Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Episode 8

Caroline Wilson was almost pretty. Clothes looked great on her slim figure, but her face was too sharp: edgy cheekbones, pointy little nose, and short, dark hair cut so that it angled harshly across her forehead. Discontent had made her lips thin and hard, narrowed her granite eyes, and put a permanent crease between her brows. Still, when she made an effort, she could be attractive.

She slapped a plate of pork chops, green beans, and a baked potato on the table in front of her husband, Matt.

"I sure wish you'd have let me take you to Taverna for dinner tonight," Matt said, picking up his knife and fork.

Caroline drained her wine glass, not the first of the evening, before replying, "What for?"

"Well, because it's your birthday for one thing. And sometimes it's nice to go out. See people."

"Whoop-tee-damn-doo. I'm thirty-eight. Nothing to celebrate there." Caroline helped herself to a half a pork chop and five green beans. "And there's no one in this town I want to see. Besides, I cook better than anyone at Taverna."

"You sure did a fine job on this meal."

There was a long silence. Matt chewed contentedly.; Caroline toyed with her food and sipped steadily at her wine.

"Did you do anything interesting today?" he asked, his eyes on the chop he was cutting apart.

She shrugged. "Not much. Went for a walk down to the Lake."

"Did you take the new binoculars?" For her birthday, Matt had given her some Pentax binoculars that he'd bought on eBay. Caroline liked birds. She had bird feeders hanging from half the trees in their backyard. Sometimes he'd come home and find her standing by the window, watching the birds through an old, scratched-up pair of binoculars that had belonged to her father.

"Yeah. They're good."

Matt wasn't sure how she'd take the gift. Caroline was quirky. She'd told him early on that she'd had a tough childhood. Abandoned by her mother, she'd been raised by a father who was too busy with his law practice to give her much attention. The old binoculars, she'd said, were about the only thing they'd ever shared.

Caroline looked across the table at her husband. He was shoveling in the food like a peasant, which, of course, he was. Sometimes, she couldn't think what possessed her to marry him. Or to come back to Pine Lake. If she'd stayed in D.C., she would have found another job eventually. That place was nothing but scandals, and her little incident would probably have been forgotten soon enough. But no, idiot that she was, she had to go and marry this jerk. She drained the wine glass again.

"So are you finished at Claire Monroe's house yet?"

"Nope. Now she wants me to paint the bedroom."

"Oh, that's just great." Caroline's voice rose. "It's not enough for you to spend two weeks on the outside of her house. Now she wants you in her bedroom?"

Matt put down the piece of bread he was buttering. "Caro, I paint houses. Inside and out. It's what puts this bread on the table."

"My inheritance puts bread on this table."

"That's not true and you know it."

"Bullshit." She got up and poured herself more wine.

"Hey, go easy on that. You know what the doctor said."

"Screw the doctor. And screw you, too. Oh, wait, maybe that's what you're doing at Claire's. Everyone knows she's always been good at that."

"Christ's sake, Caro. Get a grip."

She shot a malevolent glance his way, but sat down again. "Did you know my dad hired Claire to babysit for me one summer? Jeez, what kind of a father has some slut watch over his six-year-old daughter? It's amazing I didn't get hit by a car, or drown, or get kidnapped while she was doing bad things with all the boys in town. Served her right, getting knocked up."

Matt looked away. In the eight years they'd been married, he'd heard this rant before. Either this one or one just like it. Caroline had something bad to say about everyone in Pine Lake. Occasionally, he wondered if there was any truth at all to her spiteful tales. He'd already figured out her father couldn't have been as bad as she claimed, and if Claire Monroe was wild in her youth, she'd certainly changed her ways now.

Anyway, who was Caroline to criticize anyone else after what happened in D.C.? The press had had a field day with stories about her and Senator Coleman. Sometimes Matt thought the only reason she'd married him was to stop the paparazzi from chasing her around. When she'd insisted that they move back to Pine Lake because she missed her friends and the folks she'd grown up with, he'd agreed, but as far as he could see, she didn't have any friends.

"Maybe you need to get out of the house more," he suggested, trying to change the subject.

"What the hell does that mean?"

"I was just thinking you might want to get a job. It would give you something to do."

"Here's an idea. Why don't you get out?" She picked up her plate and threw it across the table at Matt.

"Get the hell out right now!" she screamed.

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