Book 2 From the Shadows Between Lies Series. Their Secret Wife.
Fred strolls inside from the yard, his jeans covered in dirt clutching a hacksaw in one hand. Sweat stains from working in the searing Los Angeles summer are visible on his T-shirt splattered with sawdust, some dry leaves and grit which falls onto the kitchen floor.
Maddy calls out from the bathroom. ‘Is that you, Fred? There’s homemade lemonade in the fridge.’
‘OK,’ he shouts, stepping back to the doorstep. Fred removes his gardening gloves and dusts his clothes down. He pulls the laces and yanks his old pair of trainers from his feet before dragging both damp socks off and flinging them into the laundry basket.
With bare feet sticking to the icy floor, he walks towards the fridge and pours himself a tall glass of ice cold lemonade. Stirring the sweet cloudy liquid with the handle of a fork, he takes a deep gulp, grateful to quench his thirst.
He frowns. The bees are a worry. He watches them swarm under one of the old fruit trees. He can hear them now as he gazes through the open backdoor across the yard towards the distant buzzing.
Maddy bursts into the room, smiling. ‘Wow, you really made a dent in the garden.’
Fred grins, glad she recognizes his efforts.
‘Did you call them?’ Maddy asks, turning towards the fridge to pour herself a cold drink too.
‘Yeah, the LAPD called me back now,’ Fred says with authority.
‘And?’ she asks.
‘Nothing much really,’ he says. ‘What did you expect to happen?’
‘Well, Chucky’s going to jail, but your information may help their court case. What did they say?’
‘No need. They have enough evidence to lock him up for twenty-five.’
Maddy hesitates, sips her drink. ‘They don’t need you in court? Chucky’s behavior, back then, shows he was always heading for trouble.’
‘Yeah, I said that on the phone,’ Fred lies. ‘But they say the prosecutor has my case and several others on file. They’re aware and will contact me if they need me. But he thinks a conviction is a slam dunk.’
‘Oh, OK. I guess that’s all you can do. Less drama for us.’
Fred’s phone beeps. ‘Hey.’
‘Hey what about this?’ says Logan into the cell phone. ‘Feel like going to court and checking out Chucky on the stand?’
‘Ahhhh,’ Fred looks at his wife but can’t tell if she’s listening to Logan’s voice.
‘It might be good to see the prick go down.’
Maddy nods, raising her eyebrows and smiling at Fred.
‘Nah, the less contact I have with him, the better. There’s nothing gained.’
‘Sure Bud,’ Logan says. ‘Tell Maddy I’ll be back at four and to text me if she needs any milk. I drank most of the last bottle at breakfast.’
‘No problem. See you soon.’
He clicks off the phone, and his wife stares at him. ‘What?’
‘I assumed you wanted to go to court and see the bastard jailed for murder.’
‘You and Logan really don’t get it,’ Fred sighs. ‘It was a lucky escape and I don’t want to know more details about the guy. Besides, Chucky could identify me in the crowd and make a mental note to hunt me down.
Don’t you see that’s a real risk?’
‘I guess,’ Maddy says. ‘I can understand your reluctance…’
Fred shuts the conversation down, pulls his shoes and gloves back on, and heads outside to finish the pruning. He skips down the two concrete steps and strides across the lawn towards the back hedge. A flock of warblers fly up from the shrubs growing along the timber fence. They land on the untrimmed end of the hedge. He primes the hedge trimmer, the menacing machine noise startles the birds who instantly fly skywards, high over the neighbor’s roof before disappearing.
The previous afternoon, he and Logan sat on the back stoop, drinking beer and listening to the evening birdsong. Everything so peaceful. He couldn’t live without Maddy. Being alone at this stage of life is inconceivable. For this reason, fears about the pair being lovers he chooses to ignore and carry on as if nothing has changed. Trouble is, he can’t help watching them, guessing what they’re up to when they are out of sight. Turning a blind eye is the only way forward. He must learn to cope with his Maddy’s adultery, but how long, can he play the fool?
Book 2. Chapter 2.
The Mating Game.
Mila Jones brushes the dark hair from her face with the back of her flour-covered hand. Reaching for the rolling pin, she continues pressing out the stubborn dough on the white stone counter top at the center of her kitchen. It’s perfect for pastry, and she silently congratulates her genius decision to have the kitchen renovated before they moved into the house just over a year ago. The pale gray floor-to-ceiling cupboards enhance the large walk-in pantry with its double doors ajar.
Streaks of Californian sunlight fall across her face and onto the white-tiled floor where she stands. Her eldest daughter bursts through the kitchen doorway as Mila swings around. Sacha’s ruffled, shoulder-length blonde hair is a mess after a deep night’s sleep.
