“Just think about it.” His voice was concerned, but my only focus was on the pen in front of my eyes. It balanced on my finger so perfectly, defying all rules of gravity. Defying all rules…like me.
“Yeah, sure thing brother.”
I cleared my throat and there was a long silence on the line. Clearly my twin brother knew what I was thinking, he always did. Finally after a soft sigh of resignation, he attempted to make a final point.
“Everything you do Brent, everything you do always finds a way—“
“To come back to you.” I interrupted. “I’ve heard of karma all right?” Of course it was his usual ear full of bullshit, but it was nothing compared to the rest of my family. Chris is the only one I could even stand to talk to after all these years.
Buddy, the wife’s dog stood at the entrance of my study with a toy between his gritted teeth, his eyes large and thoughtless. Everyone in the house knew not to step foot in ‘daddy’s study’, and I grinned at the humor that the dog also seemed to follow this rule. It didn’t change the fact that the mutt annoyed the shit out of me though.
“Brent…Brent are you even listening?”
His voice was slightly annoyed, the crap I put him through and he never fails to be a good brother. Sunday evenings, just before family night at 8PM he always calls—never ever misses. Even though he knows I’m not going to listen to a thing he has to say; that’s my older brother.
“Got it Christian. I have to run downstairs, you know—family night.”
I dropped the phone and it clicked loudly as it rattled into its holder. Buddy settled in front of the doorway, legs folded and nestling his face on the chew toy as my cell phone began to vibrate violently in my pocket. I swiveled around in the chair as a placed the phone against my ear.
“Jules.” I cooed, the man in the moon watching as I began to initiate a distrustful act.
“Brent, you haven’t called in weeks.” The loud booming of club music drowned out half of her sentence.
“I have, I always have my calls go to voice mail. Babe, I thought you were mad at me anyway—didn’t want to bother you.” Lie. Lie.
“Oh.” Soft giggles followed by slurred mutter echoed in my ear as I turned the chair back around. Buddy was standing now, still gripping tightly onto the toy. God damn, this dog has the worst timing. I took the pen I had been holding onto, the golden one that read ‘Sheeder ADs’ and chucked it at the mutt. It clipped him in the ear and he grunted as he sluggishly walked away. At that same moment, my wife appeared in the doorway.
“Don’t throw stuff at Buddy.” Her arms were crossed and her eyebrow rose. She was obviously wondering who was on the other line.
“Work.” I mouthed to her and turned my attention back to the phone call. Adulterous requests filled my ear; Julia was, without a doubt drunk out of her mind. “I can’t make it today sir, it is a Sunday after all.” I waited a few moments and nodded randomly. Julia continued to seduce me. “Yes sir, I will leave the house now.”
“So what did he want today?” Lydia’s slender frame was leaning against the hallway wall. Her red hair bounced around her shoulders and her pale white skin only accented her green eyes. She was beautiful, but she’d always be around. Tonight, well only tonight would I get to explore the latina mystery that was Julia.
“Honey, I have to go into the office.” I pulled my suit jacket from the back of the chair and slipped it over my shoulders. I approached Lydia despite her arms being crossed and leaned in to kiss her on the cheek; she only tried to elbow me away a little bit. In a soft voice she spoke, just the slightest edge of irritation in her voice. “You promised the kids.”
“Daddy has to work, babe. Put bread on the table. Maybe if we gave the kids away, I could be at home more—with you.” I winked and leaned in closer and her eyes instantly shifted from irritated to out raged. “Kidding! I’m sorry. I love the munchkins. Can you tell them daddy can’t make it please?” I kissed her forehead barely as her forearm barricaded against me. “Honey, come on. You’re used to this.” I touched her shoulder and shrugged, backing away down the hall mouthing another half-hearted apology as I bounded down the steps.
My 11 year old daughter met me at the door, Buddy’s empty water bowl in her hand. Ariana—unlike her little brother Christopher who looked just like Lydia—was a spitting image of myself. Only, where Christopher had my eyes, Aria had green eyes set in olive skin and hidden partially behind cascading dark brown hair. I looked at her and saw me, but her eyes were her mother’s staring at me with sadness. I began to explain before she cut me off.
