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White Picket Fence — Deleted Scene

“Your father and I are getting back together,” Lina told Katie when she arrived home from school.

“I know,” Katie said as she set down her backpack and opened the refrigerator.

“You talked to Logan?”

“No. Grandma told me you would.”

“When did she tell you that?” Lina asked her eyebrows pulled together in a frown.

“As soon as he left.” She set a carton of milk on the kitchen island. “She looked at your charts.”

Lina sighed. “I wouldn’t take that too seriously.”

“Why not? She was right. You just said you’re getting back together.”

“That’s true, but…” Lina trailed off when the mudroom door opened and Logan stepped into the room. “How was school?”

He mumbled an incoherent response as he crossed to the pantry.

“Do you want me to make you something to eat?”

 “No.” He grabbed a bag of chips. “I want you to drop me at Brian’s.”

“Logan, your dad is coming back to—”

“I don’t care,” he interrupted. “I want to go to Brian’s.”

The sound of a car door closing had her turning toward the mudroom. “That’s your dad.”

 Moments later, Phil was entering the kitchen, dressed in jeans, a dark t-shirt and running shoes, a large duffle bag slung over his shoulder. His gaze locked on Lina.

She breathed in at the sight of him. His eyes were bloodshot and his cheekbones were more prominent than she’d ever seen them, but he was hers and he was back. She was crossing to him without even being aware of it. “Hi,” she whispered, aware of only him.

He set down his bag and then he was engulfing her in his arms as he buried his face in her hair. She ran her hands up and down his back, savoring the feel of him, the beat of his heart vibrating against her chest.

The sound of a scraping chair preceded a loud thump and then Phil was lifting his head. “What was that?”

“Logan,” Katie said matter-of-factly as she brought a spoonful of cereal to her mouth. “He punched the wall.”

“What?” He lowered his arms from around Lina as his eyes focused on the hole in the drywall. “Why?”

Katie shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Lina silently cursed herself for not being more sensitive. “He’s just upset. He’ll get over it.”

“Upset about what?”

“You coming back,” Katie offered.

 “What?” He frowned at Lina. “He’s upset about me moving back into my own house?”

“Just give him some time.” She ran her hand down his arm.

“No.” He shook his head and then he was headed toward the front of the house.

“Phil, stop!” Lina caught up with him at the bottom of the stairs and gripped his hand. “You going to make it worse. He’s still upset about the affair.”

 “It’s none of his business.” He took the stairs two at a time and then he was at Logan’s door, attempting to turn the locked knob. “Open the door,” he said rapping on it with the knuckles of his left hand.

“Phil?”

“Stop,” he said holding up hand. “I have this Lina.” He banged on the door again. “Let me in Logan.”

“I don’t want you to yell at him,” Lina said, gripping the waist of his jeans.

“I just want to talk to him,” Phil said turning and meeting her eyes. “Logan—open the door.”

Moment later the door opened and Phil disappeared inside Logan’s room.

Lina pushed her hair back from her face. She heard Phil’s muted voice but couldn’t make out the words. “You cheated on her!” Logan’s voice came through the door. “You expect me to be perfect and you’re a cheater!” She again heard the sound of Phil’s voice, low and controlled. “How could you do that?” Logan shouted and Lina heard the catch in his voice and brought her hands down to cover her mouth as she turned from the door.

When she returned to the kitchen Katie was placing her bowl in the sink. “He shouldn’t have done it,” she said. “I told Matt I’d kill him if he ever did that to me.”

“No.” Lina shook her head. “You wouldn’t kill him.”

“I would,” Katie insisted before leaving the room.

            Lina had prepared dinner and was wiping down the counter when Phil appeared almost an hour later. “Something smells good.”

            “How is he?” Lina asked spinning around to face him. 

            “Soft,” he whispered as he put his arms around her. “You made him soft.”

            “Phil,” she said laying her hands on his chest, “don’t say that.”

            “It’s true,” he said before kissing her cheek. “He’s fine. He got to tell me off for an hour.”

            “What’s he doing?”

            “Washing his face.” He shook his head. “Did I cry when I was his age?”

            “Don’t.” She cupped the sides of his face as she looked at him. “You’re not him.”

“I know. He’s a good kid.” He brushed his lips over hers. “He’s going to come with me to pack up the rest of my things after dinner.”

            “He said he wanted to go to Brian’s tonight.”

            “He didn’t mention it to me.”

            Moments later Logan entered the kitchen and it took everything in Lina not to go to him. His eyes were swollen and there were splotches on his face and it was obvious he’d been crying. “Did you change your mind about going to Brian’s?” she asked, stepping away from Phil.

            “I was going to help Dad move his stuff.”

            “Are you sure? You could wait until tomorrow.”

            “No it’s cool.” He dropped down into a chair at the table. “What’s for dinner?”

            “Lasagna,” she answered and then because she couldn’t stop herself she stepped up behind him and ran her hands down his arms as she kissed the top of his head. “I love you.”

            “Did you make garlic bread?” he asked ignoring her words, but not shirking away from her touch as she continued to rub his arms.

            “Yes.” She kissed him again and wrapped her arms around him. “I love you.”

            “Mom, stop kissing me,” he groaned.

After a final kiss, Lina crossed back toward the stove but before she could get there Phil intercepted her hand and  pulled her against him.  “I’ll never say stop,” he said against her ear.

Posted in Uncategorized

A White Picket Fence — Deleted Scenes

Lina finding out about Steamboat in the original version of WPF — this was deleted and changed in the final…

“Logan should be home any minute,” Lina told Phil when he came down freshly showered and in his dark lounge pants and a T-shirt 30 minutes later.  She was on the family room couch watching an evening news program while she sipped from her second glass of wine.

“Let’s go outside,” he said turning towards the door that led out to the deck.  “I’ll start a fire.”

“Do you want a drink?”

“Scotch.”

A few minutes later Lina stepped out on the deck and handed him his drink before sitting kitty corner to him in a cushioned chair, her bare feet pulled up beneath her.  “Am I going to get upset?”

“Probably,” he answered.  He brought his glass to his lips and took a swallow before setting the glass on the small table between their chairs.  “But she is holding it over my head, so,” he shrugged, “I don’t trust she won’t tell you.”

“What is it?”  

“Lina, I’m sorry for–.”

“Just tell me Phil,” she interrupted.  “I don’t care that you’re sorry.  I just want the drama to end, so tell me everything she is threatening to tell me.”

He was silent for at least half a minute before he began to speak.  “Do you remember when I had the conference in Colorado? When I flew into Hayden because of weather?” 

Lina’s eyes flew to his. “Yes.” Her heart had begun thumping harder in her chest.

“I wasn’t alone.”

“You took her to our home?”

“Nothing happened. I swear to you­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­—”

“You let her in my house,” Lina cried as she came to her feet. “How could you?”

“It was a mistake.” He stood up. “She slept in Megan’s room. I didn’t touch her. I swear on the kid’s lives that­—”

Lina slapped him hard across the face. “Sell it.” She stepped around him and went into the house, her hand stinging.

 “Hey Mom.” Logan came through the front door just as she entered the foyer.

“Logan,” She tried to smile.

“What’s wrong?” he asked his brows pulled together in a frown.  “Did something happen?”

“No.”  She shook her head, but she couldn’t stop the tears that began to fall from her eyes.  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.  “It’s fine.” She gripped his hand, hating the concern she saw on his face.  “I just had a fight with Dad.”

“About what?  Katie?”

“No – just adult stuff.  I’m fine.”  She squeezed his hand.  “I just need to be alone for a little while, okay?”

“Why are you crying?”

“It’s fine. I’m just a little sad.” Before she could walk away, he wrapped his arms around her.

“Oh Logan,” she whispered, taking comfort in her fourteen-year-old son’s embrace. “I love you.” She brushed her lips over his cheek.

 “Do you feel better?”

Lina felt an ache in her heart at the concern she saw in his eyes.  He wasn’t used to seeing his mother upset and she could see it was deeply affecting him.  “Yes.” She wiped at the tears that wouldn’t stop falling

“I’ve never seen you cry before,” he said, his own eyes looking clouded.

“I cry sometimes,” she touched the side of his cheek, “I just usually make it to my room first.”

“What did Dad do?”

Lina shook her head.  “Don’t worry about it sweetie.  We just had a fight – it’s not a big deal.”

He nodded, but his eyes were full of doubt.  “Where is he?”

“On the deck – I’m going to go take a shower, okay?”

“Okay.”

She gave him another hug.  “You are going to make some girl very lucky one day.”

She took a long shower as her mind played and replayed the events of the evening.  The one sided phone calls she overheard, the confession on the deck, all of it brought her to the realization that he wasn’t completely honest when he first told her about Kim.  It wasn’t just a “fuck” as he so eloquently put it.  No, he had a full blown affair with the woman.  He’d spent time with her outside of a bedroom.  And the entire time Lina was home taking care of their children, worrying about Katie and assuming her husband was off on a business trip. And what about this other woman?  Why would she want to continue to hurt her after having an affair with her husband?  Hadn’t she done enough damage? 

She heard the door to the bathroom open and Phil entered.  She turned her face into the spray of the shower, not wanting to look at him.   

“I need you to look at my face,” he said deeply.  “Lina?”

She turned then and saw that the left side of his face was covered in blood.  All thoughts of Kim and the affair fled from her mind as she quickly turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, absently grabbing a towel.  “What happened?” She wiped at the water on her face and hair as she stopped before him, her eyes moving to the inch long gash beneath his eyes.

“Your ring must have cut me.”  The ring he had given her for their 25 year anniversary had sliced open his face.

“Oh my God.” She dabbed at the pool of blood, trying to get a better look at the cut, completely unconscious to the fact she was naked.  “You need stitches.”

“You can’t give me a butterfly bandage or something?”

“No,” she shook her head, her eyes continuing to peer at the cut.  “It’s too long.  We’ll have to request a plastic surgeon.  I don’t want an emergency room doctor stitching your face.”  She moved to the sink and wet a wash cloth.  “Hold this against it,” she said moments later.  “I’ll drive you.”  She turned and walked out of the bathroom.

“Lina?” he followed her out into the bedroom.  “I can take myself.”

“No,” she said simply as she rummaged through her drawer for clothes.

It was after 2 am when Lina preceded Phil into the darkened house.  The plastic surgeon managed to glue his face and no stitches were required.  “I’ll make sure everything is locked up,” he said sliding his hand over her back.

“Okay,” Lina nodded.  She ascended the stairs and checked on each of the children and found them all asleep.  As she looked at Katie’s sleeping form she realized she never got a chance to discuss how the appointment went with Dr. Drayton.  God was that just today?  It felt like a week ago.

She was just climbing into bed when Phil came into the room, quietly pulling the door closed.  He had a bandage below his left eye and she felt disgusted with herself for actually resorting to physical violence.  “I’m sorry I hit you,” she said for the first time.

“I deserved it.”  He pulled his t-shirt carefully over his head, revealing his muscled chest and torso, before crossing into the bathroom.

When he emerged several minute later, he was naked and Lina rolled away from him and over onto her side.  Moments later she felt the mattress give as he lowered himself down beside her.  “How bad is this?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered honestly, her back to him. 

“If it would help you can hit me again.”

“That isn’t funny.”   

“I wasn’t trying to be.” He ran his hand over her bare shoulder and down her arm. 

She closed her eyes, hating the reaction her traitorous body had to his touch.  How easy it would be to let him make her forget everything she learned this evening.  “It’s late,” she said instead.  “I want to go to sleep.”

When she awoke the following morning the events of the previous evening came flooding back and her gaze moved to Phil who was sound asleep beside her.  One of his arms was curled above his head and the other was lying across his stomach, his head tilted slightly towards her and his lips slightly parted.  It had only been 24 hours since he last shaved, but he was already heavily shadowed.  He was beautiful she thought as her eyes left his face and traveled down his bare chest and stomach, a beautiful stranger.  The Phil she knew would never have taken another woman to their family vacation home.  They had spent several Christmases there.  Their children learned to ski while they were vacationing in that house.  What could he have been thinking?  It was inconceivable to her that he would take another woman there and yet that is exactly what he had done.  He soiled all of the beautiful memories they had in that house.

Her eyes moved to the bandage beneath his eye.  She struck him with her hand.  She hadn’t known she was capable of physical violence.  Last night she regretted it.  Today she wanted to hit him again.  He told Logan the same thing he told the hospital staff, which was he was picking something up from beneath the table and caught his cheek on a sharp edge on the way back up.  They seemed to believe him which wasn’t a huge surprise. Why would they assume she had hit him?

            Until a couple of weeks ago, she would swear she knew him as well as she knew herself.  How could he do this to them?  He was supposed to put her before everyone else, not hurt her.  She thought of how cold he had been to Kim during the phone calls and felt a smidgen of satisfaction at the pain he inflicted on the other woman.  She deserved everything she was getting.  The only person that seemed to be unscathed in all of this was Phil.  He was sleeping soundly in bed with his wife while she dealt with the painful truth of his infidelity and his pregnant ex-mistress pined away for him. 

As if feeling her stare, he opened his eyes.  “Hey,” he said deeply, stretching his arms up over his head.  “How long have you been up?”

“Long enough to remember why I hit you last night.”

He slowly breathed in and out. “I told you last night, you could do it again.”

“You know,” she began propping herself on her elbow as she met his eyes.  “I really hate you right now.”

She saw a flash of pain cross his face before he concealed it.  “No you don’t.”

“Yes,” she nodded, “I really do.  You brought her into our home, Phil.”  She brought her eyebrows together, “What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t,” he answered.   

“I’m having a very hard time wrapping my head around it.  I just,” she shook her head “I can’t believe you would do that to me.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, his eyes continuing to meet hers. 

“It’s not enough.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to not have done it.”

“Baby, I–.”

“Don’t,” she held up her hand when he began to reach out towards her.  “Don’t call me that and don’t touch me.”  She turned her back to him and then moved off the bed.  “I can’t stand the sight of you, right now.”  She crossed the room and went into the bathroom, pulling the door firmly closed behind her.

