"Hi sweetie. It's so great to hear your voice. I have to tell you, I had a heck of a time finding a new phone number for anyone there. So ... how are you all doing?", Linda gushed while trying to keep from sounding breathless and trying to hide the fear and longing that she really felt.
Stacy hesitated and decided to play it safe, "Ummm ... I'm sorry, who is this?"
"For crying out loud, Stacy. This is your mother! I'm ... I'm sorry I haven't called before now but, jeeze, I would expect that you would at least be able to recognize the voice of the mother that loved and raised you for 17 plus years.", Linda said, now very crestfallen.
Stacy smiled a bit. She really had been pretty sure that it was her Mom calling but things being what they are she had decided to be extra careful. Being careful also had the added benefit of giving her absentee Mom an emotional "slap aside the head" without being out-right nasty.
"Oh, hi Mom. You caught me by surprise and I was just being ... you know, careful. I didn't want to start getting chummy with some stalker." Stacy paused again and decided to take issue with her Mom's "loved and raised you for 17 plus years" remark. She was keeping her temper well under wraps but wasn't above being "politely catty".
"Mom, I don't think you can count the last three years under the headings of 'raising' or 'loving'. I was almost 14 when you abandoned us and this is the first we have heard from you in over three years. I'm 17 now and haven't felt your motherly love in quite some time."
Linda sighed heavily, "I'm sorry, Stacy. Things were just so, so complicated back then I just felt I had to leave ... But, enough of that! I really called to see how you are doing and maybe talk to your sister and brother if they are around. I plan to be a lot more available to you now that things have settled down. I hope we can reconnect and you can take a little advantage of being the child of a well-to-do mother now that Frank and I are married. I have so much I can do for you, Rachael and Josh. Our life is so much better than what it was when I was with your father. Don't get me wrong, your father is a good person but he just can't provide the niceties of life like Frank has lavished on me. I'm very spoiled now and I love it!"
"So now I want to show you kids a REAL life. The way life should be lived. At the same time, I can make up for the years of scraping by we all endured given your father's meager income and yes, maybe make up for my leaving rather abruptly."
Stacy was seething by this point. She loved her Dad, Ed Mercer, dearly. She also respected the responsibility and heartache he endured when Linda left forcing him into the role of a single parent trying to raise two early teen and preteen daughters and a wild 20 year old son. She was also very proud of how he had turned their lives around since her Mom's departure. Linda had cleaned out the bank accounts before she left so finances had been suddenly much worse than they had ever been in Stacy's memory. At the young age of 14 Stacy took on the role of homemaker as much as she could to help her family survive. Together they had survived, but it was a struggle for over eight months. Then things got better when her Dad made some drastic changes and now life was great!
It would have been easy for Stacy to simply lash out at the perpetrator of much of the pain that defined her fourteenth year of life. That famous temper of hers was ready, waiting in the background like a tiger on a light leash just waiting for slack and the chance to strike.
Stacy suddenly felt a rush of utter calm and knew the course of action she needed to take and it was brilliant!! If she lashed out, her mother would undoubtedly hang up and Stacy might never see or hear from her again. This would do no good for anyone and she really did want to have a relationship with her mother regardless of the stupid things she had done. Stacy basked in the calm feeling sweeping over her as she decided how to proceed. She would make her point, rub her mother's nose in the slime of her mistakes and still come away with the chance of a continued relationship for her, her siblings and her mother. Stacy smiled broadly and thought, "Stacy, girl, you may have just figured out a huge life lesson."
"Mom! You absolutely will not believe how hot I am. Hang on, I'm going to take a picture with my phone camera and send it to you. Don't hang up!"
Stacy stood in front of the full length mirror in her bedroom with ample light shining through the window. It was around 4:00PM in mid June so the sun came in strong through her west facing window. She smiled brightly, turning a bit sideways to show her coiffed strawberry blond hair piled on her head in an elegant style. She was wearing a full-length lavender evening gown that was elegant but hugged her very feminine frame showing her evolution into full womanhood. The gown was set off by long white gloves that hugged her arms to just above her elbows.
She clicked two pictures, chose the better of the two and quickly sent the picture off to her mother's cell phone. "Did you get it? What do you think?"
There was a long pause, as Linda viewed and digested the impact that three years in a blooming young woman's life can make. "Oh, my God. Oh, Stacy. You are beautiful. I'm ... you ... I'm speechless.", Linda said this in a sort of whisper, choking back the lump in her throat that was trying to strangle her. "Oh, Stacy I have missed so much, you have grown so ... Oh, shit what have I done."
