"Sorry, Crystal," Ron said, giving her a wan smile as she stood by the kitchen door into the front foyer, Kindle and small backpack under her arm, "Could you wait for me to get Troy's supper out before I take you home? Sorry I was late. Bad day at the office."
Troy grimaced when he saw Ron dump the broccoli heads in the steamer but perked up a bit when Ron took a can of Spaghetti-Os out of the cupboard. The older son—Amy's son by her second marriage—the one before Ron, was finishing wolfing down the meal he'd prepared for himself, having only recently appeared from his summer job at the Exxon station and having already declared, with a glare challenging opposition, that he'd be going out to play pool and would be home late.
Ron resisted the urge to ask Danny to take his elbows off the table and lift his face out of his plate, not because he wanted to retrain Danny—Army would come down on his head like a load of bricks if he tried anything like that with her precious pet—but because of the example Danny's behavior set for Troy. The younger son, eyes closely watching his idol, was already hunching over his own plate, elbows on table, even before he had anything to eat.
Can't wait for Danny to finish at the community college and shove on, Ron thought, not because Danny was such a bad guy—though he was spoiled rotten and had some rough edges that could land him in the slammer one of these days—but because he was the reason they needed a sitter during the day for Troy through the summer. Troy, ten and going on juvenile detention, was already developing into a discipline problem and one they couldn't trust to be home alone when he was awake.
"No problem," Crystal answered, her stance and the impatience of her looking from her Kindle to her cell phone and to her fluorescent violet fingernails belying her willingness to wait.
"Couldn't find a halter top smaller than that?" Danny suddenly spouted out, giving Crystal a sneery look.
"Fuck you, Cretan," Crystal shot back. "You're the one lookin'."
As Ron plopped the Spaghetti-O's out of the can and into a saucepan, his head snapped up. He just caught himself before admonishing Crystal for using the F word in front of Tony. But he did catch himself. Crystal wasn't his to discipline and he had enough of that needing done around his own house when Amy wasn't hovering over him and keeping him from trying. Besides, since Danny's vocabulary was heavy on the F word too, and Danny was still living here, there was no protecting Troy from that.
"Fuckin' slut, girl. You put it out there for all to see."
"Danny. Enough, please," Ron said without catching himself, as he stirred the sauce pan and turned the heat down because the contents looked like they were scorching rather than bubbling. It had ever been thus with Crystal and Danny, raised in the same neighborhood, but with different sets of friends, and now even going to the same community college. They'd always been scrapping and picking on each other. Ron had to admit, though, that the slip of a bright orange and purple halter top Crystal was barely wearing was rather sluttish. Sort of a turn on, too. There was little doubt that Crystal knew what she was doing—and who she was doing it for.
Danny snorted, but returned to his food. Crystal started to retort, but, as they all heard the garage door raise and all slipped in the tension of what they knew was coming, she slouched against the door frame and went into a pout.
Amy swept in from the garage. Thin to the point of anorexia, going with a near-Gothic everything black style today, tottering on platform shoes, and swathed in bags from the high-end women's store at the mall, the woman swung in and swept the room with her icy stare.
"Glop again for the boy's dinner, Ron? Really, I wish you make the effort. Crystal, you need to find some clothes, young lady. You have a good day at work today, hon?"
The latter comment obviously was directed at Danny rather than anyone else in the room. Troy looked like he was going to say something, but then looked crushed and shrank into his chair. Ron turned back to the stove, checked on the simmering broccoli, and started the count: one, two . . .
"You want me to fix you some dinner, Amy?" he asked, when, once again, the counting had helped. Hurray for Dr. Phil—or whoever he'd picked that up from.
"I've got a splitting migraine and am going straight to bed for an hour. Rotten time at work. Those women should learn just to close their legs if they aren't going to make the time to come in for the full prenatal workup because of all the brats they've tossed out. What are you fixing the real people for dinner?"
"There's ham left over and I'm steaming enough broccoli for both of us."
Amy marched over to the refrigerator, pulled out a carrot, and continued on to the door to the dining room. "Can you keep it quiet around here for an hour for a change? I want to get rid of this headache. Ladies' night out tonight."
The tension flowed out of the kitchen again in the wake of Amy's disappearance and clumping up the stairs to the bedroom level.
