Friday, January 25, 2013

The Sinclairs by Whit Walker

Beatrice Sinclair must cope with the death of her husband in spite of her crazy family - a sex addict son, a daughter intent on destroying her marriage, and another daughter a decade too young; by Whit Walker.

1

The sound of the telephone ringing was muffled due to the insides of her thighs being pressed against each of his ears. She had heard the ringing, but didn't call attention to it because she didn't want him to stop. She didn't know his name, and he didn't know hers. She did know he had soft puffy lips and five o'clock shadow. He knew she tasted like honey. The phone rang three more times before the machine picked up the call. She heard his voice say he wasn't in, and to leave a message after the beep.

"Baltimore, it's your mother. Call me as soon as you get this. Something's happened."

Click.



The black and white checkered pattern of the marble tile was beginning to annoy her. It was time to redecorate. That woman had absolutely no taste. This entire apartment needed redone with her touch instead of his ex-wife's. They had been married for a few years although she had been with him for four years before. Standing in the middle of the foyer staring at the tiled floor, the dark oak walls with their decorative carvings, and the elegant ceiling with its chandelier she could hear the sound of rock music and gun shots a few rooms away. His sons, seventeen year old twins, entertaining themselves. A new sound. Her cell phone vibrating off the marble counter of the table in the middle of the room. It was her mother.

"Hello," she answered dully.

"Violet, it's mom."

"I know. I can read."

"Something's happened to dad."



The floor of her bedroom was littered with gossip magazines, movie and commercial scripts, and hair and make up products among various other things. She put her cigarette out in a half empty bottle of water and put it back in its hiding place in between the mattress and box springs of her bed, then opened the window and turned on a fan. Her mom had almost caught her smoking a few weeks ago, but luckily enough the maid smoked and she put the blame on her. She had been surrounded by adults all of her life, being born much later than her brother and sister, but a ten year old smoking cigarettes still wasn't acceptable.

She walked into her bathroom and flipped the two switches. An overheard light came on, and twenty round light bulbs surrounding the mirror lit up as well, just like in the movies. She made her dad install them a few years ago so she could get accustomed to life on a movie set. She had yet to actually start her acting career, but Sissy Sinclair knew that despite her young age, she was the next big thing.

She sat down and started to brush her hair, gazing at herself in all the illuminating light in the mirror when she heard her mother scream down the hall.



Beatrice Sinclair flicked the ash of her cigarette out of the cracked window of her car as she turned the corner. She had been running errands and enjoyed the time out of the house. As far as her family knew she had quit smoking and drinking ten years ago, but her habits had just been hidden for ten years. She began to ponder why she hid the fact that she smoked. After all, she was sixty years old. Well past the age of having to answer to anyone. She pulled into the driveway and into the garage of their Victorian style house which sat on the corner of Spruce and Seventh. She enjoyed their neighborhood. It was quiet and they had nice neighbors.

She walked into the house and set her keys and a few sacks from the store down on the counter. She checked the answering machine, but there weren't any messages. Of course there weren't any messages.

"Arthur, I'm home," she shouted as she walked through the kitchen to the living room. She wandered around the house looking for her husband of over thirty years, but ended up in their bedroom without finding him. She thought, perhaps, that he was outside in the flowerbed, or taking a walk. The window in their bedroom on the south end of the house was open, the curtains flailing about in the light breeze. She walked over to see if she could see Arthur and caught herself on the window sill as she peered out and saw her husband's lifeless body laying mangled in the grass below.

She screamed.



Arthur Sinclair was born two years after the Second World War. His father worked in a factory and died shortly after Arthur's birth in a work-related accident. To support Arthur and herself, his mother, Margaret, worked as a nurse. Arthur graduated college in 1969 with a degree in English education. Shortly thereafter he met Beatrice at a coffee shop just off campus.

Beatrice Sinclair was born three years after the Second World War. Her parents were avid travelers and often left her at home with her nanny, Doris, while they hiked the Himalayas, or sailed the seas. On the last day of her junior year at college, Beatrice received a phone call from Doris informing her that her parent's yacht had sunk in the Bermuda Triangle. Their bodies were never recovered. Stricken with less than mild grief and an estimated two point five million dollar inheritance, she never returned to college. Instead, she purchased a coffee shop near campus. Shortly thereafter she met Arthur. Two years later they were married in a quiet ceremony on the beach of a lake in the Rocky Mountains. Four years after that they welcomed the birth of their first child, a boy they named Baltimore.

"We couldn't agree on a name, so we just decided to name him after the city where he was conceived," said Beatrice Sinclair.

"Original. I know," said Arthur Sinclair.

Baltimore Sinclair was eleven when he started fooling around with a few of the girls from his school in the city. When the girls' parents found out, and Arthur and Beatrice couldn't offer any better explanation than, "kids will be kids," he was pulled from public school and Beatrice started to give him his lessons at home.

He scored average on most assignments and graduated top of his class on one, but never went to college.

As an adult, Baltimore was a sex addict. The combined introduction to sex at an early age, and the almost immediate withdrawal of it compelled him to explore every side of his sexual nature. Men, women, parks, beds, and pools... nothing was off limits. He would try anything once. Most things several times.

