Stacy King and I Ch. 06byclearwinston©
As my first class was finishing up, mom texted me telling me she was just passing the town where the interstate narrowed from metro Atlanta to rural interstate (of course she just mentioned the town name, not the rest). That meant she was about 45 minutes out. I sent Stacy a text and told her I was skipping my next class and asked her to do the same so we could get home. Her return text simply read, "k". Good enough.
We met after class and walked to the truck hand-in-hand. Stacy got a couple of "Hey, Stacy's" as we walked and even called out some inside joke back and forth with another girl, followed by laughter and a wave. I love her laugh and while I was curious about the nature of the jokes, I knew better than to ask. Her response has always been, "If I told you, then it wouldn't be a private joke now, would it?" On the one hand her ability to keep secrets had been great for me, on the other it could be exasperating. Especially when I was the one from whom she was keeping the secrets.
But I was glad she was making friends. It seemed like every week there were a few more faces in her social circle and every time we were on our way out, the trip to the car took longer as she would introduce me to someone new or stop and say, "Wait, I have to talk to [insert name here] for just a minute." One of the things I noticed was that she didn't have a typical friend. She had always been that way. It had always seemed like she was as much a friend to those deemed mutants and outcasts, as she was to those in the higher social order at school. Granted, not everyone liked her and there were still some whose social group was so closed and focus so narrow that even Stacy couldn't break in, but she didn't care. She knew that not everyone likes everyone and that's just the way it is, but she also knew that there are some who feel that no one likes them and she was going to prove them wrong by making an effort and reaching out.
Because we were in kind of a hurry today, she just waved and yelled and if someone wanted something from her she would tell them to e-mail it, she was in a hurry. Soon enough we were back at the apartment and I made sure the dryer was empty and things were folded and put away while Stacy cleaned the breakfast dishes and gave everything a final rubdown with lemon-scented wood polish.
As I finished folding the towels in "our" room, Stacy came in and sprayed the dresser, wiping it down with a cloth diaper. "Hey, guess what I found out yesterday."
"You know how I said that Ashley seemed jealous because you were taken?"
She stopped and turned around, shaking her head back and forth with a mischievous smile.
"Gee, is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"No, but at least you can rest assured that it's not you. It turns out that she's a lesbian."
"No shit." Stacy turned back around and sprayed the dresser again before wiping the top down. Her ass swayed gently back and forth as she crouched and leaned and moved her arm in small rapid circles. Nice.
"Why do I get the feeling that there's more to this story?"
"Okay," stopping again, "there's a little more. It turns out some of the girls were talking in their dorm last weekend, just goofing off late at night over pizza. Naturally the conversation got to talking about sex and relationships because, you know. Girls. Anyway, someone threw out the question in a 'you have to be honest' kind of thing, and asked if they had to pick one guy on campus and one girl on campus to make out with, who would it be? Of course they all swore to secrecy, but naturally one of them broke that with me yesterday."
"Uh huh. Move it along."
"Relax," she smiled, "I'm getting to it. The girl who asked the question said that she would kiss Cole Richards and then named some girl. When she said Cole Richards, apparently most of the girls agreed with that, but when it came to the girls, the answers varied. But Ashley apparently mentioned me."
"Really?" I was genuinely surprised.
"I know, right? So the girl who told me said she wasn't surprised because she's seen the way Ashley looks at me when I'm not looking. She said, 'You know she's a lesbo, right?' I told her I really didn't. I had no idea. Can you believe that?"
"Who's Cole Richards?" I asked
"Trust me. You have nothing to worry about." She winked at me to make her point.
"All right. So Ashley's a lesbian with a crush on you. Are you gonna go for it?"
"Shut up!" she laughed and threw the cloth at me, hitting me in the face.
"I'll take that as a yes," I said.
"You'd like that, huh? Watching me with another girl?"
"You never know." I wriggled my eyebrows.
"Yeah, well don't get your hopes up. I don't swing that way." She looked around and said, "Okay, I think everything looks okay for mom. What do you think?"
"Looks good to me." I walked over and kissed her. "Thanks, babe."
