The hot water cascaded over her head, her shoulders, over her body, and she luxuriated in the comforting warmth. She’d been in the shower less than two minutes, but the mirror was fogged up, and the metal surfaces in the tiny bathroom were already slick with beads of condensation. Leah Webb sighed, closed her eyes, and savored one of the small pleasures that remained in her life.
A mug of steaming coffee sat on a shelf in the shower, beside bottles of body wash and shampoo with compelling names and captivating scents. They were brands she never could have afforded, luxuries she never would have spent money on in her old life. But money was no longer an issue. Bleach, however, was.
Fortunately, it was easy to find in reasonably large quantities. Leah stockpiled it, and could smell a sharp tang of it now, a reminder of her morning ritual. Not a day went by that she didn’t pour bleach down all the drains in the cabin, wipe down all the walls, mop the floors, and scrub the windows with the stuff. She even cleaned out the gutters of the cabin once a month, climbing up on the roof and pulling out handfuls of rancid, rotting leaves, pine needles, and other accumulated debris, then dumping a 50/50 solution of bleach and water through the gutters and down spouts. The harsh cleanser was making the flesh of her hands deeply crack and peel, despite liberal use of moisturizers.
The water became less hot and more tepid as she washed her hair – what was left of her hair after she’d taken her ex-husband’s electric clippers to it and shaved it down to a crew-cut. The cabin, which had been their summer home on Hall Quarry Road on Maine’s Mount Desert Island – MDI – as the locals called it – had a small, aged water heater. It produced just enough hot water to meet her cleaning needs if she spaced them throughout the day. Leah gulped her coffee, finished her shower, and turned off the water. She grabbed a towel and dried off, but not before she poured a cup of bleach down the shower drain, into the sink, and in toilet. The porcelain gleamed. Her hands and knuckles ached.
She’d over slept, and the mid-morning sun was already high in the sky by the time she’d finished breakfast and scoured the kitchen. The rooms of the cabin were illuminated with a warm glow of sunshine which did an admirable job of driving the shadows away. Leah loved sunshine, and kept the curtains and blinds in her home open throughout the day to let in as much light and warmth as possible. It also helped her conserve the fuel for the generator she knew she’d need to make it through Maine’s harsh winters. She’d never wintered in the north before, and being a pragmatic Midwestern girl since birth, had been raised to plan for the worst and hope for only slightly better. She’d made it a point to spend some time each day acquiring supplies for the cold season, which was only a couple of months away.
The cabin was on a hillside overlooking Somes Sound. The view from the deck was stunning. Leah paused for a moment before trudging down the steps to the carport behind the cabin where she kept her Jeep. It was good for short trips and even on the twisting, winding roads of Maine, got good gas mileage. Along with her cat McGyver, it was one of the few things she insisted on getting as part of the divorce settlement. She’d had it detailed an hour after Charlie had relinquished the title and the keys, and then she had cleaned it an additional time herself. Commercial cleaning services didn’t seem to have the appreciation for little details, like steam cleaning the seatbelts and trunk. They missed that every time.
Although there was a garage behind the cabin, she kept the Jeep under the carport. It was easier to keep the carport clean; there were too many dark corners and too much damp in the garage, and Leah had a difficult time working up her nerve to go in there.
Oliver Pötzsch, Lee Chadeayne