The Children

The Children by Ann Leary Read Free Book Online

Book: The Children by Ann Leary Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann Leary
didn’t get a lot of exercise over the winter. Some of my clothes were a little snug. I changed into baggy jeans and a light T-shirt. I took a pill that Dr. Alter prescribes for my dread. I was just about to go downstairs when I heard, with great relief, Sally’s old Subaru pull up. She was honking the horn, clearly thrilled to see Spin’s Jeep. I heard the commotion of her running into the house, Riley barking, Spin laughing and making introductions. When I could tell they were all in the kitchen, I walked downstairs.
    At the bottom of our stairs is the front hall. There’s a table there, and even though it’s a valuable antique—a Whitman supposedly brought it here from Paris over two hundred years ago—it’s really a living monument to clutter. On the table, and scattered on the floor around it, is always a jumble of newspapers, dog toys, tennis balls, dog leashes, and that day, the empty pie plate from the night before, which had been pushed underneath it by Riley. I grabbed the plate and walked into the kitchen.
    Spin and Laurel were standing in the middle of our kitchen, holding hands, while Sally filled the coffeemaker.
    â€œWhen did you get in, Laurel?” Sally asked, darting around the kitchen. “When did you get into New York—you flew into JFK, right? Where the hell does Joanie keep the coffee filters? Was it last night, or what?”
    I was a little concerned about Sally’s energy. She was wearing the same clothes she had worn out the night before. She looked like she hadn’t slept.
    â€œI got to New York the night before last,” Laurel replied. “Spin picked me up at the airport and we stayed at Perry and Catherine’s. What a beautiful house they have.”
    â€œWe’ve never seen it, have we, Charlotte?” said Sally. I was standing in the doorway, and I smiled awkwardly when Laurel and Spin turned and noticed me. “Laurel, that’s Charlotte. Charlotte, stop trying to be invisible, for God’s sake.…”
    â€œLottie,” Spin said. He grabbed me, like he always does, and planted a kiss on my cheek. “This is Laurel.”
    â€œI know,” I said, blushing wildly. “We met last night.”
    â€œYou did?” Sally asked. “You guys were here already?”
    â€œI stopped by, just for a few minutes,” Laurel said, moving in between Spin and me. “I actually had a dream about you last night, Charlotte,” she said in a sort of flirty voice.
    â€œOh yeah?” I said. What the fuck?
    â€œDon’t worry, you had all your clothes on.” She laughed, nudging me playfully with her shoulder. “What a cute kitchen, so quaint.”
    I moved closer to Sally, reeling from Laurel’s comment.
    â€œThis place must seem kind of shabby after staying at Perry’s,” Sally said. “Jesus, Lottie, stop shoving me.”
    Laurel said, “I love old houses.”
    Now Sally caught my eye. We knew what Laurel was thinking. From the outside, our house still looks quite grand, with its porches and gables and porticos, but the inside, well, it’s a little past its prime. We have the same refrigerator and dishwasher that were here before Joan and Whit married. They were once white, but the decades have mellowed them to the color of putty. The dishwasher leaks. The refrigerator hums a few bars, rattles, hums, and then rattles again. It’s been playing this sad tune for years, but it still keeps things cold, so Joan sees no need to replace it. The cabinets were painted bright yellow sometime in the 1970s, but now the paint has chipped and they’re dotted here and there with old grease stains. The kitchen floors are worn-out linoleum. The old butcher-block countertop is so scarred by decades of chopping and slicing, so stained from spilled red wine and the blood of countless rib eyes, that you could scrub it all day and it would still look like a body had been

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