Hinges squealed like the wail of a distressed sprite as the bathroom stall door swung open, its outer edge nearly grazing a young woman standing outside the stall. The woman, dressed in gray slacks and a blue blouse, was a half shade lighter than Leticia Foley’s cocoa brown skin, with wavy, shoulder-length hair. Chestnut brown eyes focused their contemptuous stare on Leticia. “You should leave Thaddeus,” the woman stated.

            Leticia squinted, trying to discern who this person was. Definitely not Monique or Brandi.

            “Thaddeus is without companionship tonight because you wouldn’t consider participating in an experience that is important to him. Having drinks with your friends at a bar is typical of your shallowness, and Thaddeus shouldn’t have to suffer it.”

            “Who…how do you know Thad and me?” Leticia still didn’t recognize this woman who had her contained in a bathroom stall like a figurine in a small display case. The clack clack clack of hard-soled shoes on tile caused the woman to look over her shoulder. A hefty, bespectacled lady had entered the restroom. Leticia hopped into the narrow space between her and the wavy-haired woman, darted right, scooted along the wall and yanked open the door. Leticia backed into the bar’s dimly lit, noisy main room, her gaze on the restroom door, expecting the woman to emerge and pursue her.

            “Behind you!”

            Leticia whirled and shrank from the waitress with whom she nearly collided. The waitress moved past Leticia, a tray carrying glasses balanced on her right hand. Leticia made her way to the table where Monique and Brandi awaited her return. The back of her chair diagonally faced the restroom door. Leticia scooted the chair in a semicircular path until its front faced the door, then sat down.

            Monique gave Leticia a puzzled frown. “Why did you move your chair? Do you see a good-looking man?”

            “Some wench in the restroom said stuff to me about not going with Thad tonight. I don’t know who she is or how she knows Thad and me.”

            Brandi gasped.

            “I don’t want her sneaking up behind me,” Leticia explained.

            The frown remained on Monique’s broad-nosed face. “Do you think she might be having an affair with Thad?”

            “I doubt that, but it’s possible. Thad has his ‘groupies,’ if that’s what you want to call them. People who love the video game apps he invented and his novels. A lot of them are women.”

            “And that’s why you talked Thad into marrying you real quick.”

            Leticia waved her hand like she was swatting down Monique’s assertion, unwilling to truthfully agree. She and Thad had been dating for about seven months when she finally agreed to sit in on one of his “meet and greet” book signing appearances. She observed how well her shy, introverted man interacted with some of the women, particularly two of them. The beautiful young sister with long braids who chatted with Thad about a bunch of stuff Leticia didn’t know or want to relate to anyway. The Asian woman with high cheekbones who laughed along with Thad as they traded witty remarks and puns. Two days later Leticia persuaded Thad to marry her. They tied the knot in a hastily organized wedding, much to the consternation of Thad’s parents.

            “I’m not sayin’ what you did was bad,” Monique stated. “A lot of women are gonna think of Thad as a good catch. He’s super smart, making big bucks—”

            “And he’s cute,” Brandi chimed in. Leticia wouldn’t describe Thad as cute, but his current self was better than the skinny, pimple-faced boy she knew in high school.

            “You reached out to him at the right time, when he started becoming successful,” Monique said.

            “Yeah. I’d gotten tired of Antoine goin’ upside my head, wanted to be with a better class of man.”

            “I know that’s right.”

            “I heard folks talking about him, saw news reports and read some articles. Looked him up on Facebook and contacted him, said I was thinking about organizing a twelve-year class reunion. He eventually responded.”

            “He’d just lost his first wife, hadn’t he?”

            “Uh-huh. That blonde wench. He came home one evening and found her at the bottom of the stairs in their townhouse. It’s not surprising that the fall broke her scrawny neck.”

            “She was from Remington Hills, wasn’t she?” Monique inquired.

            “She was. The part of town where folks like us aren’t often seen unless we’re there to do some work for somebody.”

            “Um hmm.”

