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Revenge: A Short-Short Story

by Emily Josephine


Copyright 2017 by Emily Josephine. All rights reserved. No kind of copying this story allowed.


DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Except for the fact that the main character is a lot like the author, none of the characters nor the story are intended to resemble anything that has happened in real life. Any such resemblance is pure coincidence. I can’t help it that there are plenty of real-life Danielles in the world.


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Revenge

“So, you’re visiting your cousin, is that right?”

My gaze shifts from where my children are playing in the shallow part of the pool a few yards away toward the woman who has just spoken to me. By her perfectly styled hair and carefully made up face, I guess that she has no plans to go swimming.

I smile politely at her as I push myself up in the lounge chair. “That’s right.”

“So then, what does that make Marilyn? Your cousin-in-law?” The woman’s high-pitched twitter grates against my nerves.

“Hi, I’m Rose, Joe’s cousin.” I extend my hand, though the last thing I want is to encourage her to stay. I’m only sitting out here as part of Marilyn’s mid-summer pool party because the alternative would have been to sit around and watch the clock move as fast as cement dries in a bog.

Well, and because Marilyn invited me. It would have been rude of her not to, seeing as how I and my kids have been staying in her and Joe’s suburban Chicago home for the past month. It would have been just as rude for me to have said no. But I’ve been sitting out here for fifteen minutes, and I don’t think the time is passing any more quickly outside than it would have inside.

At least the kids have something to do while they’re waiting for their daddy to come for us. Even though they are the only kids here, they seem to be having a grand time.

The woman accepts my handshake with a loose, manicured grip and condescending look. I’m sure she thinks I must be beneath her, what with my shoulder-length brunette hair in a sloppy ponytail, and no make up on. Not to mention not a smidgen of nail polish.

“Danielle Pointer,” she says. The slight, warm breeze that brushes past us doesn’t tease one strand of her straight, blonde hair.

I hope this will be the end of our conversation, that she will saunter away and toward one of the three small groups of Marilyn’s friends dotting the perimeter of the pool. Instead, after releasing my hand she reaches over for the lounge that is a few feet away from mine and pulls it over next to me. Just before sitting, she glances up behind me, smiles, and waves.

“Hey, Melanie,” she calls out. “Come and meet Marilyn’s cousin-in-law.”

Again, that high-pitched twitter. I squeeze my eyes shut so I don’t roll them. Upon opening them, I twist my head around to see this Melanie coming toward us. Her smile is a lot more genuine than Danielle’s, and even though she is dressed in the latest summer fashion, her outfit – as well as her makeup – make a much more subdued and modest statement than those of Danielle.

I can’t help but smile back as Melanie approaches and perches on the edge of the lounge next to Danielle. Again, I extend my hand. I expect Miss America to introduce us as Melanie takes my hand, but instead her eyes pop open and her jaw drops.

She is staring at my armpit.

Next, her eyes narrow. “Been awhile since you shaved, hasn’t it?”

“Danny.” Melanie speaks her friend’s apparent nickname through clenched teeth.

“It’s okay,” I reply, feeling an instant connection with this new woman. I raise my arm to show my armpit hair in all its glory. “I don’t remove any hair from my body. My husband likes me au natural.”

At that, both women glance down at my legs. I have to bite my lip to keep from laughing, to keep from remarking that they probably would never have noticed the hair on my legs if I hadn’t said anything.

At that moment, another woman, this one dressed in a bikini and cover-up, walks over in a pair of flip-flops. She looks to be a little older than the other two, probably around thirty, like me. She is also a little bulkier. Danielle is on her feet in an instant, grabbing the new lady by the arm and whispering in her ear. The new lady looks at me with a raised eyebrow, but says nothing.

This time, Danielle remembers her manners. Sort of. When she speaks, her tone is like that of the spider that invited the fly into his parlor. “Bev, this is Rose. Rose, Bev.”

