Someone’s breath tickledRuss’ cheek. Warm air and a faintodor of sweat and perfumenudged him from sleep, his eyesflickering. He slid an arm across thetangled sheets, felt a pillow andsearched in the darkness for awarm body.He was alone. Russ forced hiseyes open. The room was dim, litonly by slashes of sunlight that out-lined the dark shade covering thewindow. He glanced at the clockon the bedside table. Nearly threeo’clock in the afternoon. Justenough time to shower and getgoing.
Russ scanned the neighbor-hoods of Skyview Acres as hedrove to work. At least a third of thehouses he passed were little morethan skeletons — wood frameswith plastic sheeting that flappedin the wind like loose skin. Most ofthe finished models still had ForSale and Open House signs in frontof them. The wife would havehated this place, he thought. Hepictured Simona tossing buckets ofneon-colored paint at the beige-,tan- or gray-sided homes. Hecame to a stop sign and foundhimself staring at a swing set onsomebody’s front lawn. Peoplewith kids must have lived there, un-less it was a prop to make thehouse more enticing to home buy-ers. He pulled away slowly, watch-ing the vacant swings sway in therearview mirror.
, he corrected himself.
Russ checked his watch.He’d made three wrong turns justtrying to get out of his tangled newsubdivision. He was running late.Each day’s drive to the universityseemed to take him on a differentroute. He remembered the realtordescribing the winding streets andunpredictable lanes betweenblocks as a good thing. “You don’tget that boxed-in feeling thatcomes with a grid system,” she’dsaid. Russ had nodded, looked atthe clock on the realtor’s desk, andwondered if Simona would showup or if he’d have to look throughthe brochures alone again.Russ passed house afterhouse, each so similar to the lastthat he wondered if he was sim-ply circling the same block overand over again. A street ahead wasclosed off by construction barriers,though there was no crew evident.He turned left, half-sure he wasback where he started in his ownneighborhood. Then he saw thesign for Route 11 and checked hiswatch again.