            “Has that woman come out of the ladies’ room yet?” Brandi asked.

            Leticia shook her head without turning to look at Brandi’s slender, pretty face. She kept her gaze on the restroom door.

            “What does she look like?” Monique queried.

            “She’s pretty, with—”

            The ladies’ room door swung open. The hefty woman who had unknowingly been a needed distraction for Leticia emerged and strolled to a table where three people were seated.

            “Maybe she came out while I was trying not to run into a waitress,” Leticia said.

            “She knows you and Thad and that you didn’t want to go to a concert with him,” Monique said. “I’d be mad and worried.”

            “I am, and I don’t want to stick around if she’s still here,” Leticia replied, standing up and making her way towards the exit. “Stay close to me.”


 Leticia, suited up in a tank top and leggings, strolled into the study to begin the first of two charades she intended to perpetrate that morning. Thad’s mama believed being deceitful on a Sunday was especially sinful. Leticia considered it necessary. She had to make Thad believe she cared whether or not he enjoyed himself the night before. Thad, still in a robe and pajamas, was pecking away at his laptop on the desk positioned near long rectangular windows. It had been Thad’s desire to move into a Tudor house. He loved the elaborate, retro stylishness of the place. Leticia would have preferred a modern style but she’d become comfortable with the Tudor. Thad had agreed to have one room converted into an exercise area for her, and she regarded that as the very least he could do to accommodate her in this situation.

            “How was the concert?” she asked Thad.

            Thaddeus Foley turned to his wife. The moderate amount of pounds his tall frame had put on since high school filled out his face, making him somewhat handsome but not as good looking as Brandi seemed to think. “Enthralling and soothing. It amazes me that a live New Age concert could create such an aesthetic among numerous people in a large venue. I wish you had experienced it.” 

            Leticia went to her husband’s side and placed her hand on the nape of his neck. “I would have been fidgeting all evening. You can’t have peace and calm with that going on.”

            “I think you would have experienced the same effect as the rest of the audience.”

            Leticia tapped Thad’s forehead. “Your brain works differently than mine or most other people’s. That’s why those scientists monitored your brain activity awhile back, right?”

            “Well, yeah.” Leticia and Monique had overheard Thad mentioning the experience to a classmate. The two of them looked at each other, giggled and walked away as Thad and the classmate turned to see the source of the mirth. Thad never disclosed exactly what the scientists did and why, even after he and Leticia married.

            Leticia kissed Thad’s cheek. “Time for my workout.” She gave Thad a view of her shapely, five foot six- body. “Gotta keep this in good condition.” Leticia walked away from the desk containing a model of a fictional solar system and a dragon-cheetah hybrid statuette. A framed photo of Jordan, Thad’s previous wife, had been displayed on the desk at his previous residence until he and Leticia became engaged. Leticia sometimes wondered if the modestly smiling image of Thad’s aquiline-nosed, green-eyed first wife was still among his possessions. Leticia jogged down a short hallway and into her workout area. Her smartphone was on a table near the treadmill. The second charade had begun…coming to this room under the pretense of working out. She called Bob Cornell.

            “What’s going on, Leticia?” Bob must have seen her name on his caller ID.

            “Something weird happened last night. I was at a bar with a couple of friends when a woman tried to corner me in a bathroom stall. She complained about me not being with Thad and said I should leave him.”

            “Who was she?”

            “I’ve never seen her before. A complete stranger shouldn’t have known about what Thad and I were up to last night.” Leticia imagined the concerned look in Bob’s light brown eyes and on his large, pasty face.

            “Where was Thaddeus?” Bob, like most people, called Thad by his full name. Leticia thought it was an odd name for a brother. Thad’s mama had told her it meant “gift of God” in ancient Greek. When Thad was a teenager he used to joke that he was named after some villain who was always giving a superhero a hard time.

            “He was at some concert I didn’t want to go to.”

