She hasn’t told anyone about the window. It’s not that she’s doing anything wrong; he knows she can see him. It started because she needed to know what time he’d be back at the house. No one wants to be surprised by her estranged husband, so she just opened up the window to get information. Where was he? Did she have an hour with her kids or only ten minutes left?
But soon, she started using the window out of curiosity and loneliness. She would be sitting in her studio, reading her book and wonder, “Where are they now?” So she would pull the window out of her pocket, open it up, and look through. There they would be, eating ice cream at Scoop, or getting crickets from the pet store. Relief would seep through her. They are fine. They are happy.
And finally, she succumbed to a temptation that she knew he wouldn’t condone. One night, while the kids were in bed and she was on the couch, she wondered, “What does he do when he’s not here with the kids?” She hesitated only a moment, and she pulled out the window. She opened it, took a sip of her whiskey sour, and looked. He was sitting in his hotel, staring at his computer, drinking a glass of wine. She watched for a few moments, closed the window, and went to brush her teeth.
It went on this way for months. Any time she wanted, she would look through the window to see where he was. Sometimes it was to check on the kids, sure, but if she told the truth, sometimes it was just to feel close to him. She watched as he moved between his errands; first the dry cleaner, next the car wash. She felt comfort at seeing him doing all the old familiar things. He is still there. He is still him.
Tonight, with the kids dreaming what kids dream, she pulls out the window. A sliver of guilt pierces her, but she squelches it. The permission he had given for this voyeurism was so long ago, it is likely buried in his memory under school lunch menus and divorce lawyer appointment times. Even though he technically knows she can watch him, she is certain he does not want this. Still, she craves it. Opening the window, she peers at him. He is reading at a table, and he looks handsome. Her heart pulses, There he is. She is briefly puzzled by his holding a book, as he has always preferred to read on his phone. He’s wearing a shirt she doesn’t recognize. Her vision broadens and she realizes that he’s in the kind of restaurant that might require reservations. He looks up at someone she can’t quite see and smiles, laying down his book and starting to rise. She gasps, slams the window, and watches as cracks spiderweb across it. It will never work right again.
Betsy Kelly is a runner, mother, writer, reader, knitter, speech pathologist and conservationist in Northern California. This submission is a piece of speculative flash fiction.