Mackenzie holds up the jar again, and in goes another dollar.
It was invented by my sister, who apparently thinks my language is too harsh for her offspring. It’s the Bad Word Jar. Every time someone—usually me—swears, they have to pay a dollar. At this rate, that thing is going to put Mackenzie through college.
“So what’s the deal with you and Delores?”
He smiles. “We’re hanging out. She’s cool.”
Usually Matthew is more forthcoming with the details. It’s not like I get off on his stories, but you have to understand, Matthew and I have been friends since birth. That means every kiss, every breast, every hand job, bl*w j*b, pearl necklace, and lay has been shared and discussed.
And now he’s stonewalling me. What’s up with that?
“I’m assuming you’ve nailed her?”
He frowns. “It’s not like that, Drew.”
I’m confused. “Then what’s it like, Matthew? You haven’t hung out in over two weeks. I can understand you being too p**sy-whipped to come out if you’re getting some. But if not, what’s the deal?”
He smiles in a nostalgic, remembering-a-happy-moment kind of way. “She’s just…different. It’s hard to explain. We talk, you know? And I’m always kind of thinking about her. It’s like the minute I drop her off, I can’t wait to see her again. She just…amazes me. I wish you knew what I meant.”
And the scary thing is—I know exactly what he means.
“You’re in dangerous territory, man. You see what Steven goes through. This path leads to the Dark Side. We always said we wouldn’t go there. You sure about this?”
Matthew smiles, and in his best Darth Vader voice tells me, “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side.”
It’s dinnertime. My mother makes a big show of bringing out the turkey, and everyone oohs and ahhs before my father carves it up. That’s right—Norman f**king Rockwell’s got nothing on us.
As bowls are passed and plates are filled, my mom says, “Drew, honey, I’m going to pack you up a big bag of leftovers. I don’t even want to think about how you’re eating in that apartment with no one to cook a decent meal. And I’ll put dates on the containers so you’ll know when to throw it out. The last time I looked in your refrigerator, it was like some sort of science experiment was growing in there.”
Yes—my mommy loves me. Told you so.
Matthew and Steven make loud, wet kissy noises at me. With both hands, I flip each of them the bird. Beside me I see Mackenzie looking at her fingers trying to copy the move. I quickly put my hand over hers and shake my head. I show her Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute instead.
After we say grace, I announce, “I think Mackenzie should come live with me.”
No one reacts. No one looks up. No one pauses. I’ve made this suggestion several times since my niece was born.
Alexandra says, “The turkey’s delicious, Mom. Very juicy.”
“Thank you, dear.”
“Hello? I’m serious here. She needs a positive female role model.”
That gets The Bitch’s attention. “What the hell am I?”
Mackenzie slides the jar toward her mother, and in goes a dollar. We all bring small bills to the table on holidays now.
“You’re a stay-at-home mom. Which is very commendable, don’t get me wrong. But she should be exposed to career women too. And for God’s sake, don’t let her watch Cinderella. What kind of example is that? A mindless twit who can’t even remember where she left her damn shoe, so she has to wait for some douchebag in tights to bring it to her? Give me a frigging break.”
I’m not sure how much I owe after that little speech. I pass Mackenzie a ten. Did I say that jar would put her through college? I meant law school. I’m going to need to hit an ATM soon.
Steven joins in. “I think Alexandra is the perfect role model for our daughter. There’s no one better.”
Steven is a beaten man. And Matthew wants to join his club.
Alexandra smiles at him. “Thank you, honey.”
“You’re welcome, dear.”
Matthew and I start coughing, “Whipped…brown nose.”
Mackenzie looks at us suspiciously, unsure if we need to pay up or not.
I continue, “I should bring her to the office with me. She should meet Kate, don’t you think, Dad?”
My mother asks quickly, “Who’s Kate?”
My father answers between bites, “Katherine Brooks, new employee. Brilliant girl. And quite the firecracker. She gave Drew a run for his money when she first started.”
My mother looks at me with glittering, hopeful eyes. The way Paula Deen looks at a tub of lard, imagining the delicacy just waiting to be made. “Well, this Kate sounds like a lovely young lady, Drew. Maybe you should have her over to the house for dinner.”
I roll my eyes. “We work together, Mom. She’s engaged. To a jackass, but that’s another story.”
Another dollar bites the dust.
My sister interjects, “I think Mom’s just surprised to actually hear you refer to a woman by name. Usually it’s ‘the waitress with the nice butt’ or ‘the blonde with the big boobs.’”
Though her observation is accurate, I ignore it. “The point is, she’s a terrific example for Mackenzie of how much a woman can accomplish.” Despite her terrible taste in men. “I’d be…I think we’d all be really proud if she grew up to be half the professional Kate is.”
