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“Hi honey… no… I’m fine… really I am… Randy… Randy, don’t cry… you know you can’t come here… no, it doesn’t make any difference that I’m the boss now… I know, I want you here too… I knew you were out of town and I didn’t want you flying back when there was nothing you could do so I waited till you got home… yes you can kick my ass for it later… no baby; to be truthful I was never so scared before in my life. Then Margo showed up and they whisked me into the OR and I was out of it before I knew what was happening. Next thing I remember was waking up in here… yes, they’re taking very good care of me… bored out of my gourd, yes… well, a little, I sent Izzy to buy me something to read… yeah, the new Roy I need you more than the fish need the sea, more than the trees need the ground; I want you more than Madonna wants another hit, more than you and I want to kill Paris Hilton… God it’s good to hear you laughing… sure, I don’t mind, you know I’ve got no problem if you never want to work again… yeah, I know, you’ll have the whole damn place rearranged by the time I get out of here… I’ll see you in a few days… I love you… bye babe.”

* * * * *

In his room Nick Philouma lay in his bed and tried not to worry. He was reasonably sure he had talked his father out of doing anything rash but a good size cemetery could be filled with people who had died as a result of assumptions like that concerning members of his family. Randy was finally back in town and had been told. To take his mind off his senseless anxiety, he studied the walls of his room.

As the ‘hospital’ had to remain secret for as long as possible, there were no windows for anyone to see in through or use laser microphones on. To fight the sense of claustrophobia this might produce, the walls were painted in soothing shades, all decorations chosen for their calming effects upon people.

It was the most boring place he’d ever been in his life.

As the door opened he almost looked forward to some form of painful poking and prodding to relieve his ennui.

He was most pleasantly surprised to see his sister Paula slip in.

“Hey bro, what the hell happened to ya?”

“You really don’t know or are you just making conversation?”

“Well of course I know already, silly. I went to see the old man before comin’ here or else I never woulda known where to find ya. Ya know, ya oughta stop takin’ so many risks, the old man ain’t gettin’ any younger or any healthier and somethin’ like this coulda been just the thing to croak him right off. Come to think of it, I’m kinda surprised it didn’t, considerin’ you’re all he has left now, then again, he’s always been stronger than any of us thought he was.”

The changes the years, and other factors, had wrought in his sister were nothing short of miraculous. While she still had all the physical features she’d grown to maturity with, it was if the slight problems in their placement had been resolved to beautiful effect… as if all that was less than lovely in her appearance had stepped slightly to one side, allowing her inner beauty to take its place front and center. Gone was the clumsiness of her youth, replaced with movements at once graceful, powerful and sensual. The body which had once been chubby, to put it politely, had become magnificently full-figured, a body that demanded attention and delighted the eye, no matter what the viewer’s opinions on personal beauty.

Her scent washed over him as she bent down to kiss him and even to him, the mixture of natural scents coming from her was intoxicating. He moaned appreciatively as her cool lips pressed his cheek.

But even after being born and raised in the South with its slow speech and melodic drawling, she spoke like the stereotypical Yankee… far too quickly and far too raucously.

“So anyway the old man tells me you did Philip. Never would’ve thought he’d’a lasted this long, dumb as he was. I mean, even the blind squirrel finds the occasional nut but muthafucka, that squirrel was blind, deaf, dumb, and crippled from goddamn birth. Wish I coulda made the funeral but you know… not happenin’. L sends her love, by the way, says you bein’ gay is still a waste o’ some o’ the prettiest man she ever laid eye on, but that’s just her yankin’ Tommie’s chain a little cause you ain’t THAT pretty, not that I wouldn’t do ya if I wasn’t related an’ all, but fuck, I know what your farts smell like. Besides, speakin’ o’ the funeral, not much good could come o’ me seein’ Rosie, remindin’ her o’ things she don’t wanna be reminded of. So how is the ‘normal one’? She and that shlub she married doin’ okay? I swear to you, he ever lays a hand on her, ‘normal’ or not I’m gonna rip his head off, shit down his neck, pop out his eyeballs and use that fuckin’ melon o’ his for a fuckin’ bowlin’ ball, go pitch me a few bahis siteleri frames, you know what I mean?”