“Don’t worry dad, I won’t forget to fill Buddy’s bowl ever again. Maybe if we weren’t always forgetting to do things around the house, you wouldn’t have to leave all the time.”
A laugh burst from my stomach and I embraced her. Smoothing her hair with one hand I gently squeezed her shoulder with my other. In a sarcastic tone, I assured her. “Honey, I always have to leave because my boss at work is an uptight jackass.”
“Brent Simmons!” Lydia stood at the top of the staircase, her lips set in a frown and her arms crossed tightly across her chest. Buddy guarded her, standing firmly at her feet. It almost looked like the mutt was frowning with her. “Don’t talk to our children like that!” Her shrill voice made me flinch, which I quickly transformed into a shrug before heading out. Shrugging seemed to be my only escape lately. It really was the easiest way out without having to waste my energy with words.
Thirty minutes later and somewhere on the lower west side of the city, I found myself waiting at a bar for my Latin dream to arrive. I also invited my coworker and friend, Jack to join me for a drink afterwards. He was always up to the crazy and no good since he was single with a come and go girlfriend. I sipped a jack and coke while I tried to remember what life was like before the family. A hand gripped my shoulder and I turned to smile into the dark brown eyes of Julia no-last-name and swallowed hard, swallowed my thoughts into the pit of my stomach to melt away. Why did I have to try to remember life without family when I could still live it? A double life for double satisfaction, fun, happiness, love, money—everything.
“Ai papi, I was waiting so long for you.” She laughed and in her eyes I could see she was only halfway here. She must’ve left the other half of herself in an empty bottle of liquor somewhere. I pulled her in close and brushed my lips against her neck. She whispered drunken nothings in my ear and took me home. Somewhere between passionate kisses, the removal of clothing, and a scream in the night—the evening had turned to morning. I forced my eyes open as a large collision of noises erupted from outside of the window. Of course Julie whatever-her-name-was would live in some crap neighborhood. I slithered out of bed and redressed myself. She lied motionless on the other side of the bed as I let myself out.
Around five in the morning, an hour before I had to leave for work—I pulled up next to the curb in front of our suburban house. The hedges needed trimming, and the grass was beginning to look like my own son’s bed head. A yawn escaped my lips as I tucked in my shirt and locked up the car. The plan was to get in, get ready for work, and get out again—all without being noticed.
“Brent! Brent Simmons! Hey there!” A voice I tried so hard, everyday, to avoid. There it was calling me out, so loudly to everyone in the neighborhood at an ungodly hour. I could tell by the increasing volume of the voice that he was approaching me and before I could get my feet off of the sidewalk and dash into my home, he had his breath warming my face. A firm hand against his chest set him back a few inches, but his face showed no reaction—only the geekiest smile across the face of a baldhead. His beady eyes behind circular glasses sparkled with knowledge. What a moron.
“Whatd’ya want Stuart.” I sighed and took a glance at my watch, hoping he’d get the hint. Sometimes I wondere why I even take a second to listen to the first words of what he has to tell me. The only way I can accept it is to admit he kind of reminds me of a young Christian. His eyes lit up, excited that I’d give him even a moment of my time.
“Brent! You know how I’ve been working on my inventions to send to the government?” No.
“Remember the time machine?” No.
“Well that didn’t work, but the new project I showed you the blue prints last week, remember that?” No.
“I think I’ve gotten it. I’ve made a device—a mechanism—a gismo that can…” He then leaned in and whispered the punch line, “…that can make animals talk.”
I then proceeded to laugh in his face.
“I, I was wondering if you could name it. Your, the company w-where you work. They advertise and campaign and stuff so maybe you’d uh, have a catchy name for my invention.”
I had to compose myself; he was completely serious and was putting himself out there to impress me. Just like Christian did before we realized we were two completely different people. A nerd who wanted to change the world and a guy who had it all.
“Stu, just name it ‘bullshit’. It really explains the entire thing in one simple and easy to remember adjective.” I turned to climb the stairs before he had a chance to stop me, and after just one turn to look at his pained face I shrugged and disappeared into the house.
