Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Diary of Lydia Duprée - Part 3

Entry 3 – Day 5

My name is Lydia Duprée. I spent much of yesterday crying. I thought I was stronger than that. I am Chairman of the Board of Pierson/Duprée Publishing. I feel defeated. I feel sorry for myself. I feel sad and alone. I will write again, but not today.

Entry 4 – Day 7

My name is Lydia Duprée. I couldn’t write yesterday. I couldn’t find the strength. By the calendar on the wall I’ve been here 7 days now.

The house I call my home, Willow Ridge, is still my prison. It snowed again last night. The sliver of sunshine, or gray sky, that I could see through the uncovered glass is now completely covered.

I have not seen the person I presume to be my captor since the night the closing door woke me. There are still clean clothes and there is still food and water.

I struggle with my thoughts and my fears. I haven't been down to this part of Willow Ridge in years. There was never a reason. I keep hoping that my family is searching for me. I pray that they never give up. Alas, I also realize that it's been so long since I've been down here that I stopped talking about the many hidden rooms and corridors. I doubt my son, Oliver, remembers they exist and my grandchildren have more than likely never heard of them.

It's difficult for me to keep positive about being found. I worry that an empty coffin will be placed in the ground underneath a head stone that reads my name.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Diary of Lydia Duprée - Part 2

Entry 2 – Day 4

My name is Lydia Duprée. The days and nights bleed into each other as I sit locked in this room. The winter sky is bleak and gray; at least what I can see of it through the sliver of window that is not completely covered by snow. The window is almost completely covered with a densely woven metal – stronger than a mesh, but in a kind of privacy, blocking weave. The top right corner looks as if someone tried to pull it away and then gave up. Maybe it was an intruder who got tired of trying. The covering blocks an outsider’s view of this room. I don’t remember how long it’s been that way. Maybe it’s been covered since my father owned this house. This window is not located on a natural walking path around the house so it’s easy to go unnoticed and, therefore, so am I.

It's cold. I have plenty of blankets to keep warm, yet still I am cold.

I woke last night as the door was being locked behind what I presume was my captor. When I turned on the light I found clean clothes and a fresh supply of food. Whoever it is seems to want me alive.

My fears get the better of me everyday. The solitude doesn't get easier; it gets harder.

The walls are thick – screaming and banging does no good. I pace. How can I be so hated by someone?

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Diary of Lydia Duprée - Part 1

Entry 1 – Day 3

My name is Lydia Duprée. I’ve been taken away from my life and away from my family. I realized not long after waking from my drug-induced sleep that I was in a familiar place albeit distant in my memory. There’s a calendar on the wall beside the door. The day I was left here is circled in red. It took me the three days I’ve been sealed behind the door to remember why I recognize my prison.

I am locked in a secret room in the basement of my own home, Willow Ridge. Escape seems impossible. I don’t know who locked me in here, nor do I know if my family knows I’m missing.

The headache I felt when I awoke in the darkness of this room brought the memory and terror streaming back to my mind. I can still feel the handkerchief over my nose and mouth, the stench of the chemical used to knock me out making me want to vomit.

I am thankful to have this pen and paper on which to write so that in the event of my death my ordeal will be made known.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Confessions of an Adult Grudge Holder

How long is he going to last this insecure little boy that lives inside of me? How long before I release the scared young man that was frightened to walk down the hall at school unaccompanied by a friend? I’m nearly 40 and many of these feelings are over 20 years old. When does it end? When does all the work I’ve done on myself and the person I’ve grown to be actually defeat the self-doubt of my youth?

