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The painted room, p.1
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       The Painted Room, p.1

           Tina Mikals
The Painted Room
The Painted Room

  by Tina Mikals

  Copyright 2010 by Tina Mikals

  Rev. 11.20.15

  2015 Edition, Revised November 20, 2015

  Spelled Out in Paint

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  This book is dedicated to my family

  Chapter 1

  Gin and Lobster Dinner

  May rapped twice on the shell of the boiled lobster on her plate with the back of her fork. "Aren't these really just cockroaches that wandered into the sea millions of years ago?"

  Her older brother, Charley, smiled at her and nodded.

  "That's quite enough, young lady," said her father. He drew in a queasy breath and rested his fork down on his plate.

  Charley grabbed the two sides of his lobster's body cavity and cracked the shell open. It spurted some green stuff.

  "Can I be excused?" asked May.

  "What's the matter, dear?" said her mother, handing Charley a napkin. She pushed her plate away and picked up her drink.

  "I don't like lobster."

  "Since when?"

  "Since whenever. Like every time we have it."

  "She never likes it," said Charley.

  "For heaven's sake, May. You're from Maine and you don't like lobster?" Her mother gave her an indignant look.

  Sucking on a spindly lobster leg, Charley said through his teeth, "Personally, I think it's appalling. I'm reporting you to the tourist board."

  "Nazi," said May.

  Charley put the lobster leg down with a look of disappointment. He eyed May's lobster, picked up his nutcracker and clicked it together in his hand several times.

  She nudged her dish towards him, and he took the lobster off her plate.

  May's father, who wasn't listening to the conversation around him whatsoever, exclaimed, "Just what was your team thinking today, Charley? Why do you even bother to wear baseball uniforms? I'm surprised you don't all just wear high heels and miniskirts."

  "I'm not really sure Charley has the legs for it," May said, poking at some rice which looked suspiciously like it had absorbed lobster water. She picked up a few rice grains on the tines of her fork, sniffed them with a sour look then dumped them back onto her plate.

  "I can actually say that was painful watching that today," continued her father. "Does that idiot of a coach do anything at all? Can't any of you hit? It's deplorable. And you, Charley. What was the matter with you? You kept looking in the stands. I could swear you were just thinking about a girl out there. It's like you weren't even trying."

  "The season's almost over, Dad. Last game's tomorrow," said Charley.

  "That's a relief!" And since her father still wasn't done expounding on the terrible state of his son's baseball team, and with Charley in no mood to fight him this evening, he appealed to May. "What did you think?"

  "What did I think? What a big bunch of sallies. They sucked big-time."

  "What did I tell you?" said her father before giving May a scowl of disapproval at her word choice.

  "She wasn't even there," said Charley.

  "Oh?" said her mother, with an edge of suspicion in her voice, returning from the kitchen with another full glass. "Where were you?"

  The ice cubes in the glass clinked sharply as her mother sat down. Number three, thought May, watching the new wedge of lime bob at the top of the clear liquid. Her mother drank gin and tonic and always got nastier by the glassful. "At Sheila's."

  "And what did you do there?"

  "Painted our toenails. Girl stuff."

  "Oh, really?" Her mother lifted a disbelieving eyebrow at her before turning to Charley. "I'm sorry I missed the game, dear. I got tied up at the bank again. What a complete waste of time. You can usually tell as soon as they walk in the door whether it'll be worth it or not." She took a long sip of her drink. "Anyhow, tomorrow's a Saturday. I have only one quick appointment in the morning, and then I'll pop right over to your game, okay?"

  "Don't worry about it, Mom," said Charley. "I know you're busy."

  May's mother rubbed her temple and winced.

  "How is your migraine, dear?" asked her husband.

  "Better now, thank you. No thanks to that hairdresser, though. Is there some unwritten law which states that all hairdressers must have bitter fights with their ex's which they're required to tell you about when you're trapped in their chair for over an hour?"

  "Yes, as a matter of fact," said May, inspecting her mother's shortly cropped hair, unable to tell any difference from the day before.

  "Does it look that bad?" asked her mother.

  May shrugged. "Nah, it's fine."

  Lynn Taylor's sharp features looked even sharper than usual when she said crisply, "I got it frosted." She turned to her husband. "I ran into Bonnie at the grocery store when I was getting the lobsters."

  "Oh? And how is Bonnie?" asked her husband.

  "On the pursuit of some new love interest. She must have redone her living room again."

  "Oh come on, Mom," said May. Bonnie Hazelton was the mother of her best friend, Sheila.

  May's mother winked at her. "Last week, May said that Bonnie changes her man every time she changes her wallpaper. I thought that was funny."

  "Is ...?" May's father let his voice trail off and gave his wife a questioning look.

  "Bonnie's latest divorce final? No. You know what I really don't understand? Her cart was piled high with Yums-Yums and Chip-a-Roo's and then right on top was about ten of those frozen diet meals. Does that make any sense? She's always complaining about her weight. It's no wonder when she keeps so many snacks in the house. It's just a matter of time before her daughter has the same problem."

  May's father cast a look over at his daughter's barely touched meal. "Lynn, I wouldn't call Bonnie fat—by any stretch of the imagination."

  "I didn't say she was fat, dear. Though she certainly could lose a few pounds in my opinion, but I appreciate your input." She gave her husband an icy smile.

  He shut up and stabbed his salad.

  "May, weren't you the one who said Sheila was starting to get a little—what do they say now—junk in the trunk?" said her mother.

  Dipping a forkful of lobster meat in melted butter, Charley raised his eyebrows in thought and gave an appreciative tilt of his head.

  "Well, if Bonnie doesn't want her daughter to have the same problems as she does, she ought to be setting a better example. And I'm not just talking about her weight. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, if you get my drift."

  "What are you implying?" asked May.

  "Sheila's been your friend for a long time. I like Sheila. You know I do but ...." May's mother let her voice trail off in an aggravating singsong way.

  "But what?"

  "Well, she's going to be sixteen next week and she's a very pretty girl. She's at an age when she needs to start thinking about not making the same mistakes as her mother."

  "I think Sheila's capable of making her own decisions."

  "Well, if thinking were all there were to it then it would be as simple as that, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, the signs are accumulating."

  "What are you—the weather channel? The signs are accumulating? Exactly what does that mean?"

  "Well, first of all, let's talk about the way she dresses—"

  "What's wrong with the way she dresses?"

  "Oh come on, May. Even you've said it's a bit revealing. And didn't she just get her tongue pierced?"

  Charley looked suddenly at May.

  "It was her navel," May sa
id to him. She crossed her arms and glared at her mother. "You know, that is so narrow-minded. That is just so typical of you."

  "Believe me, May, no mother wants to see her son walk through the door with that on his arm."

  Charley let out a sigh, the source of which was only half understood by May, only partly understood by his father, and understood not at all by his mother.

  May threw her fork loudly into her plate. "I'm going for a walk. I could use some fresh air." She didn't ask to be excused. She pushed her chair away from the table and left.

  "What the hell was that all about?" said her father.

  "I wouldn't worry about it, dear," said Lynn Taylor, before taking a sip of her drink. "You know how moody teenage girls can be."

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