The Peasants Are Revolting

by Bebop3

Copyright© 2019 by Bebop3

Romantic Story: Her hubris and drive to win cost her, but she's not the only one paying the price.

Caution: This Romantic Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa   Consensual   Cheating   .

<center>On August 21st a number of very talented writers will be exploring the concept of the seductive attributes of power. This is a common focus in stories and often involves a highly successful man who believes he is entitled to whatever he wants or that the rules don’t apply to him. In this, the “Welcome to the New World” event, the person seduced by power will be female.

This story is a preview. I am far from the best writer in any grouping, but especially among the writers contributing stories to this event. Consider this an amuse bouche that precedes the literary main courses arriving on the 21st. </center>

The Peasants are Revolting

She was overwhelmed by his cologne and personal scent as he pushed up against her while she slipped the key into the lock.

“You sure Ethan’s not around?”

“Positive. He’ll be in Austin until Wednesday. My daughter’s at my in-law’s. It’s just us, baby.”

As soon as they reached the living room, she was loosening his tie as he unbuttoned her blouse. Getting impatient, he slipped his hands inside and took a breast in each hand. Squeezing harder than she would normally enjoy, he ran his thumbs over her nipples as they hardened under the bra. Leaning down, his mouth met hers and her tongue snuck past his lips.

The phone started ringing. “Ignore it,” he uttered, voice filled with passion. The ringing stopped and the pinging alerted her to a message.

He finished with the buttons and had her shirt hanging from her waist, the tails still stuck in her skirt. His kisses trailed down her neck as he reached behind her to unhook the bra.

“Wait, wait.” She pushed away from him as the phone rang again. “It might be my mother-in-law. Hold on.”

Grabbing her phone from her purse, she gave the tall man an apologetic smile. “Hey, Celeste. Everything okay?”

“It’s Shannon, Mom. Grandma’s watching TV.”

“Shannon, honey, Mommy’s in the middle of something. Is everything all right?”

“No, not really. I couldn’t remember if I left Gilbert enough water and the big man you were kissing is blocking the view from the nanny-cam. Can you ask him to move? Why don’t you do that now while I call Dad?”

As she heard her daughter disconnect, Maryanne looked over at the rabbit cage and then to her lover. “Oh my God. Get out. Get out!” Her arms frantically found their way back into the sleeves of her blouse.

“Listen, Maryanne, we can...”

“I said get the hell out!”

As he left, she fell onto the couch, heart thudding in her chest and tears forcing their way forward as she began to speak to herself. “No, I can handle this. Call her back. Get control.” She stared at the camera hidden in the figurine on the shelf. They hadn’t used it since their daughter was eight, but the service was part of the overall security plan, so it was never cancelled.

The first call wasn’t picked up and she left a message. “Honey, this is Mommy. Please call me right back. I think that there was a mistake and I want to explain what was really happening.”

The second call wasn’t picked up and she left another message. “Sweetie, it’s Mom. Don’t ... just call, okay? Let me explain what you think you saw before calling Dad. Just give me a call.”

The third call was picked up. “Shannon?”

“Yeah, Mom. Grandma’s still watching TV.”

“All right. Good. Okay. Let her ... Honey, I wasn’t really kissing that man, it just looked like it. He’s a colleague, a man from work and he was helping me with a contract we’re working on. There’s no reason to call your dad or tell him about this.”

“God, Mom, I’m 11, not six. Did you really think that would work? But I didn’t tell Dad what I saw.”

Maryanne let out a sigh of relief. It was going to be okay. She’d have to finesse things, but it was manageable. “Thank you, Honey. It’s just, you know, some things are complicated, and you can’t really understand it all when you’re young. You get that, right?”

“I understand. You’re saying that I’m not an adult yet, so I don’t have that, you know, point of view. That makes sense. That’s why I sent the link to Grandma Donnelly, Aunt Liz and Dad. Maybe they can explain it to me.”

Maryanne felt nauseous. It seemed as if there should be something more momentous going on. Some sort of signifier. Wasn’t the end of the world supposed to be ushered in by something larger than the voice of a child?

