In the Deep End – Book One – Chapter 3

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 Chapter Three

A Year Earlier

Mila brushed her hair back from her face with the back of her flour-covered hand. Reaching for the rolling pin she continued pressing out the stubborn dough. The white stone benchtop in her modern kitchen was perfect for pastry. It was a genius move on her part to have renovated the kitchen before they moved into the house just over a year ago. The pale grey floor-to-ceiling cupboards enhanced the large walk-in pantry with its double doors ajar as streaks of afternoon light fell onto her face and where she stood on the ash-colored timber floor.

Her daughter Sacha burst in through the kitchen door as Mila swung around. Her messy, shoulder length blonde hair was ruffled from a deep night’s sleep.

‘Morning Mom,’ she smiled. At 22, she was the eldest of two daughters. They both had soulful blue eyes like their father, a sadness somehow, reflected out at the world. Mila often joked that if she hadn’t been in the delivery room when they were born, she would never have believed she was their mother.

‘Hi Darling,’ Mila responded as she wiped both hands on her navy striped apron. Clearly, several other attempts at dusting flour off her hands had already run their course over the linen fabric. ‘Did you sleep well?’

‘Like the dead!’ Sacha responded reaching out for a cup from the overhead cupboards and pouring coffee from the counter top espresso machine.

Moments later her sister, Suzie, a slightly younger and shorter version of her older sibling bounced into the room. Suzie had continued studying at UCLA, struggling to complete her degree. Initially, she had been renting with two friends and Sacha. But the sisters soon realized it was both costly and frustrating renting and doing the clean-up after the others. In the past year, they had both moved back home much to the relief of Mila and the quiet consternation of Alex who figured it would be a process of short-term pain on the home front for long-term gain.

‘Listen, you girls need to get breakfast, dress and help me set the table for lunch. Amira and Fred are coming at noon, and it’s already 10.30.’

‘Duly noted!’ Sacha responded buttering toast and eating while still standing near the coffee machine with her half-filled mug.

‘Good, no screwing around,’ Mila said. Your father’s going to be late. I need you both to lend a hand. Sacha, can you please make a salad?

‘With what?’ she responded mildly disgruntled.

‘Don’t you start now, cheeky!’ Their mother pursed her lips and silently begged God to let this be a calm, uneventful Sunday afternoon.

‘I’m serious! What kind of salad do you want?’ Sacha opened the fridge door and picked out a package of pre-cut coleslaw and a bag of baby spinach leaves. ‘Is this OK? Shall I put nuts and feta in it too?’

Mila carried on pressing the dough into a round glass pie-dish and nodded at her daughter. ‘Don’t forget to make a salad dressing as well,’ she said without looking up from her pastry pummeling.

Sacha rolled her eyes to the ceiling behind her mother’s back and sighed. This ritual went on every weekend, Mila thought, choosing to ignore the bait while shoving the pie base into the preheated oven.

Two hours later, both families were seated on the covered deck overlooking the yard and the inviting blue water of the swimming pool. Fred was holding a beer and standing next to Alex at the large barbeque grill as he turned the meat and sausages. Both men were talking about their cycling times from the previous day when they had ridden for over four hours out to Thousand Oaks and back. It was over 65 miles and they got to enjoy an excellent lunch at a local café with good strong coffee before they headed back home.

‘My shoulders are damn sore,’ complained Fred, stretching his neck.

Alex nodded. ‘Have you checked the height of your seat post or do you think it’s the new position of the handlebars?’

‘Yeah if only it were something I could fix.’ Fred grinned. ‘I’ve got a horrible feeling after all the tweaking of the seat and its post that I’m the problem. My neck is getting too old to hold up my head. I need a replacement.’

‘You and me both bud,’ chuckled Alex, turning the grilled steak. ‘This is about done. Say three more minutes.’

Alex and Mila’s two daughters were stretched out relaxing on loungers by the pool with Blake, Fred and Amira’s eldest son, who was perched on the edge of one lounger, chatting to the sisters. Hawke, Fred and Amira’s youngest son, and the baby of the collective offspring, at just 19 was swimming in the pool. He occasionally swam to the edge and chipped into the conversation with his brother and the two girls. They talked about music and the latest clubs in LA, which Hawke took note of, knowing full well that he couldn’t afford to go, with beers costing over $12 each.