The small talk with Stuart had set me back ten minutes, but I still had fifty minutes until I had to head out for work and an hour and a half until the kids woke up. I eased the door shut and made it upstairs without making a sound. I slid into the bedroom to expect my wife in bed, but to the looks of it no one had slept in it yet. Lucky me, no accidental run in with the Mrs.! I danced a little dance and began my morning routine.
Tiptoeing down the stairs with forty minutes to get to work, I had it made. As I snuck in and out of the kitchen to grab a coffee, I saw her. Lydia curled up in the tiniest ball on the living room lounge chair, a blanket covering her lap and an open book resting in her hands. She had obviously fallen asleep waiting for me, waiting for me to come home and yell at me maybe, but nonetheless it was very Lydia-like. What a badass life I lived with a great job, an even greater side job, beautiful women at my fingertips daily, a Latin goddess on my speed dial, and the all-around perfect wife. Whoever said you had to give up the single lifestyle for a marriage or vice versa was a straight up dumb ass. Cain Brent Simmons, you are a genius at life!
At work and with ten minutes to spare I pushed my way into my assistant’s office, Diana, a middle-aged woman with two adult children and a grand child on the way greeted me with phone numbers and meeting times and blah blah blah. I noticed her phone flashing a red light on line one, “Who’s on the line?”
She looked confused, then with one glance at the phone line she gasped as if she had forgotten something very important. “Mr. Chance, Mr. Jack Chance has been waiting on line one for five minutes!” I nodded, unimpressed with her lack of work ethic and strutted into my office. “Mr. Simmons, I apologize!” Diana’s voice was muffled as she apologized from the other side of the glass wall. I picked up the phone and pressed it against my ear as I flipped through my agenda for the day.
“Well well well, Brent.” The charismatic voice of Sheeder’s vice president, Jack Chance. “Looked for ya at that snazzy downtown bar last night, but you sir were noooowhere to be found.” Suddenly my heart was beating, Jack was a friend of mine, a good worker too, but he was always pulling the charismatic cool guy stunt and I could never tell if he was mad or frustrated or joking around or what. He was a pretty fucked up guy though, so maybe it was a putting a wall up sort of thing.
“Sorry Jack, I’m really sorry. Something came up.” There was a short pause followed by Jack’s laugh.
“Simmons! Calm down fucker, you got some last night didn’t ya? It’s cool, I did too. But really, I called you because I have a job for you.” I took a seat; a job from Jack was almost always something shady.
“What can I do for you Jack?” Diana pressed a sign against the glass wall. “Wait, Jack. Big man President is on the line, I have to take it.” There was a pause again, this one slightly frightening. Then without a hint of charisma, without a hint of any kind of emotion at all, Jack’s flat voice penetrated my ear.
“Mr. Sheeder, that tight ass might be president of this company, but he’s not the one who got you your jobs. Remember who exactly you’re working for Simmons. Be in my office at lunch.” I let the dial tone replace Jack’s suddenly creepy change in behavior for a few seconds before taking Mr. Sheeder’s call.
“Sorry about that Mr. Sheeder, how can I help you?” The old man’s voice sounded just as he looked, grumpy and weathered.
“Your report for the Slider product is due at the end of the week.” I stared down at my desk, folders and folders of pitches and ideas for the Slider product, and not even one worthy of presenting in just a few days. “Sir, with all due respect—I was told I had until the end of the month.” There was an uneasy pause and the sound of Mr. Sheeder readjusting his fat ass in his leather chair. “Life changes—sometimes overtime and sometimes in a moment. Deal with it, and have it on my desk by the end of the month.
Click. End of conversation. I let out a deep sigh and settled in my not-so-leathery office chair. Jack and Mr. Sheeder’s voices blended in a meshed conversation in my head. Requests and proposals, deadlines and shady side jobs; I stared out of the window and down onto the parking lot. The beautiful silver jaguar sat in its designated parking space, shiny and expensive. A few of my first jobs with Jack landed me with enough cash to buy it with no guilt at all. A smile stretched across my face and I turned towards my desk to sketch out a few ideas that would, hopefully, be worthy of Sheeder’s approval.
