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By Tom Berry
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Tom Berry
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Chapter OneLate spring, 2001
It simply can't be true! Mrs. Louise Dudley kept repeating in her mind as she paced around her large, elegant family room, waiting for three of her sons. As if my own shame was not enough to drive me crazy, and now this! She detested the thought of another crisis. In her hand was a piece of paper, which she was squeezing as she moved from one large-paned window to another. She looked at the large stone urns full of pink and white tulips that stood along the outdoor patio, but she did not see their beauty. She felt more like crying, hoping desperately that her suspicions about her youngest son, Kevin, were not true. Her conscience was already carrying the burden of her incestuous liaison with her son Phillip and she felt that she could not bear yet another disgusting situation in her family. Still, the poem on the paper in her hand could not be explained in any other way. Her youngest son, her beloved and darling Kevin, was simply "not right"! It was the only way she could express her fears as she waited for a family council with her other sons.
Walking around her large, comfortable home in the Connecticut hills near Stamford, Louise again thought of the evening when she and Phillip had sinned beyond reason. He had been wallowing in his bed from an overdose of drugs, and she had been sitting by his side, holding his hand. Her thoughts had been about her husband, who she knew was having an adulterous affair. Suddenly Phillip's hands had gone around her waist and pulled her onto the bed. She had laughed, but when he slipped his hand under her blouse and caressed her breast, she instantly knew that he was uncontrollable. The sensation had been both repugnant and wonderful. She had tried freeing herself, but his strong arms tore off her top, and he buried his face between her breasts. It was a moment of utter confusion. She had immediately thought of her son as the baby who used to cling to her, but at the same time, she wiggled, trying to free herself. His strength was incredible, and she soon collapsed into his embrace as he continued caressing her breast. It was a magical and frightening feeling. Since her husband, George, had not touched her for some time, the sensuousness was overwhelming. It was then that motherhood went further than God or humanity allows. Whether it was rape or consensual would be on Louise's mind forever. She could not discern. She only knew that it had happened and had haunted her ever since.
Suddenly she stopped in front of a hall mirror and examined her graying hair. While attending Vassar, she had been an outstanding student and had been considered one of the cutest blondes on campus. It was the early l960s and sexual freedom was blossoming. At graduation she had a place of honor in the distinctive Daisy Chain. Soon after, she had married George Dudley, thereby gaining wealth and social position. The Dudley family was descended from Robert Dudley, the First Earl of Leicester. He was an English courtier and favorite of Queen Elizabeth I of England, who had appointed him captain-general of her armies against the Spanish Armada in 1588. The American branch of the family had had a general in the War of Independence, which allowed them membership in the prestigious Order of Cincinnati. Membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution was naturally bestowed on the family wives. Louise was very proud of the Dudley heritage and had tried to instill that feeling in her children.
Rearing four sons in a quiet Connecticut suburb had been a joy. She had lived a full and happy life for years until her world had suddenly collapsed. She had discovered that her husband, George Dudley, a noted lawyer in New York City, had been unfaithful. Then her firstborn son, her attractive, manly Roger, had revealed his intention of marrying a young woman who, in Louise's opinion, was not worthy of him. Even worse, her second son, the adventurous Phillip, had been caught in a drug raid at the apartment of a fashionable New York hostess. Keeping him out of jail and placing him in a rehabilitation program had been very costly. Then, in her efforts to help him during one of his illnesses, an unintentional physical encounter between mother and son had occurred. The experience haunted her. Her third son, the handsome ladies' man Paul, had also caused much worry because of his treatments for gonorrhea. Now her delightful Kevin was in trouble, and the poem proved it. It seemed as if the present generation of Dudleys were not upholding the family prestige, which, until now, she had so earnestly protected. Yet she had also demeaned the family honor with a sin more horrible than those of her sons. What should she do? The question plagued her.
Louise walked around her garden for a while, trying for peace of mind. She stopped in front of a glass pane in the garden shed. Her white hair was pinned high on her head, but a few strands were slipping down. A flashback in her mind recalled the day she first used bleach on her hair when she was at Vassar. Everyone had always complimented her on the lustrous sheen of her hair. Now it was gray. She began straightening up her hairdo when she suddenly heard the loud, low-pitched voice of a neighbor, Mrs. Sarah Kale, who was calling over the white wooden fence between their yards.
Mrs. Dudley quickly put the wadded poem into a pocket of her tweed suit. She certainly could not share her torment with anyone outside the family.
Louise turned toward the fence and waved. "How's the llama?" she called out, hoping for diversion.
"Oh, she's fine, but she's still eating my bushes."
"My boys had a dog once that chewed on shoes. I love animals, but he was a nuisance."
"I remember one dog you had that chased the mailman."
