AUTHOR: Jennifer Blanchard (www.procrastinatingwriters.com)
TITLE: “In the Pouring Rain”
GENRE: short story (romance)
SYNOPSIS: What if you discovered your new girlfriend’s mom is a woman you not only dated in the past, but are actually still in love with her?
AUTHOR QUESTIONS/ISSUES (how you can help): Do the flashbacks work or do they make it hard to follow the story? Is the plot believable?
IN THE POURING RAIN
By Jennifer Blanchard
Adam Pratt stood in the entranceway of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Greene’s mansion, unable to move. Beth’s mom; the woman standing 50 feet in front of him; the woman he was supposedly meeting for the so-called first time, was, in fact, the woman he’s been in love with for more than a year now.
The night Adam first met Teresa Barnett, was the first night he had gotten up the guts to bring his band’s self-produced CD to a jazz club to see about playing a show there. When he walked into the club, the lights were dim, but he noticed her anyways. As she spun around from the bar, her curly, red hair brushed off her shoulders. Her deep, brown eyes caught the light and almost seemed to sparkle. She stood and made her way across the room. Adam couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She had the swagger and poise of a confident woman, and yet there was a hint of doubt written on her smile.
After he spoke with the club’s owner, he found a seat at the bar. There was no way he was leaving without trying to talk to her. He sat across the bar from her and ordered a drink. Every few seconds he took a sip of his drink, and as he did, his eyes drifted over to her. She wasn’t talking to anyone. Just sitting there, sipping her drink and taking in the scene. Adam couldn’t help, but think she’d been stood up on a date. Or was still waiting, hoping he’d show up.
Either way, he had to find out. He picked up his glass, drained it, then put it back on the bar. Taking a deep breath in, he stood up and walked toward her. He reminded himself on the way over that this could be a really bad idea.
“Hi there,” he said. “Can I borrow a quarter?”
She turned toward him, an odd look on her face. “What for?” she asked.
“Well, my mom told me to call her when I met the woman of my dreams.”
She looked at him with a straight face for a second and then reached into her clutch purse. “Why not just borrow my cell phone?”
Adam laughed. Finally, a woman on his level. He was impressed. “I’m Adam,” he said, extending his hand. “And I apologize for that lame line.”
“You look more like a Kevin then an Adam.”
Adam wasn’t sure whether she was being serious or not. “OK, well then you can go ahead and call me Kevin.”
“So, Kevin, do all young boys think it takes a line like that to get a woman to talk to you?”
“GQ says a good way to pick up a woman is to make her laugh. It’s nice to know all my goofing off in school might actually pay off for me someday,” he said.
“Well, you get an A for effort.”
“Can I buy you another?” he asked, pointing toward her empty high-ball glass.
“Vodka on the rocks, thanks, Kevin,” she said and smiled at him.
Adam signaled the bartender to pour another for both of them. “Are you going to tell me your name now? Or should I make one up for you too?”
She contemplated for a second. “Make one up.”
“OK, let’s see. There are so many choices…Beautiful would be a good one. But so would sexy. Which do you prefer?” Adam chuckled.
“You’re sweet, Kevin. You can call me whatever you like. My name’s Teresa.”
“Adam? Adam, are you OK?” Beth asked, walking back over to Adam from the other side of the entranceway. “Why are you just standing there? I want to introduce you to my mom.” She looped her arm through his and brought him face-to-face with Teresa.
“Adam?” Teresa said to him, and extended a nervous hand. “It’s so nice to meet you. My daughter talks about you all the time.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Mrs. Barnett,” Adam said, his mind reeling. He saw Beth give him an awkward glance.
“Did I tell you my mom’s last name was different than mine?”
Shit. How could Adam be so stupid? “You told me the other day that her last name was Barnett. Don’t you remember?”
Beth thought about it for a second. “I don’t remember. But obviously I must have.”
“And this is my husband, Robert,” Teresa said, interrupting Adam and Beth’s argument, and pointing to the grumpy-looking bald man sitting on the leather sectional watching Nancy Grace on CNN. Robert didn’t look up. “He’ll be joining us for dinner. He just has to watch the financial news. Why don’t we go into the dining room?”
As Adam followed Beth and Teresa down a long hallway, too many thoughts were racing through his mind. How did this happen? Did Teresa plan this? Is it all a coincidence? What the fuck was going on?
“Why are you being so quiet?” Beth asked him when they reached the dining room. “You’re usually so talkative.”