Less than a minute passed before she was back out in the room.  “Just tell me one thing,” she said approaching the bed.  Phillip who was lying on his back, turned his head meeting her eyes.  “Did I ever come into your mind? Did you consider how it would make me feel?”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“You know you ruined it for me,” she said her hands on her hips as hurt eyes met his.  “That was one of my favorite places.  I imagined our grandchildren coming there and now because of your selfishness, I can never go back.”  She started to walk away and then she turned back.  “It’s never going to be the same, you know – I’m never going to think of you the same again. “

When Lina came out of the bathroom 30 minutes later, Phillip was gone and when she made it down to the kitchen a short time later Logan informed her he had gone out for a run.  “He said to tell you he’d be back in an hour.”

She nodded, but made no other comment as she poured herself a cup of coffee.  “Don’t you have that lacrosse thing today?”  He had been invited to try out for an All Star team that chose the best high school aged players in the state.

“Yeah, it’s at 2pm in Bethesda.”  He was seated at the table by himself eating eggs and toast.  Of her three children, he was the only one who would cook for himself. 

“Do you want more to eat?” She asked as she sat down across from him.  “I could make pancakes.”

“No,” he shook his head.  “I’m good.”  He took a bite of toast and then a swallow of milk, his eyes on his mother. 

“Is something wrong?”

“No,” he shook his head, “I just,” he hesitated for a moment and then continued, “Do you think you could take me instead of Dad?”

“To the tryout?”

“Yeah – I just – I don’t want him watching.  It’ll make me nervous.”

“Sure,” she nodded.  “I’ll take you.”  She took a swallow of coffee. 

“Do you think he’ll be upset?”

“No,” Lina answered, wanting Logan to relax and not worry about Phil’s reaction.  “I’ll talk to him.  It’ll be fine.”

“He wasn’t in a good mood when he came down,” Logan told her.  “He wouldn’t let Megan run with him.”

“Why?  What did he say?”  She couldn’t recall him ever not letting Megan join him.

“He said he needed to run fast and she would mess up his pace.”  He pushed some eggs onto his fork with his thumb and then brought his thumb to his mouth, sucking off the remnants of food.

“Don’t do that,” Lina said automatically. 

“Sorry.”

“Where is Megan?”

“She went running on her own.  Are you still fighting with him?  Is that why he was in a bad mood?”

“His face probably hurts,” Lina answered, avoiding a direct answer.  “So,” she glanced down at her watch, “It’s 10:15, we need to leave at what, one?”

“Dad said it would take an hour to get there, so probably 12:30 – just in case of traffic and I don’t know exactly where the field is.”

“Okay, make sure you hydrate.  It supposed to get warm today.”

“What were you and Dad fighting about last night?”

She sighed, her eyes dropping to her coffee mug before lifting back to his.  “Nothing you should concern yourself with.”

“I’ve never seen you like that,” he said lightly.  “You guys aren’t getting a divorce or something are you?”

“No,” Lina said quickly, shaking her head.  “Of course not, why would you say that?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know it just seems like that’s what everybody’s parents are doing.”

“Well we’re not everybody.”

            Lina was in the front yard watering some potted plants when Phil returned from his run, his hands on his hips, his body covered in sweat as he walked towards her from the driveway.  She wondered if it was okay for his repaired skin to be covered in salty sweat, but she decided not to ask.  “I’m taking Logan to his tryout,” she told him, not looking directly at him as she continued to water.

            “What?” he frowned as he stopped several feet away from her.

            “He asked me to.” 

            “Why?” He lifted the bottom of his shirt, baring his flat stomach, and wiped at the sweat on his face.

            She turned off the nozzle to the hose and turned to him.  “He said you make him nervous.  Please don’t say anything to him,” she said when she saw his frown.  “He is worried you’re going to be mad.”

            “I am mad,” he said, his hands back on his hips as he breathed in and out deeply, his body not yet recovered from the run.  “I know more about lacrosse than the people judging him today.  Why wouldn’t he want me there?”

            “Because he’s already nervous and he doesn’t want to worry about what you’re thinking, too.  He’s going to be fine.”

            He shook his head.  “This is bullshit.”

            “Phil, just let it go.  He is already wound up about this tryout – the last thing he needs is to feel like he’s disappointing you.”

            “Fine,” he sighed. “Since I suddenly have a free afternoon, I’m going for a long ride on the bike.”

            “What about your face?” Lina couldn’t stop herself from asking.  “Is it okay for the bandage to get wet?”

            “I don’t give a fuck,” he said shortly before turning and walking away.

Original version of Lina and Phil attending wedding of an associate…

Their flight to Portland was scheduled to depart from Baltimore Washington International Airport at 4 pm, so instead of having Phil back track home to pick her up Lina had Megan drop her at the airport.  Phil arrived a few minutes earlier than they did and had the back of Megan’s SUV open as soon as she stopped at the curb.  

            “She’s here,” Phil said as soon as Megan pulled away.

            “Here as in – at the airport?”  They were standing on the sidewalk in front of the terminal, their luggage beside them.

            “Yes and on our flight.  Several people from the office are and she is one of them.”

            Lina saw the concern in his eyes.  “It’s fine.  It was only a matter of time.  I’m fine,” she continued when he continued to look at her.  “Really, I’m fine.”

            “I love you.” He said leaning towards her and briefly meeting her lips.  “And I upgraded us to first class.”  He picked up their bags and she preceded him into the airport.

            “How many people from your office are on our flight?” Lina asked after they came through security.  They were walking towards the gate and he had a firm grip on her hand.  As the distance between them and the gate evaporated she felt a knot of apprehension forming in her stomach.

            “Five, six, maybe more.”  He met her eyes.  “Are you okay?”

She nodded. “But a drink might help.  Is there time for us to stop?” She inclined her head towards the bar.

He glanced at his watch.  “Sure.”

Moments later Lina was sitting at a small table watching Phil who was standing at the bar ordering drinks.  He was wearing a dark suit, his hair freshly trimmed and he was smiling at something the bartender said to him.  She was flirting with him, Lina was sure, women were always flirting with him and it no longer fazed her after 25 years.  And it really wasn’t his fault.  Lina had witnessed it enough times to know that Phil did nothing to encourage the attention he constantly received from the opposite sex.

“There’s a 30 minute delay.”  Lina heard a man tell Phil as he moved up beside him at the bar.  He was followed by two more men and two women, all of whom Lina did not recognize. “She’s right here,” she heard Phil say and she reluctantly pulled her attention away from her perusal of the other woman when she realized he was speaking about her.  “Lina,” all eyes turned in her direction as Phil held out his hand.  “There are some people I want you to meet.”

Lina rose from her chair taking the hand Phil offered and letting him pull her against his side as he introduced her to the four associates and one girl friend.  He went through the names quickly and all Lina heard was Kim and as she met the eyes of the other woman, she was at first taken aback by the defiance she saw in them and then she recovered and coldly held her gaze until she looked away.  She couldn’t believe the audacity of the other woman, looking at her as if she had done something wrong.

Phil handed her a drink and moved his arm around her and she thankfully leaned into his side as she forced herself to relax and talk to his associates.  After the initial stare down she completely ignored Kim, who silently sipped at her soda observing but not partaking in the conversation.   

She felt almost normal as she conversed with his associates who clearly respected Phil and enjoyed having a chance to socialize with him outside of the office.  For his part, Phil seemed somewhat relaxed but Lina knew he was concerned with how she was feeling.  He never stopped touching her, his arm either around her or his hand moving up and down her back as he interacted with the others.

Lina had skipped lunch, so one drink was enough to settle her nerves and as the group left the bar and headed towards the gate she let her eyes drift back to Kim who was several yards ahead.  She was wearing three inch heels with her jeans and her hips swayed as she walked, bringing attention to her well defined butt and hips.  Where Lina was classy and pretty, Kim was sultry and sexy and Lina hated the thought of her with Phil, hated that the name now had a face and she could actually imagine the two of them together.  Phil may have been naïve enough to believe it was just a one night stand that took a life of its own, but Lina knew better.  This woman had seen him, wanted him and set out to seduce him, which is exactly what she had done.  And then when he was unwilling to leave his wife, she had gotten pregnant hoping that would get him to leave.  She hadn’t even considered Lina or Phil’s three children, no this woman only thought about herself and what she wanted. 

“You okay?” Phil’s deep voice penetrated into her thoughts as he stopped and let the rest of the group go ahead.

“I don’t like her,” Lina said meeting his eyes.  “The thought of the two of you together makes me sick.”

“Not here,” He lifted her hand to his mouth, kissing the inside of her wrist as his eyes looked into hers.  “That’s exactly what she wants – to see a rift between us.”

            She nodded, knowing he was right.   

            Minutes later she found herself in the comfort of First Class, Phil beside her his hand lying on her upper thigh.  “She’ll have a Tanquery and tonic and I’ll have an Absolute and ice,” he told the flight attendant.  “And can you do something about the temperature in here?  It’s like a Goddamn sauna.”  He pulled at the knot of his tie.

            “Phil,” Lina scolded, knowing he was taking his frustrations out on the flight attendant.

            “What?”  He pulled his tie off.  “It’s hot as hell in here.” He folded his tie and placed it in his pocket.  “They need to turn on the air conditioning.”

            “It’s not that hot.”  She covered the hand that was resting on her thigh, her thumb moving back and forth over his knuckles.  “How long is the flight?”

            “About an hour and a half.” He sighed as he leaned back in his seat.   

            She noticed Kim and the others entering the plane at the same moment the flight attendant placed her drink in front of her.  She could see Kim’s eyes focus in on Phil and she openly stared at him until she passed their chairs.    

            “Did it have to be her?” Lina asked.  “She doesn’t even have enough class to be embarrassed with me here.  Did you see her staring at you?”

            “She’s trying to create problems between us.”  He squeezed her thigh.  “Try to ignore her.”

            “And since when are you into breasts?”

            “Jesus Lina,” he leaned forward and turned towards her, his eyebrows pulled together in a frown.  “You really want to get into this here?” 

            “No.”  She shook her head.   

            He leaned back into his seat and picked up his drink, taking a long swallow. 

“Sir?” The flight attendant stopped beside their seats.  “The pilot has increased the flow of air.  It should be cooling off quickly.  May I get you anything else right now?”

“Yeah a new life.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing.  I’m kidding – thank you, I’m fine.”

 “Did I tell you I talked to Nicholas Drayton yesterday?” Lina asked after the flight attendant walked away.

Phil raised his eyebrows.  “You know you didn’t.”

“Well I did.  He recommended a new doctor for Katie.  He said he would discuss it with her at your next appointment.”

“He called you?”

“Yes, yesterday afternoon.  I would have mentioned it last night, but it was so late when you got in.”  He had a late dinner with clients and didn’t arrive home until almost 11 pm.

“Good – now you can start taking her again.”

“You don’t want to take her?”   

“No.”  He lifted his glass to his mouth and took a swallow.  “You know how I feel about this.”

She decided not to push it.  She enjoyed taking Katie and participating in the sessions and didn’t really want Phil to take her place. 

“He didn’t only call about Katie.  He called to invite Logan to the beach for the weekend.”

Phil lifted his hand from hers and brought it to his forehead kneading his skin.  “We’re not going to be able to get away from him are we?”

Lina couldn’t stop the laugh that escaped her.  “I don’t think so, so maybe you’re going to have to trust me a little.”

“It’s nice you think this is so funny.  First the guy has Katie as an excuse to see and talk to you and when that method dries up, his son conveniently wants to be best friends with Logan.”

“Maybe if you gave him a chance, the two of you could be friends.  You have a lot in common.”

“We like the same woman.  That doesn’t bode well for a friendship.”

She rolled her eyes, knowing when he got this way there was no use trying to change his mind. She reached out and reclaimed his hand, pulling it to rest with hers on her thigh.  “You’ve got to be the most stubborn person alive.”

“Just protecting what’s mine,” he said deeply squeezing her leg.

Lina didn’t see Kim again until Saturday morning.  Phil went out for a run with one of his partners and she was walking back to her room after a workout in the hotel gym.  Kim was walking towards her in exercise gear, her hair up in a ponytail.  They were the only two in the hall way and Lina had every intention of ignoring her when Kim moved into her path and spoke. 

“You can look down your nose all you want at me, but you have to know he was more than a willing participant.” 

Lina met the other woman’s eyes as she came to a stop before her.  “What I know or don’t know is none of your business,” she said coolly.  “And I have absolutely no desire to talk to you.”

“Because you’re afraid of the truth.”

“No,” Lina shook her head, “because you’re insignificant.”  She was surprised at how calm and composed she sounded when she was feeling anything but inside.  “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready to have breakfast with my husband.”  She stepped around her and continued down the hall.

“Did he tell you he took me to Steamboat?” Kim called after her.

Lina stopped and turned back to her, retracing her steps and stopping before her.  “Yes.” She coldly met her eyes.  “We’ve been together 25 years.  We have three children – you’re irrelevant to our relationship.  Your child will be irrelevant,” she said, taking no pleasure in the blush that came to Kim’s face.  “So get rid of this illusion that you have some importance in our life – because you don’t.”

“Did he tell you that he fucked me five times a day?  That we barely skied because he couldn’t get enough of me.”

“No,” Lina said still completely in control, “because you’re irrelevant.  And regardless of how many times he may have fucked you, you remain irrelevant.”

As soon as she returned to her room she stripped off her clothes and got in the shower and then she lost her composure, angry tears mixed with the water as she stood under the shower head replaying the conversation.  She took a long shower and by the time Phil arrived back in the room she was feeling a degree better as she stood before the vanity mirror wearing one of the thick white terry cloth robes that came with the suite and applying moisturizer to her face. 

“What’s wrong?” He asked, his eyes meeting hers in the mirror.

“Nothing.” She broke eye contact as she continued to apply the moisturizer.

“What’s wrong?”  He gently turned her to face him, a hand gripping both of her arms.  He was still sweating from his run, his arms gleaming with perspiration.

“I saw Kim,” Lina said.   

“She came to talk to you?” His jaw instantly clenched and the pressure on her upper arms increased.

“I ran into her in the hallway.  She told me you fucked her five times a day in Steamboat.  That you couldn’t get enough of her.”

He turned and headed for the door.

