Left Behind

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When my sister and I moved to Los Angeles I was still a teenager, and everything I loved about TV had to do with Garry Marshall. It was exciting to live in L.A. because you could run into an actor from one of his series, literally around any corner. I remember attending a charity baseball game that included various cast members from Happy Days, but it was Garry who had everyone laughing. He was the most genuine man ever. Two seconds in his presence and you knew that about him.

As the years passed and he moved further into movies, and I moved deeper into writing, he was a huge inspiration. I have always wanted to entertain people in the way that he has. His words as well as the projects he chose to be a part of were able to make us laugh, and yet he never ran away from addressing the issues of our times.

In recent years I have had the opportunity not only to meet him a couple of times, but to know people close to him. He never disappointed. His passing is crushing. My heart goes out to his family and friends. I’m missing him already. He truly was the best! The legacy he has left behind will never be touched. He was absolutely one of a kind.

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Terror in the Chair

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I had to go to the dentist today to have a broken tooth pulled and in the days leading up to this I alternated between dread and a barely concealed anxiousness. By last night I was resigned to it. I told myself it would be whatever it would be, and that one way or another I would get through it. After all, it’s been a summer of high anxiety and I reasoned this was really the least of my problems.

I woke up this morning with my level of dread at an even five. Then I received a phone call that sent my anxiety to an accelerated level. BREATHE! Just breathe. I went to the dentist with my phone and earbuds in hand. I warned the oral surgeon that it was my plan to crank up my Spotify playlist and try to believe I was anywhere but where I was. He told me to crank away, but not before feeling the need to describe in excruciating detail all of the pulling, cutting, and scraping of bone he would need to do. Then they took my blood pressure and gee, it was high.

Apparently not high enough to get me out of this though.

I now had a dread/anxiety level of 750 at the very least. I put in my earbuds while they swabbed that preliminary gel they give you right before shooting you full of Novocaine, and then came the shots. I was relieved that they weren’t nearly as bad as sometimes, and yet once they walked away to give the Novocaine time to work, my hand began shaking. BREATHE! The surgeon returned and I cranked my music, closed my eyes and hoped for the best. 

It was over in less than three songs! I was stunned. It had taken longer to explain than it had to do the entire procedure. Now I have a mouth full of gauze but it’s over and I am so grateful that it’s gone as smoothly as it has. Still, I’m not looking forward to ever having to go back! 

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Excerpt Sunday 10?

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This is from an ongoing work in progress. I have to warn you that this character has a tendency to drop the F-word on occasion, so if you find that unacceptable you might wish to read one of the previous excerpts instead.

 

Cassidy Beckworth was standing on the balcony of her Malibu beach house, leaning against the railing, a glass of wine in her hand, staring out at the mesmerizingly beautiful aquamarine surf. Her on again, off again boyfriend was inside on the phone arguing for some absurd perk that one of his clients may or may not have requested. He was a Hollywood agent and sometimes he just liked to fuck with people. Years ago she’d found it delightfully entertaining, but tonight she was disgusted by it. Tonight she was fed up with just about everyone and everything. The world had gone insane, or maybe, even probably, it always had been insane, but somehow on this warm spring evening she’d had all she could stand. Swallowing her last sip of wine she walked inside the 3.5 million dollar house her Dad still paid her rent on, picked up her designer leather bag, found her car keys, and left. She walked out to the Porsche she’d bought with the money she’d made exploiting her family in a tell-all book, got in, and drove away.

She headed up the pacific coast highway, the radio blasting, and for the longest time she didn’t give anyone or anything a single thought, she just drove. She had no idea where she was when she realized her eyes were threatening to close and that she was nearly out of gas. Stopping to refuel she decided to press on all the way to Big Sur.

As she drove she remembered the time her dad had taken her and her brother, Delany there, supposedly to camp out, but his idea of camping had been staying at The River Inn and sending her and Delany out to play while he slept, and/or wrote songs. She hadn’t been back since, and was curious to see how it differed to the eyes of someone in their thirties as opposed to a disappointed eleven year old. Of course it was late and dark and she could barely see to find the hotel.

