Overlooked

By: Lulu Pratt & Simone Sowood



Overlooked



She’s the closest thing I ever had to a sister



Our parents are best friends and neighbors.

We were raised together.

But one look at her naked body in the window and I’m hard.

How did I never notice her this way before?

Too bad she’s forbidden fruit.

She doesn’t deserve to be in my trail of one-and-done women.

Plus it would ruin 25 years of friendship between our parents.

But my body craves her.

The longer she stands in the window, the less I’m able to resist.

Screw it.





CHAPTER ONE





HARPER POLSEN



A weird sensation washes over me.

Everything is the same and everything is different all at the same time.

On the street that I grew up on, the Petersons finally got around to cutting down the big oak that cast their whole front yard in shade, while the Angelinos put up some kind of weird flag pole. The Kings moved out, I’d heard about that from my mom, and the new people living in their house had repainted.

I can still almost see the way things looked the last time I’d been in the neighborhood, but at the same time the changes make me look twice to make sure I’m in the right place after all.

My parents’ house, as I get to it, looks exactly the same as it did when I’d pulled out of the driveway after New Year’s Eve. Brick and mortar, with black trim and a slate roof that my mother had apparently insisted on, the bane of my dad’s existence, and a red door that almost glows in the hazy yellow afternoon light.

I turn into the driveway and pull up to the garage doors, throwing the car in park, and sit there for a minute. On the other side of my parents’ house, I see the Lewises’ cars on the driveway, and the big flower flag hanging over the entry on their front porch.

As soon as I get my stuff into my parents’ house, I need to drop by and say hello. After all, the Lewises are why I’m in town in the first place.

I shut off the engine, and spot my mom coming out of the house to greet me. She’s covered in speckles of paint, and I’m glad I thought to pack some old jeans and T-shirts in my suitcase, along with the nicer clothes I knew I would need for the week I’d be in town. Obviously Mom is helping the Lewises set up everything.

“You’d better run over next door real quick and say hello to your other mother,” Mom says as I’m climbing out of the car. I laugh and roll my eyes, reaching into the passenger seat to grab my purse.

“I just drove for hours,” I point out. “She knows that.”

“It’s her anniversary,” Mom counters.

“And her husband’s too,” I add, standing up straight again and turning around to face her. Mom hugs me tight and kisses me on either cheek.

“The drive must not have been too bad,” she observes. “I was expecting you in another hour or so.”

“I ended up getting out of the city early,” I explain. “I figured if I’m up anyway, I might as well get on the road.”

Mom rubs my back and I unlock the trunk. “So you’re here for a full week?”

I nod as I grab my suitcase from the trunk, along with the present I’ve got for the neighbors’ anniversary.

“Bev was just telling me she expects Zane in tonight, too.”

“Zane is in town?” I raise an eyebrow at that. I haven’t seen Zane in years, in spite of the fact that we’ve both come back to our parents’ homes dozens of times. Around the time I started my sophomore year of college, he shipped out to the army, and somehow we both managed to miss the other one ever since.

“He’s not about to miss his parents’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary,” Mom points out. “Not without a good reason.”

“I would think ‘the army wouldn’t give me leave’ would be a good reason,” I say.

“Well, they would, and they did. So he’s flying in tonight from wherever-it-is they have him stationed right now.”

“Good for them,” I say, shrugging. “It’ll be nice to see Zane again.”

“The army’s done wonders for him,” Mom tells me as we walk back up to the house. “Before he joined all he did was use his looks to bed half the girls in town. Although it’s easy to see how, he’s such a gorgeous young man.”

“Mom!” I look at her sharply.

“It’s fine to look at someone like him, as long as looking is all it is. He’s not exactly boyfriend material.”

“You’re married, and old enough to be his mother. I don’t know that it is okay for you to be looking.”

