Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~ Stephen King

Friday, April 30, 2010

Marnie's Rung

Fiction Friday

This is the next chapter of the novel (or project, as I continue to insist on calling it) that I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It's sat dormant long enough - time for me to take another look at it - and to give you a peek at it as well.

In case you missed something:

Chapter 1: Josh's Table
Chapter 2: The Vista
Chapter 3: Transition

Chapter 4:

Marnie threw the pink box on her mother’s granite countertop and pushed her sunglasses up on her head. “Opting for the natural look today, I see.” Her mother stated, indicating Marnie’s lack of make-up and still damp hair.

“It’s all the rage.”

“Where? In the Bowery? In the Ghet-to?”

“Marnie’s been slumming again?” asked her younger sister, Brittany.

“Again? When did she stop?” added her older sister, Corrine.

“That’s enough, girls.” Mom admonished, but the slight smile teasing at her lips eliminated any hope of severity. “Marnie is – finding herself.”

“Well she sure is looking in nasty places.”

“Yep. Saw your husband in one of ‘em last night, Corri. How’s he feelin’ this morning?”

“Alan couldn’t make it this morning because he was out late meeting with clients.” Corrine said, looking down, then up, then off into the distance. Looking everywhere but at anyone. Marnie decided not to push – she hadn’t meant to stir things up, necessarily, she just wanted to take the attention off of herself. So. More trouble in paradise. How interesting.

Corrine and Alan had met in college and had gotten married a month after graduation. They were the perfect couple, everyone said so. Their wedding was two years in the making and it was the social event of the season. It had been magazine perfect. Corrine kept a perfect home and worked easy hours managing a stylish boutique. Alan quickly worked his way through the ranks of a major corporation. After two years of marriage and a cruise around the world, they decided it was time for children. Two beautiful little clones of them followed, first Evan and twenty-six months later, Elizabeth. A gardener cared for the lawn, a housekeeper cared for the house and a nanny cared for the kids. Alan cared for his young secretary and more than one stripper at the Hi-Clas Gentlemen’s Club. Corrine cared for vodka and valium. It was so cliché Marnie had a hard time believing it was true, but there it was.

Marnie’s mom set out a tray of Bloody Mary’s along with a pitcher for the inevitable refills. Marnie clicked her glass with Brittany’s. “Cheers.”

“First of the day.”

Hair of the dog always went down well. Her mom might not make a decent cup of coffee, but she could whip up a kick-ass Bloody Mary. The four women relaxed, if only for a moment.

“Hey Corri”, Brittany said, breaking the temporary silence, “Where are the E’s?”

“Evan and Elizabeth are playing the Wii in the game room.”

“I’m gonna go say howdy – how long till brunch, Mom?”

“It should really only be about five more minutes. Tell them to finish their game and join us.”

“Your wish is my command.” Brittany said, bowing with a flourish as she left the room.

As Brittany left, Corrine turned to Marnie and asked softly, “You didn’t really see Alan at one of those horrid places last night, did you?”

“Ok, couple things: Those places are not horrid. The people who patronize them are not horrid. I did not run into your husband. Who, for the record, I think IS horrid.”

If Marnie was expecting a fight, she didn’t get one. Corrine sighed. “I know what he does, Marnie. I know who he is. I’m not an idiot. But what am I supposed to do? I like our life.” Marnie raised her eyebrows at this but didn’t say a word. After a brief pause, Corrine continued, “And there’s the kids, you know? And scandal. God, I don’t want to be involved in a scandal.”

“His behavior is scandalous, Cor. It’s only a matter of time.”

“I know. It’s my greatest fear.”

“Now what are you girls conspiring about?” asked their mother upon re-entering the room. “You haven’t picked up some sort of disease, Marnie, have you? Oh God, you’re not pregnant?”

“I am both diseased and pregnant, Mom. I don’t know who the father is – probably one of the bikers from that night I was initiated into the gang. I’m going to keep it. I’m naming it after you.”

“The bastard child of a hundred criminals” Corrine added nudging Marnie and smiling for the first time since she’d arrived.

“Oh, for God’s sake. Seriously – what were you talking about?”

“It was between us, Mom. Don’t worry about it. Is there anything we can do to help get brunch on the table?”

“I think Lupe has everything under control. Go on in and fix yourself a plate.”

Lupe had been the Hammond’s housekeeper since the day they got married. She was only five years younger than Mrs. Hammond and in reality they had become companions, some might even say friends and confidants in all the years they’d been together. They maintained all aspects of decorum when anyone was around, but it was pretty much common knowledge that when her morning chores were done, Lupe relaxed next to Mrs. Hammond in matching lounge chairs in the den where they shared a cocktail or two and their stories. They were employer and employee, but they were also friends.

The Hammond’s brunches were a weekly tradition and had been for as long as any of them could remember. Mrs. Hammond would make her signature Bloody Marys and Lupe would set out a spread. There were always fruits, bagels and spreads. There were usually waffles and or French toast. There was always a variety of breakfast meats. Sometimes Lupe would make pastries, and sometimes one of the girls would pick some up on the way there, as Marnie had on this morning. There was always fresh-squeezed orange juice. The E’s, Evan and Elizabeth, loved helping with this process.

