Colleen returned to Erin's home about thirty minutes later, carrying a bag from a chain restaurant that advertises “curb side service.” As she walked in, Erin could smell the aroma of steaks wafting from the bag. “I thought that you might appreciate a good take out meal,” she said to her daughter.
Erin smiled as she replied, “I've been actually craving Chinese food, but the steak smells divine!” They headed into the dining alcove, where Colleen set out the food and Erin brought out the utensils. She was just about to sit down when she heard a noise from the direction of the nursery. “Duty calls,” she said, sighing.
Colleen followed her into the nursery. The two boys were in their cribs, Francis to the left and Thomas to the right. Erin picked up Francis and checked on him. “Well, he needs a new diaper,” she concluded. Colleen did the same for Thomas, with the same conclusion. “I'll help you,” she offered. “That way, we can get this done in half the time.”
As with the cribs, there were two changing tables in the room. Erin's plan before the birth was that Ronnie would share in the care of his sons. Of course, Ronnie didn't share the same plans. Both women laid their charges on the tabletop. The diapers, wipes, creams and powders were all in reach-Erin had made sure to organize the work areas before she had to use them.
Colleen observed, “I think this is the first time I've changed either one of the twins since, what? Two months ago?”
Erin paused. “I think you're right, Mom,” she confirmed. “That was the last time I drove over to see you. I've not been able to do that since then.”
“Why not?” Colleen asked.
“My car had to go in for repairs,” Erin explained, “and it's taking forever. Ronnie said the garage was waiting on some part.”
“Did he tell you what part?”
Erin picked up Francis and cradled him in her arm. “I don't remem... No, no, I do. He was kind of vague on what exactly they were waiting on. In fact, he avoided answering me every time I asked him.”
“We'll need to check that out,” Colleen told her daughter as she carried Thomas out to the play yard.. “Something's fishy there, but why didn't you say something earlier?”
Erin put Francis in the play yard, then stood up and looked at her mother. “Mom,” she said, “I've been cooped up here with virtually no outside adult contact for four... no, five... wait!” She counted in her head. “Mom! I haven't been out of this house since the last time I was over at yours!” she exclaimed.
“Two months of isolation?” Colleen gasped. “This is even worse than I thought! It's like he's trying to break you mentally.”
Erin stood there as the weight of her mother's words descended on her. Thoughts began to fly through her head. “Why, Ronnie? Why are you doing this to me? Am I not good enough?” Erin felt something wet on her face. She realized that tears were flowing down her cheeks and she was in her mother’s arms as Colleen hugged her daughter.
“My baby,” Colleen murmured as she held her crying daughter. “You were so busy taking care of the boys and trying to be a good wife to that bastard that you couldn't see what he was doing to you.”
Erin looked up at her mother with tear filled eyes. “How am I going to get through this?” she cried.
“We... We are going to get through this,” came the answer. “Remember, we are McDermott women. We're going to face this together. Now, dry your eyes and come eat. Our steaks are getting cold.”
The two women sat down at the table, Erin drying her eyes with a paper napkin. They started discussing the weather as they ate and Erin felt a peace come over her. Her mother was here and together the two of them would overcome this hurdle.
Cutting a bite off of her steak, Colleen said to her daughter, “OK, tomorrow we have some work to do. I've got a friend who went through a messy divorce and came out well, so I think I'll see if she can recommend a lawyer. We'll also look into the car issue.” She stopped and put down her utensils. “This might be a stupid question, but do you have a cell phone, Erin?”
Erin hung her head. “I used to, but Ronnie said we had to cut back on expenses and since I was going to be at home most of the time taking care of the twins, I wouldn't need one.” She put down her knife and fork and placed both hands on the table. “So many lies, so many lies.”
“We're getting you one tomorrow,” Colleen declared. “You need to have a secure method of calling me-or even calling for help. It's obvious that we cannot trust your husband to do anything in your best interest.”
Erin's head flew up. “But Mom, I can't afford a cell phone now!” she protested.
“Who said you would pay for it?” she replied. “I'll just put it on my account.”
Erin got concerned. “Can you afford it?”
Colleen laughed. “On my plan, extra phones are only ten dollars a month,” she explained. “Just don't go texting everybody you know.”
Erin dropped her head again. “How can I?” she said quietly. “I have no more friends, remember?”
A look of horror spread over her face as Colleen realized what she had said. “Oh baby!” she cried, reaching out for Erin's hand, “I didn't mean it... It was just a joke... I wasn't trying to...”
“I'm sorry, too,” Erin said, trying to steady her emotions. “My nerves are raw right now and I took it the wrong way.” She looked at her mother and smiled. “Thank you for doing all this.”
The two of them sat at the table for a few minutes, lost in their thoughts. Erin heard a noise from the living room and looked out to where she had placed the play yard so she could keep an eye on the twins. She saw that they were alright.
“I'm going to go now, Erin,” Colleen said softly. “I have some phone calls to make. I'll see you tomorrow, OK?”
