"Mother is home," Lisa announced while pointing out the window.
A yellow checkered taxi had just pulled into the driveway. Her mother was returning from a five day trip to Omaha Nebraska where her boss was doing some kind of business with the Air Force. As his PA, she traveled with him on all of his trips. It seemed to the kids that her boss, Mr. Buchwald, did nothing except travel. Her mother was gone more than she was at home and Lisa was tired of it.
"Are you going to talk to her, Dad?" David asked looking over at his father.
John answered, "I always talk to your Mom."
"No you don't," Lisa said. "You say a little bit about us until she interrupts and then you just let her prattle on and on."
"You don't understand..."
Rose, the baby of the family, interrupted, "We do understand. You're a wimp."
"I'm not a wimp," John said.
He knew the kids were exceptionally frustrated by the situation at home. Unfortunately, he could see no way to address the problem without hurting his wife's feelings. He didn't know how to tell a woman that her children thought she was a lousy mother. For all he knew, they already had a replacement picked out. They certainly had a lot of candidates stopping by the house.
"It's hopeless. He's never going to divorce her," David said in disgust.
"Look, I love your mother and she loves me. She's just caught up in her work at the moment," John said patiently.
Rose said, "Divorce her."
"We are not going to get divorced."
"I give up," Lisa said.
She crossed her arms and frowned at her father showing him her displeasure at his answer. It wasn't that she was angry at him; just at the situation.
"I'm out of here," Rose said while fleeing the room in frustration.
John watched his children leave the room knowing they left to avoid having to deal with their mother. He knew they were frustrated and were firmly convinced their mother was abandoning them. He was afraid that one day they were going to lose it and really let their mother know exactly what they thought of her.
Getting up from his Lazy Boy recliner, he went over to the door to help his wife bring in her luggage. He knew from past experience that she would dismiss his efforts, but that never prevented him from making the offer. She tended to remain in business woman mode for a day or two after a trip.
While passing the front window, he caught a glance of her getting out of the taxi. She was wearing her gray power suit and that was never a good sign. Although she was an attractive woman with gentle curves, her business attire made her look like a shark. Even worse, she acted like a shark when wearing that outfit.
He opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. She was climbing the steps up to the porch lifting her luggage behind her. The taxi cab was pulling out of the driveway.
Reaching out for her luggage, he said, "Welcome home. Let me help you with that."
"I can manage it myself," she snapped.
"I know you can, Victoria," John said patiently.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you. I'm tired from the flight. If you don't mind, I'd like to lay down and take a quick nap before dinner," Victoria said.
"I understand," John said.
"I'm just tired," Victoria said. She gave him a weak smile.
"I know," John said with a sigh.
Victoria disappeared down the hallway pulling her luggage behind her. John noticed that she hadn't said hello or asked about the children. In a way, he was lucky they had retreated from the room.
She would slowly relax over the next two days until she returned to being the woman he knew and loved. Until then she would remain Victoria – the cold business woman. By the time she turned into Vicki – the loving wife and mother, she'd be packing to leave on her next trip. If he was lucky, he would have one night with the woman he loved. Even he had to admit that it wasn't much of a marriage.
He returned to his Lazy Boy and picked up the book on growing grapes. He was thinking a couple of grape vines would be a nice addition to the farm. Unfortunately, he knew nothing about grapes and what he was reading seemed a lot more complicated than he had anticipated.
In the kitchen, David was busy peeling carrots using the Tater Peeling Gloves his father had seen advertised on television and couldn't resist ordering. The kitchen was full of gadgets. John couldn't resist buying kitchen gadgets. Most of them were worthless, but a few were extremely handy.
David said, "They don't work as good on carrots as they do on potatoes."
Looking at the mess David was making, Lisa said, "They weren't invented to work on carrots."
"That's true," David said.
The gloves had turned bright orange from the peel of the carrots. It was kind of disgusting in a way. He wondered how the gloves would hold up over time. Too often these kinds of things worked great the first few times they were used, but then broke or became useless. The little ice cream maker they had purchased hadn't even made one batch of ice cream before it broke.
Giving voice to the question that was on all of their minds, Rose asked, "Do you think Dad will finally talk to Mother?"
"I doubt it. He'll probably wimp out again," Lisa answered.
Rose said, "I'm going to slap her silly if she offers to tuck me in and read me a bedtime story. I'm twelve years old for Christ's sake."
She was making reference to an event that had occurred two weeks earlier. Her mother had come into Rose's bedroom, without being invited in, and asked Rose if she had wanted to hear a bedtime story. Despite being furious about the invasion of her personal space and at being treated like a little girl, Rose hadn't screamed or thrown anything. She had coldly, but politely, replied that she preferred it when her father read to her at night. She could tell that her mother was hurt by her answer.
