Authors: Janna Dellwood
Love Thy Neighbor
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any
resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
2013 by Janna Dellwood
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission,
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and
Love is not blind, it just sees things differently.
It sees more clearly. In the end, it sees only truth.
The rumbling, quaking sound of a diesel engine interrupted Janna's
sleep but did not wake her. She stirred in her bed, nonetheless, her
long dark hair splayed across the pillow and sheets and some of her
Whatever large truck that mean motor belonged to—it squealed to
a stop right outside and ran idle for a moment before being
extinguished by the turn of a driver's hand.
The sound of doors opening, closing, and stuff being moved outside,
pulled her from the deep depths of darkness. She did not stir, but
R.E.M. sleep was gone, had fluttered away with the beginnings of a
dream she would never know.
Lastly, the loud voices tore her from all relaxation, any chance of
sleeping in. She was up, moaning, annoyed and uncomfortable.
Janna knew she didn't need to sleep in, anyway. She slept in every
day as is, waking when most working stiffs were stuffing their faces
with lunch. Then again, the thirty-one-year-old woman had no job, no
responsibilities, no boyfriend, no life. What was there to wake up
to? The poster of David Beckham hanging on her closet door?
until you get bored of seeing the same pose and expression for the
The house that was so quiet it seemed
ear-numblingly loud? The many empty rooms which had not been
frequented for years? Not hardly.
outside. They made her
curious. There were two of them, both male, both possessing a sharp
southern accent. Someone was probably moving into the house across
the street. Finally. After two lengthy seasons. The place had not
been occupied for the past five months, despite the hoards of people
who'd taken walkthroughs. The grass around the premises was knee-high
now; the For Sale sign was bent, discolored, dirty and looked years
Getting lazily out of bed, Janna stumbled across the room toward the
window that overlooked Smith Street, a narrow, paved one-way that was
perhaps the most boring, uneventful street in the U.S. With a finger,
she pulled down a slat from the blinds and peered out. The dying
leaves of an oak somewhat blocked her view of the action, but through
some swaying, rust-colored foliage she could see two black men
struggle to carry a large cider chest from the back of a Uhaul. One
man looked sixty, his short, puffy hair like the end of a Q-tip. The
other looked eighteen, his head clean shaven and covered with tribal
tattoos. They barely got the chest down the ramp. Once they did, they
paused to take a rest.
Mike, sucker weighs a ton. Gettin' too old for this shit, buddy,”
she heard the old one say.
come on, Quin. You've lifted heavier than this before, for a much
a few years ago. Time catches up with you, believe me. Just be glad
Was this God talking to her? Sending her a subliminal message? Janna
thought. Was She saying, “Fall in love and get married and have
kids before you can't anymore? Start your life before you die an old
hag, alone, depressed and bitter?” Or was it her paranoid mind
saying these things with no relevance to the truth?
I am so desperate.
She waited for the neighbors to show themselves. Either they weren't
here yet or were already inside. Was it a family? A couple? Another
elderly person to add to the already ten thousand on Smith Street? A
cute, single guy?
Yeah, right. Very desperate.
The chances were slim, of course. For all she knew, the person who
was moving in could have been the next Jeffrey Dahmer.
It could have been a priest.
It could have been anybody.
But pondering over it, if anything, sure was fun and exciting.
Brushing her thoughts aside, Janna ran to the bathroom to rid herself
of the several ounces of Mountain Dew still flowing through her
system since last night. Relieved, she went downstairs to toast a
couple of waffles which she ate on her living room couch while
watching the Price is Right, her favorite game show. Plinko was her
favorite game. She could watch those chips slide down into that
pegged board and bounce around a hundred times, and it would always
thrill her. The only better thrill would be to actually win the grand
prize of fifty thousand dollars while playing it.
An overweight woman spun the wheel—quite powerfully—and
stepped back to watch, hoping she struck gold. Numbers came, went and
repeated, all a blur.
It took a
while for the wheel to slow down, to return to its original position.
Beep. Beep... beep..... beep.....
The marker eventually came
to stop on: 100. The woman opened her big flap in shocking glee.
“You've won a thousand dollars, Jenna!” Drew Carey said.
Janna almost choked on her last bite of waffle. For a second, she
thought Drew had spoken directly to
through the TV. Maybe
trying to tell her to get her life in gear—to
start a life, period.
Easier said than done.
Easier said than done.
Janna had been leading an easy life for the last nine years. Of those
nine, what had she
Little to nothing.
Between the two, the word
stuck out more
prominently—like a beacon flashing her dawdling attitude and
incompetent qualities over and over again.
Janna set down her plate—sticky with blueberry syrup—exhausted.
When you had nothing going on, sleep became an almost unbidden
necessity. It killed the boredom, the time, the emptiness.
Another dream began to manifest as soon as her mind turned off.
