There sat Meg on the couch, leaning on one thigh so as to avoid putting weight on the fresh scratches and bruises that marred her ass.
There sat Todd on the terrace, eyes closed and dressed head to toe in black, stoned and zoned out to his MP3 player.
There stood Marcus, near my desk, his hand bandaged, his face frozen in a smile.
For here was my ex, Lucy, with whom he had not spoken in two years.
With Lucy came my children, now eating watermelon at the dining table and playing magic tricks on one another.
My universe had collapsed upon itself.
That morning, my phone had rung as I made bacon in the kitchen.
Marcus and Meg were also making bacon. In my bed. Loudly.
“Hey Jason, how are you?”
“Fine. Mom wanted me to call to ask you something.”
“Sure, what’s that?”
“How many times did I fuck you last night?” Marcus barked.
“Unh!” Meg moaned. “Unh, I don’t, unh . .”
“Twice! You fucked me twice!”
“I’m sorry, Jason, what was that you said?” I turned the bacon and put a finger in my free ear.
“I said, Mom wants to know what you are doing today.”
“Not much. Why?”
“Well, you know that we are going camping tomorrow with Mom, and we’ll be gone for a week, and it is Collie’s birthday tomorrow, and so she wanted to know if . . . wait, what, Mom?”
I tucked the phone between my neck and shoulder, and removed the bacon to a paper towel on a plate. Six fresh strips hit the griddle.
“You like it hard up your ass, don’t you?”
“Unh, yes, I . . . unh . . .”
“Mom wants to know if you can make dinner for us all tonight.”
“What, at my place? Well, actually, I have plans tonight. Why does she ask that? Can she talk?”
“No, she is busy, she’s . . . what, Mom?”
“Hang on . . .”
I turned the bacon.
“Mom wants to know if we can come over today to collect gifts for Collie.”
“Well, we planned to do that when you returned.”
“I know, but now . . . hang on, what, Mom? Oh wait, she’s coming to the phone.”
“Jefferson!” Marcus hollered.
“When is breakfast?”
“Just a few minutes.” I turned the bacon and slung bread slices into the toaster oven.
“Look, can we please come over today? The kids are driving me crazy, and I need to get away from all this packing I’m doing. It would be so much better for me if Collie had some gifts from you before we leave tomorrow, so it seems like he is having a bigger birthday. I feel so sorry for him that we are driving eight hours on his birthday. Don’t you?”
“That is a long drive. Where are you going? You haven’t really told me where you will be with the kids next week.”
“Maine. So is it okay if we come over? For a while?”
Lucy never asks to come over with the kids. If I had no plans, I would be more than happy to make dinner for the family. It would be great to share that time, all together.
But of course I have plans. I book my life in advance, never expecting the unexpected.
“Sure, it’s okay. I can’t do anything about tonight. But this afternoon is fine—though I will have friends over. Including Marcus.”
“He is staying with me for a few days. The kids saw him the other day, so they know this.”
“Oh. Well, okay. We will come over about three.”
“You are okay with this?”
I closed the phone. “Bye.”
I pulled the bacon off the griddle, and drained the extra grease. I gave the eggs one last whisk and drizzled them into the heat.
“Marcus! Meg! Breakfast!”
“About time! Damn.” Marcus bellowed. A moment later, Meg giggled.
They strolled into the dining area like two cowboys with a secret.
Meg lowered herself onto a pillow as she settled at the table.
Meg had slept over the night before, after her first sex party at my place.
Well, “first” is a relative designation. Meg has had few adventures in my apartment—including a threesome here, a fivesome there.
But this had been her first bonafide, regularly scheduled, get-to-know-the-gang gathering.
She made a very fine debut. Never mind the afternoon before the party, when things got going a little early.
As we ate breakfast, I went over the day’s agenda, noting that I now had to do some shopping for Collie. They opted to join me.
Meg and I shopped for children’s books. Among a few others, I picked out 1000 Jokes for Kids.
“For the long drive,” I said, showing the book to Meg. “Think it will drive their mom nuts?”
“Cruel bastard,” she smiled.
At the register, Meg lent me her teacher’s discount.
