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Authors: Laurie Breton

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BOOK: Sleeping With the Enemy
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“Stop it,” she said.  “You’re making fun of me.”

“Just wanted to clarify my point.  Who’s your favorite artist?”

With so many to choose from, she had to think about it.  “Wyeth,” she said at last.  “Andrew.  His work is so delicate, yet so powerful.”

They took their time drinking in the French Impressionists before they wandered off to spend a half-hour with the American Realists.  Most of the men she knew thought that art was sissified, and that any man who indulged in it was suspect.  But Jesse was clearly comfortable here, and she studied him surreptitiously, his response to the paintings, the sculpture, the glassware and the antique furniture almost as entertaining to her as the art itself.  They wound up their tour with a visit to the mummies before retiring to the coffee shop to sip tea and wait for the kids to show up.

The boys were more animated than they’d been earlier, Luke talking non-stop, Mikey throwing in a pithy comment every time Luke stopped for breath.  Devon was still perfecting her Greta Garbo act:  dark, mysterious, brooding, and aloof.  They ate their picnic lunch in the shade of a willow tree that overhung the grassy bank of the Muddy River.  When they finished eating, Devon adjusted her headphones and wandered off alone.  While the boys tossed bread crumbs to the ducks who swam among the rushes, Jesse leaned back against the tree trunk and studied his surroundings through narrowed eyes.  “What do they call this place?” he said.

A short distance away, a young college coed napped in the sun.  From a long black boom box at her side, Jewel warbled a plaintive tune about saving souls.  “The Back Bay Fens,” Rose said.  “It’s part of a chain they call the Emerald Necklace.”

“Nice,” Jesse said.

Rose looked around her as Jewel continued her breathless litany against the evils of society.  “It’s nice at this time of year.  The grass and the leaves hide the garbage.  And of course, the odds of getting mugged are appreciably lower during the daylight hours.”

The corner of his mouth twitched.  “You’re a sharp-tongued woman,” he said.  “I’ll have to remember to watch out for that stinging wit of yours.  I have a feeling it could hurt if I forget to duck.”

She eyed him at length.  “I’m a practical woman, and I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“The kids will be okay with this, Rose.  They’ll just need a little time to adjust.”

A hundred yards away, her daughter bent to pick a dandelion from the grass.  Devon plucked methodically at the blossom until she’d succeeded in decapitating it.  She glanced in Rose’s direction, saw her mother watching, and quickly began walking again.  Rose watched her go, a lonely figure dressed all in black.  “I’m not so sure,” she said.

“Having second thoughts?”

She continued to watch her daughter.  “We are doing the right thing.  Aren’t we?”

“We’re doing the right thing.  Come on, let’s gather up the kids.  It’s time to break the news.”

 

***

 

A half-hour later, they lined up all three kids on her living room couch and announced that they were getting married.

Stunned silence met their announcement.  Devon glared darts at them, Luke yawned with casual disinterest, and Mikey looked dumbfounded.

“We know this won’t be easy on you,” Jesse said.  “There’ll be some major changes in your lives.  In ours, too.  But we’re going to work hard at trying to be a family.  Which is why we want to hear your concerns.  Believe me, we have concerns, too.”

“Why?” Devon demanded.  “That’s what I want to know.”

They had agreed, during a series of late-night telephone conversations, that the kids needed to be told the truth.  “I’m pregnant,” Rose said.

“Oh, my God,” Devon said.  “That is so disgusting.”

Luke leaned forward, elbows on knees, and shot a look of disdain at his sister.  “Grow up, Devon,” he said.  “Hell, Ma, I think it’s kinda cool.”

Rose smiled her gratitude at him, her baby, her sunshine, her lone ally.  Devon scowled.  “We don’t have room here for two more people,” she said.

Rose exchanged glances with Jesse.  “We won’t be living here,” she said.

Luke raised both eyebrows.  “Where will we be living?” Devon demanded.

“At my house,” Jesse said.

“In
Maine
?” Devon’s look of horror was far more eloquent than mere words could have been.

“That’s right.”

And the hullabaloo broke out in earnest.  “I won’t go!” Devon shouted.  “I hate you! I hate both of you! You’ve ruined my life!”

“Does this mean I don’t get my own car?” Mikey asked, looking worried.  “Because if it does, I won’t ride the school bus.  And I’m not—”

“What about my friends?” Luke said.  “What about the band?”