“Phil – no!” Lina was behind him gripping his arm.   

“She’s lying and I’m not letting her harass you.”  He continued toward the door.

 “No,” she moved in front of him, her hands on his sweat drenched chest. “This is what she wants – to set you off.  It will just encourage her.”

She could see his internal struggle for control and then he was breathing in and out deeply, his eyes meeting hers.  “She’s lying to you.”

“Okay.” Her hands remained on his chest, her eyes locked with his.  “Okay.”  She had never seen his so angry.  “I believe you.”

“I could kill her.”

“No,” Lina shook her head.  “She isn’t worth this energy.  This is exactly what she wants.”  She moved her hands to the sides of his face.  “She’s in the past.  I’m done letting her affect us.  I should never have repeated what she said.” 

“She’s lying.”

“I know,” Lina nodded, believing him.  “Just forget I said it – I don’t want it to ruin our weekend.”

He continued to meet her eyes and she could feel the anger leaving him and then he closed his eyes, shaking his head as if to clear it.  “Okay.”  He opened his eyes.

The sound of a knock at the door had him tensing.  “It’s room service,” Lina said.  “I thought it would be nice to eat on the balcony.” 

Deleted scene of Lina saying goodbye to Nick…

Lina stood from a bench as soon as she saw Nick’s Porsche pulling into the spot beside her car in the small parking lot at The Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City, MD. She never actually went in the chapel or shrine, but instead sometimes explored the trails through the woods open to the public.

            She watched him climb out of his car in dark slacks, a gray sweater and camel colored leather jacket, a pair of aviator sunglasses concealing his eyes. She felt a rush of feelings and to her dismay tears gathered in her eyes. She seemed to have lost all ability to control her emotions over the past few months.

            “You’re not taking me to church are you?”

            “No.” She returned his smile and then he was giving her a brief hug and brushing his lips against her cheek.  

            “You look well,” he said as he stepped back from her.

            “So do you.” He looked more handsome every time she saw him and as the thought took root in her mind, she felt a stab of guilt. Her feelings for him were confusing at best.

            “Should we sit or walk?” he asked. 

            “Sit I think. You’re not dressed for a walk in the woods. The paths aren’t paved.”

            “I don’t mind,” he assured her.

            “No, let’s just sit.” She preceded him to the bench she vacated moments earlier and they sat down.

            “What’s on your mind?” he asked stretching his arm along the back of the bench as he turned towards her.

            “You always get right to the point, don’t you?” She’d texted him as soon as Phil left for work and he’d suggested they meet for dinner or during his lunch break and she chose the latter.

             “I do.”

            “Phil asked me to stop talking to you.”

            With his sunglasses concealing his eyes, she saw no visible reaction. “And is that what you want?” he asked. “To stop talking to me?”

            “No,” she answered honestly. “But, I think I need to.”

            “Okay.”

            “Would you take off your sunglasses? I can’t tell what you’re thinking.”

           He reached up with his left hand and removed his sunglasses and then his green eyes were meeting hers. “It doesn’t matter what I think.”

            “It does to me.”

            “No, Lina.” He shook his head. “Not if you’re working it out with Phil.”

            “I love him,” she whispered.

            “I know.”

            “And I’m confused about what I feel for you – I thought you were just a friend, but the thought of not talking to you makes me feel almost panicked inside.”  

            “This is my fault,” he said. “Not yours.”

            “I’m the one who came into your room.”

            “Lina,” he began and then he paused as he looked up briefly. “You’ve been hurt and you’re vulnerable – I’ve let my feelings for you cloud my judgement. But the feeling you have for me – they probably aren’t real – you’re transferring your feeling for Phil to me.”

            “No.” She shook her head. “That isn’t true.”

            “I think it may be,” he insisted. “An emotional bond formed between us – and I shouldn’t have let it happen.”

            “You’re my friend.”

            “That wasn’t the role I was paid to play.”

            She knew he was right. She knew Phil was right. But knowing it didn’t make the decision any less painful. “You’re wrong about the transference thing – I always liked talking to you. It had nothing to do with Phil.”

            “Maybe.”

            “You really think I’m a mental case, don’t you? First you accuse me of having a codependent relationship with Phil and now you’re telling me I don’t know my own feelings. Maybe you should step out of your textbooks for a minute.”

            “I don’t think you’re a mental case. You know how I feel about you. And as far as the labeling goes – it’s how I think – I’ve been doing this too long not to.”

            “But can you admit you may be wrong – that I may not fit into any of your models?”

            “Yes,” he sighed. He looked away from her and Lina’s eyes drifted over his profile.  

            “I should go,” he finally said turning back to her.

            She saw something between longing and sadness in his warm eyes and she wanted to tell him to forget everything she said. She didn’t want to sever communication with him, but then she thought of Phil and knew she didn’t have a choice.

            “Find your passion, Lina. You’re so much more than his wife.”

            “Being his wife is enough for me. It always has been.”

            “I don’t believe that.” He slipped his glasses back over his eyes. “I’m going to leave now,” he said putting his hands on his thighs and slowly coming to his feet. “I hope it works out for you, Lina. You deserve to be happy.”

            “Are you going to talk to me if you see me at Gilman?” she asked, a lump forming in her throat.

            “That’s entirely up to you – I’ll always want to talk to you.”

            “I’m going to miss you,” she whispered, tears clouding her eyes.

           “Don’t think about me. You’re making the right decision.” He turned then and walked back to his car. Moments later she heard the engine come to life and watched the car until it disappeared around a bend in the road.

Deleted scene — a couple of weeks after Lina kicked Phil out…

“Where are you going?” she asked Logan and Katie as she climbed out of the BMW a week later. It was a few minutes past 6:00 p.m. and she’d run out to pick up a pizza for dinner.
“We’re having dinner with Dad,” Katie said. “It’s Thursday.”
“Thursday?” she repeated frowning. “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“He wants to have dinner with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Logan said.
Lina blinked back tears, hating the thought of being alone. “Why didn’t you tell me? I wouldn’t have gone out to pick up a pizza.”
“I thought you knew,” Logan said.
“Where are you going?”
“We’re meeting him at Season’s 52,” Katie said naming a restaurant at their local mall.
“Do you want me to stay with you?” Logan asked, frowning as he looked at her.
“No, of course not. You should see your dad.” She forced herself to smile as she touched his arm. “And if you’re still hungry when you get home, you can have pizza.”
She watched them drive off and then her eyes focused on Phil’s BMW, well now her BMW. It smelled like him, woodsy and masculine and she hated driving it, just like she hated sleeping in their bed by herself. She hadn’t heard from his since his terse response to her text a week prior and she felt completely abandoned by him. It was as if the past twenty-five meant nothing to him and he was seamlessly transitioning to a life without her, while she could barely function for longer than a couple of hours without breaking down.
She missed him desperately. She felt like part of her was gone. She could barely eat and could only sleep if she took a pill. And he didn’t care. She couldn’t stop the images of him and Kim from flashing through her mind. And she was starting to believe they were already together.

She was curled up on the couch watching television and drinking a glass of wine when Logan and Katie returned home. “Hi,” she said smiling as Logan came into the room. “How was your dinner?”
“Fine,” he said with a shrug. “Their servings are too small.” He flopped down on the couch beside her, his eyes moving to the television. “I had two desserts.”
“You can change it if you want,” she said holding out the remote. “I’m not really watching.”
He took the remote and began flipping through the channels.
“How’s your father?” she asked after a few minutes of silence.
“Good.”
“How’s his hand?”
“It’s covered in a cast. You can only see the tips of his fingers – it looks pretty cool.”
“Has he found somewhere to live?”
“He didn’t say,” he answered and then remained silent, his focus on a sitcom.
After five minutes of staring unfocused at the television, Lina went up to her room with her cellphone and then she was calling Phil. He didn’t answer and moments later she received a text.
“What do you need, Lina?”
“Are you with Kim?”
“No.”
“Are you with someone else?”
“I won’t be with anyone until our divorce is final. I expect you to show me the same courtesy.”
She felt tears come to her eyes at the mention of a divorce. “Are you going to be with her?”
“No and I’m not sure how I can make that word any more definitive.”
“Who took care of you after your surgery?”
“What do you want, Lina?”
She felt tears rolling down her cheeks. “Nothing.”
“Then why are you texting me?”
“Because I’m stupid and I still love you. I won’t bother you anymore.” She turned off her phone and curled into the fetal position, giving into the tears she’d been suppressing all evening.

She heard the house phone ringing several minutes later and then Logan was coming into her darkened room. “Mom?”
“Please leave, Logan,” she whispered her voice breaking. “I just need to be alone right now.”
“Dad’s on the phone. He wants to talk to you.”
“I can’t,” she whispered and then she was crying. “I can’t.” She rolled away from him and turned her face into her pillow.
“Mom?” Worry was evident in his voice.
“I’m just really sad right now,” she managed. “I’ll be okay tomorrow.”
He left the room for a minute and then he was returning. “Dad really wants to talk to you – could you just talk to him?”
She shook her head. “I can’t.” She was crying again. “Just go,” she whispered pushing away the phone he was trying to put to her ear. “Please.” She heard his steps fading as he left the room and then she was pulling the comforter over her head. She debated taking one of the pills Nick gave her, but didn’t want to feel the numbness it brought on, instead she just gave in to her sorrow.

She was crying softly when she heard her bedroom door opening sometime later. “I just – I just need to be alone,” she whispered into the darkness. She heard the pad of footsteps and then the mattress shifting as someone sat down on the edge of the bed beside her.
“Lina?” Phil’s deep voice preceded the feel of the comforter being pulled down from around her head. “Baby, don’t cry.” He pushed her hair back from her face.
“You’re the reason I’m crying,” she whispered her voice catching.
“Lina –.”
“You’re so cold to me. You broke my heart and now you’re stomping on it.”
“No.” He shook his head. “No.” He pushed his forehead against hers. “Don’t cry.”
“You treat me like I never mattered to you,” she sobbed. “I’m dying inside. Don’t you know that? I’m dying.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. He kicked off his shoes and then he was pulling back the comforter and stretching out on the bed beside her. “I love you. How could you not know that?”
She turned to him, gripping the material of his sweater as she breathed in his familiar scent. “You won’t even talk to me,” she whispered. “You just accept that we’re over. And I don’t have anything because I’m nothing without you.”
“That’s not true. Nothing you’ve said is true.” He held her against him as she cried into his chest. “I love you – I love you more than anything in this world.”
“You told the kids we were getting divorced,” she continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “You don’t think I’m worth fighting for.”
“That’s not true.” He kissed the top of her head. “You’re so wrong.”
“How could you have looked at her like that?”
“Like what? What are you talking about?” He looked down at her. “Lina? Who did I look at?”
“Kim.” She shook her head into his chest, hating the memory of the image. “In the picture – you were looking at her like you look at me, like you loved her.”
“No,” he said firmly. “No, Lina.” He reached out and turned on the bedside lamp and then he was cupping her shoulder and pushing her back slightly. “Look at me, Lina.” When she lifted her tear-filled eyes to his he continued. “I never loved her. The look you saw wasn’t love.”
She stared into his blue eyes, eyes she had been looking into her whole life. She reached out and ran her fingers over the line of his jaw and then she was touching his full lips. She’d always loved his lips. “You kissed her with these.”
“Don’t.” He shook his head.
“You were with her while I was home waiting for you.”
“No.”
“Yes, you were.”
His eyes narrowed and he shook his head. “No.”
“How can you say that?”
“Because it’s true.” He rolled away from her and got off the bed.
“Where are you going?” she cried. “Don’t leave.”
“I’m not.” He ran his good hand back through his hair. “Let’s move to the couch. I can’t have this conversation with you in bed.”
“I don’t want to talk. I want you to lay with me, so I can sleep. I haven’t slept in days.”
“I need to talk first,” he said.
Moments later they were sitting side by side on the couch, each turned so they were facing the other. “Do you remember the night of our anniversary?”
She nodded, her fingers trailing over the back of his hand as it rested on his thigh, her eyes following the movement.
“That night after Katie left you asked me to go upstairs with you. That was the first time in ten months you initiated sex with me.”
Her eyes moved to his, her eye brows pulled together. “No.”
“Yes. And at that moment it was over with Kim. I was supposed to meet her the next morning to run. I was scheduled to fly to New York with her Sunday – I cancelled and I never touched her again, because the moment you wanted me again I could never be with another woman.”
“I never stopped wanting you,” she whispered gripping his hand.
“Yes, you did. That’s no excuse for what I did, but I want you to understand what was going on in my head. She wanted me. And you didn’t.”
She closed her eyes momentarily as she felt a stab of pain in her heart. “That’s not true.”
“Drayton slowly poisoned you against me.”
“No.” She shook her head.
“You started seeing him in May of last year. That summer is when you started pulling away from me – he was in your ear and you stopped talking to me.”
“We were fighting about how to parent Katie,” Lina said.
“It was more than that – you stopped talking to me. You stopped touching me – you stopped wanting me.”
“That isn’t true,” she insisted.
“It is.”
“You’re actually blaming your affair on him?”
“Indirectly, yes, absolutely,” he said. “It would never have happened if he hadn’t come into your life, but it did happen – and that’s on me.”
“Phil –.”
“He undermined our relationship, Lina. He encouraged you to speak to him instead of me. At some point it went beyond Katie – he was working on you.”
“No,” she whispered, but she felt an uneasy feeling inside.
“You felt comfortable enough with you daughter’s psychiatrist to spend the night at his house. Does that sound normal to you? He crossed professional boundaries. He fell in love with you.”
“He’s just a friend.”
“He’s not my friend,” he said his voice suddenly intense. “And he doesn’t have our best interest in mind. If you want us to have any chance of working this out you will stop talking to him.”
“I’m having a hard time with everything. He just listens to me.”
“I’m having a hard time, too, but I’m not talking to another woman – that’s emotional cheating, Lina. It may not be physical, but it is destructive to our relationship! I’m your husband,” he said poking his chest with his fingers. “I’m the one you talk to.”
“But you won’t,” she whispered dropping her face into her hands. “You don’t answer when I call you. You just text me. You’ve been so cold to me.”
“I thought you were with him,” he shocked her by saying.
“What?” She lifted her gaze to his. “No.” She shook her head. “How could you think that?” She closed the distance separating them and crawled into his lap, her hands moving over his shoulders. “I don’t want him. I want you.”
“You chose him.”
“No.” She shook her head. “I would never choose him.” She saw tears in his eyes and felt like her heart was breaking. “Phil, you can’t believe that.” She cupped his face in her hands. “I only love you – I could never love anyone else.”
“You left me – you went into his house.” His voice was raw with emotion.
“I was angry and hurt, but I was never choosing him. I needed separation from you. It was only about that – it was never about him,” she whispered her voice breaking. “I love you.” She kissed his eyes. “So much,” she whispered and then she was running her lips and nose down his cheek and over the rough stubble of his jaw, breathing him in. “I love you,” she said again before putting her lips over his.