Bev doesn’t offer her hand, just gives me a tight smile and a nod. I expect her to walk away, but when she turns it is to grab a plastic lawn chair and sit down. Her smile fades quickly, and I can’t tell if she’s just shy, or if she’s more condescending and judgmental than Danielle.

“I guess you are all Marilyn’s friends?” I venture, thinking that things will get really interesting for my new acquaintances in a little bit. Assuming Tony doesn’t end up being late. Which he shouldn’t.

Melanie nods. “We all belong to the same country club.”

Ah. The country club to which Marilyn has invited me twice. I declined both times, first of all because, like my husband, I don’t like socializing with more than one or two people at a time unless I have to; second of all because I knew I would encounter more Danielles there.

“Are those your children?” Bev, nodding toward Diego and Natalia, surprises me with her question.

“Yes.” I glance their way just as Diego takes a small plastic bucket of water and dumps it over Natalia’s head.

“Mama!” Natalia shrieks, laughing at the same time.

“Diego,” I call out in a warning tone even while smiling.

“They adopted or something?” Danielle asks.

I shake my head as Melanie elbows her in the rib with a frown. “It’s a common mistake. They take after their father, mostly, in looks.”

Danielle raises her eyebrows. “Must be good-looking.”

Melanie elbows her again, and this time I let myself laugh. “I think so,” I reply. I learned several years ago not to be offended by the insensitive comments of younger women.

Melanie’s face relaxes and she sends me another of her authentic smiles. “What nationality is your husband?”

I smile back. “Spanish.”

Understanding dawns on each of the women’s faces. I have just explained the difference in skin tone and hair color between myself and my children. While I usually sport a Mediterranean coast tan, my children’s skin match my husband’s darker olive color. And they both have dark chocolate-brown hair.

But if any of them would bother to take a close look, they would see that Diego shares my blue eye color. A phenomenon that brings no end of comments when we are in Spain.

“They look awfully close in age,” Bev mumbles, but loud enough for me to hear.

“They’re fraternal twins,” I say. And, anticipating the next question, “Five years old.”

Danielle arches her brow. “Twins! How did you handle two babies at once?”

By her figure, I conclude that she has never birthed any children herself. “I would lay back on the couch with a pillow under each arm, and a baby on each breast. If they didn’t get enough, I would feed one breastmilk I bought from the hospital while my helper – a kind of nanny, I guess you would say – would feed the other.”

The shocked look on Danielle’s face tempts me to widen my smile, but I would hate to be rude.

“Oh,” is all she says.

The conversation takes an awkward pause, during which a warm gust blows over us, playing in Melanie’s hair and making Bev’s cover-up billow out like a balloon. My children’s laughing and screaming prevail over the light laughing and conversational tones of the other adults standing and lounging around the pool.

Bev breaks the silence with, “Breastmilk that you bought?”

I shift my gaze toward her. “The hospital keeps a supply of milk that other nursing mothers, who have excess, donate.” I leave it at that, allowing the ladies to do further research if they feel so inclined. Which they probably aren’t, by the grimaces on their faces.

I wonder what they would think if I told them their “nanny” had been their father?

Then a wicked thought pops into my head. A truthful thought, but one I know will make Danielle’s mouth open wide enough to let in a small rat. “It got easier after they were about eighteen months,” I say. “I could nurse only one at a time. Then Diego was finished breastfeeding by the time he was two, so that made it really easy.”

I am screaming with laughter inside at the expressions on Bev and Danielle’s faces, but my years of practicing a poker face makes it relatively easy to control myself.

Another long pause follows. Finally, Danielle says, “So, uh, how long did your little girl nurse?”

“Until she was three and a half.”

Danielle and Bev exchange a look. But Melanie says, “I’ve read that in most other places in the world, women breastfeed their children until they are two or three years old.”

“But that’s because they don’t have any baby food to give them!” Danielle protests, her voice suddenly loud.

Melanie shrugs. “From what I’ve read, researchers believe that children who are nursed into toddlerhood tend to be healthier.”

Bev leans over and glares at her. “What do you know about it?”