Growing up, Violet Sinclair always wanted to be a marine biologist. She was fascinated by aquatic life and the ocean. That quickly changed one afternoon when she was eleven. Beatrice took her and Baltimore to the zoo. While leaning over the edge of a semi underground tank to get a better view of the jellyfish, she slipped and crashed into the water below. She was stung several times by the jellyfish until she was pulled out by a security guard. Having watched a television show on jellyfish and knowing that urine soothed the burns of a jellyfish, Baltimore whipped out his member and began to urinate on his sister.

After that she stuck to history.

Violet Sinclair grew up to be a beautiful young woman. She graduated college in the top five percent of her class with a degree in history, and got a job at a museum in the city. She dated casually until she met Robert Hux, a fellow historian and chairman of the museum she worked at. He was ten years her senior, but she found him irresistible.

They slept together in secret until his wife walked in on them. Robert left his wife and their twin boys, Benjamin and Bennett, and he and Violet were married a few months later in an elaborate ceremony in France. Every other week the boys stayed with Robert and Violet at their apartment in the city. Robert's ex-wife, Susan, kept their summer house. Since their wedding their relationship started going downhill fast. Robert cared too much while Violet hardly cared at all. While he devoted all of his spare time to renewing their relationship, she found other ways to occupy herself.

Sissy Sinclair was the youngest of the children. She was born when Beatrice was fifty years old. Beatrice didn't even find out she was pregnant until she was seven months along.

"I thought it was just menopause," said Beatrice Sinclair.

"You'll be sixty eight when it graduates high school," said Violet Sinclair-Hux.

She attributed her growing belly to bloating, until one day she went to the doctor for her annual check up and he informed her she was with child.

Sissy Sinclair, being obviously much younger than her brother and sister, lived alone with Beatrice and Arthur, and received whatever she desired. She was obsessed with fashion and Hollywood. Arthur paid for her to have her hair and nails done every two weeks. Beatrice hired an agent and a publicist at her youngest daughter's request. Also on staff were vocal and acting coaches, and a hair and make up man named Claude. Despite all of the necessary preparations, Sissy Sinclair had yet to land even an audition.

Beatrice and Arthur never agreed on whether or not they thought their daughter had any talent. They simply went along with it, as they had with their two other children with whatever they wanted.



2

Laying there, legs spread like he was running, both arms broken and bent ways they shouldn't be, and neck obviously broken, his face looked calm. His eyes were shut, and his lips twisted up slightly into a faint smile.

Beatrice Sinclair stood, arms wrapped around her chest, staring down at the only man she had ever loved. Silent tears fell lightly from her bright green eyes. She knew she couldn't lose it completely. Even if she could, she wouldn't. Not here in front of her children. She'd save her breakdown for later. She'd save her hysteria for the privacy of their bedroom. Her bedroom.

Sissy Sinclair, however, was in the middle of falling apart in a very public way. She threw her arms in the air and dropped to her knees. Her head hung low with her hair in her face as she shook violently.

"I suppose we should call someone," Violet said with one hand on her hip. The other fell straight down her side as she shifted her weight to her other hip. The expression on her face was a plain one, neither sad nor excited. Emotionless.

"Who do we call?" asked Baltimore. He stood, heels together, with one leg bent. He reached into his pocket subtly and popped the lid off of a small, round metal container. Concealed, he took his hand out of his pocket, lifted it to his nose while his other hand cradled his elbow and sniffed the cocaine from the container. "Should we call an ambulance?"

"He's already dead," Violet answered in an uninterested voice.

Sissy shook, still on her knees next to her dead father. Beatrice let out a gasp at the sound of the word dead and started to cry harder. Baltimore put one arm around his mother, consoling her, and used his free hand to hit his younger sister in the back of the head.

"We need to call a funeral home," Beatrice answered, taking a deep breath.

"Did you and dad already have any plans for something like this? Any, uh..."

"No."

Violet stared at her mother with her mouth hanging open slightly. "At your age?"

"It's not something entirely pleasant to plan," Beatrice replied, wiping her tears and trying to pull herself together. "It was something we had discussed, but never followed through on. For God's sake I still have a ten year old." She inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. "I'll go make some calls." With that she turned and walked into the house.

Violet turned to follow her as Sissy looked up at Baltimore. She didn't have a tear in her eye. He crouched down and said to her face with a whisper, "Enough with the theatrics. She's gonna have a hard enough time dealing with this without you turning it into some wannabe performance. Give it a rest, kid." She glared at him through highlighted bangs, and stood up to follow her sister.

"We can't just leave him here," Baltimore shouted after them as they turned. "We can't just go inside and sit on the couch and act like nothing has happened while he lays out here in the fucking yard!"

Violet turned on her heel and walked over to where her brother was still knelt, next to Arthur's lifeless, twisted body. "What should we do then?"

"We'll wait here. Until they come to get him."

Arthur Sinclair's three children all sat down in the grass around his body and waited.



3

That evening when Baltimore walked into his apartment the woman he was with earlier was nowhere to be found. He threw his keys on the counter and emptied the remaining contents of the small metal tin onto the counter as well. After forming straight narrow lines of the fine white powder with his debit card and snorting them through a rolled one dollar bill he collapsed on the couch in his living room and let the day's events soak in. His father was dead. Only his mother seemed actually affected by his death.

