Slippery Slope

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Kick Turn

Kick Turn – A turn done standing in place by rotating one ski around and then the other, to face in the opposite direction.

Derrick jumped at the sound of the back door slamming shut.

“Jess?” he called out.

“Yeah, be right down,” she answered.

Derrick could hear the sound of Rick racing around and jumping followed by Jess admonishing him. Only one of his kids could walk at this point but it sounded like elephants. Derrick laughed to himself, wondering what it would sound like once Rachel started scampering around, too.

The place was a shambles. Since the fire, they had moved into the basement and half their house was crammed into it – the kids’ toys, Rachel’s crib, their mattresses, clothes, shoes, books, manuscripts, a folding table that now doubled as their dining table and Derrick’s office. They were living out of boxes. Construction had started but only the kitchen and powder room were operational. The small living room and dining room had been gutted, however, the studs were up and the electrical wiring was now finished. The sheetrock would go up as soon as the inspections were done. The second floor front bedroom was badly damaged but luckily the back of the house had survived. They had stayed with Jess’ parents until the construction began and then moved back in as soon as it was possible. Derrick had insisted on it, saying he wanted to supervise the construction. In truth, he needed to get the hell out of there. Her parents loved that Jess and their grandkids were staying with them. But, while they protested to the contrary, Derrick knew that Doug and Karen couldn’t stand him. They had despised him from the start and he and Jess getting married had not changed a thing. In his opinion they were overly indulgent of their daughter and Jess had divulged way too much information to them about his relationship with her.

Jess appeared in the doorway bouncing Rachel on one hip with Rick clinging to the other, riding on her foot. The boy whooped at seeing his father, ran to him and jumped on him. Derrick stood up from the computer and scooped the boy up over his head.

“Careful!” Jess cautioned, “Low ceilings down here, remember?”

“He’s fine, Jess!”

“I’m fine, Mommy.” The boy lay across Derrick shoulders and touched his hands to the ceiling, which were just an inch or two above Derrick’s head.

Jess laughed, “You two are too rough.”

“I’m a tough guy, right Daddy?” Rick asked his father.

“You are, Rick.”

“And you’re a bad ass, right Daddy?”

“Derrick Douglas, watch your language,” Jess admonished.

Derrick laughed and rolled the boy off his neck and into his arms. He tickled the boy’s stomach. “That was both names, Rick. You’re in trouble now.”

“Am I, Mommy?” Jess walked over and tousled Rick’s hair, “No, but I don’t want you using bad words. Okay?”

“Okay, Mommy.”

“Ass isn’t really a bad word, Jess,” Derrick noted.

“It means donkey, Rick.”

“It does?” Rick asked.

“Derrick, stop!” Jess shook her head.

“It does, Rick, but not the way Daddy told you to use it.”

“Can I call you a bad donkey, Daddy?”

“Sure, little Rick,” Derrick laughed. Rick climbed down Derrick’s long frame to the floor and ran over to his pile of trucks.

“Derrick,” Jess said in a hushed voice, “What if he goes to school and says that?”

“No worries, Jess,” Derrick tickled Rachel under the chin and she giggled with delight, “He’ll learn much worse than that from the other kids.”

Jess frowned but Derrick gently kissed her forehead, “Okay, Jess, I won’t say it to him anymore.”

Derrick blew a raspberry on his daughter’s cheek.

“I’d like to put this little lady in her crib for a nap, Derrick. Is that okay?”

Derrick shook his head, “I’m working on something, Jess. Would you mind putting her in the bouncy seat in the kitchen? Do you think she’ll fall sleep there?”

“I can try,” Jess replied with a sigh.

“She’s pretty tired.”

Jess pointed her chin toward Rick and whispered, “So is he.”

“Yeah?” Derrick asked.

She nodded, “Almost fell asleep in the car but fought it the whole way.”

Derrick nodded back, “Got it.”

Rick got up and brought his fire truck to Derrick, “Will you play with me, Daddy?”

“Sure thing, Rick.” Derrick sat himself on the floor cross-legged in front of the boy.

Jess smiled at them and retreated to the stairs, “Play quietly, okay, boys?”

“Sure,” they both answered.

Derrick turned his attention to Little Rick as the boy turned on the truck’s lights and lifted its ladder. Rick made requisite beeping sounds as the ladder expanded to full height.

“How about you, tough guy? You going to take a nap? You look kinda tired.”

The boy shook his head vehemently, “Uh-uh. No way. I’m not a baby.”

“I see. It’s okay, Rick. You don’t have to.”

The boy crawled with his truck onto Derrick’s lap and rested his head on his shoulder. “Daddy?”

“Yes, Rick?”

“I really am tired.”

“Do you want to take a nap down here while Daddy works?”

“I don’t know. My friend Caleb says taking naps is for babies like Rachel,” Rick whispered.

“I tell you what, Rick. You can take a nap down here and I promise I won’t tell anyone that you did.”

“Not even Mommy?”

“Not even Mommy.”

“Okay!” Rick grabbed a blanket from a box and curled up on the mattress. Derrick snuggled the boy into the blanket and kissed him on his head. He then

walked over to the folding table and sat back down in his chair. He continued scrolling through his photos until he found what he was looking for. It was a photo from a script read-through three years ago. The cast was seated around a large table and Derrick was at one end of it. Jess was at the table as well, three seats away from him. She was still acting then and had a small part in the film. But the person he was interested in looking at stood off to one side against the wall, facing the camera. She was one of the production assistants. Tall, she had long blonde hair cascading past her shoulders and a smoking-hot body. She looked serious and pensive. Derrick cropped the photo and enlarged the image. He opened up his photo editing software and dragged the photo in. He began to make more alterations, changing the hair color, the eye color, adding glasses. He worked for about fifteen minutes and had just sat back to contemplate his creation when Jess came tiptoeing down the stairs. She looked at Rick sleeping and mouthed the words, “Great job.”

“Hmmm,” he replied not looking up from the computer.

“What’s the matter?” Jess asked. Derrick clicked on the screen and waved her over.

“Remember the read-through for Last Conquerer?”

“Absolutely. Reminiscing?”

“Not exactly.” He pointed to the blonde. “Remember her?”

“Oh my God, yeah. Laura, right?”

“Yes, Laura Andrews.”

Jess visibly shuddered, “What a nut. Why in the world would you be looking at a photo of her?”

“So you remember her, right?”

“Jeez, Derrick. How could I forget? She was stalking you. She was following us everywhere and calling in the middle of the night, threatening you. You had to get a restraining order.” Jess’s hand flew to her mouth, “She hasn’t contacted you has she?”

“Remember what she said to me, Jess? That she’d get back at me? That she’d find a way to ruin my life?”

“Sure, she said it in court in front of the judge! The lunatic. She’s lucky she didn’t get thrown in jail.”

“Look at this photo.” Derrick pulled up the altered photo. The blonde hair was now brunette, the brown eyes now blue. He had added glasses and a ski jacket.

“Do you recognize this person?”

Jess looked at the photo and squinted, “I do see a resemblance to Laura, but the coloring is so different. And with the glasses? It’s hard to say. Why? Who is she?”

“How about now?” Derrick removed the glasses.

Jess pursed her lips, “There is something familiar. She looks a little bit like your friend Kristy, actually.”

“It’s not Kristy,” Little Rick said, peering over Derrick’s other shoulder. “It’s the lady in the road.”

Derrick put his hand over Jess’s, “The three of you need to leave. Now.”

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