“Of course,” Erin said, brightening up a bit. “I'll be eager to see how much has changed since I've been incarcerated.”
“Oh, honey...” Colleen started, then she noticed a wry grin on Erin's face and started laughing. “OK, you got me back,” she admitted.
“I'm going to need to keep my sense of humor if I’m going to come out of this with my sanity intact,” Erin observed dryly.
“You'll do just fine,” Colleen told her. “After all we are...”
“McDermott women!” the exclaimed in unison. They looked at each other and broke out laughing. “I love you, Mom,” Erin said sincerely.
“I love you too, Erin,” Colleen said as she dumped the remnants of the meal back into the bag. She headed for the door, carrying the bag.
”I can throw that out in the kitchen,” Erin said.
“No,” Colleen replied. “I'm taking the evidence with me.” She walked out of the front door with a smile.
Erin felt like she'd been fully recharged. She turned to her work around the house with a new vigor, now that she had a plan and an ally in her mother. “I'm not going to let Ronnie get me discouraged again,”she thought to herself as she whisked Thomas off to the nursery for a new diaper.
The afternoon flew by, a welcome change from how her days had just dragged on before. Erin even found time to watch some TV as she ate up some of the leftovers from dinners past. “I'm going to start making meals just for myself from now on,” she said out loud.
That night, Erin caught Ronnie making his first, albeit minor, mistake. She had risen for the two o'clock feeding, discovering once again that he hadn't returned home yet. Erin made her way to the nursery in the dark, a benefit of having done it every night for over six months. She tended to Francis first, then Thomas.
Erin was nursing Thomas, rocking him in the nursery rocker. He was virtually silent when nursing. In the dark, about the only way Erin could actually tell was by his rhythmic suckling of her nipple. It was calming for both mother and child.
Erin had been sitting there for about ten minutes when she heard a sound. Her heart leaped in her chest-had she remembered to lock all the doors? She ran through her mental checklist. The house was secure. Then she saw a shadow, dimly lit by moonlight, pass by the open nursery door. It was Ronnie, creeping into the house.
The drapes were drawn in the nursery, so it was pitch black in the room. Erin sat there silently, watching her husband sneak into the house. He hadn't noticed her sitting there in the blackness. Erin knew from habit that it was about 2:40 AM.
Erin smiled at the small triumph of catching her husband in the act. It was even better that he hadn't noticed her. It felt liberating, empowering to know something about Ronnie that he didn't know she knew. This small victory gave her hope and determination to see this through.
Having finished with feeling the twins, Erin returned to her bedroom. She kept a stoic look on her face until she had returned to her place in bed. With her back to the apparently sleeping form of her husband, Erin smiled. “I can do this,” she thought to herself.
Erin woke up at 7:15 AM to find Ronnie had already left for work. “How can he keep this up?” she wondered. From what little she had seen on him in the night he looked worn out. Even though she was upset art her husband, Erin worried about him, too. After all, he was the father of the twins.
Erin took a shower, ate breakfast then put on a dress suitable for the day's upcoming lawyer hunt. She then relaxed and watched some TV until she heard a noise at about 8:15 AM. It was Francis who was awake and had started fussing. Erin went in and picked him up. He wasn't hungry yet, just fussy. The two of them sat in the living room rocker and Erin rocked her son as she watched children walk to school. About 8:30 AM, the phone rang. Erin saw it was her mom, so she picked it up.
“You're up already?” Colleen asked.
“Sure,” Erin replied. “I am feeling better than I have for weeks and I got a good night's sleep, although in two four hour blocks. What's up?”
“I just wanted to remind you I'm taking you out shopping today,” Colleen said. “I've found someone who'll watch the twins. Remember Peggy?”
Peggy was a long-time neighbor of the McDermotts and Erin was happy that she would watch her boys. “That's great!” she told her mm. “I haven't seen Aunt Peggy in... I don't know how long.”
“I know,” her mother replied. “She and Ed are full fledged snowbirds now. She just got back from Orlando. By the way, will you be able to pump enough milk to cover the time?”
“I don't think that will be necessary, Mom,” Erin said. “as long as we are back around 2:00 PM.”
“Well, when should we get there?” Colleen asked.
“If you are here by 10:30 or 11:00 AM, I should be ready,” Erin replied.
“OK, then,” Colleen said, “It's a date!”
By now, Francis was calmed down although awake. Erin put him in the play yard and got Thomas up. When he had joined his brother out in the living room, Erin finished cleaning up the kitchen, then dashed in her room to put on a touch of makeup.
As she finished, Erin heard the boys getting fussy again. Looking at the clock, she realized it was time for the 10:00 AM feeding. Thomas was the fussier one this time, so Erin nursed him first. When he was finished, she exchanged him for Francis. As she was sitting down, there was a knock at the door. “Come in, the door's unlocked,” she called out.