I knocked on the open door to Jack’s office; he stood by the window—a glass of scotch in his hand. I always had a feeling Jack didn’t enjoy scotch on the rocks as much as he just felt important and administrative by drinking it in his top floor office. “Come look at this.” He prodded me with a single hand and I quickly paced across the plush carpet to his side.
“Look in the second window from the left, fifth floor of the tech building.” I followed his index finger, squinting my eyes to see what he was referring to. Even though I had no idea what he was talking about, I nodded and let him continue to explain.
“Her name is Norah, employee management. Recently divorced. No kids. Hot as hell.” Suddenly, I was trying harder to find her. Jack moved from the window to his phone and dialed his assistant, Kate. “Find Norah Lane of Biz Tech.” No explanation to Kate, apparently stalking women was something Jack often asked of his assistant.
After taking a seat and commanding me to take the one across from him, Jack crossed his legs and began to offer me a job. Offer was a word used loosely in this situation, because while he seemingly gave me the option to decline—it was never really an option. “Cartel leader ‘Scale’ wants to complete a transaction with us, we’ve got the goods, and they’ve got the money. You just play the middleman with Scale’s junkies and you’ll get your part of the profit. Nothing different from other stuff you’ve done for me before.” I nodded and stared at a slightly discolored spot in the carpet.
“This weekend, Saturday around noon, salesmen will come to your door. You’re interested in his product. You let him in, you trade a little trade, and you get them out. Transaction complete.” He smiled with satisfaction and took a forced sip of scotch.
“My home?” I didn’t want to take a risk that would destroy everything I had. “They can’t come into my house.” I sat up in my chair, unsure of how Jack would react.
Unusually, he simply put his glass on the table and leaned in. “They are just salesmen Brent. You’d look a lot more suspicious in a strip joint or dark alley. Get your family out of the house. It’s cool.” He stood and made his way back to the window. “You’re excused. Take the package and get out buddy.” I hadn’t noticed the brown bundle on the table beside his partially finished drink. The condensation slid down the sides and moistened the legal papers scattered across the table. I took the package and quietly made my way out.
There was a strange, strange nervousness that came with carrying an illegal package. Sudden suspicion overcame me as I overanalyzed every look I got during my journey back to my own office. Placing the package behind my coat in the closet, I closed the door and stepped back.
“Mr. Simmons~” A sing-songy voice called from behind me and I wheeled around to see Lydia leaning against the doorframe. “Oh, Lydia.” Clearing my throat as I made my way to my desk, I waited for her to explain why she was here. “Honey, I know you’re busy, but our schedules haven’t been matching up lately so I thought I’d bring you lunch.” She placed a small plastic container on the desk in front of me. I barely made an effort to glance at it and mumble a thank you. Lydia shifted uncomfortably until softly speaking again, “I have this Saturday off from the clinic. Maybe we could do something as a family?” I didn’t have time for that, plus Saturday she might be off but I’m not.
“It really has been a whi—“
“Saturday. Let’s do something as a family. Get out of the house.” Yes, get out of the house. I smiled softly to her. Her face was beaming with satisfaction and what else? Relief? Happiness? “Saturday, we can take the kids somewhere. But right now, I gotta work babe.” Lydia nodded and let herself out.
“I love you Brent, I’ll see you tonight.”
Saturday morning was noisier than usual. The family bustled around; Lydia quickly packing lunches, the kids gathering water toys, me sitting in my study. The sun shined brightly, it’s rays penetrating my back with hot, accusing rays. Pulling the curtains closed, I sat in the darkness and dialed Jack’s number.
“Buddy!” I winced at the pet name he had chosen to call me by as of late.
“The family is all excited and ready for a pool day. They’ll be out of the house in about an hour.” I told him in a hushed tone.
“Great! What do they think of you not coming along?”
“I, uh, I haven’t told them yet.” Buddy, the wife’s dog trotted passed the doorway with Christopher’s sandal in his mouth. His ear perked up at the sound of my voice causing him to stop in his tracks. Our eyes met and I scowled. Jack was probably scowling too.