Stacy ignored her mother's reflection and pressed on, "You think that's something, wait 'til you see Rachael!"
Stacy glided across the hall to her sister's room, pushed open the door where her now 14 year old sister was getting last minute touches to a very elegant hairdo of her long, thick honey brown hair. Rachael's hair was also piled on her head with several ringlets that formed a coiled frame to her face. Her big gray-blue doe eyes and soft features made everyone stop and stare. Her face was strikingly beautiful. She also was wearing an evening dress that was softly elegant but did a much better job of concealing her charms than the dress worn by her older, more mature sister.
"Hey, Rach. Strike a pose. Mom's on the phone and I'm sending a picture of you to her." Rachael was being assisted by a woman in her mid thirties also in an evening gown that was made to impress. The woman possessed a regal beauty that turned heads regularly wherever she went. The woman started to remove herself from the picture frame when Stacy intervened, "No, Janice stay right where you are. I want you in the picture too."
Rachael was still a bit stunned but finally rolled her eyes and yelled with her hands cupped around her mouth towards the phone, "Hi, Mom! I can't talk now but lets connect some time later."
Stacy clicked a few pictures, picked the best shot and sent it on it's way.
After a pause, Stacy put the phone to her ear and said, "Bet you don't recognize Rachael do you? I mean Mom, Rachael's even got boobs!"
Rachael got red faced and screamed, "Stacy, you dork! Shut up!", but there was a shy smile on her face as the two other females in the room giggled at her embarrassment.
Stacy turned her attention to the phone again, "So wada ya think, Mom?"
Linda was at a loss for words, "I'm stunned, sweetie ... Just stunned. You two have grown up so much and you are both so beautiful. I'm so proud. I wish I was there with you."
Linda kept pulling the phone away from her ear to look at the pictures of her children whom she now missed more than anything. Her heart ached with regret and longing. Then the details of the pictures began to filter through her tear filled eyes. "Why are you two all dressed up? You can't both be going to prom are you?"
Stacy had effectively hooked her Mom and was now ready to really start the nose rubbing. "No, Mom. It's even cooler than that. You remember the annual party that you always went nuts about and you and Dad never got invited to? You know. The Sedgewick-McTaggert Welcome to Summer Formal."
Linda responded immediately, "Of course, I remember. It was always the social event of the year. Damn, I would have given my eye teeth to go to that formal. Only the most powerful, beautiful people in the whole state were invited. I wanted so much to be able to get all dressed up in a formal gown and rub elbows with the social elite. I would have so loved that.", Linda sighed and then quickly broke out of her imaginary vision. "Oh, my God, did you and Rachael get a job acting as hostesses or wait-staff for that party? Wow, that is amazing! I'm so proud of you two. To think my daughters are actually going to get to be there among the beautiful people. I'm jealous!", Linda gushed breathlessly.
"No, Mom we are not part of the wait-staff. We are invited guests. As a matter of fact, we get to sit at the head table because Daddy is the guest of honor! It's a surprise for him, but Daddy is also going to get roasted! Isn't that like just too cool! I even get to be one of the roasters! I am soooo nervous but also so excited."
Linda was dumbfounded,"What? You're kidding right? You have to be kidding. Why would a lowly Cost Containment Clerk get invited to the Welcome to Summer Formal much less be the guest of honor? That just doesn't happen in real life. You're lying to me aren't you?"
"Yeah, right Mom. Rachael and I get all dressed up each day just on the off chance that you would call so we could yank your chain. Get real, Mom. A lot has changed since you abandoned us. We were very hurt, no, we were all devastated; but, Dad pulled us all together, even Josh, and somehow made a new life for us. Maybe I should bring you up to date on what's happened since you dumped us. This will have to be quick because the limo should be back with Fauna and Josh in about 15 minutes and then we will have to leave."
Stacy sighed deeply to quell her anger before she began her narrative of their life 'after Mom'. "Dad was pretty much destroyed when he found out you were 'doing it' with some old fart in your and his bed. You kinda disappeared right after he found out and confronted you so I guess you were already planning to leave but the date just got pushed up a bit."