Colleen and Aunt Peggy came in. Colleen headed for Erin and Francis while Peggy exclaimed “Oh my goodness, they're adorable!” as she crossed over to pick up Thomas. She stood there cooing baby talk at him while Colleen talked to Erin.
“I called around to some of my friends who have had need of a lawyer in the past few years,” Colleen explained, “and I've got three lawyers we should talk to.”
“Three, Mom?” Erin groused.
“Look, like anything else, we need to shop around,” her mother replied. “All of them are excellent lawyers. We'll just see who can give us the best deal.”
“OK, but could we take a detour before we go into the city?” Erin asked.
“I want to go over to Mike's garage and see what's up with my car.”
Colleen nodded. “Yeah, that will let you get out of the house with the twins. It's not far, so as soon as you're ready...”
Erin needed another ten minutes nursing Francis, then Peggy came over to make her acquaintance with him. “Don't worry, I'll be alright. You two go out and have fun.”
Erin and Colleen pulled into the parking lot of Mike's Garage and Colleen parked in a visitor's spot. “I'll be just a minute,” Erin said. “I'll just find out if the car's ready yet and what it will cost. We can come back here after we find a lawyer to pick it up.”
Erin walked into the office of the garage and went to the counter. Mike had heard the buzzer sound when the door opened and he came out a minute later. “Why, hello Mrs. Donnelly, how nice to see you,” he said, but Erin noticed something odd. He seemed genuinely surprised to see her.
“I know,” she replied, “it's been a long time since I've come here myself. Speaking of long time, I stopped by to check on my car. Ronny said you were waiting on a part.”
Mike's brow wrinkled and he had a puzzled look on his face. “But... but... I thought that Ronnie had said you two had discussed it.”
“Discussed what?” Erin inquired, her concern growing.”
“Look, I don't want to cause any trouble between you and your husband...” Mike said.
“OK, I'm confused now,” Erin admitted. “What's going on?”
Mike sighed. “When Ronnie found out the charge for repairing the car, he said that money was tight. He told me he discussed it with you and he signed the title over to me to sell in lieu of paying for the repairs.”
Erin was dumbfounded. Ronnie had gotten rid of her car, and had gave the excuse that they were strapped for cash? Erin began seething inside, but she put on her best smile and tried to hide her anger.
“Oh, yes, I remember Ronnie saying something about that,” she lied. “I must have been busy taking care of the twins and it slipped my mind.”
Mike let out the deep breath he had been holding in since he told Erin the fate of her car. “I'm glad you knew about it, Erin. I'd hate to think I misunderstood what was going on. I figured it was all proper since he had his name on the title.”
“His was the only name?” Erin asked, barely holding herself together.
“Yes,” was the reply.
“Thank you for jogging my memory on that, Mike,” Erin said as sweetly as she could under the circumstances. “I'm sorry for taking up your time.”
“No problem, Erin,” he said. “I hope to see you again soon.”
Erin walked out to the car, opened the door and sat down. “Well, how did it go? Colleen asked.
Carefully closing the door, Erin snapped on her seat belt as she said, “Just drive, Mother. Just drive.” She still had a smile plastered on her face.
“Just DRIVE, Mother... Get me out of here!” Erin said through gritted teeth as she continued to smile.
Colleen backed out of the parking spot and drove out of the gate, then turned towards the city. She was worried about her daughter and confused as to why she wouldn't say anything.
Once they were at the other end of the block from Mike's, Erin exploded.
“THAT SONOFABITCH!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. “THAT FUCKING RAT BASTARD! I'M GONNA CUT HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF, STICK IT ON A FUCKING POLE, STUFF HIS FUCKING DICK IN HIS FUCKING MOUTH AND TIE HIS FUCKING BALLS AROUND HIS FUCKING NECK LIKE A FUCKING BOWTIE! HOW THE FUCK COULD HE DO THAT TO ME!” She slumped back in her seat, her eyes blazing and her cheeks red.
Colleen was so stunned she could say nothing. She just drove staring straight ahead. She had never seen Erin this way before and definitely had never heard her curse so much at one time in her life.
Erin was breathing deeply, almost hyperventilating. It took her a good five minutes to calm down to where she could say, “I'm sorry, Mom.”
“What the hell happened back there?” Colleen asked.
“Ronnie sold my fucking car,” she explained. “He was too cheap to pay the repair bill so he signed the title over to Mike. I can't fucking believe it!”
“How could he do that?” Colleen asked, confused.
“That was where I was fucking stupid,” Erin replied. “I believed Ronnie when he said, “Don't worry, I've taken care of everything” when he gave me the car. I didn't even think about whose name was on the title.” She let out a deep breath. “I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean to be so foul mouthed, but he crossed the line and that pisses me off!”
Colleen started chuckling. She looked over at her daughter and said, “I just never knew you had it in you to let off such a tirade.”
Erin let out a sarcastic laugh. “Ronnie knows just how to push my buttons.”
“What are you going to do now?” Colleen asked.
“We're going to get the best damn lawyer in the state,” Erin replied.