“If anything goes wrong. Your ass is mine, Simmons. Get your act together, empty house or not—the salesmen are coming and we’re going to make a sale.” Click.
I sighed and opened my top drawer, the package sat so innocently against the maple wood. I pressed the top with my index finger and plastic crinkled against the pressure. I quickly pulled my hand back, afraid of damaging the product. “The movies sure make drug dealing look a lot better than it really is.” I muttered. Of course, in most movies the drug dealers get caught. I wondered how many bad guys in real life get off scotch-free. A high-pitched whine pulled me out of my thoughts and I looked up and into the beady eyes of Buddy, one paw over the boundary line of the doorway. “Get the hell out of here mutt!” My fist slammed the surface of my desk, a chunk of old wood shooting off the edge.
“Shit!” My brother made this desk for me, with Dad. I never got along with the pops, maybe we were too much alike. Of course Christian, the Simmons trophy child didn’t have a problem with anyone. The smooth and polished edging shined with pride, shined with purity and perfection. This desk, in a lot of ways was just like the maker. Now, as I rubbed the broken part I saw that it had become like me. Jagged and rough, but mostly: flawed.
Buddy and I met eyes one last time before he dropped the sandal and dragged himself away, at the same time Lydia came to the doorway. “Honey. Are you okay?” I nodded and pulled the phone to my ear quickly. I acted out a false conversation with “Mr. Sheeder”.
“Yes sir, I understand.” Closing the cell phone, I set it on the desk and put my hands to my face, dragging them down and loosening my collar.
“Mr. Sheeder?” She asked softly and I simply nodded.
“Mr. Sheeder asks so much of you, and you work so hard. Perhaps, maybe, just one afternoon with your family. Maybe he could let you have just that.” She wasn’t trying very hard to hide her sadness. Maybe she wasn’t even trying to anymore.
“Lyd. Lydia. You know Mr. Sheeder. He’s a demanding man.” A very uncomfortable silence grew between us, a cloud of hundreds of unanswered questions and open-ended suspicion.
A loud series of thumps in the hallway introduced Christopher beside Lydia, his five-year-old arms wrapped around her legs. Keeping balance with swimming fins on his feet was a difficult feat for a kid his age. His red hair was messy and reaching out in every which way. His brown eyes full of youthful dreams sparkled at me as he raised his arms, showing off his floaties. “Dad! These thingies will make me faster than everyone!” I never let him call me daddy. It was childish.
Lydia’s sad eyes searched my face for something. Maybe she wanted some kind of apology, anexplanation to Chris. She brushed her hand across Chris’s head, “Your father has to go to work today.” The twinkle in his eyes died. One a second passed before the biggest smile I’d ever seen quickly showed up on his face. “I’ll practice my hardest Dad! Then maybe next time you can see me swim with no thingies! Just me—all by myself!” Even at age five, he’d been able to cover up his disappointment. Suppressing emotion seemed to be the trend in this family of mine.
My wife and my son waited for me to say something, but I had already begun typing away at my computer.
“Hm?” I lifted my head but kept my eyes glued onto the computer screen. Christopher waddled away.
“Brent, look at me please.” After typing in one more sentence I looked up at her. Her beautiful body leaned against the doorframe, a white sundress flowing from her shoulders to the floor. Her hair had been pulled up in a bun, but the morning’s routine with the kids and the housework had tousled and loosened it. Strands of strawberry hair tickled her jaw. She pursed her lips, obviously trying to choose the correct words to say what she wanted to.
“Babe. I don’t have all day.” Her eyes fell to the ground and I felt a very slight pang in my chest.
“Brent I…didn’t have time to make any food except for what we’re bringing to the water park. So I’ll leave some little sandwiches in the fridge, but if you are still hungry there are only leftovers downstairs.”
I nodded and continued with my computer work. I felt her presence—standing there watching me for a few minutes before her soft foot steps made their way downstairs.
