Friday, July 30, 2010
When we first meet someone, no matter how hard we may try to remain on neutral ground, it is inevitable that at some time, somewhere, we will slap a sticker on our fellow human and label them. Perhaps not always in stereotypes -- although that does seem to be the 'thing' to do -- but in one way or another, we always pass judgement on others... for the way they dress, the way they treat others, the job they hold... It's decidedly hard not to.
But at some point, it is possible that the label we place on someone becomes challenged -- everything we thought about our friend, family member, or neighbor, comes tumbling down over a sudden revelation about their character...
And how we see them may never be the same.
Painting in pajamas: Maybe they didn't have a lot of money to throw around anymore, especially trying to upkeep their not-too-shabby estate, but living in Twinbrook did have it's perks... Like being able to lounge around outside in the middle of the afternoon, in your pajamas.
Can you blame Meredith? Sure, they had new neighbors that might toss her funny looks out their window, but... Well, it sure beat trying to look pretty when she had a toddler and three dirty boy's worth of clothes to wash, a garden to maintain, and a daily ritual of checking all the appliances in the house for leaks, wear, and possible tampering.
One could never be too careful!
It no longer surprised Meredith when her phone began to ring off the hook; "I need someone to take my Senior photos!" "I need a portrait of my Great-Aunt-Sally!" "I need some ideas on a new camera for my wife for her birthday..." "We're preparing an exhibit today with some of your paintings, do you think you could stop by and talk about them a little?" ... She didn't mind a little attention now and then, but the Loner inside her was going -- frankly -- insane.
The phone call she received that day was... well, typical. "Hello, Mrs. Kane? This is Holly Greenwood, Jade's mother? I'm just calling because -- well, you see, I'm the caretaker for the community gardens -- and I was wondering, do you think you could stop by and take some photos for the..."
Blah blah blah. It meant she'd have to get dressed, but if there was any chance of some extra spending money on the side, Meredith would have to suck it up and go over there.
When she arrived, she was surprised to see Tana's husband, Howard, talking with some woman in the parking lot.
"That's odd," Meredith thought to herself as she watched the two conversing. "I thought Howard was usually at work by now."
She shrugged to herself, but figured, it'd only be decent to pop over and say hi -- he was her Brother-in-Law, after all.
But... something about the look Howard gave this woman set Meredith aback. She was just about to call out his name, but before she could say anything...
... Howard swept the woman up into a kiss.
For a minute, Meredith simply stood, dumb-struck. Her own sister's husband, smooching on some skank in knee-high boots and a see-through top? Although part of her was furious, another part of her felt her heart sink into the floor...
In a way, she knew she couldn't blame him. But she knew it was the right thing to do... Maybe.
"Howard?! What... what are you doing?" Meredith said as she approached her brother-in-law, pointing at him with an accusatory finger. "Out here... Out... Out in public?"
A shocked look crossed Howard's face, but immediately, he was pleading with Meredith to keep quiet. "Please, don't tell Tana... Please. I was planning on telling her soon anyways, she knows things are on the rocks, she's suspected things for a while... Don't make it worse by rubbing salt in the wound. Just give me some time -- I mean... Penny's going to be having my--"
"I don't want to hear it," Meredith jabbed, as she backed away. "I just don't want to hear it."
As angry as she was, as much as she wanted to jump in the car and head over to the Police station where Tana was busy at work... She realized, as surprising as it was to see Humbly-Boring-Howard turn into Horndog-Howard right before her eyes... She couldn't blame him.
And she wasn't sure why.
Next door at the Community Pool, a confrontation of a totally different nature was about to take place.
Jebidiah Kane's eyes scoured the poolside like a pair of hot coals as he looked for the man he came for. Though he knew he shouldn't feel surprised to find him there -- it was just as she'd said -- something perked up at the back of Jeb's neck once he spotted his target... Marc Brandt.
