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Breakfast next morning with Gloria was a sumptuous affair—eggs, bacon, pancakes, roasted potatoes, and sundry other accountrements. They were all sated by the end of the meal and didn’t feel inclined to do much of anything except reflect on how contented they all were.
While Dale went up to shower and the two women were in the kitchen cleaning up, Gloria dropped her bombshell.
“Lois,” she said, “I think you should come and live with me.”
Lois almost dropped the dish she was drying. “What?” she said uncomprehendingly.
“I want you to live here,” Gloria said decisively. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea for you to be in that house of yours any longer. It’s unhealthy for you.”
Lois lapsed into a brooding melancholy. “I don’t think I can do that.”
“Why not?” Gloria said. “We can have a wonderful time here . . . with Dale.”
“Is he going to move in?” Lois asked pointedly.
“Well, no,” Gloria conceded, “but he spends a fair number of nights here. He has his own house to take care of, of course.”
“And so . . .” Lois said slowly, “we’ll take turns?”
Gloria was momentarily confused. “What do you mean?”
“Oh. Well, yes, of course. Will that work for you?”
“It won’t bother you to be with him while I’m here?”
“No. I think I’m over that.”
“Wait a minute! I haven’t decided yet.”
“Well, then why don’t we just give it a try for a few weeks and see how we feel?”
And that’s what happened. Dale himself thought it was a wonderful plan. In the coming days, he helped Lois pack up some of her more essential belongings and bring them over to Gloria’s house. Given Gloria’s continued avoidance of the master bedroom, Lois was happy to appropriate it for herself. Before they knew it, Lois was ensconced in the house. Dale was now spending most evenings there, helping Lois prepare dinner for the three of them so that Gloria would be relieved of that tedious duty.
Things seemed to be working pretty well until one evening, a few weeks later, Lois hung up the phone with a look of horror etched on her face.
“What on earth’s the matter?” Gloria said, alarmed.
For several moments Gloria couldn’t speak. She tried to, but only some incoherent gurgles came out of her mouth.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Lois, what is it? Did someone die, or what?”
Swallowing painfully, Lois managed to say, “Charlotte’s coming here.”
“What?” Gloria exploded.
“She’s coming here. She’ll be here Friday night.”
“What brought this on?” Gloria said intensely.
“I—” Lois began—but Dale, who was taking all this in uncomprehendingly, said:
“Who’s Charlotte? And what’s the fuss?”
“Oh, you silly man,” Gloria said impatiently, “Charlotte is Lois’s daughter. Don’t you remember? She lives in—where? Baltimore?”
“Yes,” Lois said. “I had to tell her about my move—she still calls me on my landline phone instead of my cell, so I had to spill the beans.”
“Exactly what did you tell her?”
“As little as possible, but I had to tell her about Dale—”
“What!” Gloria exploded. “You told her about you and Dale—?”
“No, no, of course not! I’m not an idiot. But I did tell her that he was your boyfriend, and now she thinks there’s something fishy about the living arrangements.”
“Well,” Gloria said with a humorless laugh, “she’s right about that.”
“Honestly,” Lois said petulantly, “that girl has been like a mother hen to me ever since Ben died. She must think I’m cracking up or something. I mean, I’ve heard of helicopter parents, but who ever heard of a helicopter daughter!”
“Maybe,” Dale said quietly, “I’d just better stay away while Charlotte’s here.”
“Too late for that,” Gloria said shortly. “The cat’s out of the bag—partly, anyway. You’re going to have to face the music.”
“But surely,” Dale said, aghast, “she might guess that Lois and I—”
“Well, we’ll all do our damnedest to keep that a secret, won’t we?” Gloria said, glaring specifically at Lois, as if she were the weak link in the chain. “If Charlotte finds out about that, she’ll throw a real conniption fit.”
“B-but,” Dale blubbered, “what right does this daughter have to tell her mother what she can do?”
Gloria gave him a look of scornful pity. “Dale, you’re showing your age. Sure, on paper you’re right—but in the real world, grown daughters and sons do have some say in how a mother behaves, especially if the father is gone. That’s how families work.”
Dale lapsed into sullen silence, while Lois looked back and forth between them with a deer-in-the-headlights look.
“This is going to be awful,” she said. “She’ll probably order me back to my own house.”
“You can’t let her do that!” Gloria said decisively. “You have to stand up to her!”
