Debra and Anna arrived on the mark at 2:00. We had better be ready. Debra had issues with tardiness. After all, it was her world; we are simply here for amusement. We were supposed to be heading to Freeport.
"Jack and Lee are meeting us in Galveston" Debra and I were alone in her truck, while Anna, Jackie and the children drove in our family car.
"What?" I was not prepared for this. "I am not dressed to meet them!"
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you" Debra explained, "It is supposed to be a surprise"
"Are we meeting them to eat?" I asked.
"That and we are staying the weekend with them at the Galvez."
"I have nothing packed" This was going to be a disaster. Jackie had to leave in the morning to go back to Chicago. "What about Jack?"
"What about Jack?" She asked, "Which Jack are you speaking of?"
"You know what Jack" my voice rose in anger "My Jack"
"Oh, it's YOUR Jack." Debra reached for her cigarettes as if on cue. She took her time, the accusation hanging in mid air. She lit the cigarette, holding the wheel with her right hand,she drew in the nicotine, slowly releasing it . Her sarcasm was not lost on nne.
"And about your yelling at me"
"Debra, please tell me, how do I play this game?" I continued, "I was not yelling, if you want me to yell..."
"You better not" she threatened, "I will pull this truck over so fast Jack will plow into my ass"
I was loosing already, not even one month out and we were having our first quarrel. As I look back, we had several quarrels, which I was not privy to.
"Okay, I get it, you don't want to know or hear anything about Jack. Am I Correct?"
“What do you think?" she rolled down the window and blew smoke out the window. "I want you to sit next to me…”
"Absolutely not" I looked out the rearview window "Jack..."
"I know, I know" she interrupted "I’m not stupid. But eventually Dianne you are going to have to deal with this" She continued, "The day is going to come where everyone will know. And as far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better."
There it was the ultimatum. Thing was, she never really issued one. This was her game and she was going to play everyone as she wished.
"And about that I'm going to ride with Jackie nonsense, what the hell was that about?"
"I never said I was going to ride with him. I just assumed, we are a family after all." I stared out the side window, watching Jackie and Anna caught up in their own troubled discussion.
"You just assumed. Well guess what, unassume?"
Did she even know what that meant? Is that even a word? I guess I did in my way. She was showing first true signs of jealousy. There had been other times. At the beach with Jackie, Anna and the kids. At Kindred Spirits with Bootsie. I didn’t know her as I do now and I just assumed those were judgment calls, about straight women, and the situation with Bootsie I attributed to keeping me away from infidelity. Now I know, I looked back and contemplated how strong her reactions were. Did I want this? No doubt. All women want it and they are deceiving themselves if they say they don't. Jealousy is a valid feeling; it keeps unions together by protecting the integrity of you spouse/partner.
"Debra, let it go."
"What the ?!?" she started, but I wasn't having it.
"What are me and the children going to do for clothes?" I was not going to spend what few stolen moments we had arguing about something we could do nothing about.
"This was to be a surprise. Jack brought Lee down her for hers, yours and Trey's birthday" Debra calmed down almost immediately and that was a bit unsettling how quickly. "Lee bought the children new clothes and of course she brought stuff for you"
Lee was always generous with me. Jack was generous when he wanted the children. He couldn't give a flying fuck for me. Lee had wonderful taste, always buying things for me, exactly the same items for Anna, dressing us like twins. Anna never cares and I certainly didn't. I was never close to my sister. Anna was like an only sister to me.
"Anna and you wear the same size, so she packed extra for you in case Lee made bad seasonal choices"
It was ungodly hot already. Just 2 weeks prior Chernobyl had blown a gasket and people still felt, after close to 3 weeks, it could still affect us. Weather services stated the disaster affected the weather. We were having extreme highs over 100 degrees already.
Hopefully, she brought nice cool airy things. But, as Debra said, Anna took care of everything.
I had just realized that was what Anna and Jackie were talking about.
"Anna and Jackie must not be talking about this, with the kids in the car…” I trailed off glancing in the rearview mirror. At once, for one moment, they were both staring at me. It startled me. In seconds, they were both in the throw of conversation, both laughing.
"What’s wrong?" she lit another cigarette. I wished, at that moment, I smoked. "Why are you so jumpy?" She held her cigarette out the window, flicking the ashes, blowing the smoke in that all too familiar Marlboro Man gesture, smoke blowing out the side of her mouth. She was such a clean, almost neurotic person. She too, stared at her rearview mirror. I looked back at mine...and then...again.
"See that? Did you see that Debra'
"Stop!" she barked, "You are acting like a crazy woman. Do you ideally think they have any idea?"
"No, it all feels so sordid"
"Is this the way you're going to be through this trip?" I was sitting back against the truck door, my knees to my chin. She grabbed my right leg and pulled it on to her leg.
She took off her rings and put one of my tapes in the tape player.
I pulled my leg back and with one hand she grabbed both of my ankles and pulled my feet.. 'Behave!"
Soon I forgot about everything, what we were speaking of, what Jackie and Anna are talking about, what Lee and Jack are up to. Everything whirled together into a bubble, flying far above our heads. I was numb to everything but Debra's touch.
We were on the road about 90 minutes. We drove into Galveston past the beautiful memorial mansions, the Bishop’s House, and onto the Stewart beach main drive.
