Last Summer Ch. 02byblueboar©
Prologue: This will make little sense without reading "Last Summer" first.
"I need to talk to you about something."
My sister Ellie walked into my room, without knocking. I ignored her. I was sitting on my bed, cross-legged wasting away the afternoon playing the latest Call of Duty. In fact, my plan was to waste away as many of the next 20 or so afternoons as I could before I returned to school in mid-January. My parents were scheduled to fly to Australia the day after Christmas and would be gone for almost three weeks. My sister spent most of her time at her friend's house and when she was around she rarely bothered me. It was a big house. It would be nice to unwind a little.
"Shouldn't you be in school?" I said, not looking at her.
"We got out early today. Finals start tomorrow," she said. Ellie was a senior in high school. She usually had better manners. I made a mental note to keep my door locked and shut at all times now that I was back home.
"Turn off the game," Ellie said.
"As if. I just passed this stage and I'm—"
"Please, Owen," she said and I was startled. I looked up. The look on her face confirmed the sad, scared and very troubled tone of her voice.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Nothing . . . no, everything is." She was crying.
I put my controller down. "Hey," I said. "What's wrong with you?"
She sat at the edge of my bed. "There's no way of saying it nicely, so I'll just say it."
"Mom's having an affair."
I stared at her for a second, my mind scrambling to reboot. I'd just returned home two days ago, after several grueling finals and a couple of ghastly papers. I hadn't slept much, hadn't eaten well, and I still hadn't shaved the more than two weeks growth on my face. This was the last thing I expected or needed to hear.
"What are you talking about?" I asked hoping I was coming across as alarmed, but not furious, even thought I wanted to scream.
"Don't be mad it at me. Dad told me last night. He thinks mom's having an affair."
"Dad said that?" I asked.
"Wow. Last night you say?"
"Did he say with who?"
"Who cares with who. Someone in her office probably. God, she's having an affair. Isn't that enough?"
"He said that, someone from her office?"
"Owen, what the hell? Why do you care about the details?"
"Because I can't believe this. Mom—"
"Aren't you sick to your stomach?" she asked, now a little annoyed herself. "I mean, I didn't sleep at all last night."
"Well, I'm sorry. You just sort of dropped this on me," I said, getting up to turning off the TV. I put away the video game. "I don't know what to think. I . . . I don't know. I just can't believe this."
"Neither can I. I wouldn't have ever believed it, but, I mean, Dad wouldn't just say it if it wasn't true."
"Yeah, that . . . God . . . He must know something. Okay."
She nodded. She was already looking better. She'd gotten it off her chest, had told someone, and somehow, for her, that made it better. Then I realized why she was telling me. Of course. The poor kid has finals this week and she didn't need wild and disturbing distractions like this. She wanted to do well. I couldn't believe my father had been so thoughtless. What a moron! I mean, she had acceptances from several great schools, all involving her playing on their basketball teams, but the school she really wanted to attend, Swarthmore, hadn't yet replied. She wanted a strong showing this semester to buttress her application there.
"Alright," I said. "Well, listen, obviously, you know, you've got to focus on your finals. I'll talk to Dad. I'll try to help him."
She got off the bed. She sighed, taking a deep breath. "Thank you. I mean, I really want to try to help, but . . . it's just this week. I can deal with it after finals. I'll help you. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know, but you just don't worry about it. Go study. Don't worry about it."
"Thank you." And despite her obvious hesitation she reached forward and gave me a quick hug. "Eww," she said. "You're stinky. Shave and shower, you're disgusting."
She left, still holding her nose in her mock prissy sort of way. It was a pose she'd been favoring this past year, my mother had told me. It annoyed.
I was waiting in the kitchen pretty sure it would be my mother who returned home first. My father would probably arrive later. He was still at the University, either giving a last final or grading papers. He'd be all done after today, he'd said last night at dinner.
My mother walked in.
"Hey," I said.
My mother smiled at me. The smile was neither overly friendly nor overly hostile. It just wasn't genuine. It looked like a smile used by someone who had a lot of practice smiling for a living. She seemed distracted.
It hurt to see her smiling like that. I didn't wait for her to take off her coat. She had just taken one arm out.
"Dad knows you're having an affair," I said staring at her.