When Lina awoke the following morning it took less than three seconds for the memories from the evening before to come flooding into her mind. She rolled onto her side, her eyes moving to Phil who was still asleep beside her. He was lying on his stomach, his face turned in her direction, and his lips slightly parted, his breathing deep. She noticed the dark circles beneath his eyes and the hollow of his cheeks. He’d lost weight. She’d realized it the night before when they were making love. She recalled the look in his eyes when he told her he thought she was with Nick and felt a twist in her stomach. She’d never seen that look in the twenty-five years they’d been together. She wished she could erase the image from her mind. She wanted to touch him, but instead she slipped out of bed, careful not to disturb him.
Minutes later, she found Logan in the kitchen dressed in his school uniform of khaki pants and a light blue oxford and dark tie. He looked up from a bowl of cereal when she entered the room and she saw the concern in his eyes.
“I’m okay,” she said as she ran her hand over his back. “I’m sorry you had to see me like that.”
“Why were you crying?”
“I was just sad about your dad.” She squeezed his shoulder. “I’m feeling better now.”
“Did he spend the night?” he asked, his eyebrows pulled together in a frown.
“Yes.” She left him to walk towards the coffee pot. “He’s still sleeping.”
“Are you getting back together?” He pushed his bowl of half eaten cereal away from him. “He cheated on you! He’s the reason you were crying last night.”
“Logan?”
“He’s why you were so sad this summer.”
“Honey, nothing has been decided. And you’re too young to understand.”
“No, I’m not. I know what cheating is.” He pushed back his chair and came to his feet.
“Logan,” she paused as she turned to him. “People make mistakes – even your dad.”
He shook his head, his lips turned down. “He was with another woman! You shouldn’t forgive him,” he said.
“Logan this is my decision—mine and your fathers,” she said leaning back against the counter. “I know you’re confused and upset, but I’m emotionally exhausted. I’m operating on fumes.”
“I don’t want him to move back in!”
She let out a breath as she watched him storm from the room.

His mood didn’t improve during the drive to his bus stop, only responding to the few attempts she made at conversation with one syllable words. When she returned home thirty minutes after leaving the house, Katie’s car was gone but the SUV was still in the garage.
When she stepped into the kitchen Phil was standing beside the kitchen island with a mug of coffee in his hand. “Oh my God,” she whispered when she looked at him. “How much weight have you lost?” He was back in his jeans and dark sweater from the night before, the jeans hanging low on his hips.
“I have no idea.”
She closed the distance separating them and wrapped her arms around his middle, dropping her face into the crook of his neck. “I hate this,” she whispered.
He set down his coffee before putting his arms around her. “Me too.” He kissed the side of her head. “ I fucked everything up.”
She felt her whole body responding to his closeness as if there was a flow of energy connecting them. “I think I’m too dependent on you.”
“You’re supposed to be dependent on me. I’m your husband.”
“But it may be too much. I feel like I’m lost without you.”
“Did Drayton say that – did he tell you you’re too dependent on me?”
She didn’t want to think about Nick. There were too many thoughts flowing through her head after Phil’s words the night before.
“Did he?” he asked. “Did that bastard tell you you’re too dependent on me?”
“Yes,” she admitted.
The arms around her tightened. “Oh, Lina,” he breathed. “How can you not see how destructive he is to us? He’s in your head.”
“But I do feel lost without you.”
“I feel lost without you, too.”
She lifted her head, her eyes meeting his. “You do?”
“Of course,” he began his eyebrows pulled together in a frown, “being apart from you is against every instinct I have. It’s not natural – don’t you know that?”
She nodded, tears coming to her eyes. “I hate it.”
“Let me come home, baby. We belong together.”
“It’s too soon. I need time to think. My mind is everywhere.”
He dropped his forehead against hers and took another deep breath. “I know I don’t deserve you,” he said, “but you – you alone will always come first for me. I’ll never let anyone come between us again.”

Scene with Phil, Lina and Katie…

“Where is it?” Katie asked after bursting into Lina and Phil’s bedroom several hours later.

            “What in the hell?” Phil asked sitting up in the bed and turning on his bedside light, the comforter falling down around his waist and exposing his bare chest and stomach.

            “My bible,” Katie cried. “Where is it?”

            “It’s the middle of the God damn night!”

            Lina gripped the comforter against her chest as her mind slowly processed what was happening. “Katie,” she began.

            “You ruined everything,” she screamed glaring down at Lina. “Where is it?”

            “Honey –.”

            “Where is it?” she shrieked loudly.

            “What in the hell is going on?” Phil’s eyes darted from Katie to Lina.

            “She took my bible,” Katie cried not taking her gaze from Lina. “And I want it back.”

            “It’s in my bottom drawer on the left,” Lina said pointing towards her dresser, not prepared to have this discussion in the middle of the night or with Phil in the room.

            Katie spun around and stomped towards the dresser before bending down and roughly pulling the drawer open. She threw a few pieces of Lina’s exercise clothes over her shoulder and then she was removing the books.

            “Katie,” Lina began, “I’m sorry, but –.”

            “You ruined it!” Katie yelled. “I hate you so much!” She ran from the room, pulling the door closed with a loud bang.

            “What was that?” Phil asked turning to Lina. “What in the hell is going on?”

            “You don’t want to know,” she sighed.

            “Since when does she read the bible?”

            Lina covered her eyes. “I don’t want to do this in the middle of the night. Can we discuss it tomorrow?”

            “I was just woken from a dead sleep in the middle of the night – I want to know why.”

            Lina lowered her hands and looked up at him. He had rolled onto his side and was propped up on one elbow looking down at her. “I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to do anything tonight. You can’t go confront her.”

            “I’m not promising anything — tell me.”

            She shook her head. “Not until you promise.”

            “How can I promise something when I don’t have any information?”

            “It’s the middle of the night. Nothing good will come of another confrontation at this hour. Promise me you will stay in this bed and I will tell you.”

            He breathed out a stream of air. “Fine, now tell me.”

            “You didn’t promise.”

            “Jesus Christ.” He shook his head. “I promise.”

            “She was using the bible to do some type of spell. I found it in the freezer and then I found some witchcraft books in her bedroom.”

            He began to get off the bed and Lina lunged towards him, wrapping her arms around him from behind. “You promised,” she cried as he untangled her arms from around his neck. “Phil,” she cried as he crossed to his wardrobe. “You promised.” She was off the bed, padding across the room after him.

            “Is it my bible? My family bible?” he asked as he stepped into a pair of cotton lounge pants.

            “You promised,” she said again as she stood in the door to his wardrobe.

            “She’s probably in her room right now, doing spells against us.” He gripped her arms and gently set her aside so he could pass her.

            “So what?” Lina cried, again putting herself in his path. “Now you believe in that stuff? You think she could actually put a spell on us. You’re being ridiculous!” She laid her hands on his bare chest and shifted to the left and then right as he tried to step around her.

            “I have no idea what’s involved. What if she needs the blood of some animal and kills the Baxter’s dog?” he asked referring to their neighbor’s golden retriever. “I’m getting the books.” His hands were on her naked waist as he again shifted her out of his path.

            “No you’re not! You are going to get back in bed! If your word means anything, you will get back in bed!”

            “Lina,” he began, pausing with his hand on the door handle. “I –.”

            “I mean it Phil!” she interrupted, her hands on her hips as she stood, completely naked, glaring at him.

            “My mom entrusted that bible to me. It’s been in my family since the eighteen hundreds.”

            “The bible is fine,” she assured him, her voice calmer. “I will get it back first thing tomorrow morning.”

            “I don’t want her to have it,” he said, still holding the door handle.

            “You told me earlier tonight my needs will always come first. I need you to get back in bed and keep your promise to me.” She turned then and went back to their bed, pulling back the comforter and laying back down.

            After several seconds, Phil followed. He sat down on the mattress beside her and then he was leaning over her, one arm on either side of her. “I meant what I said earlier – every word, but putting your needs first doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to determine what’s best for our children.”

            “I didn’t think it did and all I asked was for you not to confront her in the middle of the night – that’s all I asked and you agreed.”

            “But I didn’t know what I was agreeing to.”

            She stared up into is handsome face and thought, not for the first time, he could be the most infuriating person on earth. “Then you shouldn’t have agreed.”

            “I needed to know what was going on with Katie,” he said. “You should have told me when I asked. Hell you should have told me as soon as you knew this was going on.”

            “I just found out today and I was handling it – I took the books, didn’t I? I would have discussed it with you, but I didn’t want to do it in the middle of the night. Would you have talked it over with me or would you be in her room right now if I told you when you asked?”

            He took a deep breath. “This is your mother isn’t it?”

            “Yes. Can we please deal with it tomorrow? It’s almost 1:00 a.m.”

            “I want to move in with Grandma,” Katie announced the following morning as she entered the kitchen dressed all in black, dark makeup and piercings on display.

            “That’s not an option,” Lina said as she paused with a piece of toast at her mouth.

            “Yes it is,” she said as she crossed to the coffee pot. “I already asked her.”

            “Good morning.” Lina smiled at Megan as she entered the kitchen. “You’re up early.”

            “Why were you crying last night?”

            “I wasn’t crying,” Katie said.

            “I wasn’t talking to you,” Megan said as she continued to look at Lina. “Are you and dad getting a divorce or something?”

            “No,” Lina said quickly.

            “Because that would really be selfish,” she said her hands on her hips. “I’m going away to college and I shouldn’t have to worry about what’s going on at home. I need to be focused.”

            “We’re not getting divorced,” Lina insisted.

            “I know kids that became complete drug addicts after their parents got divorced.”

            “Megan,” Lina began, wondering how this could be the same person she thought so mature three days earlier, “we are not getting a divorce!”

            “Then why were you crying again? That was like the third time this month. Logan said you were crying the day Dad cut his cheek.”

            “I’m just feeling emotional lately,” Lina said. “I think it’s hormonal.”

            “Are you in menopause?”

            “Probably,” Lina lied.

            “You’re too young to be in menopause,” Katie said.

            Lina’s gaze shifted to Katie, surprised she was interested enough to follow their conversation let alone comment. “It could be early onset,” she again lied. “Are you going somewhere?”

            “Grandma’s picking me up.”

            “Since when? Didn’t you go to Annapolis with her yesterday?”

            “Since I called her,” Katie said as she poured crème into her coffee. “I’m going to live with her.”

            “What?” Megan laughed as she turned from the refrigerator. “Why couldn’t you have done this a year ago?”

            “No one’s going anywhere,” Lina said. “What time will she be here?” As if on cue, there was a knock on the front door.

            “Hello?” Alice’s voice called out.

            “I’m talking to Grandma alone,” Lina told Katie as she left the room. “We need to talk,” she said as she approached Alice. “Privately.”

            “Well hello to you, too,” Alice said. She was dressed in one of her signature long flowing skirts and a royal blue rayon sleeveless top.

            Lina avoided looking at her, afraid she might lose it before they even stepped outside, but as soon as the door closed behind them she rounded on her mother. “What were you thinking?” she cried. “You have no right to tell her she can move in with you!”

            “Stop!” Alice said holding up both hands. “I did not tell Katie she could move in with me.”

            The adrenaline pumping through Lina’s veins began to dissipate. “You didn’t?”

            “Of course not. She called me upset this morning and told me she wanted to live with me. I told her I would come over so we could talk. That was the extent of the conversation.”

            Lina released her breath as she walked a few steps to a cushioned couch on the large front porch. “Sorry.”

            “Oh you don’t have to apologize,” Alice said as she sat down beside her, “we both know this isn’t about me.”

            “Why did you give her those witchcraft books?”

            “I didn’t. I took her to Crystal Fox and she picked them out herself.”

            “Crystal Fox?” Lina frowned.

            “It’s a cute little store in Laurel. Katie loves it. They sell crystal and incense and tarot cards– anything you can think of.”

            “Anything to do with the occult you mean. Why did you let her get those books?”

            “Let her?” Alice raised her eyebrows. “Have you heard of the first amendment?”

            “This is our home – a Catholic home, I might add,” Lina said. “And we have a right – a responsibility to censor what our children read. Should I let Logan bring pornography into the house?”

            Alice inclined her head. “Well–.”

            “That was a rhetorical question!”

            “What is going on with you?” Alice asked running her hand down Lina’s arm. “I am feeling so much heavy energy. I’m going to have to go somewhere and cleanse this negativity away when I leave.”

            “I just wish you had discussed this with me. I found Phil’s family bible in the freezer. Katie was using it as part of a spell to make some boy like her – at least that was my conclusion.”

            “That’s it?” Alice opened her eyes wider. “Really, Lina, is that something to get upset about? It’s harmless fun. You don’t actually believe in it do you?”

            “No, of course not, but that doesn’t mean Katie doesn’t. She was hysterical last night because I took the bible out of the freezer – she said I ruined everything – meaning the spell, which I think means she believes in it.”

            “She’s having fun with it. You girls used to do the same thing. You got bored with it and so will she just like she got bored with palm reading.”

            “Palm reading?”

            “Yes, palm reading. Six months ago that was all she talked about and then poof,” she threw up her hands. “It was done.”

            Lina sighed as she leaned back against the couch cushions. “Why can’t you be a normal grandmother?”

            “Excuse me?”

            “Phil is going to lose it, Mom, absolutely lose it. He hates this stuff. He isn’t going to want Katie around you.”