We put the towels and the cleaning supplies away and a few minutes later mom knocked on the door. Stacy answered it and greeted mom with an excited greeting and hug. As soon as she let go, I hugged her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She had a small overnight bag with her, which surprised me. I hadn't expected that.
"Why the bag, mom?" I asked as I took it from her.
"Your father sometimes makes contacts and has business dinners and drinks with other people. He can be late coming in so we thought that if he had dinner plans, there's no reason I should rush back. He'll let me know this afternoon. Is that all right?"
"Of course," Stacy said. "Why wouldn't it be?"
I couldn't think of a reason I could share. Of course I had a reason, but not one mom could know about.
"Oh, good. I don't want to impose."
"Not at all, mom," I said. I set her bag at the end of the couch. "Are you hungry? We haven't had lunch yet."
"We haven't been back to the Crowe's nest since my first night here. What do you think, T.?" Stacy recommended.
"Sounds good to me. I could go for that."
We piled into mom's car and Stacy drove us to The Crowe's Nest. It was busier during lunch as a lot of the local business employees went for the lunch specials. Mom enjoyed her grilled chicken salad as Stacy and I both got the buffalo sandwich basket again. As we ate, mom transitioned from small talk to the business of the business.
"Have you two thought about the apprenticeship offer?" she asked.
I answered after an approving nod from Stacy. "We have. We've talked about it a few times and were looking at some things and we'd really like to take you up on it."
Mom's face lit up with the news and her smile lit up the room. "I'm so glad! Your father will be so happy to hear it! I know you will both do well. So what have you been thinking?"
Stacy fielded this one. "I think I'll continue pursuing a business degree and work more with the business and customer service side. You know, billing, accounts, marketing, all that stuff. Cory has been more attracted by the design aspect so he'll work more with the shop and kitchen design aspect. If our apprenticeships could more fall in with those areas, we think it would be the most beneficial for everyone."
"I think we could arrange that. If you want, we'll go ahead and start moving toward Christmas and give you a few days at the shop before you come back to school. That way you can see how things work in a more hands-on way and can also help you gain some focus for some of your classes along the way."
"We really appreciate this, mom. It takes a lot of pressure off while we're here, and gives us a more definite path toward graduation." I was positive that my statement was not speaking out of turn for Stacy because we had discussed this several times over the course of the last few weeks. She just nodded, glancing at me to make sure I saw before returning her focus to mom.
"Great, then have you thought about the trade show this weekend?"
"I think we're going to give it a shot tomorrow. Maybe dad will introduce us to a few people?" Stacy requested.
"I'm sure he will. You have your passes and schedules. Your passes will get you into the free parking for the convention because you're considered vendors and have a booth. So just come, find the booth number on the map and we'll go from there."
"Thanks, mom," Stacy said.
We ate and talked about school and work and all kinds of things when mom's phone rang, playing George Strait's "Check Yes Or No," her customized ring tone for my dad.
"Hey....yes, we're at dinner right now....No, they said it would be fine.....Hey, they agreed to the apprenticeship and are coming tomorrow. They want to meet some of your contacts....No.....Okay, I'll tell them. Have fun and be safe....Love you, too. Bye."
"Man, I hope that was dad," I said. Mom smiled and shook her head while Stacy snickered.
"Your father," mom emphasized 'father' for my benefit, smiling as she did so, "has his dinner plans, so it looks like I'm staying here tonight. And he said he would be happy to introduce you around."
Stacy was excited. "Yay!" she exclaimed.
I wasn't as much. Not that I didn't want mom here, but that meant I was on the couch tonight. And I would have to change my sheets when we got home. It's just one night, I thought. I can make it one night. I went two years away from her, so one night should be easy.
We spent the afternoon showing mom around the town and looking at the local shops. She and Stacy had a great time looking through the little stores on old downtown Main Street, especially the Christmas store. They especially got a kick out of the "redneck" Christmas items. Mom mentioned that she had never seen so many pick-up trucks in one town before and I told her that I remember having that same feeling, but that this was a big chicken farming area, and I quickly got used to it. Where we had lived was more suburban and people had pick-up trucks, but they were mostly nice and clean, people hauling the occasional mulch from Home Depot, or their latest garage sale finds. People in this little town had trucks that were perpetually flecked with red clay around the fenders. They were working trucks, hauling trailers with hay and feed, and yes, chickens.