I was a brat when I was a kid, but I’m 11 now, and I need to act like it. Dad needs me. Every kid thinks their dad is the best, but mine really is. He must have been a great big brother. Aunt Jessy was five years younger than Dad, and died when she was 12 from acute lymphocytic leukemia. I knew all about it as Mom and Dad had me checked all the time. Okay, not all the time, but it seemed like it.

The videos of Aunt Jessy and Dad playing their violins together were sort of my obsession. He told me how she would get so nervous that she’d refuse to play unless he played with her. It was the sweetest thing in the world. They’d play at hospitals and homes for old people. Grandma had shirts made for them that said “Poplin Family Band”.

Once Aunt Jessy got sick, they started playing at children’s hospitals, the Ronald McDonald House and Make-A-Wish events. I’d watch him fade back after she got comfortable. He’d always make a joke about it when we watched the videos and say that he was happy to play second-fiddle to his sister. I didn’t get it, but he thought it was funny.

As she got weaker, he started taking a more leading role, letting her do as much as she was able. When she was healthy and when she was sick, Dad always looked at her like I sometimes saw him looking at me. He was so freaking proud.

Grandma told me that the worst minute of music he ever played was when he started playing at Aunt Jessy’s funeral, and the best he ever played was the final seven minutes.

I once asked him why we never played anywhere, and he said that I never seemed interested. That’s how he is. Once he knew I was interested, he set up a few dates to see if I liked it. I did, and we played at least once a week for some audience, somewhere. He let me name us, and I came up with the Poplin Family Jug Band. I wanted us to bring jugs to set in front of us and wear overalls, but Mom lost her mind.

We kept the name, but she made us dress nice. I still have one of the jugs in the basement and I try to play it once in a while. I’ll get the hang of it, just to piss off Mom.

Aunt Jessy was so good; it’s actually intimidating. She played with feeling and pulled everything possible from each note. Like her, I play the violin. I can fake my way through the basics with guitar, bass or cello, but Dad, he can really play. If it’s got strings, he’s got it down.

He’s very cool about it and doesn’t pressure me at all. That’s Mom’s job, I guess. It’s always been that way. She’s the one always pushing everything, and he’s the one making it bearable. She wants straight A’s; he sits down and helps me study. She wants private recitals and placing in competitions; he stays up and helps me practice.

I don’t blame her. She’s really busy with work. And now, I guess ... other things.

You know those times when you sort of get an image of who you really are, not the person you want other people to see? It happens to me sometimes late at night. I think I’m a good person. I try to be, at least. I do what Mom and Dad want. I’m nice to people. I don’t gossip much or lie, but late at night when I can’t fool myself, I know how terrible I am. I use Aunt Jessy to get Dad to do what I want.

I’ll play up our similarities or ask questions about her before hitting him up for money or permission to do something. I know how bad it is. You can see in the videos how much he loved her. For a long, long time I’ve been the horriblest kid in the universe, but I’m not a kid anymore and Dad needs me.

Rummaging through grandma’s refrigerator, trying not to wake her or Aunt Beth, I was hoping to find some Coke or Pepsi. This was going to take some caffeine. Not a drop, but she did have plenty of diet Dr. Pepper. Ugghh. Who drinks that stuff? It tastes like baby poop. Or something.

Grabbing some orange juice, I sat at the kitchen table with my laptop open. Getting on, I stared at the login screen for a minute. I knew Dad’s email address, that wasn’t a problem, but what was the password? poplinfamilyband. Nope. PoplinFamilyBand. Nope. PoplinJugBand. Nope. PoplinJugBand2? Yeet! I was in.

First things first. I immediately changed the password to MomSucks3. I had to confirm the change in Dad’s email account, but he used the same PoplinJugBand2 there, so no problems. Okay, all done. No deleting files for you, Mom. I scanned the File options. Sort by Date? Yup.

Figuring out what dates to check was easier than I would have thought. Dad wasn’t gone too often, just when he had to chaperone a class trip for his school and even then, it was only a few days. When that happened, Mom had Uber take me to lessons, recitals and anywhere else I needed to go. I went to the Uber site, checked my history and used dates I found there to check with the nanny-cam history.

I looked in on Grandma and she was sleeping. Turning off the TV, I took her hand in mine and sat with her for a while listening to her breathing, slow, steady and comforting. After covering her with one of the light blankets she kept on the couch, I grabbed some mints she kept in that glass jar on the coffee table. Time to get to work.

First day, nothing. Second day, nothing. Third day ... that guy again. Fourth day, same guy. I went back 18 months and there were three other men. I used the emergency credit card Dad made me carry and bought as much space as I could on Dropbox. Bulk downloading the files took forever, but I wasn’t going anywhere and couldn’t sleep.

Crossing my arms on the table, I laid my head down and cried off and on for three hours.

It had been more than a week and Maryanne knew that she had to attack this like any other problem in her life. She sat across the kitchen table from Ethan. Maryanne stared him in the eye until he looked away and then she started.

“I’m in a bit of a quandary here, Ethan. You’re going to have to help me out. I don’t want to throw a bunch of clichés at you; that would be insulting to both of us, but they are clichés for a reason. I’m just going to tell you what the situation is without embellishment and if there’s anything in there that sounds trite, please realize that there is a reason why things are often a truism.”

He looked back at her, a small smile without humor in place. “Is that how it’s going to be? The unemotional uber-rational slut breaking things down?”

Maryanne sighed. “This is difficult enough as it is, Ethan. I’d prefer not to be having this conversation at all, so maybe you can hold back on the insults for a bit while we act like adults?”

“Difficult? You regularly broker deals worth tens of millions of dollars. Just pretend I’m one of your firm’s clients and start shoveling your bullshit.”

She waited for him to finish, patronizing smile in place as if he were a naughty child. “Are you done? Here’s the truth. The men mean nothing to me. I have no affection for them more than I would for a neighbor or old college friend. What matters to me is the sex, and none of that is romantic. If you’ll notice from the dates our wonderful Judas of a daughter showed you, every assignation followed a major closing. Our family took in at least $100,000 every time I was ... with someone. That’s enough to pay for Shannon’s college and our future. I needed the release; it sounds petty, but I needed the physicality, the danger. The thrill.”

Ethan was agitated. “There’s a lot of money entwined in all of this, so that makes it okay? My wife is a slut, but only for tons of cash, so it’s all good? Are you out of your mind?” He gripped his glass of water so tightly he was afraid it would shatter. “And these closings just so happened to coincide with dates when I was out of town? That’s a crock. It wasn’t just after a deal, and it wouldn’t matter if it was. When did you lose all respect for me? When did you decide that I’m an idiot?”

The smile was off her face and Ethan realized he was now listening to the real Maryanne. She pushed her chair slightly away from the table and leaned backwards. “Okay, Ethan, here’s how it’s going to be. I’m clean. I can get you the test results if you insist, but I’m clean. I shouldn’t have brought them to the home, even if I paid for it and everything in it. It was disrespectful and I get that. From now on, I’ll take them somewhere else. I’ll be discreet and let you know in advance, but it hasn’t bothered you up ‘till now and it won’t impact you in the future. Don’t push me on this. Things will remain exactly the way they have been and once you get your head around it, you’ll be just as happy as you’ve always been.”

“Are you out of your mind? We’re done. I’ll be ‘happy’ because I won’t be married to a whore. We’ll be divorced in six months. I’m not going to try to gouge you for everything I can. You know that’s not me. I don’t want any alimony, but we’re finished.”

“No, that’s not going to work for me, for us. Look at this rationally. Two weeks ago, you were perfectly happy. Everything was fine. Nothing has changed. I don’t want a divorce and I know you. You don’t want one either. Don’t let your precious ego force you into a no-win situation. Let’s face facts, you’re a second-rate carpenter who teaches kids during the day and does some side jobs in your off-time.” Pausing, she sadly shook her head. “Can you even afford a lawyer? I know that I sure as hell can. I would get custody of Shannon, get to keep the house and have you paying child support. You’ll be working 80 hours a week and all those stupid little concerts with Shan? History. There’s not going to be a divorce, Ethan. The only difference is that now you know what happens once in a while. Once in a rare while. No one else will know and nothing will change.”

Shocked, he pushed back in his chair and stared at his wife. “How did I not see who you really were? I promise you, this isn’t going to end like you think it is.”

It was weird, weird, weird. I only knew what I could figure out, as neither of them talked to me much about the divorce. We were all still living in the same house until they could get before a divorce judge. Supposedly the judges were very busy, and it would be more than a month before it would happen, and they might have to go more than once.

Dad was about to take the guest room until I reminded him that she took her boyfriends there. For some reason it mattered to him that she didn’t use their bed, so he took their bedroom and she took the guest room. It was a silly argument. We had five bedrooms, but they turned one into a second study and another into a home office for Mom. Just switch the furniture and stuff in the guest room with the stuff in the study. It was like I was the only one thinking.

Grandma picked me up after school every day, and I stayed at her apartment until Dad or Mom came to get me. It was usually only an hour with Dad, but he was really strict about it. He wouldn’t let me stay home or at school. And Grandma always helped me with my homework. I didn’t mind, but I was a straight A student. Dad said to leave it be and bought her copies of all of my textbooks.

I think it was because she was lonely since Grandpa died and she wasn’t teaching, anymore. She even met with my teachers. Whatever. Aunt Beth was always there. She and Grandma were sisters and lived together. She was always asking me about sports and food and stuff. Aunt Beth was a nurse who worked in people’s houses when they were really sick. Like Grandma, I’d see her writing in her spiral notebook after we’d speak.

Dad absolutely refused to watch me on Mom’s days, but he would let Grandma. It was all ridiculous. I was 11. I didn’t need watching. Grandma was coming to pick me up on one of Mom’s Saturdays. I heard Mom answer the door and thought Grandma was early. She wasn’t. I peeked over the railing and down at the kitchen and saw her kiss a man on the cheek. She told him she needed to finish dressing, which was strange ‘cause she was fully dressed.

She went into her room and when she closed the door, I grabbed my notebook and went downstairs.

“Hi! I’m Shannon. What’s your name?”

“Uh, hi, Shannon. I’m uh, Jeff. Is Maryanne your mom?”

“Yes, Jeff, she is. Jeff, what’s your last name?”

“My... ? It’s Connely.”

I jotted that down in my notebook. “Jeff, would you mind showing me your drivers license?”

He seemed half confused and half amused. “May I ask why, Shannon?”

“I’m keeping my journal up-to-date.”

“Well, that’s interesting. I think that I’m going to keep my license to myself for now.”

“Okay. Jeff, were you one of Mom’s boyfriends before the last month or is this something new.”

“That’s uh, something you should probably talk to your mother about.”

“Right, makes sense. Last question. You know that she’s still married, right?”

“Okay, this is getting really strange. Can you ask your mother to come down for a minute?”

“Sure, Jeff. Help yourself to something from the fridge. There’s no Dr. Pepper.”

I went back upstairs, knocked on her door and called out. “Mom, Jeff wants to talk to you.”

Going to my room I added his information to my online journal and waited. Five minutes went by.

“Shannon! Get down here!”

It seems that Jeff had left. Sitting across from her, I gave her my innocent look. “What’s up?”

“You know what’s up. Why were you questioning Jeff and what the hell sort of journal are you keeping?”

“It’s got dates and times and names and stuff.”

She looked sort of shocked. “Dates and times for what?”

“The days when you’re late to pick me up or when you have Grandma watch me on your days. Stuff like that.”

“You ... what? How many of these dates?”

“All of them. Every day it’s happened, the times you left and the times you arrived. Jeff’s the first guy you brought here, so he went in. When you get fast food instead of cook. All that stuff.”

“What on earth for?”

“The judge.”

“You’re collecting data on me for the judge? What’s wrong with you?”

“Not on you, Mom. On us. Mother and daughter. Our relationship. You realize that I’m not going to live with you after the divorce, right? Not a chance.”

Her shock was changing into anger. “We’ll see about that, Shannon. We’ll just see. Go get me that journal.”

“Sure.” I brought it down, tossed it onto the cushion next to where she was sitting and went to get my violin.

As I got ready to practice, I saw her flipping from page to page. “This is over, young lady. I’m keeping this and you’re ending your little spying game.”

“Keep it. It’s all online. And it’s not spying. Everything in there involves me. You’re not going to find a single thing that wasn’t about what I ate, when I was picked up, when I was dropped off and who you had in the house while I was here.”

Things were a little cold after that.

“Are you recording this, Ethan?” She nodded towards the iPhone.

“Yes. I thought it would be a good idea for both of us to have a record. I’ll send you a copy as soon as we’re done.”

They both had a legal pad and pencils in front of them at the kitchen table.

Taking two stapled together sheets of paper, he passed them to Maryanne. “I took the liberty of typing up some bullet points based on what we’ve discussed.

“We didn’t discuss anything. We yelled quite a bit, but nothing was discussed. I told you, I don’t want a divorce.”

“And I told you, I no longer care what you do or don’t want. Okay, so we didn’t have any serious discussions. That’s what we’re doing now. Just consider the notes as jumping off points. I was thinking that I would have responsibility for Shannon on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. That would give you Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. I’d be responsible for one extra day since you spend more time at work than I do. That seems fair. Any problems that you can see?”

“No. Wait, yes. Can we switch Sunday and Saturday?”

Sighing, Ethan made a note on his pad. “Sure.”

“You know what? I’m sorry. Let’s stick to the way you had it. There’s a lot of corporate dinners and events on Sundays. I’ll take Saturdays.”

Jotting again, he nodded his head. “Okay. If you’ll check the second page, you’ll see a rough breakdown of household expenses. I think that will be easily covered if we each put in 60% of our take-home pay. Anything remaining will get rolled over to the next month and if there is anything left after the dissolution, it will be put in a college fund for Shannon. Agreed?”

“No, it’s not agreed, dammit! Ethan, you’re talking about our marriage here, our family, not some actuarial table. You’re like a freaking robot. Don’t you care at all? We don’t need a divorce. You’re going to be living in some hovel and our daughter is going to have a broken home, all because of your fragile ego and something that doesn’t lessen what you get at all.”

“My fragile ego? You have absolutely no respect for me at all, do you? Somehow you got it stuck in your mind that you’re entitled to fuck other men because ... hell, I don’t know why. ‘Cause you’re some big wheeler-dealer? ‘Cause everyone at work bows down when you walk by? Because you make more money than I do? Look, it’s a done deal. Our marriage is dead. It was on shaky legs the first time you cheated on me. When you thought that I would just sit back and be a cuckold whenever you closed a deal, it was as if our marriage was an old farm dog in his final days that you took behind the barn to put a bullet in the back of its head. It’s over. Let’s just get through this.”

Dropping her pen on the table, she shook her head and frowned. “All right. 60% sounds fine. You’re going to regret this, Ethan. You’re way out of your depth. You’re going to lose everything.”

Jotting, he didn’t look up as he spoke. “Okay, so we’re set on the finances. I’ll get on the school’s insurance during the next enrollment period, Shannon will stay on yours. Let’s talk about chores. There’s a list on the first page, halfway down. I thought I would do everything with an asterisk next to it and you’d do the rest. Reasonable?”

“Laundry? Grocery shopping? You usually do that stuff.”

“Did. Past tense.”

“Fine. Whatever.”

They went on for another 45 minutes and hammered out an informal but fairly comprehensive agreement. Ethan emailed her a copy of the video.

I could hear them arguing in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, they would have at least attempted to keep their voices down. Now it was as if they don’t care.

Dad sounded almost, I don’t know, bored. “Look, today is your day. Just stick to the agreement. It’s not my fault or my problem that you couldn’t get a sitter.”

Mom and Dad had strictly divided everything. They had this eight-page document that broke everything down. Dad watched me four days a week and Mom was responsible three days. She wasn’t too happy about having to leave work at 5:00, but she did it. I stayed with Grandma longer those days. Mom tried to be friendly when picking me up, but Grandma and Aunt Beth weren’t having it. They never said anything in front of me, but I knew they weren’t happy with Mom.

“She can’t stay with your mother while they play cards?”

“No, Maryanne, she can’t. My mother gets together with her friends once every two weeks. One day to herself isn’t a hell of a lot to ask. They’ve been playing together for almost two decades. This isn’t news to you. Be a mom and do what’s right. Stay home with your daughter.”

“This event is important, Ethan, it pays the mortgage. It puts food on the table. Can’t you watch her tonight?”

“No, I can’t. I told you. They’re tearing down the church next week and I’m going there to reclaim some wood.”

“Can’t you take her?”

“Take her? What’s the matter with you? It’s a freakin’ construction site!”

“All right, fine!”

20 minutes later, she knocked on my door. “Shannon, meet me in front of my vanity. We’re going to do up your hair and then I want you to get your red dress on with your black shoes. We’re going to an event at the Radisson.”

Knowing better than to argue, I decided to negotiate instead. “Mom, that dress is getting, I don’t know, sorta old. I’ll wear it, but can I get a new dress next week?”

She stared at me for a minute and sighed. “Yes, we’ll get you a new dress.”

“And shoes?”

“You’re pushing it. Okay, new shoes as well.”


It was a pretty fancy party. Boring, but fancy. Nobody laughed! Nobody, not one time. The food was all weird pasty stuff: pate and caviar and canapes. We had like 20 frozen meals Aunt Beth made in the freezer. I thought that I’d grab one of those if Mom wouldn’t stop at Bingo Burger on the way home.

The band was really good, which was nice ‘cause I was the youngest person there and bored out of my mind. As angry as I was with Mom, I loved her and didn’t want to embarrass her, so I stood and politely shook hands with whoever approached our table to speak with her. We had been there for over an hour when a large elderly man approached. He was wearing a black suit, cowboy boots and a string tie.

“Judge Sallister! How wonderful to see you. Is Celeste here?” Mom asked.

He had a big, booming voice without being obnoxious. He didn’t seem fake, like a lot of the people there. “No, she’s with her mother. The poor woman just had gallbladder surgery. I’ll let Celeste know you were asking about her. And who is this lovely young lady?”

“Judge, this is my daughter, Shannon. Honey, this is Judge Sallister.”

I had stood when Mom did and reached out to shake his hand. “It’s very nice to meet you, sir.”

His eyes widened a bit and he smiled while looking at Mom and then he looked back at me. “Such excellent manners. The pleasure’s all mine, young lady. This must be as interesting as watching flies gather on a bull. How’d you get roped into this?”

“My dad couldn’t watch me tonight, so I’m here with Mom.”

He offered a sad smile. “Well, I’m sorry the band isn’t a bit ... younger.” He looked around at the guests. “Sort of an old person’s party. Good thing the foods free, since they’re all missing the early-bird specials.”

“Oh, no, Judge. The band is great. Definitely the best part of the party.”

“Really? You know music, Shannon?”

“Yes, sir. My Dad and I are the Poplin Family Jug Band.” Mom grabbed my hand and squeezed tightly. It hurt! Looking at her, I yanked my hand from hers.

“You ... you mean with moonshine jugs, that sort of thing?”

Mom’s hand brushed mine and I shook her off. “Sort of. We don’t really play the jug, but I’d like to. I play the fiddle and Dad plays pretty much everything.”

A fake smile fixed on her face, Mom jumped in. “Not fiddle, honey. Judge, Shannon is a violinist. Concerts and recitals. She’s very successful. Shannon and her father play at some charitable community events. We feel we have a duty to give back.”

We? She never showed up and didn’t even think about packing us a lunch or something. Where’d this “we” come from?

“No, I meant what I said. I play the fiddle. So does Dad, but he’ll switch off with cello or acoustic guitar or banjo or something.”

“Well, that’s mighty impressive. I’m a fan of both classical and country, but I’m with you, Shannon. If I had a choice between Itzhak Perlman or Charlie Daniels, Charlie’s winning every time. So, where do you play?”

“Oh, lots of places. Old people homes, children’s hospitals, Make-A-Wish events, VFW’s, VA events.”

“And you also play recitals? You any good?”

“I guess.”

Mom interrupted again. I think she was trying to bring some class to the conversation. She thought my gigs with Dad were beneath her, which I didn’t get since she was never part of them. “Don’t be modest, honey. She has a room full of trophies and ribbons.”

“She does? Huh.” He looked at me appraisingly. “We’re having a dedication ceremony for the new courthouse next month. Do you think that you and your dad can play the National Anthem?”

“Sure. Uhm...” I looked from the judge to Mom and back again. “We sort of do ask for an honorary. You’d pay it to the Greater Pueblo Make-A-Wish Foundation and it’s usually $75, but if that’s too much, we can figure something else out.”

He smiled and stuck his hand out. “I think you may mean honorarium, and I believe we can swing the $75. We may even be able to do a bit better than that.”

We shook on it. This party was turning out better than I had expected. He turned to Mom.

“Can I have Celeste call you to set this up, Maryanne?”

“Of course, Simon. We’d love to be a part of the event, and we’ll make the donation to the foundation ourselves.”

As he spoke, I dug into my purse. “No, I wouldn’t hear of it. If they will be playing, they deserve to be compensated like any other artist and if they want the money going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we’d be happy to honor that request. I thought you said your husband was a carpenter, not a musician?”

“Ah, well, he uh, he teaches carpentry, but his passion is as a luthier.”

I was surprised she knew what a luthier was. I handed him the band’s business card as I spoke. “But not like Lex. Dad’s the good kind of luthier.”

He nodded his head toward me as he read the card and slipped it into his jacket pocket. “Lex reference? I thought you’d go for Vandross.”

“Oh, that’s a good one, Judge. I’ve got to remember that. Dad always uses the same bad joke about Martin Luthier nailing a thesis with a violin.”

The judge laughed. “He’s a dad. Bad jokes are his job. It was a pleasure to meet you, Shannon. I look forward to seeing you and your dad at the ceremony.”

“Thank you, sir. And our website is on the card. We have videos up.”

He patted the pocket with the business card. “Excellent. Maryanne, we’ll talk soon.”

After he left and Mom and I sat down, she turned to me. “A website? Why didn’t you tell me you had a website?”

“Duh. Because you don’t care? Have you ever shown any interest at all?”

“That’s not fair. Of course I’m interested, I’m just very busy.”

“Ugh. Don’t be a hypocrite, Mom. We embarrass you and you don’t even try to hide it.”

“That’s simply not true. It’s just not a passion of mine.”


She did seem really happy about how things went with the judge. Mom even handed a waiter some money and got him to get me a cheeseburger from the hotel restaurant. I called after him. “Sir? Can I also get a soda? No Dr. Pepper.”

I was actually having a good time with Mom until he showed up. All smarmy and gross, he came over as I was eating. “Helllooo, Maryanne.” He had this big, ugly smile on his face as he leaned against the table. “Are you here with your sister?”

I wasn’t playing the dutiful daughter anymore. “Is that supposed to be cute? I’m 11, jackass, not 18.” I lowered my voice so that only the three of us could hear. “And if I was old enough to be her sister, I still wouldn’t be having sex with a jerk like you. Why don’t you get your ugly butt out of here? Did you plan on stripping my mother down again right here, or did you get a room?”

Both of them stared at me, mouths open.

“I’m not joking. Get the heck out of here before I vomit on your shoes. I can do it. It takes two or three small ones before I can work up to a big one, but I can spew all over the place, no problem. Wanna see?” I really could do it. I started clenching my stomach muscles and clamping down on my throat. After a few seconds I felt something rising up. It was small, but there.

He seemed completely shocked. I guess that sort of an offer was never made before at a party like this. Looking from Mom to me, he started backing up. Turning without a word, he walked away.

Her voice was low and harsh. “Shannon, what the hell are you doing? That was completely uncalled for. This isn’t a trailer park. This is why I hate that fiddle and jug band nonsense. Act like a lady.”

“Oh, sorry, Mom. I should have been super high class and brought him back to the house to have sex with me, right? Do you have his email? I can send him a link of his greatest hits, the two of you together in the guest room. That would just be soooo classy. Should I wait until I’m married first before sleeping with other men? That was the guy who was kissing you when I called the house and you just let him waltz over here like the slime bag he is? Let’s just agree not to talk to each other, okay? I’m going to use Dad’s card and get an Uber. Enjoy your party.”

I got up and started walking towards the door. I was halfway from the ballroom to the hotel exit when I felt her grab my arm and turn me towards her. She pulled me in, hugging me tightly and I could feel her body shaking.

“I’m sorry, baby. I’m so sorry.”

I hated that I was so weak that I hugged her back and started crying.

“Why, Mom? Why weren’t we enough?”

Thump, thump. Pause. Thump, thump, THUMP! Pause. The thumping continued and became steady. Maryanne walked to the door to the basement and Ethan’s workshop and walked down the steps. The door at the bottom of the steps was open and the rhythmic thumping grew louder. Standing there, afraid to enter for some unfathomable reason, she watched as her husband worked on a heavy-bag he had installed.

He was stripped to the waist and seemed to know what he was doing. Left cross, right jab, right jab, shift, left uppercut, shift, right cross. The mixed smell of wood shavings and his masculine sweat was intoxicating. Her libido had died when she was served with the divorce papers. Jeff had been her first attempt at reviving her sex drive and Shannon put an end to that.

Ethan had always been good looking, and he turned out to be one of those men that grew more handsome as they aged. She watched as the powerful glistening muscles of his back shifted and moved as the punching bag absorbed his anger. Shoulder length damp hair swung with every punch and she stood, mesmerized, trying to put in mind a firm date for when she had forgotten how attractive he was.

Cocking his head, Ethan reached out with both hands and stopped the swaying bag. Maryanne didn’t know if she had made a noise, but he looked over his shoulder and saw her standing there. Her heart beat rapidly as her frozen libido thawed and flamed to life. Turning, he walked towards her, his lungs working like bellows, sweat dripping from his brow. Standing at the doorway, he reached his hand towards her, she began to raise hers towards him, and ... his hand extended past her to the handle as he closed the door in her face.

Thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump, thump. Pause. Thump, thump.

She rested her head against the doorway for a moment before slowly making her way back upstairs.

“Come on, sweetheart. Play us something. Just a little. Five minutes.”

It was so hard to say no to Grandma. We needed to get going, but Aunt Beth had out the violin and bow I kept there. I looked over at Dad and he gave a small smile and nod. I played an Alison Krauss song and then another. Towards the end of the second song I saw Aunt Beth pat her hand when Grandma got up and went into the kitchen.

There were tears in her eyes as she stood and knew that she was thinking of her daughter, Aunt Jessy. It never bothered me that she thought of Jessy when she saw me. It didn’t make her love me any less. I was just sad that she seemed so depressed. Dad said it wasn’t really depression. She just missed her daughter and I made her feel a little closer to the little girl she lost. He’d hug me, kiss the top of my head and take me out for ice cream on our way home.

I sat in the kitchen finishing up my homework while Aunt Beth cooked. She seemed to know everything about food and calories and health and stuff. I liked having Grandma and Aunt Beth living together. It was like two grandmas for the price of one. She sang along to old bands like the Grateful Dead as she cooked, and once in a while she’d leave a couple of cookies on the table near me without saying anything, almost pretending she didn’t do it. Aunt Beth was one of those health food people and always had been, but Dad said she used to do the same thing to him. Talk about the evils of refined sugar and then he’d find some chocolate chip cookies in with his lunch.

Grandma and Dad were in the living room and I could hear them talking about court.

“It’s not a big deal, Mom, but thanks. It’s called an Initial Status Conference and we’ll be in and out in half an hour. Maryanne and I will both have our lawyers, but it’s more about the court letting us know what to expect and setting up dates than anything else. Schedules for financial disclosures, mediation deadlines, child custody evaluations and the Permanent Orders Hearing.”

“Okay, well, if you want me there, Ethan, I’m happy to go.”

“Thanks, but it’ll be fine. We won’t even be seeing a judge. It’s pretty cut and dried. Somebody called a Domestic Court Facilitator works out all the dates, walks us through the procedures, makes sure we have copies of everything and we’re done. Easy-peasy.”

“Will Liz be there? Your wife might have her money and her hotshot lawyer sister, but you have the truth and a plan. If Liz is going to be there, you should have someone with you.”

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