Melanie’s confidence falters. “I – well, Steve and I are trying to conceive, so I’ve been reading a lot about…pregnancy and childbirth and…everything.” Her voice trails off and she seems to shrink into herself.

I get the feeling that she is the outcast at the country club, which endears me to her even further. I reach over and pat her on the leg. “You’re smart to do that. Having and raising kids isn’t as easy and instinctive as people make you think.”

“Hmmph!” Bev mutters. “You can say that again.”

As she finishes her statement, someone at the other end of the pool turns on a portable radio they’ve brought out. A voice announcing the latest car deals blares out over Marilyn and Joe’s backyard, so loud that all of us in our little group start. I notice some of the women in the other cliques turn their heads with wide eyes. The radio volume is promptly lowered, and the conversations go back to normal.

If the particular conversation I am engaged in can be considered normal.

As if to prove my dubiousness over that point, Danielle asks, “So, Rose, do you ever wear makeup?”

Melanie sighs and shakes her head.

“Not unless I have to.” She is finally beginning to get on my last nerve. I am beginning to wonder if Marilyn invited all of these ladies because they are real friends, or if she would have been committing some faux pas by not inviting everyone she knew at the country club, like them or not.

That must be it, because I have known Marilyn for nine years – she’s really my best girlfriend, polar opposite from though she may be – and even though Joe is a bigshot Chicago lawyer, Danielle is definitely not the kind of person either Marilyn or Joe is generally drawn to.

Then I hear Danielle whisper to Bev, “She’s got a strange husband,” and my courage is renewed.

I lean toward the annoying blonde. “Are you married, Danielle?”

She turns away from Bev and toward me as the condescending smile returns to her face. “I haven’t found the right guy yet. The man I marry will have to have high standards, make a lot of money.” She says it in way that conveys her belief that my husband must be poor and have low standards. Melanie gasps and actually exclaims Danielle’s name aloud.

Feigning ignorance of Danielle’s insinuations, I ask, “So, describe your perfect man.”

Danielle turns to lean back against the lounge chair back, nearly pressing her feet against Melanie’s backside. “Drop-dead gorgeous, for one.” She looks at her fake red fingernails and flicks an imaginary piece of dirt out of one of them. “Muscular. Commands respect wherever he goes. Has a stable career that pays him good money.” She lifts her head and meets my gaze. “Has eyes only for me.”

Her own eyes fill with pain, communicating in a couple of seconds a lot more than she would ever voice to me, then she breaks eye contact. A pang of sympathy twinges in my gut. Hurting people hurt people, I once heard.

She blinks at her lap a couple of times, then lifts her head again. “So, what does your husband do for a living?”

I’m sure that’s the all-important question for this group, and the answers determine the pecking order for them. I wonder what career would be considered the lowest worthy of a country club membership. Dentist? C.O.O.? Silicon Valley retiree?

I can imagine vividly how Bev and Danielle would react if I told them my husband was a plumber or contractor. I have no idea how they’ll respond to the truth.

“He’s a musician,” I say, smiling again as I remember our wedding day when he sang a song he wrote especially for the occasion. My insides melt at the mere thought, and I have to resist a sudden temptation to check the phone for both the time and any missed messages. Or if I forgot to turn the phone on.

Bev and Danielle exchange a glance that I can’t read, but Melanie leans toward me and says, “Oh, that sounds exciting! Does he play in an orchestra? Is he a solo pianist?”

I shake my head as the other two women turn back to me with indifferent expressions. I have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, apparently. No decent country club wife would waste her time around the wife of a lowly musician.

I open my mouth to respond to Melanie, but then someone cranks up the radio again, to a volume that would wake up the neighbors at the end of the block if they were sleeping. Both Melanie’s and Danielle’s faces light up at once.

“Julio Estrella.” Danielle straightens up. “Now he’s hot.”

“And he can sing,” Melanie adds with appreciation.

Bev frowns. “Who on earth is Julio Estrella?”

She is definitely the eldest, no longer into the current pop scene.

