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  • I hadn’t originally planned to write Suburban Satyrday on the installment plan. Figured I was done with it, but my audience apparently desires closure, so here’s part 2. I couldn’t quite wind it up with this episode either, so stay tuned and keep on heaping on critiques.

    Refreshed from her horizontal workout, Melissa left the Crowne Plaza around one. The glow on her face was the same as if she had spent all morning in Pilates but it came with only half the calories. Inside the parking garage her phone buzzed, a text from The Lad: Cn u pick me up. It annoyed her because she was in no mood for one of their games of Twenty Questions.
    at pats house
    whos pat
    friend of mine

    well of rick
    wheres he live
    ask pls

    Shaking her head, Melissa unlocked the minivan and settled in. Just like talking to Jack. Got to squeeze out every byte of data with your bare hands.

    At length came coordinates: 15 Candlestick Court, unfamiliar territory. She switched on the engine and fired up the GPS. It was a cul-de-sac in a development on the north side of town, pretty far to have walked from the pitch. Must have gotten a ride from a parent.

    At 15 Candlestick, an oversize postgeorgian monstrosity not unlike her own, only newer and less elegantly landscaped, Melissa decided she needed to know who lived there and what was going on, and so rang the bell. While waiting, eyeballing the façade, she thought she saw the rustle of a curtain on a second floor window. Half a minute passed. She pressed again. She heard a muffled voice say “Just a minute,” which in fact was about how long it took for the door to open and Steven to squeeze out.

    “Bye now!” he yelled over his shoulder.
    “Bye! C U!” chirped an ostensibly female voice as the door closed behind him. Steve made a beeline for the minivan, Melissa trying to keep up. At the finish line Steven closed his door and through a pumpkin smile said “Thanks Mom. Let’s go.”

    He started buckling his seat belt but Melissa was in less of a rush to leave. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, young son. Who lives there?”
    “I told you, Pat.”
    “Was that Pat who just said ‘bye’?”
    “Uh huh.”
    “Pat’s a girl?” Is that beer I smell?
    Steven looked out his window and discreetly burped. “I guess so. I mean yeah.”
    “Where were the guys you were with? Still in there?” Definitely beer.
    “They went home. After we had a pizza at Luigi’s.”
    “So how did you get here? It’s sort of a hike.”
    “Maura drove us over. After dropping off Rick.”
    Her eyes scanned the plush of the cabin’s roof. “Maura. Let’s see, do I know a Maura…?”
    “Maybe not. She’s a senior. BF of Pat. Has her license.”
    “Where is she now? Did she offer to drive you home?”
    “She had to get home quick. Something about her mother. Can we go now?”
    “I see. Anybody else in there now? Besides Pat?”
    “Um, her mom, I think.”
    “You think? You didn’t see her?”
    Summoning indignation, he said “What’s with all the questions, Mom? We were just chilling.”
    She stiffened and glared at him. “There’s more where these came from. For starters, where was her mom?”
    “Pat said she works at home, in a room down in the basement. Talks to clients a lot. So no, I didn’t see her. Is that a problem?”
    “Maybe. Depends. What you did you and Pat do?”
    “Played games. Watched videos.”
    “In her room? Drinking beer?”
    “Excuse me?”
    A short sigh. My little boy. “You should carry breath mints if you think you need to fool me. You just broke the law. So did Pat’s parents. Maybe I’ll turn you all in.”
    Steven glanced away again, mouth tightly zipped. She started the car. “Got all your stuff?”
    “Oh geez, my sports bag. It’s in there.”
    She killed the engine. “Let’s go get it. I’d like to say hello anyway.”

    Halfway to the front door, it opened and a girl came out clutching his sports bag. She looked about 16, maybe five feet four, buxom but not overweight, short pixyish brown hair. Melissa met her with a tight smile, right hand extended. “Hi, I’m Steven’s mom, Melissa.”

    “Nice to meet you,” the girl said, tossing Steven the bag he almost caught. “I’m Pat.” Her big brown eyes met Melissa’s gaze, a firm handshake her palm. A fragrance, Clinique perhaps, wafted by. Steven let the bag lie and stood blankly by as they chatted, hands in pockets.
  • On the drive home, few words passed across the center console. Melissa mulled over the intelligence she’d been able to wrangle from pretty, perky Pat. One year ahead of Steve, BF Maura is two. Lived here since March. Mom’s a marketing consultant, dad’s in LA. Separated? Hyphenated last name, Katzen-something. Also claimed mom was busy, couldn’t say hello.