Back at his parent's house, Beatrice's house, the police made a brief appearance to rule out any foul play. Arthur Sinclair's death was unofficially ruled a suicide with a promise from one of the officers that it would be official in the next couple of days. They searched the house for a note, but there was not one to be found anywhere. From the way it seemed to Baltimore, his father jumped out of the window and took his life with no regard for his family. He did not blame his father. In fact, he was surprised the old man made it this long dealing with all of them, but he couldn't understand why he didn't leave a note.

A noise from the bathroom interrupted his thoughts and he got up to investigate. He found the woman from earlier lying on the tile floor naked next to the bathtub. Her black hair was a tangled mess against the whiteness of the bathroom. There were more lines of cocaine near the sink and her eyes were closed. He would have thought she was dead, too, except for the fact that he could see her heart beating rapidly through her near transparent rib cage. Despite her fragile frame, she was beautiful, he thought. Her eyes flickered open and she smiled up at him as she extended her hand.

"I'm Jane."

"Baltimore," he replied. He lifted the lid of the toilet seat and began to pee.



Beatrice awoke from a brief nap with her arms wrapped around Sissy in her bed. She looked around the room at the pink walls covered in movie posters and the floor cluttered with gossip magazines and wondered what made her daughter want to be a part of the madness of Hollywood. She thought of Baltimore and his futile attempts to hide his addictions and wondered what it was about sex and drugs that made him believe they were more important than everything else. And, then Violet. She knew her eldest daughter was unhappy in her marriage, yet she stayed in it. Beatrice imagined that she would feel different about it if Violet was actually working to repair her marriage, but she just stayed miserable in it.

Arthur. Arthur was dead. Suddenly filled with all of the emotions of losing the love of her life she unwrapped herself from Sissy's arms and walked down the hallway to their bedroom. Her bedroom now. She stood in the doorway and stared at the still unmade bed and thought of that morning.

"Good morning, darling," Arthur said as he smiled at Beatrice who was just waking up.

"Good morning." She kissed him softly on the cheek.

Why had he abandoned them? Why did he jump out of that window? She sank to the floor and began to cry.



The apartment was dim and almost quiet when Violet walked in. The sound of gunshots still rang out from the bedroom down the hall. She went to walk towards the sound when Robert appeared from the doorway of his study and immediately wrapped his arms around her. "I'm so sorry," he said sadly. She shimmied from his embrace and walked into the kitchen.

"About what?"

"Your father!" he replied somewhat surprised.

"Oh. How do you know about that?" She poured herself a glass of wine.

"Your mother called me. I rushed straight home, but you were already gone." He walked around the island in the kitchen to face her. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No."

"Violet, what's wrong? Why won't you talk to me?"

She scoffed. "My father just died."

"Well, don't act like you care now. Ten seconds ago it didn't mean shit to you."

He was starting to lose his cool, and she was starting to get a headache. She sat her glass down on the counter and looked him in the eyes.

"I'm about to have a massive breakdown."

"Really? You just know when you're going to have one?"

"Fuck off."

She picked up her glass, and the bottle, and walked down the hall towards the sound of the gunshots.



4

"Good morning!" a man said as Baltimore opened the front door to his mother's house.

"Good morning. You must be -"

"Wallace Babcock," he said as he grabbed Baltimore's hand and shook it vigorously.

Baltimore, somewhat surprised by the man's enthusiasm, motioned for him to come in and they walked to the sitting room. Violet and Beatrice were sitting on a brown leather sofa on one side of a coffee table. Baltimore joined them in the middle of the sofa while Mr. Babcock sat in a brown leather arm chair opposite them. He spread some papers out on the coffee table.

"Good morning. My name is Wallace Babcock, director of the Heavenly Home Funeral Home. I'm terribly sorry about your loss. What was your husband's name?"

"Arthur."

"Yes, Arthur. He was a good man."

"You knew our father?" Violet asked.

"Well, no. But, I'm sure he was a good man," he said with a large grin. "Now, let's get down to business. These are the basic packages we have available."

Beatrice began sorting through the pages on the coffee table as he explained them.

"This one is our cheapest. Well, most affordable," he said with a chuckle. "Just a plain wood casket, basic interior, three songs of your choice on repeat."

"What else do you have?" Beatrice asked frankly.

"We don't really have a budget," Baltimore added.

"Oh! Well, why didn't you say so! Let me show you this!" He pulled a packet of papers from his briefcase and displayed them on the coffee table.

"This is our finest casket made of stainless steel. It has a plush red velvet inside. It's been called the most comfortable casket in the world."

"By who? And is comfort really all that important?" Violet asked. "I mean, he's dead. I do enjoy the red velvet, though. It looks beautiful."

"Ah, an eye for taste! I knew I'd like you as soon as I saw you!" he beamed as he reached across and squeezed her knee affectionately. Violet uncrossed her legs.

"Well, I'm very into decorating."

"She's also very into older men," Baltimore added sarcastically.

Beatrice, finding the ordeal too much to deal with already without the ridiculous behavior of Mr. Babcock and her children, wanted to wrap things up. "I think," she said, pausing to choose her words carefully. "I think that we will have the funeral here. We'll provide the music, photographs, any anything else we can think of before then. We'll take this one," she said pointing to a $2,500 steel casket with ivory interior.