“Sure it is. As long as I never intend to do anything about it, or even try to intend to do anything about it,” Mom tells me cheerfully. “Besides, your dad isn’t even discreet about it when he gives a younger woman the once-over.”

I feel my cheeks burning and I close my eyes for a moment. I can’t really say why I feel so embarrassed to hear something like this. I mean, my parents obviously have a sex life, and they’re human beings and all that. But it feels weird hearing her talk about the guy I grew up with like he’s someone from a GQ spread or something.

“They need to fix your hormones,” I say, walking into the house. “You’re turning into a letch.”

“I am not a letch,” Mom says tartly. “I am simply an older woman who knows what she likes.”

I roll my eyes at that and start up the stairs to my old room.

“I’m going back next door, come over when you’re ready to lend a hand,” Mom calls to me.

“You’re still painting, right?” I look over my shoulder to see Mom nod. “I’ll change into clothes I can get covered in paint, and then come over.”

I open up my suitcase once I’m in my room, and find my jeans and T-shirt. While I’m getting changed, I look out my window. Across the yard, the blinds are shut in the window directly opposite mine, so I can’t see into it, but I know that by the end of the day Zane will be in there. His parents, like mine, probably kept his bedroom more or less the way it was the day he left home.

I glance around my own room. Thankfully I had managed to develop some sense of taste by the time I left for New York City, for my then-new and exciting job at the publishing company. I’d last had my parents paint the walls a creamy off-white with a sage-green trim, and the bed that my parents had bought for me was a full-size with a wrought-iron headboard.

I toss my clothes from the drive into the hamper, and pull my hair back into a ponytail to keep it out of my face. I’m ready to go say hello to the Lewises and throw myself into helping them get ready for all the partying they’re going to do.

I say a quick hello to my dad out on the back patio on my way over. He’s in the middle of building something. Even if I hadn’t already volunteered to help next door, I had got into the habit when I was a kid of avoiding him when he worked with tools, because Mom didn’t want me to hear him cussing.

Of course, by now I could probably teach him a few phrases. Living in New York has been educational. I give him a quick peck on the cheek, and make my way across the yard, over the property line to the house next door.

“There’s my favorite girl!” Bev Lewis spots me even before my own mother does, and she puts down the paintbrush in her hand to give me a hug. She’d always wanted a daughter, but Zane was her only child. Mom had told Bev that she was just as much my mom as my mom was, anyway, and that had stuck.

I kiss her on the cheek and grin up at her.

“Happy anniversary, Bev!”

I give her shoulders an extra squeeze and I give her a kiss on the other cheek.

“Did your mother tell you Zane is coming tonight?”

I pull back from Bev, and nod. “She mentioned it. I’m glad he could get leave. God, twenty-five years of being married.” I shake my head in astonishment of that. I haven’t even had a relationship last more than twenty-five weeks.

“Your father and I are just about there, too,” my mom points out, barely looking up from the trellis she’s painting.

“And when your anniversary happens, I’ll be just as amazed,” I tell her. “Now, what do you need me to help you with, Bev?”

“After that long drive here, you’re right on over here to help me out?” Bev shakes her head, still smiling, and gives me a pat on the shoulder. “Just take it easy. Your mom and I are doing more wine drinking than painting at this point.”

“Just point me to what needs doing, and I’ll get started.”

I’m surprised at how good it feels, especially after the long drive from the city, to actually do something. I grab a paintbrush and get to work.





CHAPTER TWO





ZANE LEWIS



It’s almost midnight by the time I pull my rental car up the driveway at my parents’ place and cut off the engine. My flight ended up being delayed a good three hours, and then the airline had to figure out how to reroute me. Next door at the Polsens’ place, there’s a car out on the driveway. I perk up a bit. It’s possible they’ve got some kind of guest, but even more likely that Harper’s in town.

I get out of the car and grab my bag from the back seat. I figure my parents are probably already in bed, but I hear the front door opening and look up to see Mom standing there. She’s in pajamas, but she grins at me as I walk up to the front porch, and throws her arms around me like it’s been years instead of months since the last time I saw her.

