Roxanne’s step-daughters adored her.
Even though she’d come into their lives as grown women, she was really, the only mother they’d ever known. It’s not that they “came out of their shells” when she married their bachelor father, it was more like Venus on the half-shell stepping ashore in Botticelli’s painting. It’s not that she bought them flattering fancy clothes; it’s that she taught her daughters how to wear them. It’s not that they weren’t beautiful, it’s just under her practiced hand with lipstick and brush, they became breathing taking. It’s not that they couldn’t get good husbands, but rather she got them the best husbands. They held their breathes to hear her every bit of kindly advice and gentle witt. They mimicked her infectious smile, the laughing shake of her luxurious red locks, and the touch of the free, bejeweled hand as lay top the shining fabric veiling her thigh.
Roxanne paused mid-step. She could hear the tumult of the charge as they came down the hallway towards her. She could hear the “cluck” of their heels, the laughter and excitement in their shrill voices, the gurgles of the toddler or two on their hips and the baby talk they whispered aside to Roxanne’s darling little grandchildren. Even through all that joyous noise, Roxanne could hear, or rather knew she should be able to hear the steady crack of Maeve’s high heels on the marble floor behind the young women. Roxanne’s knew her sister-in-law's stride would be different, more steadfast and tiger like. He daughters blew into the room dressed in pastel yellow, orange and red like autumn leaves before a winter’s blast.
“We want to hear about your fourth husband!”
Roxanne burst out laughing! Her cascading coppery locks shook with her loud laughter. There was no subterfuge in their cheery request, no accusation of keeping something from them, no shock that their father was actually number five, just delight in an exciting new story to hear and to share with the woman they loved best in the world.
“Actually,” said Maeve in a soft tender voice. “we’d like to hear about all your husbands.” She made the request with her head bent forward and shoulders slightly rounded. Night black hair framed her fair features. The smile was hopefully. Her dark, flashing eyes gazed up at her best friend.
“Yes.” “Yes.” “What “Aunty” Maeve said, All of them.”
A little shaken and flustered, Roxanne glanced from one beaming face to the next and then to the next. When she glanced, again at Maeve she got an encouraging little nod. “Okay, then.” she started with a light clap of her palms. “Let’s all sit.” Once they all complied and the little ones settled into their mother’s laps, Roxanne wrapped her right arm across her body, just below her ample breasts, braced her left elbow in her right hand and stroked her blushing chin with her left hand. “My first husband was a tall drink of water with brown hair. Taller than me, which is pretty tall.” She emphasized the statement by hefting the coppery crown of hair on her head and straightening her broad shoulders. “His only fault was that he was young. He hadn’t filled out yet nor acquired a man’s features and frame. But, I’m sure time tended to that nicely.” She bit her lip to suppress the smile that surprised her and for a moment, her green eyes gazed far off. “We were young and in love.”
Her daughters sighed softly and continued to smile at their mother.
“He’s the one that taught me to laugh out loud. I was shy back then.
“What?” “No way.” “Aunty Maeve?”
Maeve could only shrug her dark clothed shoulders. Like them, she had only met Roxanne late in life.
Roxanne giggled to herself, turning as she did, making a show of throwing her chin up in delight. “Believe it or not. I was shy.” She brought her chin down, so she could glance across her shoulder at the younger women. “But I got over that.” She winked as she said the last.
“And were you skinner then?”
“Oh, dearie, I was never skinny.” She reminded her sister-in-law by glancing down at her chest. “Well, maybe around this waist, but I always had this fine round ass.” Everyone laughed as she slapped her hips with her hands of many rings. She glanced at the Persian rug beneath their heels before continuing. “Of course you all know, we lost our second child; a girl. That was our undoing. I, sometimes-”
“What about the fourth husband?” Maeve interrupted sounding a little irritated.
Roxanne laughed in relief and shook an index finger at Maeve. “I’ll get to him. He was religious you know. We had nothing in common. He got the call and went back to the church. We use to call him “Father What-a-waste”. I think he’s the current Pope.”
“Mom!” “Aunty Maeve make her stop.” “Oh, please!”
“Where was I?” Roxanne asked impishly, a perfectly manicured finger lying across her red lips.
“Second husband, and you weren’t married to Father Mike.”
“My second husband was a big guy, dark haired, swarthy, and hairy. He was a military man. He was really passionate and manly. The only problem was when our son reached eleven, family tradition dictated he should go to military school. I just couldn’t bare…” a tremble had entered her voice. Her emerald eye began to water. “ Couldn’t bare to lose another child… I ran with the boy.”
“What about the fourth husband?” Maeve asked again.
Roxanne shivered with the interruption. She breathed slowly and steadily to fight back the emotion. She smiled weakly at her audience. “ I’ll get to him. He was religious you know. We had nothing in common. His brother, also a rabbi died, so we had to annul our marriage so he could marry his sister-in-law. Levirate marriage, you know?” Her daughters shook their heads because they had no idea what she was talking about that. “Aunty” Maeve shook her head with a scowl, clearly letting them know that wasn’t true. “Where was I?” Roxanne asked sitting up a little straighter.
“A family friend, I remember him as being rather hunky when I was a child. He was white haired when we married. He helped me out of a jam. We intended to divorce after my second husband settled down. But, he passed away before we could…”
“Which brings us to the fourth husband?” Maeve chimed in.
“I’ll get to him. He was religious, you know. Didn’t believe in pre-marital sex. We didn’t have much in common. Ends up he was gay!” No one even bothered responding to that one. “But, first let me tell you about meeting your father.”
“You can’t tell them that story.” Maeve pointed out, although by the snickers Maeve suscpiced the younger women already knew that story. Roxanne’s fifth husband had actually been naked when he and Roxanne first met. “So, tell us about the fourth husband.”
“He was the cutest thing on two feet. Everyone adored him. From the first moment I met him I thought I’d known him forever. He was a tall carrot top with a fine round ass.” She shared her memories with an embarrassed smile. Then continued as if by rout, “ He wasn’t very religious, you know. Ends up we had too much in common. Ends up he was already married.”
Her daughters glanced at one another confused by the lack of emotion.
“That was your father that was a bigamist with another family. ”
Roxanne blushed harder than anyone ever saw her blush before.