“I have a lot on my mind right now. There’s so much going on. With my band, I mean. I’m just a little distracted. Sorry.” Adam couldn’t believe how different Beth and Teresa looked. For a mother-daughter duo, it was almost uncanny. When Adam met Beth at one of his shows a couple months ago, the biggest part of her appeal initially was that she was the exact opposite of Teresa. She had long, straight dark-brown hair and baby-blue eyes.
“That’s OK. I’m just glad you came to dinner tonight.”
“Let’s sit down,” Teresa said. “The cook will be in any minute with the first course.”
Teresa sat directly across from Adam at the long, cherry wood dining room table. Beth sat next to him. Adam felt trapped. Why did Teresa have to sit across from him? Didn’t she know how torturous it would be for him to look at her all night? Or did she know and not care? Robert sat at the head of the table, two seats away from Adam, talking on his cell phone while everyone ate the first course.
“Mom, what did you do to your arm?” Beth asked while taking a bite of the baby spinach and gorgonzola salad the cook prepared. She pointed to the deep-purple bruise on the upper-part of Teresa’s left arm.
“Oh, that? I…um bumped it last night.” She gave a quick glance at Adam, who looked down at his plate. “I’m such a klutz. I got up to use the bathroom in the dark and whacked it.”
Adam reached across the table for the wine bottle and poured himself a glass. He couldn’t sit here and listen to this nonsense and not be drunk. He took a long chug of his Merlot and closed his eyes as he did.
Teresa used to park her Mercedes across the street and wait for Adam to signal her from the window of his second-floor apartment. She never called to say she was coming over, just showed up and hoped he’d be around. He usually was. Especially once he knew her schedule a little better.
He always met her at the door, rather than buzzing her up. It was hard for him to wait to see her once he knew she was there.
“I’ve missed you Kevin. It’s been too many days since the last time,” she said, walking into his building and following him up the stairs.
“It has been too many days. I never get tired of seeing you, beautiful.”
Once they were safely inside his apartment, he wrapped his arms around her tightly and squeezed. Holding her was such a satisfying feeling. He had become protective of her, almost to the point of jealousy, but not quite.
“I’m so happy to see you,” she said, and looked into his eyes. “Seeing you makes my life better.”
Hearing those words made Adam unable to control himself. He kissed her with the passion of a Marine who just came back from a year overseas. It felt like that long every time she was gone. He ran his hands all over her body as he kissed her. Wanting more, but being content with the moment.
“Ouch…” Teresa said and backed away from him.
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
He noticed she was softly rubbing her upper-arm and looking away from him. “What’s going on? Tell me the truth.”
“It’s nothing. No big deal. Seriously.”
Adam didn’t buy it. He took her arm and raised her sleeve until he saw it—a large, deep-purple bruise. “What the fuck happened?”
“I bumped it last night and when you rubbed against it, it hurt. That’s all.” She looked away again.
“Did your husband do this to you? Did he?”
“He didn’t mean it. He was just angry and he grabbed my arm a little too hard.” She moved in close to Adam and tried to kiss him again. He pushed her away.
“How often does this happen? Tell me.”
“I don’t know, every so often. But he doesn’t mean it. He’s just an angry guy. He’s stressed from his job and from traveling all the time. And he doesn’t get a lot of sleep.”
Adam looked at Teresa and pitied her. Such a beautiful, beautiful woman—inside and out—and yet here she was defending someone who wronged her. “Teresa, this is not OK. How long has this been going on?”
She walked away from him and sat on the couch. He could see tears in her eyes. He didn’t want to pry, but he cared about her. Adam walked over and knelt in front of her on the couch. “I want you to know that you are not alone. If you ever want to talk about this, just know I’m here to listen.”
She started to cry. “Kevin, you are so amazing and I can’t thank you enough for being understanding and sweet. I don’t know how I’d survive without you in my life.”
Adam had finished half the bottle of wine by the time the cook placed the next course in front of him—lasagna with greens, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and a sweet basil sauce. Although the food smelled out-of-this-world, he had no appetite. Seeing that fresh bruise took away his hunger.
“So Adam, tell my mom all about your band,” Beth said, taking a bite of her lasagna. “She loves jazz music. I’m going to bring her to your next show.”
Adam darted his eyes at Teresa. She was staring at Beth, her face taut with anxiety. He could sense how uncomfortable she was with the whole situation. He just hoped that Beth didn’t sense it.
When they were seeing each other, Teresa never told him she had a daughter. Everything about her marriage and family was pretty much an off-limit topic. Adam hadn’t minded. He didn’t want to hear about her husband and her life with him. He tried to put the fact that she was married out of his head whenever they were together.
