A peaceful hour
The first rays of sunlight came through the windows of the verandah and came to caress the surface of the water. The wind made the palm trees dance around the pool, and its soft music complemented the early morning songs of the birds. The moment was peaceful, serene, and yet on this Thursday morning, nothing was as usual. A body was floating inert on the surface of the pool.
The corpse of Andrews was undulating slightly. His crumpled body was almost naked, he was only wearing his swimsuit. It was his favorite bathing suit, twenty years old already. He was proud of it, he hadn’t put on a pound. And then this beautiful red had always brought out his tan. Where he was now, his poor lycra swimsuit would no longer serve him.
Like every morning, Paula walked to the pool. Every day, she wanted to be the first to get in, the first to enjoy the softness of the water on her skin, its warmth. Sometimes she would arrive before 6 a.m., and she would have to wait for the door to unlock. But no matter what, Paula would be the first, no matter what. She avoided the cold shower and dived straight into the pool. After a few breaststrokes, she would stand in her little observation corner and wait for each newcomer to detail them.
Oh yes, the ugliness of their bodies, the distended skin, the bulges that had built up over the years, and their clumsiness, their inability to move as before, she appreciated every detail. How good it was to finally be more beautiful than the others. The ugliness that surrounded her reassured her.
Sometimes she would also spot a new man, a new resident. No lies about the good when you could see them in their underwear. When he was to her liking, like a mermaid, she would approach him with burning eyes.
When the pool was almost full, she would then start swimming, gracefully. She could feel the envious glances of the other old ladies, she could feel the lustful look of some of the grandfathers. And after about twenty minutes, she would come out of the pool, natural and proud.
Her skin wasn’t as smooth as it had been in her twenties, and the years had also taken their toll on her. She didn’t hate her wrinkles, nor the lack of elasticity of her skin. Because she had maintained an athletic body. Like a nymph emerging from the water, she undulated out of the pool by climbing the few steps of the pool. She would shake her long white hair, wrap herself in a towel and greet the assembly before disappearing.
This morning, the wind kept rushing through the sides of her red satin robe, revealing her almost naked body. She was shivering, her teeth almost chattering, but she could not bring herself to adopt a pilou pilou dressing gown like all the other old women.
Paula walked the few streets that separated her from her destination, she finally took the small path to the gate. Strange, it was already open. Could someone have beaten her to it? Impossible, Intolerable!
She frowned, and shaking her head, she walked to the door. A last glance at her watch confirmed that it was not yet 6:00 am. No chance that another old man had taken her place.
However, by pulling the handle, the door opened. The situation was becoming more and more suspicious. The fog on the windows did not allow her to see the inside of the building.
She pushed the door open. The scene she discovered left her speechless. Without even seeing his face, she recognized him. Paralyzed, she stayed for a while to observe Andrews’ muscular back. At 75 years old, the man had retained a beautiful musculature. She had enjoyed running her fingers over the crumpled skin of his torso, making him capsize with her caresses.
Only the arrival of Martha, and her resounding scream pulled her out of her daydreams.
Rita was busy preparing breakfast. She heated the kettle for her tea and checked that the coffee maker was working properly.
Oh yes, she was happy with her coffee maker, you could program it in advance and the coffee was ready when you woke up. Plus, she got it for a pittance! She stroked the plastic surface as she used to do with the heads of her toddlers.
The toast jumped out of the toaster, and the room was filled with the sweet smell of toast. She grabbed them on the fly and put them on a plate. She lovingly spread a first layer of butter on the toast and then spread a thick layer of peanut butter on top of each one.
She glanced over her shoulder. No Bruce on the horizon, she took a quick bite of the toast. She closed her eyes with happiness, the melting peanut butter tickled her taste buds, she savored every little crumb. As she opened her eyes, she observed the piece of bread that had been amputated. She laughed again. Every problem has a solution, she took a knife and cut the toast in the shape of a heart.
She finished tasting the contours of the heart. Bruce must have thought she was quite romantic right now… She couldn’t help herself. This diet was driving her crazy. Her soy milk yogurt and seed pancakes were waiting for her on a corner of the table. Yuck, tasteless, she had no desire to eat them. But her doctor had made it clear that if she wanted to enjoy her grandchildren for a few more years, she would have to cut back. And Bruce didn’t let anything go by, he was watching her back.