I saw a production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead last Friday night. It’s an interesting imagining of the Peanuts® characters as teenagers in high school. Charlie Brown is saddened over the death of his dog and confused over his feelings for Schroeder. Yep, Snoopy is dead - rabies. He had to be put down after he killed Woodstock. Sally is searching for an identity. One minute she’s Wiccan the next she’s gangsta. Linus is a total stoner. As for his blanket, Lucy and Charlie Brown burned it so he laced a joint with it and smoked it thereby making it part of his body forever. Lucy is locked away after setting the Little Red-Haired girl’s hair on fire. Oh yeah, she had an abortion also. Pig-Pen is a total germophobe and homophobe. For 5¢ I bet The Doctor Is In and can help with both of those phobias. Schroeder’s dad went to prison for molesting him and everyone stopped being his friend. He’s the one they all call “fag” and “queer.” They all think he’s gay, but he’s not sure…yet. He and Charlie Brown not only kiss, they have sex. Peppermint Patty and Marcie are the original mean girls – nasty and fake to the core.

This vision is not what I think of when I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. I think they’ll always be the same – friends – but we all change. Just as happens in life, we grow out of our friends and into clicks. Someone that is your best friend in elementary school may become your enemy, or the person you choose to pick on and belittle, in middle school. It gets worse in high school. Why are we such fools? Why can’t we see that we’re all people, searching for love, compassion and camaraderie? Why do we seal ourselves away at the cool table, the nerd table, the band geek table and the stoner table?

My niece is approaching middle school. My heart actually breaks a little when I think about the bullshit that she’s getting ready to start going through. Popularity becomes so important and anyone that’s different starts to stand out.

My life is so changed from what it was 20 years ago. I’m more confident in many ways while still insecure in others. Example: I can walk into a room and command attention. I want to command it. Then I begin to wonder why I’m commanding it. Confidence, insecurity, questioning, understanding – it’s like a bipolar cocktail being shaken and stirred at the same time. Insecurity sucks! How do I unlearn that? What I really find fascinating is that for all of my gay and proud bullshit I’m still insecure about being gay too. All these years later I’m alternately excited and nervous when I see two men holding hands on the street. I don’t know why I can’t just be happy. I am partly happy, but also partly afraid they will be physically or verbally attacked. Fear of what one doesn’t understand can make him the meanest bully of all.

I can tell you that I’m afraid of what people think. I give my power away every day. I learned it a lifetime ago from my dad. He is so concerned with what other people think and how they perceive him that it is solidly ingrained into me. I wish I could shed that “caring” like a dead skin and rid myself of its restrictive imprisonment. Regardless of whether anyone else is or not, I want to be proud of my choices and me. I want to stand up for what I believe and not feel like it’s a confrontation to express my opinion or my beliefs when someone else feels differently than I. I want to stop apologizing for my life. I want to not be ashamed of being gay. There I’ve said it. It’s disgusting to me to even admit it, but I think I have residual shame attached to being gay. I’m not ashamed that I’m gay really, but I was always afraid of bringing shame on my parents. There’s that caring-what-people-think thing again. There’s no shame in being born black. There’s no shame in being born a blond. There’s no shame in being born gay. NO SHAME!!

I’m out to my parents now. They love me. There’s nothing to hide. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I can’t keep my head down and my eyes averted forever. I’ve been there already. I walked with my head down in high school a lot. I made a conscious choice to walk with my head held high and my eyes level when I moved to New York City. Over the years I have slipped back into old patterns. I want equality. I want my gay brothers and sisters to be able to marry should they so choose. I think that I’m afraid because the spotlight is on gay issues in this country (hell, the world) right now. We are trying to be so PC that we cease to just live and be people. We just need to respect each other and help each other and show compassion. Damn it! We need to treat each other better and maybe some of the fear that I feel and the boy in high school, unsure of the feelings he’s feeling, feels will go away. Different is not bad. Different is nothing to be scared of. Different is what makes us unique and strong.