“I hear you’re very talented, Adam,” she said after a short pause. “Very talented indeed.”
“I aim to please,” he said, looking directly at her. Teresa blushed slightly. She was so different from all the girls he dated in the past. She was smart, sophisticated and easy to talk to. Plus she turned him on in ways that girls his age just couldn’t.
During the main course, Robert hung up the phone and started to eat. He ate bite-after-bite, never putting down his fork or taking a minute to breathe.
“Dad, don’t eat so quickly. It’s not good for your indigestion,” Beth said, passing Robert a glass of water.
“Beth, don’t tell your father what to do.”
“Was Beth talking to you?” Robert said, glaring at Teresa. His voice was deep and gruff. And each word cut Adam like a knife.
“I just don’t want her interrupting you while you eat…”
“If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it. Mind your own business. This is a conversation between me and Beth. Not you, me and Beth. Got it?”
“Got it,” Teresa said and took another small bite of her lasagna, not daring to look Adam in the eyes.
Adam held his wine glass so tight it almost shattered. What an asshole. How could he treat someone like that? Especially his wife. He reached for the wine bottle, filled his glass to the brim and drank it down. Although feeding his anger with wine wasn’t the answer, Adam knew it was the only way he’d manage to stay quiet until he could finally leave.
By the time they finished their dinner, they had run out of wine, and Adam was seeing double.
“Hey Adam, will you please go get some dessert wine from the cellar?” Beth asked.
“Sure, if you can tell me where it is.” Adam stood and walked toward Beth’s voice in the kitchen.
“I’ll go with you,” Teresa piped in. “You’ll never find it down there.”
“Well if you’re going to go, then you don’t need me.”
“I wanted to bring a case of it up for the wine fridge. Cases are very heavy and I don’t want to hurt my back.”He looked over and saw her wink at him. Even though it had been almost six months since he last saw her, he still loved her. He still wanted her more than anything.
Beth went back to the dining room and Adam followed Teresa down to the cellar. When they were far enough away, Teresa stopped and turned to Adam.
“I bet you think I knew about this all along, don’t you?” she asked, her brown eyes looking deeply into his.
“I don’t know what I think right now,” he said, a slight anger in his voice. “I’m just wondering if it’s coincidence, or if you had something to do with it.”
“You think I would intentionally have this happen?”
“I don’t know,” he said and moved away from her.
“I swear I didn’t know. When Beth talked about you, I never even made the connection that her ‘Adam’ was my ‘Kevin.’ Until I saw you standing in my entranceway today.” She moved in closer to him and tried to take his hand, but he stepped back again.
“This is the weirdest situation I’ve ever been in.”
“Why? Let’s see, you break things off with me, even though you and I both know you didn’t want to. And then I start to date again so I can try to get over you, and the girl I pick turns out to be your daughter. Seems to be a little more than an accident.” He ran his hand through his hair and took a deep breath.
“Maybe it’s fate.”
“And maybe you’ve seen one too many movies.”
Teresa turned away and continued walking in the direction of the dessert wine.
“Teresa, I’m sorry. I’m not trying to hurt you. If it is a coincidence or if you did have something to do with it, it all brings me back to the same thing: we should still be seeing each other. I know you still want to see me.” He stroked the side of her face lightly with the back of his hand. She closed her eyes and leaned into it. Then he brushed his thumb over her lips, leaned in and kissed her. She kissed him back. And they dropped to the floor, tearing at each other’s clothes, and falling into the moment.
During the peach cobbler, Adam couldn’t stop staring at Teresa. She looked beautiful; her hair was slightly messed and her cheeks were flush. Seeing her again brought back all his feelings; the alcohol wasn’t suppressing them like he had hoped. He wanted to be with her again, no matter what that meant for him and Beth.
“Mom, are you feeling alright?” Beth asked. “You look a little red.”
“I’m fine. Just a little warm in here is all.”
Beth looked like she was contemplating Teresa’s response for a second, and then said, “Adam, will you please hit the temperature button on the thermostat behind you so the AC goes on?”
Adam got up, bumping his knee on the chair as he did, and lowered the temperature until he heard the AC turn on. He worried the entire time that Beth knew what had just happened in the cellar.
Once everyone finished their dessert, Robert told Teresa to go pack his things for the trip he had in the morning. She left the room and he went back to watch TV. Adam needed to get out of there pronto, before he made a big mistake.