Linda interrupted Stacy to whisper, "I'm sorry, Stacy. I didn't know you knew what happened between your Dad and I, but yes, after your Dad knew, I felt I had to leave. What was the point in staying. I mean, my God, he even had pictures of us! Frank and I decided to leave town and go to his Manhattan apartment and that's where we've been ever since." I'm sorry your Dad decided to tell you about what happened. I think that was kind of low to involve you kids."
"Horse shit, Mom! That is just pure horse shit.", Stacy tried to get her rising temper back under control. She took a deep breath and continued, "Dad didn't tell us. I told him! Who do you think took the pictures? Duhhh!
Rachael and I came home and everything was quiet except for some weird noises I heard coming from your bedroom. I told Rachael to wait downstairs and I went up quietly to investigate. When I saw what you were doing, I grabbed your cell phone, took a few pictures and sent them to Dad. Then Rachael and I left and went over to a friends house. By the time Rachael and I came home that night you had locked yourself in the bedroom and never came out but we could hear you crying. You were gone by the next morning. The last image I have of my 'loving' mother was of her on her back under some old guy in my Dad's bedroom. Tell me that didn't take therapy to get the images out of my head. I'm glad you at least had covers over your bodies or I would probably be in therapy even now."
"I can't believe you are the one who betrayed me, Stacy. How could you do that?"
"I don't think this is the time or place to trade shots about betrayal, Mother. It would be a pretty uneven match, don't you think? I'll put my fire hose up against your squirt gun any day and we won't even talk about Rach and Josh's stuff. So do you want a recap of the last three years or not?", Stacy was actually marveling at her own self control and her handling of this situation. The thought crossed her mind that she had really grown and matured in the last few years.
Linda understood at that moment that to have any kind of relationship with her children she was going to have to walk through the hell of facing responsibility for her actions and the outcome of those actions. This was not going to be some easy task. Not something a few gifts and trips would automatically fix. Her children had had to accept and adapt to a life without her in it. She wanted to know how they had fared but to do that she would have to hear how they felt about her decisions and choices. Did they all hate her? No time for running now. If she backed away now she would most likely lose them, probably forever, but if she wanted to reconnect she would have to accept their feelings and feel their fire. Was she up for this? Was any of this worth the pain she knew would come later?
Linda steeled herself. Her voice was soft and contrite, "Yes, Stacy you are absolutely right. We will have to have those kinds of discussions at some time, I suppose, but for right now we need to be back on some kind of reasonable speaking terms. I called to reestablish contact with my children and this will be a good first step. So let me hear what your lives have been like after I left."
"Mom, you just won't believe it. It's like something out of a story, like a fairy tale, even. Anyway, Dad went into a real funk for a few months and it was really bad. A lot of days, Rachael and I would come home from school and I would make her stay outside while I went in and checked to be sure that I wouldn't find Dad dead or something. Every time the phone would ring, I would jump thinking it was the police or hospital or something. I told Josh he needed to step up and quit drinking and partying because I couldn't be the only one trying to hold on. He did try, I think, but he wasn't much help. Finally, Dad started reading books on surviving breakups, grief and stuff. A lot of nights he would just lock himself in the bedroom and we would hear the clicking of the keyboard keys on the computer. He was writing which I think helped him a lot. Remember how overweight he had gotten? Well, one day he started getting up early to run and he even dusted off the treadmill and the weight machine thingy and started using them. I thought he was trying to beat himself back into living again." Stacy paused and thought for a moment then she said, "I know you probably don't want to know all this stuff about Dad, but it really is important in the whole scheme of things. So, sorry if it's not what you wanted to hear about. By the way, he's looking pretty hot now."
"No, no that's okay honey, I do need to hear about this, but thanks for caring enough to put that in perspective for me. I do want to know how you, Rachael and Josh are doing mostly.
"Well, Rachael's an easy one. She just kind of pulled herself into a shell and stayed there for a while. She's pretty much come around now and you wouldn't believe how well she's doing. A lot of that has to do with Janice. She and Rachael have really clicked."
Linda looked at the picture on her phone again and took special note of the woman helping Rachael get ready. "Okay, who is Janice exactly?"
"Oh, sorry, Mom. Janice is Dad's girlfriend. Isn't she gorgeous? ... And she's so sweet. She's a former swimsuit model and still does fashion modeling. She's really helped Rachael come out of her shell and now she's helping Rachael get started in the modeling world ... Oh, Mom! You have to get a copy of last month's Teen Fashion World magazine. Rachael is on the front cover and she looks absolutely amazing! She is really becoming quite in demand as a model."
