Saturday rolled around and Lynne found herself chugging down the Turnpike, blasting Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” at nine in the morning with her baby brother David riding shotgun. David was a lanky, wiry, and myopic milk-chocolate six foot even Bohemian who kept his head shaved bald. The reception was slated to start at 1pm, but there was a cocktail hour to precede the event which started at 12pm that they had to help prepare for.
“I will never understand your obsession with this song.” Her brother stated, with a confounded look on his face as he adjusted his white-framed glasses.
“It’s just a work of lyrical and melodical art.”
“Yeah, but 8 minutes of it. It’s too long for a song. It’s like the 12-inch version of “Love is the Message.” Good God, that song takes forever and it’s pretty much just the same words over and over again.”
“Yeah, but this song tells a story. Now shut up, because my favorite part is coming up.” She told him as she raised her right hand off the steering wheel and mimed holding a microphone in front of her mouth. “Stop right there! I gotta know right now!” She sang along to the rest of the song in her raspy alto voice.
“You know, if you’re gonna sing along to your playlist all crazy like this, you should let me drive.” David told her, with a slightly panicked look on his face.
Lynne let out a breathy chuckle in the direction of her brother. “Dude, for an artist, you aren’t all that laid back. You need to chill out. We are on the turnpike in the ‘trucks and cars’ section. There are like seven other vehicles on the road this early on a saturday in October. Who am I gonna run into out here?” Cocking her eyebrow at him, she placed a hand on his shoulder, “Davie, you are my precious cargo and I promise not to hurt you. Ever. OH shit!” She fake swerved the car to the left.
" LLLLyynnNNE!” He screamed out. She was overcome with giggles. “That’s NOT FUCKING FUNNY!”
“Ooh my God! Your face! He he he heee! Oh God, I’m gonna piss myself from laughing too hard. Hooo. I’m pulling over at the next service station. Good it’s only two miles away.”
“And I’m driving the rest of the way!”
“Oh fine. Big baby.”
An hour and a half later they pulled up outside a sprawling estate and parked next to the three catering vans. Their eldest brother Vinny was unpacking equipment with a few of their mother’s staff out the back of one of the vans. “Look who finally showed up. You’re cutting it kind of close.” He said, raising an eyebrow in their direction.
“Hey, we would’ve been here sooner, but someone drives like a seventy-five year-old church lady on the highway.” Lynne retorted.
“I got us here SAFELY!”
“Safely, slowly, potato, po-tah-to.” Vinny said, walking up to them and giving them each a hug. Lynne loved her eldest brother’s bear hugs. On more than one occasion the now mid-back length dreadlock sporting anesthesiologist, built like a first-string linebacker, had been her calming factor growing up. When she was younger and still afraid of the crash of thunder storms, it was his arms she sought solace in, burying her head in his shoulders, deep breathing his calming, earthy scent.
“Please give me my keys back.” Lynne held out a hand, which David tossed for her to catch.
“I strongly dislike both of you,” David huffed out before focusing his attention on Vinny. “Where’s mom?”
“Somewhere in the kitchen with Elisa.” Vinny raised his caramel colored hand, the complexion of matching their mother’s and pointed over his shoulder as David grabbed his backpack and headed inside to help them out. “No, we don’t need you to help with the heavy stuff out here Dave.” He intoned flatly to their brother’s retreating back. Turning around he faced Lynne, his light brown eyes bemused. “Still can’t believe he’s one of us.”
“Take it easy. Remember, he’s the sensitive one. Plus you got me and my guns.” She raised her arms to flex her lean muscle. “What can I do big bro?” He laughed at her as he instructed her to help out with bar setup.
The day and eventual night progressed quite uneventfully with the exception of Lynne becoming acquainted with the locations of the bathrooms. The bride was a vision of delicate ivory lace whose dress floated around her as she and her groom took their first dance. None of the guests had overindulged at the open bar which was a godsend. Usually, a high society wedding consisted of no less than three guests having to be forcibly restricted from imbibing by infuriated family members.