            She threw back her head and laughed, her shoulders shaking. “As if he could keep one of my grandchildren from me.”

            Lina usually found her mother’s all-consuming laugh contagious, but not today. “Mom, I’m serious.”

“So am I. I dare him to try. No one could keep one of them from me.”

Lina crossed her arms over her chest and stared out across the front lawn. “You need to make her stop.”

“Make her stop?” Alice pulled her head back. “Haven’t the two of you learned anything from the thousands of dollars you’ve spent on therapy in the past year? Let the poor girl be, Lina. She isn’t hurting anyone, especially not herself. And that’s what’s important isn’t it?” She gripped Lina’s knee and leaned towards her so their faces were only inches apart. “She’s happy again,” she said as she shook her leg. “Can’t you see that?”

“Happy?” Lina raised her eyebrows. “I’d go with not sad.”

“Well I see happy,” Alice insisted. “I have my granddaughter back and I don’t want to lose her again.”

“But Phil –.”

            “No,” Alice began, gripping Lina’s knee again as she shook her head, “No but Phil’s – instead of crawling into his conservative shell with him, you need to pull him out.”

            Lina sighed as she leaned back in the cushions of the couch. “You don’t understand. This is a religious thing.”

            “No.” Alice shook her head. “It’s a control thing.”

And the next scene…

Lina spent the better part of the day tending to her flowerbeds, the conversation with Nick Drayton the evening before never far from her mind. The thought of not being able to seek his advice or simply talk to him brought on an overwhelming feeling of loss.

            By 2 p.m. she realized gardening wasn’t going to have its normal therapeutic effect, so she sought out the luxury of her air conditioned house. The unseasonably cool temperatures from the day before had been replaced by all-consuming late July heat and humidity.

            She knew she should eat, but the thought of food was unappetizing so she instead contented herself with a large glass of ice water. She sat at the kitchen island sipping from her glass and looking through her old text message conversation with Nick Drayton a lump forming in her throat.

            Before she allowed herself to change her mind, she quickly typed out a message to him. “Hi – are all subjects off limits? If not, I’d like your advice about Katie. tx Lina”

            Forty minutes and two glasses of ice water later, she received his response. “No subjects are off limits. I said you shouldn’t text me, not couldn’t. What’s going on?”

            Katie is practicing witchcraft and I want to take the books. Is that a bad idea?”

            “YES – BAD IDEA!!!”

            She couldn’t help but smile at his reply as an image of his warm eyes flashed in her mind. “We’re Catholic – I think the church frowns upon this kind of thing.

            “She’s a teenager, Lina. Let her experiment. Stop rejecting her. If you take the books, she will feel rejected, unaccepted etc. She’s a smart girl – this diversion won’t last long.

            Lina felt a stab of guilt as she read his response. It was already too late she realized. The damage had been done. “Thanks

            “You already took them away, didn’t you?”

            She breathed in deeply at his response and wondered how he knew her so well. “I did, but I gave them backL

            “Do you still have the book I gave you the first time you came into my office?”

            He had given her a parenting book and it was sitting in the top drawer of her night stand. “Yes.

            “Read it again, Lina. I have to go – I have a patient waiting.”

            She felt her face heat up as she read his words. She hated the thought of him thinking of her so negatively.

            She was in the family room curled up on the corner of the couch reading the parenting book when Phil arrived from work a few minutes past 7 p.m.

            “Hi.” She looked up from her book as he stepped into the room. “How was your day?”

            “Long,” he sighed. “I’m beat. I never fell back to sleep last night.” He leaned his shoulder against the wall. “Where are the girls?”

            “Megan went to a movie and Katie is with my mom.” She uncurled her legs, set down the book and slowly came to her feet

            “Your mom?” He raised his eyebrows. “Weren’t we supposed to talk to her tonight?”

            “I thought it would be better if we could discuss it on our own first,” she said as she walked past him into the kitchen. “Make sure we’re in agreement.” 

            “What’s going on Lina?” he asked as he pushed off the wall. “I thought we were in agreement last night that the books have to go.”

            “What do you want to drink?” she asked as she opened the refrigerator. “I made a big salad. It felt too hot to cook.”

            “I want you to answer my question,” he said as he stepped up behind her. “Are we no longer in agreement?”

            She turned from the refrigerator. “My mom made some good points.”

            “Your mom?” He placed his hands on the sides of her face, slipping his fingers in her hair as he tilted her head back slightly. “Your crazy mom? Your crazy mom who gave her the books in the first place made some good points?”

            “Yes,” Lina said placing her hands in the center of his chest and pushing him back until he lowered his hands. “And I talked to the psychiatrist today, too. He agreed.” She didn’t say which psychiatrist so she decided it wasn’t a lie.

            He breathed in deeply. “Why? Why did you need second opinions? You found the books and took them – that was your first instinct. Why did you feel the need to consult outsiders when you know I was an agreement with that decision?”

            “Because we aren’t dealing with Megan or Logan. We are dealing with Katie and the way we instinctively parent her, doesn’t work. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t know if that was my first instinct. When I found the bible, I thought of you and how you would react – everything that followed was based on keeping you from flipping out.”

            He watched her, his expression unreadable. “We can talk all you want, but those books will not remain in this house. They’re blasphemous. I’m going to go change” he said before turning and leaving the room.

            Lina slid into one of the high-back chairs in front of the island and ran her hands back through her hair.

            “Would you do me a favor?” Lina asked Phil hours later. She was leaned into his side, his arm curved around her shoulder as he watched a crime drama on the television.

            “What’s that?” he asked, not looking away from the television.

            “Would you read this book?” She tapped the parenting book she was holding against his thigh.

            “I’m not going to change my mind about this, Lina.” They hadn’t spoken about the books or Katie since he left the kitchen. “This has nothing to do with parenting. This is devil worship and I won’t allow it in my house.”

            “It isn’t devil worship.”

            “Well whatever it is, it isn’t happening in this house. I find it offensive and frankly I’m a little floored you would consider condoning it. You always thanked me for getting you away from your mother’s crazy house. What’s changed? Are you planning to go back to your roots?”

            “I don’t want to lose her, Phil.”

            “Lose her?” He cupped her shoulder and gently pushed her back until she was sitting up and their eyes were meeting. “What are you talking about?”

            “She wants to live with my mom,” she said lightly. “She told me this morning.”

            “She isn’t going to live with your mom.”

            “I know, but the fact that she said it. And when I talked to my mom she mentioned how happy Katie is – I don’t see that. We don’t see the happy Katie. She isn’t happy with us.”

            “Baby, she’s manipulating you.”

            “No,” she said shaking her head. “She isn’t – my mom said she laughs all the time when they’re together. When was the last time you saw her laugh?”

            “You’re mom doesn’t have any rules. Of course she likes it there.”

            “It’s more than that – she feels comfortable with her. She isn’t comfortable with us. She doesn’t feel accepted.”

            “Lina –.”

            “Would you please just read this book? I think it would help.”

            “I’ve been to therapy. Isn’t that enough?”

            “No, it isn’t. I really want you to read this book,” she said as she again tapped it against his thigh. “You read faster than anyone I know. It’ll take you two hours tops. I want to be able to discuss it with you.”

            “Baby –.”

            “Please. As a favor to me?” She tilted her head to the side. “Please.”

            “I’m not going to change my mind. Those books cannot remain in this house.”

            “They’re already gone. I took the bible back and made her take the other books to my mother’s.”

            “I thought we were going to get rid of the books.”

            “Please just read the book and then we’ll discuss it again.”

He sighed as he laid his hand over the book. “Okay. I’ll read it.”

Lina and Adele…(Lina was mad at her for telling everyone in the family about Phil’s affair)

Two days later, Lina finally gave in and called Adele. The two met for a late lunch which felt surprisingly normal to Lina. “I still think you should leave the asshole,” Adele said after apologizing again for breaking Lina’s confidence.

            “So you would give it all up if you were me?” Lina asked. They were sitting on the enclosed outdoor patio of a popular vegan café.

            “Without a second thought. Some things are unforgivable and that’s one of them. I have too much pride.”

            “I have pride,” Lina insisted frowning across the table at her sister. “You have no idea what this feels like.”

            “I don’t?” Adele’s eyes opened wider. “I have one word for you,” she said leaning forward in her chair, “Keith.” Keith was Adele’s ex who had an affair after two years of marriage.

            “You can’t compare the two,” Lina said. “You knew him for less than three years. We’ve been together twenty-five years. He screwed up for four months. I’m not letting my pride ruin the rest of my life. I still love him.”

            Adele shook her head. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

            “You sound like Nick,” Lina said as she speared a piece of asparagus with her fork.

            “Nick?” Adele’s eyebrows rose.

            “Katie’s psychiatrist, Nick Drayton.”

            “You call her psychiatrist by his first name?”

            She shrugged. “Ex psychiatrist. His son and Logan are friends, so we’ve kind of shifted into more of a friend realm.”

            “And he actually told you Phil doesn’t deserve you? That doesn’t sound very psychiatrist like.”

            “I’m probably putting words in his mouth,” Lina said, realizing she had already shared too much.    

            “I didn’t realize the kids knew.”

            “They don’t.”

            “But you told her psychiatrist?” Adele frowned.

            “I needed someone to talk to and he’s a professional, so yeah,” she shrugged, “I told him and I think he let his professional wall down for a moment and said something to the effect that Phil didn’t deserve me. It was just said in passing. It wasn’t a big deal.”

            “Sounds like a brilliant man,” Adele said lifting her wine glass. “Cheers to him.”

Lina and Phil discussing parenting…

Friday evening was surprisingly pleasant with all the kids home and in relatively good spirits. Phil grilled shrimp and steak on the barbecue and then Logan and Megan went for a late night swim, while Katie, Lina and Phil watched a sitcom. Lina talked to Alice earlier in the day and she agreed, although not before sharing how ridiculous she thought it was, to keep the witchcraft books at her house.

“Did you finish the book?” Lina asked as they were preparing to turn in a little after 11 p.m.

            “I did,” he answered as he walked out of his wardrobe completely naked and crossed to the bed.

            “And?” Lina slipped off her silk robe and pulled back the comforter before slipping under the covers.

            “That’s a Drayton book, isn’t it?”

            “He recommended it, yes.” She rolled onto her side so she was facing him.

            “It’s fortunate for his son and probably society he doesn’t have custody of him. I don’t understand this laissez faire approach to parenting. Do you actually believe our only role is to provide our children with food and shelter – the rest we leave up to them? It’s insanity.”

            “That’s not what it says,” Lina argued propping herself up on her elbow as she looked down at him. “It says we need to give them enough freedom to learn for themselves. We shouldn’t be telling them what to think.”

            “Someone’s going to,” Phil said. “Do you want television and their friends to tell them what to think? Isn’t whoever wrote that Witchcraft book telling Katie what to think? It’s our job to protect these kids from negative influences like that one. She isn’t old enough or wise enough to decipher through the bullshit.”

            “You’re taking it too far,” Lina said, forcing down the annoyance she could feel building in her chest. “It isn’t saying we shouldn’t guide them. It’s saying we shouldn’t control them to the point where they lose their own inner direction.”

            “You want her to follow her own inner direction? Left on own she has mutilated her body with piercings, chosen clothes more suitable for a freak show than proper society, willingly left one of the best high school in the area, and now wants to be a Goddamn witch. I think her own inner direction is warped and as her parents it’s our responsibility to bring her back in line. Jesus Christ, Lina, what kind of adult to you think she’s going to be if we don’t intervene? At this rate, she’ll make your mother and sisters look normal.”

            Lina fell onto her back and pulled the comforter over her head. “You’re impossible to talk to. You twist everything to fit your argument.”

            “No,” Phil began as he rolled onto his side. “You just don’t like what I have to say.” He pulled the comforter down from her face. “You want me to agree with you.”

            “That’s not true. I want you to see the validity to some of the points in the book. You don’t agree with one part, so you discount the whole thing.”

            “Do you know why you like this book so much?” When after several seconds she didn’t answer he continued. “Because it strikes a nostalgic cord in you – this is your mother’s parenting style and look how well that turned out.”

            “First of all, that isn’t true. That book talks extensively about setting boundaries and having rules, which we both know my childhood lacked – and secondly, stop attacking my family.”

            “Hey,” he said lightly propping himself up on his elbow as he looked down at her. “Don’t get angry. You asked me to read the book and I did. It isn’t fair for you to get upset with me for not agreeing with the author.”

            “I just want you to see there are other philosophies on child rearing and just because your parents raised you a certain way it doesn’t mean it’s right or the only way.”

            “I’m well aware of that – but to be fair, look how my siblings turned out compared to yours. They have successful careers and families. The same can’t be said about your sisters. We both know who was given the better foundation.”

            “You spent more time at my house than your own the last two years of high school,” Lina said frowning up at him. “You couldn’t stand to be in you stifling home. Is that the kind of environment you want here?”

            “No.” He shook his head. “I think between the two of us we’ve found the right balance and it’s worked very well for two of our three children. And I’m not willing to throw out our game plan and adapt to someone else’s because Katie is more challenging. She doesn’t make the rules here, we do.”

            “Maybe she needs her own manual. She’s different.”

            Phil watched the movement of his fingers as he gently pushed her hair back from her forehead. “I realize that,” he said breathing in deeply. “And I’ve accepted it, but we still need to prepare her for the world – this world, not some make believe world.”

            “My mom lives in the real world and so do my sisters and I think we may have to face the fact that Katie may be more like them than she is us.”

            “What are you saying, Lina?”

            “I think we should let her dabble in the occult, if that’s what she wants. She isn’t breaking any laws or physically hurting herself.”

            “I don’t agree.”

            “It’s what the psychiatrist says. She’ll be seventeen. I don’t want to lose her. A Katie with strange beliefs is better than no Katie isn’t it?”

            “I don’t know.”

            “Don’t say that. You love my mom and sisters, don’t you?”

            He shook his head. “I think your mom is insane.”

            “But you love her.”

            “I’ve already lost, haven’t I? You’ve decided with the help of your mother and the damn psychiatrist – what I say doesn’t matter.”

            “That isn’t true.” She reached out and cupped the side of his jaw. “I’m discussing it with you. But at her age I don’t think we can control what she reads and what she believes. It’s too late.”

