Her fear came back as a note on a half-sheet of paper that her eight-year-old Gwen found on the bottom of the empty recycling bin. “prety woman”—in bold, uncertain sharpie, handwriting that to Mandy bespoke the failure of the public education system. She was terrified of what it meant.
“Who wrote that, Mommy?”
“I don’t know, honey. No one.”
She crumpled it up and threw it in the trash, then realized that whoever left it might find it again, if he were determined. She dug it out and put it in a drawer.
The following Friday she set her alarm for 5:15 to ensure she was up by six. Mandy padded to the front of the house in her nightgown and stood just to the right of the window next to the door, waiting.
By the time the truck appeared around the corner twenty minutes later, she could feel her heartbeat in her ears.
Eventually it stopped in front of their house and a dark-skinned man in a cap hopped off the back. He grabbed the bin with one hand. Mandy needn’t have put it out; the two of them didn’t generate enough recyclables to merit emptying it every week—and yet.
Her breath had fogged up the windowpane. She wiped it off with her sleeve. The man paused, holding the orange bin. His head tilted forward. Had she given herself away? Mandy panicked, ducked into the living room and crouched by the sofa until she heard the truck moving off.
She waited until its engine grew faint, then scrambled to her feet and unlocked the front door. Barefoot, her nightgown trailing white behind her, she ran toward the bin on the curb, anxious to see.
Simon Jacobs edits Safety Pin Review.