Lynne worked her way through the crowds on the dance floor to the tables to drop off the assorted dessert plates that were to accompany the slices of freshly sliced wedding cake. At one of the reception tables she leaned down to place the plate and inhaled an overpowering scent of perfume, which caused her to feel a twisting sensation in her stomach. Fighting to keep the smile plastered on her face, she wove herself quickly through the tables in search of the nearest bathroom. You’d think with all the trips I’ve taken to the bathroom tonight, I would have them memorized. A few party attendants tried to signal her, but she just nodded in their direction, signaling she would be back in one minute. Time was not on her side as she barely managed to make it to a garbage can hidden behind a pillar at the back of the estate, releasing the contents of her stomach. As the wave of nausea finally dissipated she felt a hand patting her back.
“You ok, chica? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you hurl before.” It was her older brother Kris with a napkin and water bottle in his hand. Kris was a mocha-skinned man standing six foot, four inches tall, the tallest of their siblings. His well-maintained and cared for body was hard-packed with muscles. Square jawed, dark brown, almost black eyes sat deep into his face above a twice broken and reset, nose. His hair was buzzed close to his scalp with a curved line shaved into the left side. Hints of black ink tattoos peaked out from underneath the rolled-up sleeves of his crisp-black button-up dress shirt, which highlighted the corded muscles on his forearms.
“Thanks.” She said, wiping her mouth with the napkin and throwing it into the garbage can. She took a swig of water and swished it around her mouth before spitting it into the garbage can. Taking a gulp of the water she swallowed and shook her head. “I don’t know what came over me. It’s been so long since a smell has caught me off guard like that. Not since I got sick on the airplane when they took forever to taxi our plane after that 18 hour flight to New Zealand a few years ago and the exhaust fumes came back in the plane. The lady at table six is wearing WAY too much cheap perfume. It’s like she bathed in the stuff.”
Her brother looked at her with his brows furrowed. “You scared me. Don’t do it again,” he told her with a squeeze on her shoulder before he returned to the bar. Her brother was a man of few words, much like their father. But he was ever vigilant, which helped since he was a personal bodyguard for several A-list celebrities and wealthy clientele.
Lynne tied up the garbage bag and replaced it before washing her hands and returning to her job. After dropping off the last of the dessert plates and checking on her tables she went back into the kitchen to take a load off of her feet for a few minutes. She had just sat down when a golden honey colored hand waved in front of her face. It was her sister Elisa, her mother’s sous chef for the evening. At five foot ten, she was buxom with an hour-glass figure most women spent weeks achieving with the aid of a waist trainer. Her elegant brown-black 3b hair that hung in elegant curls down to the top of her butt when she didn’t have it tied up in a bun for her job as a sous chef at a prominent restaurant in the city. When she walked into a room graceful didn’t even begin to describe how she floated from foot to foot. The lightest of her siblings with her golden honey complexion and emerald green eyes, they used to joke that their parents had switched her out with another baby on the way out of the hospital. However, once they all did genetics testing for a well-known website and had come back genetic siblings for Christmas three years ago, they put an ending to that jibe. On the surface she had won the genetics’ jackpot in every way but one. Born Deaf, the family communicated with her via American Sign Language (ASL). She was asking Lynne if she had a tampon on her since their cycles usually aligned.
‘Let me check.’ Lynne signed back to her as she went on a hunt for the purse that she had put up on a shelf earlier in the day. Digging through her bag she found one at the bottom of it and handed it over to her sister who signed back ‘you are a lifesaver,’ then hugged her.
Once the night was over, everything was cleaned and packed up, their petite mother gathered the whole team up and thanked them for their exemplary service for the night. When her workers had been dismissed, she hugged and kissed each of her children. “You guys are the best! I knew I could count on you to help your poor mother out. I love you all for coming to help out your dear old momma. Now be safe and text the family chat when you get home. I will see you all at dinner for your father’s birthday party in two weeks. Lover you all!” She walked over to her red jeep and pulled off into the night.
“Lover you mom!” They chorused her in response.
David came up behind Lynne and tapped her on the shoulder. “Hey, I’m gonna drive Elisa back home. She’s not feeling too hot.”
“Ok Davy Crockett. You be safe.” She told him, pulling him into a bear hug. Turning to Elisa she signed ‘everything ok?’
‘Cramps are murder.’ She signed back.
‘Enough said. Go home and put on a heating pad.’
‘Thanks Doctor,’ Elissa signed back with a sarcastic look on her face. ‘I never would have thought of that on my own.’