What I’m learning is missing from my life is forgiveness. I have yet to forgive the tormentors from my youth. I have tried to forget about them since leaving Carlisle County, KY. That does not allow for healing and forgetting doesn’t work. For some reason I think holding the grudge gives me some kind of strength. It doesn’t! I know that I need to let it go and give my forgiveness for the bullying and teasing, which was more about them than about me. Why should a man with this much distance and space between that past and this present continue to hold a grudge? Saying “I forgive you” doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make them the big winner. Saying “I forgive you” makes me a stronger man; it diminishes their power over me. I will be 40 in a matter of months and I’m just realizing that people who probably haven’t thought my name in two decades have a power over me that they don’t even know about. What a waste of energy and time that is. Saying that I want to forgive them is easier to do than actually forgiving them. I am aware of that. Wanting to do it is the first step in actually doing it though, right?

Maybe by forgiving I will stop apologizing for who I am. Maybe my head will come back up to a held-high position. Maybe, just maybe, I will stop caring what everyone else thinks and just stand firm behind my own thoughts and opinions. Maybe the little boy and the scared young man will see the strong man I’ve become and put their fears aside. Maybe I will start to appreciate and love myself more.

Oh, I almost forgot, Pig-Pen was so incensed by the kiss and the sex between Charlie Brown and Schroeder that he broke Schroeder’s fingers. Unable to play the piano anymore and completely defeated by the bullying, Schroeder saw no other alternative but suicide.

I want to take a moment to say thank you to all the people back home that accept me for the person I am. Who accept me for just being a human being. I want to thank all the people who want my friendship and tolerate my insecure bullshit. You’re appreciated and loved and I am blessed.

Friday, March 4, 2011

COMMON GROUND "The Toilet Seat" - Part 8

Max was in Miller’s bed. They were spooning. Max had his arms around Miller as if they’d fallen asleep post coital and slept like lovers through the night.

Nicholas’s eyes got wide as he slammed the door and tried to contain his surprise.
The slam of the door woke Miller, but he had yet to really open his eyes and stir.

“Why are you yelling?” responded Miller. The hangover prevention had not worked for him.

“I’m not yelling. I’m whispering loudly. I can’t yell because your mother is downstairs and I wouldn’t want her to hear me ask you why Max is in your bed and why Max is holding you like the you were last night’s trick?”

Miller slowly realized there was an arm on top of him and a body behind him. Even more slowly he turned to see that Max was the body.

“Max!” he loudly whispered as he threw Max’s arm off of him then put his hand to his pounding head.

Max jerked awake.

“What? What happened?” Max said as he sat up on his elbow and took in the situation. Nicholas was standing beside the bed with his arms crossed and Miller was staring at him, trying to keep his eyes open and his pounding head attached to his body. Max looked down at his own body and saw the close proximity it held to Miller’s. Then he realized he was in Miller’s room.

“You better not have put your beer goggles on last night,” said Nicholas to Max. “Miller, your mom is downstairs.”

“What?” said Miller alternately confused and taken aback. “What is she doing here?”

“Shrubs,” he half giggled half blurted. “She wants new shrubs and wants you to go to the nursery with her.”

“Damn it! Sometimes I hate that they live so close.”

“Just get up and put on your robe. Maybe you should brush your teeth. My breath was so bad this morning I wanted to look for the cat that had obviously shit in my mouth during the night.”

The bed started to shake and Miller turned to see that Max was lying there laughing at Nicholas’s comment.

Miller smiled as he got up. He stood too quickly. He felt slightly dizzy as the blood rushed to his head. Nicholas steadied him and handed him his robe.

“Go to the bathroom first, then go to your mom,” he said to Miller. Then he looked at Max, “You stay here in the bedroom and don’t make a sound. I established with Maggie that we thought you might have gone out for a run or something. It’s a good thing you waited to take your clothes off in Miller’s room” Back to Miller he said, “I’ll join you downstairs for moral support in a minute.”