            “I don’t want any of it in this house – none of the books or any of it. It’s all staying at your mom’s. And I’m going to talk to her and tell her what I think.”

            “You need to make sure she knows you love her, regardless of what she does.”

            “I do love her regardless of what she does.”

            “But if you’re going to criticize what she does it’s important she knows you aren’t rejecting her.”

            “Got it,” he said turning from her and reaching for his light. “I’m tired. Good night.” He pulled the comforter up over his shoulder.

            “Phil?” She rolled towards him. “Don’t be mad.”

            “You’ve got what you want. Isn’t that enough?”

            “It’s not what I want. It’s what she wants.” She ran her hand over his shoulder. “I want the same thing you do. I don’t like the occult either, but we can’t sensor everything she does – she isn’t a child anymore.”

“Goodnight, Lina.”

            They hadn’t made love since Tuesday night and she had no desire to tonight, but she had been down this road before and she promised herself she wouldn’t let outside interferences come between them. She curled her body against the back of his, her hand moving around his waist to his stomach and then still lower. “I need you,” she whispered.

Phil after being scratched after the office and family scenes…

“Are you finished?” Phil asked hours later as the family sat at the kitchen table having dinner.

            Lina nodded. “Yes.”

            “You two clean up,” he said eliciting a moan from Katie and Megan as he pushed back his chair. “Your mom is taking a walk with me.”

            “Should I change?” She was wearing linen pants and a sleeveless silk top, sandals on her feet.

            “You’re fine. It’s not for exercise.” He led her outside and then down the stairs to the pool deck below. “Let’s go to the pond,” he said as he took her hand. “I don’t want to be overheard.”

            He seemed preoccupied during dinner and Lina became concerned something serious was wrong. “What’s going on?” she asked as she stopped about twenty yards from the pond, the sound of frogs permeating the air.

            “We’re almost there.”

            “I want to know what’s going on,” she said. “Tell me.”

            “Kim attacked me today.”

            “Attacked you,” she repeated her eyes narrowing. “What do you mean?”

He undid the knot of his tie before unbuttoning the first several buttons of his shirt and then he was opening it to reveal three scratches starting at his collar bone and running several inches down his chest. 

“Oh my God,” she whispered stepping towards him, her fingers lightly touching the wounded skin. “I can’t believe she did that.”

“Believe it.”

“How did she do this through your shirt?”

“She didn’t. She practically ripped my shirt off me. There isn’t an employee at the firm that doesn’t know something inappropriate occurred between the two of us. Those that missed Saturday night definitely didn’t miss today. ”

“She did this in front of people?” She continued to run her fingers over his skin.

“She was in my office, but she was loud and the door was open.”

“Why? Why was she so angry?”

He lifted his eyebrows as he rocked back on his feet. “You hit her, Lina. You called her a whore in front of two hundred people.”

“We were in the middle of the dance floor. Barely anyone was watching.”

“Barely anyone was enough. Everyone and I mean everyone at that wedding knew what happened.” He stepped around her and continued to the pond.

“I’m sorry for that part,” Lina said following. “I wish I hadn’t done it in front of people.”

“I wish you hadn’t done it at all,” he said his hands pushed into his pockets as he stared out over the pond. “She wants to hurt you back now.”

“Hurt me back? She doesn’t think being pregnant with my husband’s baby hurts enough?”

            “Apparently not.” He continued to stare into the water. “She was escorted out of the office. She won’t be back. From this point forward we will communicate through attorneys. If she tries to contact you, I want you to hang up the phone. If you receive a package, don’t open them.”

            “What would she send me?”

            “Pictures,” he said turning to face her. “She’s threatened to send you pictures.”

            “What are the pictures of?”

            “Us, I suppose. I don’t know.” 

            “You don’t know,” she repeated. “If you don’t know, how can there be pictures?”

            “She claims she has pictures. Candid shots of us together.”

            “Taken by who?” Lina asked, crossing her arms over her chest. “Who would have taken these pictures?”

            “I don’t know. Why is this important?”

            “Because it is. Who took them?”

            “I haven’t seen them. She’s probably bluffing.”

            “Are they sex pictures?” She suddenly had an image of them together.

            “No! Absolutely not!”

            She watched him struggling to maintain his temper and realized she was playing right into Kim’s hands. Kim wanted them to fight and that’s exactly what she was letting happen. “I won’t look at them.” 

            He exhaled deeply and his whole body appeared to relax. 

            “Just tell me if I know everything?”

            “You do. I’ve told you everything.”

            “What are we going to tell the kids about those?” she asked nodding towards his scratches.

            “I don’t know.” He pulled open his shirt and looked down at his chest. “What does it look like?”

            She tilted her head as she examined the scratches. “It looks like you’ve been scratched by a woman with nails.” She felt a rush of anger at the nerve of the woman. “We’ll tell them I did it.”

            “That you scratched me?” He pulled his eyebrows together.

            “Do you have a better idea?”

            “No, but I’m not going to let them believe you scratched me.”

            “We have to say something. Unless you plan to wear your shirt buttoned up your neck for the rest of the summer, they’re impossible to miss.” 

            “No.” He shook his head.

            “Phil, we have to say something.”

            “I’m not going to let them believe you got violent with me.”

            “But I did get violent with you,” she pointed out her eyes moving to the pink scar below his eye. “I scarred you. I scarred you and then a week later I hit Kim and now Kim has scarred you.” She shook her head. “Who are we?”

            “It’s my fault.”

            “I’m a mother and I’m resorting to physical violence. Nick Drayton is right, I should be on medication.” She realized her error as soon as the words left her mouth.

            “You told him? You told him you hit me?” The muscles in his face tightened, his jaw clenched.

            “I saw him at the tryout the next day. I was upset – he’s a doctor.” 

            “Did you tell him about Kim?” he asked his eyes boring into hers. “Did you?” 

            “I needed to talk to someone. I–.”

            “Jesus Christ, Lina!” He pushed his hands back through his hair and squeezed his head. “What in the fuck were you thinking?”

            “I wasn’t. I was hurt.”

            “Of all the Goddamn people you could have told, it had to be him!” He threw his arms to his side. “We’re done with him. Professionally and personally.” He turned on his heel and headed back towards the house.

            “What does that mean?” Lina asked running to catch up to him. 

“It means Katie isn’t going to see him again. It means Logan isn’t going to see him again – that’s what it means.”

            “Phil, stop!” Lina said gripping his arms. “We need to finish this conversation.”

            “It’s finished,” he snarled, pulling his arm from hers and continuing towards the house. “The moment you let him into our personal relationship, his interactions with our children ceased.”

            “We can’t just rip Katie away from him,” she said jogging to keep up. “We’re going to transition to the new doctor, but she still needs to –.”

            “No,” he interrupted. “It’s done.” He roughly began to button his shirt, not slowing his stride. “Either you cancel or I will, but it’s going to be canceled.”

            “Think about Katie.”

            “I’m thinking about this family,” he bit out. “And he isn’t good for this family.”

            She followed him through the yard and then into the garage, struggling to keep up with his longer strides. 

            “I’m going for a run,” he said as soon as they entered the house. Megan who was standing at the sink scrubbing a pot and Logan who was leaned back against the counter beside her looked from Phil to Lina.

            “Can I go?” Megan asked.

            “No,” Phil said not slowing his stride.

            Lina crossed  to the sink. “I’ll take over. You guys have done enough thank you.” She touched Megan’s arm. “I’ve got it.”

             “What’s wrong with Dad?” Megan asked stepping back from the sink. “Are you guys fighting again?”

            “No,” Lina said.

            “Then why’s he upset?”

            “Just don’t worry about it.”

            They were still in the kitchen when Phil entered the room several minutes later in shorts, running shoes and a t-shirt. “Who scratched you?” Megan asked.

            Lina turned from the sink, her eyes immediately focusing on the nail marks clearly visible on Phil’s collar bone. “I–.”

            “Someone at work,” Phil interrupted. “I fired her today and she attacked me.”

            “Oh my God.” Megan was in front of him pulling down his shirt so she could see the entire length of the scratches. “She must be crazy.”

            “She was angry,” he said removing her hand from his chest as he stepped around her. “I’ll be back.” He left through the mudroom door.

            “Someone scratched him?” Logan turned to Lina. “That’s not normal is it?”

            “Of course not,” Lina said as she scrubbed the pot.

            “What did he do to her?”

            “He fired her. She was upset and she lost control.”

            “No, I mean what did he do after she attacked him? What if she comes back with a gun?” Logan asked. “That’s what happened last week in California. That guy had lost his job so he came back and killed people.”

            “Women don’t do that,” Megan said. “Only men show up with guns.”

            “You don’t know that,” Logan insisted. “Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t –.”

            “No one is showing up with a gun,” Lina snapped, slamming the pot into the sink. “Please just drop it!” She turned off the water and left the room, Megan and Logan staring after her.

Twenty minutes later she sunk down into the oval tub in her bathroom, the warm water providing the comfort she craved. She couldn’t believe she slipped and told Phil about Nicholas  Drayton. He would never get past it. He would never agree to let Katie see him again. And yet she knew it wasn’t fair or wise to pull Katie away from him without a transition. Katie trusted him. He had connected with her and brought her back. She shivered at the memory of the scars on her butt. Nicholas Drayton had saved Katie and instead of being grateful Phil couldn’t see past his insane delusions.

  She pictured the scratches on Phil’s chest, another reminder of Kim. She knew she should regret hitting her, but she couldn’t. She had never felt such hate for another person. She couldn’t recall ever actually feeling hate before. She didn’t know how she would ever face his colleagues again. 

“Mom?” Logan’s voice preceded a light knock on the bathroom door.

“I’m in the bathtub, honey.”

“Are you okay?” he asked, the door between them muffling his voice.

“I’m fine,” she called back. “Just tired.”

“Sorry, I upset you.”

“You didn’t upset me. I was just upset someone scratched Dad.” At least that was true. “I love you. Thanks for checking on me.”

“I love you, too,” he called out and then he was gone.

            “How did Logan get home today?”

            Lina opened her eyes to find Phil standing beside the tub, his hands on his hips, his breathing heavy, the material of his t-shirt clinging to his chest, sweat running down the sides of his face. “You’ve already asked Logan, haven’t you?”

            “I want to hear your answer?” He wiped the back of his hand over the sweat dripping down his cheek.

            Lina leaned towards the edge of the tub and blew out the few candles she’d lit. “I picked him up.”

            “At Drayton’s house.” It wasn’t a question and when she didn’t answer he continued, “He lives ten minutes from my office.”

            “I know.” She came to her feet. “I was there, remember?” She stepped out of the tub and reached around him for a towel.

            “How long were you there?”

            She shrugged. “Not long. Maybe fifteen minutes.” She began to run the towel over her wet body.

            “Were you alone with him?”

            Lina’s eyes focused on his chest as she continued to towel herself off. “You came home with a claw mark down your chest from a woman we both know you fucked and you’re questioning me?” She shook her head. “You’re unbelievable.” She tried to step around him, but his hand snaked out and took her wrist.

            “Answer me.”

            “No, I’m not going to answer you. You’re being ridiculous. And why are you gripping me like that?” Her eyes focused on the hand firmly holding her wrist.

He released his hold on her. “I didn’t want you walking away.”

“If I want to walk away I should be able to walk away without you forcibly preventing it.” She wrapped the towel around her body, securing it above her breasts.

“I’m sorry.” He ran his hands back through his already disheveled hair, the material of his t-shirt stretching across his broad chest. “I don’t want you around him.”

“I know you don’t, but someone had to pick up him and considering your feelings for Dr. Drayton, I thought I was the better choice.”

“What did you talk about?”

She shook her head. “We’re not doing this. I’m allowed to have a conversation with Katie’s doctor or the father of Logan’s friend or anyone else I like without being questioned, because I am loyal to you.” She tapped him on the chest. “So put the green monster away.” She left the bathroom and moments later felt his presence behind her. “I’m serious, Phil.”

“He’s in love with you, Lina. And now that he knows what I did, he probably feels justified in pursuing you.”

She sighed as she turned to face him. “First of all, you’re wrong. But second and more importantly, for some strange reason, I can’t stop loving you, so,” she paused as she shrugged, “it’s a moot point.”

“Don’t cancel Friday’s appointment.”

“Why not?” She knew him well enough to know he wasn’t going to change his mind about Katie seeing him.

“Because, I want to talk to him.”

“That’s a terrible idea. This is a person we are going to run into often over the next four years.”

“And that’s exactly why I want to talk to him.” Without waiting for a reply he turned and went back into the bathroom. Moments later she heard the spray of the shower.

            She was going to have to warn Nicholas she realized, because there was no way she was going to be able to change Phil’s mind.

            Lina was already in bed when Phil came into the bedroom a little after 11 p.m. She’d been down earlier, more for Logan’s benefit than anything else. She knew she upset him earlier and wanted to make sure he knew she was okay. After watching one sitcom she made her way back to the bedroom, leaving Phil with Megan and Logan.

            She felt the mattress dip down as Phil stretched out beside her. She was curled on her side facing away from him.  

            “Are you awake?” His deep voice penetrated the silence.

            “Yes.” She rolled onto her back and then she was looking up at him.

            “I know you think I’m being paranoid when it comes to Drayton, but you’re going to have to trust me.”

            The moonlight from the window illuminated half his face and she ran her fingers down the shadowed side. “I don’t want him,” she whispered. 

            “Lina –.”

            “Shh,” she interrupted, sliding her hand around to the back of his neck. “Stop talking.” 

            As she sat at the kitchen table sipping her coffee the following morning her thoughts went to Nicholas Drayton. She needed to call him. She needed to tell him what happened with Phil and apologize in advance for whatever was going to happen on Friday. She also needed to find out what to do about transitioning Katie to a new doctor. She would be honest with him and let him decide what was best for Katie. She knew he only had Katie’s best interest in mind and regardless of Phil’s desire she would following the doctor’s advice.

            She looked up as Katie came into the room. “Good morning,” she said forcing herself to sound more cheerful than she felt. “You’re up early.” She was wearing all black and her piercings, but only a light amount of makeup.

