|Primary Characters:||Greg, Dharma, Jane, Pete|
|Description:||Dharma and Greg decide to start a family, but the pressure is having a bad effect on Greg. Dharma wants to help, by asking everyone to give him their support. Greg runs away. Unfortunately, he ends up in worse trouble than before.|
“You know, I’ve been thinking -“
Dharma looked up and smiled at her husband’s somber expression. Greg always had to take things so seriously.
“That’s great. I’ve been thinking too.”
“Yes, but I mean about something in particular.”
“So have I.”
“Oh. Would you like to -“
The attorney persona seemed to resurface.
“No, you go on. It will keep.”
“Remember when we had a baby?”
“That’s exactly what I -“
But her husband had already launched himself into the narrative and the explanation, so he didn’t hear her input.
“That was so – fantastic. Even if he wasn’t really ours. So I’ve been thinking that maybe -“
“You want us to have one of our own? Yes, yes, yes. You’re reading my mind.”
“Am I? Well, yes. You have to admit it might be about time for that now. We’ve been married for quite a while and -“
“Let’s start right away. Come on.”
“Dharma. We’re having dinner with my parents tonight. In only about -“
“Three hours. Plenty of time. Don’t you want to start right now?”
“Yes, no. Dharma. I can’t. Mother would -“
“She’d be green with envy.”
Oh no. Dharma could always be counted on to see things from exactly the opposite point of view. Greg rubbed his eyes with his hand. No family-starting tonight. Not for him.
“Oh, you poor darling. You’re so tired. Why didn’t you say so right away? Would you like to lie down for a while? I’ll fix you a snack.”
Dinner went fairly well. There were only one or two awkward moments. Sometimes Greg thought Dharma engineered them on purpose. But the next second, he told himself not to think so badly of his darling. Of course she didn’t intentionally cause this friction. It was just that she and his mother were such irreconcilable spirits. Or were they? At times, he could detect an almost perfect rapport between them. Women could be indecipherable at the best of times.
He shrugged and left the train of thought. He began discussing fishing with his dad. At least there he was on safe ground. The kind of fishing his dad did, didn’t in any way interfere with his animal rights viewpoint. It had finally dawned on him, after years of pondering this mystery, that his dad not only never caught any fish, but in fact had never in his life felt the inclination to do so.
Later that night, in bed, Greg was lying on his side, quite relaxed. All in all, the evening hadn’t ended too badly. His mother had had a minor disagreement with Celia about the quality of service, one which his mother as always lost. That was all. Now he was feeling pleasantly sleepy, and Dharma was lying next to him, breathing calmly. From the living room, he could barely make out the soft snoring of the dogs.
“Are you too tired to -“
Was he? No way. There had hardly ever been a time when Greg had been too tired to – And now he felt Dharma’s hands making their familiar way across his chest. Definitely not too tired.
“Are you ready to produce the next generation of little Montgomeries?”
Or maybe he was. Oops. Surely he wasn’t beginning to get old? No, of course not. But this had to be one of the more humiliating moments of their marriages. Except for – Or – No, but when – Better not dwell on that for too long.
“Don’t be upset. This happens to everyone. I remember one of my boyfriends -“
“Dharma, don’t tell me anything about your former boyfriends, please. And the less we talk about this the better. Trust me. I’m a guy, I know these things.”
“Don’t be silly. When there’s a problem -“
“No. No problem. I’m just tired. Tomorrow night -“
“Fine. Turn your back on the problems. Abby could -“
“I’m sure she could, but I don’t even want to know what it is that she could. Dharma, let’s just sleep, ok? Please.”
Next morning, Greg woke up late, and had to skip breakfast to make it to the office in time. There wasn’t much time to chat with Dharma, and by the time he returned, he had managed to subdue the memories of last night’s humiliation.
However, his memory was refreshed, the minute he stepped inside his house. Already in the hallway, he could hear people talking, and laughing. And he was almost sure he recognized Abby’s and Larry’s voices. Not a good sign on any day. But after the night before, Greg felt a shiver go down his spine. Dharma couldn’t have – Surely even she wouldn’t –
But as soon as he opened the door, his worst fears were realized.
“Ah, here’s the patient now. Larry, go into the kitchen and – do the dishes.”
“Oh, no, Abby. You know Larry can’t do the dishes without breaking at least half of them.”
“That’s not fair. I never break more than -“
Larry was prevented from continuing his speech for the simple reason that he had absolutely no clue about mathematics. Half, one third, one quarter – it might as well all have been latin to him. Personally, Larry was amazed that the Latinos themselves knew what they were saying. In fact, he suspected that half the time they didn’t, and were just faking it to play smart.
“Good point, Dharma. Ok, Larry. You stay and be supportive to your brother, Greg.”