Miller made his way to the bathroom and avoided his reflection as he passed the mirror. He went directly to the toilet. He looked at it and saw that there were yellow droplets on the seat. Nicholas he thought to himself. He grabbed some toilet paper and wiped up the spots. He then sat down to urinate. When he was done he knew it was time to face the morning. He looked like he’d been run over by the car he thought had knocked Nicholas out of his shoes the night before. He splashed some cold water on his face and ran his wet fingers through his hair. He was fighting a wave of nausea by taking deep, calculated, calming breaths. He quickly rinsed his mouth out with mouthwash. He didn’t want to take the time to brush his teeth. He thought he might gag and honestly just wanted to get the impromptu visit from his mother over and send her on her way.

He walked out of the bathroom and Maggie saw him when he appeared at the top of the stairs. She had folded the sheets and blanket and placed them in a neat pile on the end of the sofa.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” she called to Miller as he descended the stairs. “I swear I don’t know how you boys get anything accomplished by sleeping the morning away.”

“We’re not morning people, Mom. We get things done in the afternoon.” He walked over and kissed her on the cheek. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to get some new shrubbery today. I was thinking Boxwood’s. You’re so good at picking out stuff like that – flowers, dinnerware, the curtains in my bedroom – I was hoping you’d go with me today.” The optimistic smile on her face made him regret declining her request.

“You should have called, Mom,” responded Miller. “I have plans today.”
“I did call, honey, but you didn’t answer.”

“Did you leave a message?”

“No. I just decided to come on over,” said Maggie. “I thought you might still be asleep.”

“Well, you were right about that,” he said as he started walking her to the door. “How about this; I’ll come by in a few days and take a look at what you bought.” He looked at her with all the excitement he could muster. “Sound good? I trust you’ll be able to pick out the Boxwood’s you like.”

“Okay, honey,” said Maggie in her cheerful, good-natured way. She stopped as she was about the exit the townhouse and turned around. “Miller, are you okay? You don’t look so good.”

“Too much tequila last night, Mom,” he responded with a grimace.

“You know I don’t like it when you drink,”

“I know, Mom, but you asked and I am an adult standing in my own home.”

“You’re right,” she chuckled. “I shouldn’t ask the question if I don’t want the answer.” She kissed him on the cheek. “I’ll call you later. Maybe I’ll even text you a picture of the Boxwood’s from the store.”

“Okay, Mom. Have a good day.” Miller shut the door and headed straight to the downstairs bathroom.

He thought he might be sick. He wasn’t sure what was in his stomach to throw up, but he sat on the floor of the downstairs bathroom and put his head on the cold toilet. When the wave of nausea hit him he tried to lift up the seat before expelling. It was stuck. He was frustrated but he was starting to heave. Nothing came out. It was the dreaded dry heaves. He continued the muscle spasm induced movement for the next five minutes then it stopped. He just wanted to lie there on the floor, but Nicholas was knocking.

“Miller? Are you okay?” asked Nicholas.

“I’m okay,” said Miller through the door as he started to get up from the floor. “It’s just the dry heaves.” He opened the door. Nicholas presented him with a bottle of water.

“Just sit down on the sofa and drink this. We’ll get some French fries in a bit. I know how that always helps your hangover.”

“You’re right, but at this moment, I think even French fries would make me vomit.”

“Well, after you finish the water, we’ll see how you feel.”

Max had gotten up and was making his way downstairs.

“I hope you brushed your teeth,” said Nicholas as Max got to the bottom. “We can all peel paint or singe eyebrows with our breath this morning.”

“I tested that while I was in the bathroom upstairs,” said Max. “It kinda made me gag.”

Nicholas laughed. “I gagged too, right in front of Maggie. It was a high point,” he said flatly, almost monotonous.

“Hey, Buttercup. How you feelin’?” asked Max.

“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m the one with the hangover. I took the aspirin and I drank my entire bottle of water.”

“I told him we’ll get fries in a little bit and see if we can’t cure his hangover with some grease.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Max.

Without opening his eyes or moving too much Miller asked, “Has anyone been in the downstairs bathroom this morning?”

“I haven’t,” said Nicholas.

“I just came downstairs,” said Max. “Although I have no idea if I went in there last night before I made it up the stairs and to your room.”