She was relieved that there was an available room, but then it was the middle of the week so she’d been hopeful that there would be. Her back up plan had been to park and sleep in the car but as nice as the car was, sleeping would most likely have proved challenging. As she lay in the queen sized bed in her wooded room and closed her eyes, she wondered if her boyfriend cared, or had even noticed that she’d left. There were often times when she’d go over to her best friend Sydney’s house and not return until the next day. The two of them would get to talking and she’d get comfy and fall asleep on Syd’s bed, much to the dismay of Tim, Syd’s stupid husband.

She did not instantly fall asleep, which annoyed her. After all, she’d been fighting sleep for hours and now that she was in bed and able to sleep, she could not. She sighed, sat up and considered calling someone, but who? Syd would be asleep. She was into sleeping pills these days, taking them nightly at eleven thirty, loopy by eleven forty and out cold by eleven fifty. Her brother, Delany would be fucking his wife, or out somewhere because he’d had the audacity to marry his one true love, become a successful musician, much like their dad, and to be happy. Her other best friend, Remy, had done the same. Well, almost anyway. He and his wife Lizzie were on their second go around, but this time it appeared to be working. They’d even gone so far as to have an adorable kid. Ziggy was her most favorite person in the entire world. At twenty months, he’d yet to let her down. She thought it was probably some kind of record.

Remy had been her best misery buddy for as long as she could remember, until that is, he’d gone and written a hit TV series for cable. Raised in the same dysfunctional affluence as she had been, they shared a history like no one else. His dad had been in the same band as her father. His parents never divorced, but they had come close often enough to leave him confused and rebellious as a teen, and well into his twenties. Now, just like everyone else, he’d grown up and forgiven them.

She’d forgiven her father a long time ago, and she’d tried forgiving her mom as well, but she found that to be more difficult. She regarded it as a work in progress, but doing so had not served to cure all that ailed her, as it seemed to have done for everyone else. Delany would say that their mom had been a victim of her own parents, and that she was doing the best she could even when she fell phenomenally short of perfect. It was the phenomenal part that troubled Cassidy. She could accept that her mom wasn’t perfect, as she herself was not, but she missed the mark by such a large distance.

Lying back down she remembered a relaxation technique that one of her numerous shrinks had given her. The idea was to concentrate on your breathing and the sound of your pulse. Here’s where the breakdown always occurred however, because she could rarely hear her own pulse. Tonight was no different, but eventually sheer exhaustion took over and she finally managed to drift off.

The next morning Cassie woke up, looked around and groaned. Driving half the night to revisit a failed childhood vacation made absolutely no sense in the light of a new day. She checked her phone only to discover no one had noticed her missing. Pulling her pillow out from under her head she held it against her face and screamed. She cried for a minute or two and then got up, took a shower and went to breakfast in the hotel restaurant. The problem was that she wasn’t hungry. The waiter asked what he could get for her and the words, “A life” are what came out.

“Anything else? Like maybe something from the menu?” he smiled.

“I’ve got to go,” she said, getting up and walking out to her car. “You’re a fucking idiot,” she told herself.

She pulled back out onto the road to go home and planned to tell her on again-off again boyfriend that they were off, permanently.

“I may be a royal fuck up, but even I deserve better than this,” she told herself.

 

Six weeks later and all I can think is what a narcissistic, bitter little bitch she is. Sadly, that she, is me. Some people would say I have spent a lifetime feeling sorry for myself and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The only thing I can say in my defense is that it’s not how I wanted it to be, or how I planned it.

When I was very little I think I was happy. If you look at family pictures, I certainly appear to be smiling more often than not. I adored my father when he was around, but as even he has said, he was only good at being a dad for about five minutes at a time. He used to joke that his five minutes were better than other’s hours, but alas, it was fleeting at best. My mother was around more often, but there were many times when it was clear that she didn’t want to be. Either that or she was just wasted on drugs and/or alcohol. I understand that she was young and a product of the times, as well as a direct result of the too much, too soon syndrome.