"What! How ... When did this all happen? Your Father hooks up with a girl half his age and now she's pimping your sister out to photographers! If I find out she's doing any cheesecake photos I will have Dad and Janet or what ever her name is up on charges.", Linda was close to hyperventilating now.
Stacy waited to bring some calm to the situation (with an awareness that she knew where she probably inherited her temper), then she spoke very softly for effect, "Mother, Daddy and Janice are very, very protective and careful about any modeling work Rachael or I do. At least one of them is at every shoot, they insist on the photographer signing an iron clad contract with Dad and not one photo gets taken without Dad's review and permission. Do you really think Dad would allow anything remotely close to 'cheesecake' for either of us? He won't even allow her in a swim suit shot. As for Dad's girlfriend. Janice is her name, she's 34 years old so there is 11 years difference between her and Daddy. That's a LOT fewer years than you and Franky, who is what? 100? I don't know if they will ever get married but they are cute together and she has helped him a lot. She even says nice things about him once in a while so he seems pretty happy. Happier than I have EVER seen him, in fact."
"Frank is only 66 to my 43, Stacy.", Linda interjected hastily. "I'm just not sure if modeling is a good life choice for Rachael, it's certainly nothing I would have allowed. She needs something more dignified to do with her life."
Stacy bit her tongue to keep from saying something like, "Dignified? Like dumping your family to become some arm ornament for some 66 year old rich guy.", so she pressed on, ignoring the interruption.
"Modeling has done great things for Rachael, Mom. She is not nearly as shy. She now carries herself with an air of confidence and poise that she never had. She finally knows who she is, what she can accomplish and what she is good at. She even directs or suggests theme poses for some of her shoots. Let's face it Mom, Rachael has never been great academically and always considered herself a loser because she felt she had a bleak future. Now, she may be a world class fashion model before she graduates from high school and have a bank account that even YOU would be proud of. Before you ask, yes, I said I am modeling too, but I'm not so much into it. Rach and I do fashion stuff together where I am sort of an extra to highlight her or wear different patterns or colors of an outfit set we're showcasing. The best part is that Rach and I have gotten really close because we are helping each other and working together. I get paid pretty well also so I am saving a lot of money towards college. School is still my thing so I'm doing well. I've been taking a few extra courses each semester so I can graduate early and start college sooner. I'm still holding my 'A' average but I'm a bit worried about chemistry this year. It's a butt kicker but I need it if I'm going to get into veterinary school."
"Oh! Mom! You won't believe this. Rach and I get to keep the outfits we model so I actually have a wardrobe now! Can you believe it! I'm actually one of the best dressed in my class instead of 'Miss Geekazoid'. A lot of the 'too cool for you' girls in my class ask ME for fashion advice and some even have asked for my autograph!! Isn't that just too sick? I'm like almost popular. The best part is that the guys are starting to notice me.", Stacy giggled.
This was all very disturbing to Linda who had always struggled to achieve some undefined level of social strata. She had left her family behind to achieve social acceptance and it seemed most of her family members had achieved lofty heights without her. To make the cut even deeper, they had accomplished this with seemingly no effort!
Linda sighed heavily, "I'm thrilled you and your sister have done so well, Sweetie. So, although I'm afraid to ask, how is Josh doing? Is my boy okay?"
Stacy took a deep breath and checked the clock on her night stand to see how much time she thought she had knowing that soon the limo would return with Josh and Fauna. She didn't want to get into the next topic and run out of time before she finished. She noted that she probably had enough time. "Well, Mom, surprisingly I have to admit that Josh has turned a corner on getting his life on track. He was pretty wild, as you know, before you left and continued his drinking and hanging out with his friends after you left. He even got worse for a while. Daddy finally jumped down his throat and demanded that he quit partying and at least find a job or go back to school. Josh told him where to go so Daddy finally threw him out and told him not to come back until he had a job. Daddy even had the police remove him from the house a couple of times."
"What! Your asshole father threw my baby boy out of the house! How dare he! I'll have Frank contact a lawyer and sue that prick!", Linda huffed.
"Good luck with that, Mom.", Stacy said shaking her head. She knew her mother always considered Josh to be her favorite and let him get way with anything. She also knew that Linda supported his antics by slipping him money whenever he asked for it. He was actually pretty lucky that he never got arrested or in serious trouble.