The laughter she brought with her hurt his body, but Nick found his spirit lightening with every second as he and his sister caught up on each other’s news.

* * * * *

“Sweetie, it’s funny as hell to watch, but close your mouth already, I’m afraid you might catch a fly or something,” Margo said, caressing her sister-in-law’s face.

“But… how… I never… what…”

“Nicki, my wife Carol is so damned intuitive I’m probably going to start referring to her as our ‘hoodoo woman’. She reads people frighteningly well and after the evening you and she and Kelly spent together, certain things slid together in her head. She came to me and we talked about it. She was certain enough of her ‘read’ on the situation to be willing to bet all her worldly fortune on it, which was more than convincing enough for me… I believed her quite easily right off the bat.”

“Oh God… look Margo, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry. Can we just forget this whole conversation ever occurred?”

Margo took the frightened and embarrassed woman in her arms and hugged her tightly to her chest.

“No, Nicki, no we can’t. That box has already been opened, Ms. Pandora, and we have to deal with it. Now, when we’re through talking, if you decide you never want Harry to know of this conversation, that’s how it will be. How you feel about him is your business and I don’t think any of us would have a problem helping you keep that a secret. But we are going to have to talk about it.”

“Oh God… I’m sorry, it all seemed so much easier and so much sexier when it was me and my imagination planning this conversation and the way things would play out. Now everything’s just jumbled up and confused.”

“Don’t worry, sis,” Margo replied, releasing Nicki to recline on the bed and stroking her hair, “some night, over a BIG OL’ bowl of dope, I’ll tell you about the night Carol seduced me and what an absolute basket case I was. If that story doesn’t make you feel better about tonight you can feel free to have me do something terrible… like bathe you with my tongue.”

“So that would be terrible would it?”

Margo lowered her head and ran the tip of her tongue up the line from her sister-in-law’s belly button, between her breasts to the tip of her chin.

“Horrible beyond my ability to express,” she purred before kissing Nicki deeply.

Before things got too interesting, Margo broke the kiss and lay back. “But first, talk.”

“What do you want me to talk about?”

“First off, try to convince me why I should let my husband sleep with you, regardless of the fact he’s your brother,” Margo said, smiling encouragingly. “Maybe that’ll help you get things straight in your own mind. Then, if we get past that hurdle, we can worry about the whole incest thing.”

“And after that?”

“Well, assuming there is an ‘after that’… we figure out if Harry will be able to handle the situation.”

* * * * *

“Mama… Mama, stop crying… Mama… I know this wasn’t what you had in mind when you raised me to think for myself, to find out what I wanted, to go for it and make it my own. But it’s what happened. You raised me to be strong and to do what’s right for me… that’s what I’m doing.”

Kelly’s hand fiddled with the necklace, her fingers running up and down the platinum and diamonds until she notice it and forced her hand to her lap. “Mama, you know how I never really fit in anywhere? Well here I fit in… yes ma’am, I thought about that when I started to realize how I was feeling about these people and that was exactly how it felt.”

She put her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. “She’s not too happy that’s she’s having to eat her own words… she told me that when what was right for me came along, there’d be no doubt in my mind, that the only thing that could stop me and what was right for me from recognizing each other was me.

“Yes Mama, I’m still here… was just filling in Carol on some background… yes she’s here with me, no way I could face this conversation alone… no ma’am, you’re right, and no reason I should have to… Mama they’re all that way, whatever I decide, they support me… Mama, I’d love for all of you to meet, but Daddy…

“I’ll believe that when I see it… I love you too… yes, like I said before, here with them, I’m ‘home’.

“I will… I love you and thank you, Mama… okay, bye-bye.”

Kelly closed her phone and put it on the table by the hide-a-bed.

“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Carol said, the tone of her voice a dead giveaway that she was joking.

Kelly looked at her, shock and wonder mixing with the tears in her eyes. “I cannot believe I managed to live through that phone call,” she said. “Thank you, my love, thank canlı bahis siteleri you so much for being here for me.” Her voice broke as she continued, “She understands, I think she really understands. And if she does, she’ll find a way to explain it to Dad.”