At a half an hour past noon I began to get hungry. I slinked downstairs into the kitchen where Buddy lapped away at his water bowl, dirty dog slobber and water spilling onto the tiles. Buddy stopped for one moment to look back at me, uninterested he turned back to his drink. I pulled the tray of small sandwiches from the fridge and set it on the counter. The package sat on the coffee table in the living room, reminding me of the pile of dirty money I swam in daily.
Ding Dong. I glanced at the wall clock, 12:45. Buddy began to bark and rushed to the front door. I grunted, annoyed and followed him to the door. Using my foot to nudge him out of the way, I opened the door.
“Hello sir.” Two men stood before me, both with dark facial hair, shifty eyes, and tattoos creeping out from the cuffs of their suits. The older one closest to me fixed his tie and requested the briefcase from the younger one, who I assumed was his “assistant”. Maybe he was to the older guy what I was to Jack.
“We were hoping you were interested in what we have to offer.” I nodded, playing along with the salesmen act. The two men exchanged a puzzled look. Maybe they were unsure if they had the right house. “Could we come in?” He asked and I stepped aside, letting two drug junkies into my suburban home.
Inside, they helped themselves to the finger sandwiches and liquor before sprawling out on the couch—loosening their ties. “The shit Scale makes us do man. I don’t wear no ties and crap.” The older one’s name was Rosland and the younger one, Scraps. Scraps muttered, “Yeah, bullshit.” Rosland shot him a look, ordering that he keep his trap shut during the transaction. Rosland lifted the package and slowly began to peel it open. Thumping caught his attention, and everyone turned to look at Buddy—his tail wagging hard against the floor and his tongue dripping and hanging out of the side of his mouth.
“Yo, that dog’s suspicious man.”
“Yeah man! What’re you trying to pull?” Scraps stood up, his eyes bloodshot.
“Sit down motha fucker! You’re trippin’ shit!”
“Gentlemen.” I gestured towards Buddy. “It is just a dog. I live in the suburbs; I’m an average family man. We have a dog and there he is.”
Rosland stared at the dog. Buddy stared intently at me. I sighed, giving into the ridiculousness of it all. “He probably just needs to be let out, or fed or something. He’s a weird little shit. I stood up and picked up Buddy in my arms. The entire walk to the back door he squirmed. I could hear Rosland in the living room.
“Scraps! Shit man, sit your ass down!”
“Are we good now?” I asked and sat across from Scraps and Rosland. Rosland peered past me as if to check that there were no other dogs or people in the house.
“No one else is here?” He said, pointing an index finger upstairs.
“No one else is here.” I reassured him. His eyes narrowed and he slowly pulled the package to himself and slowly peeled it open. He dipped a finger in the powder and licked the substance. Handing the package to Scraps, he leaned over to open the briefcase. Stacks and stacks of money lined the inside. I reached out to touch it, but Rosland snapped it shut. “Uh uh, no no brother.” Scraps handed the package back and nodded to Rosland who resealed the package and slipped it in a satchel at his waist. “The stuff passed. But you are not the money man. Scraps.” Scraps had been making a phone call and hung up quickly. “J’s pulling up now.”
The door clicked open and in walked, oh of course, Jack Chance. He strode in with his hands-free communication device in his ear and twirling his new car keys around his finger. He touched Scraps’ shoulder and shook hands with Rosland as he took a seat in a lounge chair. “So looks like we’ve got ourself a deal?” Rosland nodded and pushed the briefcase towards Jack. “The amount we agreed on, Scale should be very pleased with this.” He patted his waist. Jack counted the money quietly, not turning the briefcase to show me.
“Great. It’s a deal.” Jack stood and slammed the briefcase shut. “You gentlemen can leave, it was nice doing business with you.” Rosland and Scraps nodded and stood to make their way to the front door. Jack looked at me and nodded towards them. “Help them to the door Bud. They’re salesmen, remember?” He commanded me through clenched teeth. His earpiece flashed blue light, someone was calling him and he was deliberately ignoring it.
“Thank you but no thanks.” I shrugged and waved to Rosland and Scraps and we all shook hands before they returned to the vehicle they arrived in. I shut the door and turned to see Jack with the suitcase comfortably in his lap. He took a sip from his drink and lifted his legs onto the coffee table. He obviously didn’t trust me with the money.
