The Master Manipulator
By Sherry Silver
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Australian eBook: Kindle
U.K. eBook: Nook Kindle iTunes
U.K. Paperback: Amazon
Canadian eBook: Kindle iTunes
Canadian Paperback: Amazon
Australian eBook: Kindle
Come Fly With Me
I went through the motions of crying, but I guess I must have been too dehydrated to create many tears. Oh Momma. I miss you so much. Just when we finally understood one another. Oh I hope, God please let Momma understand that I love her and she was a good Momma. To me and to Daddy’s son Perry and to Tammy, the chosen one. The little girl they adopted. Even if they are arrogant, greedy, ungrateful, manipulative conniving so and so’s. It’s not Momma’s fault. They learned that from Daddy.
It occurred to me that my siblings weren’t crying. Didn’t they believe me? Were they in denial? No, then they would’ve asked who had called and for all the details. “Why aren’t you guys crying? Our mother just died. Aren’t you even curious what happened to her? I mean she could’ve been beheaded in yoga class all you know.” I eyed them suspiciously. My grief was morphing into seething anger.
Tammy screamed, “Ohmagod! What was she doing? I’m gonna be sick.” She clutched her taught stomach.
At least Tammy has some sort of feelings, even if it’s just she’s grossed out.
Perry asked, “Oh-Donna, who was that on the phone?”
“That was Momma’s friend, Mike.”
He questioned, “Mike who?”
“Mike Taurus. They used to work in the Secret Service together. That’s where she went the first week of August every year. To spend time with him.”
“While she was married to my Dad? That ‘hoe. Right there, grounds she shouldn’t inherit his estate.”
I smiled. Good for you, Momma. Having a real boyfriend. Someone who treasured you. Not like that sociopath you married in his hideous plot of convenience. Perry’s father.
“So where is the body?” Perry questioned.
“As if you care. And as if I’d tell you.”
“Oh-Donna. Where is Chloe’s corpse?”
Tammy blurted out, “Ohmagod!”
Perry said, “So you sent us to California on a wild goose chase. Thanks a lot little sister.”
I said, “Oh no! Norma Jean!”
Tammy asked, “Who’s Norma Jean?”
“My dog. That’s her name. I can’t go to Florida and leave her alone. Will you take care of her?” I sized up my brother, begging with my expression.
Perry said, “No. We’re all going. Toss her in a kennel or something.”
“No! I’m not locking her in a cage. Her first incarnation was just horrible.”
Tammy said, “Honey, no, you shouldn’t give her Carnation evaporated milk. Too many sugars in it. She needs Purina—”
“No, I meant her first life. Oh never mind.” These two would never believe that this beautiful Great Dane is the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe. And I’d better not slip, or they’ll have some good ammo toward getting me committed to the loony house.
Perry dialed his cell phone. “Judge Payne here. Is Roddy available? Right.” He unzipped his black judge’s robe. “Listen, I just got word that Chloe died...in Florida...thanks...I appreciate it...hold on.” He tugged his robe over his head, revealing a huge pair of black sweat pants and a white undershirt covering his portly highness. “Oh-Donna, are you going to have a service for your mother?”
“Of course.” I noticed how the cold ungrateful step-son addressed the woman who lovingly raised him. “She’s being buried in the Florida Keys.”
“That’s what she wanted.”
“Where? Key Largo? Can they even bury people there? Isn’t it below sea level?”
“It’s on a little uncharted island.”
“What? How in the hell can we find it? What am I supposed to tell Meddlestein?”
“Give me the phone.”
He huffed and then handed it to me.
I told my mother’s neighbor what had happened and he insisted on attending the service with his wife, Gloria. She and Momma were close friends. I instructed him about the Fontainebleau Hotel and we agreed to meet there.
While I was bickering with Perry about taking Norma Jean with me to Florida, Tammy yanked out the Yellow Pages and systematically worked down the list, calling all the 1-800 numbers for the airlines. She finally found one that not only would accept a Great Dane for transport, but they also provided a carrier for her— to the tune of five hundred plus bucks, but that included the ticket, carrier and a veterinary technician fight attendant who would feed and water her while on board. The only snag was we couldn’t fly out until tomorrow morning.
Perry made a couple of his-honorly phone calls, arranging to have his cases postponed or reassigned for the next week and then went home to pack.
I was drinking another glass of ice water when Norma Jean galloped to the front door prior to “Aura Lee” resounding. I staggered through the foyer. Great. Just great. I could see the silhouette of Daddy’s old sport’s club crony, Dr. “Farts” Goldfarb. He’s the medical consultant at Heavenly H.M.O., where I work in the file room. And the one who transported me to the emergency room two weeks ago after I enjoyed one of my heavenly dreams at work.
Norma Jean’s tail was whipping my behind. I gripped her pink collar and opened the door.
“Hello Donna. I just got off the phone with the judge.” The Jack Nicholson look alike marched in and shut the door behind him. He was carrying his little black doctor’s bag. Just like in the old movies. He grabbed my elbow and escorted me to the living room.