Ron stood at that stove for a minute, cooling down, and then turned and spooned half of the Spaghetti-Os into Troy's plate. He might as well have the rest of them himself for dinner. Another dinner alone.
"Sorry," he said, looking up at Crystal.
She gave him a sympathetic look. Maybe the first he'd had that day, he thought.
"Here's the glop, buddy," he said, looking down at Troy and passing the sympathetic look and a smile on. "The greens will be along in a minute."
Troy had smiled wanly back at Ron, but then his face scrunched up at the mention of the broccoli. "Fuck," he muttered.
"Troy," Ron admonished.
"I'm off," Danny broke in as he flounced up from the table and brushed past Crystal at the door to the foyer, pushing her a bit into the doorframe.
"Danny, your dishes. Can't you even . . .?" But communicating with Danny was useless. He already was gone.
"Well, shit!" The exclamation had come from overhead and Amy was clumping down the stairs and brushed Crystal into the doorframe again as she appeared beside the young woman.
"Where's my salmon-colored silk blouse? It should have been washed today."
"Sorry, Amy. I had to go into the office today. I didn't do a wash. Trouble at the office too. Harold's cancer—"
"What in the hell am I going to wear tonight, then?" Amy asked, looking at Ron accusingly. "Do I have to do everything around here myself?"
"Sorry, Amy. I'll put it on a short wash and a quick dry. You'll have it by the time your nap is over."
"God, I hate life," Amy exclaimed. She turned and the three who remained in the kitchen held their breath until she'd reached the upstairs landing.
"Sorry, Crystal. Just a few more minutes and I'll drive you home. A quick run at the washing machine."
She didn't say anything, just looked at him with sympathy in her eyes.
"Down to the basement with you after dinner, good buddy," Ron said as he dropped the minimum clusters of broccoli heads in his son's plate that he thought he could force on him. "I'll go to the gym while I'm out. And you need to try to be quiet so your mother can sleep. That means keep the TV volume down. Oh, and you're always asking if you can just take your sleeping bag down there and spend the night. Well, sport, tonight's the night."
"I can hang out in the basement all night? For real?" Troy's eyes got big as saucers and his grin wrapped all the way around his head. But then his eyes dimmed and his grin fell. "But Mom. She always says—"
"I told you you can spend the night down there, and you can," Ron shot back, a fair amount of venom in his voice. But then he softened. "You mother probably won't even know you did. But you have to eat all of that broccoli first."
Giving his father a conspiratorial grin, Troy waivered his fork over the pile of Spaghetti-O "glop" but moved on and speared a broccoli head.
Nothing much was said between Ron and Crystal as he drove her across town. The two families once had lived within a block of each other and Ron and Amy Denton and Crystal's parents, Joan and Ted West, had shared barbecues and family dinners until the Wests had moved across town. Ron felt, though, the sympathy Crystal silently exhibited for his family situation. She'd been a good egg, really—had put up with a lot so far this summer. Hadn't even said much about her parents' separation. She never said much to him about the drama she experienced in the Denton home, but this alone was a comfort to Ron. Between the office and the house, Ron didn't have much quiet time or time to think about much beyond the next chore or between Amy's tantrums.
The front of the West house was lit up like a Christmas tree when they arrived.
"Mom's been antsy about being alone ever sense Dad moved out," Crystal said as she opened the door and started to scoot out of the car.
"Sorry to hear that," Ron said. This was about as close as either got to discussing the West family situation.
Ron watched Crystal sway up the driveway, his eyes not being able to pull away from her bare back, with just the sliver of orange and purple halter back showing, not to mention her nice ass. When she had disappeared around the side of the house, he took one long look up at the second floor, just to assure himself of where the bedroom was. The lights were off in that room.
He backed out of the driveway and drove around the block, parking in front of a darkened house, with a For Sale sign on the lawn, that backed onto the Wests' lot.
He sat and smoked a cigarette, working up his courage and resolve. Waiting. After twenty minutes, he got out of the car and walked up the driveway of the deserted house and around to the back—and into the Wests' backyard. Quietly, he slipped into the kitchen door. The door wasn't locked, and, in contrast to the front of the house, all of the lights were out in the back, both inside and outside.
