“Bea? This is Brian. I just wanted to let you know that the service will be on Sunday.” He gave me the details, and I assured him I’d be there. It was difficult for me to talk to him knowing what I knew, but I managed to hide my disdain. In the corner of my eye, I could see Owen and Sidney leaving, so I waved to them before refocusing my attention on Brian.
“I’ll see you there,” I said, eager to get off the phone. Apparently, Brian didn’t share my sentiments because he held on, saying nothing. Finally, he broke the silence.
“Hey, you never told me what was in the other envelope,” he said casually. “Did you happen to look?” I was immediately suspicious at his innocence. I had given the photos to the cops, and I would bet my life savings that they would have interviewed Brian by now. Was he trying to pump me to find out what I knew? I decided to turn the tables on him.
“Why are you asking me? Didn’t the cops talk to you about it?” I asked bluntly, too tired to be more tactful.
“I’m seeing them in the morning,” Brian said glumly. “How about that? Just what I need—more time with the cops.” My mind raced. So he didn’t know what was in the envelope. Did Mrs. Rodriguez? I had to guess no since I would think she’d tell Brian if she knew. Unless she was planning on hanging him out to dry.
“It was personal,” I said, hedging my bets. Lydia had marked it not for his eyes, which made it personal in my book. “It’s not something I can talk about with you,” I added, trying not to be too rude. I guess it didn’t work because he got snippy with me.
“Fine. It’s not like I was her boyfriend or anything like that. It’s not like she was the most important person in my life—oh no. I’m just some Joe Schmo down the street. Why bother telling me anything?” No, asshole. You were the Joe Schmo who was fucking his girlfriend’s mother. That’s pretty abominable in my book.
“Look, Brian, I’m just honoring Lydia’s wishes. You want me to do that, don’t you?” Oh, how mean of me to play the ‘respect your dead girlfriend’ card, but how satisfying. There was no way he could say disagree without sounding like a total jerk. I waited with bated breath to hear his response. He mumbled something less that complimentary under his breath before saying in a forced jocular tone, “No, of course you’re doing what you think is right.” He didn’t sound like he meant it, though. Telling me that he’ll see me on Sunday—and not sounding too happy about that, either, he hung up the phone. Rafe and I said our goodnights and went up to my room for some after party fun.
“I have to make a phone call,” I said, reaching for my cell phone. I called the office at FunLand and left a message that I wouldn’t be in until Monday. I didn’t care if they fired me because I was getting pretty damn sick of the place.
“I still think you should quit,” Rafe said as soon as I hung up the phone.
“I know, but I’m not going to, so let’s not talk about it.” I smiled to take the sting out of my words. “I have something else for you,” I added, going to my bed and pulling the bag of goodies out from under it.
“What is this?” Rafe sounded please and surprised. “The talisman was more than enough. And the hot sex I’m presuming we’re about to have,” he added with a smirk. “You didn’t need to give me anything else. Your family has given me enough.” He waved to his booty in the corner of the room next to his bag, but I dismissed his mock-complaints with a wave of my own hand.
“Here.” I kissed him long and hard before handing him the bag. “Happy birthday, Rafe.” Thirty-one years old. He looked good for an older man.
Rafe’s eyes lit up as he opened his presents. He loved being massaged especially after a long day’s work, and he immediately opened the magnets and started playing with them. He wanted me to keep them so we could put them on the fridge at my place as he came over to my apartment three to four times more frequently than I visited his. He hasn’t done anything with his one-bedroom other than add the minimal amount of furniture needed while my home was a cozy haven after I painted the walls different shades of orange, red, and brown. Sure, my landlord had a fit, but I promised him I’d paint them back to dull beige or whatever when I moved out, if I ever did. I liked my apartment and had no intention of moving anywhere for quite some time.
After Rafe had finished opening his gifts and thanking me properly for them with several passionate kisses, I commanded him to take off his clothes. I wanted to try out the new massage oil on Rafe’s beautiful body. He was more than willing to submit to my talented fingers. Every single one of my lovers had enjoyed the magic of a Trish massage. One even likened it to the most subliminal orgasm he’d ever had. I thought that was taking it a bit far, but I appreciated the compliment. I stopped, however, when I realized the problem. It’s damn near impossible to massage someone with just one hand. Rafe was a good sport about it and said that he’d take a rain check. He was even nice enough to massage me for a while. Of course, the massage was just a prelude to spectacular birthday sex even though we had to be careful because of my stupid arm.
