#9

Annette Gardner sat in her living room, holding the telephone the her ear. She was waiting for Lisa Turner to pick up.

“Hello?” a voice asked on the other end.

“Hello? Lisa? This is Annette Gardner. How are you?” Annette didn’t really care one way or the other. “I’m calling to talk to you about Jack.” Silence. “Do you know what your son and my daughter were doing yesterday afternoon?” Her voice was piercing and direct.

“I don’t have Jack leashed, but I’m sure he was just out doing whatever it is teenage boys do these days,” Lisa said. She sounded indifferent, almost like the phone call had interrupted her.

“Well if it’s smoking pot with impressionable young girls, then you’d be right,” Annette said. There was another short stint of silence.

“What do you mean they were smoking?” Lisa asked.

“I mean my daughter came home smelling like she made out with a skunk,” Annette said. “She wasn’t going to say anything, of course. But the smell was there. Honestly, I expected so much more from Jack. I wanted to let you know I’m not letting him near my daughter again.” Annette’s voice had become so matter-of-fact lately, like everything she said was straight from a manual. Is this what motherhood does? she asked herself.

“What time did you say this was?” Lisa asked, not yet invested in what Annette had to say.

“I didn’t. But she came home around eight o’clock reeking of marijuana. She said she was with Jack all day until she came home. Honestly, you need to take a closer look at what your children are doing. This is what happens if you’re not around.”

There was another long pause on the phone. “I don’t know who you think you are that you think you have the right to go around accusing people of being bad parents when you’re the one with a liar on your hands,” Lisa said.

“Oh now my daughter’s a liar? She told me and her father where she was yesterday, and she knows better than to lie to us.”

“Jack was home around four o’clock yesterday.”

Annette’s stomach sank. “Four o’clock? That’s not possible. Olivia didn’t come home until after dark, and she said she was with Jack all day.” Somehow, repeating it was supposed to make it better, but she knew there was no reason for Lisa Turner to lie. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. I’ll be speaking to her once she gets home.”

***

“And how are you doing today, Louise? It’s so good to hear from you,” said Magnolia Montgomery. She was standing over the sink in the kitchen, and looking out into the wide gardens of her home as she talked to one of her favorite nieces.

“I”m doing just fine, Aunt Magnolia, thanks. I hope you and Uncle Vinton are doing well. Annette mentioned to me all of us coming down for a visit soon. I wanted to tell you that Michael and I will certainly be there. You know, he’s never been south of New York, so this’ll really be a first for him,” said Louise Falcone.

“Oh those Italian boys don’t know what they’re missing down here!” Aunt Magnolia said in her drawling, contemplative voice. “I know he’s used to eating lasagna and meatballs and all those things, but just wait until we fry him up some real Southern Fried Chicken and feed him some of my famous sugar peach cobbler!”

Louise hadn’t heard her aunt his excited in some time. It really had been a while since she had had any company, let alone seen any of her family. “Don’t get him too fat now, Aunt Magnolia. If anybody needs some extra meat on their bones, it’s my sister. She’s been wasting away lately trying to handle my niece.”

“Is Olivia really that hard to handle?” Aunt Magnolia asked.

“It’s just those teenage years, I guess. It’s not that she’s a bad kid, but she’s starting to make the mistakes kids make. She called me last night and told me that she smelled pot on her clothes when she came home. The week before that, she had gone to school wearing next to nothing. Before that, she caught her forcing herself to throw up in the toilet.”

“My, my that poor girl,” Aunt Magnolia said. “Annette never said anything to me when we were talking.” Her aunt’s voice reminded Louise of her late mother.

“Well it’ runs in the family, I guess. Annette and Red thought everything was fine with her, that she was the one exception to the dangers of parenthood. It was just recently that she’s started to get moody, defiant even.”

“A good rest down here’ll have her all fixed up, I can guarantee–” Aunt Magnolia paused. She heard the clunking of heavy boots overhead once more. A chill rushed down her spine. “I have to go, sweetie. I’ll call you back.”

END

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