Sorry for the little break, but I hope you enjoyed my coverage of the Winter Olympics. I once again return you to the ongoing drama of Accountability.
The alarm screeched on the other side of Brandon. He didn’t bother to turn it off, but instead snorted out of his stale beer sleep and rolled away from where the alarm continued to yell for him to wake up. His arm flopped over smacking my face. It made it even harder for me to attempt to get back to sleep. I figured it was just better for me to get up and make breakfast for my new family. I picked up his hand by the thumb and threw it over to the other side of the bed. This just caused him to snort even more and let out a deafening belch smelling of Old Milwaukee and Jim Beam. The alarm continued to blare. I couldn’t understand why Brandon would set the alarm every night if he knew he was just going to sleep through it in the morning. It must have been a habit from the days when he had to get up and go to work. Shuffling to the other side of the bed and making sure it was turned off was becoming the first part of my morning routine. It was a little annoying, but I still needed to make sure the kids, Ben and Katie, were ready for school, so I had to get up anyway.
Life had been interesting ever since I had left the Mother Mall behind. Brandon had actually been a sweet man with only one flaw and that was his desire to drink on a nightly basis. At first, he thought we would have hot and heavy sex every night, but I was able to put him in his place quickly. I told him all about the need for respect in a relationship and if we went to sex right away, we would never be able to achieve a stronger level of love. He fell for it. My last moments at the Mother Mall had taught me about the power of my sexual prowess and how I was able to use it to control what I wanted from men. Brandon would do almost anything I asked him to as long as I flirted a little first and made him feel like he was making progress towards his ultimate goal in the bedroom. I was also able to quell his thirst for passion by being the greatest mother I knew I could be. I cooked him and his two children wonderful meals three times a day. I kept the house clean and comfortable. And most importantly I took care of his two children, a ten-year old boy named Ben and an eight-year old girl named Katie. So far, I was able to stop all of his advances, but things were getting more and more difficult because he was under the impression we had reached that level of respect I always talked about.
The family had gone through some hard times over the last year before I joined them. Brandon’s first wife was his high school sweetheart. They had met their freshmen year of high school in Mrs. Schapiro’s language arts classroom. Abby, his first wife, was really strong in this subject, and Brandon struggled his way through it, but it was this dynamic that brought them together. Mrs. Shapiro suggested that Abby tutor Brandon to help him through this difficult subject and it was during these sessions that Abby discovered the kind heart Brandon had. They started dating and a month after they graduated they got married. Ben and Katie soon followed. Abby was forced to drop out of college to take care of them and Brandon worked for a construction company to provide for his family. He didn’t make a lot of money but they were able to live a comfortable life in a trailer park in Thornton, Colorado. Abby was a good mother at the same time. She never scored exceptionally on her assessments, but she was proficient. It allowed her to fly underneath the radar so she was never sent away for re-education. But the whole time they knew each other, Abby held a secret from Brandon, she came from money.
Abby’s grandparents were wealthy individuals who made their money by purchasing a large number of properties in the seventies and the eighties and then reselling them in the nineties for over-inflated prices. They created a lot of corporations to spread out their wealth and Abby’s aunts and uncles took CEO jobs running these companies. Most of these corporations dealt with real estate loans, and capitalized on a business that they already knew a lot about. Abby’s father was the black sheep of the family. He chose a different path and did not wish to be a part of the family empire. He instead followed his passion and found a humble job as a social worker. This is where he met Abby’s mother. They fell madly in love and got married. They made a wonderful life together and Abby completed their love. Both of Abby’s parents taught her humility and to be happy with the good things in life: friends, nature, and family. Abby’s grandparents were appalled by this development, but willed fifty percent of their fortune to Abby upon their death. Abby never knew anything about this as she was growing up, but her aunts and uncles found out. Their jealousy pushed them to tell Abby about her grandparents’ intentions hoping she would have nothing to do with it as soon as she found out. They were right.