Another breeze blows a tuft of hair into my eyes, and I swipe it back with my hand as I shift my gaze toward Bev. “He’s a pop star. Been big for the last decade or so.”

Bev lifts a shoulder. “My family was always into Country.”

Melanie, who has started to rock back and forth on the edge of the chair, says, “You never even heard his biggest hit ever? His ballad ‘You Are Always My Only’?”

Bev shakes her head.

“Came out about five years ago,” Melanie offers. “It has to be my favorite by him.” She shivers. “You can just feel how much he loves the woman when he sings.”

Taking a deep, slow breath, I slant a glance toward my children. They continue on with their game as if they can’t even hear the blasting sounds. Then I watch, amused, as Danielle stands up and starts swinging her hips to the beat, and Melanie sings along with the refrain. She actually has a pretty nice voice.

Three minutes later, the D.J. starts talking over the last strains of the song, the volume of the radio is turned down, and Danielle sits back down.

“I mean, the man is hot!” She fans herself with a hand. “And he’s not even married. Now that, I don’t get.”

Melanie slants a glance at her. “I’ve read rumors that he got married in secret a few years ago. To some American.” She lifts a shoulder. “But that’s probably all they are. Rumors.”

I want to ask Danielle why Julio Estrella is acceptable, but my musician husband is not, but she is starting to wear me out. And I’ll need some energy to corral the kids out of the water and into the mini-van once he shows up.

“I’ll tell you what’s hot.” An unfamiliar female voice right behind me makes me jump. “These nachos. Oh, sorry, honey,” the voice adds as I feel a pat on my shoulder. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

The woman comes around the lounge, and I find myself facing a tall, slightly overweight woman whose chocolate-colored brow is covered in beads of sweat. “Well, hello there.” She moves the plate of nachos so that it’s inches from my nose. “Have some.”

Like Melanie’s smile, the broad, white grin on this woman’s face is contagious, and I return it, even though I know I’m going to get flak for what I’m about to say. “No, thanks. I’m a vegan.”

“Huh! Figures.” Danielle makes no attempt to hide her contempt. “I suppose this strange husband of yours is a vegan, too?”

Melanie’s face turns red, and even Bev looks embarrassed by her friend’s exclamation. The black woman glances from one woman to another with a furrowed brow as she backs away from me.

I clear my throat. “Actually, yes. We met at a vegan festival.”

Danielle’s right eyebrow goes clear to the top of her head. “Well, it all makes sense now. Doesn’t shave, no makeup – “

“Danielle!” Melanie practically wails.

“Ten-dollar haircut,” the brazen woman continues over Melanie’s protest.

“I’m lost,” the newcomer says, handing Bev the dish of nachos.

A part of me wants very badly to tell Danielle that actually, most vegan women I’ve met do all the conventional beauty things, and some even wear expensive – albeit animal-free – clothing. But a larger part of me decides I can be patient and just wait for Tony to show up.

“So, your husband.” Melanie glares at Danielle, then turns to me with a softer expression. “Has he been off performing for a while? I think Marilyn mentioned you and your children have been here for a few weeks.”

“Nothing like a man who abandons his wife and children for money.” Danielle mutters the words, but I hear them loud and clear. That pang of sympathy I felt for her earlier? Totally gone.

“He took a year off when the twins came.” I’ve never had to work so desperately to keep my cool. “And now that they’re five, we’ve started touring with him. But Natalia came down with the flu right before this last trip, so we decided he should go on without us.”

We could have met up with him after a week or so, but I wanted to be sure neither Diego nor I was going to get sick afterwards. A decision I’ve been regretting off and on for the past month. Speaking to the man you love on the phone for a few minutes every night is nothing like having his presence in the house, watching him play with his children, feeling his arms holding onto you.

As if on cue, my phone rings. I start to pull it out of the purse laying beside me on the concrete when I notice almost every single person at the party has turned their heads toward me. I shift my gaze to Melanie. “Is there something I should know?”