            Bob was unresponsive for a moment. Leticia knew Thad’s business manager and friend was silently judging her. “That is disturbing. Calling me was the right thing to do. If Thaddeus were to find out about the incident he would worry and maybe withdraw from life like he did when Jordan died.”

            “That’s why I reached out to you instead of the police.” Leticia barely concealed her disgust at the way Bob said the previous wife’s name. Thaddeus’ marriage to Leticia was “the rebound relationship,” and Bob’s fondness for Jordan could be heard in his voice.

            “I’m especially concerned about what this woman might try when Thaddeus leaves town for a speaking engagement Thursday. He’ll be gone until the following Monday. I’ll figure out what we can do, and you need to tell me everything you can about that woman.”

            “I will. She needs to be found.”


            The aubergine minivan had been parked across the street since early afternoon. It would soon pull away from the curb and another vehicle would occupy that spot, affording its driver a front view of the Foley residence and immediate vicinity. This was part of what Bob came up with…private investigators conducting round-the-clock surveillance. PIs were also trying to discover the identity of the wavy-haired woman and locate her. Leticia had wanted to notify the police and have a security system installed, but Bob didn’t want Thad to become concerned. Couldn’t give Thad a reason to withdraw from public life, oh no. His fans would no longer receive his brilliance—and profits would cease. Leticia watched from the living room window until a gray sedan arrived and positioned itself behind the minivan. The minivan headed up the street and the sedan rolled into the recently vacated curbside area. The sedan would be there until several hours after sunset. Thad had left for the airport that morning. Leticia had been in the house most of the day. She wanted to get outside, be in the backyard awhile. When Leticia had a job she would often go there to relax after a trying day at the office. She hadn’t done that since the day she got fed up with office politics and resigned, secure in the knowledge that Thad was earning more than enough to support them both. Today she was wearing a sleeveless top and cutoffs. The late afternoon sun would feel good on her arms and legs. Leticia made her way to the rear of the house and through double doors to the backyard area. A high wooden fence surrounded the area. The yard’s lone tree, a dogwood, stood in the far left corner. Leticia removed the tarp from the chaise lounge, stretched out on its cushions and closed her eyes.

            “You’re not doing anything. Why didn’t you go with Thaddeus?” The wavy-haired woman stood near the foot of the chaise lounge, her lovely face made hideous by the scornful expression it wore.

            Leticia vaulted out of the chaise lounge, causing it to tilt on its side. She backed away from the woman glaring at her. “How do you know Thad and me?”

            “I was borne of Thaddeus’ imagination, the type of fantasy love interest most people create to satisfy themselves. But in me Thaddeus developed a lady to be more than an uninhibited lover. He gave me an intellect, a personal history and fully realized personality, then cared for me in ways a woman such as myself would appreciate. Thaddeus has often been lonely and brokenhearted. I was available to him during those times. He’s been led on by girls and women who ultimately abandoned him when they had misgivings about bringing a guy like him home to meet her family. I’ve been the girl inside his mind who isn’t concerned about his skin. I’m not put off or intimidated by Thaddeus’ intellect. He had the occasional chance to make a connection with a lady, but past rejections and mockery from the likes of you caused him to withdraw into his shell and he remained alone in this real world in which he must live. I was his companion, nurturer and soulmate during those times. When Thaddeus fulfilled his potential Jordan put aside trepidations she likely had, then you took advantage when her death left a void in his life. He made me to be his ideal partner, he should still be giving his affection to me, not you. I cherish the existence I have in the comforting abode of Thaddeus’ wonderful, powerful mind.”

            Leticia backed away from the glaring woman, turning long enough to locate the handle on the back door. After stepping inside and locking the door she located her smartphone in the living room and called Bob. “That woman’s in the back yard!”

            “Omigod! Is that where you are?”

            “No. Living room.”

            “Stay inside.”

            “You don’t have to tell me that.”

            “Are all the doors locked?”


            “I’ll send the police.”

            “That’s what you should have done in the first place.”

            “I’m coming over.”