“Why?” asked Nicholas.

“I could be mistaken, but I couldn’t raise the seat when I was in there.”

Nicholas went immediately to the bathroom to check it out.

“It’s glued down,” he yelled from inside. “Seriously, it’s glued to the bowl.”

Max walked into the bathroom followed by a slow moving Miller. Max saw a key on the side of the vanity. He reached out a picked it up and looked at it. He recognized it right away. It was a key to Miller and Nicholas’s apartment.

“Meghan’s been here,” he said as he showed them the key.

“What?” asked Nicholas.

“This is Meghan’s key to your house. She put the pink cover on it so she would always know which one it was.”

“Do you mean to tell me that Meghan came into our apartment while we were asleep and glued the toilet seat down?” asked Nicholas as he processed the situation.

Miller started to laugh. The other two turned to him.

“She glued down the toilet seat,” he said through laughter. “She came into our apartment with glue and glued down our toilet seat.” He continued to laugh. “Who does shit like that?” He then put his hand to his head. “Oh my head.”

Nicholas and Max started to laugh with him.

“Is she bipolar?” asked Nicholas.

“She’s not bipolar. She’s just really angry with me and she’s hurt and she’s lashing out at the people I love,” responded Max.

He walked out of the bathroom and went into the living room to sit on the sofa. He buried his face in his hands. It was starting to sink in that his observation from the night before about not being able to go home again was true. He couldn’t stop his emotions from turning into tears.

Miller and Nicholas joined him on the sofa - one on either side of him. They were stronger together than when they were separate.

“What am I gonna do?” asked Max.

“You’re gonna move in here with us. That’s what you’re gonna do,” said Miller as he grabbed Max’s hand.

“When does my get over it begin,” asked Max as he searched Miller’s eyes for the answer.

“I don’t know, Max, but until it does you’re gonna be right here with us,” replied Miller.

“Listen, we’ll do a quick rearrange in the living room and move the desk out here. We can easily turn the office into your room,” said Nicholas.

“See. You’re gonna be fine, Max,” said Miller. His hangover took a backseat to the Folgers coffee commercial moment at hand.

“You can use our air mattress until you can get furniture of your own,” said Nicholas.

“After we go get those fries for me, we’ll go to your place and you can get enough stuff for the next few days,” said Miller. “If Meghan is home, Nicholas will go in and get the stuff.”

Nicholas looked as Miller inquisitively. Miller smiled.

“Your hangover must be getting better. Your bitchiness is showing,” said Nicholas.

“I’m on the mend. The water’s helping,” said Miller. He then turned to Max. “Next time you decide to get in bed with me and you want to spoon, you really should put a pillow between us. I have no desire to feel that much of you in the morning – if you know what I mean.

“Noted,” said Max with an embarrassed laugh. “Thank you,” He looked from one to the other. “Thank you for your friendship, for your support and for always loving me no matter how bad I screw things up. Thank you for making it easy for me to just be myself.”

“We love you, Max,” said Miller. “We will always take care of each other. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

“Always,” said Nicholas. “So, how about we get dressed and get this day underway. It seems like the perfect day for a move doesn’t it?”

“That’s to be determined,” said Miller.

“While we’re out we should stop by Home Depot,” said Max. “I should get some acetone to remove the glue and I should get a new toilet seat.” A sheepish grin then formed on his face. “I can’t believe she actually glued down the toilet seat.

As they sat on the sofa laughing, Miller appreciated how rare and special their friendship truly was.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

COMMON GROUND "The Toilet Seat" - Part 7

They made it to Miller and Nicholas’s place without much incident. Nicholas’s shoe came untied once and Miller fell off the curb, but nobody was injured. Getting inside the house proved to be a little more difficult.

Miller sat down on the sidewalk to search through his bag for his keys. The normally organized gay man couldn’t seem to find his way through its contents while under the influence. Max and Nicholas stood there and watched him. After nearly two minutes, Nicholas reached his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out his set of keys.