‘Morning, Mom,’ she smiles. At twenty-two, she is the eldest of two daughters. They both have soulful blue eyes like their father, a sadness somehow reflects out at the world. Mila often jokes that if she hadn’t been in the delivery room when they were born, she would never believe she was their mother.
‘Hi Darling,’ Mila responds, wiping both hands across her navy striped apron. Several other attempts at dusting flour off her fingers have already run their course over the linen fabric. ‘Did you sleep well?’
‘Like the dead!’ Sacha says, reaching out for a cup from the overhead cupboards and pours coffee from the counter top espresso machine.
Moments later her sister, Suzie, a younger and shorter version of her older sibling, bounces into the room. Suzie is studying at UCLA, struggling to complete her degree. Initially, she rented a small apartment with two friends and Sacha. But the sisters soon realized it was both costly and frustrating renting and cleaning-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 Logan, 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. Maddy and Fred are coming at noon, and it’s already ten-thirty.’
‘Noted!’ Sacha continues buttering her toast and eating while still standing near the coffee machine with her half-filled ceramic mug.
‘Well, no screwing around,’ Mila says. 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 says, disgruntled. ‘Don’t you start now, cheeky!’ Their mother purses her lips and begs God to let this be a calm, uneventful Sunday afternoon.
‘I’m serious! What kind of salad do you want?’ Sacha opens the fridge door and picks 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 carries on pressing the dough into a round glass pie-dish. ‘Don’t forget to make a salad dressing as well,’ she says without looking up from her pastry pummeling.
Sacha rolls her eyes to the ceiling behind her mother’s back and sighs. This ritual goes on every weekend, with Mila choosing to ignore the bait while shoving the pie base into the preheated oven. Two hours later, both families sit around a large glass-topped table under the covered deck, overlooking the yard and the inviting blue water of the swimming pool.
Fred clutches a beer and stands next to Logan at the large barbeque grill, turning the steak and sausages. Both men are talking about their cycling times from the previous day when they rode for over four hours out to Thousand Oaks and back. It was over sixty-five miles and they enjoyed an excellent lunch at a local café with good strong coffee before they headed back home.
‘My shoulders are damn sore,’ complains Fred, stretching his neck.
Logan nods. ‘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 grins. ‘I’ve got a horrible feeling after all the tweaking of the seat and 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,’ chuckles Logan, flipping the grilled steak. ‘This is about done. Say three minutes more.’
The two sisters stretch themselves out, relaxing on loungers near the pool. Blake, Fred and Maddy Davis’ eldest son, perches on the edge of one lounger, chatting to the girls. Hawke, their youngest son, and the baby of the collective offspring, is nineteen-years-old and swims in the pool. He floats to the edge and leans into the conversation. They discuss the latest music and the hottest clubs in LA.
Hawke takes note, knowing full well he can’t afford to go, with beers costing over $12 each. ‘Do you think I could pass for twenty-one?’ Hawke asks them. ‘You know, if I got a fake ID.’
Sacha nods, and Suzie asks, ‘It depends, I mean, like what would you be wearing? That makes a tremendous difference. Those baggy pants you wear hanging off your butt are a dead give-away.’
‘Hell yeah, Bro,’ Blake snorts at his younger brother. ‘You look like a twelve-year-old with your crack glowing in the dark.’
They all roar with laughter, Hawke joins in, agitated at how Blake always puts him down in front of the sisters. ‘OK guys, if I dress in a collared shirt and wear Blake’s slacks. What do ya reckon? In with a chance?’ Hawke asks, wanting to engage Sacha in the conversation. He’s known the sisters all his life, but things have changed in recent months. He’s almost attracted to Sacha, and she’s only four years older than him.
‘I guess so,’ Sacha remarks. ‘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?’ asks Blake, intent on bringing Hawke back to harsh reality. ‘Listen, brother, you will not pull the girls 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 twenty.’
The girls smile, Blake laughs.
‘I pre-load at friends’ places before-hand so the cost of a couple of beers is nothing,’ Hawke responds, trying to gain some ground. ‘I still think I could pass for twenty-one.’
Suzie looks at him and smiles. ‘Sure, of course you can but don’t get caught with that fake ID or they’ll fine you and think about how pissed your parents will be. You’ll spend next summer paying it off. It’s just not worth it.’
Hawke knows 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 insist he be home by midnight. They’re Archaic!
At the table, already set with plates, cutlery, paper napkins and bottles of wine and glasses, Maddy and Mila dressed in light summer tops and jeans remain engrossed in conversation. Fred glances at them several times while grilling the meat and wonders what is so intriguing in the discussion between the pair. He dismisses the talk as women’s prattle.