"Very well," Wallace Babcock replied curtly. "Perhaps, though, your children have something they wish to add?"

"My children have nothing to add," she replied as she cast a look of fury at both of her children.

"Well, I hope you find peace. May God be with you."

Beatrice scoffed as she rose from her seat. "Baltimore, please see Mr. Babcock out."

When Baltimore returned Beatrice looked at her two oldest children.

"What the hell is the matter with you?"

"What do you mean?" Violet asked snobbishly.

"I understand that you're miserable in your marriage, but do you really have to flirt with that disgusting man?"

"I wasn't flirting!"

"You were kinda flirting," Baltimore added as he sniffed.

"And you weren't? I saw you check out his ass when he walked out the door."

"I'm not gay!"

"Please. You'll fuck anything that walks."

"Enough!" Beatrice sat down, exhausted. "Enough." She closed her eyes and decided that it wasn't worth it to have this conversation. "I'm going to take a nap. Are you coming to dinner tonight?" she asked Baltimore.

"Yeah. Can I bring someone?"

"Of course. And, I know you'll be here," she said to Violet. "I've already called Robert to let him know he and the boys are more than welcome to join, too."

"Why do you do that? Why do you always call him?"

"Because he's a good man, and he's good for you." She began to laugh as she thought of something. "Do you remember that time you brought that guy home? What was his name? Tom Schuller? The one with the mohawk? And he asked your dad if it would be okay if he asked you to marry him?" She started laughing harder. Violet smiled.

"Yes. And Daddy chased him out the front door with a shotgun."

"I love you," she said to both of her children. "I'll see you tonight."



5

"Hey, do you want to go to dinner at my mom's house tonight?" Baltimore asked Jane when he got back to his apartment.

"Sure." She had taken a shower and was running around his apartment cleaning, wearing one of his t-shirts.

"So... you're cleaning."

"Yeah, I didn't know where you were, and I got bored. Do you mind?"

"Not at all." He laughed as he sat down on the couch.

Baltimore met Jane two nights previous at a Chinese buffet. He was sitting at a table alone eating the first meal he had been hungry for in days: noodles and egg rolls. He looked up across the room and saw a beautiful young woman stuffing her designer purse with egg rolls and fortune cookies. She saw him watching her and walked over.

"What are you looking at?"

"Nothing. Just wondering why you're carrying a bag like that, but stuffing food in it."

"It's a fake."

"Really? Could have fooled me," he lied sarcastically. "Hey, you wanna go get high?"

And that was what started their romance. In the back seat of a cab they did lines off each other's legs, and continued the party back at Baltimore's apartment.

"I should probably warn you," Baltimore said as he pulled her on top of him on the couch. "My family is a little crazy. And, my dad just died."

"I'm so sorry," she said seriously. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. I'm actually probably not okay, but I'm too fucked up to notice."

"Well, don't worry about your family. My family was crazy, too. If I can deal with them I'm sure I can hold up around yours. Are you sure you're fine?"

"Yes." He pulled her on top of him and began to kiss her neck.

"So how did he die?"

"He killed himself. He jumped out of the window of my parent's bedroom."

"I tried to kill myself once. I took a bunch of my mom's sleeping pills when I was a kid. It didn't work."

"Obviously."

She pulled his t-shirt off and straddled his lap. "You wanna have sex?"

"Let's get fucked up first. The whole clan under one roof... we're gonna need to be fucked up for that."

Jane jumped up off of him and skipped naked to the kitchen to get her knock off designer hand bag. When she returned she pulled out a zip lock bag of cocaine and a fortune cookie from the Chinese buffet.

"Here," she said as she tossed the bag to Baltimore. "You cut the lines. I'm gonna check our fortune."

As Baltimore scooped out generous portions of white powder and formed perfect straight lines on the coffee table Jane cracked open the cookie.

"Soon life will become more interesting."

Baltimore laughed as he held his thumb up covering his left nostril and snorted two lines. "That sounds about right."

"I got one one time that said, 'Help, I'm trapped in a Chinese bakery.'"

After she did her line she licked the remaining powder off the coffee table. "Mother always said, 'Waste not, want not.'"

"This is true. So... what were you saying about having sex?" he asked as he pulled her up over the coffee table and onto the couch.



"Hello?" Silence. Violet walked to her bedroom and opened the closet door. She took off her dress, threw it on the floor next to her and stood in her bra and underwear trying to decide what to change into.

"Hey," said a voice behind her. She turned and saw Bennett standing in the doorway. He was still wearing his football gear.

"Where's your brother?"

"He's still at practice. I ditched early. Where's Dad?"

"Robert's working late. He texted me and said he'd meet us at my mom's for dinner."

"Sweet," Bennett said as he slid his bag off his shoulders and let it hit the floor. He started to take his shoulder pads off as he walked towards her.

"Leave them on," she said with a smirk.

"Hey, I'll be eighteen in three months. You can't tell me what to do."

"Leave them on," she repeated.

She met him halfway and began to kiss him as he wrapped his arms around her.



6

The doorbell rang. Beatrice answered the door to find Baltimore standing on the porch with a beautiful albeit very thin woman.

"Darling!"

"Hi mom. Uh, this is Jane."