My brother Delany has told me to turn the page many times, and I know that he is right. My parents did what they did, and the past is the past. They have both admitted that they should have done better, but you can’t go back in time and rewrite history. All you can do is move forward, so this is me moving forward. In fact I have been doing my best to move forward since I left The River Inn.

When I first began heading home that day I grew increasingly energized. I vowed to take control of my life and to stop settling for love that was intermittent at best. In my head I threw the ex out and counted my blessings. I am extremely grateful for my brother who has never given up on me. Even at his worst, (and believe me, he had some days as rough as my own) he always loved me as I did him. Syd has been my best friend and confidant for longer than I can remember, and Remy has been pretty loyal himself. Others have come and gone, but I can’t blame them. The one thing I give my father in particular, credit for, is having raised us in a circle of protection. We were raised within a family of friends who all had kids going through similar circumstances to ours. We went to the same schools and we spent holidays, birthdays and vacations together. Although we aren’t all close, we share a bond that remains intact. I know if I were in a bind I could call any number of people and they would offer (at the very least) temporary help, just as I would for any of them.

Two hours further into my drive I was feeling anxious, trying to come up with ways to find happiness. I mean sure, I could throw out the ex, but then what? I’d be all alone is what. I don’t like being alone. I get into trouble when I’m alone. The closer I got to home, the more I lost all of my resolve. I walked into the house approximately twenty two hours after I had walked out, only to discover the ex in the kitchen pouring himself a glass of wine.

“There you are,” he said. “You didn’t happen to pick up any dinner, did you?”

“Seriously?” I asked.

“Yeah, I figured it was too much to hope for,” he sighed, taking his wine out to the terrace.

He sat in one of the Adirondack chairs, his feet resting on the railing, enjoying his wine, oblivious to the fact that I’d left him the night before. I walked out, looked at the ocean’s surf that rushed onto the sand before receding and then repeating the pattern.

“That’s us,” I told him.

“What?”

“The surf. We run into each other’s arms, and then we pull back and leave, before doing it again. We’ve been doing it for years.”

“Oh Lord, here it comes. Do me a favor, go get a glass of wine and chill out. It’s been a long day. Some of us work you know?”

“Yeah. I want you to leave, and I don’t want you to come back.”

“Oh give me a break Cassie. Let it ride tonight and you’ll feel better tomorrow.”

“I’m sure this time. I have to change my life or end it, and I don’t want to do that, so really, we’re done.”

“Really, huh?” he asked.

“Really.”

He stared at me for a minute before slowly getting up and coming over to lean into me.

“You don’t mean it,” he said confidently.

“I do,” I said, trying to sound equally confident.

“You don’t like being alone,” he reminded me, his lips pressed against my neck.

“I know.”

“Have a glass of wine, enjoy the sunset and relax.”

“I get why you don’t believe that I’m serious, but I am. I want you to leave, and if you don’t I’ll call the police.”

He stepped back and looked at me again.

“What have you taken?” he sighed.

“A hard dose of reality. We don’t work. I left last night and you didn’t even look for me.”

“You were in a mood yesterday, and I knew you’d be back sooner or later.”

“I deserve someone who loves me.”

“I love you,” he said half-heartedly.

I just looked at him and he stepped in again wrapping his arms around my waist and kissing my neck. I pushed him away.

“I’m going to go to my Dad’s for a little while, like an hour,” I clarified. “Please be gone when I get back. Don’t make this into something it’s not. I’m sure you have someone else you can move onto anyway.”

“Fuck you. I haven’t cheated on you in a really long time.”

“Oh gosh, what every girl hopes to hear,” I said, rolling my eyes as I passed by him.

“Cassie for Christ sake,” he said, following me. “You know what I mean.”

I left and he immediately called my cell, but I didn’t answer. I didn’t go to my dad’s either. I was going to, but I was feeling anxious and decided to go to Syd and Tim’s instead.

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Go Fund What Now?

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A few years ago, before everyone and their mother had a Kickstarter campaign, Laura Hall and I set up a campaign to fund a production of our musical, Room to Grow. At the time I think it’s safe to say that neither one of us was comfortable asking for money that we ourselves didn’t have. With a Kickstarter campaign you set a goal and if you don’t reach it, the money is never taken out of the donor’s account. We were not great promoters and never reached our goal.

