The Kept Woman(8)

By: Susan Donovan

"You'll be able to paint again someday. I know you will."

Sam took a sip of wine and offered Monte a weak smile. "I'll start painting the day you get up onstage and belt one out like the old days."

Monte laughed. "Lord, that's not fair, and you know it! I couldn't squeeze into one of my stage dresses if my life depended on it."

"Then buy a few new ones."

"Hmmph. I think I'd be better off going to night school for my degree and maybe one day I can get off my feet."

The doorbell rang, and Sam pushed herself up off the couch and went to answer it, ushering in Kara along with a cold blast of wind. Monte watched the women hug briefly, and Sam draped Kara's expensive shawl-collared dress coat on one of the dinette chairs.

"Hey, Monte!"

Despite the friendly greeting, Monte could tell Kara wasn't pleased to find her there. Now she was certain something was up. She could smell it. There was no way she was leaving now. "Hey, Kara," she said. "We were having a glass of wine. Would you like to join us?"

Kara looked nervously around the room, like she was trying to make the decision to bolt or stay. "That would be nice," she said, just as Sam returned with an extra glass. Kara sat on the love seat and immediately let out a squeak and reached under her bottom.

"Sorry," Sam said, holding out her hand for the small plastic figure. "Seems you sat on Bob the Builder."

"Hope it was as good for Bob as it was for me," Kara commented drily, and everyone laughed.

"So what's up, Kara? Is there something wrong?" Sam leaned her elbows on her knees and stared at the new arrival, clearly as perplexed as Monte was.

Kara's eyes darted toward Monte, which prompted Sam to say, "Whatever we need to talk about, I'm sure Monte won't mind listening."

Kara chuckled and put her untouched wine on the coffee table. She brushed the sleeve of her suit jacket. "Well, it's a legal matter. A personal legal matter."

Sam and Monte snapped to attention.

"You suing Le Cirque?" Monte asked, appalled.

"What?" Sam gasped, just as Dale loped into the living room and jumped up on Kara's blended-wool pencil skirt.

"No! God, no! Are you kidding?" Kara laughed, placing the dog back on the floor without missing a beat. "Thanks to you, no one in this town knows I went gray at twenty-six. This has nothing to do with the salon. I love you guys."

Monte sat up even straighter. Wild dogs couldn't drag her ass out of there now. Hell no.

"I don't understand," Sam said, shaking her head.

"Diaper change me, Mommy, and don't forget to use the wipes."

Dakota had suddenly appeared in the living room. He stood next to the couch in only a T-shirt, which hit just above his little knob of a belly button. A heavy training diaper sagged from his hand, and his little baby parts dangled in the breeze.

Sam sighed. "Sweetie, if you'd use the big-boy potty, you wouldn't be uncomfortable every time you tinkled in your pull-ups."

"No. Nuh-uh. I don't like the big potty. Change me now." Dakota held out the soggy lump of plastic.

Monte shook her head, watching this familiar but futile exchange between mother and son. Dakota looked like a redheaded cherub, but he was a devil child when it came to his bodily functions, no doubt about it.

"How about we go on in and sit on the big potty just to see—"

"No, Mommy! No. No. No! Change me now! Use the wipes!"

Monte and Kara stared at each other with raised eyebrows, not saying a word, until Sam returned a few moments later and collapsed on the couch. She sighed deeply. "At this rate, he'll be wearing pull-ups when he goes up onstage to receive his diploma—and I'm talking the one from college."

Kara cleared her throat. "Speaking of college—"

"Oh my God!" Sam sat straight up and smacked her palms on her denim-covered knees. "Does this have something to do with Mitch? Did you come here to tell me they found him?"

"Oh, sweetie, no." Kara tilted her head and groaned. "Look, Sam. I have a proposition for you, an offer that could change your life and your kids' lives. It's a little off-the-wall, but I figure I can at least throw it out there for your consideration."

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