Her coat dropped to the floor.
My father came home half an hour or so later. His tired look turned to alarm when he saw my mother standing in the kitchen, all color drained from her face, just two awful red speckled splotches on each cheek.
"Hey," he said. "What's wrong with you?" He gave me a quick nod of acknowledgment, mixed with confusion.
"Why don't you tell me?" my mother said. "Why don't you and your son tell me, what's wrong with me?"
My father looked at me, but I tried to avoid his eyes, then he turned to my mother.
"What are you talking about?" He said, unwrapping his scarf, taking off his ridiculous black fedora.
"I'm talking about this affair you've been telling everyone I'm having."
"Oh," my father said and put a hand out to the counter for support. "Where's Ellie?" he said.
"Ellie's at Jessica's," she said. "They're studying."
My father nodded. He turned to me. "Owen, could you please go upstairs, or I don't know, go for a drive or something."
I took a step to leave.
"You're going nowhere," my mother said turning to me. "Sit your ass at the table."
"Kirsten," my father said. "I don't want—"
"I don't give a shit what you want. I don't give a shit what either of you wants right now."
My father glared at me. "We're not going to talk about this in front of Owen. We're—"
"Why not? He knows everything. Ellie told him. He confronted me the second I got home. You know, he's watching out for the Hansen family honor."
My mother sat down across from me at the table, but refused to even look at me.
My father rubbed his eyes with one hand. "This is ridiculous. Owen, would you—"
"Why do you think I'm having an affair?" my mother asked.
"Fine," my father said. "I'll tell you. Do you really want it like this? In front of your son? If you don't care—"
"Why do you think I'm having an affair?"
"What!" my mother screamed. "Sheera Ackerman!"
"I saw her on campus yesterday—"
"On campus?" she asked.
"She was doing some research or something. I've no idea. Whatever. We bumped into each other and you know we just started talking."
"Right. You just started talking."
"I asked her how she was and she naturally asked how you were, how everything was going. I said you were doing great and that you were really busy, you know, setting up the new office in St. Louis, how you'd been away almost every weekend since you guys sold the company."
"And she said, 'What new office in St. Louis?'" my mother said, doing a very nice impression of Sheera.
"Yes. That's exactly what she said. She said she'd heard . . . she knew nothing about any expansion in St. Louis. She said that that sounded ludicrous to her."
"Ludicrous," my mother said, rolling the word around in her mouth. "Of course, 'ludicrous'. That would be the word she used. Why not? And the fact she's not with the company any more, hasn't stepped in for even one hello since August, that didn't enter the balance in your sudden realization that I must be a slut if Sheera Ackerman implies I am, right?"
"Of course, yes. Yes. I mean, of course, I thought about that. But she said she still talked to people at the company—"
"Which people?" my mother pounced. "Who's she talked to?"
"Kirsten, I can't . . . I'm not trying to get anyone in trouble. Sheera said this was confidential and—"
"Are you out of your fucking mind? You're accusing me of cheating and . . . who . . . did . . . Sheera . . . say . . . she . . . talked . . . to?"
"I swear to God, Nick, I will divorce you tomorrow. I will call my lawyer tomorrow. Tell me right now!"
"It was your CFO, okay? Gavin your CFO."
"And that's it. She didn't say anyone else."
"What did Gavin my shit-fuck CFO say to Sheera?"
"Well nothing. I mean, you know, Sheera said he'd never mentioned St. Louis, and he would have if there was anything happening there."
"That's it. That's why you think I'm having an affair?" she said.
"Why didn't you talk to Owen? He's seen me when I've been down there. Why didn't you ask him if he thinks I'm having an affair?"
"This is ridiculous. Why would I want him to think about you that way?"
"Oh, but it's okay for Ellie to think of me that way?"
"I just needed someone to talk to. I didn't even intend to say anything. It just came out and . . . this is ridiculous."
"It is. It is. This is ridiculous. Do you want to come with me right now? To my office? Come with me, and do you want to see all the documents and leases and employment agreements having to do with St. Louis? Let's go, come on."