The area was populated, but it was probably better that way -- it would prevent Jeb from doing something horrible... Something he wish he could do.
Marc didn't miss much; he saw Jeb approaching before he reached the table-side, and quickly stood up to try to get the first word, but Jebidiah wouldn't have any of that.
"It was you! You, a little rat! Did you think I wouldn't find out, Marc? Did you think she'd keep your secret forever? Think she'd actually cover your butt, and give you the cut of the money she promised?!"
Marc tried to back away, but with a pool on one side, a building on the other, and a table at his back, there was very few options he had. "Look, I was just doing what I thought was right, Kane. You can't blame me for that, can you?"
Jebidiah guffah'd. "Of course I can! Just because you thought it was right doesn't mean it was! Besides, I know exactly why you wanted to hand me in," he started, his voice carrying lower, in order to avoid being overheard. "You've got a record that needs cleared, and a big, fat pending case you need wavered to resume your own little cushy lifestyle..."
"Look, I'm not trying to start any trouble, Kane," Marc began, although his intimidation at Jeb's towering figure -- or hat, or something -- was showing clearly through his emo-cut hairdo. "We didn't get the reward money anyways, remember? So what's the big deal?"
"The big deal?" Jeb grumbled. "The big deal is that my family was put in jeopardy... Especially my wife. Because of your big mouth, we could've both ended up in jail... Away from our children, for Plumbbob's sake."
"Well, you should've thought of that before you murdered someone, huh, 'Blackjack Kane'?"
Ooooh, that did it. All it took was one big remark from Sissy boy to get Jeb riled up... And without hesitation, he smacked Marc Brandt across the face.
But... Marc did not take that lightly. He instantly rebounded...
... But Jeb was quick to get the kid into a headlock...
... And thoroughly kicked his behind.
Although there was several women watching in awe several feet away, Jebidiah had no shame in saying his final words:
"If you ever mess with me or my family again, mark my words, Brandt... You'll regret it until the day you die."
And luckily for Marc, he was smart enough to read into those words what they truly meant: if he ever did mess with the Kanes again, the 'day he'd die' would be a lot closer than he expected.
The next day, nerves in both the Kane parents were still running hot. Meredith was angry about what she'd seen of Howard, but was so torn on what to do that she had started to realize how actually little it bothered her (which, in turn, bothered her even more); and, Jebidiah, he had never felt so stressed in his life.
Their bank account was running slim... And there was no way to get rid of the reason why. He'd nipped one bud, but the bush was still growing. The tension was too much -- and unfortunately, the steam had to let loose, somehow.
"You agreed to stop stealing, Jebidiah." Meredith stretched her arms as she watched silently from the stairs. She'd crept down as quietly as possible, and had even fooled Jeb -- and the moment he heard her voice, he closed his eyes and hung his head.
"Meredith... You don't understand." He pulled out the chair from the computer, turning to face her as she finally came down the whole rest of the way into the basement.
"Yes, I do, Jeb! I know money's tight! I know things are hard! But when we moved here, you agreed to stop being a criminal! All that's been keeping this marriage together is your promise that you'll change, but no... You haven't. I come down here and find you hacking. HACKING! Stealing money!"
"You have absolutely no idea how much we need that money, Meredith," Jeb retorted in his defense. "Without it, we're doomed. We'd may as well cash in and head back to Riverview, if we don't start making ends meet soon."
"It's not an excuse, Jeb! You got us into this mess! You decided to lie and steal and rob and hack networks... And look where it landed us!"
"Oh yeah?!" Jeb laughed, pointing a finger right back at his wife. "This is all my fault? I was perfectly content to sit and jail and pay for my crimes. Once they found out I was innocent of Carl's murder, I'd be paying a minimum penalty, at best. But then what happened? YOU decided to get involved!"
Meredith's jaw dropped. "You're pinning this on me?!"