Carol slid down into the bed and pulled her wife down with her. “I think my lovely wife needs cuddling,” she said, “and I know I need to cuddle her.”

The sounds of softly murmured endearments, sniffles and the gradually fading sobs filled the sitting room.

* * * * *

In the suite’s bedroom, Margo held her sister-in-law while Nicki tried to put her thoughts in order.

“So I guess in the end, it’s that once I had time away and had matured I gained enough detachment from those years together to see Harry as a ‘man who happens to be my brother’, not just ‘my brother’. And if I remove the ‘who happens to be my brother’ as irrelevant, then I see Harry as a man… and I shouldn’t have to explain to any of the three of you why I’d find him attractive.

“But deeper than that, he was, in retrospect, the man who kept it all together for me, made sure I was safe and taken care of while I was still in high school, made sure there was a home for me, even if it was a home with some pretty sad memories. And on the rare occasions when something came up that Harry couldn’t take care of, well, he’d put me in the car and we’d go talk with Eddy.

“Honestly Margo, by the time I got out of high school I had two really big cases of hero-worship going for Eddy and Harry. I mean, I knew about their ‘warts’, so to speak, but there didn’t seem to be anything that the three of us couldn’t handle together.

“I remember when I was having major problems deciding what university I wanted to go to… God, I was obsessing over that and the more I fixated on the question, the less idea I had as to where I really wanted to go.

“So Harry set up a get-together at this very nice steakhouse that unfortunately is no longer with us, Dunagan’s. He got us reservations for early in the afternoon on a Thursday, made sure we got a large table, told the maitre de that we weren’t to be disturbed and he, Eddy and I sat down, had a marvelous meal, and then spread out all my brochures and catalogues and started going over pro’s and con’s of the various schools I was looking at. The two of them were treating me as if they were my college advisors, or my fathers, but really they were like gardeners… they just kept trimming away my confusion until I looked up and said ‘Well, I looks like I go to the University of Houston.

“That was Thursday afternoon… Friday night I ran across them at a mutual friend’s party and they were both baked out of their gourds.”

Margo’s laughter echoed through the bedroom.

“I don’t mean ‘high’, I mean so far beyond ‘high’ as to be in low earth orbit. I think it’s a good thing breathing is an autonomic function or they’d have been too stoned to remember to do it.

“But that was Harry… when I needed him, when anyone needed him, he was there, one-hundred-percent… and when he wasn’t actively ‘needed’ anymore, he was living his life the way he wanted to.”

“Oh God,” Margo said, wiping the tears of laughter from her face, “I know what you mean. I forget what the occasion was… no, I remember now, it was one of Cindy Green’s Christmas parties… she used to invite all of the class she could get in touch with every year, sort of a mini-reunion.

“Eddy hadn’t shown up that year, he didn’t show up very often, but Harry had and was trashed… not to the point of being a gibbering idiot or being sick, but it was real evident that Harry was three sheets to the wind and sailing to win the Americas Cup.

“He and Cathy Breeden weren’t seeing each other all that much anymore, although they were still getting together to fuck like maniacs from time to time. I can say now that I hated her for that because I was so goddamned envious. But anyway, she comes squealing up to Cindy’s house, looking for him. She’d been home, visiting the folks and her dad had gone off on a tear, started hitting her mom, she’d gotten in the middle of it and he’d proceeded to beat her all around the living room like she was a piñata.

“All of a sudden,” Margo continued, “Harry’s ‘There’… I mean, he was still physically inebriated, no way to shake that off, but I’d swear to you in court with my medical license on the line that he was mentally sober. Sat down with her on Cindy’s front lawn and they talked about what Cathy wanted to do. He ended up going to the police with her, sat where she could see him while they took her statement, took photos of her injuries, finished up everything they needed from her. Then the sergeant asked him to drive her to the hospital, have her checked out in the ER and Harry told him he couldn’t, he was too drunk to drive. canlı bahis Cop wouldn’t believe him until they Breath-alyzed him.”

