I got slowly out of the car, grabbing my cane from beside the seat. Mom was already heading my way, looking surprised .
"Cindy," she said and patted my arm. "I didn't think you would come to the family gathering this year."
"And miss all this fine food?" I said with a bright smile. I turned, looking for my sister Mary's husband. Art sat sprawled on a lawn chair, his buddies close by. He looked my way and grinned with the same smile he had after he accidentally tripped me on Mom's steps last year, and at the same time grabbed hold of my dress. The dress had torn apart and I had landed on my knee on the sidewalk. While mom had run to get me something to wear, Art had just grinned at my anger. "Ah, come on Cin. You aren't going to be mad about this, are you?"
I had thrown on the dress mom gave me and drove away. It wasn't until I was home, almost an hour later, that I realized I couldn't get out of the car. The knee was thoroughly messed up, but at least I was out of the brace now.
We were having the family gathering at Mary and Art's house this year, which was my grandparent's old place. The house was big and respectable, with a huge yard. Mary had kept up the flowers and she and Mom had painted the shutters last week and cleaned things up. It looked okay, really.
Another car pulled in and parked behind Art's truck. Mom frowned. "Who could that be?"
"That would be my date."
Mom looked my way with her eyes wide -- I do not date -- and then back to the car as the door came open.
Garret Brown stepped out.
Six years ago, he had been Mary's best friend and we all thought they had a future together. But then Garret's family moved away just before his last year in high school. I had run into him just a week ago in a town a few miles north of here. He'd asked me about Mary.
We'd made plans.
"Oh my," mom whispered.
I looked around. Mary was standing at the grill, working. She'd seen Garret, though and froze in shock. I turned to Art who was red-faced now, glaring at Garret before he turned back to Mary. My sister had already, wisely, turned back to the food.
The scene was set. While Art blustered around, ordering Mary to get more beer and food for him and his buds, Garret and I worked our way around the rest of the family. Eventually Garret wandered off on his own and not half an hour later I saw him sitting with Art and the buds, drinking some beer.
Art liked to boast, and having a rival for Mary here, along with at least a six pack of beer in him, brought out the worst in the fool. I left Garret to him and went back into the house with mom and Mary to help get dessert ready to go out.
"Mary, are you happy with Art?" I asked.
She looked at me, started to say something -- and then burst into tears.
"Yeah, that's what I thought."
I took a jug of orange juice out. Garret glanced my way and I gave him a lift of my chin. He had barely glanced my way, but I knew he got the message. A few minutes later, after Mary came out and began cutting cake for the kids, he went inside to use the bathroom. He was back out sitting with Art by the time she brought the cake and more beer to them. He didn't even say thank you, and she stepped away looking so distraught I feared Art would notice.
I took hold of her arm and pulled her back to the table. "Things are going to pop soon," I said softly. "You and mom keep the kids back. I don't think there will be much trouble, but just be safe."
"Cindy?" Mary said, looking worried.
". . . And we hauled ass out of there!" Art roared with laughter. "But we had us enough beer to drink for a month!"
"He really should have asked what Garret was doing back in the area," I said with a grin. "He went to work for his Uncle Mark."
"Oh. Oh," Mary said, and her eyes went wide.
And she grinned.
The police cars were already pulling into the driveway. Art looked like he thought about running for it -- but Garret had blocked in his truck. Garret stood up and pulled out his badge.
"You are stupid son-of-a-bitch, you know that right?" Garret said. When Art started to swing on him, Garret just knocked him down, pulled cuffs from inside his jacket, and had him trussed up in a couple seconds. The other cops took care of Art's friends. Garret apologized to everyone -- but my cousins and uncles came to shake his hand. My aunts were already telling Mary never to take up with someone so stupid again. From the way she watched her knight in shining armor, I didn't think that would be a problem.
We all sat back and watched as they dragged his sorry ass off, along with his friends. We finished the picnic, everyone in a better mood. The police were already searching the house, so Mary gathered a few things and went to stay with Mom.
I went to Art's preliminary hearing. They had so many charges -- since one of his buds turned on him -- that it took 45 minutes just to read them all. The attorney said they weren't even sure where to begin.
As they took him away, Art turned and glared at me. "Bitch," he said, his voice low and angry.
"Ah, come on Artie. You aren't going to be mad about this, are you?"
They dragged him off.
Yeah, revenge is sweet.
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