“I love you, querida,” Rafe said afterwards while we were curled up in my bed. My body was heavy with that sated feeling you get only after a round of good sex. I felt ripe and ready to burst. Just as I was about to answer him, my cell rang. I cursed quietly under my breath, glancing at my clock. It was ten-thirty. Who would call me that late? Only Rafe or Liza, but the former was with me and it wasn’t the latter. Glancing at my phone, I saw that it was Mrs. Rodriguez. I felt I should answer.
“Hello?” My tone was somewhat curt as I had been rudely interrupted while basking in the afterglow.
“Bea, I have to talk to you right now.” Gone was the cultured tone. In its place was a harsh, peremptory note which didn’t surprise me.
“So talk, Mrs. Rodriguez.” My own tone resembled hers as I gathered my thoughts. I couldn’t call her Marie, not after knowing what I knew.
“Not over the phone,” she replied, her voice softening a fraction. “Please come to my house. You can bring your young man if you like. Please.” Despite myself, I agreed to see her. I was chary of bringing Rafe because of her predilection for younger men, but she wasn’t his type, anyway. Rafe wasn’t happy about having to venture from the nest, but he certainly wasn’t going to let me go without him. We managed to get there in record time.
“Bea, Rafe, thank you for coming.” Mrs. Rodriguez looked haggard as if she had been put through the wringer. I didn’t think it was solely because of Lydia’s death because Mrs. Rodriguez had been pulled-together the other times I’d seen her. I had a hunch that the cops had a little chat with Mrs. Rodriguez which would account for the haunted look in her eyes. She stared at me for a second before realizing that I was hurt.
“Someone stabbed me,” I said tersely before she could ask. She gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.
“At the park?” Mrs. Rodriguez looked ill as I nodded. “Oh my god, they’re after you now.” I didn’t tell her that I might have been the intended victim all along partly because I didn’t know if it were true, but mostly because I couldn’t deal with her reaction to the news. Selfish, but true. “Are you ok?” She asked, her eyes watering. I nodded. “Can I get you something to drink? Whiskey?” Her voice wasn’t quite steady which made me wonder if she’d been hitting the whiskey before Rafe and I had arrived. It didn’t make any difference to me except that drunks often told lies they thought were truths.
“We’re fine,” I said with a strained smile. “What is it you’d like to talk to us about?”
“This is very difficult for me,” Mrs. Rodriguez began, her voice tailing away when she looked at first Rafe then me. “The cops talked to me tonight about…well, about the pictures you found.” I was intrigued by the way she had phrased it and wondered how long she would go without actually saying that she had had an affair with her dead daughter’s boyfriend. “I knew right away that I had to talk to you about it so you wouldn’t get the wrong impression.” Neither Rafe nor I could hide the incredulous looks on our faces. The wrong impression? I wonder what the right impression of a mother fucking her daughter’s boyfriend would be. I folded my hands in my lap and waited for her to tell me. She poured herself a drink first and drank half of it before continuing to talk.
“You must think I’m a horrible mother. I know what it looks like. I’d think the same thing if I found the pictures you found. It would seem inexcusable.” Rafe and I still hadn’t said a word, and I, for one, was waiting to see how she rationalized what had happened. “But, there are exceptions, and I feel this is one of them.” She still hadn’t explicitly said what she wanted to talk about, so I thought I would help her out.
“Go ahead, Mrs. Rodriguez. I’m dying to hear your excuse for having sex with Lydia’s boyfriend.” I could see Rafe rolling his eyes, but I ignored him. Sometimes, you have to call a spade a spade and stop dancing around the topic. I wanted it out in the open so we all knew exactly where we stood.
“I don’t have an excuse,” Mrs. Rodriguez snapped. I was glad that I had jolted her out of her complacency and what felt like a rehearsed rationalization. I wondered how many times she had to tell herself the same things in order to get out of bed in the morning. She didn’t seem like one of those women who could live with a disparity in her belief system and her behavior, and unless I’d read her completely wrong, sleeping with her daughter’s boyfriend would be highly taboo in her belief system. “I have an explanation.”