‘Lover you too.’ She signed as she pulled her into a hug.
‘Tell that sexy husband of yours I’m coming for him.’ Lynne signed back before doing a lewd pantomime in the air with her hips and sticking out her tongue.
‘Not a chance in Hell, Lynne.’ Elisa signed with a smile as she got into the passenger side of her car before David pulled off.
Walking over to her car Lynne saw her older brothers hugging as Julissa stood looking at her cellphone. “Alright crazy people, it’s a Saturday night and you all have children and spouses who miss you. Go home.” Lynne announced to them as she came around for hugs.
“We wanted to say bye to you since we haven’t seen you in a month of Sundays.” Julissa informed her, pulling her in for a tight hug. She was a couple of inches shorter than Lynne at five foot three, with long dark brown hair that she had french-braided down her back. They were the same cinnamon-brown skin-tone with their father’s high cheekbones and angular features. Unluckily, they were the only two of the siblings to take their height from their mother’s side of the family. On a good day with a pair of three inch heels, their mother was Julissa’s height.
“Eh, we’re busy people. The stars don’t always line up for us to be in the same place or even country at the same time. I mean we are all in vastly different industries: Vinny you’re in healthcare, Kris is security, Jules you’re in law, Elisa in the food industry, me in education, and David in whatever it is he is doing these days. Not a lot of coinciding vacation time there. Add in everybody’s spouses and kids, and our datebooks are hard-pressed for free time.”
“Well thank you for painting that bleak image of what our middle-age has become.” Vinny stated.
“Excuse me, but me, Kris, and David aren’t old like y’all and Lis. We still have some time yet before we hit official middle-age. However, we make time when it counts and there’s always the family chat and the sibling chat.” She told them as she hugged her two brothers at the same time. “And this is where I take my leave of y’all. Now that my shottie has abandoned me, I need to get home before I fall asleep at the wheel. I lover you all, but I have a two-hour drive to conquer and y’all are only about thirty minutes away.”
“That’s what you get for moving so far away from home.” Julissa quipped.
“Eh, that’s where my well paying job was, so it made the most sense. We can’t all work for a boutique law firm down the street from where we grew up.” She shot back at her sister.
“I’ll drive behind you until you get back on the turnpike.” Kris stated as he walked over to his truck.
“Thanks bro! Bye guys!”
Once on the turnpike she rolled down her windows and blasted her “Wake-up” playlist. Half-way home, around 11:30pm, she was singing along to “Dirty Diana” by MIchael Jackson when her music was interrupted by “The Doctor is Calling” by Megadeth, the ringtone for her best friend, Huan Zhang. She pressed the answer button on her steering wheel. “Dr. Zhang, fancy hearing from you at this time of night. Not enough broken bones and bloody body parts to keep you occupied?”
“Never. I am insatiable when it comes to fixing what ails people. But naw, I’m off tonight. I go in for 3 consecutive night shifts tomorrow afternoon. I know you’re driving home from South Bumblefuck, New Jersey and could probably use some company to keep you awake.”
She paused for a second. “We are going to circle back to you trashing your former home-state at a later date. Which one of them messaged you I was alone: Vinny or Kris?”
“Neither, it was actually Julissa.”
She shook her head at her overprotective siblings. “They are never going to let me grow up,” she mumbled.
“Nope; they aren’t. So how did it go?” She regaled the tale of the night, giving him the highlights of the almost totally average day, leaving out the part where she puked.
“That sounds almost completely boring. If it were the other way around and I was driving home, you would have put me to sleep with that tale.”
“Fair. Quite fair. This was the first time one of my mother’s catering jobs didn’t have at least one party-goer fiasco. Sorry to disappoint. How about you? How was work last week?” He launched into the latest edition of “Hospital Hijinks with Huan.” Lynne’s favorite part was when he told her about a fifty-year woman who came into the emergency room with acute angina that was trying to hook him up with her daughter who had accompanied her to the hospital. “Please tell me you have a date with this nice girl soon.”
“Oh no. She is very much not single and very much a lesbian. Mhmm, that was apparent when her wife walked in the door with their three year-old son. It seems that mother dear still doesn’t approve of her lifestyle and is trying to “fix” her.”