"That was Skipper, but he was actually a good dog. He never bit him. I love animals, but I don't think I could handle a llama."
"I'm beginning to wonder if she's not too much for me."
"Sorry," Louise answered and waved as if she must go.
"Are you all right?" Mrs. Kale asked. "You looked so sad."
"No, I'm fine," Louise lied. "Just been thinking about the recent crimes up the street."
"Oh, it's terrible!" Mrs. Kale exclaimed, her fat jaws opening wide. "Why, that kind Mrs. Flint was robbed again."
"Doesn't she have an alarm system?"
"Yes, but they waited for her to come home and went in with her. That's the way the clever ones do it now."
Louise shook her head.
"Come over for some coffee, and I'll tell you all about it."
"Can't now. I'm expecting Roger over."
"Anything wrong?" the neighbor asked as she retied the knot that was holding a bun made of her long, black and silver hair.
"No, just some family things."
"Is he really going to marry that Sharon?"
"I think so, dear. We like her very much."
A smile of disbelief spread over the neighbor's face as she said, "Well, people get what they give."
"What do you mean?" Louise asked, staring.
"Oh, it's just my feelings about things. I believe you get as equally as you give."
Louise was confused and said, "I don't see how that applies to what we were talking about."
Mrs. Kale waved her hand and said, "Oh, don't pay any attention to me. I ramble, you know. Now I guess I'll feed Bertha. What ever made me want a llama, I'll never know." Mrs. Kale turned away and wiped her hands on her long, ever-present denim apron. Suddenly she turned back and yelled, "Oh, Louise, Wal-Mart has a sale on Basis cream today."
Mrs. Dudley thanked her and waved good-bye before entering her kitchen. She was relieved that she had escaped from her neighbor's prying questions. Also, Mrs. Kale's obsession with money and sales seemed her only reason for living. Louise liked Sarah but could not share her dreadful feelings about her relationship with Phillip or about her suspicions pertaining to Kevin.
Unfortunately, Roger arrived for the family council with his fiancée, Sharon Clarke. Louise felt revulsion when they both entered the spacious, well-appointed family room. She had wanted only her sons for the meeting, and even though Sharon was soon to be a member of the Dudley clan, Louise felt that she was not yet entitled to family secrets. Nevertheless, she greeted them, but Sharon, an astute and attractive bleached blonde, realized quickly that her future mother-in-law had not expected her. When Louise announced that she needed a talk with her sons, Sharon suggested that she leave. Roger immediately objected and, after observing the look her son gave her and against her own desires, Louise said that Sharon should stay.
"What is it that's so important?" Roger asked his mother as he and Sharon sat down on a long, U-shaped sofa in front of the large, stone fireplace.
"I'd rather not talk about it until the others arrive. They should be here very soon."
"Then let me divert you with the wonderful idea we've worked out for our bachelor-bachelorette party," Sharon blurted out with great enthusiasm.
"What kind of party is that?" Louise asked.
All smiles, Sharon explained. "Well, I thought it was unfair for Roger to have a bachelor party, so we're combining it and making it a bachelor-bachelorette party. And what a theme we've worked out. It's to be mythological. Everyone has to come as some kind of god or goddess and act like that god would. Isn't that marvelous?"
Louise gave a weak smile. "It's certainly different, dear."
"Roger will be Zeus, of course, but I haven't decided whether I'll be Venus or some scandalously wanton goddess from the Kama Sutra."
Louise could not react. Her mind was on the poem in her pocket, and her future daughter-in-law was speaking about something that seemed so frivolous, Mrs. Dudley was dumbfounded.
"You seem so nervous, mother," Roger interjected.
"Oh, I am," Louise replied and realized that she must leave the room for a few minutes to compose herself. "Excuse me just a second," she stated and walked out into the hall, where she stopped for a few deep breaths.
Her doctor had advised her that such an exercise would help calm her nerves, and the practice had become habitual with her. With each breath, she thought of Roger. He had been her pride and joy. He had been magna cum laude at Harvard Business School and was now secure in a noted law firm. Yet, so far as his mother was concerned, he was marrying a piece of trash. Louise felt that Sharon's bleached hair and dark eye-browed eyes only made her look cheap, even if it was considered stylish by young people. When she finished her three deep breaths, she could still hear the newcomers in the family room.
Roger was talking, "Well, something's up!"
"I don't think she liked the idea for our party. It boils down to the fact that she just doesn't like me." Sharon leaned back on the couch.
"Don't start that again. She just has to get used to you."
"Why don't you tell her that I'm the best fuck you've ever had?"
Roger laughed. "Do you want her to faint?"
"Well, I'm getting a little tired of her attitude."
"She'll change once we're married."
