Things to do in Freehold

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Chapter Sixty-two:

Sue Mackenzie (Late Morning of September 13, 1994)

After deciding not to tell her about Ace’s involvement with Walter’s death, Amelie soon left. On my doorstep, as I was watching her drive off, I noticed a red Sierra, parked directly across the street from the house. Although the windows were fairly tinted, I could’ve sworn there was someone in the driver’s seat, staring right at me. Cautiously, I made my way over to it, but just before I could get too close, it speeded away.

My heart instantly began to race. Did Adriene somehow find out I was lying about being sick today? Was that one of her guys, sent out to spy on me? I ran back into the house, locking the door behind me, plus the sliding one in the back. I even locked all of the windows. Afterwards, I sat down on the couch, trying to catch my breath. If need be, I placed a meat cleaver out, on the coffee table, close to enough to grab at any given moment. Then, all of a sudden, the doorbell rang.

Tightly gripping onto the cleaver’s handle, I walked over to the foyer. Looking through the peephole, I saw that it none other than Louise Grace. What is she doing here? I tucked the meat cleaver into the right back pocket of my jeans and slowly opened the door.

“Hi,” I uttered, after checking around to see if there was anyone else out there with her. “Can I help you?”

“You look just like him,” Louise replied.

“Him?”

“Your son. You are Sue aren’t you? Jake’s mom?”

“Oh, right, Jake,” I nodded, brushing my hair back behind my ears. “Yeah, we get that a lot.”

“It sure is funny, isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“How our children can be so much like us, yet still so different, all the same. Although, I guess that’s what keeps things so interesting.”

I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that, but I was definitely intrigued by this strange woman. “I’m sorry; where are my manners? Would you like to come in?”

“I’d love to,” she said, already entering the house. I watched as she went into the living room and began touching every piece of furniture as if she were at a petting zoo. “I remember when Amy used to live here with her parents. They were such a beautiful, happy family. It’s no wonder why Joseph was always coming over here as a way to escape me.”

“I’m sure that’s not the reason why,” I told her, going into the living room, myself.

She flashed me a broken smile. “You’re very kind, but it is. I was a horrible mother. I knew it and so did everyone else.”

In that moment, I had the trouble finding the right words to say, so instead, I rested my hand on her shoulder as a way of silently consoling her. “Can I get you something to drink? Coffee? Tea, maybe?”

“Some tea sounds lovely,” she sniffled, wiping away her tears before they could even fall down. “Thank you.”

Heading into the kitchen, I grabbed the tea kettle off the counter and began filling it with water over at the sink. “So what did you say you were here for again?’’ I asked Louise as she came into the dining room.

“I didn’t, but I thought it’d be nice for us to get acquainted with each other,” she answered, sitting down at the table. “Seeing as how your boy has taken quite an interest in my granddaughter.”

“Yeah, he seems to really like her,” I scoffed.

“You don’t.”

Uncomfortable, I changed the subject. “What kind of tea would you like Mrs. Grace? We have green, black, chamomile—”

“Green, please, and it’s just Ms.Grace. I never married.”

“Oh, really? Not even Joey’s father?”

She shook her head. Funny, I never took her for a woman who would have a kid out of wedlock.

“Why not? If you don’t mind me asking, that is.”

Louise bowed her head. “Well, I was still seventeen at the time; he was around twenty-two when he first moved in nextdoor. As you may have already guessed, my parents did not for me hanging around him much. Although, I think that more so had to do with his greasy hair and bad attitude than anything else.”

“So your parents kept you two apart. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Not quite. I didn’t really want to marry him either. Hell, I didn’t even like bastard that much, myself. However, as much of an asshole he was, he’d been the only boy in town who didn’t give me special treatment for being the pastor’s daughter. So we’d share a packet of cigarettes from time to time.”

As soon as the water was done boiling, I turned the stove off and poured it into two tea cups that already had the bags in them. “You still had sex with the bastard, though?” I walked over to her and set her cup out, in front of her. I then took my seat at the table.

“That’s just the thing,” she uttered, her voice cracking towards the end. “I wanted no part of that either.”

“Oh,” I said, realizing how much of an asshole I was for having her relive this trauma of hers. “I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to—”

“Don’t,” Louise interrupted, putting her hand up as she blew on her tea. “I didn’t come here for your sympathy.”

I nodded, agreeingly, letting her continue on with the tragic story of how Joey’s father sexually assaulted her at the drive-in.

“By the time I could get away from him, it had already been too late,” she soon concluded. “I had already been pregnant.”

“Did you tell your parents about this? What’d they have to say about it?”

“They took me to church and told me to repent for my sins.”

“You’re kidding?” Fucking catholics.

“Oh, how I wish I were,” she uttered, taking a sip of her tea. “The moment I started showing, they sent me to a facility for unwed mothers because they were ‘too embarrassed to be seen with be seen with a whore like me’. Their words, not mine. Anyway, it wasn’t until Joseph started highschool that the word had gotten out about me. I wasn’t studying abroad, I was jumping from motel to motel, job to job, all while homeschooling my bastard son.”

“You seem to be doing pretty good for yourself, now, though, no?” I topped her off.

“That’s because of my grandpa. He hated my father, you see, so when he found out about Joseph, he let us move in with him and even offered me job at his diner, simply out of spite. When he died, I inherited it all, just to really rub it in my old man’s face.”

I couldn’t help but to smile at that. Serves them right, I instantly thought.

“Anyway, during that time, I tried to be a good mom and love Joseph, I did. Lord knows I tried, but how could I when every time I looked into his eyes, I saw those of my attacker?” She began rubbing her thighs, back and forth, anxiously. “Now, Adeline has those same exact eyes.”

I rested my hands on top of hers to make her stop rubbing. “So you haven’t been able to love anyone since then?”

She gave me a half-smile. “There was one person. Her name was Marsha.”

“Oh?”

“It was back when I first started waitressing at the diner, around ’71. She’d been traveling with this folksy, bluegrass band and was dancing to some Jefferson Airplane song on the jukebox when I came over to her booth. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. One of my biggest regrets in life is not telling her how I felt before she left town.”

Before I could say anything, Jeff had rushed in through the door. What’s he doing home so early? Is it his lunch break already? “Sue, great, you’re still here,” he noted, entering the dining room.

“Of course, I’m still here. Why wouldn’t I be?” I stood up from the table as he walked over to me, panting like a dog. “And why are you breathing so heavy as if you just ran a marathon?”

Without saying a hugged me, tightly. “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t take it anymore. Everywhere I looked in that courthouse, I saw someone who was guilty of murder and getting away with it, so I had to leave. And when I did, I could’ve sworn there was someone following me in the parking garage.”

“I take it you’ve already figured everything out then,” I heard Louise say beside us.

“Figured out what?” Jeff asked, pulling away from me. “Hun, who is this?”

“Jeff, I’d like you to meet Louise Grace, Joey Grace’s mother,” I explained, looking over at her. “Louise, what are you talking about? Figured out what?” What did she know?

Louise let out a deep sigh. “I think you two ought to sit down for this?”

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