Mrs. Henderson checked her outfit in the full-length mahogany mirror that had once belonged to her mother when she had the strangest sense of deja-vu. Her cream colored silk gloves went perfectly with her beige trench coat, which she wore over navy corduroy pants and a burgundy high-collar blouse. But her favorite piece had to be her black ankle boots. She knew she had to look good for that afternoon’s meeting, so she really made sure to pull out her favorite pieces. She even wore the moonstone necklace her grandmother had willed her when she was a child, one that had been in her family for generations. The large moonstone sphere glistened on her collarbone. Mrs. Henderson had spent the entire morning coordinating this look to perfection, but something still felt off. As Mrs. Henderson pondered if she should wear a different blouse, she felt a sharp pain in her left temple that came and went without explanation.
Mr. Henderson walked in at that moment and caught the pained look on his wife’s face through the full length mirror. “Another headache?”
Mrs. Henderson nodded. “I’m alright. Just a flash.” That’s what she called the quick ones.
Mr. Henderson pecked his wife on the cheek and met her gaze in the mirror. “Will you be alright for Nico?”
She buttoned up the trench coat that she spent an hour ironing. “Of course. This is what we’ve been working for. It has to go perfectly.” She turned to face her husband. “How do I look?”
“Perfect, as always,” he replied affectionately. “Is the trench coat new?”
“Yes, although I got the strangest feeling earlier that I’ve worn it before.”
“Probably just your nerves.”
Mrs. Henderson smiled at her husband. That made sense. She was quite anxious about meeting Nico. “You’re probably right."
A few minutes later, the Hendersons were making their way to City Center in their shared silver Subaru, Mr. Henderson at the wheel. Getting to city center meant a short drive down Route 32, a quaint tree-lined highway that was almost never in use. Downtowners like the Hendersons rarely had reason to go to City Center and those who did preferred the quicker and more convenient path via the Underground Rail System. Mrs. Henderson watched the pine trees whiz by; they reminded her of her childhood. Her parents had often taken drives down a very similar highway. She was too young to retain where it was they went, but it was a trip they took regularly. It must have been the way home from school, or maybe to her mother’s job at the local motel, where a young Mrs. Henderson spent her days when she wasn’t in school.
Soon, the trees gave way to derelict homes with unkempt lawns, rickety buildings, abandoned tenement halls. “This place is a mess,” Mrs. Henderson remarked as she observed a shanty town established by the homeless residents in a particularly wide backstreet between an old bowling alley and a barely functioning diner. Mrs. Henderson wondered if the squalor bothered the diner’s proprietor at all.
“Yeah, my first time was very jarring, too,” Mr. Henderson said. He glanced at his wife in that moment. “I know we’ve already talked about it, but I still don’t understand why you insisted on coming with me.”
“Sweetheart, I just want to know who we’re working for.”
“We don’t work for Nico. He’s our business partner,” Mr. Henderson insisted yet again. His wife said nothing. It had nothing to do with Nico; Mrs. Henderson just couldn’t shake the feeling that she needed to come to this meeting. She wasn’t sure how to explain that to her husband, and she knew he wouldn’t have agreed to such a vague motivation.
The couple didn’t speak for the rest of the car ride.