            “Grandma’s picking me up at 8:30 a.m.,” she said as she made a beeline for the coffee.

            “8:30?” Lina repeated, surprised. Alice wasn’t normally a morning person.  “Why so early?” 

            “We’re going to a meeting in Annapolis. It’s a breakfast meeting.”

            Lina frowned. “You’re going to her astrology meeting?” Alice was a member of as astrological group that met in Annapolis.

            “Not the one she normally goes to. This is one especially for me.” She finished pouring her coffee and turned with a cup in her hand. “I’m going to learn to be an astrologer.”

            Lina sat back in her chair. “Since when?”  

            She shrugged. “A while. She had me read some books and I finished, so now I’m going to start my lessons.”

            “Why is this the first I’m hearing about it?” She struggled to keep her voice calm.

            “It’s my first meeting.” She sat down in one of the chairs perpendicular to Lina’s. “It’s a six month program. We’ll meet every Tuesday. Once school starts we’ll do it on Saturdays.”

            For the first time in months Lina could hear enthusiasm in her voice and as much as she knew she needed to she couldn’t bring herself to burst Katie’s bubble. But she knew there was no way Phil was going to allow her to go to astrology lessons. And if she was being honest with herself, she knew she didn’t want her to go either. As far as she was concerned, the occult brought nothing but unhappiness to the Rayburn family. It drove their father away and it certainly hadn’t helped her sister’s lives. Neither Shilo nor Adele could make a decision without calling their mother to find out the astrological implications. And now Shilo was quitting a good job to become a full-time psychic.

            Alice was the only person Katie didn’t withdraw from during what Lina now thought of as the Katie’s dark period – the time she wouldn’t come out of her room and interact with friends or family. Lina encouraged the relationship with her grandmother knowing how important it was for Katie to have someone she could confide in. She wondered now if she made an error. She had allowed her mother to fill Katie’s mind with her unconventional beliefs. She couldn’t imagine Phil’s reaction.

            “Grandma said if you’re good you can do it as a profession,” Katie was saying when Lina brought her mind to the present. “That’s what I want to do.”

            “I was wondering if you were still alive,” Alice said several hours later as she stopped beside Lina who was cutting flowers from a hydrangea bush.

            “Hi, Mom.” She wiped her hands on her jean shorts as she stood up.

            “I tried to call you three times yesterday. Did you get my messages?” She was dressed in a long flowing rainbow colored tie-dyed skirt and a red sleeveless blouse, her sunglasses pushed back on her head.

            “I wasn’t in the mood to talk,” Lina answered. She looked towards the house. “Where’s Katie.”

            “Inside, well out of hearing range. I hear the other woman took her claws to Phil yesterday.”

            Lina’s eyes flew to her mother. “Who told you that?”

            “You didn’t expect me to believe the disgruntled employee story did you?” She threw one her hands up in the air. “Only a woman who feels spurned by a lover would resort to such a thing.”

            “I don’t want to talk about this with you,” Lina said turning back to the bushes. “I told Adele in confidence – clearly that was a mistake.”

            “Don’t be so hard on her. She was extremely upset and she couldn’t hold it in.”

            “Oh?” Lina turned back to her mother. “She was extremely upset? I’m sure it’s very hard on her, knowing my husband is having a baby with another woman.”

            “Sarcasm doesn’t suit you.”

            “Sorry, it’s either that or cry.”

            “I know this is hard on you, but you’ll get through it. And you’ll be stronger as a result. It’s just one of those little bumps in the road.”

            Lina raised her eyebrows as she stared at her mother. “Bumps in the road? That’s what you call this? A little bump in the road? Another woman is having his baby. I think that qualifies as more than a bump in the road.”

            “You’re being melodramatic. You’ve always been melodramatic. Another woman is having his baby, so what? He isn’t leaving you. He’s still your husband. He’s still going to be your children’s father. No one’s dying.”

            She shook her head. “You are the only person on earth who would downplay something like this.”

            “If you were Muslim and living in the Middle East no one would raise an eyebrow.”

            “I don’t know if that’s true, but it hardly applies.”

            “My point is that you’re making it bigger than it is. You’re giving it too much of your energy.”

            “This is bad, Mom. This is really bad.”

            “It’s only bad if you say it is.”

            “Well, I say it is,” she said crossing her arms over her chest. “And I’m sure ninety-nine percent of the women in this country would agree with me.”

            “Maybe that’s why we have such a high divorce rate – all these ridiculous expectations we hold people to.”

            “I don’t think expecting my husband not to impregnate another woman is a ridiculous expectation,” Lina fumed. “I can’t believe I’m even arguing with you about this. Your thinking is completely warped.” She turned back to the flowers and began cutting them and tossing them into a basket on the ground.

            “Lina, come sit with me. I want to tell you something.”

            Lina closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Mom, I know you mean well but I can’t talk about this with you.”

            “Just humor me,” she said touching Lina’s arm. “Please.” She walked over to a wrought iron bench placed beside a large oak tree several yards away.

            Lina thought about refusing but then found herself setting down her gardening scissors and joining her mother on the bench. “Please don’t say this isn’t a big deal, because to me it really is,” she said meeting her mother’s eyes. “My heart is broken.”  

            “I know.” Alice took her hand and squeezed it. “I know.” They sat their together in silence for a few minutes before Alice spoke again. “I don’t think I ever told you about the first time I met Phil, did I?”

            Lina lifted her eyes. “I don’t remember.”

            “The first time you brought him home,” she said, pausing as she shook her head, “I’ll never forget it. You introduced us and then disappeared upstairs to get something. He looked me straight in the eyes with those blue eyes of his – they sparkled then just like they do today. Anyway, he looked me in the eyes and told me he was going marry you one day.”

            “Really?” Lina smiled.

            “He did. You can ask him. I’m sure he remembers.” She squeezed Lina’s hand. “He was sixteen years old, had known you less than a week, but he knew.”

            Lina nodded a lump forming in her throat.

“And the sex. The two of you were like bunnies.”

“Mom!” Lina cried.

“I stopped using an alarm because he was there at the same time every morning,” she continued ignoring Lina’s protests, “and for some reason I never thought to oil your bed frame, so the squeaking woke me every morning. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. I swear that sound is etched in my memory.” She laughed.

            “Oh, God,” Lina covered her face. “Please tell me you made that up.” She couldn’t recall the bed squeaking.

            “Oh it’s true. Ask your sisters. I’m sure they remember.”

            “No, I’ll take your word for it.”

            “When I said this is just a bump in the road, I wasn’t trying to belittle what you’re feeling right now. I know you’re hurting, but I also know how insignificant this other person is in the totality of your relationship with him. The two of you are so much bigger than this. I’ve never seen two charts more in tune than yours and Phil’s. Everything just fits for the two of you. The compatibility, the attraction – it’s beyond compare. You couldn’t stay away from each other if you tried – you’ll always be pulled back. The attraction is too strong.”

            Lina stared out across the yard, her mother’s words ringing true in her head, not because she believed what she said about their charts, but because deep inside she too believed they were meant to be together.

“You need to forgive him. That’s the most important thing to putting this behind you.”

“It’s hard,” Lina whispered. “One minute I feel like I’ve forgiven him and then something happens and I’m angry all over again.”

“Anger and bitterness just fester and eat away at a relationship. He made a mistake. I’m sure he regrets it as much as you do.”

“He does,” Lina agreed.        

            “Frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t strayed before now,” Alice said.

            “Excuse me?” She frowned at her mother.

            “He’s a man and a very virile man at that. I’m sure women are constantly offering themselves to him. And let’s face it – monogamy is not natural. Why we hold ourselves to such a ridiculous standard is beyond me.”

            “Maybe, because we’re not animals.”

            “Oh, nonsense.” Alice waved her hand forward. “We have so many rules and ideals. You can’t breathe without offending someone.”

            “I happen to agree with some of the rules.”

            “You were always so conservative,” Alice said patting her hand. “You must have got that from your father.”

            “I doubt that.”

            “And you need to forgive, Adele. She’s very upset. She’s afraid you’re never going to speak to her again.”

            “I’m not,” Lina said stubbornly. “Not about anything of substance. She betrayed my trust – it isn’t okay.”

            “She was upset. He is your husband, but your sisters think of him more as a brother. As crazy as it sounds to you, she feels let down, too.”

            “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t change the fact she intentionally shared something I specifically told her not to. I can’t trust her anymore.”  

            “Do you think keeping it secret will make it not true?”  

            “Of course not, but I need to protect my children. I don’t want them to find out from one of their cousins. Who else knows?”

            “Just your father.”

            “My father?” Lina shook her head. “Because he has a right to know something so personal about me.”

            “There’s the sarcasm again.”

            “I’m sorry, but do you really think he has a right to know? I don’t even know him. I don’t even want to know him.”

            Alice tilted her head slightly. “What are you afraid of?”

            “I’m not afraid of anything,” Lina said. “But regardless of what you decide, I have no interest in having a relationship with him.”

            “That’s unfortunate. You’re children really seemed to like him.”

            “Are you really planning to marry him again? After everything he did?” As crazy as her mom was at times, she couldn’t believe it was true.

            “What exactly do you think he did?” Alice asked her expression contemplative.

            “What do I think he did?” Lina repeated. “There’s no thinking. He left you to raise the three of us on your own. He may have sent money, but emotionally he abandoned us.”

            “He wasn’t mature enough to handle the separation,” Alice said. “I think you’d be pleased with the person he’s become.”

            “I don’t care who he’s become. Are you going to answer my question?”

            “What question was that?” She took the sunglasses from their perch over her head and placed them over her eyes.

            “Are you going to marry him?” Lina asked, frustration creeping into her voice.

            Alice shrugged. “I don’t know. The sex is very good – not like you and Phil of course, but very good.”

            “Please don’t talk about my sex life,” Lina said. “First of all it’s inappropriate and secondly you have no idea.”

            “I’ve looked at your charts, dear. I’ve been around the two of you for a quarter century. Your sexual chemistry is obvious. It’s always right there simmering under the surface for all to see. I’m sure your explosive together in the bedroom.”

            Lina closed her eyes. “Please, I beg you to stop.”

            “You really should get to know your father. You’re more alike than you realize. You’re both a bit prudish.”

            “So you’re not going to marry him?”

            “I didn’t say that – I’m still deciding. He doesn’t believe in astrology,” she admitted with a sigh. “I don’t know how you can actively not believe in something, but he does. He won’t even say there’s a possibility it’s true. He is so pig headed sometimes. I don’t know if I could be around someone on a daily basis that doesn’t believe in my life’s work.”

            “I don’t believe in it,” Lina said.

            “That isn’t true. You don’t want to believe in it, you don’t actively follow it, but you’re open minded enough to know there’s a possibility, however remote, it may be true. There’s a difference.”

            Lina contemplated her mother’s words. “You’re right.”

            “I need something to drink,” Alice said coming to her feet. “My throat is parched.”

            “Could we talk about Katie briefly first?”

            Alice resumed her seat. “What about her? I thought she was doing better. There haven’t been any more outbursts have there?”

            “No she’s better,” Lina sighed. “But you shouldn’t have organized this class you’re taking her to without discussing it with me first.”

            “Don’t make this bigger than it is. It’s just a hobby.”

            “It’s not a hobby Phil will let her pursue and now she’s all excited about it.”

            Alice shook her head. “There is no harm in her dabbling in the occult.”

            “That’s not your call to make,” Lina said. “And now we’re going to have to be the bad guys and stop her from doing it. Our relationship with her is already on very shaky ground.”

“Well then the solution is easy,” Alice said coming to her feet. “Don’t do it. I don’t need to remind you how bad off she was a year ago. I introduced her to this as a diversion and she’s having fun with it.”

“She said she wants to be a professional astrologer,” Lina said as she came to her feet. “That’s what she told me this morning.”

“And maybe she will be, but most likely not. For most of us, it’s just a hobby. I really need something to drink unless you want me to faint.”

“Sorry.” Lina gathered her basket of flowers and followed her mother towards the house.

“I know Phil thinks this is sacrilegious or some such nonsense, but that just isn’t true. You’ve been to the Vatican. Did you happen to notice all the astrological references when you were going through?”

“Yes,” Lina answered because she had. She’d even pointed them out to Phil. “He isn’t going to change his mind. I’m just going to have to figure out how to deal with this.”

“This rigid belief system the two of you share is stifling to someone creative like Katie. Why don’t you ask her psychiatrist what he thinks?”

Lina didn’t believe she had a rigid belief system, but she wasn’t going to argue with her mother. “We’ll continue you this later,” she said instead as they reached the pool.  

Alice was still visiting when Phil arrived home a few minutes past 6:00 p.m. “Hi,” his eyes went from Alice who was sitting at the kitchen island to Lina who was at the sink peeling shrimp.

“Hello, Phillip,” Alice said.

“Alice.” He nodded and then crossed to Lina. “Nice shorts,” he said, running his hand over the back of her upper thigh as he met her lips for a brief kiss.

Lina pushed his hand away, conscious of Alice’s peering eyes. “I was gardening earlier and didn’t have a chance to change.”

“I’m not complaining.” He attempted to touch her again, but she intercepted his hand.

“Stop,” she hissed under her breath.

 “Do I have time to swim before dinner?”

“You have an hour.”

“Who turned the temperature of the water up?” Phil bit out when he entered the kitchen forty-five minutes later. He was in dark bathing trunks with a towel draped loosely around his neck, two of the three scratch marks visible, his hair wet against his head. “Did you?” His eyes focused on Logan who was sitting beside Katie at the kitchen table.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” Phil crossed to him. “Why don’t you know?”

“I don’t remember.” Logan dropped his eyes.

“Hey.” Phil tapped his under his chin. “Look at me when I’m talking to you.” He waited for Logan to lift his gaze to continue. “I turned the temperature down on Sunday evening. That was two days ago. Did you turn the temperature up yesterday or today?”

“No.” Logan shook his head.

Phil lifted his eyebrows. “So, Megan did it?”

“Yeah, I guess. She was in it earlier.”

“Well she ruined my swim,” he said before leaving the room.

“How come that was my fault?” Logan asked several seconds later. “Why does he always automatically blame me?”

