An excerpt from "Bourbon, Botox & Brownies"
Walking into the house laden with purse, keys, phone, overcoat, dry cleaning, brief case and a to-go dinner, she dropped her keys into the bowl on the table in the hall and tried in vain to drop her purse there, too. It got caught on her watch, which meant she couldn’t easily hang up her dry cleaning. Aunt Cherry called it an idiot’s lazy load. Was it really so far to go to carry a second load, she asked herself? She had to admit that once she was inside she was too lazy go back for a second trip.
Flipping the light on in the den with her elbow, she noticed a small, baby blue suitcase sitting in the middle of the coffee table. She thought it odd. Maybe Megan had had a friend over. But she was too preoccupied with getting her dinner safely to the kitchen before it spilled all over everything else she was tangled up with to think it through.
Baggage circled around Frankie before she turned to Battleweary, “Do you think it’s too much? Do you think we over did it?”
Watching Frankie closely, Battleweary sighed, “Is there a difference between a shove and a nudge? Either one could send her over the edge.”
Frankie looked down at the dog. “Oh, so you wake from your nap when you hear the paper bag, otherwise I get no love.” After disengaging from her armload and opening the to-go lids on her dinner, she scooped Buddy up. “You poor thing. It looks as if you’re stuck with me tonight. Come on.”
She opened the door to the back yard and let the dog out, giving her time to re-evaluate the suitcase. It was small, like a carry on, but more like something a little girl would have. If it was a make-up case, it was an ugly one. She took a few steps closer to get a better look. It was a slightly faded, baby blue Naugahyde with dirty white flowers embroidered on the front zipper pocket. Frankie sat down in front of it. Buddy squeezed in on her lap in case he missed something, or to get an extra scratch. Baggage causally lounged on the couch next to her.
There was a name written close to the handle in a marker that had bled and faded over the years. She could still make out the child’s handwriting, Francesca. Frankie shook her head in disbelief. No way. Where did this come from? Thinking back, Frankie remembered when her mother had bought her the suitcase. She was six. It was for her first trip to Aunt Cherry’s summer house by herself; which meant a whole week without her brothers. Running her hands over the surface of it brought back so many memories of her childhood; pajama parties, holidays, vacations, their first family ski trip. Not to mention her two older brothers constant Indian burns, noogies and towels being whipped at her legs…and the welts and bruises that went along with all of the aforementioned.
She scratched at the dog and said absently, “…of course, if I said anything to my mother about her boys’ antics her pat answer was always, ‘What did you do to provoke them?’ She, of course, played unaware; as if you have to provoke eight and ten-year-old boys to pinch, hit, or squeeze.” For the benefit of the dog, she added, “Her boys still do no wrong.” Frankie fell silent. “Thanks for never protecting me, Mom.”
With some astonishment, Baggage said, “Bravo! That was quick, for remembering one of your first experiences of feeling unimportant.”
From an adjacent chair, Battleweary faced Baggage, “You’re way too optimistic. She hasn’t made the emotional-baggage connection that quickly.”
Hesitantly, Frankie called out. “Mom?” After all, how else could it get here? In a flash, Frankie remembered the day her mother added the suitcase to the garbage at the curb. She was twelve, and she still liked the suitcase. She still liked playing with her Barbie for that matter. But, according to her mother she was too grown up for it, and it was no longer big enough for her things. She could still hear her mother chastise her, ‘…if she hadn’t written her name on it, it could easily have gone to the church rummage sale. No one would want it now.’
Instinctively, Frankie pitched the suitcase away from her at the same time she clamored across the room, sending the dog running for cover under a near by chair. She leapt through the open patio door and stumbled out into the backyard. Her heart was pounding in her ears, and she was shaking so hard she wasn’t sure her legs would hold her up. She made it to the trellis column and hid behind it. She might have screamed. Her mind was reeling. Where the hell did that suitcase come from?
A weapon! She needed something to protect herself with. Under the cover of darkness, she scurried along the edge of the shrubs to grab hold of a neglected lawn rake. Leaping back behind the column, she stood stock still. Then, randomly, a thought crossed her mind: in a horror movie, where was she safer? Being outside in a fenced in backyard she had no chance of scaling, or inside where she could lock multiple doors? Gripping the rake like a baseball bat, a hysterical laugh bubbled up--Freddie Kruger was not felled by a rake. She peeked around the edge of the column to see if the suitcase was still there. It was, and it had landed on the floor just inside the door. Where the hell was her phone? Then again, even if she could get to her phone, who would she call? And what would she say? Help! There’s a forty-year-old suitcase on my family room floor! Come save me? Please?
She did her best to steel herself for battle with the mysterious suitcase. She was prepared for it to get up and move across the room, maybe even hover or float in her direction. But it didn’t. It didn’t move. After a fashion, Buddy crawled out from under the chair and ventured over to sniff the suitcase before he came to the door and peered out into the darkness, as if asking what the big deal was?
The cool of the evening slowed her slamming heart enough for her to think about what to do next. She wondered if she should take the rake in with her, or leave it outside in case she needed it. She chose to leave it by the door. Stretching as far as she could into the dining room, she grabbed the suitcase by its handle. She hurled it discus-style out over the table and chairs, between the columns, before it landed in the grass. Huh, not a bad shot, she thought. In the next second, she lunged into the kitchen to pull the biggest knife she had from the cutting block. Gripping it with both hands, she realized that was as far she had planned. Now what? Back outside with the rake? Or upstairs? Scanning the den, she backed toward the door and locked it tight, quickly drawing the curtains. Making her way through the house toward her bedroom, she turned on every light switch as she passed it. At the top of the stairs, she half screamed, “Buddy! Upstairs now!” Buddy didn’t hesitate to bee line for the stairs.
She made it inside her bedroom with the dog, the knife and no injuries before she locked the door and dropped to the floor in front of it.
Across from her, Terror blanketed the bed, her hooked tail twitching from side to side. Letting loose a severe laugh to echo around the room, she said to Frankie, “Ya--that’ll keep out the bad juju.” Turning to Baggage, she added, “Well done.”
Brushing bits of Terror off her white skirt, Baggage replied with a smirk, “I thought so too.”