She gives me an empathetic smile. “Marilyn told us all to leave our phones at home, in the car, or in her kitchen. She said she wanted us to socialize for real, not text and check Facebook.”

I cough to cover up the laugh that yanks out of my throat. I know exactly why Marilyn had everyone come out here without their phones, bless her! She will be receiving an extra-special gift this Christmas because of it.

My phone is on its fourth ring, and my heart starts to pound from fear that Tony will hang up before I answer. Not that I’m really worried about it; he would either leave a message or keep trying until I answered. Or call Marilyn’s landline. But I am desperate to hear him tell me that he is on his way.

Especially after getting acquainted with Queen Danielle.

My eyes slide over the caller I.D. for a millisecond and I eagerly press the button to talk. “Tony!”

Vengo,” he says in his native tongue. “I’m coming.”

I reply in the same language. “Thank God.”

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

I take a deep breath. I’m tired of hiding. It’s been more work than I bargained for. And I’ve finally gained the confidence to “come out of the closet”, so to speak. If nothing else good has come out of Marilyn’s party, it’s been Danielle increasing my confidence. “Yes, I’m sure,” I say. My heart trips in anticipation of his arrival. I have missed him so, as have the children.

Still speaking in Spanish, he says, “I’ll see you soon.”

Perhaps another half hour to forty-five minutes, based on the time he quoted me last night.

As I end the call, I see a few women in the distance still giving me the evil eye. Danielle, of course, is glaring at me as hard as anybody.

I shrug as I glance around the small group of new acquaintances. “Marilyn knew I’d need to take that call.”

Melanie leans over and pats my leg. “That’s no problem. Don’t worry about it.” She flicks a glance toward Danielle, then adds, “I’m sorry you haven’t had the best reception this afternoon.”

The nachos lady turns to Danielle with a frown. “You been giving our guest a hard time? What you been saying this time, girl?”

Danielle looks down at the tortilla chip in her hand as a pink hue spreads up her neck and into her face. But I don’t have time to get any satisfaction over her hang-dog look. In the next moment, the twins are clamoring out of the pool shrieking, “Papa! Papa!”

They are past the lounge that I am sitting in before I even have a chance to turn around. But a second after they fly past, I am on my feet and facing the backdoor of Marilyn’s house.

And my husband. Whose real name is Antonio Ramirez. But I’ll be tarred and feathered if I tell anybody present at this party the fact.

Behind him, next to the door looking menacing with their expressionless faces and bulky crossed arms, are his two bodyguards, Carlos and Jay. I wouldn’t think they’d be necessary at a small party like this where no one has so much as a phone on them, but Tony hates being mobbed.

My first thought is that he must have been getting out of the van and walking toward the front door when he called. My second thought is to wonder why I thought he was going to be close to another hour. But I quickly shake the thoughts away to watch the scene before me.

Tony pushes his sunglasses to the top of his head as Natalia and Diego bound to him and jump around him. I hear the expected gasps around me as Danielle exclaims softly, “Oh, my God! Julio Estrella!”

Someone else says, “It can’t be!”

All is silent for a moment, the only sound being the scraping of shoes and the flopping of flip-flops scampering up behind me.

Tony sweeps Natalia into his arms and whirls her around, as if he doesn’t have a growing group of women gathering and pointing at him with wide eyes and open mouths. He kisses her soundly on both cheeks, and I know I should move, but I can’t. Not right now.

I’m too busy falling in love with my husband all over again.

As he puts Natalia down and picks up Diego, the murmuring and whispering behind me resumes. Then, a hand touches my arm. “Rose, he is their father?”

It’s Melanie. I turn my head slightly, my face almost hurting from the smile on my face. “Yes.”

A pause while the whispering turns into low chatter, and I look back at Tony, amazed that this introvert seems not to care at all for the audience before him. Then again, he is used to performing.

“Rose, so he’s your…your husband?”

I nod.

A long pause. Then, in an awed whisper, “Is that really Julio Estrella?”

I turn back to her. “Yep.”