"Hey," Jane said.

"It's very nice to meet you, dear. Come in! Your outfit is very... interesting," Beatrice complimented Jane as they walked into the living room.

"Oh, thanks," Jane replied as she twirled in place. She was wearing a pink leotard and tutu with black patent leather pumps. Her long black curls were pulled up in a sloppy mess with a black headband.

"Are you a dancer?"

"No. My sister was. It was laying on top of the trash can when I went over to her house one day. This is a big house." She looked up as she turned around in a circle taking everything in.

"Um, thank you," Beatrice replied. "Please, have a seat. Sissy is upstairs. Violet, Robert and the boys will be here shortly. Baltimore, you look nice. I like that jacket."

He was wearing a tweed blazer and a fedora.

"Thanks, mom."

Sissy came down the stairs in full hair and make up wearing a black sequined dress and a veil.

"Does she always dress like that?" Jane whispered in Baltimore's ear laughingly.

"That's nothing. Wait until you see her at the funeral tomorrow. Oh, do you wanna go to the funeral with me?"

"Sure."

"Sissy, come here," Beatrice said as she motioned for Sissy to join them. "I want you to meet Baltimore's, um, friend. Sissy, this is Jane. Jane, this is Sissy, my youngest daughter."

"Hey, kid."

"Hello," Sissy replied from behind the black veil. "Why are you dressed like a ballerina?"

"Why are you dressed like a widow?" she replied. "No offense," she added to Beatrice who just held up her hand in response.

"I'm in mourning. My father died."

"I heard."

"Hey, Sis," Baltimore interrupted.

"When is Violet coming?" Sissy asked her mother, ignoring her brother's salutation.

"They'll be here soon."

Shortly after, the doorbell rang and Beatrice excused herself to answer it. When she returned she was followed by Violet, Robert, and the twins, Bennett and Benjamin.

"Who's the hot ballerina chick?" Benjamin asked with a laugh. Robert elbowed him in his ribs.

"Everyone, this is Jane. She's with Baltimore," Beatrice said. Benjamin's smile faded.

"Hey," Jane said as she held up a cigarette. "Does anyone mind if I smoke?"

"Mom quit smoking when she got pregnant with Sissy," Baltimore answered.

"Oh, okay." She slid the cigarette back in the silver case and put it back in her purse.

"Well, let's eat, shall we?" Beatrice asked.

Everyone walked into the dining room and stood around the table. Sissy and the twins sat down on one side while Jane, Baltimore and Violet sat opposite them. Robert and Beatrice sat at the ends of the table.

"Some of the neighbors got together and cooked up a little bit of everything so help yourself."

"It all looks so good. That was really very kind of them," Robert said helping himself to a fried chicken leg.

"Yes, it was," Beatrice replied. "So, how is school going?" she asked, turning her attention to the twins.

"Sucks."

"Blows."

"Manners!" Robert exclaimed, horrified of his children's responses.

"Sorry," they said in unison.

"So how did you two meet?" Violet asked Jane.

"At Mass," she replied. Baltimore cracked up laughing. Violet was unamused.

"Well, it can't be that serious. Otherwise, you'd know we're Jewish."

"We are not," Baltimore said. "Relax. We met at a restaurant."

Sissy's plate was still empty and she sat in dignified silence. Her face was still covered by the black veil.

"Hey, under there. Are you going to eat anything?" Beatrice asked her.

"I'm afraid I don't have an appetite," Sissy answered. Her voice started to crack.

"Oh, for the love of God," Baltimore said rolling his eyes.

"What? You're not eating either!" Sissy fired back looking at Baltimore's empty plate.

"I ate before we got here."

"I bet you did," Bennett said smirking at Jane.

Benjamin gave Baltimore a despondent look while Jane laughed under her breath.

"Oh, good Lord," Robert said cradling his head in his hands. "This is a serious time. A sad time. Can't you act like you have some sense just once?"

"What?" Bennett said innocently.

"I don't get it," Sissy said to everyone.

Everyone at the table laughed a little.

"Good," Beatrice added. "Let's change the subject."

"How are you holding up, Ma?" Robert asked Beatrice.

"Oh, you know me. I'll be fine."

"Why do you call her that?" Violet asked Robert.

"Yeah, she's not your mom," Bennett added. "Plus, she's not that much older than you."

"It's fine, Bennett," Beatrice said to Bennett. "It's just a nickname. A term of endearment. I'm glad he calls me that. He's part of the family. You all are." She smiled.

"Even her?" Benjamin asked looking at Jane.

"Yes, even Jane. In fact, I know it might seem a bit out of place, but then again, with a family like ours, what isn't out of place? I'd like to make a toast." She raised her glass with everyone else following suit.

"To family," she said proudly. "When everything else has fallen apart I know I still have you."

"To family," Robert replied alone. Everyone else had already started gulping down their wine. The kids' side of the table eyed the wine desirably.

They finished the meal with small talk that eventually always led to someone making an inappropriate remark or quibble. Sissy went upstairs early before being overcome with emotion. Robert, Violet and the twins left next, and Baltimore and Jane followed soon after.

"It was very nice to meet you, Jane. I hope we'll see more of you," Beatrice said as she walked them to the door. Jane smiled.

