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It’s only now that I can tell this story. For one thing, I’ve had over a decade to absorb it. For another, the on-going story seems to have reached, if not a conclusion, then some kind of plateau. Whatever the case, I give it to you, dear reader, in the hope you might gain from it some benefit. What that benefit might be is completely up to you.
Chapter One: Friday, July 4th, 2003, 4:00 P.M.
I knew something wasn’t right the moment I turned onto our driveway: the shades in our front lounge windows were drawn. They are never drawn during the day. To this day, James insists on an abundance of natural light in his work as a visual artist, and he says our front lounge is almost as good as being outdoors. But, there they were – yanked down to the sills. As I rolled closer, I noted too that the drapes had been pulled.
I clicked my remote for the garage door. At the same time, I saw that Peter’s SUV was missing from the concrete turn-around slab adjacent to the driveway. Within the garage itself, James’ Lexus was in its spot on the left, so I parked my own Lexus over to the right as usual.
“Why are Peter and Rachel not here?” I clearly remember thinking. They had just that evening before come up to Ann Arbor from Columbus. The two of them were our ‘Irish twins’: born just twenty minutes apart in adjacent rooms at St. Joe Hospital. Rachel was my then twenty-five-year-old while Peter was my nephew, the son of James’ sister – and my best friend – Abigail.
Rachel and Peter shared an apartment near the campus of Ohio State University where they were both enrolled in post-graduate studies; Rachel in education, Peter in engineering. They had, in fact, been sharing living space since their junior year at OSU. James and I never saw this as unusual. In fact, we had encouraged it. The two of them had been raised together both before and after Abigail’s death, and were essentially siblings in terms of their relationship. ‘No big deal’, we thought at the time.
Their relationship with James and me was another matter. It had been almost three years since we had last seen them. I tried to convince myself it was due to the usual things that kept young people apart from their parents: schedule conflicts, a changed circle of friends, the fact that we just weren’t as interesting to them as we were when they were children. As you will see, the truth was something else. But, back when this story begins, we had at least reconciled to the point of an actual visit from them.
All of this made their absence that much stranger. You see, my husband and I had bent over backwards to clear this Forth-of-July weekend so that we all could have a mini family reunion. It was also to be a time of making up a number of missed birthdays: they were both born on July 17, 1979.
There was all that plus, you see, our two younger children, twenty-year-old fraternal twins James, Jr. and Sarah, were also returning home from their year-long hosteling trip through Europe. This had been a long-debated and hard-earned gift to them for graduating co-valedictorians from their prep school. As for me, I had put in for this weekend off in January at the hospital where I worked as a surgical RN.
I turned off the engine, lowered the garage door and made my way into the house via our mud room adjacent to the kitchen. As I normally did, I kicked off my orthopedic shoes and then şanlıurfa escort bayan deposited my purse and car keys on the kitchen island. All the while, I was listening for music or talking – some kind of indication that my husband was here. I heard nothing.
I knew my destination was our front lounge (if for no other reason than to open the drapes and blinds). I strode carefully but steadily through the kitchen and made the left turn down the main hallway toward our front door. The stairway to the second floor was on my left. It was there I caught wind of something that smelled like dirty gym socks, but I really didn’t pay much attention to it at the time.
Looking to the right, I approached the first of two four-foot wide thresholds leading into the lounge. The first thing I noticed was that it was bathed in the orange glow from our gas fireplace along the far wall. Otherwise, the room was dark. The second thing I noticed was that James was seated in one of the two high-backed chairs located on the right (near side) of the room. The chair allowed me to see only the top of his head, but at least it was moving. I began to relax. It was a sensation I was able to enjoy for all of about three seconds.
As I came further into the lounge and the rest of him came into view, I saw two things that sent my heart up into my throat: the first was a half-empty bottle of whisky on the table next to him; the second was James cleaning one of his target pistols!