“Then, where’s the paparazzi?” This time, it’s Danielle who speaks. Her wide eyes are fixed on Tony, but she moves as close to me as she can without stepping on Melanie’s left foot.

I give her a sly smile. Although I want to tell her that the paparazzi can be fooled with a little ingenuity and a good deal of money, I’m not going to risk that comment getting around and motivating the tabloid reporters to redouble their efforts to figure out where Tony lives. Although, obviously after today, word will spread like wildfire that he is married and has two kids. Oh, all the broken hearts the news will cause!

“They’re probably in front of the house,” the black woman – whose name I might never know – whispers.

I shake my head. “They can’t know the flight schedule of every single superstar.” I know I’m nasty, putting emphasis on that last word.

I shift my gaze back to my husband, sensing that his greeting with the children is almost over, and take a step forward. I see movement from the corner of my left eye, and hear someone clearing her throat. I look at Marilyn, standing four feet away with her arms crossed, and she winks at me. I smile and mouth, “Thank you.” I wonder if she knows I’m talking about the phones; if not, I’ll text her in a few minutes.

Tony squats down to listen to Natalia’s excited chatter about their visit to Chicago, and another hand settles on my arm. This one grips. I know to whom it belongs before looking behind me.

“You know I didn’t mean what I said.” Danielle’s breath is annoyingly hot in my ear. “I was just giving you a hard time.”

I grin at her, not believing a word of it, but not caring one iota about her duplicity. “Forgiven.”

At the same time I speak the word, two things happen. First, I hear Marilyn call to the twins, “Come here, you guys. Your daddy wants to say hello to your mommy.” Then, as I hear the pattering of bare feet against concrete coming toward us, everyone else goes silent again. Danielle releases her grip.

I turn back to face Tony, who is now standing and facing me with that beautiful, sexy smile of his. My heart melts.

He opens his arms and begins moving toward me. “Ven, bellísima.”

Bellísima. That means ‘very beautiful’,” Melanie says in a stage whisper, probably for the Queen’s sake, as I jog into his arms. Melanie doesn’t know it, but she’s just earned herself front-row tickets and backstage passes for the next time Tony – Julio – performs anywhere within three hours of Chicago.

My husband’s arms wrap around me in a fierce embrace, pulling me against his solid body. “I missed you so much,” he says in English. For the sake of his audience? I’ll have to ask him later. He usually speaks words of affection in Spanish. Mainly because I want him to, because I like the sound of the Spanish language rolling off my husband’s tongue.

“I missed you, too.” I don’t realize how much I’ve missed him, until tears fill my eyes.

After a long moment that is really much shorter than I want it to be, Tony loosens his hold on me and pushes me back so there is just enough space for him to bend his head down and place his lips over mine. Then, he gives me as passionate a kiss as he ever has during our six years of marriage, sending jolts of electricity down my spine that shoot out into the rest of my body. I press myself against him as his arms grow tighter around me, oblivious to our audience.

When we finally release each other, I adjust the angle at which I am standing just enough to glance at Danielle.

She looks like a little girl who has just lost her favorite doll.

I’m not a vengeful person, and I have had no thought of revenge. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord,” right? Far be it from me to play God. But this time, revenge apparently just kind of happened accidentally right now.

And, yeah, it’s true what they say about revenge. It is so sweet!

THE END


Dear Reader,

Would you like to know how Rose and Tony met? Why they kept their marriage a secret for so long? Then don’t miss the full-length novel that tells all, Tony’s Rose. It’s a sweet, clean romance that will sometimes make you laugh, sometimes cry.

Currently, that novel is only available at the largest online bookseller. In the search bar at that store, type in “Tony’s Rose by Emily Josephine” and you will find it.

What about more short stories like this one, with delightfully surprising endings? You can get five more when you sign up to my e-mail list at http://emilyjosephinewrites.com. I’ll never use that list to sell you anything except my own books. Mostly, I’ll use it to send you blog updates, which include promos for my various books.

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Thank you, and many blessings to you,

Emily Josephine










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