“Here’s your share kid.” Kid? I’m sure I was at least three or so years older than him. But I didn’t say anything, he was always treating me as lesser, but the pay was well enough for me to let him. He stood and threw an envelope onto the coffee table. One last swig of his drink and he stepped out. “Don’t spend it all in one place.” He smirked and bounded down the driveway to his large, large new car. I stood at the front door to see it.
“Brent!” A voice called from the next yard. Stuart was putting some kind of remote control down and began to run across my yard. I pulled the door closed, but the endless ringing of the doorbell forced me to open the door.
“What Stuart?” He was sweaty and his glasses were foggy.
“I, I—I’m almost done with it!” He was out of breath. God, Stuart was pathetic.
“With what?” I humored him.
“The—the dog device. The animal talker. The speak a tron.” He laughed at his own wit and drew in a long breath of air. “I just, I need a, a uhm test subject. I want to use an animal that almost almost everyone has! Maybe, I uh, Brent, maybe you’d let me use that that dog of yours. The little, the medium one.”
“Buddy?” Jeez, it took him like a week to say one thing. His face lit up and he tiptoed to peer over my shoulder.
“Is he here? Could I see him? You guys don’t let him out much, so I forget sometimes I forget what he’s like.”
“He’s the wife’s dog so…” Stuart nodded anxiously and I asked him to wait there while I got Buddy. I went to the back door to see if he was still in the yard. I had left it open a crack for him to come back, but I couldn’t see him and wasn’t in the mood to look all over for him so I went back to Stuart.
“Sorry, I can’t find him, but if I do he’s all yours.” Stuart began to scream a ‘thank you’ in my ear, but I could only hear it against the closed door after I slammed it shut.
I had forgotten momentarily about the envelope of cash sitting quiety on the coffee table. I lifted it and opened it carefully, there had to be ten thousands of dollars in that briefcase, and for just that small package? I leafed through the bills in my envelope.
Three thousand dollars? For something obviously so risky and against the law, and with what was probably fifty thousand dollars promised to be split 50/50. I had a family, which counted for a lot more to lose than what that piece of shit had going for him. Three thousand dollars. Three fucking grand.
Envelope in hand I stomped upstairs and into the study, opening the first drawer I threw the money in. It sat, slim and cheap where the highly expensive—highly illegal package once sat.
At least my report for Sheeder was done and turned in. At least there was a silver lining to this week. Kind of.
Later that evening Lydia came home alone. I had managed to not do a single productive thing all day and the condition of our home showed it.
“So, how was work today?” Lydia stepped over crumpled clothes and began to stack dirty plates to clear off the coffee table.
“I got home a little early, so I thought I’d relax.”
Lydia nodded and swept all the dirty clothes up in her arms and took the load to the laundry room. After the entire living room was clean and reorganized, she sat beside me and I wrapped an arm lazily around her.
“The kids, in case you’re wondering…” I wasn’t.
“…are at my sister’s.” I nodded in understanding and flipped through the channels.
“I thought maybe we could have some time together. I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.” She leaned in and nibbled at my neck, my body trembled with pleasure. Something about the touch of a woman you love that compares to no other. I attempted to focus on the game happening in the TV screen, but as the passes and dribbles timed in rhythm of her kisses it became harder to resist. By the time the buzzer sounded, we were true lovers loving each other the way we should.
My phone’s ringing tore my body from Lydia’s and a sigh escaped her lips as I lunged for the phone on the coffee table. The table rattled beneath my weight and I lifted the phone to see that it was only a text message.
‘Sexy time? (; – Julia’
Lydia sat up and leaned against me. “Mr. Sheeder, please don’t take…” Her eyes fluttered towards the text and my body tensed, unable to move or try to hide the seductive little message. Fortunately, she continued, “…don’t take my husband away.” Her voice was soft, but it was unclear whether she had read the text or not. She leaned her head against my shoulder, but it didn’t feel the way it would’ve ten minutes ago. A quick peck on the cheek and she stood up, “I’m tired honey, it was a long day. Goodnight.”