Silently, he inched his way up the stairs to the second floor, unbuttoning his shirt and pulling its tail out of his trousers as he moved.
She already was in bed, naked. Already prepared, wet, waiting for him, her legs opening to him as he entered the dark bedroom. Slipping his trousers off his legs and kicking his loafers off his feet, he sank down between her legs and full on top of her. She arched her back and reached down for his cock, guiding him into her. They kissed as she jerked and flinched at the feel of his journey up into her. He withdrew and then glided in again. She pulled away from his lips and sighed, her violet-colored fingernails touching his shoulder blades, as he withdrew and glided in, deeper, again.
The fingernails dug into his shoulder blades and she arched her back more and threw her head back and emitted a muffled "Oh, fuck, yes!" as his glides became ever quickening, ever deeper, ever frenetic thrusts and he began breathing hard and muttering his own "Oh, fuck, yeses."
After they had both exploded and he had collapsed on top of her between his legs, they both began quietly to cry. They hugged and kissed, the tears trickling down the cheeks of both.
"Again, please," she murmured, locking her ankles at the small of his back. And raising himself a bit off your breasts, his elbows pushing into the surface of the bed on either side of her arms, which stretched down to enable her to grasp his buttocks and dig in with those violet-painted fingernails, he began to pump inside her again.
* * *
Shaky still, even after the deed was done, Ron didn't drive straight home. Instead, he stopped at a bar some ten blocks from the West house, deciding to fortify himself with a drink before facing his own house. There would be the rest of the laundry to do, and the dishes. He'd just piled them in the sink. He hadn't wanted to hold Crystal off any longer. He had wanted to get to the West house as badly as she did, especially when he heard Amy calling from upstairs again with who knew what demand this time.
It was one of those seedy honky-tonk places that time had passed by, but Ron didn't care. He just needed a drink. He'd been just needing a drink too much of late. He'd have to get control over that. He'd have to try to get control over lots of things. He was being pulled down in the morass. He knew that. His cock knew that. But his cock didn't seem to care. It kept telling Ron that he needed to pull some pleasure out of this mess of a life he was leading.
He saw them as soon as he entered the door. Thank god the light in here was so dim, especially at the entrance, he thought. He couldn't miss her in that flashy salmon-colored silk blouse. Amy was sitting at a corner booth, grasping the arms of someone else across the table and looking deep in lust. The other arms were muscular and hairy. It certainly wasn't one of Amy's "ladies' night out" girlfriends.
Ron knew he should just turn and leave. He was shocked, but he couldn't say he was surprised. Everyone had told him, even before they'd married, that Amy was about Amy and that she had a tendency of moving on without properly letting go. The two previous marriages should have clued him in about that. But Amy before marriage was an entirely different person than Amy after marriage. And they'd invested nearly eleven years in this enterprise. But it was an enterprise that wouldn't even have gotten off the ground if it hadn't been for Troy being on the way. And, what the hell, Ron hadn't been an angel. He'd started fucking Amy before her divorce from Daniel senior had been finalized.
Amy had always resented Troy. Ron couldn't do that. None of this was Troy's fault.
Instead of leaving the bar, Ron worked his way around the dimly lit, smoke-filled room The bar was so far behind the times that apparently no one had told them the laws on smoking in a public place had changed. Tonight that was more of a help to him than a hindrance.
He gasped when he had maneuvered around enough to see the man's face. It was Ted. Ted West. As the two leaned across the table to kiss, Ron fled the bar.
He didn't even realize that he wasn't driving to his house but, rather, was speeding back to the West home. His mind was racing. All he could think of was that Joan needed to know this. He didn't even think of him as being cuckolded. All he could think of was Joan being betrayed. It didn't occur to him even that this was slightly nonsense. The two were separated. Ron had known that Ted was fucking women other than his wife even when the two families were living close to each other and socializing. But it was a guy thing. Ron hadn't seen it as his responsibility to say anything—to either Joan or Amy—at the time. It made sense that Ted would be fucking other women after he and Joan had separated. But Amy? Ron's own wife, Amy?
But of course he'd be fucking Amy. What a dolt he had been, Ron thought. Someone else must be fucking Amy. It certainly hadn't been Ron for several months. It would be natural it would be someone like Ted.