“I found my keys,” he proclaimed to Miller.

“Where were they?” asked Miller as he stopped searching in his bag.

“In my coat pocket.”

“Were they there the whole time?”

“Yeah. I just wasn’t looking for them. I was searching my brain like you were searching your bag. Once I remembered where they were, I pulled them out.”

“That’s stupid,” responded Miller. “Help me up.”

“Please,” said Max.

“Help me up, please,” said Miller peeved at Max’s need for niceties.

Nicholas opened the door very quietly as if in fear of waking someone inside.

“Come on,” he whispered.

Miller looked at Max then at Nicholas. “Why are we whispering?” he asked in a whisper.

“It’s late. I don’t want to wake anyone up,” responded Nicholas.

“The only people who live here are standing right here right now,” stated Miller. “Who’re we gonna wake up?”

“You two sure get snippy when you’re drunk,” said Max. “Can we just go inside?”

With the door shut and locked behind them, Miller went upstairs. Nicholas crossed through the living room and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Max just wanted to sit down. He made his way into the living room and plopped down on the sofa hard enough to scoot it back a little.

“Did you just move the sofa?” asked Miller from the top of the stairs.

“Did I?” asked Max in return.

Miller threw the sheets, comforter and pillow he had retrieved from the upstairs linen closet onto the sofa and stood back to look at it.

“Yes. You know I measure that shit to make sure it’s even. Remind me to fix it in the morning.”

“Sorry,” said Max.

Miller didn’t respond. It was unclear whether it was a silence due to defiance or non-hearing. He was already on his way to the kitchen so it was possible he hadn’t heard Max, who has a tendency to mumble.

“Good. Miller brought you the sheets,” said Nicholas as he walked back into the room. Miller then returned from the kitchen with three bottles of water and a bottle of aspirin.

“We each need to take two aspirin and drink the entire bottle of water,” he said as he handed them each a bottle then tried to open the aspirin.

Frustrated at his inability to get the cap off he took a deep breath and set the bottle down on the coffee table with a thud. Max picked up the bottle.

“Let me help you there, Buttercup,” he said as he removed the cap with ease.

“Damn childproof caps,” Miller retorted as the other two snickered. “Done,” he said as he swallowed his two aspirin and passed the bottle to Nicholas.

Hangover prevention was now complete. The three of them were sitting in the living room in silence. The drunken evening was coming to a close. The buzz and the high were both plummeting to the earth faster than a white sheet stains after being splattered with mud. Nicholas looked at Max who had already slumped over on himself and fallen asleep.

“Max,” yelled Miller to wake him.

Max jumped with a start.

“You’ve gotta wake up so we can make up the sofa for you,” said Miller a little frustrated. Miller might be a lightweight, but Max was an early bird.

Max stood up and moved out of the way as Miller and Nicholas started putting sheets on the sofa.

“Thank you guys for letting me crash here tonight,” said Max, sounding a little weepy as can happen when one drinks too much.

Nicholas looked at Miller then past him to see Max. They both stopped with the sheets and walked over to him to give him a hug. He was crying.

“Come on now, Max, it’s gonna be okay,” said Nicholas.

“Yeah,” said Miller. “Your drunk tears are showing and they are not attractive.”

Max blew a deep breath out of his mouth and wiped the tears.

“Okay,” he said. He walked over to the sofa and sat down. He pulled his shoes off, and then laid back. “I love you guys.”

“I love you, too,” said Miller as he picked up the empty water bottles and took them to the kitchen to recycle.

“I love you, three,” said Nicholas, mussing Max’s hair as he headed toward the stairs. “Miller, turn off the lights on your way up,” he said as he reached the top.

“Yes, Mom,” Miller said as he was turning off the hallway light.

He stopped for just a moment and watched Max sleeping on the sofa.

“Good night, Max,” he said tenderly as he turned the living room light off and started up the stairs.