Without the knowledge of Brandon, she took a trip to Omaha, Nebraska where her grandparents lived. She wanted to confront them on the issue. Not a lot is known about what was said at their meeting, but the police report states they were in the kitchen when the real tragic incident occurred. George Sanders, an accountant who used to work for Abby’s grandparents was reported to have broken into their house and to have shot all of the people in the kitchen dead before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide. He had been the double victim of the grandparents’ greed. They had let him go from the company where he worked fifty years. Because of his longevity in the company, his salary had reached a point where the owners believed he was becoming a burden to the company’s bottom line. They believed they could be making more money instead with a younger and less-skilled work force. They explained this economic decision to George, gave him a Timex watch and an empty cardboard box for all his years of service. They then told him to collect all his personal belongings in the cardboard box. He did not take kindly to these changes.
This wasn’t the beginning of George Sanders’s woes. His salary, while working, wasn’t a lot to begin with and with his large house payments, the rise in gas prices, and the desire to eat, he wasn’t able to make ends meet. He was forced to do without some of the luxuries in life. First, the car was repossessed late at night one evening, and then his house was foreclosed on by the same corporation he used to work for. He was still able to find enough money to eat with his new profession, begging. He did not take kindly to these changes either.
As far as the police could understand, George Sanders was able to scrape together enough money to buy a gun on the black market. He knew where Abby’s grandparents lived because he had attended Christmas parties at their house in previous years. It was nestled out in the country in a place called Fort Calhoun, and he slowly worked his way there from downtown Omaha. Police, looking back at street cameras, figured it took him three days to make it the house. Unfortunately, this was the same day Abby decided to visit her grandparents to talk about her inclusion in their will. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Brandon was devastated. His love for his wife was intense and he couldn’t understand why anybody would want to kill somebody who was so kind and so loving. Some people say he had some consolation to the tragedy. Because Abby’s grandparents were unable to change their will before they were killed, fifty percent of their holdings still went to Abby or more specifically Abby’s heirs, Brandon and his children. They were rich beyond their wildest dreams, but all of that money did not console Brandon because he was missing the one person he held dearer than anything else in life. The money just made life a little easier for him and his children. Brandon no longer needed to work. He was able to move into a nicer house with beautiful furniture in a wonderful neighborhood. He didn’t belong there and didn’t know what to do with all of the extra time he now had. Some people thought he should concentrate all of his energy in raising his two children, but because of the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act, he never had any experience in this area. His area of expertise was providing for his family and he was now able to do that with all of the money he inherited. So he took up another hobby, one he had lots of experience with, drinking.
The children did not fare much better. They were left to their own devices to figure out how to deal with the death of their mother. Brandon was not much help because of his own psychological journey. The kids’ confusion also grew with the changes in environment. They were given more than they knew what to do with and were moved to a new school where they didn’t know any of the other children. They began to act up and at least once a week Brandon was called to the principal’s office to talk about one or both of the children. It was during the last visit the principal suggested to Brandon that Ben and Katie might do better if they had a mother in their lives. The new mother would be able to take care of them and he suggested that Brandon go to the Mother Mall.
Fate once again played a hand in Brandon’s life. He showed up to the Mother Mall on the same day I put on my demonstration. Even though he went there to find the best mother he could, he couldn’t resist the animal instincts lying dormant in him for so long. While I was in the hallway crippling Steven, a bidding war had started for the purchase of me. Brandon was not going to be outdone by anybody on the ground floor and eventually purchased me for one million dollars. I was able to leave the Mother Mall and a short time later, had married Brandon. This is how I found myself in this house, and this is how my name changed for the third time in one year. I was now Mrs. Rachael Britva.
When I first came to the house, I tried to make everybody as comfortable as I could. I took all of the learning obtained from the Capital Limited Re-education Center and used it to help this family out; however I soon realized that with everything they had been through, it would take a lot more than a good mother for them to work through their problems. I could help guide them through their struggles, but I couldn’t turn them around by the time of my first assessment. I would once again find myself not being proficient and it would be only a matter of time before they found a way to send me back to the Capital Limited Re-education Center. I could see the dollar signs flash in the eyes of Mr. Hogston and Dr. Blur.