"You aren't going to forgive her for that any time soon, are you?" David asked.
He and Lisa had listened to Rose rant about that little episode for two weeks solid. In a way, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. It had demonstrated to the children that their mother had completely lost touch with them. As far as they could tell, the children she knew had existed six years ago when she had started working for Mr. Buchwald.
Rose said, "That woman doesn't even know who we are. Every week when she returns from her trips, we get to deal with the queen bitch. You'd think we are her employees rather than her children. Friday nights and Saturdays are the worst with 'Do this' and 'Do that' all of the time. Then on Sunday, she tries to be all sweet and loving. She ends up treating us like we're little children. I'm tired of it."
As the youngest, Rose had the most serious abandonment issues of the three children. She had just started first grade and suddenly her mother had disappeared from her life. At first her mother had been away from the house only one week out of the month, but the frequency of her trips had escalated to a point where she was gone almost every week.
Rose was angry. She could feel her body start to change and desperately wanted a mother to guide her through the transition from child to woman. She loved her father, but he wasn't a woman and wouldn't understand the changes her body would be going through. She didn't want the school nurse to be the one to tell her how to use feminine products like had been the case for Lisa.
"Can we divorce our own mother?" Lisa asked.
"I don't think so," David said knowing that it wasn't a rhetorical question.
"Not even on the grounds of abandonment," Rose asked.
"She hasn't exactly abandoned us," David pointed out.
Their mother was home most weekends and one week every month or so, although that week a month was kind of stretching the truth a little. Most nights their mother worked late and didn't arrive at home until just before the kids were headed off to bed. She came home tired from a long day at work and had little patience for dealing with her children.
"Who says?" Lisa asked.
Ignoring the question, David said, "Dad has to divorce her and get the court to grant him custody of us."
Lisa said, "Like that is ever going to happen. I tried to tell Dad that Mother is sleeping with Mr. Buttwad, but he won't listen to a word against her. I'm so frustrated that I want to strangle him."
Mr. Buttwad was the children's nickname for Mr. Buchwald although they were careful never to use it in front of their father. All three kids were convinced their mother was sleeping with her boss. They were sure she was planning to divorce their father the day Rose turned eighteen. Each of them felt that their father would be crushed.
"You don't know that she's sleeping with Mr. Buttwad," David said.
Rose rolled her eyes. She said, "Get real. She spends five nights a week with him and jumps whenever he calls. You can't tell me that she isn't sleeping with him."
"We don't know that for sure," David said.
Knowing that her father wouldn't ignore real proof of their mother's infidelity, Lisa asked, "Is there any way we can hire a private detective?"
"Not without Dad knowing," David said.
He knew they could come up with the money to hire a private detective. Money wasn't an issue, particularly if the three of them pooled their resources. The problem was getting a private detective to take the job without telling his father. He believed that a legitimate detective wouldn't take a cheating wife case from a teenaged kid.
"What are we going to do?" Rose asked.
"I don't know," Lisa said with a frown.
Having finished peeling the last carrot, David said, "You could set the table for dinner while I start steaming the carrots."
"Will there be wine with dinner?" Rose asked.
"You bet," David answered.
Victoria came out of the bedroom wearing a pair of slacks and a plain white blouse. She sat down on the couch and said, "I don't feel like cooking tonight. How about we head over to that pizza place the kids enjoy so much? You know the one I mean ... the one with all of the games and stuff."
"David is cooking dinner tonight," John said.
He didn't have the heart to tell his wife that the kids had outgrown that pizza place years ago. The fact of the matter was that they didn't like to eat out often. They had all taken up cooking as a hobby and preferred the meals they prepared to anything they found in a restaurant.
"You left Davy alone in the kitchen?" Victoria asked thinking that he would leave a horrible mess for her to clean up.
John said, "He prefers to be called David and, for your information, he's a good cook."
Lisa stuck her head through the dining room door and said, "Dinner is ready."
"Perfect timing," John said with a smile.
Victoria followed her husband into the dining room wondering when the kids had taken over cooking responsibilities. John was a good cook and she had never worried about the kids getting balanced meals.
Surprised by what she found, she stood there staring at the dinner table. It was covered with a fine linen table cloth that she didn't recognize. A candelabra with lit candles provided a soft atmosphere normally found only in higher class restaurants. There were five plates, her best China, already loaded with food. Each setting had crystal glasses. The silverware was the silver set that had been a wedding present from her grandmother.
Looking at the food arranged tastefully on the plates, she asked, "What is it?"
"It is a new recipe I found – pork chops with an apple curry sauce on a bed of long grain and wild rice pilaf. We have steamed garden fresh carrots and apple sauce as sides," David answered proudly.