“—riding with you any more.  I’m sixteen years old.  It’s embarrassing.”

“What about Kyle? Oh, my God, that’s what this is about, isn’t it? You’re doing this to keep us away from each other!”

“Ma, I can’t leave the band behind.  I can’t let the guys down.  We’ve been practicing for two years.  You can’t do this to me!”

“Dad?” Mikey said.  “Do I have to share my room?”

“That’s it! I’m calling Daddy! I’m going to live with him!”

“What about Chauncey?” Luke said.  “We don’t have to get rid of Chauncey, do we?”

“Of course not,” Jesse said.  “You can keep Chauncey.  And your iguana.”

Mikey’s head swiveled around.  “Iguana?” he said to Luke.  “You have an iguana?”

“Yeah,” Luke said.  “He lives in my room.  Want to see him?”

“Cool.”

The two boys disappeared down the hall, their voices drifting back.  “Hey, you any good on that guitar?”

“Uncle Rob says I’m
el primo
.”

Jesse and Rose exchanged glances.  “I’m serious, Mother,” Devon said.  “I won’t go.  I’m going to call Daddy and ask if I can live with him and Heidi.”

Rose sighed in defeat.  “Fine,” she said.  “Go call him.”

Devon flounced off, and Rose buried her face in her hands and waited for her daughter’s heart to be broken.  Jesse touched her shoulder.  “Rose,” he said softly, “I’m sorry.”

“He doesn’t want her,” she said.  “He never did.  For seventeen years, all she’s wanted was his love, but she’ll never get it.  He can’t give it to her.  Eddie doesn’t love anybody but himself.”

Devon came around the corner with the phone in her hand.  Dark eyes brimming with tears, she said, “He wants to talk to you.”

Rose took the phone into the kitchen, where she could have some privacy.  In resignation, she said, “Yeah, Eddie?”

“What the hell is going on, Rose? Devon calls me up, all hysterical, and says she wants to move in with me.  What kind of bullshit game are you playing?”

“I’m getting married, Eddie.  I’m packing up and moving away.  Devon’s not too happy with me right now.”

“You’re moving? Where the hell are you taking my kids?”

“Your kids?” She snorted.  “
Your
kids? When was the last time you came to visit your kids?”

“I’ve been busy,” he said defensively.  “The baby just started walking, and Heidi took a new job last week.  But you know how much I love the kids.”

“Oh, yeah.  I know it, all right.  Tell me, while your daughter was whining at you, did she happen to mention that I caught her in bed with some guy a few days ago?”


What
?” he exploded.  “What in hell is wrong with you, Rose?  You’re not worth shit as a mother.  Can’t you do better than that with her, for Christ’s sake?”

“Maybe you think you can do better, hot shot.”

A sudden and profound silence emanated from his end of the line.  “Put Devon back on,” he demanded.

Wordlessly, she handed the phone to her waiting daughter.  “Daddy?” Devon said plaintively.  “Couldn’t I sleep in the baby’s room?”

Rose walked to the living room, straight past Jesse, and out the front door.  “Rose?” he said.  But she didn’t stop, just kept going, walking blindly, not caring where she went as long as she could keep moving.

He caught up with her, walked beside her in silence for a while.  “Men like that,” she said finally, “shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce.”

His fingers found hers and his warm hand enclosed her cold one.  “Damn him,” she said, and then she was crying, and she was appalled to be crying in front of him.  He closed his arms around her and she buried her face against his chest and wept, furious with Eddie, furious with herself, furious with Jesse for being there and for holding her and for feeling so goddamn good while he was doing it.

“God,” she said when she was done, “I must look a sight.  I always look like Godzilla when I’ve been crying.”

He smoothed her hair.  “You look pretty good to me,” he said.

“You’re such a liar.”

“Feel better now?”

“Yeah.  I guess I needed that.”

“Come on, then,” he said.  “We have a prenuptial agreement waiting to be signed.”

 

 

chapter six

 

They held the wedding in her mother’s front parlor, with only a few guests in attendance.  Rose was determined that this would not turn out to be another MacKenzie extravaganza, and she had threatened her family with bodily harm if anybody got out of hand. 

Rob and Casey, the best man and matron of honor, fresh from their Parisian honeymoon, were more radiant than Three Mile Island.  Before the ceremony, Rob took Rose by the forearm and dragged her off to the bathroom, the only place they could talk privately.  “You look like road kill,” he said.  “Are you okay?”