"I like your family," she said to Baltimore as she lit a cigarette and headed towards his car.



7

Baltimore sat down on the couch of his apartment. Jane stood in the corner of the room and stripped down to her black underwear.

"Can I wear one of your shirts again? I don't have any other clothes here."

"Yeah," he replied as he tossed her a t-shirt he picked up off of the floor.

She put it on and walked over to sit on the coffee table. He pulled a rolled joint out of his blazer pocket, put it to his lips and lit it. "So, where do you come from?" he asked Jane as he passed her the joint.

"A lot of places," she answered. She took a long slow drag on the joint.

"My family is really fucked up. My sister is banging her step son."

"Which one?"

"The taller one. Bennett."

"How do you know?"

"And Sissy thinks she's an actress. Well, that she's going to be an actress."

"What makes you think she won't be one?"

He paused and considered his answer. "Because none of us have ever followed through with anything."

"My mom kicked me out of her house when I was seventeen," Jane said as she stood up and started walking around aimlessly. "She came home from work on her lunch break and found me and my boyfriend naked in her bedroom snorting lines of cocaine off of each other."

"And she kicked you out?"

"Well, he was her boyfriend, too."

She turned on the radio and walked back over to the couch. With her head on the opposite end she rested her feet on Baltimore's lap.

"Ben told me. About V and Bennett."

"I wonder if they ever switch places," Jane said as she moved her foot along the inside of his thigh.

"I don't think so. I mean, they do in school sometimes. But that's it."

"I would if I had a twin."

"I probably would, too. What did you do when your mom kicked you out?"

"I lived on the streets for a while. Slept under bridges... in doorways."Then I met Chuck. That's how I got my job."

"What do you do?"

"While Chuck was at work all day I would get bored, so I got on the internet. One thing led to another and I started doing shows on his webcam. He forgot something one day so he came home and found me on my back with my legs in the air. He started to undo his pants, but then he looked at the computer monitor and realized what was happening."

Baltimore laughed.

"He told me to be out by the time he got back from work, so I packed up his computer and moved into the Diamond Lodge motel."

"Hey, I know that place. They have comfortable beds."

"I've got an idea," Jane said slyly as she jumped up off of the couch and skipped over to her bag. She pulled out a thin white laptop, sat it on the coffee table, and opened it.

"You want to make some money?" she asked as she took off the shirt she was wearing, exposing her breasts.

"I like the sound of that," he replied as he took his shirt off and leaned in to kiss her.

She reached over and turned on the laptop camera.



"I'd like you to go to couples' counseling with me," Robert said to Violet as she poured herself a glass of wine.

"What?"

"Couples' counseling. Therapy. I think it would do us some good to talk to someone and work out some of our issues."

She sighed as she rubbed her temple and reached for a bottle of Vicodin sitting on the counter.

"That won't help your headache," Robert said as he pointed to the pill bottle. "It will only make it worse."

"I'm not taking it for a headache. You're my headache."

"You don't mean that."

"It's true," she said flatly. She swallowed the pill and chased it with a gulp of the red wine.

"Well, I don't think that's fair to say."

She put a hand up as she said, "Save it for the counselor."

"So you'll go?"

"I'm not going to see a fucking shrink about my marriage."

"There isn't anything wrong with talking to someone, Violet. There isn't anything wrong with finding help for your problems. Why won't you let me in?"

"I'm not doing this right now, Robert," she said angrily.

"You're going to have to at some point," he replied sorely. "Do you expect us to just stay like this for the rest of our lives?"

"I don't expect anything anymore," she said. "I'm going to bed. I think you should sleep in the guest room."

"Where else would I sleep?"

"What?"

"I've been sleeping in the guest room for months, Violet," he said disappointed. "Maybe if you were sober long enough you'd notice that."



8

Beatrice Sinclair stood at the front of the great room next to a stainless steel casket with ivory lining. Inside, her husband Arthur laid peacefully with his eyes closed. She thought he looked very nice in his navy blue suit. He always looked nice in that suit. Since she discovered his body laying in the yard two days before she had been reliving her entire life over and over again. Standing there at his funeral getting ready to greet friends, family, and acquaintances and accept their hugs and condolences she began to relive her life again in her head.

She thought of the first time they met at her coffee shop, Bea's Brews. She was working behind the counter when the door opened, and in walked a bum. Upon second glance the bum was an attractive twenty-something with thick brown hair. As he approached the counter he looked up at Beatrice.

"Hey, beautiful. I'll take a beer."

"We don't serve beer. This is a coffee shop."

"No shit? I thought the sign outside said 'Bea's Brews.'"

"'Brews' as in coffee."

"Not 'brews' as in 'brewski.'" He smiled. "Well, I'll take a coffee then. I'm Arthur."

She remembered their wedding day. Since their parents were dead and they had no immediate family that they were close to, they decided to elope and get married in Las Vegas. Arthur wore a rented suit and she wore a plain white lace dress.

"I hope you're not marrying me for my money," she remembered him saying as he put a cigar in his mouth. "Because I don't have any yet."

A few years after that he had his first novel published. A small publisher out of Maryland agreed to publish it and they flew to Baltimore to sign papers. That night in the hotel room they celebrated, and nine months later they welcomed a baby boy.

A few more years went by and then Violet came along.