It wasn't anything new or scarcely pleasing. Her ex, Ben Jillipi, who
had the face of a puppy but the temper of a pit bull, cursed at her
and cut her apart with his usual inelegant choice of words. The young
man was constantly paranoid, constantly on a power trip, destination:
wanna know the truth, dammit!” he shouted.
telling you the truth, Ben,” Janna heard herself say. This
fight had taken place back in the run-down apartment on Coax Avenue,
nearly ten years ago. Still, every detail, every memory of the place
(from the color of the walls to the way the sun shined in through the
windows) and the argument (or argumentS—there were a hundred of
them), felt fresh, very recent in her mind.
not seeing him, Ben. Why would I?
I'm supposed to marry
say it like you're obligated.” He raised his raspy voice. “Do
you want to marry me? Really? You dress like... like that, and go out
when you're supposed to be here and do things for me.”
I'm not allowed to have a life outside of you?”
Ben, a five-foot-nine mechanic who always smelled of grease and
cherry chewing tobacco, stuck his flushed face an inch from hers. His
lips were pursed, his nostrils flaring, his eyes open in a way as if
You bitch, I will kill you!
do you think marriage is?” he shouted. “Why do they call
it ball in chain? I spent 2200 bucks for that ring on your finger.
So, no, you're not supposed to have a life outside of me.”
Janna didn't see his hand flying toward her face—she expected
it but didn't see it—until it already made contact.
Her right cheek burned from the impact. Four red lines stood out.
Tears filled her eyes, but she didn't turn away from him. It was not
the first he'd struck her; yet, every time he did something like
this, it was always surprising, even when she knew it was coming.
Maybe it was in every man's nature? Maybe it was supposed to be
tolerated? Maybe it was somehow her fault? No matter the reason,
Janna figured she could calm him down, tame him.
Eventually had been what? Two years?
Nothing had changed.
And Ben wasn't the first guy to smack her, either.
There had been two others, three out of three boyfriends.
Heath Headler had broken her nose during their short time together.
Masson Sprike had knocked out two of her molars.
Janna had told nobody about any of these instances, not even her
parents. She'd lied and told them her nose got broke while playing
basketball; that her teeth had gotten knocked out during a scuffle
with another girl at school.
ahead, Ben, hit me again if you like! That's what I am to you, isn't
it? A punching bag you can use whenever you want? Something to vent
your anger out on. Well, if you want to marry me, I demand you treat
me right! You hit me once more, this whole thing is off!”
Janna had lost count of how many times she had said that to him.
And his eyes, like so many times before, took on their
oh well I
really didn't mean to, I'll never do it again
hugged her, she half-hugged him back, and they cried in each other's
arms. The teenage boy apologized for his outburst; the teenage girl
apologized for aggravating him. Never did the girl believe his
apology. She sincerely meant hers.
Even though she had no idea what to be sorry about.
okay, honey,” Ben said, stroking her hair. “I love you,
no matter what.”
Does he—did he ever really?
Janna doubted it. A week after that fight, she'd caught him humping
her best friend. That was the straw that broke the camel's back, the
catalyst strong enough to make her call the whole engagement off.
Three hard knocks on the front door woke her an hour later. The
disheartening feelings of the dream still lingered as she got up,
scuffed across the floor in her bare feet, and looked through the
peephole to see who the heck it could be. Probably Aunt Laura—that's
the only person she saw on a regular basis. But
Normally she'd be at work.
It wasn't her at all. It was the UPS guy, his face greatly
exaggerated by the peephole.
Janna, her face flushing from embarrassment, opened the door. She
hoped to God the package he had in his hand didn't have a logo on it
that gave away its contents. It could only be one thing.
Hello, Miss, here you go,”
the dark-complected man in the crap-brown suit said.
The first thing she did was examine the package as thoroughly as she
could—before he handed it to her. To her relief, there was only
her name and address on the small box, and no great pronouncement
The company had sent it
discreetly, just as advertised.
Thanks,” she said,
taking the box.
He nodded, turned, and jogged down the steps back to his truck.
At the very least, Janna thought, she could always dream and imagine
and pretend—that's what the vibrator was for. If you couldn't
play with somebody else, you could always play with yourself. Just as
single men used their hands, women had fingers, too. Now she had
pleasure in the form of an adult toy for only 39.99. Better to use it
before the juices dried up.
These enticing thoughts
scattered, broke, and disintegrated when she looked east, toward Elm.
Halfway down the block, she saw two teenagers—a fit boy in
athletic apparel and a thin girl in a tie dye T-shirt—walking
hand in hand, smiling, kissing, talking, laughing.
Happy. They were happy teens in love.
Janna had not been happy, a teen, or in love for a
The enclosed vibrator in hand hand suddenly meant nothing. No sex toy
compensated for a real man. No sex toy took the place of warmth, of
communication. All a sex toy did was trigger a physical response.
They didn't talk to you, hold you, or tell you you're beautiful.