Donald had been sitting poolside sipping a vodka something watching the fireworks across the bay when he heard it. Jill’s voice shrieking above the distant explosions. He looked over to Jill’s older son Tanner, already putting down his drink the kid looked unphased. Donald was only 10 years older than Tanner, and 14 years older than his younger brother, Finley. Young enough to hang with the kids, old enough to party with the adults. Donald reached across his potbelly and put his drink down next to Tanner’s.

Finley’s shouts were overpowered by Jill’s screams. Tanner raised an eyebrow at Donald, this wasn’t necessarily something new. In all the time Donald had known Jill, dating back to their days at the club, she could be the best drinker or the worst. A tall, built blonde. A cougar in the business world, carving out every letter and dime she could in the flesh of her enemies. Able to cut and chew a stogie while killing the front nine. She didn’t take any more bullshit than what she gave.

The tilted top of heavily rooted blonde head popped up over the outside wooden stairs as Donald and Tanner approached. As they approached the back deck area the full scene of the living room revealed itself through the glass wall. The stain washed wooden floor boards running toward the front of the house. The nondescript furniture staged around the bar area of the living room was hidden behind a wall of people. Jill squared up, practically leaning over her younger son. Finley’s dark head of hair swooping over his face. Behind him was a young girl, legs knobbing around like Bambi’s, Donald guessed he had pubes older than she was.

Fading into the background was Jill’s husband, Rob. His wide, square like head bopping just out of view down the hall and around the corner to the upstairs bedroom. It wasn’t that he was chicken, but the fight has already been scared out of anyone around. If there had been a foe stupid enough to take on Jill, Rob would have stayed. His own beast no longer quietted inside. But there was only Jill, Fin, and the flimsy real-life barbie. No one to confront Jill, so no one for Jill to take out.

Finley heard his father’s footsteps above him. Sweat trickled down his back, he could feel the strain in his arms. He was trying to keep Amber reigned in behind him. Not that he thought his mother would physically attack her, not in such a public forum at least. He could feel Amber’s hair tickling his wrist as her head bent lower and lower. The air trembled with her, cause goosebumps to run up his arms. A fleck of spit landed on his forehead as his mother’s head whipped towards the door.

His brother stepped through the sliding glass door, hands slightly raised above his hips. Donald bulked in after him. Jill’s snarl dropped a little. Her eyes appraising the situation. Like a well rehearsed ballet Tanner stood next to his brother, tall yet relaxed. Finley straightened up, with a slight edge to his frame. The blond girl shrunk further behind them. Her shoulders parallel with the floorboards.

Donald looked on from behind Jill, who had taken a step back as they had joined the situation. The resemblance between the two brothers was almost uncanny. Glancing across his shoulder, the same look radiated off of Jill. Donald took in Jill’s features. Her nose that lay flat, the slope of her forehead, her cougar eye locked onto her prey. Neither of her sons looked just like her, neither did they look just like their father, but standing across from Jill were her sons. Their energies multiplying in the air.

In the silence, Finley heard a whimper escape from behind his armpit. The small hairs on Tanner’s neck stood up. Donald parted his lips, but had there been any words, were consumed by the rage punctuating each of Jill’s words, “I. said. stop. CRYING.” Silence filled the room. Even the waves seemed to tone down their clapping against the dock.

“Jill,” Donald whispered, his hand hovering above her shoulder. “What’s going on?”

Jill’s head moved slightly to face Donald. Her right eye tucked into the corner, a cloudy sky of white with only a crescent of blue. Her left eye locked on her opponents. “That whore is spewing drunken lies to anyone who can’t block out her whiny voice. She needs to cut the shit.”

Amber could feel the razors slicing into her from across the room, even through the human shield in front of her. She might have been drunk hours ago, but the alcohol had left her. More than anything she longed to go home. Amber’s eyes darted to the glass door. There was no way she would make it – sandwiched between Finley and his brother, the kitchen island against her back – Friendless, shoeless, and completely drained. The price to leave was too high, she wouldn’t lie because of a crazy, drunk mom refused to see through her wine glass.

As if on cue, Tanner saw the blonde hair shimming in his peripheral. Tanner’s head dropped a fraction of an inch, Jill snapped back – her red wine cascading over the rim splattering across the wall. The glass itself sailed through the air shattering onto the mirror topped bar. Before Amber could find her voice or lift her head, Finley’s shoulder was tucked up under her ribcage. Her eyes glued to his butt.

Tanner angled himself between Jill and Finley. Donald, next to him, walling her back. Jill could have ripped through the couch, through her son, hell – she could have bolted around the kitchen island – had she wanted to. But like every rehearsal leading up to this moment, she wouldn’t. The problem was being removed from her presence. After telling Donald and Tanner what happened and what would happen next, Jill could polish off the freshly opened bottle of Michael David’s Freakshow. Clean up would start with the wine on the wall tomorrow.

. . .

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