Annie & Jack After Forty

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Chapter 3


I’m in a staring match with my mom when Sophie yells that her dad’s here. Ben walks in the kitchen with Sophie, talking a mile a minute right behind him. “She’s going to bring her things to school so she can come straight home with us. We were thinking of getting Panera instead of pizza. Oh, can we bake cookies? We want to try out a new recipe that Sarah Jane’s mom found in some magazines. Oh, and Sarah Jane’s aunt, who is my new yoga teacher, Ms. August, works at The Stardust. I’m going to get my new phone and take a picture of you, so she knows my family when they go to eat.” She turns and skips out of the kitchen.

Ben takes his jacket off and kisses Mom’s check. “Hi, Mom, what’s for dinner? Did Soph get her homework done?”

“Yes, Ben, she’s all set for school and her sleepover tomorrow night.” She smiles and pats his arm, and he loves it. He’s a baby.

“Mom, before Sophie gets back in here, I’d liked to tell you once again it’s time to give me the house.” Mom laughs, and Ben has the gull to roll his fucking eyes. He knows she’s trying. She’s a pain in the ass.

“I’d like to tell you again, Jack, that the time is not right. You can have it when I say.” She goes to pat my arm across the table. I glare and move my arm out of her reach. The woman is crazy. She’s seventy-eight and still acts like she’s my age. She lives here only a week or so a month. Other than that, she spends her time in Florida running around like a teenager. I start to argue when Sophie walks back into the kitchen. Ben gives me a pointed look. I shake my head. When we were growing up, we were encouraged to debate and argue our thoughts and viewpoints. Dinners were always together, loud, yelling, and debating over every topic. He wants to tone it down in front of Sophie.

“The three of you get together. Uncle Jack stands behind grandma. I want a picture of my whole family for my phone’s wallpaper.” She’s all innocent, sweet smiles.

I slowly get up, showing my brother by the look on my face that I’m only doing this because, like him, she has me wrapped around her finger.

I stand behind Mom. When she aims the camera, I put bunny ears up behind my crazy, old mother’s head.

Sophie chuckles. “I got that, one more. Uncle Jack, keep your hand down this time,” she tattles on me.

Mom looks over her shoulder and raises her brows at me and gives me one of her looks. I hear her tell me to grow up under her breath before she turns back and smiles for the picture.

“What’s the plans for Sophie’s first sleepover? You know, you already met Sarah Jane’s aunt, the yoga teacher, and the waitress at The Stardust. She’s the pretty waitress I asked about her hair. At school today, she mentioned something you said that night. Something about my social graces,” I eye the asshole.

“No shit, really? Small world, huh? There are only a hundred kids in that whole elementary school. What are the odds? Don’t fuck up her classes or our dinners at The Stardust, Jack,” he half-jokes.

Ben and I are so different from one another. Like our hair color, features, and attitude toward life, he is light, and I am dark. “You need to back me up on the house now. I’ll be fifty next year, and I want to start making changes, I want to settle here. I can’t fucking stand living downtown much longer. This shit isn’t funny anymore, Ben. This was the first house I designed, and you know how much faith Dad put into me at fifteen years old. I moved back to Ohio; Mom’s never home, you don’t want it, I do. I have no idea why she won’t quit this shit.”

“You know damn well why she doesn’t, Jack,” Ben says like I’m an idiot.

I scoff, “Don’t take her side, you know damn well, Ben, that will never happen. This bullshit about me being alone out here and antisocial is just that, all bullshit. Her pipe dream of me finding a different kind of happiness outside of work, which is code for a wife, is not going to happen. I am who I am, Ben. I am an antisocial bastard, who fucking loves not having to share my life with anyone. I love my work, and I love what I’ve created here in Ohio. But living and working in my building, and dealing with people after work hours, it is starting to grate on me. I want to come home, here, every night, and get away.”

Ben drains his beer. “Okay, I hear you, I’m with you. Mom has three homes to choose from when she’s in town. I agree; it’s finally time.”

I smile, I even feel my dimples make an appearance. “A-fucking-men.” We’ll tag team the woman like the good old days, and I’ll be moving in soon.

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