Between the Sheets
by K. Marvin
“Thank you for changing
sheets,” Lentene smiles. Like most
married couples past a certain landmark, we pretty much ignore one another in
bed except on weekends. Occasionally.
She’s become part of the background chatter
most of the time. Changing bedclothes
and laundering them is a chore we both assiduously avoid, but when it grows
chilly enough for flannel sheets she’ll actually take the initiative to swap
“Mn-nnh,” I mumble,
asleep. The significance of her words
doesn’t sunk in.
September has gone out with a
chill that persists into a gray October.
Fearing the arrival of Welty Oil to fill the tank and the four-figure
bill that will surely follow, we try to resist using the furnace until November,
if at all possible. Since we both work
nobody’s home during the day, and flannel sheets and a pile of blankets will do
the trick at night. I like the weight of
Over breakfast Lentene
reiterates her thanks for changing the sheets.
The implacable clouds of October hang low outside our kitchen window.
“No, I’m serious. I’d meant to change them but there was this
shake-down in finance at work and I’ve been too worried to think about things
like that when I got home. I’ve been
chilly in bed, so I appreciate you changing them.”
“I didn’t.” I talk over my coffee, cupping the warm mug
in my chilly fingers. Black bitterness
starts each day.
“Now who’s being funny?” She smiles an expression so familiar that it
has almost become a grimace.
“Not me. I didn’t change the sheets.”
Her spoon stops halfway to her
open mouth. Hovers, retreats to her
bowl. “Stop joking, you’re starting to
creep me out.”
“I’m not joking. I didn’t change the sheets.” I
actually look her in the eyes for that one,
so she knows I’m sincere.
“Well, I didn’t either,”
defends herself, as if doing housework requires some kind of
justification. I know, I know—we’re both
“Neither did I.” I chalk it up as too much work. “It's
just one of those things.”
“Just one of those things? You’re serious? You didn’t
change the sheets?” The bowl is headed to the sink, half full. Or half empty. Depends on your point of view.
“Lentene, I didn’t
damn sheets.” My coffee’s gone and the
pot is empty. My mind is already on the
Kriss account. “I gotta get a shower.”
She stands in my way. I know better than to push past her.
“Chas, this is serious. If you didn’t change the sheets and I didn’t,
“Maybe you did it, but forgot.”
“I would remember—the
is too heavy for me to shift alone. When
we got up yesterday and I made the bed, it was the navy percale. I remember
thinking they were getting a bit
fusty, but I didn’t change them.”
“Well I didn’t. I had to leave early yesterday because of the
Rutledge fiasco. Jesus was mad as
hell. You were already here by the time
I got home.”
Hands on her hips, she
remembers. “I’d just pulled up the
blankets when Trudy called. Emergency
meeting before the sales season. I
skipped the shower and headed right to the office. When I got home, I was so
exhausted I didn’t
even bother to change out of my work clothes.
You were practically asleep by the time I got to the bedroom.” Her
arms relax and I slip past.
“I really have to get moving,
Len. Traffic’s a mess if I don’t get out
I notice, as I retie my tie,
that she hasn’t made the bed. I think I
know what we both need, but I don’t have time this morning.
That evening, after kvetching
over work at supper, she brings it up again.
“I didn’t make the bed this morning.”
“Go look at it now.”
I take any invitation to the
bedroom. Hope springs, as they say. “They’re
the same sheets as before,” I
“Yes, but the bed is made. I didn’t do it. Did you?
Have you ever made the bed?”
As superior as my diffidence
makes me feel, she has a point. This is
weird. With work constantly on my mind I
just don’t have time to consider non-work life too deeply. I grab her
and kiss her passionately. Despite being upset, she lets me unmake the
bed. We’re lying, gratefully spent, on
top of the blanket.
“Okay. So you’re saying you didn’t make the
bed. I didn’t make the bed. Yet
here it is.” She runs her hand over it.
The arrangement had been military. The kind of disciplined bed you only
television, not in real life. “What do
you think we should do?”
“Well, I’ll be glad
to show you
again—just give me a couple of minutes.”
“I think we should call
“Is anything missing?” Up on my elbows, panic hits, shattering my
profound calm. We’re just a working
couple, and we don’t have jewelry or money or shit like that around the house.
We do have a few electronics and some rare CDs
that cost us dear. We’re out of bed,
still naked, checking the house. A quick
look tells us the important stuff is still here. In fact, nothing else appears
disturbed. If anything, it’s neater than
we left it. “How can we call the police
when nothing is missing?”
“Isn’t breaking and
“Is it breaking, though? You haven’t lost your keys, have you?”
She grabs her handbag from the coatrack and
pulls them out to show me.
“My keys are in my right
pocket. I used them when I got
home.” They wear through my trousers too
quickly, but nobody reaches in there without my immediate attention. Right now
they’re on the bedroom floor. “Could anyone have made a copy?”
“I don’t see how. I keep my purse locked in my desk at
work. Besides, I’m in my cube just about
all day. Have you been taking your pants
off anywhere?” I’m not sure I like the
edge in her voice. I ignore it. Ignoring
is becoming my specialization.
“So, nobody’s copied
and there’s nothing missing. What about
the windows?” We get our fingers grimy
by feeling along the undusted sills. All
“I think we should call
“We’d better get dressed
The officer who arrives looks
stern and muscular, not particularly prone to deep thought. “And what
admits. “Nothing’s missing.”
“Then why’d you call?”
tucking his notebook into a breast pocket.
I admire his black belt full of gadgets of force.
“Well, somebody broke into
house. Isn’t that illegal?”