Morning came too soon for Nicholas. He woke around 9am. He was surprised and pleased to discover that he did not have a hangover. Miller's aspirin-and-a-bottle-of-water trick seemed to be the miracle prevention.

He heard a cell phone ringing. It sounded like it was coming from Miller's room. Normally Miller turns his phone off when he goes to sleep, but last night they were all just a little too alcoholically challenged to complete their normal rituals.

Eventually the phone stopped ringing. In the silence the memory of Meghan calling Max last night flooded back to him. He chuckled at the thought of the three of them staring, paralyzed with fear or curiosity, at a ringing phone in the middle of the table.

He walked into the bathroom. As he stood in front of the toilet he contemplated sitting. "No," he said to himself. "I will not succumb to the pressure. I am a man and men stand." When he’d finished he flushed then walked to the sink and started washing his hands. He heard the doorbell.

He turned off the water and listened to make sure his ears hadn't deceived him. The doorbell rang again.

With two sleeping people in the house, he grabbed the hand towel and dried his hands as he ran down the stairs as fast as he could.

When he opened the door he was shocked to find Miller's mom, Maggie, standing outside.

“Maggie?” said Nicholas, surprised.

“Good morning, Nicholas,” she responded.

Maggie Reid was an early riser and a generally cheerful person at all times. Her jovial laugh was infectious. She was also a bit naïve especially when it came to her son’s life. It wasn’t that she had blinders on it was that she chose to not ask the questions to which she didn’t want the answers.

“Maggie?” said Nicholas again, more as a statement this time than a question.

“Yes, Nicholas,” she chuckled. “We’ve established that already. Were you still in bed?”

“Not still in bed, but just out of it,” he responded. “What gave it away?” he said as he yawned. “The pajamas? My hair? My breath?”

“Your breath.” Maggie nodded her head at the same time as she spoke her response to his question.

Nicholas cupped his hand to his mouth and exhaled. The foul odor of his morning breath made him gag.

“What time is it?” Nicholas asked her.

“It’s about 9:30am out here on the sidewalk,” she responded without having to look at her watch. “I’m sure it’s the same time in there,” she said indicating the inside of the townhouse.

“Oh crap, Maggie. I’m sorry,” Nicholas moved out of the way as he held the door for her to enter. “Come in. I’ll just go brush my teeth.”

Nicholas ran upstairs to brush his teeth as Maggie began to look around the room. She noticed the sheets on the sofa and called upstairs to Nicholas.

“Do you and Miller have company?”

“What?” Nicholas responded from the top of the stairs with the toothbrush still in his mouth, one hand under his chin to catch any drippage.

“I said do you and Miller have company?” She indicated the sheets. “I see sheets on the sofa.”

“Max spent the night,” he said as he ran back to the bathroom to spit and rinse. He then ran down the stairs to join Maggie in the living room.

“Just Max?” she asked. “Where’s Meghan?”

“She’s not here,” said Nicholas, trying to just answer the question without sounding like there was something to hide.

“Well then, where is Max?” she asked as she started folding the sheets.

“That’s a good question,” Nicholas responded, looking around the room as if it were so large he might have missed seeing Max hidden in one of its corners. “He must have gotten up early. Maybe he went for a run or a workout. I have no idea.” He looked up stairs. “Tell you what. I’ll see if Miller is awake. Maybe he knows where Max is. At any rate, he needs to know you’re here.”

“Okay sweetie. You go wake him up.” She smiled. “I want to see if he’ll go to the nursery with me. I need some new shrubbery. I’m thinking Boxwood’s.”

“Okay,” he said. “Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.”

As he ran up the stairs Nicholas laughed to himself when he thought of Miller’s reaction to the fact that his mom was in the house and wanted him to go shrub shopping.

Nicholas simultaneously knocked and opened the door. He was prepared for the humor of the situation he thought would follow his news flash; he was not prepared for the shocking image that awaited him.

©2011 Michael Rohrer