That night, she would’ve slept facing away from me. Instead, I slept facing away from Julia.
The next morning had been a long journey, waking up at a ridiculous hour to slip out of Julia’s bed and into my own. When I woke up for the second time, it was down pouring. Sometime in the morning, Lydia’s sister brought the kids back and they passed out; tired from the all day play and no sleep Saturday of fun. Lydia must’ve left sometime after I came home. She had slid out of bed without a word. I was left to wake up in a silent home, a rainstorm, and moist dog snout in my ear. My first instinct sent my hand flying, twacking Buddy against the head and the next thing I knew a loud yelp was followed by an even louder thud. I peered over the edge of the bed to see buddy, on is back cockroach style. The white of his eyes sent a panic signal to my brain. Was it horrible that I couldn’t help but feel the slightest bit of success? Still, Buddy WAS Lydia’s dog, not mine. I knew this would tear her apart. Who knew one mangy mutt could hold such a primary role in one human’s life.
Christopher’s voice boomed from downstairs, “Buuuuuuuuddddddyyyyyyyy! Brrrrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaakkkffaaaasst!” A leg twitch and a paw tremble later, Buddy got up on all fours and trotted away. Although he had a limp in his walk—he was all in all in good shape.
I threw the covers off of me and dragged myself into the shower to start cleaning Julia’s scent off of my body. The mixture of lavender and baby powder never gets old. Of course, she’s only been around for a few weeks and probably won’t be around very lo—.
“DAD! MR. BRENT SIMMONS!” I turned the faucet, bringing the water to a trickle. I heard him stomping down the hall, stopping every few steps to peer into empty rooms.
“Chris!” He was a hell of a student in school, but wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box. Christopher’s silhouette grew tall against the shower curtain. The ghostly figure was somehow intimidating until the curtain was pulled back and a funky, but cute looking kid stood with a toothy grin. “Some dude is calling for you Dad.” He pushed the phone into my hand.
I looked at it for a moment and asked him, “You’re sure it’s not your uncle?”
He laughed a little, “Of course! I would know if it was THAT dude, we sound the same!” Everything he said sounded slightly as if he was whining. And he and his Uncle do not sound anything alike, but my son WAS named after Christian. It was our promise. I was too proud to admit to keeping to such a dumb promise that I only named him after the first part and slapped on a “-opher” at the end instead of an “-ian.” He never mentioned anything, but I wonder if he felt any resentment towards that.
I wiped the side of my face with the shower curtain and put the phone to my ear.
“Make me dinner.” A nerve inside me twitched, this man had always managed to push every single one of my buttons. He continued the conversation without prompt, “Fine. Make Lydia do it, but either way invite me to your house. Lydia doesn’t trust me and I can’t have none of that. I want to help you out, if she takes a liking to me you can even start using me as an alibi during your frisky nights out.”
Christopher climbed in fully dressed in swim gear and I mindlessly made room for him as I sat on the edge of the tub. Shifting my weight away from Chris and turning towards the wall, I listened to Jack continue.
“I want all-American food by the way. So I know your ball and chain doesn’t trust me so if I come over, I can let her see what a great guy I am.” I frowned.
“Why do you think she doesn’t trust you?” I asked and I could practically hear his mischievous smile through the receiver.
“Because, she’s discussing her problems quite loudly with a friend at Café Peak. And by the sounds of it, she’s starting to distrust you too.”
I sat there on the edge of the tub penetrated by bullets of steaming hot water and ignoring my son’s panicked screams.
“Chris!” I yelled, but my body moved much quicker than my brain did and when I finally realized what was happening, I had turned the water off and wrapped my burned and shivering little boy in a cool towel.
“Daddy my skin hurts.” He whimpered and pressed his face against my chest as I rubbed cooling gel on his blistering skin. I wanted to tell him not to call me daddy, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I slathered some gel on my own slightly burned knees and the two of us sat there until evening when Lydia and Ariana came home. I hadn’t even noticed Aria wasn’t in the house all day.