‘Do you think I could pass for 21?’ Hawke asked them. ‘You know, if I managed to get a fake ID.’

Sacha nodded, and Suzie asked, ‘It depends, I mean, like what would you be wearing? That makes a huge difference. Those pants you wear hanging off your butt are a dead give-away.’

‘Hell yeah,’ his older brother Blake snorted. ‘You look like a 12-year-old with that crack glowing in the dark.’

They all laughed out loud, Hawke joined in but was mildly irritated at how Blake always had to put him down and grandstand in front of the sisters.

‘OK guys, if I dress in a collared shirt and wear Blake’s suit pants. What do ya reckon? In with a chance?’ Hawke asked wanting to engage Suzie in the conversation. He’d known the sisters all his life but in recent months he felt almost attracted to Suzie and he wasn’t that much younger than her.

‘I guess so,’ said Sacha. ‘It’s all about confidence. Walking the talk and all that.’

‘But how’s a student like you going to afford the drinks and cover charges?’ asked Blake, intent on bringing him back to harsh reality. ‘Listen brother you aren’t gonna pull the chicks if you can’t afford to buy them a drink. You might as well sit it out a few years or you’ll be bankrupt by 20.’

The girls smiled, Blake laughed.

‘I pre-drink at friends’ places before-hand so the cost of a couple of beers is nothing,’ Hawke responded trying to gain some ground. ‘I still think I could pass for 21.’

Suzie looked at him closely and smiled. ‘Sure, of course you could but don’t get caught with that fake ID or you’ll be fined and think about how pissed off your parents will be and you’ll spend next summer holidays paying that off as well. Just not worth it.

Hawke knew the cover charges at the local clubs and the cost of buying drinks were prohibitive so the whole discussion was only hypothetical. His biggest problem was the drama with his parents, who insisted he was home by midnight. Archaic!

At the table, already set with plates, cutlery, paper napkins and bottles of wine and glasses, sat Amira and Mila dressed in light summer tops and jeans, deeply engrossed in conversation. Fred glanced over at them several times while grilling the meat and wondered what was so intriguing but dismissed it as women’s prattle, no doubt.

Several large bowls of delicious salads dotted the long glass-topped outdoor table. The women had prepared them and contributed plenty of fresh meat for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Both families often spent Sundays in this way, at one or the other’s homes. Occasionally they would go out to a park or the forest reserve and walk instead of eating. Those plans usually halted their adult children in their tracks, so the foursome enjoyed their own company without the prying super-sonic ears and unwanted verbal input from their offspring.

‘Food’s ready!’ announced Alex, picking up the large roasting pan laden with tasty grilled steaks, sausages and a few marinated beef ribs that Mila had contributed.

They ate and chatted, exchanging the week’s activities and upsets, joking about various buffoons in the Senate as the daily political circus unfolded.

‘Politics Schmolotics,’ Hawke interjected, looking at the others around the table. ‘Let’s leave the real problems to the grown-ups eh? Beach anyone?’

Within minutes the four friends leaped up, gathered their plates and loaded them in the dishwasher. They hurriedly thanked their collective parents and raced out the front door.

‘Drive carefully guys!’ shouted Amira as the front door slammed behind them.

‘Too easy,’ laughed Alex. ‘I love them, but I love it more when we have time to ourselves.’

All four adults nodded in unison and raised their glasses. ‘Here, here,’ they said clinking their goblets of chilled white wine together.

‘Is Vida still lost and struggling?’ Alex asked after Amira’s mother.

‘It’s been tough losing Dad after 62 years of marriage. You know, she met him in Holland when she was 15 and he was only 18 years old back in 1948. It’s been tough for her now being left alone. She’s just lost.’

‘You wouldn’t get that kind of love these days,’ Mila said as the men nodded.

‘Very sad,’ Fred commented. ‘He was clearly the love of her life.’