Sharon looked at the ceiling and winced. Roger reached for a decanter on the large, round coffee table and poured them a glass of sherry. Perhaps he found his fiancée's language uncouth as well, but if he did, he certainly didn't show it. Louise knew that he considered Sharon to be a good catch. She was very entertaining, and her family was very wealthy. She seemed just the right choice for a young lawyer wanting success. As far as loving her, he assumed he did. Besides, she had so much more to offer than just love.
In the hall, Louise, having heard Sharon's comments, walked slowly away, hating Sharon even more. The girl was definitely immoral and uncouth. Her family might be wealthy, but they were "nouveau riche," without quality or taste. Louise felt that Roger had let her down. Now he was committing fornication, and it was evident that he had no remorse about his behavior, which she considered sinful. All of her sons seemed incapable of living up to the high standards that they had been taught in their church and their private schools. And now that ridiculous party! Heaven only knows what things they would do. Then again, her own secret tore into her mind. She felt ashamed. How could she judge them so severely if she herself was the worst of all? Louise could only shake her head as she went for some aspirin.
From the kitchen window, Mrs. Dudley saw Phillip drive up in his yellow Mercedes convertible. She wondered how he could afford such a fine automobile. If he really was so affluent, why hadn't he suggested helping with the legal expenses that kept him out of jail? Any time she questioned him about money, he would say that his position as an international trade representative was very lucrative. She and her husband could not understand why his firm used him in foreign business arrangements when he did not speak foreign languages. He had studied French and Spanish in college but certainly had no fluency. They feared he was involved in drug trafficking but could never insist on further explanations when he so carefully and skillfully dodged their questions and insinuations. He was fulfilling his parole obligations, so they assumed that he was not into illegal activities, at least for the present.
Phillip, a tall, gaunt man with a receding hairline, saw his mother in the kitchen window and waved. She was glad that he seemed in a good mood. It was more and more difficult for her to look into his eyes because she feared reproach. She waved, and he came in the back entrance. She was disturbed by his unkempt appearance; he did not have the good looks and savoir faire of his brothers. Trying to keep up their normal routine, she went into his arms for an embrace.
"Are you eating correctly?" she asked, but stepped back quickly when his hand patted her derriere.
He smiled, but to her it seemed like a smirk. It was if he were mocking her because of what had happened between them.
"Of course," he replied, but, as if sensing that he had upset her, he immediately changed the subject. "Does ole Mrs. Kale still have that llama?"
Louise nodded and laughed rather nervously. "I understand it spit on a visitor the other day, and it was quite a mess."
Phillip laughed and sat down on an oak captain's chair at the kitchen table. "Well, the ole gal was always a bit crazy."
"Don't say that. She's always been a good neighbor, and you weren't reared with any bias."
"She just always reminded me of some sort of gypsy fortune-teller. I don't know why. You'll have to admit that most people consider her rather eccentric." Taking a cigarette out of his pocket, Philip changed the subject. "Well, what's this all about?"
"You'll see. I'm waiting for Paul, and then I'll tell you all at once. It's just too distressing."
"Well, you've really aroused my curiosity. Has one of us been a bad boy again?" Phillip laughed and winked.
"It isn't funny, Phillip, and when you have children of your own, you'll understand."
Phillip looked at the ceiling and took a puff from his cigarette. When he exhaled, he said with irony, "Oh, that happy day when my children will gather at my knee!"
Mrs. Dudley winced. "Oh, Phillip, why do you tease me? Don't you want your own family?"
"Mother, we've been through that too many times. Let's not start again." He inhaled again and then remarked as he exhaled, "That can't be the reason you called me here."
"No, it isn't. You'll see. Now let's go into the family room. Roger and Sharon are already here."
"Why did you include that bitch?"
"Phillip, please! You shouldn't talk about her that way. She's going to be your sister-in-law. Besides, I didn't invite her. Roger just brought her."
Phillip hunched his shoulders and followed his mother toward the family room. Walking along, he suddenly reached over and pinched her breast. She turned with a frightened look. He laughed and whispered, "Someday we must talk about it, darling." Then he put his arm around her.
She was trying to wiggle away from him when they entered the door where Roger and Sharon were waiting. Louise was afraid Roger and Sharon had noticed the exchange, for, if so, surely they would think it very peculiar.
The brothers exchanged greetings, and Sharon waved at Phillip as he sat down across from her. Just as they started a conversation, the front door bell rang, and Mrs. Dudley left the room.
When she opened the door, her handsome son Paul stood before her with a bouquet of spring flowers. Her hands went up into the air as if showing her surprise. Paul, statuesque with curly black hair, entered and embraced his mother. "Still my best girl?" he asked as he released her from his grasp.
Excerpted from Inverted Love by Tom Berry Copyright © 2011 by Tom Berry. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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