This is a sideline from the Live from the Game universe. I quite like the concept of the little cheaters support group, and I wanted to flesh it out a bit.
Don’t worry, Ryan is going to get one more story, which I’ve got sketched out now.
In the meantime, here, enjoy this. There’s no real point to it – no real conclusion. It’s just background to who the women are, and why they do what they do. I was interested in who they were, so I wrote this.
Kudo’s once again to NoneTheWiser for the editing and, for once, not suggesting a better title than I came up with. Even though I didn’t really come up with it – it was suggested by a reader in the comments somewhere...
Mae put down her steaming hot chocolate and got up to answer the door. She was a little slower than normal and winced slightly at the dull pain in her hip. She was no spring chicken anymore and age was slowly becoming more of a problem to her.
She tried to put more of a spring in her step as she walked to the front door, feeling that the more motion she put in her walk, the better it would feel. Like so many things in her more recent life, it was a case of ‘fake it till you make it’. Recent events had made that difficult – she had a lot on her mind – but she had to put that aside for today and provide support for someone who needed her full attention.
She could see the figures of two people through the frosted glass on her door. She opened the door, a welcoming smile on her face, as she’d been taught a good hostess should.
“Hello there,” she said, with genuine pleasure at the sight of her visitors. It was cold in Buffalo Grove, the town in the northern Chicago suburbs where she lived – cold enough to see your breath. She had a house set in the rustic area, just off the main street - close enough so she could walk to the small tourist trap ‘ye olde’ buildings, not that she ever did. She’d lived there for almost seven years, becoming a fixture in the town, having moved there after her “troubles” in the southern Illinois town of Champaign / Urbana.
The two women on her doorstep said their hello’s, breath frosting from the chill in the air, obviously wanting to come in from the cold.
“Come in, come in, it’s freezing out. Winter’s early this year,” she said, moving back and shooing her guests into the warm house.
The two women came in, knowing the way. They’d been there before, many times.
In the great room, with it’s vaulted ceilings, lined with large pine beams, a fire danced in the hearth. There were two easy chairs and a love sofa arranged around the fireplace, which was a half circle with a hood over it, somewhat like the circular fireplaces you see in ski lodges.
There were pictures of family on the wall, nick knacks of a life lived on shelves, a wall mounted TV above the fireplace and in the corner, in front of firmly closed French windows, stood a baby grand piano in sparkling white enamel, with yet more pictures arranged carefully on top of the lacquer. There was even a grandfather clock against one wall, keeping accurate time.
The two visitors shrugged off their coats and scarves, placing them carefully on a coat tree that had been placed by the door for just such occurrences.
“Hey Mae. How are you? Cold enough for you? asked the first, a tall brunette with lush chestnut hair, that draped and curled around her shoulders. Gina Stipe was of western European stock. Tall, willowy, with thin but taut limbs. She was wearing black slacks, Ugg boots and a thin white blouse, with a long thick cardigan over the top. Gina was the epitome of modern fashion and worked hard to maintain her slim 5’10” body. She was no stranger to the inside of a gym and worked out a lot.
Mae rolled her eyes.
“Why is that the first thing anyone says the moment we get a cold snap?” she demanded, a slight southern twang to her voice. “Everyone always goes ‘cold enough for ya?’ and it’s very irritating. Yes, it’s cold. We can all feel that.”
Mae did her best impression of a Chicago accent and the two women exchanged smiles. Mae was in one of her moods again.
“I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it Mae. It’s just a greeting,” the second woman, Rhonda Ranta intoned, with mock solemnity. Rhonda was also tall, but slightly shorter than Gina at about 5’8” but she made up for it in with the high heels she invariably wore. Rhonda had short blond hair, clear pale skin and was the living embodiment of Scandinavian beauty. She had a very distinct accent, sometimes missing out words from her sentences when she was excited or rushed, despite having lived in the United States for over thirteen years.
Today she was dressed for the elements. Thick tights, leather boots with three-inch heels, and a long knitted dress, complete with built in scarf, attached via Velcro at the neck.