Needless to say, I froze in place almost afraid to breathe. James is not a heavy drinker by any measure. That bottle of whisky had, up until then, sat unopened in a locked cabinet for two years since coming back with us from Scotland. It was to have been saved for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary that was still two years off.
As for the weapon; one of James’ hobbies is competitive pistol shooting. He had been doing it for decades. He had even been an NRA gun safety instructor, for goodness sake! I’ve lost count over the years the number of times he’s said how guns and alcohol just don’t go together. Well, there he was violating that rule to the hilt! After about a minute of me standing near him with my hands at my mouth, he saw me.
“Hey there, babe,” he slurred, “you’re ‘ome late. E’erything alrigh’ at work?”
“It’s just after four o’clock, James,” I responded as cooly as I could. “About the same time I usually get home.”
“Oh, really? It’s kinda dark in here…”
“You have the blinds closed, dear. What the hell are you doing? Where are the kids?”
“I’m cleanin’ ma Ruger and sippin’ ma Glen Morganges… that’s not it… my Glen Morgany… Oh hell, woman! I’m drinkin’ ma wishky!”
“That was supposed to be for our twenty-fifth anniversary, or so my husband told me.”
“He, he… thish is a differen’ bot’le,” James said under his breath. “I bough’ two ah the dooey-free shop ah the airport in Glascow… Glace-go… G-l-a-s-g-o-w!” he finally and slowly spelled out.
“Great, dear, but you have to give me one of them. You choose: I get either the gun or the booze.”
Without hesitation, James handed over the pistol. I noted that the Ruger’s clip was missing. I pulled back on the slide to see if there was a bullet chambered in the breach. There wasn’t (to my immense relief).
“James, where are Peter and Rachel?”
He gaziantep sarışın escort bayan stared up at me for a long time, so long in fact that I began to wonder if he had understood the question. Just before I was set to repeat it, he answered me.
“Ya shoulda been on the top, Patty… Why weren’t ya on top? Things woulda been vherry differen’ if you’d been on top…”
“James, what are you talking about…”
“They leff here thish mornin’. I yelled en then they yelled en then they leff. I don’ know where they are. Maybe Ohio…” James said as his head swiveled over to stare at the flames flowing up in the hearth.
I stepped over to the gun case and returned the pistol to its usual spot. As I did, I continued to be troubled by the fact that my husband – who rarely drank alcohol even at parties – was sitting there completely smashed.
“James, darling,” I said as I came back and knelt at his side, “how long have you been sitting here drinking and cleaning you pistol?”
“Wha time izit?”
The smell of liquor on his breath almost floored me. I looked at my watch.
“In the mornin’?”
“Afternoon, James. It’s 4:12 P.M.”
James lifted his eyes to the ceiling in what must have been for him a Herculean effort of counting.
“Abou’ sixsh hours… give or take… some’in’…”
“Why are you drinking, James?”
“Becaush there ain’ no way I can tell ya wha’ I gotta tell ya sober!”
“Liquid courage, eh?”
“Damn straigh’, woman! Ya may wanna load that pistol. That’s why I cleaned it, Patty. Alwaysh make shure your weap’n is clean before ush!”
I let that remark pass, but it really bothered me. James had just hinted that I was going to want to shoot him once he told me what he apparently needed to tell me. In all the years I had known this man, I don’t believe we ever had more than a passing argument.
“James, dear,” I tried again, “what is going on, here? Why did you yell at the kids?”
He motioned for me to take the other chair. I did, but first I pulled it around so that my back was to the fireplace.
“If you’d juss been on top, Patty-melt-ma-heart,” he began using his over-sweet nickname for me, “ya wouldn’ haff ta ashk. You’d already know, but ya don’ know, do ya? I know ya don’ know ’cause yer still speakin’ ta me. Ha! They say tha’ wha’ ya don’ know can kill you… or ish tha’ wha’ ya do know can kill ya? Anyway, I wish I didn’ know what I know… wha’ I’ve known for almosh twenty-eight yearsh… wha’ I’ve only known for ’bout eight hours…”
“James, you are not making any sense. You’re drunk! It’s ok, I’ll call Rachel to find out where they are…”
“No!” he yelled with almost normal clarity, “No, Pat, I told them not to speak with you until I had a chance to tell them… Oww! God-damn head… Don’t make me yell again, Patty. Jesus… Just sit there a let me get through this shit in one go. Ok?”