“Happy anniversary, Mom,” I say, giving her a kiss, and she squeezes me harder.

“I’m so happy to see you, Zane,” Mom says, hugging me again before she finally lets me into the house.

“Your father’s already asleep. So if you’re hungry, there’s leftover pot roast in the fridge that I can heat up for you. I bought those chips you like,” Mom says as I put my stuff down. “It’s so good to see you, sweetheart,” she tells me.

“Good to see you, too, Mom,” I say, grinning at her.

“Your father’s pretty sure he fixed the problem with the cable reception in here, but if it’s still glitchy, let us know,” Mom says. She hugs me again and I hug her back.

“Mom, I’m not going to just up and disappear if you don’t keep hugging me,” I tell her.

She laughs. “I know, I’m just so glad,” she says. “I’m going to go and watch some horrible Lifetime movie, but if you need anything…”

“If I need anything, I know how and where to get it,” I tell her. “Relax, Mom! I’m not Aunt Tracy.”

“You certainly aren’t,” Mom agrees. “Thank God she decided to stay at a hotel.”

I snicker and Mom goes still, looking like she wants to bake an entire batch of cookies or maybe start the pot roast over from scratch for me. Some things never change.

“Did I tell you Harper came home for the week to be part of the celebration, too?”

“I saw a car out front next door,” I tell her. “I figured it was probably her.”

“She got in this afternoon, and helped us paint some trellises and things for the party,” Mom explains, as she leads me up the stairs to my old bedroom. No matter how many times I come home, no matter the fact that she would never have done this for me when I was a kid, Mom insists on walking me up to my bedroom as if I’m a guest.

Mom goes on about the preparations, about the parties they’re throwing, and I only kind of half-listen. She’s going to tell me all the same things tomorrow and the next day anyway.

Besides which, I have bigger things on my mind. My enlistment is coming to an end, and just before I left to come home my commanding officer sent me paperwork to sign. I could either leave the army or re-enlist. For the past week or so, since the first notice came, it’s been all I can think about. I know my mom wants me back home, or at least, close enough to home that I can visit more than maybe twice a year, but what would I even do outside of the military?

“Go watch your movie and get some sleep,” I suggest. “I’ll probably crash out in a bit.”

“I’ll see you in the morning, sweetheart,” Mom says, finally leaving me alone.

I shake my head and stand up. I’m a little hungry, but I figure I’ll give Mom a chance to settle in and get into her movie before I head for the kitchen. By then she should be able to let me fix my own plate and heat it up without wanting to do everything for me.

I look around my room, feeling a little bored and restless. Compared to my place on-base, it’s cluttered. Posters on the walls, stuff barely contained in my closet, trophies and badges and stuff from high school on my dresser and desk. The TV and my old PlayStation take up almost an entire corner. Nothing is in regulation colors. It’s good to be back, but weird at the same time, the way it was the first time. I don’t think it will ever not really be weird.

I open the blinds and look out through my window. All the lights are off at the Polsens’ place across the yard except for the one in Harper’s old room, but her curtains are closed. I figure I’ll go over in the morning to say hello, maybe ask Mom if I should invite them all over for breakfast or whatever.

Just as I come up with this idea, I see the curtains rustling in the window across the way, and then I see her. She’s in a tank top and shorts, her hair down around her shoulders, obviously getting ready to go to bed. She looks up and spots me at the same time.

I tug open my window and grin at her. Harper’s actually looking pretty good these days, I think to myself as I wave. Harper returns the wave and grins at me. She bites her bottom lip, and opens her own window, leaning out a bit.

“Hey!” She does that shout-whisper thing, and I lean out through my window. “Just get into town?”

“Yeah, Mom said you were here,” I call back, as quietly as I can.

“How long are you here for?”

“A week. You?”

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