One interesting difference was that Gina was perfectly made up – just the right amount of foundation, blusher and eye makeup, whereas Rhonda had no makeup at all. And both looked good.
Gina looked around and then enquired of Mae, “She’s not here yet, then?”
Mae moved over to the easy chair closest the door and shook her head as she sat down. “Not yet. I did say anytime after 4, so I would imagine it won’t be long.”
She gestured at the tea and coffee laid out on the coffee table and said, “Help your selves, ladies.”
Rhonda sighed and said, “So we do it again, yes? Open old wounds yet again?”
“That’s what we do,” said Gina, sharply. “You know it’s good for our souls. And those who seek us out need to know we are the same as them. As good, or as bad, as they are. They need to feel comfortable. It’s the only way to get them to open up, so we can give them the support they need. Besides, telling the stories is cathartic. Each time I do, I find some new dimension. I explore it a little more. Probe that wobbly tooth with the tongue once again, and one day, fingers crossed, the damn thing will come out.”
Rhonda gazed back at Gina and sighed again. “I know, I know ... I just sometimes feel like ... I don’t know. Like it’s just making me feel worse. Reliving it again. It makes it almost harder to move on, you know?”
“Well Rhonda, nobody is making you come back. I’d say that when you are ready to move on, you probably won’t need us any more. The fact that you are still here...” Mae spread one of her hands, the other holding her still steaming hot chocolate.
Rhonda gave an exasperated half smile, a desultory shrug and turned her attention to pouring herself coffee.
There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment, as Mae stared into the distance, and Gina and Rhonda helped themselves to coffee. Gina caught Rhonda’s eye and gave her a slightly embarrassed look.
They settled themselves on the couch for a moment, each took a sip and then Gina said, “So, did anyone see The Good Wife last night?”
Rhonda wrinkled her frown. “God, we must be desperate to be talking about that load of crap. Good coffee Mae,” she said, nodding at Mae.
Mae smiled back, faintly, still far away in her mind.
“But then it couldn’t be any worse than that god awful stuff Deanna used to make? Remember that?” said Rhonda, making puke motions with her finger in her mouth.
Rhonda chuckled, “Yeah, that was pretty bad, wasn’t it?”
The doorbell tinkled, and all three looked expectantly in that direction.
“Well,” said Mae, putting down her hot chocolate, “I imagine I need to be the hostess with the most-est.”
She left to answer the door, leaving Gina and Rhonda.
“I wish Deanna was still here,” said Gina wistfully.
“Well, she has her life, Rhonda. She moved on. We still see her every now and then, but she doesn’t need us any more. Trey saw to that.”
“And Ryan,” muttered Rhonda, under her breath. She was still slightly annoyed that all their planning and scheming had not resulted in the desired conclusion (See the Events of Long After the Game – Ed).
Then Mae came bustling back into the room, leading a young woman, who couldn’t have been more than thirty. She was blond from a bottle, with dark roots starting to show through her hair. She was fair skinned, with slight redness around her eyes and nose that indicates she’d been out in the cold too much. Or crying too much. Or both.
She was wearing a light summer coat over a stretched knee length one-piece wool wrap around dress, and was obviously cold.
“ ... and these are the girls. That’s Rhonda, and Gina...” Mae was saying and she led the new arrival into the room.
“You look cold dear. Gina, be a dear and get Brooklyn a coffee? She needs warming up. It is Brooklyn, isn’t it? Do you prefer Brooke?”
Brooklyn was looking around, sizing up the room and trying not to be too obvious in sizing up the other two women.
“What? Oh yeah, Brooke, Brooklyn, Brie, whatever really. I answer to it all. Just not ‘Hey, Slut’. I got enough of that from Josh.”
“Here, sit down in front of the fire dear. Sugar? Milk?”
Brooklyn sank into the loveseat at right angles to the couch, and looked up gratefully at Gina, who handed her a coffee after pouring it from the delicate china tea set on the coffee table.
“No, black please.”
“Like you like your men?” said Rhonda, attempting levity and instantly realizing it was the worst possible thing to say.
.... There is more of this story ...