As I understand it a GoFundMe campaign works differently. Even if you don’t get all the money you are hoping for, you still get whatever has been raised. Now a days Facebook is filled with GoFundMe campaigns, or at least my page is, and here’s the thing, it’s gotten completely out of hand. There used to be campaigns to help pay for medical bills, God forbid a funeral, or even someone’s film. Lately I have seen campaigns asking for money to pay perfectly healthy people’s bills and/or rent.

I know times are tough. There are tons of things I’d like to ask people to pay for, be it the marketing for my books, my daughter’s housing at college, or my own rent, but really? The idea, at least I thought, was that you get something back when you fund something. We offered all kinds of incentives when we were doing our Kickstarter campaign. Not to mention there would be a produced play you could see and enjoy had we met our goal.

Now it feels lazy and exploitative. Why would I ask you to not only cover your bills, but mine too? What has happened to our sense of responsibility for our own welfare? A lot of people need help from time to time, but there is something about this that just doesn’t sit right with me. What about you? Is this crazy, or an acceptable solution to anyone in debt, or wanting something they don’r have?

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Excerpt Sunday 10!

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When I started this book in 2014 I was pleased to have the title so easily out of the way. I called it Bittersweet, and not only did I start it as a novel, but also a screenplay . I was sailing, and then I got distracted. My daughter, Tessa, loved this one and has asked me repeatedly to finish it.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when I was up north in a Costco with one of my sisters. We saw not one, not two, but three separate books with three separate authors, all titled Bittersweet! I guess if I do ever finish it I will have to come up with a new title.

The story centers around an arrogant chef and the baker he falls in love with. In the excerpt below they have been hired to create a meal for a client who has won them at a charity auction.

Bittersweet…

    On Thursday night I headed back down to the restaurant dreading our dinner, but confident that Grady would be impressed by what we had come up with. As soon as I arrived, Grady came out and took me back to the kitchen to put my desserts away. The dining room was full just as he had said it would be, and as we walked through several people, attempted to get his attention. He was clearly a rock star among his customers.

 “We are falling behind,” he confided, “but here, Pedro will take care of you,” he said leading me out to the bar.

 Pedro was his head bartender and after introducing us Grady rushed back to the kitchen promising to come get me as soon as our meal was prepared. Pedro asked what he could get me and I opted for water because I wanted to stay sharp. It was great water too. I don’t know what makes some water better than others, maybe it’s just the temperature, but this was cool and refreshing. Still, when a few minutes later Pedro asked if he couldn’t get me something with a bit more flavor, I hesitated.

 

“Well, what goes good with peppers and cheese? I don’t want to end up getting sick,” I told him.

“Hmm, do you like Vodka?”

“I do so long as it’s mixed with something sweet.”

“Cranberry?” he offered.

“Oh what the heck, why not?”

 

Once again it was delicious!

 

“You’re a baker, right?” Pedro asked, and I was suddenly curious as to if he and Grady were friends.

“How do you know that?”

“I heard Grady discussing the fact that you were coming in tonight to sample some desserts and having a sweet tooth it got my attention.”

“Then you should try the things I’ve brought with me, because I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone in order to come up with something that will go with the client’s love of peppers.”

“What did you come up with?”

“A chipotle chocolate sauce.”

“Could be good,” he nodded.

“I wouldn’t know,” I laughed, “but others have said it is.”

“How could you not know?”

“Because you couldn’t pay me to put that in my mouth. This on the other hand,” I said referring to my quickly disappearing drink, “is amazing!”

“Good, I’ll get you another,” he said walking away.

“No, don’t, stop,” I mumbled, making sure he didn’t hear me.

 

Grady kept forgetting about me and Pedro kept feeding me drinks. By the third one I was feeling no pain and Pedro and I were the best of friends. In fact, for a while I forgot why I was there. That is until Grady finally showed up, apologizing for having taken so long.

 

“Are you hungry?” he asked, reaching for my hand which momentarily startled me.

