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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
By Patricia Haley
Kimani PressCopyright © 2006 Patricia Haley
All right reserved.
Block out the painful sting of reality and concentrate on creating a night of fun, laughter and a good time—an oasis away from the damaging attack she and Reese were undergoing in their marriage. Angela grabbed the shopping list from the seat of her SUV and placed it neatly in her purse. She would concentrate on her parents' anniversary celebration, pushing past the cold reality that there wasn't much worthy of praise in her marriage. If she let go of the party, she'd have nothing positive to hold on to. An hour at the party store was the spark she needed to jump-start a festive mood, hopefully lasting a few weeks until the next sprig of hope surfaced. Angela pushed a cart down the first aisle, pausing to pull the list from her purse and get a plan of attack established. Invitations were the priority. The event was in four months and family coming from out of town needed plenty of notice.
The rickety, hard-to-manage cart strolled awkwardly down the aisle under Angela's control. Mayhem and dysfunction were becoming staples in her life. Catching a glimpse of the invitation sign hanging from the ceiling located in the back corner of the store, Angela hurried the cart along, struggling to manage resistance from the disfigured wheel along the way. Without warning, she slammed into another cartcrossing the aisle at the intersection, sending the infant into an instant screaming fit.
"Oh, I'm..." Angela began to say, and then let her voice drop.
"Angela, I'm sorry," the woman said, extracting her big infant from the cart and drawing him close to her bosom.
Could life get any worse? Angela wondered. Couldn't she have an hour at the party store to herself, one hour to try to put the pieces of her life back together? So what if planning the anniversary was a farce; she wanted—no, deserved—a moment to have what his deception had stolen, a taste of unprecedented happiness. At least the taste she desired wouldn't be a price anyone else had to pay.
"Felicia, I didn't expect to run into you here." Or anywhere else she wanted to add but caught the words before they escaped. Standing this close to her wasn't easy. She was trying to be the good Christian wife, daughter and sister, but it was proving to be more than she could handle. Forget about religion. Reese was relying way too much on her dignity, the part preventing her from going off on him and Ms. Felicia, the woman who was now standing right there in arm's reach, the one who had stolen a piece of Reese's affection. Angela could just strangle Felicia right here and close out that ugly, painful, dark spot in her life.
Felicia wouldn't make consistent eye contact, but continued rubbing the baby's back as he kept both arms tightly wrapped around her neck. "Junior's turning one next month."
A year already. It seemed like only yesterday to Angela when she'd found out about the child. On the other hand, it seemed like an eternity. She struggled to hold her rational thinking together. No matter how much the words sliced to her core, Felicia would never enjoy the benefit of seeing Angela crushed. She was the wife, sitting in the place of dignity, and Felicia would never know different. Angela could probably wish the boy a happy birthday. Besides, he was an innocent child who hadn't contributed to the fiasco of events surrounding his birth. Regardless, she couldn't do it, wish Felicia and her baby a happy birthday. Why should she? The two of them, Felicia and the baby—Reese, too, for that matter—had made her world unbearable this time last year, questioning her worth as a woman and wife and especially her decision to wait a few more years before starting a family. Pretending had its place, looking the other way had it's time, too, but lying to this woman wasn't a farce she cared to engage in. She had to accept reality some time, and this felt like one of those moments.
Awarm, comfy blanket on a cold, dreary night is what his embrace should have felt like, but instead the contact was smothering, agitating. The love Sylvia wanted, she had, but why did the affection feel so wrong?
Her parents were probably home by now, but she could hear their words just as if they were standing in the room. "Between the two of you, there won't be any place left to hang another award in this family. The two of you are so much alike," she could hear Mom saying.
"That's right. This is Daddy's girl," he echoed, with pride pouring out in every word. "And when you're sixty you'll still be my little girl."
"Herbert, let's go home," she envisioned her mother saying, locking arms with her father.
"Okay, okay. Baby girl, I've already told you this twenty times today, but I'm so proud of you. I always knew you'd be a star."
He reengaged his hug, tighter this time, and whispered, "You're my favorite, but don't tell anybody. It's our secret."
Those words tore through her body like acid, burning, singeing, violating her flesh and sense of security.
"Sylvia, hello, earth to Sylvia," she heard someone calling out with a raised voice. The talking pricked her consciousness, abruptly terminating what must have been a dream and instantly drawing her back into the room, back into a conversation with her four friends present.
"Where were you?" Mike asked, taking her hands and drawing her into his embrace.
Her natural reaction was to repel him. "Forget about me. You wanted to celebrate, so let's celebrate," she said, instantly responding while grabbing a Waterford goblet. "I'm fine."