Well, you're welcome to her, good buddy, Ron thought grimly as he reached the West house. Here's hoping you're victim number four.
He almost stopped in front of the house, which was dark now, but he stopped himself. That he couldn't park the car in front of the house before was pretty much the same reason he couldn't park it there now. He'd have to park on the next block again. But twice in one night in front of a deserted house in a narrow-lot, cookie-cutter house neighborhood? He thought not. At about the same distance at the other side of the West house, though, was a cul-de-sac where the houses hadn't been built yet.
He was about to nose the car into the cul-de-sac when he saw that there already was a vehicle parked there. A beat-up old red Ford 150 pickup. The pickup registered with a shock. Danny. Danny was the only one Ron knew who drove an old red Ford 150 pickup—especially with a yellow lightning strike decal running down the side. Ron had told Danny when he put it on that it was nonsense to put any sort of racing stripe on an old pickup, but Danny had just laughed at him and done it anyway.
"It makes it my ride," Danny had said. "No one else will have one of these."
Absolutely right, Ron now thought. That can't be anyone's pickup but Danny's. He drove on half a block, stopping in front of a darkened house. He didn't pay any attention to whether anyone lived in the house or not. He didn't care.
Approaching the cul-de-sac quietly and along the darkest patches of shadows he could travel, Ron approached the pickup. The vehicle was rocking on its loose springs and the interior light was on.
The first thing that registered with Ron was the young woman's fluorescent violet fingernail polish. The second thing was the garishly colored halter top that had been flung over the sill of the open driver's side window.
Crystal, pert little breasts flopping, was in Danny's lap, facing him, and obviously riding his cock vigorously. Danny had a silly grin on his face. He had his hands holding her torso under her arm pits, his thumbs pressed into the sides of her breasts and helping her rise and fall and rotate on the cock.
Crystal was laughing softly and Danny was murmuring "Oh, baby, oh, baby, oh, baby." There was no question who was controlling this fuck. Ron had the urge to bark at Danny to at least be a little more creative in what he had to say while his dick was being polished.
But what he muttered was, "Fuckin' A. The little vixen."
They hadn't seen or heard him, thank god, so he turned and went back to the car and drove back to the West house, parking this time in the driveway. Not caring now who the shit saw him there. There didn't seem to be anyone left to judge him. Anyone, of course, except Troy, who wouldn't understand and who had a hard row to hoe now regardless—although Ron would do what he could to be both mother and father to him now. Hell, he already was both mother and father to him. One thing was certain, though. Ron would sure as hell take a strong hand with Troy here on out. No way he was going to turn out like Amy's side of the family.
And Danny wasn't Ron's responsibility.
There was someone else in the equation, though. Joan.
Ron walked up to the door and rang the doorbell—several times. Willing Joan to be at the door.
And then Joan was at the door, wrapped in a robe and giving him a quizzical look. "Ron. What—?"
"I saw them, Joan. I saw them together. He's fucking her."
"Saw them? Saw who, Ron?" she asked. Then, "You'd better come in. You'll wake the whole neighborhood. Saw who?"
"Ted. Your Ted. And Amy." He didn't say "my Amy." At a bar not a dozen blocks away. "That's who he's left you for. He's fucking Amy."
She gave him a look that moved from confusion to "of course" recognition. Ron expected her to break down.
Instead, she began laughing, hysterically, Ron thought, and he had to help her into the living room and sit her in a chair.
"That's just . . . perfect," she said when she could get control of herself.
"Perfect?" Ron asked.
"Yes. Don't you see how perfect that is?" Joan stood and unzipped her robe. Underneath, her voluptuous body was naked. "Of course it's perfect, Ron. You can come back to bed now. I wasn't finished with you earlier. And now, god dammit, we can do it with the lights on."
She reached out, and Ron looked down at the violet fingernail polish on the hand she wrapped around his forearm, coaxing him back toward the staircase to the bedroom.
Ron's first thought was that he was going to have to ask Joan to stop borrowing her daughter's nail polish.
The second thought was that, under the circumstances, maybe it would be best to wait until later in the morning to tell her about her daughter, Crystal, and his stepson, Danny.