Sandra Bunino and I have collaborated to bring you a FREE holiday blog serial that runs in 18 parts of usually less than 1000 words for each post—easy reading on your lunch break.
Prefer to read on a Kindle or Nook? No problem, just head over to Smashwords every Wednesday to download week one (parts 1 – 4), week two (parts 5 – 9), and week three’s (parts 10 – 14) volumes, FREE! I also post the volumes on ARe on Thursdays.
Of course, you can catch up here: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
And now, PART 16 of Second Chance Layover (Click title to read a quick summary of the story):
I stretched a thin smile across my lips, grabbed my coffee and moved over to collect my mother’s drink. A tedious number of minutes later, I joined her at the tiny table.
“Thank you, son.” Her mood had ridden the elevator up a few floors. Mine remained lodged in the basement.
“The prices are atrocious here,” I groused.
“Are they? I hadn’t noticed. I think they charge the same as everybody else.”
“And the staff are rude.”
She flipped a jeweled hand at me. “Oh, don’t mind Saul. He’s hurting. His wife left him for another man and now wants half of the coffee shop in the divorce. This shop is Saul’s baby. It’s a crying shame what that woman is doing to him.” A tutting sound followed by a loud slurp of her coffee filled her pause. “She hired some expensive divorce lawyer who is really going overboard, because she hates men and likes to stick it to them.”
Most people didn’t understand the court system or divorce law. Attitudes like Saul’s and my mother’s weren’t uncommon. Didn’t mean I could resist the urge to challenge those opinions. “Who hates men? The wife or her lawyer?”
My mother leaned in closer. “The lady lawyer, and I use the term loosely. And speaking of loose, I’d say Saul’s wife likes men too much.”
“Her lawyer’s not to blame, Mother. They don’t get emotionally involved in their cases, or they shouldn’t. The good ones don’t because they have a job to do, which is to get an equitable settlement for their client.”
Another loud slurp and a roll of her eyes over the top of her cup told me exactly what she thought of that idea. She set the cup down and dabbed her lips. “All I can say is I’m glad you aren’t a divorce attorney or a public defender.”
“You don’t like public defenders?” This was news to me. “Why not?”
“How could anyone defend vermin like the pair in the county jail, the ones who kidnapped and murdered some poor woman from the arcade last year?”
“Allegedly kidnapped and murdered the victim. They haven’t been tried yet.” Though I too suspected they were guilty, I couldn’t help playing devil’s advocate, mostly because I truly believed in innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, emphasis on the last three words.
“Just a formality. They did it. Everyone knows they did it. I don’t need a court of law to tell me what’s as obvious as the nose on your face.” She tapped her fingernails against the side of the cup she held in her other hand.
“There could be extenuating circumstances,” I argued. “There could be technical issues with how the evidence was gathered, miscarriages of justice. Someone else might have called the shots.”
My mother set her cup down with emphasis. “There’s too much blaming going on these days. Do something stupid? No problem. Just sue the company for not fully explaining in six different languages. Make a bad grade on a test? No worries. Simply demand a do-over because you were allergic to the ink on the page. Kill a woman in cold blood? Well who sold those boys the gun? Surely it’s his fault. Maybe it’s the fault of the killers’ parents. Prosecute them. It’s ridiculous. There’s no excusing what those two did. They should go to prison for the rest of their rotten lives. I don’t care if they’re only eighteen.”
“You do have a point,” I said nodding.
“Which brings me to your sister and why I wanted to talk to you, away from the house and all the memories.” She tilted her head and pursed her lips, her eyes locked with mine.
My humor drained away. “What about her?”
“You need to stop beating yourself up for her death. No one is to blame for Renata’s death but Renata. I know you tried. You did all you could.”
“It wasn’t enough—”
“It never would have been enough, because the only one with the power to change the path of her life was Renata herself. It wasn’t your fault or Hollywood’s fault. She made the choices she did. No one else. She knew the consequences she flirted with.”
Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
She reached out and placed a hand on top of mine, warm and comforting. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled you decided to leave LA and come back to New York. That’s the one good thing to come of your sister’s death—she brought you closer to me.”
“Ma, you can’t…”
Her other hand reached for and cradled mine between her two. “Sometimes when bad things happen, you have to search for the good, and not dwell on the bad, the blame, the woulda, coulda, shouldas. Human beings are capable of both horrific and amazing things. Cling tightly to the good. Learn your lessons from the bad, but move on.”
“I don’t know if I can. I’m just so … so furious.”
She released my hand and smiled. “So passionate and intense. You always were. I remember you and Duncan getting into one of your knock down, drag out fights. I thought you would surely kill him one day. But then you’d fight your way through the fog, gain some perspective, and the two of you would be best buddies again. Duncan used to laugh with me. ‘Mrs. W,’ he’d say. ‘Is it safe to visit Cal yet?’ I’d either send him up to your room with a couple of brownies or cookies or I’d send him on home for a few more hours.” A girlish giggle erupted from her mouth. She covered it with her hand.
I laughed too. “He never told me…and he never once brought me a cookie or a brownie, the little thief!”
We chuckled together and reminisced a bit more. “You still talk to Duncan?” she asked.
“Not as much as I used to. We talked a few days ago. I ran into his sister, Charli at O’Hare airport. She was on her way to Aspen for Christmas.”
A grin bloomed on my mother’s face. “Charli. How wonderful. She lives in New York City too.” And damned if she didn’t wiggle her eyebrows at me. “She used to have such a crush on you. Remember?”
My smile lost tension and slowly faded. “Yeah. I remember.”
“Maybe you should look her up. Have her show you around. She always kept you on your toes, so full of sass and wit, called you out when you acted ridiculous.”
Her words sliced cleanly through skin and muscle like a scalpel, all the way to the bone, nicking my heart along the way. I was bleeding ridiculousness. A more pompous, puffed up, drunk on his own self-righteous Kool-Aid asshole had never lived.
What had I done? More importantly, what was I going to do? I had to see her, talk to her, throw my foolish, ridiculous self at her feet and beg for forgiveness. Plead insanity…because I must have been insane to have said all I said to her, to have let her walk out of my room, out of my life.
I had to get her back.
No matter what it took. I would get her back.
Because … oh shit… Was it possible?
I wanted her in my life, and not for a single night in an airport hotel. Now that I’d had a hit of the wild, exhilarating drug named Charli, I had no idea how I’d ever live without her. My addiction had no remedy, no rehab, and nothing short of an intervention to get her back would do.
Aww finally, he’s getting some sense knocked into that thick skull of his! Hopefully he’s not too late…
Please be sure to come back on MONDAY for Part 17! The final part 18 runs on Tuesday. i can’t believe we’re almost finished.