Mid-afternoon found us wanting a little ice cream from the local parlor and we all agreed that it reminded us of the one back home, where Stacy worked. While this one had a decent variety, it wasn't quite the same as what was back home. I had cookies and cream, mom chose butter pecan, and Stacy selected rocky road, each of us requesting sugar cones. While it was still a little warmer than mom was used to, it was a nice day and the breeze was cooler than it was a month ago. We enjoyed our walk through town. Mom and Stacy chatted and laughed and I usually walked a step or two behind them, not wanting to interrupt their conversation which bounced all over the place.
Soon enough we decided to return home and relax a little, giving our legs a break. "We will do plenty of walking tomorrow," mom reminded us.
When we walked in the door to the apartment I picked up mom's bag and announced that I was going to put it in my room and change my sheets for her. She followed me in, trying to talk me out of it. "You'll do no such thing. I'll sleep on the couch tonight."
"No, ma'am. You raised me better than that. I couldn't do that."
"It's my turn to sleep on the couch," Stacy called from the door as she walked in, grabbing the bag off my bed. "Thomas gave up his bed the first night I got here, so it's my turn. And my sheets are clean, so it saves a step." She was talking as she walked out of the room and turned into the hall.
"Stacy," mom called after her, "wait!"
I heard them going back and forth, each insisting on their way, and I didn't know if I should argue my way. But I knew both of them well enough to know that they are both strong-willed enough that I wouldn't win anyway, so I opted out. I sighed and walked out the door and stood in Stacy's door as I heard mom finally surrender, "Okay, if you're sure." She sighed and looked defeated, but appreciative.
"I'm positive," Stacy said, giving mom a hug.
"Thank you, sweetie." She stepped back from Stacy and turned to look back and forth between us and said, "Now if you would like, I'll take you out to dinner somewhere. So clean up and pick a spot that's nicer than where you would go without me."
"Well, it's kind of a small town, so there's not a lot of choice apart from chain restaurants and fast food," Stacy said.
"There is one place I've heard good things about, but I've never been. It's Italian, if you're up for it."
They both agreed that it sounded good and we went to our separate rooms to get ready. I was about to take a shower when there was a knock on my door. I opened the door and mom asked where the towels were. I told her they were in the hall closet. Stacy was in the bathroom at the time, so mom was waiting to get in since there were only two bedrooms and they were both occupied so we could get ready to go.
About a half-hour later, I was dressed in a golf shirt and some navy golf pants, which was nicer than I usually wore, but wasn't formal by any means. Stacy was wearing a black dress that had a v-neck and the skirt came to just above her knees. Her hair was curled a little and her make-up was freshly done.
"You look amazing, Stace," I told her, bringing a blush.
"Thank you," she said. "You look nice, too."
I received her compliment and whispered, "If mom wasn't here..."
"Sshhhhh. But she is. I'm trying not to even think that way. This is hard enough as it is. I don't need you making promises you can't keep right now." She laughed a little as she said it, but we both knew we were in the same boat.
"Either way, you look ravishing."
Stacy and I sat and talked while mom was finishing up. I had called ahead to Villa Napoli telling them we would be three for dinner and we agreed on a time. Mom opened the door and walked out, dressed in some nice black pants and a shirt that had a scoop neck and was mottled with orange, red, and black. It's hard to describe, but it looked nice and it was something she could wear to work, but was also nice for her to wear it to dinner with us. Mom always dresses for work and her wardrobe is almost exclusively professional/casual wear it seems.
"Wow, mom, you look great," Stacy said
"Very nice, mom," I added.
"I called ahead and by the time we get there, they should be about ready for us. Mom, can we take your car since it has the most room?" I asked.