“Brother? Isn’t he my – what’s it called? Son-in-law?”
Abby frowned in dismay at her thick-headed fiance. At the moment, she wasn’t Larry’s fiancee. She was the healer at work on a difficult case.
“Larry. Greg is your spiritual brother and in his time of need, you as a supportive older male should stand by his side and offer your love and understanding.”
To Greg’s horror, Larry now approached him, arms open wide, to engulf his ‘what’s it called – son-in-law’ in a bear hug.
Greg was about to take evasive action, when his eyes fell on Dharma, who was sitting in one of the chairs, a benign smile on her face. His wife honestly believed she was helping him with what she must have perceived as a serious problem.
With a sigh, Greg submitted to the ‘love, understanding and support’ Larry was offering him, though he felt like punching Larry in the face, and so make his escape.
“If you’re done now, Larry, we could begin the treatment.”
“Excuse me, Abby, what treatment?”
Greg was fairly sure of what it was Dharma had judged serious enough to call in Abby’s mortifying expertise, but he was playing for time, as he was sometimes reduced to in court, when the other side had a particularly strong case, and he didn’t.
Abby gave him a reproachful look, and seemed about to move on with her proposed course of treatment, but at the last moment took pity on him and relented.
“Greg. No need to be shy. We’re your family. Dharma told me about your performance problem last night and -“
Greg winced and had to stifle an urge to grit his teeth. No. So, he had been right in his guess. There were times, surprisingly enough not very often, when he rued the day when he’d ever set eyes on the pretty, smiling blonde. Sometimes, Dharma’s open, not to say, embarrassingly open view of matters better left private, was driving him insane.
“Abby, Larry. I’m very grateful that you’ve come to – uh – help me, but there is no problem. Nothing. So, why don’t we just – Have dinner. Yes. I could make us a nice vegan dinner. How about that, Abby?”
Again, she frowned, as if a favorite disciple had once again let her down.
“Greg. Haven’t I told you that by ignoring the problems, and by lying about it, you risk making things worse?”
“Yes, but -“
Throwing all the modesty of his upbringing aside, Greg desperately blurted out his defense.
“I was tired. That’s all. End of discussion. No problem.”
To his dismay, he could hear his voice nearly cracking. Oh, this weird family he had married into… Greg could have sworn Abby was making a disapproving noise, but he wasn’t sure and he didn’t really want to know.
Now, to Greg’s horror, Abby opened a voluminous bag, and seemed about to bring out all kinds of stuff he knew he wouldn’t want to see. At that point, he’d had more than enough and raised his voice. Ten minutes later, Larry was ambling outside, the same amiable, vacant look on his face, his rather offended fiancee trailing behind, offering still more helpful hints to Greg, and to Dharma. Some of those latter tips did sound interesting and at any other time, Greg might have been tempted to try them out. But right now he was too busy defending himself from this intolerable intrusion of his privacy.
Next morning, he hoped that everything was more or less over. He hadn’t acquitted himself any better than before, but he blamed that on the whole disaster last night. Surely there was nothing wrong with him? Besides, he was late for work and would have to skip breakfast. Dharma appeared to be her normal, funny, wacky self, and that led Greg to believe she’d tired of the upheaval and things would be back to what passed for normal in their household.
His colleagues wondered at his unusually absentmindedness, but no one gave him a hard time. And he could hardly tell them he was concerned about his performance in bed and over his wife’s way of sharing their private, personal, intimate, humiliating problems with the world at large. If he was unlucky the checkout girl at the supermarket would know and try to offer her ten cents worth.
In the evening when he got back, late again, because of the work load that had accumulated during the day, he was hoping for some peace and quiet. Next shock was in store for him, as soon as he set foot in the living room. He immediately suspected something even worse than the night before.
His friend Pete and Dharma’s unspeakable friend Jane were sitting around the table as if waiting for him. There were noises of dishes and an appetizing smell of cooking from the kitchen, so Dharma had to be preparing dinner. Unfortunately, the prospect of food did nothing to allay Greg’s misgivings. And the second Pete opened his mouth, Greg knew that Dharma had gone and done it. She’d told Pete and Jane about his – not-problem.
“Hey there, buddy. Dharma told us about your – uh – problem.”
“For the last time: There’s no problem. So you two can just go back home again. I don’t need any help from anyone, and certainly not you.”
Jane’s smile took on a diabolical quality and she beamed at him.
“Pity. Guess who knows all about that kind of thing? Half of my boyfriends -“
“I’m not surprised, Jane. But I don’t want to know. Keep it to yourself.”
“You shouldn’t talk that way, buddy. Those stories are actually kind of amusing.”
After a quick look at Jane, Pete hurriedly amended his statement.
“And edcuational. You could learn something from them. So listen to Jane and you’ll be alright.”
