Upon entering through the front door into the foyer, the den -- where Ricky remained hidden -- was immediately to the left through a large double door archway. Directly across the foyer from the den was another double door archway that led into the living room. Straight ahead of the front door entrance beyond those two room entrances [that were on either side] was a staircase leading to the upper floors. At the foot of the staircase the hallway narrowed and continued along the left wall leading to the kitchen on the left; it continued passed the kitchen and wrapped around the back of the stairway to the right, leading into the dining room. Coming full circle, the dining room then opened back into the living room.
Ricky now heard the chatter of voices and instantly realized that it was Wednesday -- his mother’s weekly Ladies Lunch. He fumed: “How could I be so stupid to forget?” He was now in a jam; how could he get out of the room and up the stairs without being seen by his mother, and/or potentially worse, any of her friends?
The big question was whether they intended to settle in the living room for tea and gossip, or the dining room for lunch. He listened for a clue. If they had lunch first, then he might have a chance to sneak past the living room door and up the stairway unnoticed. But, if they decided to sit and gab and sip tea in the living room – and who knows how long that would last – he’d be a rat in a cage; able to hide, but unable to escape.
His mind raced. Should he (a) make a high-risk dash for it? (b) wait them out? or (c ) enlist the help – and certain wrath – of his mother? It was hard to know. She was equal parts nurturer – protective and helping -- as she was disciplinarian; if her temper got the best of her, which being embarrassed in front of her friends would surely ignite, she had been known to give him a good wallop from time to time.
One time, when he was in sixth grade, he decided to attend a friend’s birthday party before going home first. He returned home as the sun was setting, and his mom was waiting on the front lawn. He didn’t get but a few words out before she beat him senseless. Yeah, she had a temper.
It was the fall of 1969. The skies were clear and the air outside crisp; it breached the window seal and caressed Ricky’s bare legs. Whether it was the chilled air or just fear he didn’t know. But either way, he suddenly felt a strong urge pressing against his bladder. He had to do something quick -- before he peed right there on the floor.
When the women settled into living room, his heart sank. His mother would no doubt be getting refreshments from the kitchen momentarily, he thought. In that moment his plan was set. He assessed that can he could step out into the center of the room, still hidden from the ladies in the living room, but in plain sight for his mom to see him as she entered the foyer.
He repositioned himself like a leopard readying to pounce, waiting for that the right moment to step out from behind the club chair. He couldn’t even begin to imagine -- or worry about -- what the repercussions might be. Besides, he knew for sure that it was the lessor of two bad situations. If her friends saw him, her wrath in that case would be far worse. His mother was fiercely protective of her reputation, and that of her family. Reconfirming in his mind that this was the best course of action, he waited.
Just as his mother entered the foyer and he was ready to show himself, Joan called to her from the other room. “Do you need any help Stephanie?” His mother turned to respond over her right shoulder, never seeing Ricky standing in the den to her left. Shortly thereafter however, upon her return from the kitchen, a tray of cold drinks in hand, he once again nervously displayed himself in the middle of the room. She caught the image of him from the corner of her eye, briefly stumbling.
Ricky thought she was going to drop the tray [with pitcher and glasses] from the shock, but quickly regained her composure and resumed her stride into the living room.
“Stephanie, dear, are you alright? Do you need help?”
“Oh, no, I’m fine, stay where you are, I’m fine.” She entered and placed the tray on the coffee table. Dorothy, Joan and Betty sat on the sofa against the wall, while JoAnne sat in one of the two club chairs adjacent the sofa on the other side of the coffee table.
Stephanie seemed confused, disoriented. Her mind was spinning, but instinctively her first thought was how do I get him out of there before anyone sees him?
“I saw the cutest little animals playing outside through the den window” she continued. “I think they were chipmunks or something like that. They’ve probably moved outside this window now, do you see them?” As the four women turned to look eagerly, she back stepped to ease herself into the foyer and with her hand behind her back frantically motioned for her son to run.
“Do you see them? They’re so cute!”
“I don’t see anything Stephanie, are you sure of what you saw?” Dorothy inquired. “Sure … well … no, not really; I don’t know what I saw” she said as she glared at her son. “But I saw something that was both cute and odd” she continued.
Ricky caught the sarcasm but didn’t hesitate. He shot out of the room and bounded up the staircase like a jack rabbit.
Stephanie re-entered the living room. “Well. They seem to be out of sight. No matter. Let’s have our tea, shall we? “
She began pouring and started small talk to divert everyone’s attention. “Did you hear that poor Michelle…”
Mid-sentence Dorothy cut in: “Who was that?” Stephanie was a deer in headlights: “What? Who was who?”
“I could swear I saw a little girl just run up the stairs; she was too short to be your daughter Robin. So who was it?” Stephanie shuddered as her brain tried to come up with some quick explanation. “Oh, the girl … yes, that’s … mmy … Maria, my niece.”
“Your sister’s youngest, From Chicago?”
“Yes,” Stephanie said, getting into the stride of her lie. “She is here visiting. She … was supposed to be with my daughter today, but the airline lost her luggage and Robin’s clothes were a tad too large. She didn’t feel comfortable wearing them out.”
“Oh, poor darling!” Dorothy sighed. Stephanie breathed in relief as Joan all but busted to tell of the recent gossip about Marge’s marriage scandal. To Stephanie the crisis was seemingly averted, until Dorothy pressed on: “Well don’t leave her upstairs on her own Stephanie.”
With a stumble, she could only retort a weak “Pardon?”
“Invite her down, she can visit with us, right ladies? “The others were so focused on the scent of the marital scandal -- like hyenas of a freshly wounded animal -- that they were somewhat unaware of the parallel conversation taking place: Stephanie continued “What? Oh, no, she is fine. Said she wanted to go upstairs to read.”
“Nonsense, Stephanie, have the little darling come down so we can at least meet her!”
The others redirected, and more focused on the verbal joust taking shape before them then fueled the conversation -- and Stephanie’s worst nightmare: “Yes, Stephanie, please ask her come down, we’d all like to meet her.”
Stephanie felt sick as she wandered up the stairs in a fog. What to do? She couldn’t quite process what was happening. She found Ricky in his room playing with his action figures as though nothing had happened.
“What did you do with your sister’s clothes?” With reddened cheeks Rickey exclaimed “I put them back. I’m sorry, I was just fooling around.”
“Yes, well that’s all great, but Dorothy saw you. Now they all want to meet my niece.”
Continue reading Chapter II