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San Francisco, California
Leigh Shaunnessey's parents were at it again, ruining what should have been a peaceful, rainy Pacific Heights afternoon with another of their civilized disagreements. Their words spiraled across the dining room, reminding her of a roll of barbed wire ready to spring open and snag everything in its path.
The same discussion had been going on for months whenever her father was in town. Leigh tried to ignore them, but it was hard because she was one hundred percent on her father's side. Yes, of course she wanted to go back to Colombia this summer the same as always. She'd spent almost her entire childhood in Bogota and she loved it there. Didn't her mother understand anything?
Daisy rattled the women's section of the Examiner with controlled complacency, as if she knew she'd win. Somehow she always managed to have her own way, although Leigh had yet to figure out exactly how, because her mother was almost always wrong.
No, not almost always, she corrected herself silently. Always.
Why did she pluck her eyebrows until there was only a thin line left? And her hair. Her mother's hair was currently a deep chestnut red that bordered on mauve, swooped high up on the sides and over her forehead in a puff, falling back over her shoulders in a pageboy.
And her jewelry. As of this week, her mother had one hundred sixty-seven bracelets stashed in the safe behind the Vermeer that hung in the dining room. They had cost her father a small fortune, but her mother always said, ignoring his objections, "If you have it, why not spend it?"
"No,Michael, this time I'm putting my foot down, and I mean it. I will not spend another summer in South America." Daisy raised her eyebrows another full quarter of an inch as she spoke, lowering her newspaper so Michael couldn't miss the severity of her expression. "That cursed, lonely place has completely taken over our lives. I'm sick and tired of summering in Bogota, and Leigh barely has any time at all to spend with her friends."
Michael's eyes glittered. "That cursed place you're referring to has managed to create a very comfortable lifestyle for us, in case you haven't noticed. And it wouldn't be so lonely if you'd bother to learn Spanish." He headed across the room and poured himself a vodka on the rocks.
Leigh eyed the almost-empty bottle as he set it back on the bar, wondering if he drank this early in the day in Bogota when he was alone. She'd bet anything he didn't.
"How you could've lived there off and on all these years without picking up even one simple phrase is beyond me." He searched in the tiny refrigerator under the bar for a slice of lime, swearing softly when he saw there was none.
Daisy raised the paper, cutting off his view of her eyes. "And how you can call existing in Bogota 'living' is beyond me."
Leigh sighed. Her father had told her, one afternoon when her mother had gone to play canasta and he'd come home unexpectedly, that it was much easier to manage the mine without her mother's constant discontent meeting him head-on every time he came back in from the mine to Bogota. On the other hand, flying back home to California every month was making him weary. She could see it, even if her mother couldn't. The flesh around his eyes was looking darker every time she saw him.
"Two months out of the year doesn't seem like much of a sacrifice to me," Michael insisted. "You've said yourself, you don't really miss anything by not being in San Francisco in the summer. Why is it that just as Leigh is beginning to take a real interest in the mine, you're dragging your heels over spending the summer months in Colombia?"
Daisy dismissed his words with an airy wave of her hand. "There isn't one single thing about that mine that interests me, Michael, and I'm sure Leigh feels the same way."
"You're interested enough in the money. Daisy, I don't like leaving the two of you alone so much."
Daisy gave him a small, triumphant smile. "But we're not alone, Michael. Yan and Loo are always here."
Michael simmered with frustration. Damn the woman. Didn't she understand the months away from his family were taking their toll on everything? It wasn't so much that he missed the sex at this point in their lives. After all, he and Daisy had been married for fifteen years now. The excitement had long ago gone out of their lives; nowadays her attitude was more of, "Oh, crap, he's home again. Well, I may as well dab on a little Chanel, and lie back and let him do it."
It was nothing at all like her passion when he'd come home from Colombia carrying a quarter of a million dollars worth of raw emeralds in his duffel bag that first summer. She'd really turned into a hot number then, and she hadn't wasted any time about it. She'd turned, for a very short while, into an insatiable sex machine, and had immediately, while he wasn't looking, torn through their bank account as though she were an island hurricane, flattening everything in her path.
Big money had ruined her. The San Francisco merchants knew who had money and who didn't, so she just ordered whatever she wanted. The United States Post Office presented the bills to him with unerring regularity, and he paid them without comment. Like Sherman, she might have lost a few battles, but she'd won the war.
Copyright © 2002 by Beth Amerski