The doorbell rang as soon as Simone’s hands were covered with dirt from repotting primroses. That was how it always was lately. She wiped her hands on a dish towel, regretting the dark smears as soon as she saw them. The dish towel landed in the sink; she hurried to the door.
As abrupt and perfumed as a magazine advertisement thrust in her face, a broad-toothed woman in red polka-dots that shouldn’t be chic, but were, atop a teeter of matching red heels.
Presenting her hand in a direct overhand shake, “I’m Cherry Abramson, Unit #8.”
Simone wished she’d washed her hand instead of just wiping it, but she shook anyhow. Cherry’s face remained set in the same smile, but somehow Simone was sure the other woman had noted the half-moons of dirt underneath her fingernails, the scatter of dirty dishes visible in the sink, the cloth across them like a soggy wick.
She squared herself in the doorway. No way was she asking this woman in for coffee. She didn’t want that appraising blue eye noting the stack of boxes, the unfolded laundry heaped on the sofa, already marked with a cat-shaped divot.
“I’m still in the middle of unpacking,” she said.
“I saw you out on the balcony on my way over,” Cherry said. “Of course, you want to make sure they all have saucers or some other water catching dish underneath them,” she said. “Otherwise you’ll get marks and the Board will fine you.”
Her tone was edged with unfriendliness. It surprised Simone and she hovered in the doorway at a loss for words. Then Cherry’s smile re-shuttered her face. “I’m sure you will, but I’m on the Board and need to mention things like that.”
“Sure,” Simone said.
“I wanted to invite you to our next board meeting. We always need new voices in the community. You’re an owner, right? Not a renter?”
“That’s right,” Simone said. “Got a good price and it seemed like time to settle down.”
Cherry nodded in tight satisfaction. “That’s what I thought.” She looked at the hallway mirror past Simone’s shoulder. “Well, I see you’ve got plenty of work to do.” She turned and trotted down the stairs.
Simone felt the bounce of her steps. The two-story building was several decades old; you could always tell when someone was coming or going via the cement planks leading down to the courtyard between buildings.
“Bitch,” she said, half to herself as she closed the door. Turning, she stooped to pet the cat winding itself around her knees pretending not to be investigating the door’s opening.