“Ben tells me you are making a fair amount of money from your renters.” Rob tried to sound casual, but after twelve years of marriage and nearly a year of divorce Suzie knew better. He was fishing for something. He looked remarkably unappealing to her today. As his hairline receded it revealed a sloping forehead she’d never noticed before she married him. Some of the weight he’d put on over the last couple of years had gone to round out his jaw line. He stood at the base of the staircase where they waited for Ben with a tilt to his hips that used to appeal to her. Now it made the spare tire at his waist stand out. Time had not been kind to Rob.
“When did Ben talk to you about my private affairs?” Not that Suzie blamed her son. Ben couldn’t help but tell his father more than he should when Rob insisted on pumping him for information. “So? Are you making a lot of money?” Typical Rob, ignoring anything she had to say. He was on his own track and doggedly kept to it. “Because half of this house is mine. I shouldn’t have to pay you alimony when you are keeping my share of the profits from the house.”
“None of this house is yours. The judge gave it entirely to me.” She didn’t have the energy to do more than mouth the words for the thousandth time. “You can’t handle a place like this by yourself. I know you were about to sell it. Maybe you should sell it to me.” There was a nasty gleam in his eye.
“I never intended to sell it,” she said tightly. She was saved from digging any deeper by Ben’s arrival. “Hi Dad! I’m all set.” He held up a battered, blue, nylon overnight case. The glance he flicked from one to the other looked tense, as if he thought they’d break out into a yelling match any second. It hurt Suzie to know he had cause for concern.
She gave Ben a big hug. “I love you, kid. Take care of yourself.” “I will, Mom.” He hugged her quickly, then dashed out the front door. Rob trailed along reluctantly. Given half a chance he would no doubt have started in on her again.
With great relief she pressed the door until the latch clicked, then headed for the kitchen. She’d make a soufflé if she’d had any hope of eating it before it fell. Soufflé always made her feel better. It wasn’t nearly as hard to make as people claimed, yet was tricky enough to give her a sense of mastery when it came out right. But no. Not today. Drew and Miranda were sitting around Vin’s hospital bed, waiting for her to come back with lunch. Maybe she shouldn’t have volunteered, but she was in the mood to cook.
No, she had to volunteer. She couldn’t stand to sit in the waiting room or next to Vin’s bed. Apparently he had spoken to Miranda, though she refused to repeat what he’d said. Still, he wasn’t out of the woods. The tension at the hospital was killing her. Especially since the strange encounter she’d had with Drew in the stairwell after having seen him and Miranda kiss. Clearly Drew wasn’t averse to a relationship with Miranda. And Miranda had made it clear from the start that she intended to go after Drew.
Yet watching them kiss had felt like a slap in the face. Suzie pulled out a couple of different loaves of bread – one a three-grain she had made the day before, the other a commercial whole wheat. She put the three-grain on a wooden cutting board and made a few slices. Drew once said he loved Rubens sandwiches and Miranda was fond of peanut butter and jam. Suzie considered a peanut butter and corned beef for herself, then decided to go with corned beef, lettuce, and cheese instead.
There was no reason to feel betrayed by Drew or Miranda. Neither of them owed her anything. At least not for a couple months, and then it would only be the rent. Suzie grimaced at her own humor. Rob’s threats came to mind. He had no legal standing. Even if he withheld alimony and got away with it, she would be all right. He couldn’t really do anything to her, though she worried about Ben. Funny, but she had the feeling if she had divorced Drew she would never have worried over how he would treat their children. Not that she would ever marry Drew.
Rob and Drew weren’t anything alike. Just because both of them had fooled around with other women. Just because they both used the exact phrase, “It didn’t mean anything.” The situations were completely different. Rob was married to her when he did it. Drew was only a renter. He didn’t have to justify himself to her. The knife slipped as Suzie cut the cheese. Enough blood dripped that she had to stop and deal with it. She set the knife down thoughtfully.
Why did thoughts of Drew fooling around with Miranda bother her more than Rob and his slimy ways? She headed for the bathroom for band aides.
There were two main halls on the ground floor of Suzie’s house. They came together like a capital T with the kitchen on the right of the cross piece, the bathroom on the left, and the front door at the bottom of the long hall. As she crossed the long hall, someone knocked on the door. Had she not been on the way to the bathroom, she might never have heard it.
This is Suzie’s House 17: Visitors