“Yes, but you have no proof
anyone broke in.”
“Someone changed the sheets,”
He gives me a quizzical
look. I shrug my shoulders. “Someone
did change the sheets.”
He goes through the same
questions that I did earlier.
“We’ve never seen
him, but he
changes the sheets and makes the bed.”
“He?” the officer
asks. “How do you know it’s a he?”
“How many women would break
another person’s house to do even more housework?” Lentene asks.
Our policeman pulls out his pad
and makes a note. “We can send an extra
car down the street for a few nights,” he eventually concedes. “See
if they find anything out of the ordinary.”
It’s dark when he steps
outside. The neighbors must wonder at
the police car in front of our house.
“You know,” I say to Lentene, looking around, “things could be missing
and we’d never know.”
“But why would someone break
to make the bed? Doesn’t it creep you
out that a stranger was in our bedroom?
Touching our sheets? With access
to our entire lives?”
The next day we have the locks
changed. I have some questions for the
locksmith. “So, do you have copies of
“No sir. The only keys that will fit these locks are
these two, unless, of course, you make copies.”
“How easy is it to pick
“The technology of your
lock hasn’t changed for years. Well,
there’s electronic locks, but your basic key and tumblers have always been
susceptible. I ‘spect ya leave the
deadbolt and chain on the back door and exit the front so that someone tryin’
to pick a lock would be obvious to the neighbors. Like most folk do.”
“Thank you for coming out
weekend,” Lentene smiles.
“If you’re willing
weekend rates, well, ya get what ya pay for.”
He places the keys in my hand.
“Here ya go.”
I hand one of the keys to
Lentene. She holds it up, examining it
like a diamond in the light. “This thin
piece of metal is all that keeps the rest of the world out,” she muses. “This
bit of brass versus all the evil
intention out there.” She seems so
helpless that I actually feel sorry for her.
“Most people’re pretty
Miss. But don’t tell nobody I told
ya—it’s bad for business. ‘Sides, most
crimes are inside jobs.” He packs up his
tools and heads out. His last words
sound strangely ominous.
“You don’t suppose
it’s a ghost,
do you?” Lentene wonders.
“A ghost?” I ask, looking after the locksmith.
“That’s been changing
and making the bed.”
“I’ve heard of ghosts
small things. Changing the sheets would
take plenty of energy. Lot of effort for
“Whoever’s been doing
they can get in without being noticed, could come and watch us in our sleep,
when we can’t respond. Would you want a
stranger watching us at night? While we
I shudder. “Well, let’s hope this takes care of the
problem.” I pat the new lock and
We’re both home all day,
don’t use the bedroom. Nothing out of
the ordinary happens on Saturday. Not a
thing. Monday inevitably arrives.
“How often do you suppose
people change their sheets?” Lentene
fixates on this like our intruder focuses on our bed. Yesterday it made the
bed again. While we were home. We
“I don’t know. It’s not something people talk about.
Growing up Mom used to change them once a
“Once a month?” she
exclaims. “My mom insisted on changing
them every week. We always had clean
“And a hell of a water
bill. In college Fr’breeze covered a host
of sins,” I confess.
“Well, I’m going to
bed unmade, and tonight, if our mysterious guest does his trick, I’m going to
change the sheets before we go to bed.”
When I get home I see that she’s
purchased new linens, although we can scarcely afford frivolous spending. The
sheets we have are perfectly fine. “The bed was made, all right,”
she calls from
the kitchen. “And we each had a mint on
“Do we even have any mints?”
“Not this kind. I don’t like the way this is going.”
“It’s like it’s
breaking in and
giving us something. Breaking and
entering is illegal because of theft, not gifts. Still, I wouldn’t eat
“I already threw them down
The sterility of new sheets
always bothers me. I don’t sleep well on
them. Have we offended our uninvited
Today after work, I find Lentene
in tears. When did I begin ignoring her
like this? I try to comfort her, but all
she says is, “Look!” I know where she
means. The bed is stripped and the new
sheets strewn angrily on the floor. We
don’t keep our room obsessively neat, but even this is beyond our usual
bohemian disregard for order. It isn’t
just the disarray—it’s the feeling of rage in the air, like after you walk into
a room during a suddenly silenced argument.
I try to think of something comforting to say on my way back to Lentene.
“Do you think he’s
asks through her sobs.
“Who? The unknown force that’s making our bed?”
“It’s not a force—it’s
person! You know that as well as I do!”
A person whose intentions we
can’t divine. A person we can’t see or
hear. I offer to take her out for
supper. Food always cheers her up.
“Let me change my clothes,”
says, “and wash my face.”
From the kitchen I hear her
scream and run to the bedroom.
The bed is newly made. “He’s here!” she whispers. “I had
figured he left when he was done, but
he must stay here. He must be here now.”
“I’ll call the police.”
“What for? To be laughed at again? Come on, let’s find him.”
Our house isn’t large, but
so a clever person can avoid a search by two, especially if they won’t leave
each other’s side. We don’t find
anyone. Perhaps we don’t want to.
I’m looking at Lentene like
never seen her before. A shadow of the
cute girl I married comes through as she gives me that look. Yes, that
look. I’ve come back to her and she seeks refuge in
my arms. “Let’s make love,” she insists.
“What if he’s here?”
counting on it,” she grins, slipping off her blouse.
Bruce has published a couple dozen stories in about a dozen different places.
Some have been nominated for prizes, and a couple actually won. He works
as an editor in New York City.
Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines.
She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous
Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals
such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s
Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous
anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to
Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from
the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such
as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, Thuggish
Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She
appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus
Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France,
Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern