Chapter Twelve continued
Mom spent half the morning cleaning and dusting and arranging the front part of the house just the way she liked it. People didn’t come to see her very often, and the fact that it was Rick’s wife on the way over made her very nervous.
Rick was so like his father. Upright and honorable, strict and old fashioned. Altho she’d chafed under her husband’s rule, he was always right. Rick wasn’t always right, but he acted like it, and she found that very annoying. He was as hard headed as his father, too. And she wished he wasn’t so hard on the kids. Both of them were tyrants sometimes. She remembered Rick’s early tantrums when she made him do it her way. Two years old. She still wanted to slap him sometimes.
The doorbell rang, and there was a horribly tense few moments in the front hall, but now Alice sat in the living room, on the couch facing the fireplace, wringing her hands. Mom sat across a coffee table in the wingback chair that was her husband’s. The baby lay in the carrier between them, asleep. Mom looked on fondly. “How’re the kids?” she asked, looking for a way to start the conversation.
“Oh, they’re fine.” Alice seemed distracted.
“Soccer games? School pageants?” Mom desperately wanted an invitation.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Alice laughed nervously. “I made these chocolates and thought you might enjoy them.”
“Yes,” Mom said, taking a plastic container from Alice and looking at it suspiciously. “That’s right. Weren’t you working at a candy store when Rick met you?” She was happy that he made Alice stop working when they got married.
Alice was depressed for months after Rick made her quit. She was an award winning chocolatier and had just been asked if she wanted to become half-owner when Rick hustled her out of there like it was a bus station. Those little delicacies on the coffee table had taken her the best part of an afternoon to make. And there was Rick’s mother acting like they were poison.
Mom tried another conversation starter. “It’s warm for this time in autumn,” she observed. Alice looked at her watch and sighed. “I suppose you’ll take the kids sledding when it snows, she continued.” Alice shrugged, pained. Rick thought it was dangerous. “I don’t mean to be rude, but was there a reason you wanted to see me?” Mom was getting a little irritated.
Alice flailed. “Well, I thought…It’s been difficult.” She couldn’t say a single word to her mother in law without Rick taking it out of her hide later. She shouldn’t have come. “I wanted to tell you…” The baby stirred. “I just thought you should see the children more often.”
Mom was in heaven. She put the baby on her lap and cooed for the rest of the visit. Alice softened, and tho she didn’t say anything personal, Mom thought she seemed more at peace when she left. Mom liked to help, and hoped that she’d softened Alice’s heart with the warmth of her love for her precious little grandbaby. Was Alice trying to tell her she was thinking of divorce? She sat and thought about that for awhile. Alice wasn’t strong enough for her son. She tossed the box of chocolates in the trash before going back to the den, and sniffed – home made. She wasn’t eating anything that didn’t have a label on it.
* * *
Cindy woke refreshed. There’d been less vandalism lately, so she had stepped down the anti-anxiety medicine, and that strategic alteration to her nightly formula had her sleeping like a baby.
After her shower, as the morning pick-me-up kicked in, she ran down the stairs with a bounce in her step. Mom was probably lingering in ICU, and she was just waiting for the phone call to go down there and unplug her. The phone rang. It was Mom. She stood looking at the caller ID, her stomach sinking, her bile rising. She ran to the medicine cabinet to take something for the burning in her chest.
She called the driver who had arranged the accident. He gladly gave her Allen’s cell number. She called it over and over again until he answered, his voice gravelly with sleep. Evidently he had let her down. Well, he could just give her the money back.
Cindy was having trouble getting started. She’d felt great this morning, and now her day was ruined and she hated the world. Poor thing, if Mom was going to die, it was up to her. The good part was that she would have to kill Mom herself. Maybe with her bare hands. The stress, however, was making her very fatigued. She took a couple of Provigil with a third cup of coffee, and decided to skip the workout this morning.
Bill stopped in unexpectedly just as Cindy was getting ready to go out. What was he doing home at that hour? “Shouldn’t you be at work?” she asked. He looked like he’d had an accident.
“Oh, I got a flat on the way to work. Had to get out and fix it.” He changed his pants, standing in the bedroom looking ridiculous in his socks and shirttails. “Hey, want a quickie?” he grinned. She snapped something about getting her hair messed and stalked out.
She waited by the foot of the stairs, tapping her heels on the marble floor. It echoed. “I want a word with you about one of your drivers,” she started. “To begin with, he asked me to sleep with him at the company party last year.” She told him about the shipment of Mexican pottery he’d brought in for her, entirely without paperwork. (She couldn’t tell him about the truckload of illegals brought along to make sure nothing got broken. He could figure out that part for himself.) Then she battered him with Allen’s failure to drive Mom off the road, as if he were an employee. “I even paid him money to run my Mom over, but he failed at that, too.” Who the hell was Allen?
He hadn’t reached the office before he’d told Security to take the driver’s badge. Nobody was working for Cindy. Everybody was working for him. He ran a major empire and she treated him like he couldn’t deliver her paper right. “You’re not man enough,” she’d spat at him. Bill decided to do something about Mom. Just to show that bitch how it was done.
Cindy had palpitations from confronting Bill. She sat in the kitchen with another cup of coffee and tried to salvage what she could of her day. The front door bell rang. Cindy never answered the door. When she checked after an hour had passed, she found a plastic grocery bag on the porch. She peered into it to see a stupid snow angel craft project like they used to have to do in girl scouts. Hideous, dripping with hardened glue and flaked-off glitter. Some gift. She got on the Internet, looked up her sister Judy’s Facebook page, and left a nasty comment about Judy’s primitive artistic talent.
She found a stick and used it to put the bag into the garbage. Right on top of a bunch of discarded bills. She looked closely. Receipts from a jewelry company. A fur company. Settlement statements from the stock broker’s. Cancelled checks made out to cash.
Cindy left the house already on the edge. She downed some valium to keep herself sane, and paid extra attention to the sloppy way she was driving. She was feeling pretty sick, and thought maybe she should be in bed. But, nah. She made her way to her neighborhood, to her house, like she was sleepwalking, not paying any attention to the traffic, the landmarks, the turns. It was like coming home. It was just like coming home. There was the old swingset, there was the dog house. That dog had been dead for twenty years. There was her bike that Judy had stolen and Rick had gotten run over by the milkman. Cindy shook her head to clear the cobwebs. She was parked across the street from the house where she grew up. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. She was wearing a sky-blue silk suit with matching pumps and bag.
Cindy had a gun. It just fit into the bag. She’d been practicing with it, without actually firing a shot. Just pointing and clicking it. She never missed when she practiced. Especially when she was looking at certain people’s pictures.
Parked at the curb in front of her mother’s house, Cindy drew the gun from her bag. She had to struggle when it caught on the zipper. She had no idea what a safety catch was. She wasn’t paying attention.
She’d seen Mom moving in the living room, behind the lace curtains. Was she pacing? Was she vacuuming? Was she dancing?
Shaking, Cindy pressed the switch and her window rolled down. Her hands trembled as she reached out of the car, aiming the gun at the shadowy figure moving inside the house. She squeezed the trigger, the gun felt like it exploded. Her ears rang with a dead noise and burnt powder filled her nose. One shot? Another? Did she empty the gun? She wasn’t sure.
Cindy was back in her driveway before she wondered why she’d gone out of the house without any makeup on.
* * *