As we looked over the magic tricks at Ricky’s, I fielded calls from Todd, who had been at the party and was now coming uptown to spend the afternoon with us.
Back at home, Meg and Marcus wrapped gifts as I cleaned up from the previous evening’s debauchery. I needed to hide any evidence.
I told Todd that my kids were going to be over for a little while. He registered this news and decided to check out from the situation by “meditating” on the terrace.
He was out cold in a moment.
Todd was understandably reluctant to be drawn into family time.
Meg was happy to be meeting my kids, and more than a little curious about my ex.
Marcus was a little nervous about seeing Lucy.
Marcus and Lucy have known each other nearly as long as I have known either of them.
Their falling out dates to the argument that ended my marriage.
Two years ago, I was going on a business trip to the Middle East. Lucy did not approve.
US-led forces were then launching the invasion of Iraq. This was no time to be in the region, she told me.
When she made no headway in trying to convince me that I was an idiot to consider the trip, arguing that “they hate us” there and I am a “walking blonde target,” she fell back to the tried-and-true practice of rallying the troops to her side.
Her mother called to warn me against the trip.
Her father called to warn me against the trip.
My father called to warn me against the trip.
My mother called to warn me against the trip.
When these appeals had no effect—other than to annoy me—Lucy moved on to friends. She called Marcus.
Marcus has traveled a good deal. He used to live in the Middle East.
Lucy discovered that in the course of preparing for the trip, I had spoken to Marcus.
She found that Marcus agreed with me. The trip was fine. It was safe. There was no cause for alarm.
Lucy hung up on Marcus, furious.
When Marcus wound up joining me on the trip, he was reduced to persona non grata in her book.
Lucy’s fury led her to immolate our marriage. She tossed her friendship with Marcus onto the flames for good measure.
Lucy succumbed to an impulse that too often guides frustrated ex’s and angry kindergarteners—if you are his friend, you can’t be my friend too.
It’s a wicked impulse that rarely works out as one might hope. For as it happens, people generally don’t like being told who they may or may not have as friends.
Most often, giving into the impulse means you will lose friends now, and possibly eat crow later.
Lucy does not savor the flavor of crow.
I can only imagine what Lucy thought as she followed the kids into my apartment.
Here I was with my best friend, a twenty-something redhead, and a sleeping vampire.
Her mind whirred as she tried to put this together.
She smiled wanly at Marcus, who was fending hugs from Lillie.
“So,” she nodded to him, her body wound in a bouncing stance. “How you been?”
“Pretty good, can’t complain. And you? What you been up to?”
“Not much. Packing for this camping trip. Hey, what’s wrong with your hand?”
“Oh, nothing,” he said, holding it aloft. “An infection.”
She nodded though his response, not really listening.
“Dad, can I open these presents?”
“Sure Collie, go to it. Let Lillie help.”
They kids opened the gifts, showing each to the grown ups, who oohed and aahed in kind.
Lucy sat on the couch between Meg and Marcus, never altering her smile.
With the gifts open, Lucy suddenly asked if she could leave the kids with me for a while to run some errands. Of course, I agreed. She said goodbye to the kids and was quickly off.
The kids were too absorbed in the new gifts to notice.
“What was that?” asked Marcus.
“Awkward social situation,” I guessed. “She wanted to remove herself rather than face it.”
“But why did she want to come here if . . .”
“I’m still not sure. I think maybe she really did want a break from the kids, and she wasn’t expecting this. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but it was pretty awkward.”
We played with Lillie and Collie, as Jason gravitated to the Game Cube.
In time, Lucy returned from her “errands,” no packages in arm. I offered coffee or a drink; she declined.
She soon gathered the kids to go. I kissed the children, saying I would miss them in the coming week.
“I love you,” I told each of them, whispering, “You are my favorite.”
Lucy and I exchanged smiles at the door.
“Have a nice trip. Good luck.”
I closed the door.
“She’s pretty,” Meg observed.
“Yeah,” Marcus laughed, braying. “She’s hot. I’d do her.”
“Have at it,” I replied. “But be forewarned: she’s okay for the first fifteen years or so.
“After that, things can get weird.”