With or Without the Dog

The housekeeper was out by the pool.

Her bright purple T-shirt and yellow rubber gloves stood out against the soft white stone of the deck. Around her the lawn gleamed electric green. The panorama seemed contrived, the pops of color staged.

The housekeeper was pulling the robotic pool cleaner out of the water by its neck, draping the long cord in coils on the stone. When it was all out, she stepped around it and began to move efficiently among the white lounge chairs, up between them and back out, a needle stitching a hem in the deck. She straightened each chair, brushed tree refuse from the cushions, collected items from the side tables. A crumpled napkin, a copy of The Economist, an almost empty tumbler. Tim’s things. Then, cradling the items in her gloved hands, she disappeared inside.

Emeline watched the housekeeper from the bay window on the landing between the first and second floors of the house, holding a crumpled tissue to her running nose. When she saw the woman come inside, she turned from the window and hurried upstairs. Pausing in a moment of realization, she ran back down, tossed the tissue onto the window seat, and fled back up to her bedroom.

The housekeeper might have heard her. But Emeline’s feet were socked and she’d held her breath. She paused, listening. Below, the dishwasher breathed out hot air as the housekeeper opened it.

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