Alex sighed. ‘Yes. Certainly not that way these days. I feel sorry for our kids in the bar-crawling, clubbing culture of narcissistic self-indulgence and opportunistic sex.’

Mila flicked his arm with her napkin. ‘Alex!’

‘Whaaat? I’m just saying. It’s a casual mad one-night-stand kind of thing. Romance is out the window.’

‘You don’t know that.’ Mila responded.

‘It seems that way,’ said Fred backing up his closest friend. Romance these days goes like this. First, a text that says; Wanna hook up?

Alex snorted. The women raised their eyebrows as Alex persisted in acting out the potential bar conversation. ‘Ok…’ he put on a high-pitched female voice.

‘Of course, there is no hesitation ‘cos the guy’s been watching her from the other side of the bar and seen her gulp down two vodkas and three Tequila shots. So, he knows she’s ripe for a damn good nailing. He saunters up to her and leans over the bar and asks her. ‘Did you get my text?’  She swings around on the barstool and looks him up and down. If he’s average or even slightly below, she’ll shrug and say, OK.’

‘Really?’ interrupts Amira. ‘How did he get her cell number?’

‘Details darling, details. Don’t worry about how,’ says Alex.

Fred takes over and continues with the imaginary dialogue. ‘Hell yeah. Then he says, ‘I’ve got this boner wanna take a ride?’

They all guffaw, Mila covers her mouth with her hand in mild embarrassment.

What’s so funny?’ asks Alex. ‘This is EXACTLY as it goes down in millions of new relationships in that generation. This is as romantic as it’s gonna get.’

‘Pretty sad,’ says Amira. ‘And I hope our kids aren’t doing that right now while we’re sitting here laughing.’

‘You think romance is dead?’ says Mila.

Both men nod profoundly, there was no mistaking how they viewed the generational differences with sexual advances during the mating game.

‘I blame Porn Hub. Kids are glued to it every waking moment. Their priorities and values are completely screwed up,’ Fred said. ‘Did you see that people under 25 in Japan don’t have sex anymore? Their population growth is below zero and falling!’

‘Crazy stuff,’ commented Amira. ‘I guess they think the real world is like the online adult entertainment world. I mean what girl can compete with that?’

Alex lifted his glass and grinned. ‘Well, I’m sure Fred will agree with me, that you two could!’ They laugh. ‘It’s all about incompetent communication and false advertising married to retarded social values,’ he concludes in a flourish.

The conversation meandered over various other topics, finally settling on Amira and Fred’s son Hawke Davis.

‘I have a real unease about him lately,’ Amira said. ‘He looks like apple pie and ice-cream wouldn’t melt in his mouth, but I asked him last week where he got the Oakley sunglasses from. He said he found them on Venice beach while walking the dog. I mean. Do you believe that?’

The other three all spoke at once, confirming that of course, the situation is plausible, people lose sunglasses all the time.

‘He’s such a tall, dark, good-looking guy,’ Mila said.

‘Yeah, he’s like Fred was at that age,’ says Alex, ‘probably hooking up all over town!’

‘Not like your romantic trials and tribulations Alex,’ Mila said, upgrading the conversation to a more personal level. ‘Remember when we were horse riding on the beach last summer? It was fun, we both had great horses, but we hadn’t ridden for years.’

‘I was impressed you both made it into the saddle,’ giggled Amira, relieved the conversation had steered away from her son, Hawke.

‘Me too,’ Fred chipped in.

‘Well it’s literally like riding a horse, all those childhood memories of pony club started flooding back and in ten minutes I was into it and took off down the beach.’

‘She did,’ Alex said. ‘I was horrified thinking I may get bucked right off. But my horse decided to gallop. Scary!’

‘When we got back to the club,’ explained Mila, ‘I was catching my breath and leaning in the saddle patting my ride when Alex turned up, still upright on the horse thank God. He asked me; Why is your horse so hot and sweaty? I replied; Wouldn’t you be hot and sweaty if you’d been between my thighs for two hours?

Mila laughed as the others gave an amused shriek around the table.

‘Enough drinking for you Mrs. Jones!’ said Alex chuckling at the memory.

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