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The Homewreckers
Author: Mary Kay Andrews



A Dark and Stormy Night

The wind howled and shrieked and the waves slapped angrily against the seawall, huge, looming masses of clouds all but blotting out the pale yellow crescent moon. Rain was blowing in now too, razor-sharp shards slashing at her bare legs.

“It was a dark and stormy night.” She picked her way down the concrete abutment. Funny but not so funny. She’d told the girls in her advanced placement English class that it was a cliché. Yet here she was, a living, breathing cliché, in more ways than one.

The last time. That’s what she’d told herself nearly an hour ago as she slipped out of the house without a backward glance.

In the confessional that week—the first time she’d gone to confession in years and years—she’d promised Father she would put an end to this madness.

“It’s adultery. You know that,” he’d said, sharply. “And you know this has to stop.”

Her face still burned with the shame of his words. She’d wept and promised to end the affair. To be the kind of woman everyone believed her to be; her family, her friends, and yes, all those impressionable girls who looked up to her, adored her as “the cool teacher.”

She’d been so careful. Never a hint to anyone. No one could know. She’d stressed that to him a hundred times. There was so much at stake. They had taken every precaution. And yet …

Her wet hair whipped around her face. She’d look like a drowned rat by the time she got there. But she knew he wouldn’t care. Within a minute of her arrival, he’d be tearing at her clothes with a ferocity that both amused and terrified her.

But tonight would be different, she promised herself. Tonight was goodbye.

Up ahead, two hundred feet away, she spotted the flickering light in the dockhouse, the only light on the storm-blackened horizon. All the beach houses along here were vacant this time of year, silently waiting for their absentee owners to return again in the spring. Distracted, she stumbled on a deep crack in the concrete and nearly pitched sideways into the waves, but somehow managed to right herself. Her breath was coming in hoarse gasps, her heart pounding in her chest as she stopped to regain her bearings.

And what if she had fallen? What then? Cruel irony, right? After the deal she’d cut with God? Make things right at home, quit dropping so many f-bombs, be nicer to her coworkers, cut her mom some slack, go back to church? To die on the way to a breakup with her lover, definitely smashed on the rocks, probably drowned, or worse, her bloody body chewed on by sharks? It would be the ultimate reverse God-wink. Like being flipped off by the universe.

Shake it off, she told herself, with a ragged laugh. Stop being such a drama queen. This last stretch of seawall was treacherous, battered by the last hurricane to slam against the coast. She stepped carefully onto the weedy embankment, her shoes slipping a bit on the wet grass. Ahead, the light was flashing off and on. Semaphore code. He’d taught himself from an old navy handbook he’d found somewhere, and he got off on signaling her all kinds of dirty phrases when he arrived early and knew she was approaching. She thought of it as his version of foreplay.

God, she was going to miss him. Miss the fun, the spontaneity, and yeah, the sheer excitement, the terror, the thrill of crossing the line and stepping outside the good-girl façade she’d spent a lifetime constructing. But not the sex. He actually wasn’t a skillful lover, but then it had never really been about that. Had it?

Just ahead she saw the familiar clump of oleander bushes that marked the boundary line of the property and jutted out onto the seawall. There was no going around that thicket. She ducked her head and reached up to push a branch out of her way. Her hand slipped and the branch whipped back, slapping her hard across the face. She screeched, more in surprise than pain, but the cry died in her throat as an arm clamped around her windpipe.

The last thing she saw, right before she blacked out, was the flashing light at the end of the dock spelling out a word. H-U-R-R-Y.




Do Drop-in


As she inched along on her back beneath the rotting foundation of the Tattnall Street house, Hattie Kavanaugh was already having second thoughts. About her insistence on inspecting the corroded cast-iron pipes herself, instead of taking her plumber’s word. About all the money Kavanaugh and Son had already sunk into this 157-year-old magnificent wreck. About not owning one of those wheeled things auto mechanics used—what were they called? Creepers? But mostly, she was having second thoughts about that second cup of coffee she’d gulped just before being summoned to the house they were restoring in Savannah’s historic district.

The call had come from one of their subs, reporting the unhappy news that scrap bandits had struck overnight, stealing the copper tubing from three brand-new air conditioning compressors. An eleven-thousand-dollar hit to their already wildly out-of-control construction budget. And now this.

“Uh, Hattie?” Ronnie Sewell, Hattie’s plumber, was lounging against the bumper of his pickup truck when she and Cassidy Pelletier, her best friend and construction foreman, arrived at the Tattnall Street house that steamy Saturday morning. “We got issues.”

She and Cass followed the plumber around to the rear of the house, where she found a freshly dug trench leading beneath the home’s brick foundation.

“I had a feeling something wasn’t right,” Ronnie said, pointing to the trench. “I decided to get under the house and take a look.”

Hattie swallowed hard. “Just tell me, Ronnie. What’s the problem?”

“The problem is, you got a hunnerd percent crappy old cast-iron pipes under there. And you know how it floods on this flat street, right? And it all drains to the back of this lot. Water’s been collecting under there for no telling how long. Well, it’s all ruint. Rusted, busted, ruint.”

“Oh God,” Hattie moaned. She eyed her plumbing contractor. He was in his late fifties and built like a fire hydrant, with a huge belly that lapped over his belt. “Are you sure? I mean, you went all the way under the house?”

Ronnie shrugged. “I got as far as I could go. It don’t take a rocket scientist.”

Without a word, Hattie walked away. When she returned, she was zipping herself into her own baggy white coveralls. She pulled a bandana from her pocket and tied it around her hair, then fastened plastic goggles over her face.

“What?” Ronnie said, his face reddening with indignation. “You calling me a liar? Hattie Kavanaugh, I been doing business with your father-in-law since before you were born.…”

“Calm down, Ronnie,” Hattie snapped. “I had this house inspected before we made an offer on it. Nobody said anything about bad pipes. I’m not calling you a liar, but I need to see it with my own eyes. Tug would tell you the same thing if he were here.”

“See for yourself then.” He turned and stalked off in the direction of his truck, muttering as he went. “Goddamn know-it-all girls.”

Cass bent down and peered at the trench beneath the foundation, at the pool of mud and brick rubble, then looked back at her friend. “For real? You’re crawling down into that swamp?”

“You wanna go instead?”

“Who, me? Oh hell, no.” Cass shuddered. “I don’t do mud.”

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