            “Hold on.” Leticia returned to the back door and scanned the yard from the safe side of the door’s glass. “I’m looking outside. Don’t see her. She’s crazy. Told me she is a woman Thad created in his mind.”

            Bob moaned. “Apparently delusional.”

            “What I want to know is how she got into the back yard without being noticed. The PI must not have seen her, no one can climb the fence and the neighbor’s dog didn’t bark.”

            “I am extremely worried about this.”

            “Are you? How does she know so much about Thaddeus and me? Who gave her access to this house?”

            “You’re accusing me of being involved with trying to scare you off? I’m not playing that game. Hopefully Thaddeus will come to his senses and realize—never mind. I’m hanging up and calling the police.”

            “Stay where you are. I will call the police. You can tell the PI people to leave.”


            “I’m staying in the cottage where Thad and I spent our honeymoon, at Lake Albertson,” Leticia said into her smartphone. “The guy who rents places here uses the cottage as a getaway location for himself and his wife. He’s a friend and fan of Thad’s, so when we got married at the spur of the moment he let us rent the place. The security system can’t be installed at the house until Monday so I’m staying here for the weekend. Good thing Thad’s friend isn’t using the place right now. There’s no way Bob Cornell and that woman he’s working with know I’m here, I made sure I wasn’t followed when I drove out of the city.”

            “You really think Bob Cornell is behind what’s been happening?” Monique asked.

            Leticia winced at the crackling burst of static from the phone. Cellphone reception in the area was poor. “Bob has never liked me and he knows enough about my life to have that woman get close to me. When Thad comes home I’m going to let him know what’s going on and who I think is responsible. I’m also going to file a complaint with the police and tell Thad we should hire a different PI firm to get to the bottom of everything. Bob is trying to get rid of me by making me think a crazy person is after me. That’s what the truth of this situation is.”

            “Girl, you’re dealing with a nasty mess.”

            “Don’t I know it. Hey, maybe you can come here and keep me company. Brandi too, if she’d like. It’s nice, especially at this time of day. I’m standing at the lake shore. The light from the setting sun looks beautiful on the water. I’d forgotten how good it feels to be barefoot in grass, haven’t done that since childhood.”

            “Well, if nothing comes up…”

            “I’ll send you pictures.”

            “Do that.”

            “Sending them in a few.”

            “Alright. Goodbye and don’t let your guard down.”

            Leticia took a couple of pictures, hoping the scenery would cause Monique to put aside any fears about being near someone who is being stalked. The descending sun cast a sheet of amber light on the lake water. Beech trees, some completely upright, others slightly tilted, rose from the muddy ground near the shoreline. Leticia sent the pictures. She decided to spend a little more time there, then head back to the cottage nearly a hundred yards from the shore.

            “This is a nice place for a honeymoon, but not nearly as special as the one Thaddeus imagined for me and him.”

            A shriek burst from Leticia’s mouth as she turned and saw the wavy-haired woman a few paces away.

            The scornful look on the woman’s face became sentimental. “Thaddeus imagined a honeymoon in Scotland for him and me. We stayed in a charmingly quaint hotel near St. Andrews Bay. We toured the locations of medieval castles and took in beautifully green natural scenery during long walks. Thaddeus, as you know, is a history buff so he was thrilled to be there. He sometimes indulged in role playing—he was a chivalrous knight and I would be the princess he defended. Playing those parts would sometimes be what Thaddeus had in mind in private moments alone when he could express his passion for me…”

            “How do you keep finding me?” Leticia screeched.

            “Do you think someone who came into existence the way I did has normal limitations?”

            “Stop the nonsense and tell me the truth!”

            “I have. It doesn’t matter whether you believe me or not. Thaddeus will be mine again, I will see to that.” The wavy-haired woman advanced towards Leticia. Leticia stepped back and halted, the increased moisture on her heels serving as a reminder that she was at water’s edge.