“I’ve never been able to do that very well,” Lois said miserably. halkalı ucuz escort “She’s a strange girl. I’m not sure how two meek and mild people like me and Ben somehow raised a woman so determined to get her way. It’s almost as if she looked at how we behaved and vowed to do the very opposite. She’s pretty tough.”
“Well, you’d better be tougher,” Gloria said with a piercing look at her friend. “That is, if you still want Dale in your bed every other night.”
The days before Charlotte’s arrival were filled with impending doom, and the unusual ménage à trois lapsed into uncharacteristic silence over meals—and other times. On Friday afternoon, as they waited for Charlotte to arrive (she would be renting a car, so there was no need to pick her up at the airport), Lois seemed to be lapsing into a depression. The days—and nights—she had spent with Dale and Gloria over the past few weeks had put some color back into her cheeks and a bounce in her step, but now she was reverting to the lugubrious moping of the past two years, and nothing that Dale or Gloria said seemed to make any difference.
When the doorbell rang, they all jumped as if they’d been electrocuted. Gloria got up heavily from her place on the sofa and strode over to the front door. As she led Lois’s daughter into the house, Dale got his first glimpse of her.
She was an unexpectedly tall woman, perhaps an inch or so taller than himself. She had a fine, slim figure, but no shortage of curves at chest and bottom. She had immaculately coiffed “big hair” that seemed a throwback to the 1980s. Her face was not initially attractive to Dale, largely because it was covered with what seemed to be a permanent frown of disapproval. But he could sense that the finely chiseled features could be very appealing if Charlotte would just loosen up a bit and adopt a live-and-let-live attitude. She was wearing a rather severe power suit more appropriate for a high-powered business meeting than for a theoretically friendly visit to her mother, but no doubt it conveyed the no-nonsense approach that she intended.
When she saw Lois she said, “Hi, Mom,” and went over to give her a token hug.
“Hi, dear,” Lois said. Dale wished she could have said it with a bit more courage and self-assurance.
When Charlotte turned her head and took stock of Dale, her eyes widened, and he could have predicted the words that would come out of her mouth.
“This is Gloria’s boyfriend?” she asked her mother indignantly.
“Yes, it is,” Gloria herself answered firmly, standing behind Charlotte. Her tone of voice was unmistakable: You wanna make something of it, girl?
“I’m Dale,” he said with as much warmth and confidence as he could summon.
Charlotte looked at his hand as if it were a cobra rearing up to bite her. She took it for a fraction of a second and then let it go.
Lois’s daughter had insisted on staying at the house, since she knew there were plenty of guest rooms even beyond the one she assumed her mother was occupying. As Gloria led the young woman up the stairs, they passed the master bedroom. Charlotte must have recognized something in there that belonged to Lois, for she stood stock-still and said:
“My mother’s in here?”
“Yes,” Gloria said shortly. “I’m taking the main guest room.”
Charlotte had enough tact not to inquire into the reasons for that. But she couldn’t help saying: “And where does Dale stay?”
“He has his own house,” Gloria said ambiguously. He stays here most nights, in one bedroom or the other—but there’s no need for you to know that.
Charlotte could tell from Gloria’s tone of voice that the older woman felt a certain hostility toward her, and considerable fellow-feeling with her mother. This was going to be tougher than she expected, but she was not going to give in easily.
The three women and the young man had a quiet—very quiet—home-cooked dinner, Gloria and Lois doing most of the work. While waiting for it to be ready, Charlotte was forced to keep Dale company in the living room. The cocktails they were sipping didn’t seem to relieve the tension in any way.
Charlotte was determined to pump Dale of whatever information he was prepared to give. “So how did you meet Gloria?”
“On the New Haven line,” Dale said cautiously. I’m certainly not going to tell her that I picked her up and slept with her on our first “date,” if it can even be called that.
“Oh, so you work in the City?”
“Well, no.” Dale didn’t say any more. She’ll really think highly of me if I say I cruise the train for older ladies to . . . befriend.
But Dale’s very silence was suspicious. “Then what do you do?”
“This and that. I have an inheritance.”
That didn’t go down well with a woman who clearly wanted to earn her own way in life. Charlotte took a different tack.
“How long have you known Gloria?”
“About two months.”
With halkalı üniversiteli escort flinty eyes she asked, “Exactly how old are you?”
