Mea Culpa: Guilt (Short Story Book 2)

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Monica, as usual, did most of the expressing but I did manage to squeak out a concurrence. MJ assured us her mother knew, and approved, of her plans. Not wanting to be late for the rave, she soon arose to leave. As she was saying her farewell, first Monica, then Tristan, followed by our middle daughter Christiana, and finally Don, stood and gave her a good-by hug. When it was my turn, I sat in the chair with Ariana in my lap. I could have set Ariana down and gone over to MJ and hugged her. Instead, I remained seated, clinging to my little excuse for not getting up and embracing my oldest daughter.

After the briefest of glances at me and Ariana, MJ, expressionless, turned and walked out. I knew, even as the door was closing, that I should have gotten out of my chair and hugged her. On page 72 of the Urban Dictionary , one can find a term for this craven cowering. It is: cowardly fuck. Since then I have made a number of apologies and overtures, through phone calls, letters, cards, or social media, to MJ in attempts to re-start our relationship. Some were ignored and others were well received. In , my relationship with MJ had progressed to the point she accepted an invitation to visit with me, Monica, Christiana, and Ariana over Thanksgiving weekend.

Tristan was on his own trying to make it as an actor in California.

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After Thanksgiving supper with her mother, step-father, and other family members, she and her son who I will refer to as A drove north to our house in Tawas City. They arrived so late we were getting anxious. I had been thinking she must have changed her mind about the visit. With relief at their safe arrival, we greeted them warmly and hugs, this time including me and MJ, were shared all around.

With travel bags in hand, we took them to the bedroom upstairs where they would be staying the next few days. This area would provide them with the most space and privacy. Monica and I have been living in our current house for fourteen years. All of those years have seen, at any given time, one or more areas undergoing construction or refurbishment. We had straightened up in the bedroom and set all those tools and materials off to the side.

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In an attempt to make it presentable, I had spent three hours earlier in the day cleaning, with limited success, the upstairs bathroom. There is only so much one can do with a bath tub, sink and vanity, light fixture, and toilet when all of them are over fifty years old.

The toilet—a porcelain hell-hole infested with swirling virulent rust stains impervious to any cleaning agent ever devised—was particularly bad. The accommodations were, in short, less than desirable. We left her to get settled in and went downstairs. When she and A joined us in the living room a little later, we started making plans for one of our annual Peach family Thanksgiving traditions.


For a five-dollar permit, one can go into designated areas and cut down a pine tree for Christmas. I offered to purchase them. The evening seemed to go well with all of us in the living room. At several points in the evening, MJ went outside to smoke a cigarette or talk to her mother on the phone.

After A went to bed, MJ, who was being treated by her physician for heroin addiction with a prescription for suboxone, asked if I would mind if she took her medication in the living room because her preferred method of ingesting the pill was to chop it into a fine powder and snort it. She found this to be more effective for her. It also happened to be the way she had been doing heroin. It was easier to do this in the living room rather than the bathroom and she wanted to know if it would be too upsetting for us. As a recovering addict and alcoholic with my own addiction issues, it was not something I wanted to see but I wanted to be supportive of her efforts to fight her addiction.

With reluctance, I nodded my approval. She took a prescription bottle from her purse, extracted a white pill, then took her time fine-hewing it to a medicated talcum.

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She made the white powder disappear with brio inhalations for each nostril then put the half-full plastic container with child-proof lid and warning labels in her purse. While in there, she grabbed her pack of cigarettes and lighter and went outside for a smoke. I stayed in my rocking chair wondering if she had just struck a blow for liberation from an insidious habit or merely swapped one addiction for another; in either case, I realized the prescription bottle was actually half-empty. Later, MJ informed me suboxone, at that time, was orange and there were no generics so it was probably Vicodin she had chopped and snorted as she was still using and had brought some with her for the visit.

I took a seat as my wife and three daughters hunted the store for bargains of which there were many to be found. One such bargain MJ discovered was a colorful two-piece swim suit. MJ was modest and wanted me to stay where I was; Monica gave her approval and MJ kept the swim suit for purchase.

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MJ was in line right behind me and, as the insulated mukluks were being rung up, she moved forward and to my left and tossed the swim suit on to the counter next to the boots. I finished paying for the boots. I left to find A to give him the boots and help put them on. MJ moved into my vacated place and paid for the swim suit. We exited the vehicle.

A and his aunts were excited and wanted to immediately run off into the woods but we admonished them to wait for their more sedate elders so that we could stay together as we searched for the perfect tree. Declaring she would fine, MJ had declined our offers for warmer outerwear, long underwear, or boots but soon found it was colder in the woods than in town and that tennis shoes, jeans, and a thin suede coat with artificial shearling lining, along with apprehension about coyotes and bears, would soon leave her shivering.

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In the process of doing this, A discovered, to his immense delight, a deer skull. His mother was less than pleased but graciously gave permission for him to keep the treasure. Perfect is a relative term for wild, national forest pine trees: in this case it meant, as is typical, scraggly and misshapen. A assisted me with attaching the permit to the trunk, felling the Charlie Brown Special, and dragging it out of the woods.

I tied it to the luggage rack on the roof of the car while the rest of the group warmed up in the car.

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Before I could bring the tree into the house, I had to saw a good eight inches off the trunk as the chosen Tannenbaum was, as usual, too tall for the living room ceiling. Monica had already prepared the area in front of the picture windows where we always place the tree. A and I brought it in and put it in the tree stand. With feedback from the female observers, we secured the four fasteners in the stand to the trunk so that it stood as straight as could be for such an unprepossessing pine. Monica, it must be understood, is passionately in love with Christmas and that is why the Christmas tree and Christmas Village must be displayed as soon as possible after Thanksgiving.

She will already have purchased most of the Christmas presents for immediate and extended family members and friends. The largest, they claim, Christmas store in the world. We hung our own ornaments and I believe MJ was touched that Monica had been doing this for her.

At some point in the evening, it may have been during the tree decorating, MJ left to call her mother. By the time the phone call was finished, it had been decided she and A would not be staying with us for a second night as originally planned. MJ came back to the living room and explained she was feeling uncomfortable, in fact overwhelmed, with our family. Her mother had offered to put them up in a nearby motel because it was already late in the evening and MJ was too tired from a full, taxing day to drive the three hours to her home. She had accepted the offer. We were disappointed and asked if there was something that could be done, what could we change, to make her more comfortable so that she could stay another night.

She told us there was nothing we could do, that she needed her own space. She and A packed quickly but before leaving, we set a time for her to come back in the morning for the previously discussed blueberry pancake breakfast I had been planning to make for all of us. I think she agreed because A was keen for the pancakes. She and A arrived late for breakfast the next morning.