister and a missus.

There was an illicit thrill to all of this. The idea that she could be one of those women, like a character in a movie. Someone who would do something like this. Participate in an affair. The word was foreign and grown-up-sounding. She could very easily become one of those women, the kind that wore garter belts, and accepted guilt-laden gifts from the man in her life, given to make up for the fact that he could never spend the night or take her anywhere romantic, because he was married. She would have sex with a man in his wife’s bed. She would be…

The force with which she turned to run down the porch steps nearly knocked her off her feet. She tripped down the last one and nearly fell on the concrete. She heard his voice behind her, heard him calling her name out the window.