    The van rolled into the garage. With her patented you-can’t-fool-your-mother expression she said “I’m still picking up her scent. Be straight with me, Steven. Was that a petting party?”
    “She likes me. Teased me. Wanted to make out.”
    “How far did it go? Where did you touch her?”
    He licked his lips. “Just her breasts.”
    “Nice ones too. Any clothes come off?”
    His eyes drooped to his crotch. Blood coursed through his ears. “No, no, and no. Really.”
    “If you say so. I won’t ask what she did.” He can keep his tawdry secret. Fair’s fair.
    Her last words interrupted his bolt from the car: “Bill and Sylvia McMullen are coming to dinner tonight. I expect you to join us and engage in civil discourse. And assuming you already have it, give me Pat’s number so I can check in with her mom.”

    Free at last, Steven bounded upstairs and barricaded himself in his fortress, his Do Not Disturb sign fluttering on the doorknob. Within five minutes Melissa was out of her leotards and into the shower, scrubbing away sins in slow motion as Au Clare de Lune whispered from the radio, wondering if Jack had ever had that Birds and Bees talk with Steven. She hauled on her bathrobe, turbaned her hair with a towel and went forth to survey the state of the household. Let’s see, dishes in the sink. Egg on the placemat. Vacuum cleaner still in the closet. Dust on the furniture. Table unset. Why are the couch pillows all over the floor?

    She tossed the pillows onto the sectional and went to find her phone. Her call went straight to voice mail. “Jack, it’s me and it’s almost four. Call me as soon as you can. I need you to do a bit of shopping and come home to help me,” she said in her business voice, clicked off and went to take the roast and potatoes out of the fridge to unchill. Also the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the other night, which she drained into a goblet she carried to her sanctuary, where she sank into in her reading chair to chill. Maybe I should call it off with Bill before something ugly hits the fan. But it’s just so much fun. Way more than Pilates.

    Two towns away, after finishing a gin and tonic and dressing, Jack noticed his phone blinking Melissa’s beck and call and decided to let whatever it was lie. Julie stole up and hung her arms around his neck. “Must you go so soon? I was having so much fun listening to you gossip about your stupid clients.”

    He drew her supple body to him, naked except for an unbuttoned blouse and panties, lightly kneading her cheeks the way she seemed to enjoy, then slid his fingers up her back to accompany a lingering kiss, enjoying the way her nipples stiffened against his chest. “I wouldn’t leave if I didn’t have to. I’ll be back with more stories soon, just can’t say when.”
    “Sure, anytime.” She disengaged mocking a pout and started collecting her garments from the floor.
    “One thing, Julie. Be damn sure you don’t repeat any of those stories to Bill. At the very least he would think it unethical.”
    “At the very least“ she affirmed, echoing him with a wink.

    Jack slipped out the back of her bungalow and hastened to his car in the driveway, wafted along by the breeze of a kiss. Once on the road, he flipped the player from Bill Evans to Ella Fitzgerald crooning I’ve Got You Under My Skin and tried to compose himself. In case the matter came up, he tried to think which of his clients might have required mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He pulled out an American Spirit and tossed the pack into the Audi’s slipstream. Exhaling, he decided his alibi would be the widow Grover, the poor soul Bill had sloughed off on him saying he was overloaded. Hadn’t met her yet, just talked on the phone. Bill had said she was in mourning after her con man of a husband had kicked the bucket, not so much for him as for the insurance money he’d squandered on trips and playthings. Yep, that’ll do. Visited her to console her and draw up a plan to fend off creditors.

    The issue resolved, he aroused his phone, found Melissa’s message waiting, and rang her back. He was relieved she didn’t grill him, just issued orders that he come home straightaway after picking up a bag of fresh green beans, chervil if they had any, heavy cream, wedges of Stilton and Brie plus water crackers, and potatoes. She wanted red ones. Red, like Julie’s lips.

    @image: California bungalow, Alexandria VA, by Deling from Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
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