Since my release, new legislation had been proposed to enact even harsher rules on the profession of motherhood. Dr. Nancy Ann Blur was able to push through a bill entitled Dash to the Summit. The premise of this new legislation would put states in direct competition with each other. Each state would see who had the strongest batch of mothers. The top ten states would be awarded large sums of money they could use to better the local environment for the children. The way they measured this was to tighten and enforce the regulations which held mothers accountable under the lax rules previously required by the National Caring and Loving Behavior Act. In order for a state to qualify for the money, each mother had to put together a portfolio detailing all of things they did to ensure that their children were making steady progression within the stanadrds. Each portfolio would have artifacts from day to day life demonstrating this, whether it was recipes, receipts showing the use of new appliances because old ones wore out, or little love notes left behind by their husbands and children. Each artifact collected needed to have a two-page type-written paper explaining what the significance of the artifact was and how it applied to the standards the mother was required to abide by. I looked at the requirements to qualify for the award and threw it in the trash. It would have required me to work an extra twenty hours a week to get material together to present to somebody and even if I had done everything correctly, it still did not mean the state would qualify for the recognition. Even if enough mothers had assembled enough documentation to fight for this honor, the divided up reward would allow only enough money for each mother to take their children to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. The rest of the money would have been spent to improve roads, build prisons, and give raises to the police. I didn’t see the benefit of putting this much effort into something with such little reward, and apparently many of the other mothers in the state believed the same way I did. Colorado was not one of the states considered. In fact, there was only one state west of the Mississippi River considered. The winners ended up being Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. Ironically enough, all of these states were also key states in the presidential election that followed, except for Hawaii. I don’t know if this had something to do with them winning that honor, but I was sure of the fact that the President of the United States being from Hawaii had something to do with that state being given this award.
I had given up trying to live up to the standards. The rules of the Dash for the Summit pretty much sealed the deal. I was starting to wonder if it really mattered anyway. I would just live my life to the best of my ability and I was sure along the way I would make some poor decisions with Ben and Katie. I knew we would work our way through them and they would grow up to be great individuals regardless of these mistakes. With all they had been through, I didn’t think I could screw them up anymore.
Just like my life with Robert, I found a way to get into a morning routine. It was nothing as extravagant as what I did every morning to please Robert and my kids, but it helped me get everybody together and out the door so I could find some time to enjoy some peace and quiet before Brandon roused himself from bed around noon.
After I turned off Brandon’s alarm, I walked over to the bedroom door where I left my pair of pink bunny slippers. I slid these on, and then shuffled down to the kids’ rooms. I banged on each of the doors to let them know that it was time to get up and get ready for school. Katie was usually pretty good about getting up and making her way to the bathroom where she would take a shower, but there were times I would have to bang on Ben’s door three or four times before he would drag himself out of bed. There were a couple of occasions I would have to drag him out of bed. One time I needed to take a squirt bottle and spray him in the face until he decided it would be less work to get out of bed then to fight me. The day my life changed again was one of the easier days with Ben. I only needed to bang on the door twice before I went downstairs to prepare breakfast. He had opened the door and made his way over to his bathroom without any fuss. I felt relieved I wouldn’t have to have a battle of wills that morning with him because there were many times these battles just wore me out.
After I made sure the kids were up I shuffled downstairs and made my way over to the coffee maker. I pulled out the old, dirty, used filter from the day before and discarded it in the trash. I got a new one from the stack we kept next to the coffee maker. I was getting pretty good at picking one off of the pile. I pulled it from the bottom of the filter and bent it ever so slightly so it would separate itself from the other filters. I threw it into the coffee machine, and grabbed the container of Folgers coffee from the counter top. I popped open the seal fresh lid and poured in what I thought would be a good amount of coffee for the day ahead. Because of the way Brandon was snoring the night before and the sleep I was still trying to wipe away from my eyes, I poured in a healthy amount the day I got the news. Some brushed onto the counter, but I didn’t care too much because I wiped it easily into the sink. I filled up the pot, poured the water into the machine, and turned it on. Water started to percolate through the machine and shortly afterwards coffee, the sweetest of all liquids, started to collect in the pot.