            “If I’m gone you will have Thad again—for a while,” Leticia replied. “But another woman will eventually get his interest. Do you want to spend the rest of your existence having Thad only when there isn’t a real woman in his life?”

            The wavy-haired woman halted, squeezing her eyes shut until tiny lines of moisture flowed from them. Leticia stepped to her right and ran towards the cottage, halting when she heard a splash behind her. She watched as a cluster of white bubbles dissipated on the water’s surface.


            “You’re dressed like a polar bear,” Leticia commented.

            “I’ve never seen a polar bear garbed in a knit wool cap, scarf and coat,” Thaddeus replied, laptop and carryon bag in hand as he stood next to the front door.

            Leticia chuckled and sighed. “Poor thing, going out in the cold while I stay inside and wear a lot less.” She struck a pose for Thaddeus’ benefit, allowing him a good look at her in a tank top and exercise shorts.

            Thaddeus smiled, seemingly pleased by what he saw and willing to engage in verbal jousting with his wife. “Braving a cold January morning is the only way I can get to the airport. Teleportation hasn’t been invented yet.”

            “That’s something you should work on.”

            “I’ll do that during the flight,” Thaddeus said sarcastically. “If I succeed we can use it to go to the Loren Theater and see that movie people say is very good.”

            Leticia rolled her eyes.

            “It received top honors at the Sundance Film Festival.”

            “Maybe when you get back,” Leticia said, knowing she would ultimately refuse to see some boring film about a romance between a souvenir shop owner and a harmonica-playing magician.

            “Okay. I’ll be back Sunday evening.”

            Leticia kissed Thaddeus on the cheek and waved at him as he exited through the front door. She headed to the exercise room for a thirty-minute treadmill session. The events of last August no longer occupied her mind. She never told anyone about what happened at the lake, didn’t want to be suspected of pushing that crazy woman into the water. There had been no reports of a woman’s body being found in or near the lake, no missing person bulletins for someone matching her description. Leticia chose not to mention any of what had occurred to Thad, smoothed things over with Bob and didn’t waste any more mental energy on an obviously deranged person who had somehow gained access to her life. Leticia’s thoughts during the treadmill session were focused on how to spend her Friday evening. Dominique was battling a bug—should’ve gotten vaccinated at the start of flu season—and Brandi had taken to spending her free time with a guy she’d met at a Christmas party. Maybe just staying home and streaming a movie would be the best option. Leticia finished her workout, took several gulps from a water bottle and went upstairs to take a shower. When Leticia reached the top of the stairs she was short of breath , sweating profusely. The workout had fatigued her more than usual. She made it halfway across the bedroom floor, then allowed herself to collapse onto the bed, too winded to take a few more steps to the bathroom.

            “What you’re experiencing won’t be very painful.”

            Leticia mustered enough strength to sit up and look in the direction of the soft yet authoritative voice. The young woman standing near the foot of the bed was slender and pretty, with cocoa brown skin and dark eyes. She was dressed in a blouse, skirt and lab coat. Leticia gasped. “Who—”

            “I have been formed by Thaddeus’ mind over the past few months. I have been the focus of his intimate imaginings during the many times you weren’t the wife he deserves. Unlike the other one, I don’t find the challenge of keeping Thaddeus to myself daunting. He will be mine regardless of how many women I must remove from his life.”

            Leticia could no longer sit upright. The slender woman watched as Leticia’s upper body tilted backwards and down, head resting on the mattress.

            “The mixture I put in your water is going to mimic the symptoms and effects of a myocardial infarction,” the woman said. “I formulated it. Thaddeus desires a lady of science as well as a connoisseur of many things artistic, and that is what I will be for him. As he mourns your passing I will comfort and love him within his fabulous imagination.”


Dell R. Lipscomb’s wide-ranging variety of stories have appeared in several publications including Adelaide, Ariel Chart and Conceit Magazine. “Rough Edges” was featured in Potato Soup Journal’s “Best of 2020” anthology. Dell fabricates his fiction in the Blue Ridge region of Virginia.