“Yeah, that’s the man who happens to be my brother, Margo. As to why you should let me sleep with your husband… you shouldn’t. If I was the one married to him I wouldn’t share him with anyone else but I’m real selfish and real insecure that way.”

“You think I’m not?” Margo asked, eyebrows raised. “In a way, Sis, Harry ending up in the hospital has helped me realize a lot of things about our relationship that have eased my mind considerably. Before the accident, I ‘knew’ in my mind that we were all cross-connected but in my heart, so to speak, it still felt like Harry was the lynchpin to the entire marriage and that terrified me. If that was the case, well, Carol and Kelly are so much younger than me and prettier than me-“

“I’m not sure I’d agree with that one hundred percent.”

“-flatterer… but I worried that they’d take him away from me. I know it’s silly, I knew it at the time, but especially after the disaster of my first marriage, I carry a lot of insecurity around with me, all the time. With him in the hospital I’ve seen that no one of us is the lynchpin, paradoxically we all are. We’re a unit and should something happen to one or more of us, I think the rest of us would go on together, but outside of something catastrophic, I can’t see any of us leaving of our own free will.

“But Sis, through the first parts of my relationship with Harry and Carol, I lived on top of a barely controlled volcano of insecurity and I didn’t feel I could say anything about it because I imagined if I did, he and Carol would laugh at me and I wouldn’t be worthy of their love anymore and they’d send me away. Even after the evening Angie showed up and I came back, there were nights I spent hours lying awake, shaking with fear that in the morning they’d roll over and one of them would say ‘Why are you still here? Get out.’ and all of a sudden I’d be alone again.

“I still have a night like that, from time to time, but not nearly as often and I know now that if I need to, I can wake one of them and they’ll be glad to talk me through it… and that knowledge alone is enough to help soothe out the really rough spots and make waking them up unnecessary.”

Nicki threw her leg up and over Margo’s curvy hips. “Goddamn, that asshole really did a number on you, didn’t he?” she said as she brushed a few wisps of hair from Margo’s face.

“Oh, not just Benjamin… my parents started the process long before… I’m sure that’s part of how I ended up married to the late Dr. Sapperstein. But that’s just the cards I got dealt and there’s no changing them. How I play them, on the other hand, that can be changed, and that’s what living with my new family is helping me do.

“Nicki, please don’t ever get the feeling that any of us ‘have it together’ or are ‘whole’… we’re all damaged in our own ways. Harry carries a lot of scarring from Angie, and even more damage from the night she came back… plus there are other wounds there that I’ve never seen, I’ve just watched the blood that flow from them, so to speak. Carol… I’ve lay in bed and watched the nightmares race across her face like clouds across the sky before a storm. Of us all, I think she’s the one who hides her pain the best. Kelly is just now becoming comfortable enough with being a part of us to let Carol and I see the side of her that hurts and is uncertain. That’s been the side she’s shared with Harry pretty much from the beginning and has been the surest sign of the depth of their relationship.”

“Well Margo, seems to me we’ve strayed somewhat from the original question… why should you allow me to make love with your husband?

“Because I love him very much and I want the chance to express that love completely, in a physical manner.” Nicki’s hand moved down and gently grasped a handful of Margo’s ass. “Sorry to get distracted but God, I love your curves, woman! You, hell, all three of you, are just divinely shaped.”

“Well, get you out of that high-stress nightmare you’ve been living in, who knows? Maybe we can put some curves on you as well.”

“Umm, you think so? I’ve never been that comfortable with the whole ‘you must be stick thin to be beautiful’ concept.”

“Oh, I’m sure of it, especially if you let Karen and Patricia feed you somewhat regularly. My God, Patricia got that beautiful ass of hers the old-fashioned way… she earned it in the kitchen.

“But back to the question… your answer is satisfying enough for me, Nicki. It’s an answer we would accept from any lover of ours that was also interested in our husband, not that we plan on there being any more… you got in on a family pass, so to speak. I think this relationship’s about as open as we can let it be.” Margo smiled. “Not that any of us regret for an instant you ending up in our arms… we don’t, not for an instant.”

“So,” Nicki said, brushing her lips across Margo’s nipple, “do we move on to the next question, or do we take a short break?”

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