"Kirsten, oh, my God. Enough. I'm sorry, okay. I'm sorry, but—"
"Let's go. Obviously, Sheera Ackerman's word is a lot more important than mine. She can bullshit with you for a couple of minutes and you start seeing purple pigs flying. I—"
"Kirsten, it wasn't just Sheera. I mean, I've looked at your tablet, you know, and—"
"Oh, so now you're snooping around in my tablet. Why not? Why not? Did Sheera advice you to do that? Sheera's says so, so you've got no choice, right?"
"Have you been, you know, checking out my underwear in the hamper too? Looking through my perfume and makeup, double checking my credit card records?"
My father shook his head and quietly said, "There was nothing in your tablet about St. Louis. That's all I'm saying. I expected to see, you know, something, an e-mail or a document, some reference and there's nothing. It just seemed odd for something that's supposedly consumed you for months."
Mom stood rim-rod tall. She walked straight to her briefcase still on the kitchen counter. Swiftly and without a hint of nerves, she pulled out the tablet. She started tapping away at it.
"Nothing? You said you found nothing?" she said. She stuck it under my father's face. My father flinched. "Supposedly? Odd? Nothing?" she said.
My father glanced down. His eyes seemed to widen. "I didn't see any of this yesterday," he said even more quietly than before. She kept swiping away at the screen. She didn't stop. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed.
She pulled the tablet from under his face and held it to her chest as she crossed her arms, putting her weight back on one foot
She said, "Well, Nick, you know, in the real world, you know, outside of your beloved University, there's something called business secrets and strategy. I'm the head of the company and this tablet is important not only to me, but to Multi-State. I have files and e-mails in here, encrypted with encryptions and passwords you would have no clue about, lots of stuff competitors might be interested in if they got their hands on this. There's a world in this tablet you know nothing about except me and Mult-State's people. And I answer to the Multi-State CEO, not to Gavin, my CFO. That's not the way it works. He answers to me. I don't answer to a little twerp like Gavin. What he knows about the company could fit on my pinkie. We don't run that place like when Sheera and I owned it. Got it? Multi-State's public and . . . Why am I even telling you any of this?"
"I'm sorry," my father said, his voice quivering now. He tried to touch her shoulder. She jerked away. He said, his voice breaking, "Please forgive me, Kirsten. Truly, I'm so sorry. Forgive me. Please."
They looked at each other level now, my father just a bit shorter at 5'9", and I wanted to scream at my mother to do something, to touch his arm, to offer some consolation, anything to help the poor guy out. He was strangling in a tangle of rope of his own making, he'd obviously made a mistake. Accept his apology. You've won. Be gracious.
But instead, my mother turned to me. "You," she said. "Mr. Beard Boy. Do you have any questions for me, anything you want to know while you two big tough guys have me here at your mercy?"
I shook my head.
"Get up," she said, still looking at me. "You're coming with me."
I stood and looked over to my father for guidance.
"Kirsten, where are you going? We haven't even had dinner." my father said.
"Fuck dinner," she spat. "I'm packing it in. That's it. I'm quitting."
"Why the hell am I working?" she asked the kitchen walls. "I have enough money, more than the kids and I will ever need. Why am I spinning wheels like some idiot?"
"Kirsten, what do you want me to do here? Enough, please. Let's talk. I made a mistake, a terrible, awful mistake, but—"
"Come on," mom said to me. She put on her coat. "Get dressed. I have a lot of stuff in the office I need you to pack up. Make yourself useful for once."
"Kirsten—" but my mother was already at the door to the garage and out. I followed to the door. I grabbed a random coat hanging in the closet.
My father was right behind me. I put on my boots.
"Owen," my father said, pleading, weakly grabbing my arm. "Please talk to her. Please. Talk some sense into her. Tell her I don't want her to quit her job. This is insane. She'll listen to you."
I sort of nodded, mumbled an "okay," went out the door. I found my mother in the passenger seat of her car. The garage door was already open. The car was already running.
I got in the car. I shut the car door. We backed out of the driveway. I put the car in drive. We started down the hill leading us out of the cul-de-sac.
My mother looked at me.
She brought her trembling hands to her face as she burst into tears.