“Oh my goodness gracious. Only you!” She burst into a fit of uncontrollable giggles. “I can’t take it. Fuck. I have to pee again.” She checked her GPS and saw that she was only about twenty minutes away from her duplex apartment. “Continue, but warn me if you’re going to say something even remotely close to funny please. I don’t want to piss myself in my car. I like my car.”
“Why don’t you just pull over to the side of the road and pee behind a tree?”
“Ok, a few things. First of all, I am lacking an appendage that would allow me to drop my pants and take a leak without peeing all over my legs. Second of all, it is damn near midnight and I am a woman alone. Third of all, how did you become a doctor without any common sense?”
“Ok, my bad. That’s probably the lack of consistent sleep this week talking. I rescind my previous statement. And ouch. I do have common sense. It just left me in the middle of that sentence.”
“Uhuh.” Her leg had started to bounce as she fought hard to keep her thighs tightly clenched together while she was driving. Not an easy task. “Talk to me Huan. What else is going on at the hospital? Or with your family? I need to concentrate on something. Anything other than the fact that I have to pee.”
Twelve minutes later she pulled into her driveway. She had taken liberties with the speed limit in an effort to make it home before her bladder burst like Niagra Falls. Running up to the front door of her duplex, she jammed her key in and wrenched the door open before closing and locking it behind herself. “I’m home now. Thanks for keeping me from becoming roadkill, Huan. I am gonna pee and I doubt you wanna hear that. So g’night!”
She threw her phone onto the sofa in her living room and ran into the bathroom, not caring to try and close the door behind herself. “Sweet Mary, mother of God this feels so good!” She moaned out to no one as she relieved her aching bladder.
After she finished and washed her hands she walked into the kitchen to fix herself something to eat before going to bed. Remembering her mother’s instructions, she grabbed her phone off the couch and sent a text message to her family letting know that she was safely home. A quick thrown together bowl of leftover spaghetti in vodka sauce topped with a mound of grated parmesan paired with a glass of Cabernet was her dinner. She ate on top of her bed, turning on an old black and white horror movie. When she was finished with her meal, she stripped out of her waitressing uniform, pulled on a pair of green pajama bottoms and a yellow camisole, and got underneath her covers to go to sleep.
As her brain replayed the course of events from her day, which she did as per her usual nighttime routine, she shot up when she realized one piece of information didn’t fit right. Reaching for her cellphone on her side-table, she opened up her “Health” app and searched for what she was thinking about. She felt her heart stop when a feeling of cold dread hit her. She and Elisa had been synchronized on their cycles almost since Lynne first started menstruating. She hadn’t gotten her period in a month and her system was almost military in its regimen. How in the world did I miss that?
She needed to go to the store and pick up a test, but it was almost two in the morning. Nothing was open. She would have to wait. Turning over on her side she closed her large, jade green eyes and willed herself to sleep, but it would not come to her.
Lynne rushed out to the store as soon as it opened up at 6:30am, bought two different tests, and took them home. Time to pee on the stick, Lynne. Unwilling to freak out while she waited for the timers to go off, she placed the tests on top of a paper towel on her coffee table and decided to take a shower. Maybe I’ve just been stressed for the past couple of months. There was a lot going on at the school. All those misplaced receipts we had to go back and settle on the accounts from last academic year. Working late hours and not taking care to eat properly. Yea, yea that’s it. There’s no way I’m..... She shook her head as she finished cleansing her body. Not ready to face the results, she turned her attention to shaving her armpits and legs. Once she finished that task, she let the warm water cascade over her body as she psyched herself to get out of the shower.
She held her breath as she stepped out onto the cold tiles and wrapped a towel around herself, not bothering with toweling down her body which was her usual routine. Exiting the bathroom, she was glad she hadn’t opened the blinds yet to let the sunshine in. This felt like something better off done in the semi-dark. Wringing her hands together, she steepled them underneath her chin, as she opened her eyes and looked down at the two pieces of plastic on the table before her. Glancing from one to the other the signs she had been ignoring over the past few days became justified by the “Positive” and “+” that greeted her on the two view-windows. She closed her eyes, shook her head, took a deep breath, and opened her eyes again. “Nope, the outcome is still the same.”
Tilting her head back onto the sofa a primal growl released itself from Lynne’s throat. Her frustrations reverberated across the walls of her modest home in the early hours of the morning. “FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKK!!!”