Word Count is 15,400! Yee Ha!
This is an introduction to Mac's ex-wife, Jo. The scene takes place at Mac's mother's Christmas party.
Mac laughs weakly before taking another drink and he can feel Jo’s eyes staying on him.
“What’s your story?” Jo asks.
Sally snorts a laugh.
“Jesus Christ you two,” Mac mutters. He glances over at the garbage and is relieved it needs to be emptied. “I’ll take this out back, Ma,” he says.
“Thanks,” Sally calls, heading back into the living room.
“I’ll go out for a cig with you,” Jo announces.
It makes Mac wonder what’s up. Over the years he and Jo had gotten along pretty well. After all, the marriage had only lasted two years, the divorce fourteen – they’d had a lot more practice being each other’s ex. It helped that they both loved Sheila so much. Mac had always held a job, always paid what he could for child support and with Jo’s apartment only a couple of blocks away – she’s made it easy for him to see his daughter, always talked about the important things with him. But this had a different feeling tonight. It made him look over her shoulder at her as he placed the bag in the barrel out back. He was looking for some kind of a cue, but her face was cast in the deep shadows of the back porch light.
Jo takes a pull from her cigarette, does a quick inspection of one of her long nails and says, “Are you okay there, Mac?”
He shrugs, “Fine.”
“That’s not like you at your mother’s party – hiding out in the kitchen,”
she observes, “You look a little blue.”
“Maybe,” he concedes. Mac couldn’t help but think of Ellen. She looked so beautiful tonight and he was stuck talking to her goofy sister. And then there was Charlie. It wasn’t enough the guy just rubbed him the wrong way, now he had to wonder whether he should tell Ellen what he had seen.
“About anything in particular?” Jo asks after Mac has grown quiet again.
He digs his hands into his pockets and stiffens against the cold. “Nah.”
“You bring a date?” she asks, taking another drag.
Mac shakes his head, “You?”
“Anthony couldn’t make it. He bartends on the weekend.”
“Still seein him? That’s good,” Mac says absently, although he thinks Anthony is a jerk.
“Well, you know…on and off. How ‘bout you? You gotta a girlfriend?”
“Look at you, twenty questions,” he bristles.
“A crush?” she adds.
Mac looks up at her quickly and Jo smiles wide.
“It is a crush!” she bubbles. “Who?”
“Nobody you’d know,” he replies kicking the snow piled by the back steps.
“Somebody from the neighborhood?”
Mac shakes his head.
“Work?” she asks.
Mac wonders where he left his beer. “I’m goin inside, I’m freezing.”
“No, come on now. I won’t ask anymore question. Just stand with me, I’m almost done,” she adds taking another massive drag. Jo blows the smoke straight up into the night air above her. Mingled with her icy breath, the effect draws Mac’s eye up to his porch on the second floor.
“Do you remember when we used to sneak up there after school?” she asks quietly, as if it’s still a secret. Her face is half-lit, but Mac can see her trademark smart-ass grin.
Mac hasn’t thought about it for quite a while, and it makes him laugh. “As if I could forget,” he says, going back to kicking the pile of snow. “That’s how we got Sheila.”
He looks up when Jo takes a step closer to him. “We were bad,” she says, smiling still, “And I wasn’t the only one. Teenage boy with a key to an empty apartment – you were quite a player – I heard all about it.”
The second floor had stood empty for three years after his grandmother died. A mattress and box spring had been left up there. A blanket and a six-pack had set the rest of the scene, and Jo was not lying. Mac had taken full advantage.
“Well then, I guess you’ll need no further detail from me,” he replies.
“Honest though – how many girls you bring up there?”
“Christ, Jo. I don’t kiss and tell.”
“Yeah,” she laughs, “but the girls did.”
Mac laughs, but he also feels a little embarrassed wondering who told.
“Sheila’s almost that exact age,” Jo says soberly. “What do ya think about that?”
“Why do you think I want to meet these guys?” Mac tosses back. “Don’t shit me kid,” he laughs, “I know what’s on your mind.”
Just as Mac and Jo begin to laugh at that one, they both hear a booming voice from the kitchen and then Tommy say, “Hey Neil! Long time no see.”
“Fuck,” Mac exhales.
Through the kitchen window, he can see Neil laughing and smiling shaking hands and slapping backs like the bullshit artist he has always been.
“He looks better,” Jo observes, finishing her cigarette.
“He looks better than when I found him passed out in his apartment last month, yeah.” Mac replies. He knows there is no way he can go back into the party with Neil there. In this mood and with this many drinks in him, the evening will end with his mother’s baby boy in an ambulance.
Mac looks up to his back porch again and checks for his keys in his pocket. Jo turns to him and asks, “You goin upstairs?”
Something about it…the way she says it…makes him think of old times. And even though it his place now, fully furnished with his things, Mac knows that tonight it will feel as empty as when he was in high school.
Mac steps closer to his ex-wife and says, “Wanna come up for a drink?”