I thought we'd be driving, but at the last minute my mother said we'd fly to St. Louis to get me settled into my new apartment. I had to be in school the first week of August for football camp and I was already a couple of days late. The delay was prompted by my father's need to take over a late summer class at the University from a colleague whose wife had suffered a stroke. The plan had been for him and me to drive. After he was forced to back out, I'd insisted I could do the move on my own—the apartment was fully furnished, after all—but my mother told me to stop with the martyr act. She would accompany me. She said it would have to be just a couple of days later so that she could wrap up a couple of loose ends. The transition after the sale had gone really well—she'd been working twelve, fourteen hour days for more than a week, and now only little hiccups needed to be addressed.
The hour or so flight had been fine, and I was pretty sure my mother chose to fly rather than drive because she wanted to minimize time we'd be alone. Obviously, we hadn't talked about our night together—I'd barely seen her since—but it was all I could think about. It pervaded my every waking moment and it took weird turns and angles in my dreams, almost all of them nightmarish and bloody. I was absolutely miserable. Of course, she could see it—even my father had asked me more than once whether I was okay—but she refused to let herself or me be in any position or situation in which we could acknowledge, let alone discuss, what had happened. She would even be long gone in the morning when I'd try to catch her early at breakfast and she would go nightly to her bedroom directly upon coming home late from work. More than likely, I told myself, she was coming to St. Louis to clear the air and to talk about it, finally, to tell me she loved me and to make herself feel better that everything had returned to normal so that we could all get on with our lives.
"Return to normal." Can you return to normal after something like that, something so intense and personal and, of course, depraved? The fact that we'd broken every convention, moral precept and common decency, committed a sin so fundamental and obvious that even the religious texts hardly feel the need to address it in detail meant nothing to me. I didn't believe in God, had no desire to murder my father, and I thought it would be insane to want to impregnate my mother.
In the abstract.
I knew all this in my rationale mind. Who didn't know it? But I kept stumbling up against the specifics, what I'd actually experienced with her and wanted more than anything to experience again and again and again. It had been so fucking good. Even sitting next to her on the flight, I struggled mightily to keep my eyes off her neck and face. Anything more, like looking at her tits in her tee-shirt or legs in her jeans, I was sure would bring the plane crashing down in some form of cosmic corrective. That was the problem. I couldn't look at her without thinking of how her tits had melted into and tasted in my mouth that night. Couldn't think about her without an almost visceral reminder of the smooth texture of her skin and the unbelievable tightness of her pussy. Couldn't talk to her without the sound of her voice triggering the sounds and words she'd said as she gasped and screamed when she'd climaxed. Almost as much and probably more, she was so wonderful. I was fascinated with her. No one had ever engaged me like she had. It had been magical. I thought I'd known her, but it was clear I'd just barely scratched the surface. I was obsessed with her, and wanted more of her, and she obviously regretted it terribly, despite what her note had said.
We landed and soon I was grabbing my two heavy duffle bags from baggage at Lambert. Left with little more than cursory small talk, we walked out of the crisp coolness of the airport and seemed to hit a wall of suffocating air as we stepped into the steaming sauna of St. Louis in early August.
We hailed a waiting cab, and the driver—some middle-eastern looking guy with a bushy mustache—took one of my duffle bags and stuffed it into the trunk while I handled the other one. I simply shook my head at my first impulse to shove the poor bastard to the ground for his obvious stares at my mother's legs and ass as she hurriedly took a seat in the back where I joined her just a few seconds later. Soon we were on 70, merged onto 170 and headed south. The conversation during the drive involved the driver's attempt, in a thick accent, to tell us about St. Louis—"It's nice city, just be careful. Some places dangerous"—and my mother's genuinely alarmed observations about the humidity and heat.
Past the inner suburbs of St. Louis, and we were at my building a couple of blocks off campus in less than half-an-hour. I'd found the apartment last spring after I got sick of the high-school-like gossipy-gossipy world of the dorms. I'd just wanted to be alone, no more distractions, and despite Seth Ackerman's insinuations and assumptions I had no desire to join a frat. Guys my age made me laugh.
We got out of the cab, the driver eager to help with the duffle bags. He kept smiling at her, but my mother was already walking into the building. I paid the driver, he looked disappointment, and I left him.
My mother insisting, we took the elevators to the third floor—"no way in hell am I walking up those stairs in this heat." Three doors down from the elevator I held the door open for my mother and she stepped in.