Happy Oaks Homeowners’ Association

A privilege. No, not just a privilege, a great privilege the Happy Oaks Homeowners’ Association had said when they approved that she could live there. It was an exception. That’s all they said. She knew what they meant. A single woman over forty-five without a family was not the right fit to the puzzle of the upscale neighborhood. She guessed she had only made it in because of her finely dressed curves and the huge sum that was on her credit report. The body was truly hers, the money had had another source. They’d never know. They must have assumed she was a financier, a lawyer a billionaire’s heir. She was none of those things, she was an artist who had never sold a work of art. She had found a way to support herself, though. Seven husbands who had slightly unusually deaths, but nothing too suspicious. The seventh she knew would be her last, holding a forty-five year old piece of flesh to look like it was just on the cusp of thirty had become too strenuous. She knew her peak had been passed. The rollercoaster was now all downhill. She hoped for a good ride. So, it was time to settle down and end the hunt. She had had enough of the game. It wasn’t fun anymore.

But it was only the game of money that was over. On the day she moved into that ivy covered brick Tudor mansion, there was a moving team of five bicep bulging guys. The home association had recommended them and she thought it would be a good idea to hire them as a way of showing her appreciation. She helped them work harder by flashing them smiles as if they were hundred dollar bills. She was pleased, the magic was still there. In fact after she had tipped them each ten dollars when they left, one of them remained and she fulfilled her desires at the poolside, knowing that she would not receive any money for her services. The tables had turned, she gave him an extra twenty and felt a tinge of pain when he left and said, “Thank you, ma’am”

‘Ma’am’ was a word that reminded her too much of the word ‘mom’. An old lady, a kiss on the cheek rather than the lips. She was no ‘ma’am’! Maybe she was losing it. The thought made her wince her eyes. Not a good idea she thought that could force the first lines of crow’s feel to dig deeper into her skin. As she went to the glass poolside table to put her gem studded rings and gold bracelet back on, she stopped and stared, they were no longer there. She had been betrayed by that young man. He knew just what was he was doing, just like she had so many times before. She sighed and told herself they were just trinkets. She had so much more of all that, it just needed to be unpacked. She made herself a martini, then another and after the fifth she fell asleep thinking that tomorrow she’d start to empty the boxes.

Her ears heard the creak of wood from the floor and a light tap-tap on the steps. It always take a while to get used to the voices of a new house and she rolled over on her other side on the soft plush couch. Still in her bikini, the after-midnight air coming in from the open windows brought her a chill. She reached for her covers, forgetting that she wasn’t in bed. A blast of air came suddenly. She tried to pull her body up on her elbows, her head only spun more from the vodka and olives. Suddenly her body was turned from an outside force, she was lying on her belly and felt how her arms had been pulled behind her and a plastic band was pulled tight around her wrists. Before she could scream, her head was lifted up by her long, silky hair and a lash of electrical tape was slapped across her mouth. The adrenaline pumping filtered the haze of alcohol from her blood. For one moment she was able to open her eyes and see the homeowner’s association and the moving crew. Then a dark hood was thrown over her head. Through its thick, rough fabric she heard a voice that sounded like the overly-biceped guy, “Another rich broad bagged!”

The others howled with laughter. The chair of the Happy Oaks Homeowners’ Association added as if in some annual meeting, “The treasury will be filled and the koi in our private park be fed.”

That was the last she heard, another howl of laughter. And the last thought she had: duped for money.

Unlike her new pool, the water was cold as she sank in her bikini.

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