“Hey Beth, I’m not feeling very good right now. I drank too much. You think you could give me a ride home?” Adam had a song brewing in his mind. A song about loving someone and wanting someone so much you would do anything to see them, even if it meant waiting outside in the pouring rain just to get a glimpse of her face. He had to get home to work on it right now, even if that meant leaving his car behind and getting a ride.
“Sure, but what about your car?”
“I’ll have one of the guys drop me off to get it tomorrow.”
“Well I have class all day, but my mom will be here to buzz open the gate for you.”
On the drive home, Adam tried to hold his tongue, but couldn’t.
“So what’s up with your mom and dad? They don’t seem to get along very well.”
“No, they get along fine. My mom always feels the need to put her nose where it doesn’t belong. That’s what gets her in trouble,” Beth said, turning the car onto Adam’s street.
“That’s why he gets mad at her all the time, I mean. She doesn’t know when to quit. She doesn’t know when to butt out and leave things as they are.”
“Do you think she was being truthful about that bruise on her arm?” he asked, loosening up his seatbelt.
“Of course. Why would she lie?”
“You don’t think it’s even remotely possible that it could’ve been caused by something else?” Adam didn’t know how far he could push Beth, but he knew he wanted to try.
“Are you suggesting my dad did this to her? That he’s abusive?” Beth snapped back at him so suddenly it surprised him.
“I’m not suggesting anything. It was only a question.”
“My parents might not have the perfect marriage, but my dad would never hit my mom. Never.” She parked the car on the side of the road across from his apartment.
As Adam climbed out of the car and shut the door, his phone began to ring in his pocket. He glanced down at the caller ID. When he saw the “T” pop up on the screen, he shoved the phone back into his pocket.
“Sorry I brought it up. Thanks for the ride, Beth. I know it was out of your way to drop me off.”
“Do you want me to come up?” she asked and winked at him.
“Not tonight,” he said and noticed that Beth was disappointed. “I’m going right to sleep. I feel awful right now. Rain check?”
“Sure, sounds good. I’ll talk to you later.”
He watched Beth drive off and immediately pulled his phone back out to call Teresa. He let it ring until it went to her voicemail, then he hung up. He waited until he got up to his apartment, then he called her again. It rang five times, then went to her voicemail. This time, he held the phone up to his iPod stereo and played the chorus from, “I’ll Be There For You,” by the Rembrandts, into her mailbox. She called him back ten minutes later.
“Oh Kevin, you’re the sweetest, most amazing man I have ever known. You always know exactly what I need.”
“What I need right now is you,” he said, dead-pan. “And I know you need me too.”
“I can’t. Not after what happened tonight.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“You mean because of Beth? What about the wine cellar?” Adam tried to hold back the anger he was feeling, but it was difficult for him. He didn’t want to lose her again.
“That was a momentary lapse in judgment. A bad idea that shouldn’t be repeated.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Believe what you want; this is how it has to be.”
He could hear her sniffling on the other end. Why did she keep torturing them like this? “Teresa, I’m breaking up with Beth. I can’t see her anymore.”
“No, don’t! You can’t break up with her. She’ll be devastated.”
“I don’t care. I can’t continue to date her and think about you the whole time. It’s not right.”
“You were doing that anyways.”
Adam was taken aback for a second. Teresa really cuts to the chase. “If you must know, yes, I was rebounding with her, but now that I know she’s your daughter, it’s wrong. Rebounds are wrong anyhow, but it would be especially wrong in this case.” He began to pace back and forth.
“I have to go. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen.”
It had been a week since Adam broke things off with Beth. She didn’t seem nearly as devastated as Teresa predicted she’d be. He was happy for that. His heart was tied in knots right now. He had a beautiful, amazing woman who made life perfect, and he couldn’t have her. He couldn’t be with her, even though that’s all he could think about. It was all that he wanted.
Beth called him that morning and said she needed to pick up her iPod. He should’ve just dropped it off to her, but he felt bad about the whole situation, so he told her she could come get it. He had a feeling that might be a bad idea, but he still told her to come over.
He wasn’t expecting Beth until after three, but there was a knock on his door at a quarter ‘til. When he answered it, Teresa was standing on his front porch. She was wearing a little too much makeup for day time, and Adam could see right away why—she had a slight bruise along her cheekbone on the left-side of her face.
“What are you doing here? Beth is on her way over in like thirty minutes. You have to leave.” He tried to close the door, but she put her hand up and stopped him.
“I need you, Kevin. Please.”
Adam couldn’t resist Teresa. It didn’t matter that Beth was thirty minutes from showing up at his place. If Teresa wanted to see him, he was seeing her. No matter what the consequences might be. “Better make this quick,” he said.