"Yes, I am, Meredith. I would've had everything under control. But, then you pushed your way in, and now Chandra's dead. Then we had to run from the law. Now, we're being hunted by bounty hunters for crimes we didn't commit, and being blackmailed up the wazoo by a woman more vindictive than your own sister..."
Although it caught Meredith by surprised, she didn't have much time to focus on that tid-bit before Jebidiah dropped his next bombshell. "We're in this position because of your mistakes... And if you can't handle my methods in able to keep us just barely surviving..."
At this point, Meredith had had enough. As she looked at her husband, tears began to well in her eyes, and an unshakable fury swept over her like a mad tidal wave.
'I can't believe you, Jeb! Excuse after excuse... I can't believe that I'm even listening to you anymore! I should've left you when I had the chance! I hate you! Your stupid lies, your stupid choices, your stupid, stupid reasons for acting so... stupid! I hate you!"
Before Jeb even had a chance to stop her, Meredith raced up the stairs, and the front door of the house slammed shut not long before the sound of her car's engine started up, and zoomed out of range.
Eva didn't even have time to react before the door to her humble home opened to reveal Meredith, still crying over the encounter with her husband only moments before. "Meredith, what's wrong?" she asked as her red-headed friend approached her.
After a moment of wiping tears and taking deep breaths, Meredith was suddenly no longer tearful, and again, full of rage.
She started to explain things... Well, at least, as much as she could. About how Jebidiah landed them in a really bad position with his job, which is why they had to move... And now he's blaming it on her, and she was just-about-ready to give up entirely on making this marriage work.
"I just don't know what to do anymore, Eva. It's like some crazy balancing act... one minute, everything's perfect, and the next, something tips the scales, and it's just as chaotic the first time we fought about it."
"Look, there's obviously a lot I don't understand or you can't tell me," Eva began, shrugging. "But I do know this much. Sometimes, men just act that way because they feel guilty... He could just be blaming you because taking all the blame on himself is too much to bear. He feels bad, so he's taking it out on you."
"But... What do I do? I've given him all the forgiveness I can, but all he does is just... you know..."
"Well, when all else fails..." Eva shrugged again, giving her best friend a solid look in the eye. "Sometimes, when when someone tips the balance too much in their favor... You need to even the score."
Meredith left Eva's house with a heavy heart, and the hurt that Jeb had driven so deep inside her hadn't been washed away a bit by her friend's comforting words. It stung even deeper, when she pulled up back to her house, and Jeb's black car was missing from the driveway -- in fact... there was only one thing in front of her house.
As she walked up the sidewalk to her front steps, part of her was glad that Shamus was there. It confused her, a little, but she was relieved nonetheless. She still felt like punching her fist through the glass in her front door, but... Maybe that could wait until she was around Jeb; it'd be a bigger impact, yaknow.
Once she reached the threshold and Shamus turned and saw her, he immediately swept her into a tight, fierce hug. "Eva called and told me what happened," he said as he tightly held Meredith in his arms, answering Mere's question before she even had the chance to ask. "I was just getting off work, so I figured... I'd come over straight away. I figured you'd need some comfort."
Mere's lip twitched a little as he said that, the fury inside her surging a little as he seemed so eager to be around while she suffered.
But... a little voice at the back of her mind teased her with a thought, which caused her to quickly pull away from Shamus, and look into his eyes with the hurt that she still felt from Jeb's words.
"Look... I'm not all that happy that you're here. But... You're here, and... Well..." Meredith pointed her thumbs towards the front door, and bent her head in that direction. "I could really, really use a distraction right now."
Shamus stood silent, for a moment, before he slowly began to nod his head. "Say no more."
Across town, a twitch grew in Jebidiah's upper lip, his anger mounting as his eyes turned back to stare at the woman laying on the bed behind him, smiling in delight at his obvious misery.
As Tatianna crossed her arms over her chest, a devilish smile began to slowly tug across her lips.
"Oh... I think you know, Kane. I think you know."