A professional screenwriter, Irene Turner co-wrote the gritty drama An American Crime, starring Catherine Keener and Ellen Page, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It received Golden Globe, Emmy, and Writers Guild Award nominations. Her publications include [PANK], Gargoyle, Pear Noir!, and the Mulholland Books-curated site Popcorn Fiction. She won Spittoon Magazine’s award for Best Creative Nonfiction, 2013.
Tom wasn’t late. Ever. Annie always knew where he was. But today he must have hit up every aisle at the hardware store—he’d been gone about an hour and a half. She could imagine him chatting happily with some underemployed clerk, discussing the merits of fertilizer and mulch. Annie enjoyed his absence more than she’d admit to: he worked from home and so did she and the never-ending closeness could cloy.
She zipped open the yoga bag which he’d left on the stairs, blocking her way yet again. Not expecting anything, but impatient and stuck until Tom returned with the hand trowel—their afternoon project was to weed.
The bag smelled of dank towel and yesterday’s exertions. The handle nearly fell off, but he’d never let her replace it. “Bad karma,” he’d say and shrug at his superstition. An aging gray mat bulged with cloth stuck between the layers. She reached in and yanked out a pair of chick panties. Cotton, hipster, flowered. Someone’s fuck you to sexy, she thought.
She spread them out in her hand, weighed and measured their importance. At least they were clean. Although, this made things more suspicious. When were they taken off?
Their determined ugliness reeked of Margaret, the 7 a.m. teacher at the Bikram sweat-box yoga where Tom went religiously. Twice, Annie had gone to class with him: once to hate it and a second to prove she wasn’t being prejudicial, that only crazy people downward-dogged here. She preferred racquetball or running or ten fast laps in the Y pool, while the elderly women did their waterobic jazzercise.
She remembered flat-chested Margaret with her spaghetti-string tank tops and shoulder-length hair scraped back in a bun. Her quavering voice. Her trim authority as she swept through the classroom, adjusting postures and uttering inaudible encouragements in the stink of 105 degrees. Athletic but not graceful, she reeked of try-hard. Tom worked at yoga as if there were a goal line. Maybe that’s how he scored Margaret. If he had.
Had Tom dreamed of pretzel sex or levitating orgasms? Maybe he just liked the way Margaret adjusted his back. Or maybe she’d shoved them into his bag on some impulsive fancy. A secret Vedic flirtation only she understood.
Annie considered the options. She should call him out, have a rare argument, but she knew he’d have an explanation, one she’d want to believe. Returning them to Margaret required confrontation and melodrama and might even be what Margaret wanted.
He’d be back soon. He had to be. The decision must be made quickly. She scrunched the panties in a ball. Squeezed them hard. Wrapped them around her fingers.
The garage door creaked and forced her hand.
Tom entered whistling, full of inscrutable cheer, a hint of perspiration on his brow. She snuck the panties into her nearby purse. She’d wait for an act of contrition or probing. From Tom or from Margaret, whichever one first felt guilty or anxious. Didn’t matter how long, Annie wouldn’t give away her knowledge.
It would fuck with their enlightenment.