She punched his shoulder, hard.  “That’s one hell of a compliment to give a bride on her wedding day.”

“Shut up and listen to me.  I’ve known you since the womb.  When you hurt, I hurt.  Are you sure this is what you want?”

His concern moved her.  He was her baby brother, after all, eight minutes younger than she.  Probably because of the closeness that came from being twins, they’d spent their childhood alternately hating and loving each other.  “I love you, you dweeb,” she said.  “How was the honeymoon?”

He flashed her a boyish grin.  “Never mind,” she said.  “It’s written all over you.  Lucky dog.”

His grin faded.  “You’re not happy, Rose.”

“He’s a nice guy.”

“Yeah.  He is.  So why are you doing this?”

She folded her arms across her chest.  “Because I’m pregnant.”

“That’s a crummy excuse.  Is it the money? Because if it is, you don’t have to worry.  Casey and I have already talked about it.  We’re more than willing to help out.”

“It’s not the money.  But thanks for the offer.”  She brushed a stray lock of hair away from his face.  “You need a haircut, toots.  Hey, listen, we’re going to be neighbors.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“There’s one thing you could do for me.  Do you think you could sort of take Luke under your wing? Since you’re going to be nearby?  He needs a man in his life, but I can’t exactly shove Jesse down his throat.  It’ll take time.  And he’s already convinced that you’re a cross between Albert Schweitzer, Eric Clapton, and Jesus Christ.”

Rob waggled his eyebrows.  “He’s right, of course.”

“I know.  It scares the bejesus out of me.  There’s one other thing I need from you, babe.”

“Say it and it’s yours.”

She opened her arms.  “Big hug,” she said.  “Very big hug.”

He was warm and solid, this brother who’d always kept her from getting lost in the shuffle, growing up in a family of nine kids.  She patted his cheek.  “Thanks, bucko.  Now let’s go get me married.”

Her brother Pat, duty notarized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, performed the brief ceremony.  In spite of her nerves, Rose spoke the traditional wedding vows in a strong, clear voice.  She and Jesse exchanged plain gold bands, and for better or for worse, in front of God and a dozen witnesses, Pat pronounced them man and wife.

Mary MacKenzie had prepared a light lunch.  Rose and Jesse were given places of honor at the kitchen table, while the rest of the group filled their plates and ate wherever a spot could be found to perch.  The low-key atmosphere was as unlike a MacKenzie celebration as it was possible to be.  There was no boisterous roughhousing, no liquor flowing, no shouting and no fighting.  Beside her, Jesse sat stiffly, while she picked at her food and listened to Pat discussing tax shelters with Maeve’s date.

Across the table, Casey and Rob sat side by side, casually maintaining physical contact despite their involvement in separate conversations.  In the middle of telling Lillian about a piece of property she and Rob had been looking at, Casey absently touched her husband’s arm.  Without missing a beat, she ran her fingers down the nubby tweed of his coat sleeve, lay her hand atop his and toyed with his wedding ring.

Rob, deep in conversation with Lillian’s gentleman friend, threaded fingers through his wife’s and squeezed gently.

An inexplicable envy shot through Rose.  She swallowed hard and shifted position.  Beneath the table, her knee came into contact with Jesse’s and they both jerked as though they’d been burned.  Rose dabbed at her mouth with her napkin and dropped it back into her lap.  Jesse leaned toward her.  “You’re not eating,” he said.  “Is everything all right?”

Wishing he wouldn’t lean so close, she said, “It’s just nerves.”

“I know what you mean,” he said.  “It’s hard being the center of attention.”

And she realized that if she was suffering, it had to be worse for him.  After all, this was her mother’s house, and most of these people belonged to her.  “Would you like to take a walk?” she said.

His relief was palpable.  “I would love to take a walk.”

The sky was laden with heavy gray clouds, pockmarked with patches of faded blue, and she tamped down the annoying urge to commit it to canvas, an urge she’d spent years trying to squelch.  The wind off the Atlantic was gusty, and she was glad they’d brought their jackets.  As they walked, she pointed out sites of significance.  The house where her best friend had grown up.  The corner bar where Dad still occasionally drank with his cronies.  The school playground where Rob had broken his arm when she’d pushed him off the jungle gym.  “Rob wouldn’t tattle on me,” she said, “but I felt so horrible, I confessed.  I was grounded like forever.”

BOOK: Sleeping With the Enemy
3.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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