While my morning coffee was brewing, I started to prepare breakfast for the kids. I went to refrigerator and pulled out a gallon of milk. I plopped it onto the table and went over to the pantry. I picked out the kids’ favorite cereals, Honey Nut Cheerios for Ben and Fruit Loops for Katie. I shook the boxes and was happy to find that each box had enough cereal to satisfy them for breakfast. I put them on the table next to the gallon of milk.
I went over to the dishwasher next and opened it up. Condensation still hung to the dishes from the cycle that ran the previous evening. I grabbed two bowls, two spoons, two coffee mugs, and two juice glasses. I placed these on the table right about the time Katie came downstairs and found her spot at the table.
“Good morning, Rachael,” she said to me. I thought it was weird for the kids to be calling me mom since I was obviously not their mother. I also thought of it as a little disrespectful to their mother who had died in such a tragic way. I was comfortable with whatever they wanted to call me.
“Good morning, Katie. How did you sleep last night?” I asked her as I sat at my place at the table.
“I slept pretty well, but I can’t wait for summer break so I can go back to sleeping in on a regular basis,” she said as she filled up her bowl with Fruit Loops.
“It will be here before you know it honey. How is your brother doing this morning?” I asked as I looked up the stairs where I knew he should be getting ready but dreading the response I would get from Katie.
“I think he’s moving this morning. I heard the shower running in his bathroom, and that is always a nice sign you won’t have to fight him to get ready.” She poured milk into her cereal bowl and a few of the Fruit Loops cascaded over the side. She dug around the edge of her bowl to recapture the lost loops and popped them in her mouth.
“I hope you’re right.” I looked over at the progress the coffee was making as it filtered through the system. It wasn’t ready to be consumed yet. I got up and grabbed the gallon of orange juice out of the refrigerator and placed it next to the gallon of milk on the table. “Make sure you have a glass of orange juice. You need your vitamin C. I don’t want to be getting any cold you bring home with you from school.”
“Sure thing, Rachael,” Katie said as she continued to shovel Fruit Loops into her mouth.
I went down the hall and stopped at the base of stairs to see if I could hear the shower running from the bathroom upstairs. When I heard the soothing sound of running water, I satisfied myself that Ben was up and getting ready. I continued on my way to the front door to get the paper.
I opened the front door and shuffled down the driveway to where the newspaper precariously hung on the edge of the sidewalk’s precipice. I picked it up before it could plunge into the trickle of water rolling lazily down the gutter to the drain. I shook the paper to make sure none of the moisture ruined it by getting into the plastic bag and looked around the neighborhood. It struck me how bizarre the world had become.
Every front door of every house opened in unison. Out of each door walked a man dressed in a business suit followed by his perfect wife wearing her June Cleaver gold dress and matching high heels. They all followed dutifully after their husbands as the men went to the cars. I was amazed about how well the women were made up at this time of the morning. Their blonde hair bobbed nicely for them and their make-up was already plastered on their faces. It was quite the contrast from what I was wearing. I was still dressed in my pajamas that hardly matched. The bottoms were red with black Scottish dogs all over them. It blended poorly with the yellow t-shirt I wore as a top. The pink bunny slippers complemented the whole ensemble nicely. My hair wasn’t even the same color as every other woman’s on the block. I never kept up with the dying of my hair and the natural auburn color had crept back. It shocked Brandon at first, but after awhile he said he preferred my natural hair color to the blonde all the other women were wearing. It allowed me to stand out, and made me unique in his eyes. It was little comments like that which made me regret the way I was playing with his emotions, but I just wasn’t ready to commit myself to another relationship such as the one I had with Robert.
All of the husbands of the neighborhood continued with this bizarre show. They brushed the lips of their wives with their own so they wouldn’t mess up the bright red lipstick the women had spent so long putting on that morning. It disturbed me even more as the women lifted up their left leg, leaned into the kiss, and balanced themselves delicately with their hands out behind their back. When all of their husbands were in their cars and starting their engines, the women turned around to head back into their homes. Before they did this, they looked over in my direction and gave me a crusty. I was obviously the black mark upon their community, but I couldn’t care less. I was comfortable with that role. I would never be comfortable playing the little game they were playing. I shrugged it off and went over to the mailbox.