“Take your time, Mrs. Rodriguez,” Rafe said in a sympathetic voice. I concealed my surprise as he had been just as disparaging as I when we’d discussed the affair. My best guess was that we were to be good cop/bad cop with him taking the good cop role. That’s ok. He was better at it than I, and he was welcomed to it. “I know this is a difficult time for you, and we’re asking hard questions.” I had to refrain from glaring at Rafe as I believed he was taking it too far, but Mrs. Rodriguez ate it up. Seemed like she was one of those wilting flowers who liked to be treated with kid gloves. Sorry, lady, you ain’t getting it from me so you better enjoy it from Rafe while you could.
“It’s, well, I have to give you some background.” Mrs. Rodriguez’s voice faltered, but she bravely continued. Rafe pulled a handkerchief out from god knows where and handed it over to her. She rewarded him with a dazzling smile. I noticed that she had positioned herself so that her best side—and a healthy amount of bosom—was facing Rafe, but I didn’t begrudge her. A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.
“We don’t have all night, Mrs. Rodriguez,” I said, putting some steel into my voice. “Please make it as brief as possible.” Damn, but I was enjoying myself. How often did a person get to be a total bitch without feeling guilty about it?
“Take as much time as you need, Mrs. Rodriguez. Marie,” Rafe said, contradicting what I had said. “We want to make sure that you tell us everything you know.”
“My husband left me for a younger woman five years ago,” Mrs. Rodriguez said, dabbing at her eyes with the hankie. As far as I could see, there was no moisture, but I was a cynic. “She was two years younger than Linda, if you can imagine. Biggest breasts I’d ever seen. Yes, my ex-husband had the gall to show me a picture before he left. He thought he could show me just why he loved her so much.”
“So you decided to even things up by having an affair with a man young enough to be your son?” I asked, not bothering to hide the sarcasm. “If that’s the reason you did it, there were plenty of other guys you could have picked other than your daughter’s boyfriend.”
“Will you let me tell this?” Mrs. Rodriguez cried, clenching her fists. She no longer seemed like the poised debutante, and I could see her attacking someone while in high temper, but her daughter? That was a bit of a stretch, even for me.
“There, there,” Rafe said soothingly, patting Mrs. Rodriguez on the arm. “Would you like a glass of water, Marie?”
“No thank you.” Mrs. Rodriguez flashed Rafe a grateful look before continuing. “This is so hard to talk about.”
“How long have you been sleeping with your daughter’s boyfriend?” I asked, interrupting her musing. My goal was to keep her as off-balanced as possible, and by the way she was glaring at me, I’d say mission accomplished.
“You might not believe this, but it’s only happened three times,” Mrs. Rodriguez said with dignity. “We really did try to keep our distance.”
“Obviously, you didn’t try hard enough.” I was busting her chops, but I also wanted to break through her denial.
“You just can’t understand!” Mrs. Rodriguez’s eyes flashed as she turned to Rafe. “You’re still young, and you have this wonderful man to take care of you. I’m fifty-one years old, and I have nothing ahead of me. My husband left me for a bimbo, and I couldn’t get men my age to look twice at me. Do you know how many men I’ve gone out with in the last five years? Five. Every one of them dropped me for someone younger.” She paused to pour herself some more whiskey and to gulp down a healthy slug. “Six months ago, Linda introduced Brian to me. I had just turned fifty-one and been dumped by a fifty-five year old man who started seeing a twenty year old. Imagine how I felt.”
Despite myself, I was beginning to feel sorry for Mrs. Rodriguez. She obviously was of the generation that believed you had to have a man in order to be complete. She was a classy, good-looking woman who had played by the rules and got fucked over for it. I knew it was pretty bleak for women her age, but I hadn’t realize how depressing it was. Maybe it was just her—instinctively choosing men with whom she could duplicate her and her ex-husband’s pattern. I was no shrink, but five out of five seemed too high to be coincidental. I refused to believe that every man over fifty wanted a bimbo young enough to be his daughter.