As she put the last bite of her cut into her mouth, there was a knock on the door. She was startled. Who would knock on the door so early in the morning? The knocking was jerky and would not stop. All right, all right, she was coming, she was going to open it. She walked slowly to the door. Her stoutness prevented her from rushing.
It was Paula, her satin dressing gown wide open over a black and gold bathing suit. The nymph rushed into the little house, pushing Rita. Rita shook her head and was about to rebuff the visitor when she noticed Paula’s panicked look.
“Andrews… dead… pool… police. Dead… dead…”
Rita understood only these few words interspersed with inaudible words and the shaking that Paula’s body was undergoing. She took her in her arms and rocked her, caressing her long hair. Ah, it was not as soft as it seemed. She drove this satisfaction out of her mind, and concentrated again on what Paula was trying to explain to her.
Andrews was dead and floating motionless in the middle of the pool. He had probably succumbed to a heart attack or some other old man’s ailment. Here deaths were more common than births. In the pool, however, it was a first.
She had to warn Bruce. He and Andrews had been friends for a long time, so if they had been estranged for a while, Bruce would probably be saddened by this macabre discovery.
The bathroom door opened to a Bruce, freshly showered, wearing his favorite Wallabies polo shirt.
The shower was barely lukewarm, Bruce yelled, he was still going to have to fix that damn water heater. Oh how he hated this place, with its plastic houses and its horrible collections of garden gnomes. Rita, too, had developed a passion for these ceramic horrors. Now they had plenty of them in the garden, and he was careful every day not to accidentally hit them with his van.
After all, it made his Rita happy. In spite of his mischief, he would have done anything for her. This good woman was simply the woman of his life. To stay in such a place, you needed a lot of love. But it wouldn’t take long, in a few months, when the van would finally be finished, they would leave. Yes, they would hit the road, both of them, and tour Australia. No more residence for the old people, hello the wide open spaces, fishing, wildlife … Ah he was looking forward to it!
The van wouldn’t fit itself out, after a last comb and a nod as he looked at himself in the mirror, he got out of the bathroom.
The smell of coffee mixed with the smell of toast immediately whetted his appetite. With a sure step, he walked to the kitchen table, he decided to ignore Rita who was still comforting one of his many friends. He preferred to stay away from these stories of good women, he sat down, contemplated the plate with 4 slices of bread, one of which was heart-shaped. Uh, Rita was becoming more and more mellow at the moment … But it made him smile, he had recovered his Rita.
He was about to bite into one of the beautiful buttered toasts, when Rita said in a voice that startled him: “Andrews is dead. He was found in the pool this morning. ».
The toast fell back on the plate quietly. Bruce turned around and looked at Rita’s face, she wasn’t lying. Then his gaze came to rest on the curves of Paula’s body. She never missed an opportunity to walk around the residence in her finery. Her face bathed in tears made her more accessible than usual. He felt a guilty desire born in her kangaroo briefs. No, he would not let himself be bewitched a second time.
As if nothing had happened, he resumed his breakfast. Andrews was dead, and it was going to be quite a mess. A black veil went through his eyes.
Facing the mirror, Sue smoothed her bangs one last time. Her makeup was perfect, she turned her head from left to right to make sure the foundation was properly applied. She gave a determined look in the mirror and then opened the closet behind it. A row of lipsticks lined up on the top shelf. She contemplated them for a moment, the Mortal Red was not in its usual place, she replaced it between the Blood Red and the Passion Red, it was much better that way. Then she grabbed the Bordeaux Chic, which her son had brought back from Paris. With a confident gesture, she spread the contents of the tube on her crumpled lips.
She closed the cupboard, smiled one last time at her reflection, took her stern look and walked to the bedroom. Pete had gotten out of bed, he was going to wear her out again before the day even started. She opened her dresser, all her pairs of glasses were arranged by color. Rosewood would go perfectly with her blouse. Once placed on her nose, she smoothed one last time the skirt of her tailor and joined the kitchen.
It was almost 7 o’clock, she was soon to be at the office. It was absolutely necessary that they solved the problem of the wild cat. The roars of the beast at night put her on the nerves and made the residents anxious. If the damn feral cat didn’t drive her crazy, it would be the complaints of the residents who would take care of it.
She went directly to the entrance and began to put on her pumps. The ringing of her phone rang inside her purse. Already? She wasn’t even in the office yet and already the problems were beginning.