"C’mon, Di, get up. Comb your hair." She put out her last cigarette almost in unison with Jackie and Anna. I watched the two of them as I started to put on makeup. "You do not need that!"
I put the makeup back in my purse turned to the front of the vehicle just as we drove into the Galvez. Jack and Lee were waiting outside. This was in the time of no cellular. But they knew Debra was like a clock, she arrived, always when she said she would. Lee was all smiles, jumping and waving always giddy to see her babies, Anna Jackie, Devo and Trey. I always hoped I was part of that. Now when I looked at them, I felt absolutely awful. I thought about what they would say. There were seven out of the eight of us that were to be betrayed. I grimaced; I had no respect for myself.
I wanted to beg a headache and stay in my room. In fact, that is exactly as I plan.
I gave the per functionary look of surprise and glee, though most of it was not faux. I was surprised. My troubled look would be interpreted as curious.
"Dadita!" Lee called me that. Italian for "chic" "You look wonderful. I am so glad you are not so thin anymore.” I needed that. I feel so much better.
We all hugged. Jack and Lee both treated Debra as one of their own. I need to be poisoned, or thrown from a balcony.
"Gee I hope you fit into the things I brought" Again, thank you. I put on the mask of unexpected glee"
"What?" I smiled "Lee, you are so good to me, you shouldn't do that, I already have so much"
"I know you have nothing with you" she smiled impishly "You needed something to wear for the weekend."
I feigned surprise at the short holiday.
The rooms at the Galvez were small, so we each had our own room. As small as they were, Jack insisted the children stay in their room. I obliged. Like I had a choice. Debra kept one eye on me at all times. Puppeteer pulling the strings and making me perform as she expected.
Debra nudged Anna. "Dadita room with us", Anna used this familiarity with me often. Always when her mother was about.
"Nope ladies" Jackie used that word sarcastically, "You have had her long enough. I am leaving at o'dark thirty for Chicago. She staying here, with me."
Debra was at a boiling point. What the hell should I do? I couldn't very well tell Jackie NO and she knew it. But she still played the harmed paramour.
We went to our assigned rooms, all of us keeping our doors open, a prerequisite in Italian households. Free for all, in hotel rooms, at the dinner table, eating off each other's plates. Anna came running in.
"'Di, c'mon, momma has things for us" Anna was a treasure, but even more when her mom was about. I always worried she would be jealous of the kids. She was the youngest. However, that was never the case. She treated the children like siblings, as she did me.
We ran into the room Jack and Lee were in, to claim our prizes.
Jack was handing a wad of cash to Trey. "Take Devo downstairs to play in the video arcade. However, be in the restaurant by 4:30. Look at your watch, son, what time is it?"
"That's right, so there are no excuses" and away they went. Jack had scoped out the hotel prior to our arrival. Assured me he paid off the security guard to watch them. You'd think he was the Dago instead of Lee. I was concerned, but Jack would not allow me to intervene. Such a fucking ass. Lee looked at him with a mixture of disgust and recognition.
Anna was digging through the wasteland that was once an empty floor. Pulling items and separating them, putting the feminine colors for me and the more subdued for her. She threw white linen gauze tie waste pants to me with a matching tank top. Jockey underwear and Burkenstocks for herself, silk panties and sandals for yours truly. Lee handed Debra some androgynous shorts and a couple of nice tees and thongs (shoes).
Debra and Jackie both reached for the panties. I stopped cold, looked up first at her and then him.
"These won't fit you Debra," Jackie laughed.
"You think?" Debra snarled back and picked up the panties bra and for good show, also gathered up Anna's things.
"That Debra" Lee said, "Everything has to be so so. Nothing lying around"
Except me I thought.
We went to our rooms and I broke it to Jackie I would not be joining them for dinner. "Please give them my apologies. I have a headache" Not hard to believe since I had migraines quite often back then.
"I'll bring something up for you, I'll have my dinner up here" he offered
"You'll do no such thing" I knew this would be added to a checklist Debra was keeping. Better to keep the work orders short. "I am going to sleep"
On that I went to bed after darkening the room.
About 30 minutes later I heard a key in the door. He must have brought something up anyhow.
In seconds, I breathed in a fragrance that has become so much a part of me these last few weeks.
I had on my new panties, no top.
She stopped "Who are these for?“ She snapped the leg band, “Jackie?"
"No, for me. You know how much I love this stuff. I only had on a bathing suit Debra"
That must have satisfied her. "I need to tire you out before Jack comes back"
"Where is everyone?" I asked, tentatively. "How did you get my key?"
"I exchanged it with Jackie's when I picked up yours and Anna's things. He deserved it after that crack he made about those panties."
"They haven't finished dinner yet" she continued, "I told them I need to go to my room and call my mom. My dad isn't doing well."
The room closed in, her embrace was distracting. I did not have the guts to tell her that Jackie had both of our keys. But that family could spend an inordinate amount of time at the dinner table.
"Dianne, I don't want to go on like this." she sounded defeated. "I need you now, not later, now"
"Debra, I don't know where to start to give that to you" I begged, "I really don't know if I can".
"You can tonight. Right now"
It felt like blasphemy. It didn't stop me.
Then a card sliding through the lock. Debra toppled to the floor, no doubt to crawl under the bed, I sat up frozen, the sheet tucked beneath my chin.
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