The mail usually got delivered in the afternoon, but by that time I was so comfortable in my chair downstairs watching some movie or enjoying the day that I never bothered to pick up the mail until the next morning. It didn’t really matter much anyway. It was all junk mail with the occasional bill. I didn’t even know why companies sent the bills anymore because I had arranged for everything to be taken care of on-line. Sometimes I even wondered why I picked up the mail, but it was habit from when I was a young individual and sometimes those are the habits that are the hardest to break.
With the paper in one hand and yesterday’s mail in the other, I made my way inside. I went into the kitchen and plopped them both down on the table. The two children had switched spots. Katie had gone upstairs to prepare herself for the day and Ben had come down to the breakfast table. He was working on filling his stomach with Cheerios. “Good morning, Ben,” I said to him as I took up my coffee mug and went to the pot of coffee.
Ben gave me a grunt back. That much of a response from him was a good sign because too often I would get nothing. Ben was a harder egg to crack. He would never accept me as his mother, but at least we were making headway allowing me to remain in the house without much drama. It was better than the first days when I had arrived in the house. There were many occasions during the earlier days where he would throw punches at me because he didn’t like the way he thought I was trying to replace the mother he had lost. Eventually he had grown past that, but he still wasn’t much of a morning person. It was better to just leave him alone with his breakfast and try to make further strides in our relationship later in the day.
When I moved back to the kitchen table with my coffee, Ben had pulled out the Living section of The Denver Post and was busy reading the comics while eating a second bowl of Cheerios. I took a sip of coffee and felt the caffeine start to brush away the sleepiness that still remained. To this day, I don’t know why that first sip of coffee makes me feel like I am now ready to take on the rest of the day, but it is one of the few pleasures left to me in this crazy, mixed-up world. Just like any other day that first sip gave me the courage to look through yesterday’s mail. There were a few bills on top which I quickly threw into the discard pile. On the bottom of the stack was the letter I knew was coming and I was excited to get it. It was from the Department of Motherhood. Before I opened it up, I looked around like a sinner who was about to do something that would send her to hell for all eternity. I could hear the first sounds of Brandon’s stirrings from upstairs. I knew Katie was up in her room getting her school books together. Ben was sitting across the table from me engrossed in his daily comics. Because I knew I was alone, I focused on the letter in my hand.
I picked up a butter knife from the table and sliced open the top of the letter. I slid out the single piece of paper and closed my eyes before I read it. When I found the courage to open them up, I read the following words:
Dear Mrs. Rachael Britva,
It is my pleasure to inform you that the assessment period is once again upon us. We have diligently gone through our records and they show that you have recently been through the re-education program at one of our Capital Limited Re-education Centers. Because of this, we will be scheduling you later in the process with one of our elite assessors. Please, be ready at the time indicated, as we know your re-education has trained you to do. The assessment will be taking place on April 27th at 10:00 AM and your assessor will be Dr. Nancy Ann Blur.
Thank you and have a nice day,
Department of Motherhood
I stared at the name written down on the letter and I couldn’t believe my luck. I was expecting for Dr. Blur to be my assessor this year, but there was always a part of me that wondered if she wouldn’t bother assessing the women she had personally trained herself. There was a possibility she would spread her pain around to other mothers. For my plan to work, I needed the Secretary of Motherhood to be my assessor. Each day I waited for the letter to arrive, my worry grew because I needed to show her what I was capable of doing as a mother now. I needed her ego to feel so threatened that she would have to come to my house and observe what I had gleaned from her program. I prayed there was no way she would ignore the woman who had given her so much trouble at the Capital Limited Re-education Center and who had set the all-time record for sales at any Mother Mall across the nation. She had to show up at my door for my assessment. My luck and my intuition had proven me right and I was going to be blessed with her presence once again. I laughed out loud at the thought of the assessment coming.
Ben looked up from his comics. “What’s so funny?”
I continued to chuckle as I took another sip of coffee. I looked up at him and said, “None of your business. Go get ready for school.”