“I’m fine. I don’t know why everyone is always making such a fuss.” A wave of dizziness caught me in the lie. I plopped down in the old gold recliner.
The ear thermometer beeped as he inserted it. The living room began a slow spin as he shined a light in my eyes. His face was so close to mine that I could smell chocolate chip cookies on his breath. Gross.
Here I am being examined by a proctologist. In my own home. I need to write this scene and insert it into one of my novels. One of those truths can be stranger than fiction moments.
The room returned to normal as he took my blood pressure and pulse. Doc Goldfarb pinched the skin on my arm and said, “Look Donna, it doesn’t go back down. You’re dehydrated. I need to admit you for I.V. fluids and some more tests. I’ll get in touch with Dr. Claytor, the lady neurologist who interpreted your
“No. I’m not going to the hospital. I have to go to Florida tomorrow...my momma died.” I began blubbering, trying to cry, but no tears came. Farts held my hand and said, “Very well. Come on. I’ll take you down to the E.R. We’ll get some fluids in you and see what your neurologist recommends. I’ll make sure you are at least hydrated, on an outpatient basis. But promise me you’ll make an appointment with her as soon as you get back.”
Tammy brought me another glass of water. “Go with him Oh-Donna. I’ll take care of the house and dog for you. I still have some clothes up in your guest room. I’ll stay the night. We’ll have sweet orange tea and those special cookies from the Giant bakery. I’ll pick some up. I brought your mail in. It’s on the kitchen table. You got a package.”
Cookies, yum. It’s been a couple years since I devoured my last cookie. Package? I wasn’t expecting anything. And how rude and presumptuous of her to dig my keys out of my purse to open my cubby on the community mailbox. She was snooping for something, no doubt. But what?
Sipping my water, I plodded into the kitchen. There it was. A big brown padded envelope from Charlatan Press. Something wasn’t right. Not normal. I hadn’t sent a self addressed stamped envelope for them to shove my manuscript back into with the form rejection letter. I authorized them in my cover letter to destroy my manuscript if they didn’t want it.
Wait a minute. I felt giddy. They must want to buy it and have marked the pages up with revisions! I withdrew my kitchen scissors from the wooden knife block and slit the envelope open. I extracted the cover letter.
Dear Orpha Donna Payne,
Thank you for thinking of Charlatan Press. Unfortunately this manuscript does not suit our current editorial needs. We are sorry to disappoint you. We offer the following comments:
Stupid heroine. Bully hero. Too much plot, everything but the kitchen sink. Not as much emotion as I’d hoped.
Associate Editor, Charlatan Press
I tugged the four pound manuscript out. It was only bound by one horizontal rubber band...and it was plain brown. I’d mailed my manuscript bound with one pink rubber band horizontally and one blue rubber band vertically. They must’ve liked them and kept them. Too bad they didn’t like the story and keep it. I flipped through. It looked like the first hundred pages out of four hundred had been read. The rest appeared untouched.
I shoved it back inside the ugly envelope.
Tammy asked, “What’s that?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“It must be something,” she pried.
“I thought it was but nobody else does.”
“Oh-Donna you’re not making sense.”
After saying goodbye to Norma Jean at the animal drop off area of Dulles International Airport, we headed into the terminal to the security line. I hate going through security, always afraid I’ll be singled out and embarrassed. Perry and Tammy snaked through a different queue than I, no doubt so they could scheme in private.
When my turn came, I removed my black kitten-heeled shoes, watch, pearls and matching earrings and placed them in one of the tan plastic boxes on the conveyer belt along with my black purse. I positioned it right behind my pink carry-on suitcase. When the exhausted looking Transportation Security Administration guy manning the x-ray equipment gave the go ahead, I thrust my items through. I stared at the no nonsense on my watch T.S.A. guy standing on the other side of the metal detector. Reminded me of Kent McCord from Adam-12. He instructed, “Remove your suit coat before you step through.”
I was wearing a black pin striped skirt and matching top. It sported an attached contrasting blue collar, which gave the appearance of a separate blouse. I said, “This isn’t a suit coat.” I focused on his brown hair, recently cut and deliberately disheveled. Chiseled classic features, compelling blue eyes and a touch of sexy stubble.
He said, “Remove your suit coat.”
“It isn’t a suit coat. This is one piece.” Why does he have to look so stern?
“Remove your suit coat,” he barked.
I took in the rustles and groans of the weary businessmen in line behind me.
“This is just one piece. I’m not wearing a blouse under it.”
“You’re not wearing anything under it?”
“No. This is one piece,” I whimpered. You’re an idiot Donna. Why did you pick this to wear today?
“Remove your suit coat.”
Standing tall, with shaking hands, I unbuttoned the three buttons and flashed him my pink lace demi bra.
“Step through the metal detector.”
