No Good Deeds (A Q.C. Davis Short Story)

The full short story No Good Deeds is available (free) only to the Q.C. Davis Readers Group. Below is the first quarter or so. If you enjoy it, sign up and read the rest! 

No Good Deeds

My sister grabbed the check, making the metal table wobble. Two of its legs stood on the sidewalk, the other two on an iron grate through which a sapling grew.

“On me,” Kendra said. “I need a favor.”

I refilled our wine glasses. “So that’s why you came downtown.”

We sat outdoors in front of Café des Livres, my favorite neighborhood café. It doesn’t have a liquor license, so I’d brought a bottle of Pinot Noir from home.

Kendra frowned. “What do you mean? I come here.” She brushed her wispy blond hair out of her eyes. The wind blew it back a second later.

If you look at the shapes of our faces you can see we’re sisters. But most people miss it because Kendra’s blond and fair skinned like our mother with fine, silky hair. My complexion is darker and my hair is nearly black and all over the place, though today I’d clipped it so it fell into a long wavy ponytail down my back.

“Not alone,” I said.

Usually when Kendra visits she brings my niece and nephew. I love them like crazy so I’m always happy to see them, but it means she and I rarely spend time alone. And we typically meet at our Gram’s apartment in LaGrange, not at my place or anywhere else in Chicago.

“The kids are at Mom and Dad’s for the weekend,” Kendra said. “I thought it’d be nice to hang out with you.”

I ate another spoonful of mousse. The dark chocolate was a good contrast to the berry undertaste of the wine. “What’s the favor?”

“Get on a dating app,” Kendra said.

“What?”

Five months ago my boyfriend Marco, whom I’d thought I would spend the rest of my life with, had died. I had no interest in meeting anyone new. And if I had wanted to, I wouldn’t have used an app. I work long hours and meet a lot of people through my work as a lawyer and as a singer. I had no interest in spending my free time meeting strangers.

“Not for you,” Kendra said, “though you ought to think about it. You’re not getting any younger.”

“Thirty-two’s not old.”

The waiter came out to refill our water glasses.

Kendra handed him the check and her credit card. “Sure. But if you want kids—”

“Why a dating app?” I said.

“It’s John.”

Kendra and John got married the year I turned thirteen, but I’ve never really gotten to know him.

He never comes with Kendra and the kids to visit. When I go to Bloomington he’s always closeted in their backyard shed/office working on his next big idea. He’s done everything from flipping houses to running an ice cream shop to opening a payday lending store. The only common theme is that none of them make money.

“What about John?”

Kendra tucked her hair behind her ears. “A friend saw this guy who calls himself Jake on this app, one that’s supposed to be about finding the next Ms. Right or Mr. Right or whatever. And he looks just like John.”

I scraped the sides of the bowl. My appetite has been minimal since Marco’s death, but this was one dessert I could always eat. “So it’s Jacob.”

John’s identical twin is named Jacob. He’s as traditionally successful as John is not. He got an MBA at age twenty-three and has strategically switched positions ever since, speeding to the top everywhere he goes. He’s the reason I have some sympathy for John despite that part of me resents that Kendra has supported her entire family for almost two decades while he pursues what look like pipe dreams.

It’s hard to live in a sibling’s shadow.

“Maybe.” Kendra handed me her phone, open to a dating profile. “But his description of what he’s looking for and of himself — so John.”

A bike lane runs between the parking lane and the curb on Dearborn Street. A bicyclist swerved and cursed as the door of a parked Jeep swung open in front of him.

I studied the profile. Jake described himself as a successful innovative businessman with a good sense of humor. He was looking for a woman in her thirties who was educated, had a job she enjoyed, and loved the outdoors. He preferred blondes.

“Kind of generic,” I said as I handed the phone back across the table. As a brunette who loves reading and theater and whose idea of spending time outdoors is reading in the park I’ve found almost all online dating criteria exclude me. Another reason I’m not a fan of apps. “Why are you really worried?”

Kendra sighed. “His business took off over the last couple years. He’s making a lot. I think it’s gone to his head.”

“Really?” I said. “What’s he doing now?”

“The self storage chain,” Kendra said.

“Oh, right.” It seemed like a logical business to be in. While most of my friends my age live a pretty minimalist existence, everyone I know in their late forties and fifties seems to be working as hard to get rid of their stuff as they did to accumulate it.

“He’s always traveling for meetings and taking out investors,” Kendra said.

“Really?” I said again, aware that I wasn’t exactly making use of my full vocabulary. But it struck me as too strange. John was decidedly not a people person. Whenever Kendra went out, he stayed home alone or with the kids.

“Exactly,” Kendra said. “That’s why I think now that he’s making good money, he’s looking for someone new. More glamorous. Younger.”

Kendra is forty, only eight years older than me, but for as long as I can remember she’s talked about being old. When she turned thirty she went on and on about finding a single gray hair and her back aching and how her memory wasn’t quite as good as it had been. I was vastly relieved when I hit that age and didn’t feel or look any different than I had in my late twenties.

“So you want me to, what, pretend to be someone else and try to meet this Jake?” I said.

“Why not? You could manage it.”

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The Q.C. Davis suspense/mystery novels:

The Worried Man 

The Charming Man 

The Fractured Man

The Troubled Man