He pulled Teresa into his apartment and was barely able to get the door closed before they were kissing each other over and over again. Every kiss seemed to take the pain away. Every kiss seemed to make the giant hole in his heart mend. She was like a drug. He was helpless.
“Stop, stop. You have to go. Right now,” Adam said and tried to push her toward the door. “Beth is going to be here soon.”
Teresa ignored him and continued kissing him—his lips, his neck, his shoulders. She could be very persistent.
“Teresa, I’m serious…” he trailed off. “Oh fuck it.” He kissed her again and began to slip her dress off of her, one arm at a time.
“Oh my God! Mom? Adam? What are you doing?”
Teresa and Adam both turned toward the doorway where Beth was standing. Her arms were folded across her chest and she had turned a light shade of pink. Adam realized he hadn’t closed the door all the way.
“I can’t believe what I’m seeing right now. This is why you dumped me, Adam? So you could sleep with my fucking mom?!”
“No, it wasn’t like that…” he started, but Beth cut him off.
“Please, spare me.”
Then all of a sudden, like a bolt of lightning, it seemed to hit her. Adam held his breath and waited for the explosion.
“So that’s how you knew her last name was Barnett! I knew I didn’t tell you she had a different last name then me. All along you were just using me to get to my mom. I was just a pawn in your sick and twisted game, wasn’t I?”
Adam didn’t know what to say.
“You sicken me.” Beth turned to walk out the door.
“Beth, wait a second,” Teresa said.
“You knew about this all along, didn’t you, mom? Didn’t you?!”
“Beth, it’s a complicated situation…”
“Yeah, complicated by the fact that you’re a two-timing slut.”
Teresa turned toward Adam. She looked like she’d been slapped in the face again.
“You know what, Beth, you sicken me,” Adam said, pushing past Teresa and staring Beth straight in the face.
“Excuse me?” she said. There was an anger in her eyes Adam had never seen before.
“That’s right. You sit around and pretend not to notice the way your father treats your mom. You act like it’s OK and you take his side. But you’re wrong. Your mom doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. She’s a good person. A beautiful person. And she deserves to be loved and cared for. Not abused and talked down to.”
“Adam, please…” Teresa grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away from Beth, but he shook her off.
“No, I’m tired of keeping quiet. I’m tired of watching the people in your life treat you poorly.” He turned back to Beth. “You’re her daughter. She’s your mom. You’re supposed to be on her side. But you’re not. You’re on his side.”
“I am on her side. Or I was, until I saw you undressing her.”
“Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m some angel. I’m not. I love your mother. I love her more than anything. I’ve loved her for the last year of my life and…”
“You’ve been using me all along, you asshole. I should’ve known.”
“When I met you, I was in a bad place, I’ll give you that. I was trying to get over your mom and it wasn’t happening. But I promise you, I had no idea you were her daughter. If I did, I wouldn’t have even gone near you. I’m not like that.”
“Please. Like I’m going to believe that.”
“Well what do you believe, Beth? That your parent’s marriage is perfect? That your father doesn’t give your mom the bruises that mysteriously show up on her body over and over again?”
Beth stops in her tracks and looks at Teresa. “Mom, is that true? Does dad hurt you?”
Teresa doesn’t speak for several minutes. “Yes, it’s true. It’s true that your father is abusive and it’s true that Kevin, I mean, Adam, has been my savior. He’s shown me more love in the last year than a person can ever expect to be shown over the course of a lifetime. I don’t know how to live without him.”
“But you’re cheating on my father. How could you do this?”
“I can’t explain my actions. I know that I’m wrong. Believe me, the guilt I’ve held inside all this time has not been easy.”
“I need some air,” Beth said and walked out of Adam’s apartment.
Teresa turned to Adam. “I have to go. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
He caressed her cheek. “It’s not your fault. You can’t help what your heart wants.”
She gave him a half-smile and walked out the door.
Later that night, Adam couldn’t sleep. He got out of bed to retrieve his guitar when he noticed headlights on the street. He peered out the window and saw a familiar sight: Teresa, sitting in her Mercedes, looking up at his window. He signaled to her and she turned off the car. Slowly, she opened the door and crossed the street to Adam’s apartment building. He met her at the door.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again,” he said.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever come here again, but I needed to tell you something.”
He looked deep into her eyes and saw that they might actually have a chance someday.
“We might say goodbye a thousand times,” she began, “but with me and you, goodbye means nothing at all. I just wanted to make sure you knew that.”