HER LITTLE HELPERS
June woke to the smell of coffee and an empty bed. She could hear George in the bathroom, going about his morning routine. In a few minutes, her husband would emerge in a cloud of steam, smelling of soap and aftershave. He would kiss the crown of her head, as if she were a small child, and ask what she had planned for the day.
June’s stock answer was "Shopping." Sometimes, though, she mixed it up a little and would say, "Lunch with the girls." It didn’t matter since George wasn’t really listening to her. This little exchange was just part of the routine, part of the clockwork of interactions June went through every day.
After George was on his way, June would sit at the kitchen table, finishing off the small pot of coffee that Lucy, their maid, had brewed that morning. She would read the paper, too. If she was careful and diligent, June could make the process last until about eleven. Then, she would shower and dress, picking something at random off the closet rack. All her dresses were basically the same, arranged in seasonally-appropriate clumps.
After this, the afternoon would loom before her, a barren wasteland of time that she would need to fill. Today, she actually would go shopping, not that she needed anything. Not that she would buy anything. It would just get her out of the house for a couple of hours.
When she returned, Lucy would be gone. June would switch on the stereo and play records, kick off her heels and do the twist in the hallway between the kitchen and dining room. Safe from the prying, judgmental eyes of her neighbors.
Then, she would start dinner. Here, June made an effort. She had always liked cooking and was good at it. Didn’t the potential clients George brought home for dinners always rave about the food?
It was hot today, spring feeling more like summer. She would do something with the frozen salmon in the freezer. And a soup, she decided. A chilled vegetable soup with a lovely green salad and maybe some rolls.
Then, George would come home. He would tell her about his day, as he unwound with a glass of bourbon and a cigar. She would make sympathetic noises and they would have dinner, then a couple of hours on the couch watching television. After that, upstairs to bed and another day would be over.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, June planned out the day and was overwhelmed by the sheer, crushing boredom of it all. She opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out the bottle of white pills Doctor Reynard had prescribed. Her little helpers. June dry-swallowed two of them.
By the time George appeared in a scented cloud, June could feel the pills working. Smoothing out all of her internal bumps and bruises.
George kissed the top of her head. "What’s on the agenda today, kitten?"
Lifting her face, June smiled and said, "Shopping."