"It looks great," John said. "I can't wait to try it."
"I have included a bottle of Rioja Rosado Marqués de Cáceres to go with it," David said.
"It sounds perfect. That's a good choice in wine," John said.
Victoria looked around the table spotting the wine glasses at each setting. Frowning, she asked, "Is everyone drinking wine?"
"Yes," John answered.
"The kids are too young to be drinking wine, particularly Rosie," Victoria declared.
A low growl announced, "My name is Rose."
"Pish posh," John replied. "My parents introduced me to having wine with a meal when I was twelve."
"Mother," Rose interrupted, "I've been drinking a half of a glass of wine with meals like this for six months. I've never gotten drunk."
"I've been drinking wine with my meals since I turned twelve," David said. "I'm a straight A student and never get into trouble."
"Drop it, Victoria. I'm teaching them how to be responsible around alcohol," John said.
"How come this is the first time I've seen the kids drinking wine with a meal?" Victoria asked.
The obvious answer was that she was never there to see the kids eat dinner, much less drink wine with it.
Lisa said, "You saw us do it last Thanksgiving."
"That was a special occasion," Victoria said.
"What's the big deal about having a glass of wine with dinner once or twice a week?" Lisa asked pointedly.
Victoria frowned at the tone of voice used by her daughter. Staring at John, she said, "You and I are going to have a long talk later."
"Okay," John said.
He gave her a weak smile. He wondered if he could turn the discussion to the tense relationship between mother and children. It would be nice if they could have a discussion, but he knew she would attempt to do most of the talking.
"Just make sure that you listen to him, Mother," Lisa said. The word 'Mother' was spoken in an insulting tone of voice.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Victoria asked sharply.
"Sometimes you need to listen rather than hogging the conversation like you usually do," Lisa said.
Rose said, "You can't keep your mouth shut."
"Kids! Be nice," John admonished.
"Children, I don't appreciate the tone of your voice," Victoria said angrily.
"Get used to it," Rose said.
"Yes, Dad," Rose said with a sigh of exasperation.
Glaring at John, Victoria said, "You and I are definitely going to have to talk later."
Hoping to reduce the tension at the table, John said, "Let's sit down and enjoy the wonderful meal David created for us."
The family took their seats at the table. Victoria was reaching for the silverware when Rose barked, "Mother!"
Victoria was a little embarrassed at needing the reminder that John normally said a small prayer before a formal evening meal. It had been a long time since she had been seated around the dinner table like this with the whole family in attendance. She looked around the table noticing that the children had their heads down with their hands clasped together.
John said, "Dear Lord, we thank you for this meal we are about to eat. We thank you for the bountiful harvest, for the continued good health of our family, and the prosperity that we enjoy. Amen."
The children echoed, "Amen."
Victoria was left wondering about the bountiful harvest bit.
David raised his wine glass and said, "Bon Appetite."
"Bon Appetite," everyone except Victoria echoed. She had been caught flatfooted.
Rose took a bite of her pork chop and chewed appreciatively. She said, "Hey, this is as good as Dad's cooking."
"Thanks," David said.
Lisa said, "The flavors are really subtle. The sauce is excellent on the rice pilaf."
"I'm glad you like it," David said.
Confused, Victoria listened to the conversation. She wasn't aware that the kids were so into the culinary arts. They were surprisingly mature in their dining habits. Each sat up straight, commented on the quality of the food, and generally enjoyed the meal. They occasionally took a sip of wine without gulping it down.
After tasting the pork chop, she had to admit this meal could have been served in any fine restaurant. It amazed her that Davy was such a good cook. She hadn't known that he had any interest in that area.
She tasted a little of the apple sauce and was shocked by the richness of the flavors. Most apple sauces were bland purees with a little apple flavor. This apple sauce was a little chunky with a full rich apple flavor that combined a touch of sweetness along with tartness. There was a hint of cinnamon that teased the palate.
"This is good apple sauce. What brand is it?" Victoria asked.
"John's Farm," Rose answered while the other two children snickered.
Victoria looked over at the two older children wondering why they had snickered. She wasn't pleased by their attitude towards her.
When they were nearly finished with the meal, Lisa asked, "Will we be having brisket or steak tomorrow night?"
"I was thinking we would have some brisket. I've got the smoker set up already," John said.
The smoker was a recent purchase and John couldn't wait to try it out. One of his favorite dishes was barbecued brisket. There wasn't a place within a hundred miles that made it to his standards.
Rose said, "I found a your recipe for a chili rub. Do you want to try it tomorrow?"
"You bet," John said.
"Great, I'll make up a batch right after dinner and put it on the brisket that is in the refrigerator," Rose said.
Lisa asked, "Can we stop by John's Farm and get some fresh okra? I'll fry some up to go with the brisket."