“Uh, yeah, of course,” I said, realizing he was just helping me off of my stool.

 

Standing sent the room spinning and I decided to keep holding his hand as he pulled me through the restaurant and back to a small office where he had tossed a table cloth over a desk.

 

“This is my bookkeeper’s office but at least it provides a clear surface, which as you know from before, is more than can be said for my desk in the kitchen. Not to mention it’s chaotic back there. Have a seat and I’ll be right back with our appetizer.”

 

He left the room and I literally stomped my foot and bit my fist to keep from swooning. I argued with myself that I never should have had all of those drinks and then tried not to groan when he not only brought back our appetizers but a bottle of wine.

He placed my plate before me and poured the wine, all the while telling me again what Chipotle Relleno was.

 

“I remember, and it looks beautiful.”

“Taste it,” he encouraged, sitting across from me and taking a big bite.

“I will but the presentation is so lovely that I hate to disturb it.”

“Thank you, but by all means disturb it.”

“I like the colors and the placement and everything,” I stalled, already not feeling well.

“Here, take mine,” he laughed all but shoving a bite in my mouth.

 

It was a combination of too many flavors if you asked me, and of course it was spicy. I began choking and had no choice but to wash it down with the wine, while asking for some water.  Grady went to get it and I quickly spread the food around my plate and then seeing a box of Kleenex on a shelf, wrapped most of it in a tissue and stuffed it in my purse.

 

“Delicious,” I lied, when he returned with my water.

“Wow, I didn’t expect you to be done so fast.”

“I’m ready for my steak,” I told him, praying that I would like that better.

 

He left to go get our entree, eating the rest of his appetizer as he went and somehow, don’t ask me how, he did it really well. Unfortunately while he was gone that one bite of Chipotle Relleno began doing battle with all of the vodka and cranberry juice at high surf in my stomach. I was in a panic when he set my dinner down in front of me, but seeing the double baked potato, I decided that might help to absorb the nauseating waves crashing up towards my throat. I barely took the time to taste them, although I was pretty sure they were incredible. Unfortunately they were no match for what was happening in my digestive tract.

I considered the steak, but couldn’t bring myself to take more than one bite, and I had trouble swallowing that one bite. Grady of course took it personally, assuming I didn’t like it, but it was actually tender and probably delicious. It would have been especially delicious if it hadn’t had all of that stuff on top of it.

Suddenly I knew I was going to be sick. I stood up praying I could make it to the bathroom, but I didn’t even come close.

Hands down, most embarrassing moment of my life!

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Hey Baby! It’s the 4th of July!

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Here’s a extra excerpt from The Salacious Marny Ottwiler a tongue in cheek novel of love, friendship, life and the insanity that ensues!

6

    I’m living in some Disney reality show where on the 4th of July everyone dresses in red, white and blue and literally joins a parade! I’m not one of you. I was trying to sleep in people!

    At the crack of dawn (or 9:00 am as Mimi called it) I was awoken to a dreadful pounding that at first I thought might just be my head, but then I quickly realized that there was someone trying to break the door down. I leapt out of bed, in an admittedly stumbling kind of way, left the seemingly safe confines of my room, met up with Kevin in the hallway looking similarly confused, and together we proceeded to the door. He being the guy, took the initiative of looking through the peep hole.

“Mimi,” he groaned, turning to go back to his room.

    I debated doing the same, but on the off chance that an intruder had broken into her home, and was threatening her family with a machete, while she had just barely managed to escape, I opened the door so that she could call 911. As soon as I did so, she burst in carrying Camden, nephew number two, and announced the date. Camden attempted to spit a drooled upon blower in my face.

“Seriously, your family hasn’t been attacked by Al Qaida, and you’ve come over at the crack of dawn to tell me what day it is?”

“It’s 9:00 am, and we have the parade. I thought you’d want to come help decorate the wagon,” she beamed.

“Wait, which one of us drinks?” I asked.

“The Parade comes right down our street, I told you this last year.”

“And I care why?”