"Our family is perfect now," she recalled Arthur whispering in her ear as she cradled the newborn Violet.

All of the memories of their children growing up fled back to her: first steps, playing in the snow, coach pitch baseball and swim lessons. Even during the bad times raising their children Arthur always had a way to make her laugh.

Then Sissy came along. Everyone, including Baltimore and Violet, thought they were crazy for having another baby. It's not like they did it on purpose. One night while laying in bed shortly after they found out she was pregnant she asked him if he thought they were doing the right thing by having a baby at their age.

"Of course we are!" he exclaimed. "You're a helluva mother, Beatrice."

"Really?" She wiped her eyes and sat up to meet his eyes.

"Really," he smiled back. "It'll all be fine. It always is."

She repeated that to herself as people started filing through the room making their way to pay their final respects.

"It will all be fine."

She looked up at her children standing a few feet away. They aren't perfect, she thought, but she was proud of them.

An hour or so later in the middle of greeting more people Beatrice looked around to survey the room. Violet and Sissy were still near the foot of the casket. Robert was sitting down talking to Bennett and Jane was wandering aimlessly in and out of the room. But, Baltimore and Benjamin were nowhere to be found.

"Where's your brother?" she asked Violet during a break from the visitors. "I don't see him."

"Him and Benjamin went that way," Sissy answered for Violet pointing up the stairs.

"He. He and Benjamin," she corrected. "I'll go see what they're doing."

She walked up the stairs and started calling out his name.

"Baltimore? Balt?" No answer. She looked in his old bedroom, but it was empty. So was Violet's old room, Sissy's room, the bathroom, and the spare bedroom. She started walking towards her bedroom when the door to the linen closet opened and Baltimore and Benjamin waked out. Benjamin was straightening up his tie, and Baltimore was buckling his belt.

"What are you two -" she stopped as she started putting things together in her head. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me."

"Mom. Relax. Calm down." Baltimore put his hands on his mom's shoulders but she jerked out from his embrace.

"No! What the fuck is wrong with you?" she screamed.

"Stop! People will hear you!" Benjamin pleaded.

"I don't care," she sobbed as she stood there.

Behind her Robert came running up the stairs. "What's wrong? I heard someone scream?"

Violet, Sissy, Bennett, and Jane were quick to follow.

"What's wrong, mom?"

"What's wrong?" she asked looking at all of them. "I'll tell you what's wrong."

"Mom, stop. Please," Baltimore begged her.

She thought about it, and decided that her husband's funeral was not the place nor the time to have the conversation with her family she'd known for a while that she would have to have. The previous few days only further proved this fact. Not only were her children so completely jaded in their day to day lives, but apparently not even the death of their father could shake them back to reality. After a few minutes Beatrice gathered herself. She wiped her face, straightened out her suit jacket and looked at Baltimore.

"We'll talk later," was all she said to him. "We'll all talk later."

"Okay," Baltimore said quietly. "Okay."

With that she turned and headed downstairs to the funeral. Everyone followed in line behind her.



9

Baltimore looked around in the quiet sunny afternoon. His family stood around the hole in the ground where Arthur would be buried in the Sinclair family plot of the Maple Acres Cemetery. Beatrice stood to his right weeping silently with her arms wrapped around Sissy who was standing in front of her. Her facade of strength had crumbled back at the house and she hadn't been able to stop crying since. Sissy's veil still covered her face hiding any emotion she had. Robert stood next to Violet holding hands with his other arm wrapped around his sons.

"I'm not wearing any underwear," Jane whispered in his ear as she came up behind him and pushed herself into him. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders putting her hands on his face in what appeared to be a caring gesture. In reality her hand concealed the tiny metal tube of cocaine which he promptly sniffed from.

"Thanks," he said appreciatively. "You always know just what I need."

The casket containing Arthur Sinclair began to lower into the Earth. Beatrice's crying became louder, and in a rare occurrence, all of her children put aside their own matters and embraced their mother. Beatrice stepped forward with a handful of dirt and dropped it it into the hole followed by each member of the family.

"Goodbye, darling," she said quietly and turned to walk towards the limousine.



10

In the back of the limousine Beatrice sat in the center. Baltimore, Jane, and Sissy sat in the seat to her right. Violet, the twins, and Robert in the seat to her left. Everyone sat still in complete silence except Jane, who was completely high and casually spread her legs, flashing the twins, while she giggled. Benjamin rolled his eyes with a look of disgust while Bennett shifted in his seat and laughed. Beatrice noticed and decided to break the silence.

"Jane," she snapped. "I think we've had enough inappropriate behavior for today."

"Don't talk to her like that," Baltimore defended.

"Why not? It's not like she'll be around next week," Violet chimed in.

"Don't talk about her like that," Baltimore said louder, getting aggravated. "She's different."

"What do you mean 'she's different?'" Benjamin asked offensively.

"Do we really have to do this now?" Baltimore asked no one specific.

"Yes, we do have to do this now," Beatrice said. "Robert, I think you need to have a conversation with your son. There are things you need to know, and I don't think it's right that you hear it from me."

"Which son?" Robert asked.

"Both," Baltimore said loudly looking at his mother. "And mother, I think it's time you had a conversation with your daughter."

"Which one?" she asked, surprised.