"Sure," John answered.
"I'll make some potato salad," David said.
"German or picnic?" Lisa asked.
"Picnic," David answered.
Rose said, "I like that one."
"Same here," Lisa said.
Interrupting the discussion, Victoria said "I was planning on cooking tomorrow."
Rose rolled her eyes and said, "Look who wants to do something around the house for a change."
David said, "I'm sure that we can find something simple for Mother to do."
"Maybe Mother can get the pickles out of the jar," Lisa said. Rose and David laughed at that.
"Kids!" John shouted.
Ignoring his father's admonishment, David said, "We'll see if Mother can even find the kitchen."
"I doubt it," Lisa said. "We're lucky she can find the house."
Rose said, "I'm sure the only way Mother finds her way home is by telling the taxi driver the address."
Each time the kids had used the word, 'Mother, ' the derision in their voice got even stronger. It finally reached a point where it sounded like an insult. Victoria's face was slowly turning bright red.
"Do you have to check your driver's license to remember where you live, Mother?" Lisa asked.
Victoria stood and pointed towards the hall while shouting, "Get to your rooms!"
David looked at his mother and flatly replied, "No."
David said, "We are not little kids who can be ordered around any more."
Rose said, "You don't have that right."
"If anyone should leave, it should be you," Lisa said.
John said, "Kids! Not now."
Rose pushed her plate out of the way. Leaning on the table, she said, "We want the bitch to leave. If you won't throw her out, we will."
"How dare you call me a bitch!"
"Oh shit," John said. "Kids, take care of the dishes."
With the kids in the kitchen taking care of the dishes, John and Victoria retired to the living room. He knew that the time to have a discussion about the children was long overdue. He didn't even know where to begin.
"John, did you hear what the kids said to me?" Victoria asked.
She took a seat in the center of the couch facing him across the room. Her arms were crossed tightly over her chest. She had crossed her legs and was swinging her right foot angrily. The expression on her face was anything but pleasant. In short, she was fuming and it showed.
"Yes, I did," John answered.
"I want them punished. After they are finished clearing the table, I want them sent to their rooms until they learn a little respect," Victoria said.
"No," John said.
"No? What do you mean no? Didn't you hear how disrespectful they were of me?" Victoria asked.
"I heard what they said to you and I'm not going to discipline them for having said it," John replied.
John took a deep breath and then answered, "Because they told you what they honestly feel. They want you gone."
"Are you serious?" Victoria asked stunned.
"Yes. They want you gone and I don't blame them," John said.
Victoria asked, "Are you taking their side?"
"I guess I am," John said.
"You son of a bitch!" Victoria shouted.
John said, "Victoria, please be quiet for a minute and listen to me."
"I didn't come home to be insulted," Victoria said while standing up. "If you want me to leave, then I'll leave."
"I don't want you to leave," John said patiently.
"It is too late for that," she replied before storming out of the room.
When the front door slammed shut five minutes later, the kids came out of the kitchen. David asked, "Is she gone?"
"Good," Lisa said.
"I can't tell you kids how disappointed I am concerning your behavior this evening. You shouldn't have talked like that to your mother," John said.
"Dad! She's sleeping with her boss," Lisa said.
"No she's not," John said.
"Wake up and smell the roses, Dad. She's a whore," Lisa said.
"Never call your mother that again," John said shaking a finger at the kids.
"Okay," Lisa said without conviction, "but it's the truth."
Deciding it was time to tackle that issue head-on, John said, "I know for a fact that she's not sleeping with Mr. Buchwald."
He had a year old report from a private detective. The report contained conclusive proof there wasn't anything of a sexual nature going on between his wife and her boss. Mr. Buchwald had survived testicular cancer. It had been diagnosed almost too late to be cured. During his treatment, he had lost both testicles and several lymph nodes. There had even been some nerve damage in the groin area. The damage was significant enough that he was unable to perform sexually even with hormone injections to maintain masculine characteristics. No magic pills would give him an erection.
John had no idea how the private detective had gotten access to that information, but it had been confirmed by the most unlikely source. In a discussion with Mrs. Buchwald during the last Christmas Party, the woman had essentially verified the contents of the report. He suspected that she had mentioned it as a means of removing any concerns he might have about the relationship between her husband and his wife.
"We don't believe you," David said.
"I read the report from the private detective and I have secondary confirmation," John said.
"You hired a private detective?" Lisa asked taken by surprise.
"Yes. Your mother would kill me if she ever learned that I did that," John said.
"And you believe the report?" David asked thinking that his father had saved him some money.
The three kids stood there looking at each other. None of them knew what to say.
"You owe your mother an apology," John said.
Rose said, "No, we don't."