“Marny, you are not this awful. You can’t be. We want you to walk with us. If you won’t do it for me, you’ll do it for the boys, right?” she asked with that stupid irritating, pleading look of hers that I always end up giving into for reasons I so should have worked out in therapy, but forgot about at the time.

“Mimi, come on,” I whined as Camden leaned towards me, wanting me to take him out of his crazy mother’s arms, which I did because after all, I do have a heart, and I can only imagine what he must put up with on a daily basis.

“Take a quick shower if you must, and you must by the way, and then come join us. If you aren’t across the street in twenty minutes I’ll come over and drag you. Remember, I have a key,” she warned.

    And with that, she took Camden (who didn’t want to go by the way, and reached back for me,) and she left. I went off in search of something stronger than an aspirin, but sadly discovered there was nothing to dull my pain, physical or psychic. Is that right? You can have psychic pain can’t you? Your psyche can hurt, can’t it? I was in all kinds of pain, okay?

    I took the suggested shower, and had a long talking to with myself as I attempted to wash my troubles away. I reminded myself that Mimi is happy, or so I’ve been told, and tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t kill me to be nice to her, and possibly even try to be more like her. Thankfully Kev came in to inform me he’d looked out his window, and discovered the streets were being roamed by zombies with a patriotic flare.

“Towel,” I demanded, extending my hand through the shower curtain.

“Its right here,” he teased, holding it just out of reach.

“Ha ha, hand it over or I’ll make you join the parade with me.”

“You’re joining a parade?”

“Apparently. It seems that’s what the simple folk do,” I said beginning to whistle the tune to Simple Folk from Camelot.

    I played Guinevere in high school, and was mesmerizingly entertaining, or so I was told.

“Whose parade is it?” he asked handing over the towel.

“Mimi’s I guess. How should I know? She says the boys want me to join them, as if any of them can speak.”

“The older one speaks, I’ve heard him. Well, come to think of it he just honked his tricycle at me, but he may have told me to move.”

“Yeah, everything with him is a grunt. I suspect he’s traumatized by his name,” I told him.

“Makes sense,” he nodded.

“So get dressed and come with me.”

“Why not?” he agreed.

    Well, let me tell you why not, because it doesn’t look right, does it? I am Andrew Morris’s wife, and the whole world knows that. Mimi insisted that Kev walk with Jake the whole time, and told them that if anyone asked, they went way back, and were old family friends. Yeah, and I’m the insane one.

    The parade itself was full of trucks and golf carts, each decorated in flags and ribbons, followed by endless streams of perfect nuclear families, us among them of course. After the parade there was a pot luck party at the Emerson’s next door, and Mimi handed me a plate of lemon bars that she informed me I had made from scratch following an old family recipe, while she brought a blueberry pie. Both were bought, and repackaged, from a bakery in Beverly Hills.

    I’m not cut out for an ordinary life, let me tell you. I found it much less stressful hanging out with Malcolm and the old gang last night. Sure I drank more than I should have, but at least I didn’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not. I’m exhausted, and have to take a nap before Mimi forces me to go watch the fireworks from the top of her roof.

 

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Excerpt Sunday 9

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Today’s excerpt comes from a book I started last year. I was sailing along and then I got sidetracked by another idea, probably Beyond the Cracks. This is Fighting Forty which I not only have two thirds of the way complete, but I also have the title and a cover concept all worked out.

It began the day after my fortieth birthday. Matt came sauntering into the kitchen in nothing but his boxers, a boyish smile on his face, his hair falling in his eyes, and I instantly hated him. Well, maybe I didn’t hate him exactly. That might be a little strong. Maybe I just resented him. There was definitely a feeling of animosity, lets say.

He looked happy, and although up until that morning I’d have told you I was happy too, suddenly I was miserable. I felt as though I had been slapped in the face, and not only was  it startling, but it was painful. Everything about Matt’s appearance screamed young and content, while I was no longer either of those things. I was just forty. Not in my twenties, not in my thirties, but now in my forties.

Never mind the fact that Matt is two years older than me. He is a guy and I’m a girl. At least I used to be a girl. Once you hit forty, you can’t really refer to yourself as a girl anymore, now can you?

