Cindy flung herself into her chair and shook her head.
“That man is driving me crazy. Crazy! I know I’m picky about things so I try to cut him a little slack because I know he isn’t going to do the housekeeping things up to my standards. And I get that, I try to be ok with it and be thankful he does anything at all.”
I looked over at Lauren, whose husband had died four years ago, and I saw the vein throbbing in her forehead, the same one that throbbed every time she heard any of us going on and on about how awful our husbands were. We all knew how hard things had been for Lauren since Stuart’s car accident, with 3 small kids and no support from his family and having to go back to work – we had all delivered meals and babysat and picked up kids from school and worked our networks to help her find a job and given her money and hugged our husbands a little tighter and checked the life insurance policies. We knew Lauren had been depressed, lonely, overwhelmed, and I wished Cindy would be a little more sensitive. But she just kept going on and on.
I tuned her out until I heard the words “guest room.” I looked up, my cheeks blazing and my eyelid twitching. “What?” Was all I could manage without giving away how shaky my voice was, how afraid I was to have been found out already.
“I said I think he let the damn dog on the bed in the guest room while I was at work on Monday.” I took a deep breath and let it out. “You’re kidding!” I feigned outrage.
“Not at all! Can you imagine? I got home and checked the house like I always do and saw that the bed was rumpled. It had been perfect when I left. He was in charge and one specific thing he knows better than is letting the dog on any furniture, especially a bed. What if we had guests who are allergic? I had to strip the bed and wash and iron all the linens 3 days early.” She shook her head in derision. “Can you imagine? A dog. On the guest bed. Jesus.”
The running commentary in my head went something like this:
You checked the house? Like you always do? And apparently you check it before you leave? What’s wrong with you? No, seriously, what the actual fuck is wrong with you? Wait, did she call me a dog? No, nothing about me. Well, bitch, if someone is allergic to your fucking dog, the fur and dander is everywhere so calm down about the bed and oh my God I was right you iron the sheets and you have an actual schedule for your sheet ironing. Holy shit, you are crazy.
Cindy just kept talking. “The other night he fell asleep in his chair before 11. He was snoring. The whole thing was ridiculous.”
Now it was Jenn’s turn to pretend like she was horrified. “What did you say? That’s crazy! A man asleep before 11. Ridiculous.”
Cindy was so self-righteous she completely missed Jenn’s rampant sarcasm. “I threw his shoes at him until he woke up.”
I gasped. I couldn’t help it. She seriously threw shoes at a grown man because he fell asleep I’m his own home?
Lauren couldn’t keep quiet. “Don’t you think that’s a little over the top, Cindy? He works hard. Give the man a break.”
The heat coming from Cindy was palpable. I don’t think anyone had ever called her out like this before; and definitely not in front of people, It was like that moment in grade school when two kids were verbally sparring and you could feel that one of them had gone too far, just one step too far, and even as a bystander you could feel the vibe shift from verbal to physical. You could feel the tension as muscles coiled, smell the fight or flight hormones surging through the kids’ bodies, you knew, before you could articulate it, that some shit was about to go down.
I held my breath. I felt the exquisite stillness around me as we all waited for the next thing to happen.
I couldn’t completely reconcile that two women I knew, two friends, two mothers, were about to come to blows. But in that moment it truly felt that way.
The most surprising part, for me, was that neither if these women was me. At least not yet.
Just as Cindy was about to decide what to do, Josh appeared on the patio. “Ladies, someone’s phone is ringing. It’s the Star Wars Imperial March, which seems like it might be important.”
“That’s mine, sorry ladies. That’s my ring tone for Daniel’s mom. She never calls unless something’s wrong.”
I scooted in the house, followed closely by Josh. I found my purse and began to look for my phone, on top of everything, though, was a note that hadn’t been there earlier. Josh looked me straight in the eye and said “It’s from, me but you need to read it when you’re alone.”
My heart pounded. I could not wait until I had time to read it. Jenn crept up behind me. “Everything ok?”
I shook my head slightly. “I can’t find my damn phone in all this shit…oh, here it is.” I listened to my voicemail and apparently my father-in-law had had a rough day. There was no emergency- he had been having more and more rough days lately since his Alzheimer’s was progressing. It was, however, still an excuse to leave, to break this bad energy, to read whatever Josh had left for me.
“It’s my father-in-law. I need to go take them some groceries, he’s at the point that she can’t leave him. I’ll tell Cindy…”
Jenn touched my arm. “I’ll deal with her. You go. Call me later.”
I smiled gratefully, gave Jenn a quick hug and took off. I had had just about enough of mom’s night.