“He was just upset because it messed up his swim,” Lina said.  

“It isn’t fair,” Logan mumbled pushing back his chair.

“Where are you going?” Lina asked.

“To watch TV.”

“Why is he so hard on him?” Alice asked as soon as Logan was out of the room. “Did you see his face? He’s afraid of him. He shouldn’t be afraid of his own father.”

“He isn’t afraid of him.”

“Yes he is,” Katie said. “He cries sometimes after Dad yells at him.”

“That’s because he’s upset. He isn’t afraid of him,” Lina insisted.  

“You’re too hard on him,” Lina said later that evening as she dabbed crème under her eyes.

“Too hard on who?” Phil asked with a mouth full of toothpaste.

“Logan – he’s sensitive.”

Phil spit his toothpaste into the sink and then rinsed out his mouth. “I’m not too hard on him. If anything, I’m too easy on him and you’re definitely too easy on him.” He wiped his mouth with a towel and tossed it back on the counter. “Stop listening to your mother. She has no clue what she’s talking about.” He turned to leave the room.

“Phil?”

He stopped in the doorway and turned back to her. “I’m not too hard on him.”

“Did you tell my mother you were going to marry me the first time you met her?”

The corners of his lips turned up. “I forgot about that. She remembered?”

“She did. She also has a memory of a squeaky bed. Do you?”

He smiled, his dimples cracking through on both side of his face. “That I’ve never forgotten. Your bed was very loud.”

She closed her eyes briefly, even after twenty-five years embarrassed at the thought. He came over every morning before school and she never realized anyone else knew. “How come I never realized it?”

He leaned against the doorsill. “Because you were busy making your own noises.”

“That isn’t true.”

“The hell it isn’t.”

“That isn’t true,” she insisted.

“Come here.” He held out his hand. “I’ll prove it.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Unpublished Scenes from White Picket Fence

Phil breaking up with Kim (this would have happened in the very beginning of WPF – after Lina found the tie)

Phil was at his desk working on a brief when he heard Kim’s voice just outside his office asking his secretary if he was in. He lifted his gaze from his computer screen as she came through the door.

“I’m really tired of her looks of disproval.” She closed the door and turned the lock on the knob. “Have you been ignoring me intentionally today or have you been busy?” She crossed to the bar in the corner of his office. “Scotch?”

It had been four days since he’d last fucked her. As he watched her across the room, pouring him a drink, her tight dress clinging to the curve of her hips, he felt nothing but regret. It was like he’d stepped out of a fog and he could now see the world clearly again.

“I don’t want a scotch.”

“No?” She looked back at him over her shoulder. “How about a blowjob?” 

“No.” He shook his head.

“Are you serious?” She laughed. “What’s wrong. Why are you looking at me like that?”

“This was a mistake.”

“Excuse me?” Her eye’s widened. “What are you talking about.”

“I’m talking about what we’ve been doing. It’s over. It’s done.”

“What?” She blushed. “What’s wrong? I don’t–.”

“It was a huge fucking mistake,” he interrupted. He rose from his chair. “I’m not making it again. I’ve already talked to Wayne. You’ll be transitioning off my cases and–.”

“Oh, so you’re just dismissing me? You no longer need my services? I’m not a fucking whore, Phil. You can’t just toss me to someone else.”

“I don’t expect you to fuck Wayne. I expect you to work for him.”

“I don’t want to work for Wayne.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I like working for you. You’re who I want to work for.”

He rounded his desk and strode to the door. “That’s not an option. I’m sorry.” He unlocked the knob and pulled open the door. “You’re reporting to him effective immediately.”

“You’re sorry? Are you fucking kidding me?”

He slowly closed the door before turning back to her. “Let’s not make this more difficult than it has to be,” he said coolly. “You knew I was married. You knew I was never leaving my wife. I was very clear about that.”

“I don’t understand.” She walked across the room, joining him at the door. “We’re good together.” She stroked her hand over his crotch.

He clenched her wrist, pushing her hand off of him. “Don’t!”

“We’re just having fun.” She reached for him again, sliding her hand over his chest. “I would never tell her. Why do you want to stop?”

“I don’t want you anymore.” He clasped both her wrists. “Okay?” He raised his eyes brows. “Is that clear enough for you?”

“I don’t believe you.” She shook her head.

“You should. Because it’s the truth.” He released her wrists and opened the door. “Good night.”


Here is the baseball scene (Phil finding out Kim is pregnant) from his POV…

I told you to stop texting me. I’m not sure how many different ways I have to tell you that’s it’s over

I think I’m pregnant

Phil’s hand tightened on the phone. What in the fuck are you talking about?

My period is late. It’s never late.

You told me you were on the pill.

I wasn’t always great about remembering.

“Who are you talking to?” Lina asked.

He darkened the display. “Work,” he answered, staring unfocused at the field. His heart was pounding in his chest. She couldn’t be pregnant. There was no way. He looked back down at his phone

It’s been over six weeks since we were together. What about last month?

I barely had one last month. I didn’t think anything of it until now. You can get a light period when you’re pregnant.

Have you taken a test?

I don’t want to do it alone

He took a deep breath. Just take a fucking test

I’m not going to do it alone. I want you to come over. If I’m pregnant we’re going to need to talk

“Still work?” Lina asked from beside him.

He darkened the display and pushed the phone back into his pocket. “Work.” His jaw was clenched.

“Dad? Could I have some money? We want to get ice cream,” Logan said.

Phil took out his wallet and handed Logan two twenties before once again taking out his cellphone. You’re not pregnant. Just give it a couple of days

Lina laughed beside him. “Why did you make me come if all you’re going to do is text work?”

He lifted his gaze to hers. “Sorry.”

“What’s wrong?” Her eyes were narrowed in concern.

“Nothing.”

“What is going on at five-thirty on a Saturday that is so urgent?”

He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it. “I’m done working I promise.” He shoved his phone back into his pocket.

When he stopped in the restroom after the game, he took out his phone. There were three new messages from Kim.

I’m not going to give it a couple of days

What happened to you?

If you don’t come to me, I’m coming to you.

He plowed his hand back through his hair. Fuck. I’ll be over by 9:00.

It was close to 8:30 when Phil pulled his car into the garage. He’d been wracking his brain for an hour about what to say to Lina. He remained in the car as Lina followed Logan toward the house. He rolled down the car window when Lina paused at the door to the house, looking back at him with confusion in her eyes.

“What are you doing?”

“I have to go out for a little while. Someone screwed up at work and I need to deal with it.”

“Was it Kim?”

His heart stopped. “I shouldn’t be longer than an hour or so.”

“Answer my question, Phil.”

“I have to go.” He pulled out of the garage, unable to look at her. Moments later his cellphone was bringing. “Lina,” he answered, “please just let me deal with this.”

“What’s going on? Are you on your way to the office?”

He didn’t want to lie to her, not anymore. “I need you to just let me handle it.”

“Is it work related? Just tell me that.”

“I’m not prepared to answer any questions right now.”

“Not prepared?” she spit out. “I’m your wife.”

“You’re going to have to trust me.”

“Trust you to what? Do I have to call Wayne to find out what’s going on?”

“Don’t do this, Lina. I’m about at my limit right now.”

“Oh, you’re at your limit? At least you know what’s going on.”

He ended the call. “Fuck!”

Thirty minutes later he was outside Kim’s condo holding a plastic bag with the pregnancy test inside. He barely looked at her when she opened the door, brushing past her into the foyer. “Take it,” he said shortly, holding out the bag.

“I’m as upset as you are,” she said. “Do you think I want to be pregnant.”

“Just take it.”

He followed her back toward her bedroom, sitting on the edge of her bed while she went into the bathroom. He leaned forward, his elbows pressing into his knees as her gripped his head. He felt like he was in the middle of a nightmare and he was going to wake up at any moment.

“It said five minutes but it’s already a yes. It turned right away.”

Blood rushed to Phil’s head. He could barely focus on the plus sign she was showing him in the test window. “No.” He shook his head.

“I can’t believe it either,” she whispered. She sat down beside him. “We’re going to have a baby.”

“No!” Phil jumped to his feet. “How do you know it’s mine?”

“I haven’t been with anyone else. It’s yours.”

“You can’t have it. I’ll take you wherever you want to go. You don’t have to go through this alone.”

“I’m not getting rid of our child,” she said. “There’s no way.”

“I’m married. I have a wife and family. I can’t have a child with you.”

“I love you.”

“No.” Phil shook his head, backing away from the bed. “I don’t love you. I’ve never loved you. I love my wife. I’ve always loved my wife. You know that.”

“I don’t really want to talk about her right now,” Kim said. “I’m having this baby. You can’t stop me.”

“Don’t do this, Kim. I’m begging you. Please don’t do this. If you care about me at all, you won’t do this. This will fucking destroy my life.” He ploughed his fingers back through his hair.

“I’m having it.”

“Fuck!” He pounded his fist into the wall, breaking through the drywall. “Fuck!”

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Swimming Naked Discussion Thread

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Swimming Naked…

coming in January 2019

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Update — Swimming Naked is with the editor

Deleted Scene…

“I was thinking about taking Logan and a couple of his friends to see the college lacrosse championship on Memorial Weekend, just the championship game,not the whole tournament,” Phil said to Lina when he arrived home with Logan.

“That’s nice.” She was at the counter, slicing vegetables.

“It’s in Philadelphia this year.” He leaned his hip against the counter as he watched her. “Do you want to come?”

“No.”

“Come on. It will be fun. We could spend the night and check out the city.”

Lina set down her knife and wiped her hands on a towel before closing the small distance between them and framing his face with her cool hands. She stood on her  tiptoes and softly kissed his lips. “No,” she whispered before brushing her lips over his again. “We’ve already seen the Liberty Bell.”

He clasped the sides of her hips, pulling her lower body into his. He knew she’d never really liked lacrosse. She thought it was too physical. When he’d spot her in the stands during his high school and college games, she’d more often than not have her hands covering her eyes. “Logan and I aren’t playing. You won’t have to worry about us getting hurt.”

“I never worried about you getting hurt. I was always worried you were going to hurt someone. I didn’t want to have the memory of it in my mind.” She linked her arms around his neck. “Take Logan and have fun. You don’t need me there.”

He let his gaze drift over her face. He knew every inch of it. Even the laugh lines around her eyes which had come in the past couple of years were etched in his memory. “I’m still making up for lost time.”

“Gross—stop looking at each other like that,” Katie said. “I shouldn’t have to be afraid to come in to my own kitchen.”

Lina kissed him again before stepping away from him.

“Your kitchen?” Phil asked Katie. His gaze remained on Lina, watching the feminine sway of her hips as she crossed to the refrigerator.

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Swimming Naked — the sequel to A White Picket Fence

The draft of Swimming Naked is now in the hands of my editor. I should have it back in about four weeks.

Opening scene of Swimming Naked…

“Dadda…Dadda…up…up”

“Just a second, buddy.” Phil was at the sink, screwing the top onto a baby bottle.

Lina watched Liam’s small hands yank at Phil’s pant leg, his demands to be picked up increasingly loud. She rubbed her hand across her forehead. “I think I’m going to go upstairs.”

“What?” Phil scooped up his son, handing him the bottle he’d just prepared as he turned to Lina.

“I have a headache. I’m going to go lie down for a minute.” Her eyes were on the almost one-year old sucking on a bottle as his head rested on her husband’s chest. She swallowed down the lump in her throat.

“Do you need me to get you anything?”

“No. I just…I can’t,” Lina whispered before rushing from the room.

“Katie?” Phil called out as walked toward the family room. “Katie?”

“What?” Katie paused the television screen.

“I need you to watch Liam.” He set him on the couch beside her.

“What?” Katie retreated to the corner of the couch, her eyes widening. “No way. I’m not watching him.”

“I’m not asking.”

“You said it wouldn’t affect us if you brought him here. I don’t want to be a baby sitter. I don’t even like kids.”

“Watch him,” he said firmly, pointing at Liam. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

 

Lina was sitting on the edge of the bed when she heard the bedroom door open. “I can’t do it,” she said. “I thought I could but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

The mattress shifted as Phil sat down beside her. “It hasn’t even been an hour.”

“I can’t look at him. I know it’s not his fault, but he’s the result of what you did—a living, breathing reminder.”

“Lina.” Phil stroked his hand up her back. “It’ll get easier. Once you get to know him, you—“

“I don’t want to know him.” She came to her feet and headed toward her wardrobe. “I’ll go to Adele’s or my mom’s for the night.”

Phil cursed softly, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees as he gripped his head. “You said you would try. Forty-five minutes isn’t trying.”

Lina finished packing a small bag with pajamas and clothes for the following day before leaving the wardrobe and crossing to the bathroom. “I tried,” she said when she felt Phil’s presence in the doorway. “You have no idea how hard.” She began to toss toiletries into the bag.

“One night. All I’m asking for is one night.”

“I can’t.” Lina shook her head. She’d thought she could. She’d even picked out a crib and decorated a nursery for Phil’s son, but the reality of him was so different than the imagined.

“I’ll leave,” he said, his voice sounding defeated. “I’ll take him to a hotel.”

“No. All his things are here. It’ll be easier if I just go to Adele’s.” Lina lifted the bag and turned from the sink.

“You shouldn’t be the one leaving.”

“This is the best solution, Phil. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

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Swimming Naked – The Sequel to A White Pick Fence

Coming soon…

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All Things A White Picket Fence, Swimming Naked and Everything Else

Let the conversation continue…

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Swimming Naked — Coming December 2018

Phil was half-way home before he was calm enough to call Kim. “When were you going to tell me?” he bit out as soon as she answered.

“That was fast.”

“We agreed that it was better for you to be out of Baltimore.”

“No, you convinced me it would be better if I was out of Baltimore. But it’s not better, not for Liam. He’s your son and you barely see him.”

“I see him once a week. I’m doing the best I can.”

“And your best will be better when I’m closer.”

“He has a nanny and routine he’s used to. Why would you uproot him?”

“I think being closer to his father is more important than his nanny.”

“Do you really think the city is the place to raise him?”

“You don’t live in the city. Maybe I’ll get a place near you.”

His grip tightened on the steering wheel. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

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