Keeping up with the Joneses—Shanna L
Keeping up with the Joneses
The rhythmic squeaking of the grocery store cart made Barbara Jones wince as she pushed her basket down the aisle. Glancing at the shelves in front of her, she bent down, grabbed a bag of flour and placed it in her cart. A cacophony of voices surrounded her as she pushed her squeaky cart by a man arguing loudly on his cell phone, while a baby screamed a couple aisles over.
Barbara shivered in the frigid supermarket air and pulled her sweater tighter around her stomach. Why were supermarkets always so cold, she wondered. Looking down to the grocery list in her hand, she crossed off flour and looked to see what else was on her list. Suddenly, a shrill voice called Barbara’s name, causing her to look up in alarm.
“Hi Barbara!” Standing in front of Barbara was Sharon Smith. Barbara and Sharon were neighbors; their families lived across the street from one another. Barbara, her husband Dan, and their children Molly and Steven, were new to the neighborhood having just moved in a little over three months ago. Sharon and her family had come over the first week to welcome the Joneses to the community.
Barbara stared at Sharon in dread. Over the past couple of months, since meeting the Smiths, Barbara noticed there was something wrong about the family. The Smith’s dining room window was right across from the Jones’s driveway and whenever Barbara came home, she always felt she was being watched. A few times she had even seen a figure in the Smith’s window, gazing intently out.
Other incidents came to Barbara’s mind as she stood in the grocery store aisle, such as the increasing frequency of the Smith children’s intrusiveness. They seemed to come over every day, wanting to play with Barbara’s children, and they were always waiting at school, bounding around like little puppies, eager to see Molly and Steven.
Sharon and her husband Dave were worse than their children. They asked numerous probing and prying questions. The day after Dan touted the Jones’s new Infiniti, an identical car appeared in the Smith’s driveway. When new carpet was installed in the Jones’s home, a week later the same carpet company was seen installing new carpet in the Smith’s home.
Because of the Smith’s bizarre behavior, Barbara was dismayed to be confronted by Sharon at the grocery store. She resigned herself to the situation and looked at the woman standing in front of her. Barbara had always thought that Sharon was a bit dowdy, but there was something different about Sharon today.
“You got your hair cut!” Barbara exclaimed.
What once was long, lank, dark brown hair, was now a shoulder length bob, infused with highlights. Quite like, well quite like hers, Barbara realized.
“Well, I just decided that it was time for a change,” Sharon said as she ran a hand over her hair, smoothing it down. “I went to your girl since you recommended her and told her I wanted hair just like yours.”
“Oh! Well, the cut and color looks nice.” Barbara wasn’t sure if she was flattered. She took a moment to look at Sharon more closely. Sharon was wearing different clothes than usual. Her black suit dress made her look professional and polished, not at all like the typical sweat outfits Barbara had seen her wear. Barbara looked down at her own black dress, a feeling of panic starting to rise in her stomach.
“How are the kids?” Sharon asked, moving out of the way of another shopper.
“Molly and Steven are well. Yours?”
“They’re great,” Sharon gushed. “Susan just adores her new ballet class and Chris is hitting home run after home run on the baseball field.”
Ballet and baseball, thought Barbara. While those were normal activities for children, those two activities just happened to be the ones her kids were involved in. Barbara remembered the complaints of Molly and Steven, stating that the Smith children had suddenly appeared at their practices one day. Steven was annoyed as Chris had insisted on being on his team and Molly complained that Susan was always standing next to her at the barre and that she had even shown up at the last class wearing the same outfit as Molly.
“That’s nice,” Barbara said as she glanced around. Her gaze fell on Sharon’s cart and her expression froze as she took stock of Sharon’s groceries. Pork chops, eggs, cereal, and flour lay on the bottom of Sharon’s basket. Barbara’s eyes shifted to her own cart as she realized that she and Sharon had identical groceries.
“I like your sweater,” Sharon said, pointing out the ruffle trim on Barbara’s collar. “Where did you get it?”
“My sweater?” Barbara repeated, laughing nervously. “I’ve had it for such a long time, I really don’t remember.”
“Well, if you do, let me know. I’d love to have a sweater like that.”
Barbara smiled shakily and glanced around in a panic. “You know, I really have to go Sharon,” she said, making a show of looking at her watch. “I promised the kids I wouldn’t be gone long. I’ll see you later.”
Barbara swerved her cart around to the right, causing it to squawk loudly. She quickly pushed her basket through the next aisle, toward the exit. She glanced over her shoulder, half expecting Sharon to be following her, but no one was there. Abandoning her cart by the produce section, she rushed out into the parking lot, intent on getting home to tell her husband that they needed to move, now!