"Sorry, V, but I'm not getting thrown under this bus alone."

"What are you talking about? What is all this about?" Robert asked, concerned.

"Nothing," Benjamin and Bennett said together quickly.

"What are they talking about?" Robert asked his sons. They both looked panicked and neither one answered.

"Jesus Christ," Jane said. "That one is fucking Baltimore and that one is fucking her."

"What?" Robert shouted. Jane giggled.

"Violet? Is that true?" Beatrice asked.

"Thanks, assholes," she replied looking at Baltimore and Jane.

"How do you know?" Baltimore asked Jane.

"It's pretty obvious. I saw you sneak off at the funeral. Plus he hates me," Jane said, amused. "But don't worry, though. I'm not threatened."

"I hardly think that's the issue," Beatrice said as she turned her attention to her two oldest children. "I can't believe you. I can't believe any of you! Your father and I provided every experience possible for you kids. You have incredible lives. And what are you doing with them? This. This is what you're doing!"

"I want you out of my house," Robert said to Violet. "When we get back get your shit and get out of my house."

"Okay," she answered quietly.

"Well, I'm going with her!" Bennett shouted.

"I don't think so," Robert added. "You're going to live with your mother. Both of you. I want you as far away from them as possible."

They started to object, but were quickly silenced by the look of violent anger in their father's eyes.

"Sissy?" Beatrice asked to the only person in the vehicle to remain silent the entire ride.

"What? I'm not fucking anyone."

Baltimore and Jane burst into laughter. "You can always be counted on for some comic relief, kid."

"Good. But, I think your obsession with this acting thing has seriously affected your real emotions."

"What do you mean?" Sissy asked. "I'm an actor! I have every emotion."

"You're starting therapy on Monday," Beatrice said with a conclusiveness in her voice. "You need to learn that -"

"We're here. Get out," Robert interrupted, grabbing both of his sons by the arms. "Beatrice, I'm so sorry for your loss, and everything else you have to deal with. Take care."

He left the car followed by his sons whom he all but dragged in through the front door of the apartment building.

"I guess I have to go too," Violet said to her mother.

Beatrice sighed. "You have a lot of work to do. We all do. But if you need a place to stay you can come home."

Violet got out of the car without another word and walked into the the building.

"Sissy, would you mind going and sitting up front with the driver? I need to have a private conversation with Baltimore and Jane."

"No! I don't want -"

"Go. Now."

Sissy sulked from her seat and left the car to get into the passenger side of the front. When the car started moving again Beatrice began to speak.

"You two need help."

"What do you mean?" Jane asked with a smirk.

"You need help. You need to go to rehab."

"I'm not on drugs!" Baltimore shouted.

"Balt, you've got cocaine all over your nostrils. You always do."

He quickly wiped his nose removing the evidence like it would change her mind.

"You have a lot of issues you need to work out. You need to get help. Please. I love you, but I'm very disappointed in you." Her voice had calmed. Despite the fact that she was angry with all of her children she loved them, and wanted to help them.

"Jane, you need help, too. I think that you could be really great for Baltimore, but you both need to get clean."

"She is really good for me," Baltimore said as he squeezed Jane's knee.

Beatrice sighed again. "I can't believe your father left me to do all of this on my own. I love him with all of my heart, but I'll never forgive him for doing this."

The limousine pulled up in front of Beatrice's house, and everyone got out. Baltimore and Jane started walking to his car, and Beatrice and Sissy walked towards the front door. Beatrice stopped for a moment looking up at the window that Arthur had jumped from. She noticed something was stuck in the eaves of the roof a few feet above the window.

"What's that?" she wondered aloud.



11

As he got out of the shower he heard the garage door open and the car pull away. He smiled as he thought about his wife and how much he loved her. From the first time he saw her at the coffee shop he pretended was a bar, over thirty years before, up to that very moment he knew she was the only woman for him.

They lived a quiet life of gardening and reading, raising their youngest daughter. He knew he was lucky.

"The luckiest bastard alive," he said aloud as he looked in the mirror and started to shave his face.

He finished getting ready and went downstairs and out to the backyard where they kept their flower garden. Arthur browsed the rose bushes determined to find the perfect one to pick for his wife. He clipped it with the gardening shears and returned to the house leaving the shears on the kitchen counter.

Back up in their bedroom he walked over to the window. While outside he noticed it was a beautiful windy day and decided to let some fresh air in the house. But, when he opened the window a gust of wind picked up the rose from his hands and carried it to the eave of the roof above the window.

"Dammit," he complained as he reached for the rose, but it was just out of reach. Arthur put a foot on the window sill and lifted himself up in the frame to reach for the rose again. His hand was just inches from it when his foot slipped and he lost his balance.

The last thing Arthur Sinclair saw was the rose stuck in the roof. He thought of his family. And then darkness.

5 comments:

  1. Strong characters, excellent writing, and a fascinating way to tell all their stories.

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  2. Thanks for your feedback! It is greatly appreciated.

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  3. The reaction of Beatrice in the end, after seeing the flower, should have been given. It would have rounded up things.

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  4. I think it was wonderful! A denouement would have changed the whole tone. I absolutely loved it, Whit!

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  5. first class, a great read, brilliant mix of characters and the perfect ending

    Michael McCarthy

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