As I handed him my boarding pass and Virginia driver’s license, he leaned down and whispered in an official tone, “I was not being difficult, Ms. Payne. I have procedures to follow.” He didn’t take his eyes off of my cleavage as I buttoned up.
Mr. Procedures was about a foot taller than my five foot-two inch frame. When he leaned down, all I could think about was tiptoeing up to kiss those dominating lips of his...
I said, “I was not being difficult either. What did you think I was hiding?”
“Exactly what you revealed. Thank you.” Those lips curled into a brief grin. He handed me my boarding pass and I.D.
My pulse reeled when I touched his large hand. Flushed, I pivoted and retrieved my belongings. Slipping my shoes on fast, I stumbled out of the way. Had that guy actually flirted with me? A guy like that? I momentarily envisioned him ordering me to remove my bra and almost experienced the sensational stubble of his whiskers on my breast as his hot breath tickled my nipple.
I glanced back at him. He kind of reminded me of another actor too. That guy Mike on Desperate Housewives. What a yummy blend.
When he pivoted and sized me up, I almost opened my mouth to say something foolish. But the metal detector beeped and his attention instantly averted from dumpy old me.
As I trekked toward gate thirty-two, I wondered how long it had been since any man had shown interest in me. Not since the Woodrow Wilson Bridge became stuck in the open position and I missed my entire wedding. What idiot erected a draw bridge on the capitol beltway? My groom concluded I had stood him up at the alter. Tammy and the best man kissed him and made him all better at the resort in the Poconos that I’d reserved and paid for. My God, that was ten years ago.
My ticket was for a window seat, in front of Tammy and Perry. I smiled at the respite, not to be sitting with my arrogant siblings. I retightened my seatbelt and kicked my ugly black purse under the seat in front of me. As we taxied up the runway, I closed my eyes. Dear God and Jesus in heaven, please rest my mother’s and father’s souls in eternal comfort. Forgive them their sins and please give some wisdom and warmth to the ones they’ve left behind, including Momma’s friend Mike. Please let us take off and land safely. Amen.
I opened my eyes and chewed cow-like on cinnamon Mentos candies. I kept popping them in until we’d leveled off. Momma was a big gum chewer. Cinnamon Dentyne. I couldn’t bring myself to buy any at the gift shop. She really could pop and crack her gum. An inherited trait I didn’t possess. But it doesn’t really bother me anymore, wondering why I look and act and react so differently than my family. Because now I know all the terrible secrets they kept from me. Damn them.
I leaned my head on the window and stared at the trees and roads down below until we ascended high into the clouds.
The twenty-two-ish male flight attendant brought the drink cart. Blond and handsome, but way too young.
“I’d like a Diet Pepsi, please.”
He popped the top on the can, poured some in a clear plastic cup with ice, serving it on a white paper napkin.
I turned thirty-nine a few weeks ago. How that happened, I can’t explain. I don’t feel thirty-nine. I feel well, twenty-seven-ish. The T.S.A. guy was more in my age group. Perfect actually. Perverted actually. Or was he actually just following procedures? Jeeze Donna. Get a hold of yourself. Here you are daydreaming that a man who couldn’t possibly be attracted to you actually was. Making a big romance out of it. Just like the make-believe romance you have with your make-believe roommate, your dream weaver, debonair secret agent Ashley Jones.
The flight attendant served hot coffee to the perky lady next to me. The old man on the aisle declined a beverage. The attendant handed us all a tiny bag of pretzels. I can’t eat pretzels. I’m on the Atkins diet. I can never eat pretzels again. Pure carbohydrates. I love pretzels.
I carefully pulled the plastic bag open and ate them, one-by-one. Sucking on the white salt. Enjoying the first crisp bite. Washing each down with soda.
The ventilation system whooshed as I tuned in Perry and Tammy’s conversation. Tammy asked, “So do you think Mom’s really dead?”
Perry said, “Hope so. Dunno though. Consider the source of the information. Her brain damaged daughter. We do need to find Chloe, one way or the other. If she’s dead, then that’s great, we not only will be heirs to Dad’s estate, but to Chloe’s as well.”
“What about Oh-Donna? She could cause some trouble.”
“Don’t worry about Oh-Donna. Whatever is damaged in her brain is getting progressively worse. And she’s refusing medical treatment. Only a matter of time until she has a fatal stroke.”
“Perry, don’t talk like that. You’re giving me the willies.”
Tears trickled down my face. They really didn’t like me at all. I just pretended, for thirty-nine years, that my family really did love me, deep down. I suppose it was a survival tactic.
I took the napkin, wet with condensation from the icy cup and wiped my face.
Maybe I should try to get treatment for my head injury. That last big sleep was scary. But then I’ll never get to see my dream weaver again. Ashley. Oh Ashley. If only you were real. In the here and now. That week we spent tucked away in the little bungalow on Make Believe Island was bliss. You wrote me a song. And I started typing a new novel. And you said Momma and Mike lived on the other side of the island. If only that were real...