Suzanne drove 3 hours non-stop to reach her long-distance boyfriend’s apartment in time for her birthday dinner date that he had organized. Hurrying between the apartment buildings in the vast complex, she noticed a pretty blonde girl hurrying in the opposite direction, applying lipstick as she ran. Suzanne appreciated that talent and guessed she must be a model to be that skilled. She would have lipstick on her nose if she tried that.
As she knocked on Doug’s door, she tried the doorknob and finding the door unlocked, she barged in, yelling out, “Hey, Doug, I’m here!” She tossed her coat at the couch but missed, and headed straight to the bathroom, cursing the coffee she had to have before she set out. Slowing her breath as she peed, Suzanne sensed something different about the bathroom. It seemed unusually clean for Doug, who only gave it a quick wipe down when he knew she was visiting. But there was something else. Mixed in with the scent of Scrubbing Bubbles was another scent she couldn’t quite identify. Perhaps Doug had lit scented candles, but there were none in the bathroom. She finished, and bent down to pick up her purse when she saw a long, blonde hair near the baseboard under the cabinet. Did Doug hire a maid?
Her mind went through plausible scenarios while her body tensed with the truth. She was there in her head, ignoring the turmoil growing through her midsection, when she collided with Doug as he came out of his bedroom.
The collision became a hug, and Doug said, “Hey, you’re here. I didn’t hear you come in. I was just changing out of my work clothes.”
“Yeah, I just let myself in. Really, really had to pee.” Suzanne wanted to say more but felt tongue-tied.
With a quick peck, he grabbed her hand and walked her to his small kitchen. “Of course! Long drive and all. Let’s have a glass of champagne to start your birthday celebration.”
The champagne bottle was already open, and there was that scent again, stronger this time. Suzanne pulled her hand from Doug’s and avoided his touch as he served a champagne flute. “Thanks,” she said. “Looks like you started without me. That bottle is only half full.”
When he didn’t respond, she added, “Hey, who was that blonde girl leaving the apartment?”
Doug’s eyes went wide and then he looked down. “Yeah, guess I did have a glass when I got home from work. And what girl? There wasn’t a girl here, she must have been leaving another apartment. I don’t know any blonde girls. Oh, unless it was Jenny. Yeah, must have been Jenny. She just moved in next door, so you probably saw her running out of her apartment, not mine.”
Now fully connected, mind and body, Suzanne ignored the rambling and said, “Her perfume smells lovely. And I noticed one of her long blonde hairs in the bathroom. Is that lipstick on your ear?”
“What?” Beads of sweat appeared on Doug’s forehead as he felt his ear. “Her perfume? I don’t know anything about how she smells. Really. But, um, yeah, she needed some extra money so I let her clean the apartment. It looks great doesn’t it. Better than I could ever do. She did every room. And look, over there on the coffee table. I got a new candle in, um, vanilla for your birthday. Isn’t that your favorite?”
She put the champagne flute deliberately down on the counter, walked the 10 feet over to the coffee table, and leaned over to blow out the candle, intensifying the strong vanilla scent.
“Nope, Doug, that’s not it. Take a deep whiff where you’re standing. Definitely not vanilla. More cloying. Floral. Something I would never wear and the same odor I smelled when that girl ran by me. The gentleman, thou doth protest too much, methinks.”
His blank stare and silence confirmed her suspicions.
She grabbed her purse, picked up her coat where she dropped it, and left Doug standing there in a cloud of guilt.