Several large bowls of delicious salads dot the long glass-topped outdoor table. The women had already prepared and contributed plenty of fresh meat for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. Both families often spent Sundays this way, at one or the other’s homes. Occasionally they took long walks around the local park or through the forest reserve.
Those plans usually halted their adult children in their tracks, so the foursome enjoyed their own company without the prying supersonic ears and unwanted verbal input from their offspring.
‘Food’s ready!’ announces Logan, picking up the large roasting pan laden with tasty grilled steaks, sausages and a few marinated beef ribs. They ate and chatted, exchanging the week’s activities and upsets, joking about various buffoons in the Senate as the daily political circus unfolds.
‘Politics Schmolotics,’ Hawke interjects, looking at the others around the table. ‘Let’s leave the actual problems to the grown-ups, eh? Beach anyone?’
Within minutes the four friends leap up, gather their plates and load them in the dishwasher. They hurriedly thank their collective parents and race out of the front door.
‘Drive carefully guys!’ shouts Maddy as the door slams behind them.
‘Too easy,’ laughs Logan. ‘I love them, but I love it more when we have time to ourselves.’
All four adults smile in unison and raise their glasses. ‘Here, here,’ they say, clinking their glasses of chilled Sauvignon together.
‘Is Vida still lost and struggling?’ Logan asks after Maddy’s mother. ‘It’s been tough losing her husband after sixty-two years of marriage. You know, she met him in Holland when she was fifteen and he was only eighteen-years-old back in 1948. It’s been difficult for her adjusting to being alone. She’s just lonely and distracted, and talks constantly about Dad and the past.’
‘You wouldn’t get that kind of love these days,’ Mila says as both men listen.
‘Very sad,’ Fred comments. ‘He was the love of her life.’
‘Yes. Not that way now. I feel sorry for our kids in the bar-crawling, clubbing culture of narcissistic self-indulgence and opportunistic sex.’ Logan sighs.
Mila flicks his arm with her napkin. ‘Logan!’
‘What? 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 responds.
‘Look around you,’ says Fred, backing up his closest friend. ‘Romance these days goes like this. First, a text that says; Wanna hook up?’
Logan snorts with amusement. The women raise their eyebrows as Logan persists in acting out the potential bar room conversation.
‘OK…’ he puts 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 below, she’ll shrug and say, OK.’
‘Really?’ interrupts Maddy. ‘But how did he get her cell number?’
‘Details, darling, details. Don’t worry about how,’ says Logan, grinning.
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 Logan. ‘This is EXACTLY as it goes down in millions of new relationships in that generation. This is as romantic as it’s going to get.’
‘Pretty sad,’ says Maddy. ‘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. There is no mistaking how they view generational differences during the human mating game.
‘I blame Porn Hub. It glues kids to it every waking moment. They screw with kids’ priorities and values,’ Fred said. ‘Did you see that people under twenty-five in Japan don’t have sex anymore? Their population growth is below zero and continues falling!’
‘Crazy stuff,’ Maddy comments. ‘I guess they think the actual world is like the online adult entertainment world. I mean, what girl can compete with that?’
Logan lifts his glass and grins. ‘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 with a flourish.
The conversation meanders over various other topics, settling onto Maddy and Fred’s son, Hawke Davis.
‘I have a real unease about him lately,’ Maddy says. ‘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 speak 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 says, as if Hawke’s appearance makes him innocent.
‘Yeah, he’s like Fred was at that age,’ says Logan, ‘hooking up all over town!’
‘Not like your romantic trials and tribulations, Logan,’ Mila says, upgrading the conversation. For a fleeting moment Fred considers if Mila is aware of her husband’s connection to Maddy, but dismisses his own paranoia.
Mila changes the topic. ‘Remember when we were horse riding on the beach last summer?’ Logan says to divert the discussion. ‘It was fun, we both had superb horses, but we hadn’t ridden for years.’
‘I’m impressed you both made it into the saddle,’ giggles Maddy, relieved the conversation has steered away from her son, Hawke.
‘Me too,’ Fred says.
‘Well, it’s like riding a horse. All those childhood memories of pony club competitions flood back and in ten minutes I was into it and took off down the beach.’
‘She did,’ Logan says. ‘It horrified me, thinking I may get bucked right off. But my horse galloped onwards. Scary!’
‘When we got back to the club,’ explains Mila, ‘I was catching my breath and leaning in the saddle patting my ride when Logan finally turns 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 laughs as the others give a raucous shriek from around the table.
‘Enough drinking for you, Mrs. Jones!’ said Logan, chuckling at the memory.