Dale had been waiting for that question, which was clearly reflected in her eyes every time she looked at him. “Is that really important?” And is that any of your business?
“I think it is.”
“Well, if you want to know, I’m twenty-four.”
Charlotte gasped. “My God! I’m twenty-six.”
Dale almost burst out with: “Well, good for you!” But he bit his tongue. It was obvious that Charlotte had known Gloria for many years and knew exactly how old she was. Why, Dale said, this lamentable hostility toward older women and younger men? You’d think a woman like Charlotte—who sure looks like a feminist to me—would be free of this prejudice.
“Listen,” Dale said in an effort to be conciliatory, “I think the world of Gloria—and of your mother. They’re both wonderful women, and I treasure their company. You shouldn’t think—”
“But,” Charlotte interrupted, “how can you—? I mean, you can’t expect to have a long-term relationship with them!”
“Maybe we’re not thinking of the long term—we’re just thinking of the now.”
That struck Dale is not quite the right note, suggesting the stale Let’s just eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. But he didn’t know how else to put it. He had to admit that the rage and indignation radiating palpably from this young woman was highly disconcerting to him.
“And where does my mother fit into all of this?” Charlotte said bitterly.
It was the question Dale had been dreading. His response was going to have to be very artful, unless he decided just to lie about the whole situation.
“She likes it here,” he said evenly. “I think she was pretty lonely in her house. It wasn’t a healthy environment for her. She seems a lot better even in the few weeks I’ve known her. You can ask Gloria—she can tell you what a difference it’s made, her being here. There’s a glow in her cheeks that wasn’t there before. Surely you want what’s best for your mother?”
That last sentence was an unfair rhetorical ploy, and both Dale and Charlotte knew it.
“Don’t you tell me,” Charlotte said angrily, “what’s good for my mother! I’ll decide that!”
Dale was flabbergasted at her arrogance. But he said mildly, “Shouldn’t she be the one who decides that? She’s not a child, you know.”
That shut Charlotte up—literally. She had opened her mouth to say something, but then it snapped shut audibly. After struggling with her feelings, Charlotte managed to say: “She’s not well. She hasn’t been well ever since my father—”
“Maybe so, but your constant fluttering around her, either in person or remotely, isn’t really helping, is it? You have to let her get better.”
Charlotte seemed on the verge of saying something quite nasty, but thought better of it. “Maybe you’re right. We’ll talk about this some other time.”
Mercifully, Gloria announced that dinner was ready, and what conversation there was became very general.
Charlotte was tired from her trip and retired early, to everyone’s relief. Dale was very much inclined to go back to his own house for the night, but Gloria insisted he stay in her bedroom: she wasn’t going to have her friend’s daughter dictate her sleeping arrangements. Gloria even wanted Dale to make noisy love to her so that their racket might drive Charlotte to distraction, but Dale thought that kind of in-your-face confrontation was not wise. So they just went to sleep. Lois retired glumly to her own bedroom.
They all knew that the young woman’s interrogation of the three of them was only beginning. The next morning, after breakfast, Charlotte forced her mother to go out into the back yard for an intense mother-daughter conference.
“So, Mom,” she said heavily, wandering around the small but well-kept flower garden, “how exactly did you get into this situation?”
“What situation?” Lois said, acting faux-naïve.
“Mom, don’t be coy,” Charlotte said impatiently. “This is all very odd. Gloria has taken up with this—this boy, and now you enter the picture. What exactly do you do when they’re—” But she couldn’t bring herself to finish the thought: when they’re exploring each other’s private parts in the room next to yours?
“He’s not a boy,” Lois said, rushing to Dale’s defense. “And he and Gloria can do whatever they want to do. It’s not my business, and it’s not yours either.”
“I understand that, but why move in with them? I think this is a most unseemly atmosphere here.”
“Really, Charlotte, you’re speaking like some Victorian matron. You don’t think women of our age have a right to some . . . pleasure?”
That was a mistake, and Lois compounded her error by slapping her hand over her mouth, like a child who had just uttered an obscenity in the presence of her parents. Charlotte immediately haramidere escort picked up on both the words and the gesture—and a look that fused horror and incredulity covered her face. “What exactly do you mean by that?” she spat. “Don’t tell me that you and Dale—”
“I misspoke,” Lois said hastily. “I didn’t mean that.” But the blush that suffused her face from neck to forehead told its own story.