She agreed and I opened the doors for both ladies, watching as my mother slid into her seat before closing the door, then taking a chance to look at Stacy's legs as she slid into hers before hiking her skirt up a little to show more thigh, smiling at me as she teased. I gave her an exasperated look and shook my head before smiling as I closed the door. I drove mom's black Avalon the few miles to Villa Napoli and turned into the small parking lot, which was mostly hidden by a white-painted brick wall a little taller than the car, with some kind of vines weeping over the sides of it.
As I drove, I noticed that mom was looking out the window, not saying much and had a familiar worried look on her face. When Stacy would ask her a question, she would perk up and answer, putting on her "there's nothing wrong" face, but I could see what Stacy couldn't while sitting behind her. I never said anything, not wanting to ruin the evening. After all, it could be any number of things I didn't know about anyway: business, money, my father's evening out, or just a mom who missed her kids. Who knows?
As I opened the doors, I let mom out first, then Stacy and closed each door behind them before setting the alarm and walking across the narrow parking lot to the small brick building with tinted windows and "Villa Napoli" printed in white cursive across the window of the wooden front door. As promised, our table was ready and we were seated near the back of the dimly-lit dining room which was peppered with candle light at each table.
Dinner was nice. Mom and Stacy both ordered something I couldn't pronounce, mom's in a red sauce and Stacy's in a white cheese sauce. I ordered the shrimp spaghetti and couldn't believe how good it was. The shrimp were small and plentiful and there was no fishy taste to them. The marinara and thin noodles complemented both the taste and texture so perfectly I made a note that I would have to return sometime in the future.
Mom was mostly silent as we talked, but she jovially joined in the conversation. It still seemed like this was her "professional" face, the one where she focused on the desires and needs of the client and her own feelings and mood had nothing to do with it. Just an hour ago she seemed fine. What happened?
I found out soon enough. After dinner we went back to the apartment and I placed both of the leftovers from their dinners, and the breadsticks into the refrigerator. "Why don't we change?" mom said, "There's something I want to talk to you about." She didn't say another word as she went to Stacy's room and closed the door.
Stacy looked at me with a look of confusion. I just shrugged my shoulders and shook my head. "What's going on?" asked my sister.
"I have no idea. She was fine before dinner, but then she seemed worried about something. Do you think she talked to dad and heard something she needs to tell us?"
"I don't know, T. I'm a little worried now."
I went to my room to change and mulled over what could be going on. When I was finished changing into my shorts and t-shirt, I came back out and mom was there alone, sitting at the table chewing her thumbnail. Her brow was furrowed and she had puppy dog eyes. When she saw me, she stopped chewing and crossed her arms across her chest while faking a smile.
"Mom, are you okay?"
"Um...yeah...I...could you get us some water, please?"
"Yeah, sure." I went to the fridge and got out three bottles of water and carried them to the table before opening them up. I handed one to mom, who sat at the head of the table, then set one in front of the chair at one side for Stacy, and I sat down in the chair opposite that one, to mom's right. I didn't say anything else and just sat there looking at the grain on the table, bumping my water bottle back and forth between my thumb and forefinger, letting it travel nearly a full inch before knocking it back with the other finger. If mom was irritated by this, she didn't say anything.
I didn't know why it took Stacy six hours to change clothes, but it did. Or maybe not, according the clock, but it sure seemed like a lot longer than the eight minutes the oven clock said. I made a note to remind myself to call the landlord and have him check that clock. As soon as Stacy's door opened, mom straightened up in her chair and took a sip of her water. Stacy looked worried as she slid into the chair across from me, giving me a quick sideways glance before looking back at mom.
Mom took another sip of her water before clearing her throat. She took a deep breath and looked at the table as she asked, "I don't know how to say this, so I'll just say it. Have you two been sharing a bed here?"
Damn that shrimp! No one bothered to warn me that an hour after dinner they would join forces to conspire against me, but they did. They all unified like some giant seafood Voltron, becoming a fierce warrior trying to burst out of my stomach by any means necessary. I didn't remember swallowing tiny torches and pitchforks, but a revolt was under way.
"Mom..." Stacy said, glancing at me wide-eyed.
"Yes or no. Thomas?"
"No, mom! Why...what are you talking about?"
She got up and walked to the hall closet, opening it and pulling out a package of sheets before coming back and dropping it on the table.