"Do you have anything in here besides sparkling water and Sprite?" Karen asked.
"No, and at forty dollars per case, the water suits me fine," Sylvia added, shaking off her feeling of unrest and throwing herself into party mode. She couldn't help but think about her sister for a quick moment. Angela was the party planner in the family. Angela would be the one to get a gob of beverages for everyone. She was already planning the menu for their parents' anniversary party, which wasn't until May, Sylvia acknowledged, but not having the interest or time to pine over a party plan.
"It wouldn't matter to me if this was two hundred dollars a bottle—water is water, and for a party you need something stronger, at least some sparkling cider, wine or something. You know that, and don't tell me your born-again adventure has changed your taste for wine?"
Church hasn't changed me, unfortunately, she wanted to say but didn't. Her infrequent visits were most likely a factor, but her friends didn't need to know about her religious challenges. Besides, religion was such a small part of who she was. "I didn't get a chance to run to the store. I didn't know your partying behinds were coming here after the award ceremony."
"I don't know why not. We've been here every other time you've received an award, and with as many as you've gotten, you should know our routine," Karen said.
"She knows we practically go every place she does, except church," Beth clarified.
"Yes, you're right. You're on your own with that one. I'm not ready to get my act together," Karen said roaring into laughter. "I like being a, what is it?"
"Heathen," Beth answered.
"Yes indeed, heathen, and loving it," she said, opting for a glass of Sprite.
Sylvia took another sip, allowing her body to relax into the moment, feeling secure among her friends, her other family, not to be confused with her bloodline, the Reynoldses, whom Beth, Tim, Mike and Karen knew little about. On rare occasions she'd let them interact with the Reynoldses: once at the graduation party after earning her master's, again when she got her Ph.D. and maybe at the celebration her family forced after winning her first Governor's Award. It was hard to keep track of who knew what and had been where with her family, but Sylvia thought she'd done a better job of shielding her friends from those people. She might not be good at everything, but Sylvia was an expert at keeping the world she shared with her friends far away from the one she tolerated with the Reynoldses, all except her father. He wasn't petty and pretentious like the rest of the Reynoldses; he was honest and a man she'd been able to rely on all her life, in spite of Angela's drain on her parents' emotions with her in-and-out-of-marriage catastrophe. Enough with her sister's issues. This was Sylvia's night with her friends in her element.
"Can we forget about drinks and religion and anything else that's standing in the way of us having a good time?" Sylvia suggested.
"That's right. We're here to have some fun," Tim said, nudging her shoulder with his, a comfortable touch.
Merriment saturated the living room with abundance, sufficient to drive out that lingering, nagging feeling buried deep, deep inside. Heaps of merriment and good times were bound to cover up the annoyance, whatever it was that refused to let her be at peace with her feelings for more than a day, especially when it came to her family.
Another award, more accolades piled on top of a yearning desire to achieve, to please, to emulate her role model and earn the title of special child in his eyes, her daddy, Herbert Reynolds. Sylvia wedged the crystal figurine of a trophy into the remaining space on the mantel.
Mike resumed his attempt to pull her close. This time she bit her lip and let it happen, easier than struggling and far better than having to explain. Besides, she knew how not to resist, a behavior she'd practiced to perfection.
"It's rare that you get beauty, brains and b—" Mike said before getting interrupted.
"Ooh, I know you're not getting ready to say what I think you're going to say. You're nasty," Beth jumped in to say. "Well, it's the truth. She's bold, that's what I was going to say."
"What you mean is that she has a mouth," Karen added with a giggle.
"Come on, people, you're talking like I'm not standing right here. As tall and black as I am, there is no way you can miss me. Mike, thank you for the compliment, at least I guess that's what it is," she said, suppressing a budding smile.
"You, too, Beth and Karen, thank you, but I'm ready to call this an evening."
"You're not upset, are you?" Beth asked.
"No, no, for what? No, not at all. I'm tired. It's been a long day, that's all," she said, leaning against the mantel and removing her shoes, dropping her from five ten to five eight.
"That's right, we're tired," Mike abruptly cut in, and told their friends.
"You don't have to tell me twice. We don't have to go home, but you're saying that we have to get out of here. I hear you loud and clear," Tim said, causing a roar of laughter to erupt within the group. Tim, Karen and Beth set the goblets on the coffee table. A slew of goodbyes, good-nights and hugs ensued until the last friend had exited the town house, leaving only Sylvia and Mike.
Excerpted from Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Patricia Haley Copyright © 2006 by Patricia Haley. Excerpted by permission.
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