Charlotte grabbed her mother by the shoulders and barked at her, “Are you sleeping with him also?”
At first, Lois gazed at her daughter with a kind of scared-rabbit look. Then, to both her and Charlotte’s amazement, she broke free from her daughter’s grasp and said defiantly, “So what if I am? He makes me feel good—makes me feel desirable and loved again! What’s wrong with that?”
Charlotte staggered as if punched in the stomach. She managed to lurch in the direction of a patio set in the middle of the garden, plumping herself onto a chair as if she had just barely prevented herself from fainting. Breathing hard, she gave her mother an appalled and incredulous look and said weakly:
“Mom, he’s soooooo young. . . .” Then, with rising inflection: “He’s younger than I am!”
Lois keenly felt her daughter’s discomfiture, but in some strange way she felt that she was getting the upper hand in the discussion. Remaining standing, and looking down sympathetically but sharply at Charlotte, she said calmly:
“Dear, it’s my life. Dale has been good for me. I’m feeling a lot better than I was. It’s not just the sex—it’s how he feels about me.”
“Don’t tell me,” Charlotte cried, “that he—he loves you! Has he said that?”
“No, not in so many words, but I can tell that he does.”
“And do you love him?”
Lois pondered the question seriously. “No, not really. Maybe a little bit. He’s been very nice to me. He’s a wonderful young man—kind, considerate, sensitive, tender-hearted, just about everything a woman would want.”
“But—but Mom, how can this go on? How can both you and Gloria be bedding down with him? It’s—it’s obscene! It’s unheard-of!”
“Dear,” Lois said with a superior smile, “it does happen, you know. People have all sorts of arrangements—”
“But how can this last? Is he going to be with you five, ten, twenty years from now?”
“Probably not,” Lois said frankly. “But maybe there’s no need to think about that. For the present, it’s a good thing, and right now that’s all that matters. Both Dale and Gloria have rescued me from a life of loneliness. They ought to be congratulated for that, not abused.”
“Omigod, Mom, this is insane! Don’t you feel any sort of loyalty to Dad?”
Lois was wondering when Charlotte was going to play that card—and she wasn’t pleased that she did so. Looking at her daughter severely, she said: “Charlotte, don’t bring your father into this. It’s not fair. I loved him as well as I could, and he loved me too. He was a good father to you and a good husband to me. But he’s gone now, and I’m not going to spend the rest of my life mourning for him. Of course I’ll always remember him—how could I not? But do you really want me to be a lonely widow for the next thirty years?”
Charlotte just gaped open-mouthed at her mother. For once, she was reduced to speechlessness.
“Anyway,” Lois continued somewhat imprudently, “Dale is teaching me a few things.”
“What do you mean by that?” Charlotte said, more dazed than ever.
Lois realized she had made another mistake, but there was no help for it now. “Charlotte, I know you loved your father very dearly, and I know you were his special favorite—more so than your brother. But I have to tell you he wasn’t exactly the most accomplished lover . . .”
“Oh, God,” Charlotte said, more to herself than to her mother, “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“I’m sorry to have to say so, but there it is.”
“So what exactly is Dale ‘teaching’ you?” But it sounded very much as if Charlotte really didn’t want to know.
“Well,” Lois said, blushing, “I think it would be indelicate to go into details. We just do some nice things.”
“Like what?” Charlotte said in a choked voice.
“Um, there’s this thing that he calls rear entry. Do you know what I mean?”
There was a stunned silence.
After what seemed like a full minute, Charlotte said between gritted teeth, “Yes, I know what you mean.”
“It’s fun, isn’t it? Don’t you and Mason—?” Mason Greeve was Charlotte’s husband.
“No, Mason and I don’t do that!”
“Why not?” Lois said, genuinely puzzled.
“Why not?” Charlotte almost shrieked. “Because it’s vile and filthy and disgusting!”
“So you don’t like it?”
“I haven’t done it! And I won’t!”
“But, dear, how can you say you don’t like it if you don’t try it?”
“Omigod,” Charlotte said, covering her face with her hands. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation—talking about anal sex with my own mother!”
And with that, she leaped up from the chair and rushed into the house. Gloria had heard the ruckus in the back yard and was on the verge of coming out to investigate when Charlotte rushed by her and dashed up the stairs, slamming the door to her guest room.
“What on earth happened out here?” Gloria said to Lois, approaching her.
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