Matt kissed my forehead.

“Good Morning Beautiful,” he said, moving towards the coffee maker.

“Nice of you to dress up,” I grumbled.

He laughed and went about the business of making our usual morning coffee. We’d been together for twenty years at this point, so my grumbling was nothing new to him. He knew I required a wide berth so to speak, on most mornings, so it came as no surprise that after a late night party I would be less than pleasant. Casual as he appeared, he had to know that my turning forty was bound to have some repercussions. After all, we are both actors and everyone knows that forty is the kiss of death for an actress. Thus the reason my party had been celebrated in the theme of a wake. Up until that point it had all seemed funny, but that morning the humor had suddenly and abruptly, worn off.

“What time will your mom be returning the kids?” Matt asked, a few moments later, handing me a cup of coffee with my usual three heaping teaspoons of sugar and a beautifully swirled spray of whipped cream on top, just the way I like it.

I had been leaning against our new farm-style sink, a birthday gift I had campaigned hard to get, and which had been installed the day before, staring out into the backyard with it’s beautiful  Jacaranda tree. A tree that in the light breeze was dropping purple blossoms directly into our gorgeous swimming pool. I have a real love/hate relationship with that tree.

“Yoo-hoo, Emily,” Matt said, waving his hand in my face.

I slapped it away and he grabbed my wrist, leaning in to kiss my neck.

“What are you doing?” I growled.

“Has dementia set in so soon?” he teased. “When are the kids coming home? Have we got time to go back to bed?”

“What for?” I asked, sincerely not knowing.

Now lest you should think I’m an idiot, remember that I just told you, we had been together for twenty years. We had children that were teenagers. There were no romantic trysts in the morning, even when I still liked him. Not in the past ten years at any rate. There was the occasional quickie when he woke up aroused, but that usually consisted of my merely leaning into him, while hoping he wouldn’t disturb me so much that I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep. Passion was reserved for vacations away from the kids, and lately those had been few and far between.

“Let’s go back to bed,” he grinned, pulling me into the hallway.

“I’m forty, get real,” I objected.

“Exactly, use it or lose it babe,” he laughed. “We can’t have you rusting up like the tin man.”

“I’m not in the mood,” I snarled, breaking free of his grasp.

“Because you are forty?

“Sure, whatever,” I said, turning to leave.

Much to my surprise, he grabbed my hips and ran me back to our bedroom, despite my objections. He then lifted me and tossed me onto our bed, another clear indication that while I was ageing, he was somehow managing to get younger. That only increased my dislike of him.

“This isn’t happening,” I announced, as he leapt onto the bed and I rolled away from him.

“Why not? How often do we get the house to ourselves? Come on Em, even if you aren’t into it, take one for the team,” he pleaded, giving me his most charming smile.

“My life is over!” I wailed, collapsing back onto the bed to have a big old, self-pitying cry.

“There, there old woman,” Matt teased, “you’re only as old as you feel.”

 

Matt continued trying to tease me out of my mood for the rest of the day, but to no avail. My mom returned the kids and sympathized when I stood on the front porch complaining, but her only advice was that I should lie about my age from now on. Either that or prepare to become a character actress. My fifteen year old, Samantha, heard that and groaned.

“Oh god, just retire. The last thing I need is to become the daughter of a character actress.!”

Although perfectly normal at her age, Sami, as I was no longer allowed to call her, felt everything revolved around her. Anything any of us did, reflected on her and if we knew what was good for us, it had better reflect positively.

From a very young age, she had always been far more accepting of Matt’s career than mine. Matt could be killed off, or the one doing the killing on any TV show around, and he was considered cool. When I was killed off, or killing, I was dressed wrong, or my dying was lame. Matt, she felt, was far better at dropping dead than I was. Likewise, when Matt played a love interest, it was just funny to her. When I did so, I was slutty or just plain pathetic. Whenever Matt got a role in a film, it was cause for celebration, but if I did the same, I was an absentee parent who didn’t care enough to be there for her when she needed me most. It was a battle I had long since given up on trying to win.

“Maybe I will,” I told her.

