Cathy and Mona
Mona's machinations had worked. She'd cut off all communications between Dude and Cathy. Their long-distance love affair carried by the internet was through. Effective sibling rivalry had become Mona's specialty. She had finally become, after all those years of living in her sister's shadow, as she put it, " My sister's mistress."
Cathy assumed that Dude had given up. He never seemed to call or text. Mona's poisoned words and deeds had their effect. After a few weeks her images of San Diego grew dimmer and dimmer, so dim they took on a mythic quality. Like the Greek myths of her childhood she began to doubt them. She became even more fragile and damaged. She felt depressed, then morose, after that maudlin and finally just plain blue. Her fling with the handsome, dashing, romantic, angelic, yes angelic, photographer was over and done.
Such were the changes Mona worked in Cathy.
Mona had been dating a man named Sidney who was of no account. One afternoon he brought Mona home and she fixed him a cup of tea. While waiting, he drifted into the hallway and found the family pictures on the wall. He recognized most of them as Mona. There was a single picture of a girl with nut-brown hair.
It was Cathy. Being the photographer in the family kept her on the opposite side of the lens so pictures of her were few.
"That's my sister."
"She's pretty," then checked himself, and revising he said, "but not as pretty as you."
Mona didn't believe it for a minute, though if truth be told, they were equals.
"I took that one," is all she said.
"Where's it taken at, a park?"
"No, it's right outside where she works. It's a fountain."
If Mona could have slipped a noose around her neck she probably would have. This small comment was about to cost her another relationship. Sidney was completely taken with the photograph of Cathy.
"It's nice," is all he said, trying to sound uninterested. It's not good to seem too interested, and began to plot.
When he got home he googled every public fountain in town and found them all.
Then he google-earthed to check what they looked like until he found a match. Then he plotted a little more. No-accounts always plot. It's how they get things done.
He'd arranged to come by where she worked and sweep her off her feet. Certainly he had enough game to do this, or so he hoped. He dusted off all his best pick-up lines and polished them up. He put on the face that was the most suave he could find in his arsenal of suave faces. He splashed on his best imitation Polo cologne from the ninety-nine cent store, grabbed his keys and was out the door. He imagined he was a man on the move, a hunter on the hunt. He was a man on the make, that's what he was. Any fool could tell.
"I am," he said greedily to himself, "gonna get me some of that."
It just so happened that Cathy was extremely vulnerable that day. What day wasn't she? She was bored too. Bad combination. She would have gone out with a flea if one had wandered through the door. That's exactly what happened. A very big and awkward chauvinist-pig of a flea walked through the door on two legs only and its little tiny flea name was Sidney.
The first thing he did was pretend not to notice her. That was good strategy. Pretending not to notice pretty girls shows you're not too needy. Then he pretended to need her help, that was the next step.
"I say," he said; trying to sound British or something. Sidney thought it was suave to sound British, after all it worked for the Beatles and Simon Cowell and Margaret Thatcher.
"Can you help me here?"
Then he decided to drop the accent. He couldn't keep it up for long without it turning into a French or German accent and didn't want to be found out.
"Yes, I'll be right there."
He was examining a can, the only can in the gift shop. It wasn't a grocery store but a gift shop that sold souvenirs, northern souvenirs. So it wasn't a can of vegetables or sardines. It was a can of fog.
"Is this Washington fog really gathered from right around here?"
"Yes, that's what it says on the can."
"I'll take one to go."
"Ok, will that be all for you today?
"Well there is one more thing I'd like."
"A date with you. How about dinner?"
"Oooooo what a Smooth Operator!" He nearly took her breath away.
"And don't say, 'I hardly know you.' You don't know me at all. But I know you. I'm a friend of your sister's. We used to date."
That caught her off guard. He was good at it, he'd practiced at catching women off guard.
"Like Japanese food?"
"Sure, I always have a yen for it." Weak but cute, just like her and opium. Both, when you had just a taste, gave you a yen but cost plenty more in the long run. I'm taking real women.
He walked over to the door but right before he made his exit he put on his sunglasses saying,with an Austrian accent, "I'll be back," sounding like I'll be Bach, or was it Beck? Was it classical or rock?, and Terminated their conversation. Terminated, get me? Such a damn funny line. Made me laugh just writin' it.
They did go out to eat and after that he took her home. They strolled in to have a cup of tea. Cathy served in the living room. She sat next to him at the coffee table on the blue crushed velvet sofa.
Actually, it was a love seat. Maybe it was due to become a hot seat. You watch.
"So maybe how come Mona's never mentioned you?"
"She's probably been trying to keep me to herself."
Cathy heard something here she didn't like.
"You were dating her right? I thought you were just friends now."
She changed the tone of her voice just a tad.
"Well, I was dating her, but you know how it is. Then we broke up."
It was a cold oh. Not freezing cold at this point but cold. Kinda frigid though.
"We just didn't get along."
Hm, what did he mean? She started fishing.
"She's not serious enough for you? Or plays around too much, or not enough or what?"