“Sue Smith speaking,” she said in an authoritative voice. Her face turned pale. Andrews had been found dead in the pool. The feral cat would have to wait.
She shook her head, the pool was supposed to be closed at night. Frank was going to hear about her. As soon as the phone hung up, she dialed the gardener’s number.
His cap, he was about to forget his cap. Franck returned in a hurry to the room. But where had he put his cap. Besides, it was his favorite. His movements were jerky, he turned to the bed, then to the closet, then to the bed again. His eyes were crazy, the blinking of his eyelids was accelerating. He was having a seizure, he could feel it, his mouth was dry, and his limbs were shaken with tics.
Vicky got out of bed, she stood in front of him, grabbed him by the arms and kissed him on the forehead. Ah, it was already getting better, Vicky always had the right gestures to calm him down.
“Your cap is on your head, Franck. Hurry up before you’re late. “She whispered to him in a soft voice.
Oh she was right, he took off his cap, smoothed his greasy hair on his skull and put it back on. From his pocket, he took out his inhaler to relieve the asthma attack that was barely calming down. He grabbed his bag and in a hurry walked to his car.
His pickup was there, gleaming, waiting for him. The rims were as good as new, he had polished them and cleaned the rest of the afternoon yesterday. After seven hours of trimming bushes, it had relaxed him. He bulged his chest, he was proud of the result.
Once he had thrown the bag on the passenger seat, he started the vehicle with a bang. For a few minutes he thought he was a race car driver. Zoom Zoom Zoom Zoom Zoom, the car was humming, he took the tight corners, cut the road to the trailing motorists, and in no time at all to wake up, he arrived at Riverside Gardens.
The stress returned. He looked for the bottle of Powerade BlueBerries he had brought with him, and there it was. He was certain he had taken it with him. No, no, he couldn’t do without it, he could feel the fatigue overwhelming him.
The clock in the car read 6:41 a.m., he had to hurry. But his mind couldn’t concentrate on anything else but that cursed bottle that had disappeared. He struggled, his eyes rolled several times in their sockets, he had to give up the bottle. New tics shook him.
Finally, he managed to get out of the car. When he opened the door, the bottle rolled to his feet and he breathed a sigh of relief.
He had to deactivate the alarm. A wave of anguish swept over him. The code, he had to remember the code. Ah yes, 6790, yes that’s it, 6790. It was the code, he had written it down. He grabbed the paper in his pocket, 6790. A big smile appeared on his face, he remembered it.
As he walked towards the entrance airlock, his phone vibrated in his pocket. Oh no Vicky, this was no time to call him. What was the code again. Yet he grabbed the phone.
The three letters on the screen made him shiver. It was going to be a bad day. He picked up the phone.
Clarys could no longer sleep, so she wrapped herself in her velvet robe and walked to the window. As she passed by, she grabbed the frame with their wedding photo. The chair was already positioned facing the street, so she sat down in it.
This morning, it was cold, and she grabbed with her free hand the polar fleece blanket that her children had given her for Christmas. She felt lonely all of a sudden, terribly lonely. Her eyes fell on the frame that she was holding firmly in her hand. Her thumb caressed Rick’s face through the glass. He was beautiful her Rick, beautiful in his wedding suit. Even with the years, he had remained handsome. She had loved him so much. Where was she going to put all that love now?
A tear ran down her wrinkled cheek and fell on the frame. She wiped her face with one hand. Her eyes returned to the street. Deserted, at this hour, the street was deserted. But in a few minutes, the swimmers would make their appearance. First Paula, then all the others.
It was the only pleasure she had left with gardening, watching others live. Just by looking at them, she could guess the emotions, the stories. Yes, with a little observation, you could know a lot about people, much more than they would want to know.
Ah, Paula was coming. She had put the package together as usual, wrapped in red. This woman was dangerous, Clarys had no doubts. Yet she was her friend, if she didn’t understand her, she had been a great help when Rick had died of cancer. The Riverside nymph, yes, it was better to have her as a friend than an enemy.
Immersed in her memories, she didn’t see Martha passing by. It was Martha’s cry that took her out of her dreams.
A long shiver made her shudder, she had a very bad feeling. The images of the night came back to her memory. Bruce had gone to the pool a little before midnight and was followed closely by Andrews. All this was not telling her anything worthwhile. As long as nothing happened to Bruce, Rita would never get over it.
She had to warn her.
Following the next episode, next week …