“Maybe you won’t,” Mom said. “Not if you know what’s good for you.”

“It’s just going to be demeaning from here on out,” I sighed.

“Absolutely,” Mantha, as I was now supposed to call her, concurred. “Quit while you’re ahead.”

“You know what, maybe you are right,” Mom said. “Stay home and help Mantha navigate the tricky road of dating boys and when to first become intimate.”

“Oh Frick my life!” Mantha dramatically declared.

My mom smiled and gave me a hug.

“You are every bit as young and beautiful today as you were yesterday, and don’t you ever forget it. I love you.”

“I love you too. Thanks for taking the kids.”

“No problem,” she smiled, walking back to her car.

“You realize she’s only saying that because she’s your mother,” Mantha told me.

“You realize she only took you for the same reason,” I muttered.

“Real mature, Mom,” she said, rolling her eyes and going inside.

I walked over to the rose bushes that line the fence between our house and the Rosenfield’s and began picking at dead leaves. Max, our thirteen year-old, burst out the front door, skateboard in hand, and flew by, saying he was going down to Kevin’s.

“Kyle is having a shit fit, btw,” he called back.

“Why?” I asked, but Max was already out of earshot, having jumped on his board and skated off.

Kyle was our surprise. The result of one of those aforementioned vacations eight years earlier. I have read somewhere that seven is the age of reason, but at seven and a half, Kyle had yet to have more than a moment’s reason. Matt takes his volatile personality in stride, whereas I find him to be overwhelming. I love him to death, but I would be lying if I said I understand him, or know how to reason with him. Because of this, I pretended not to have heard Max and continued hanging out with my bushes. That is until I saw Carolyn Rosenfield drive into her wrap around driveway. Then I rushed back into the house in an effort to avoid being dragged into an awkward discussion as to why we had held a party and not invited the entire neighborhood, not to mention given fair warning as to how loud it would be. Much like Mantha, but far less understandable, Carolyn also believes the world revolves around her. She is a master at sticking her nose into everyone’s business.

As soon as I shut the front door I realized the flaw in this was that I was then thrust into Kyle’s meltdown. He was standing in the living room, facing off with Matt who held both remotes to the TV. Kyle was yelling that something was stupid and upon seeing me, he did his best to bring me around to his way of thinking, tearfully explaining what he perceived as a great injustice.

“Daddy won’t let me watch the movie and I have to watch the movie because everybody, all my friends get to, and I don’t, and it’s not fair!” he cried.

Let me state, just for the record, that Matt and I have incredibly beautiful children. They have each managed to gather the best features between us and come out as stunning physical specimens. Kyle has the most incredible blue/green eyes, and sun streaked dark blonde hair, as well as a year round golden tan. He is on the small side, so he looks even younger than he is, and there is a sweetness about his face that makes you want to side with him even when he is clearly in the wrong. This time was no different than any other.

“What movie?” I asked.

“The Avengers,” Kyle sniffled.

“He is seven and a half,” I reasoned.

“Yeah!” he huffed.

“It will give him nightmares and we’ll be up all night, not to mention, I have already told him no,” Matt informed me.

“No it won’t. Mommy tell him!”

“Is it really that violent?” I inquired.

“Yes, for a kid like him, yes,” Matt insisted.

 

It was true, Kyle is very sensitive. Even a lyric in a song can set him off.

 

“But sooner or later, he’s going to see it.”

“Not today, he’s not.”

“Sorry Babe, I tried,” I shrugged.

Kyle fell to the ground in what looked like a convulsive fit, and Matt simply went to where he was flopping about, threw him over his shoulder, and carried him back to his room, where he told him to stay until dinner. It was a futile attempt at domination. The kid was out of that room like a shot, collapsing in front of us, yet again, but with the same result. This went on for a good twenty minutes until he had sufficiently exhausted himself to the point of no return, literally.

With this ugly reality refreshed in my mind, it became crystal clear to me that retirement was not an option. No matter how small or embarrassing the part, I knew that were it offered, I would accept it. Leading lady or hideous side kick, it would still be an excuse to get out of the house, and out was where I needed to be.

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