Alexandra looks surprised by my statement. Then she smiles warmly. “Mackenzie and I can take a trip into the city next week. We’ll get together with you for lunch and meet the illustrious Kate Brooks.”
We eat in silence for a few minutes, and then Alexandra says, “That reminds me. Matthew, could you escort me to a charity dinner the second Saturday in December? Steven is going to be out of town.” She looks toward me. “I would ask my darling brother to do it, but we all know he spends his Saturday nights with the city slu—” she glances at her daughter “—undesirables.”
Before Matthew can answer, Mackenzie puts her two cents in. “I don’t think Uncle Matthew can come, Momma. He been too busy bein’ p**sy whipped. Wha’s p**sy whipped, Daddy?”
As soon as the words leave her angelic little lips, a horrendous chain reaction is set off:
Matthew chokes on the black olive in his mouth, which flies out and nails Steven right in the eye.
Steven doubles over, holding his eye and yelling, “I’m hit! I’m hit!” and then goes on about how the salt from the olive juice is eating away at his cornea.
My father starts coughing. George stands up and begins pounding on his back while asking no one in particular if he should perform the Heimlich.
Estelle knocks over her glass of red wine, which quickly seeps into my mother’s lace tablecloth. She makes no move to clean up the mess, but instead chants, “Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.”
My mother runs around the dining room like a chicken with its head cut off, searching for non-cloth napkins to wipe up the stain, all the while assuring Estelle that everything’s fine.
And Frank…well…Frank just keeps eating.
While the chaos continues around us, Alexandra’s death-ray glare never wavers from Matthew and me. After squirming under it for about thirty seconds, Matthew caves. “It wasn’t me, Alexandra. I swear to Christ it wasn’t me.”
Thanks, Matthew. Way to leave my ass blowing in the wind. Remind me never to go to war with him as my wingman.
But as The Bitch glower is turned full force on me alone, I forgive him. I feel like at any moment I’ll be reduced to a smoking pile of Drew ash on the chair. I dig deep and give her the sweetest Baby Brother smile I can manage.
Take a look. Is it working?
I’m so f**king dead.
See, there’s one thing about Bitch Justice you should know. It’s swift and merciless. You won’t know when it’s coming; all you can be certain of is that it will come. And when it does, it will be painful. Very, very painful.
ON MONDAY MORNING, I’m in the conference room waiting for the staff meeting to start. Everyone’s here. Everyone, that is, except Kate. My father glances at his watch. He’s got an early tee-off this morning, and I know he’s eager to get there. I scratch behind my ear.
Where the hell is she?
Finally, Kate comes barreling in with her coat still on and a bunch of folders falling out of her hands. She looks…terrible. I mean, she’s beautiful, she’s always beautiful. But take it from someone who’s watched her closely—Kate is having a bad day. See how pale she is? And when the hell did those dark circles crawl under her eyes? Her hair’s thrown up in a messy bun, which would be sexy as hell if she didn’t look so…ill.
She smiles nervously at my father. “Sorry, Mr. Evans. It’s been a morning.”
“No problem, Kate. We’re just getting started.”
As my father rattles off his announcements, I don’t take my eyes off her. She doesn’t look at me once.
“Kate, do you have those projections for Pharmatab?”
It’s the deal my father was talking to the ass-muncher about at the office party. The one Kate closed last week. She looks up, her big brown eyes making her look all the more like a deer caught in headlights.
She doesn’t have them.
I lean forward and announce, “I have them. Kate gave them to me last week to look over. But I left it on my desk at home. I’ll get it to you ASAP, Dad.” My father nods, and she closes her eyes in relief.
After the meeting is over, everyone slowly files out, and I walk up beside Kate. “Hey.”
She looks down at the folders in her hands and adjusts the coat on her arm. “Thank you for what you did in there, Drew. It was really decent of you.”
I know what I said the other day—that I was finished with her. I didn’t mean it. I was talking out of my ass, blowing off some sexually frustrated steam. You know that. Think Kate knows? Think she gives a damn?
“I have to do the decent thing once in a while. Just to keep you on your toes.” I give her a small smile that she doesn’t return.
And she still hasn’t f**king looked at me. What’s wrong with her? My heart begins to hammer in my chest as I run through all the possibilities. Is she sick? Did something happen to her mother? Was she mugged on the frigging subway?
Kate walks into her office and closes the door, leaving me standing on the outside. This is where men got the shitty end of the stick, people. When God gave Eve that extra rib? He should have given us something extra too. Like mental telepathy.
I once heard my mother tell my father that she shouldn’t have to explain why she was pissed. That if he didn’t already know what he’d done wrong, then he wasn’t really sorry for it. What the f**k does that even mean? Newsflash, ladies: We can’t read your thoughts. And frankly, I’m not entirely sure I’d want to. The female mind is a scary place to be.