“Ok, James. But you’ve got to start making sense or I will call her.”
“Ok, Patty, ok. Look… do ya remember the first time we made love?”
“Of course I do, but what does that have to do…”
“Just tell me, Patricia,” James demanded.
“It was the week after we buried Abby. Six days, actually…”
“Uhuh!” he said in a not-quite-believing way, “And just how many children do we şehitkamil escort bayan have together, my dear?”
“Three? I don’t recall anymore children being born after Sarah and James, Jr.”
“You adopted Rachel when she was five, honey!” I said with more than a bit of exasperation in my voice. “You’re the only father she’s ever
known… Peter, too! You know that!”
“You are so right, Patty-melt-ma-heart! But, you’re right for the wrong reason…”
“Jim, you’re still not making sense! I’m going to call Rachel…”
“I caught her on top o’ him this morning. You shoulda been on top, Patty… You shoulda been…”
Time stopped. I tried to process this verbal slap on the face that my loving husband had just delivered, but I dared not interpret it the way I thought he meant it.
“I mean Rachel was ridin’ Peter’s considerable cock like she’d been doin’ it for years… which, it turns out, she has.”
I rose slowly from my seat and stood over James…
“They were fucking?!” I yelled.
“Each other, in fact,” James stoically nodded. “Good technique, too. Lotta hip. So, Patty, that’s worth wha’… a half bottle a booze, don’cha think?”
I saw that the tumbler on the table next to the bottle still had about two fingers worth of scotch in it. I grabbed the glass and sent its contents down my gullet in one, fluid motion. Then I collapsed back into the chair. Carefully, James re-filled the tumbler and handed it to me.
“It gets worsh, Patricia.”
“What could possibly be worse than that?” I asked.
“They… are… married, my dear wife… to each other.”
It was then I learned never to ask what could be worse, because you just might find out. My extremities began shaking and it quickly went to my core. The nurse in me knew exactly what was happening: I was going into shock. James understood, as well. That is why he did what he did. He grabbed the glass from my hand, returned it to the table, and then he wobbly stood up and slapped me hard across my face. It was just what my poor, addled brain needed to re-align the electrical malfunction that this new bit of data had created in me. Then I remember James almost falling to the floor as he tried, successfully, to retake his seat.
My cheek burned, but the shaking had stopped and I was momentarily out of danger. I allowed my body to be absorbed by the chair’s plushness. Tears were streaming down from both eyes, providing both a salve and a lubricant to my skin. I rubbed them into my stinging cheek. James sat in silence, wisely deducing that I needed time to think. Or, maybe he was still in his own kind of shock.
Either way, we sat there for some measure of time – I’m not sure how long. We sat in silence. We sat there drowning our sorrows in the liquids of our own choosing.
“How can they be married?” I finally asked almost in a whisper. “They’re practically siblings, for Christ sake!”
“Not according to the Washtenaw County Clerk’s Office, Patty. They may have been raised as brother and sister, but as far as the state of Ohio is concerned, their Michigan birth certificates say they are cousins, and apparently first cousins can legally marry in the great state of Ohio.”
This was, of course, news to me. I let it sink in for another moment, then I continued my questions.
“James, tell me about this morning. I thought you were going shopping for tonight’s barbecue. How did you catch Peter and Rachel screwing?”
“Ya really wanna know, Patty? “Cause if ya do, I’ll tell ya in all its gory detail.”
I thought about it for a few seconds, then I reached again for the tumbler and took a sip.
“Ok, but don’t blame me if you either throw up, get horny or both!”
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