She noticed there wasn't any lemon and left to get some. After nearly cutting her finger when slicing the lemon, Ouch! she got back and sat across the table facing him and added some to her cup, then offered him more. Further inquiry might prove to be interesting. She might have to offer him another cup, if that's what it took. Tea was a cheap price for what she was going to find out. It was time to get out the forceps and probe.
"Well, now that you mention it, she does play around a bit."
He sensed that the ice beneath his feet was getting thin here and that he'd better step careful.
"She is good at playing around, that sister of mine. I know what you mean."
Agreeing with him was just changing the bait. He fell for it like a big dog or fish. Now he had the idea that the ice had become rock solid. It was so terribly wrong. A terribly wrong idea. There's nothing worse.
"She's irresponsible, and sometimes I just can't trust her," is what he said next.
"So how long were you together?"
Probe probe, then dig some more.
"About three months."
"And when did you break up?"
Uh-oh. Now he was in trouble. They never broke up. What if Cathy decided to check? In fact, he'd only seen her picture the day before yesterday, right before he started to hatch his nasty plan. And something else was about to happen, because just then Mona was pulling up in the driveway.
Uh-oh. Neither one of them could hear the car or knew she was going to be there. So double uh-oh. He decided to do what many liars do, he backdated.
"Oh, about a week ago." He handed her an imprecise date.
When you mention a break-up that hasn't quite happened you always back-date. He'd read it in a book with a money-back guarantee at the Bookstore for Lonely Men. He figured he was safe. Only financially for five ninety-five plus tax. Not in real life. Not flesh and blood life.
The guy who wrote the book didn't know Cathy.
Did I mention that Cathy was good at steaming? Right now the fire he was giving her was directly beneath her second pot.
"So you broke up only a week ago and now you want to date me?"
Her water started to get hot.
Right now Mona pulled up in the driveway in back and stopped. Her car was so silent they didn't hear her as the teapot started to whistle just then.
Sidney had never felt a noose falling around his neck, but if he had he would have recognized the feel. It felt ugly.
Mona got out of the car to put paper in the trash cans at the back of the house. When she did, she noticed the lights inside and that Cathy had company, couldn't see who it was, but could hear them alright, she could hear them just fine. So she listened and heard Cathy say,
"You think she's a little too much for you? Is that what you're saying?"
"That's rich," thought Mona, "some guy has a woman who's a little too much for him. He's lucky he doesn't have me.""
Then Cathy continued, "So you broke up because she was playing around?"
"Yeah, that's it, she was playing around."
"And because she was irresponsible."
"Yeah, that's it, irresponsible."
Cathy's water had come to a full rolling boil. You could have made penne or mostaccioli or even Barilla Tri-color Rotini. And why not? They pick the best ingredients with care and invite you to do the same. It's more than just authentic flavor and fresh ingredients in every jar. It's a generations-old commitment to quality. That's what makes it Barilla.
By now Cathy was easy to hear because her volume control was turned all the way up.
"So what you're saying is, "I'm going out with you because your sister is irresponsible, plays around, we just broke up, and whatever, whichever, blip-blap, bloop-bloop, woo woo woo." Is that it?
"Hey, wait a minute, thought Mona, "did she say sister?"
Now Sidney felt the rope tightening, and he didn't like how it felt.
"So last week you were with her and this week you're trying to be with me. And that's not playing around, not in your book. That's responsible! You're not a man.You're a walking social disease dressed up in wolf's clothing."
"But...but..." was all he could say. He was too busy trying to loosen his collar.
Now Cathy was ready to pop. She pops big time.
"Sidney, have I got news for you! Mona's my sister for life. And even if she wasn't my sister I'd feel indebted to her because she puts up with me. You say irresponsible? Not my Mona. Not on your life. She saved my son's life numerous times, so many I can't count, I'd run out of fingers. She's got no life because she's devoted her life to ours. My son and I. That's why she only has timeto hook up with shallow ass-holes like you. She's the super glue that keeps this family together, that's what she is."
Mona heard every last word and was stunned. Her gestalt had been shaken and would have to be reformed or envisioned. She was elated by this news and disheartened about herself at the same time. Everything she felt about her sister would have to be re-examined. It was time to reconsider.
Sidney stood there numb, senseless, with nothing to say. After he pulled himself together he came up with one final word for Cathy which was,
He never stayed for his second cup of Earl Grey. To think she had almost done the deed with the guy nearly made her sick.
Mona came in a few minutes later. The look in her green lagoon eyes seemed to Cathy the eyes of someone she'd never seen before. Like somebody new. She gave Cathy a hug.
"Night Sis," she whispered, then trooped upstairs, two-at-a-time stairs, so very fine stairs, that led to her soft pillowy-billowy-pillow-topped bed. And smiling all the way, she lived happily ever after.
The hug, when Cathy thought about the nifty hug, was the best she'd ever got from her sister, or anyone else for that matter, including her very own mum.
"It's funny," she calculated, then came up with the answer. "How sisters are."
Cathy and Mona