Brunch was the one time each week when all of the Hammond’s came together. It was the way they kept close. They shared news here. If one of the girls brought a beau to brunch, it was her way of saying, “this one is important”. The girls would sometimes balk at having to be at their parents’ house on a Sunday morning, but they were always glad they’d come when it was all said and done.

One Sunday, shortly after her twenty-first birthday and, as such, her public graduation from orange juice to Bloody Marys, Brittany had announced, close to tears, “I love this family so much!” She was, of course, teased mercilessly for this, and it became a sort of sarcastic family motto. Birthday cards were signed in this manner, it was often their parting greeting – it started as mocking, but it eventually morphed into something more. It became one of those inside things that define a group. It became one of those things that could break an awkward silence – one of those things that was guaranteed to make everyone who was in on it smile whenever it was uttered.

Brittany and the E’s came running up the stairs. Mrs. Hammond fixed them with a look, and they all slowed the pace, rolling their eyes at each other. The Hammonds were nothing if not champion eye-rollers. Three generations of eye-rollers and counting. They grabbed plates from the buffet, made their choices, and sat together at the big table – heads together, conspiring. Brittany loved her niece and nephew and wished she had children of her own. Her love life had been, to date, an unmitigated disaster, so that wasn’t looking likely any time soon. She would meet a new man, get very excited about him – often inviting him to brunch prematurely – and – before the initial excitement even had a chance to wear off and settle into something more permanent, he’d be gone. She was about ready to give up on the whole thing – and she would, too, if she didn’t want kids so damn much.

Marnie loved the E’s, too, but she was in no hurry to have any of her own. Her life was just too much fun right now. There was no place for kids in it. Maybe someday there would be, but not right now. Right now was just too full and too fun.

Marnie and Corrine joined Brittany and the E’s at the table. They were soon followed by Mr. and Mrs. Hammond. The topic of conversation jumped easily from how the E’s were doing in school, to business, to the state of the world, to pop culture to the single girls’ love lives to the upcoming holidays.

“How many shall I tell Lupe to expect for Thanksgiving?”

“We’ll be here.” Said Corrine.

“Alan, too?”

“Yes, Alan, too, of course.” Corrine managed to smile at her children and smirk at her mother at the same time.

“I wouldn’t miss it” said Brittany, fist bumping each of the E’s and exchanging meaningful glances with them.

“That looks like trouble! I might be a plus-one.” Marnie said, surprising even herself. The table became silent as all eyes turned to Marnie. “I love this family so much!” she tried, feebly. She wasn’t terribly surprised when it didn’t work.

“Do tell!” said Brittany, her eyes alight with the prospect of hot gossip.

“There’s nothing to tell, it’s just – I have a friend and – I don’t think he has anywhere else to go – and…” Why was she doing this? One night of drinking, dancing, and a peck on the cheek and she was going to impose her whole clan on him? Oh, this was a mistake. A very bad mistake. A mistake that hadn’t even been made yet and could maybe still be easily averted. “I’m just kidding – gosh – it’s easy to get a rise out of you people – your lives must be dreadfully boring. I’ll be here. Just me. Sheesh. I love this family so much.”

Mr. Hammond and the E’s went right back to enjoying their brunch. The women made light conversation, but kept glancing sideways at Marnie – like she might reveal something monumental in the way she spread cream cheese on her bagel or something. Marnie was more than aware of the scrutinization and speculation that was going on around her and she kept her eyes pretty firmly glued to her food. “Idiot” she said to herself. She had brought it on, fair and square. And when the women in her family were given a bone, they rarely abandoned it. And she had just offered herself up to them wrapped in a big red bow. It was at this moment that Marnie’s cell rang. Cal. A smile crossed her face unchecked before she left the room to take the call. That smile was missed by no-one. Even the E’s noticed, although they weren’t quite sure what to do with the information.

Marnie snuck into the kitchen, where Lupe had already started on the dishes.



“I’m surprised you called – what’s up?”

“Should I not have? Am I interrupting something?”

“Brunch with the ‘rents. I needed a little break anyway.”



Lupe rolled her eyes at this point. She had inherited the family trait by proximity.

“Hey, the reason I called – I was going to ride out to my brother’s farm this afternoon for a little bit. It’s a pretty day, and I thought, if you wanted, maybe…”

“You want me to ride to your brother’s place with you today?”

“Well, you know, it’s a pretty day for a ride. But if you’re busy…”

“We’re just finishing up. How soon did you want to leave?”

“So you want to go?”

“Sure. I just need to get home and find a warmer jacket. You know. So you can wear yours for a change.”

Lupe raised her eyebrows and shot Marnie a look. Marnie stuck her tongue out at her playfully. Lupe shook her head and went back to her work, mumbling under her breath about “proper young ladies”.

“See you in forty minutes, then?”




“I don’t know where you live.”

“You just want to meet me somewhere?”

“I can pick you up.”

“Ok.” Marnie took a deep breath and gave him her address. “See you in forty.”


Marnie shrugged at Lupe and returned to the dining room. “I’ve gotta take off.” She said, slipping into her jacket, “Thanks, Mom, everything was great as usual.”

“See you next week, darling” her mother said, offering her cheek up for a kiss. “Bring that new young man of yours, why don’t you?”

Marnie waved her off then turned back at the door. All eyes were on her and the eyes of her mother and her sisters were twinkling. She’d given them something to talk about. “I love this family so much!” she called out as she closed the door behind her.

Cal was right. It was a beautiful day.

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