Greg closed his eyes and counted to ten. At that moment, he desperately wanted to take Pete by the throat and shake him until he was as dead as a doornail. How could Dharma have done this to him? She was supposed to be his wife.
“Get out. Now. This is my house and I want you out of it. This very minute.”
“That’s your mistake, Greg, but if that’s the way you want it. Come on, Pete. Guess who doesn’t have a problem?”
“Thanks, my love goddess.”
“You’re welcome, oh, my chubby hubby.”
Holding hands like a couple of teenagers, Pete and Jane left the apartment. Greg thought he could hear Jane’s laughter echo in the hallway outside long after they must have made it back to their place. At that moment, Dharma entered the room. She stopped in her tracks and looked around her, in a puzzled way.
“Where did they go? Dinner’s ready.”
“They wanted to go home and -“
“I see. Guess who -“
“No, I don’t want to guess who doesn’t have a problem.”
Again, to Greg’s dismay, he could hear that his voice had risen half an octave.
“Problem? Who said anything about a problem? I said, guess who cooked her husband’s favorite food? Tofu a la King. What are you waiting for? It’s getting cold. And Stinky and Nunzio might get on the table.”
Defeated, Greg trailed after his wife. He wasn’t taken in. If she’d invited their tiresome friends over and informed them about what wasn’t a problem, she must be up to something.
But whatever it was, Dharma must have decided to leave it for the time being. Nothing more was said about either guests or problems during dinner. After dessert – apple pie with vegan ice cream – Greg got up and headed for the bedroom.
Dharma followed, a hopeful look on her face. She didn’t forget to put the dishes down on the floor for Stinky and Nunzio to pre-wash. But when she got inside, Greg had already shed his garments and was rolled up in the covers, apparently about to go to sleep. Not wanting to admit defeat, Dharma slipped into a very hot nightie and got under the covers. There were ways to change a guy’s mind about sleep.
“Not now, Dharma. I’m so tired. All this nonsense makes it hard for me to sleep.”
“Oh, you poor baby. Let me -“
She began to skillfully massage Greg’s neck and shoulders. Despite himself he began to relax. That really felt good. Anyway, it was useless being upset with Dharma. She simply didn’t see his point of view.
“Mm. That’s terrific, darling. I’m alright now. Tomorrow night -“
“Oh, come on. Just a quickie. Please. This is humiliating. A wife shouldn’t have to beg for her marital rights. It’s the law.”
Greg was still in a mellow mood after the pleasant massage, so he was amused rather than offended by her insistence.
“Is it now? Where does it say so?”
“All over the place. Look anywhere.”
“Aha. Really, Dharma, I’m serious. Not tonight. Just let me get one night’s uninterrupted sleep, and I’ll show you -“
“Ok. Sweet dreams, baby.”
He got a very restful sleep that night, and the next morning, he was in a terrific mood. If Dharma hadn’t been on her way out, he would have felt like a quickie in the shower. But he told himself that if they saved it for the evening, it would be that much better.
The work at the office seemed to flow easily. Around five he found that he’d managed to demolish most of the earlier backlog and he thought he’d be able to pack it in for the afternoon. As he was about to turn off the desk lamp, the phone rang. If only that didn’t mean more work –
“Oh, hello, Dharma. Anything wrong?”
“No, nothing’s wrong. We’re just invited over to your parents’ house for dinner tonight.”
“Are we? You didn’t say anything about that this morning.”
“It came up while you were at work.”
“Do we really need to go? I wanted to -“
“Oh, please, Greg. We can’t disappoint them. They’re expecting us at 7.30.”
“Isn’t that a little early for my mother?”
“I don’t know. Hurry home.”
“Oh, alright. I was just leaving anyway.”
Dinner with his parents was the last thing Greg wanted, but he didn’t see any way of getting out of it. At least his mother had had Celia take a series of vegetarian cooking classes. The food should be fine.
Two hours later, he was sitting down in the dining room, having a drink. His father was mixing the drinks for everyone. Dharma and his mother were chatting about something not particularly interesting, their blonde heads close together. Greg wasn’t really paying attention.
Now his mother got up to announce that dinner would be served. They filed over to the table, and sat down. Celia came in, serving the dinner. Soon they were having a rather interesting Indonesian concoction. At least that was what Greg made of it. He was curious to know what his father felt about the new diet.
“So, dad, how are you getting along with the new diet?”
“This new food.”
“I just eat it, I don’t question it.”
“But how do you like it?”
His father had a vague expression on his face, not unlike Larry’s which seemed to hint that he didn’t really care what food tasted. Apparently, for his father, dinner was more about the drinks than the food.
Now Dharma was asking for attention.
“Listen up, everyone. I have something to tell you. Greg and I are planning to have a child.”
Greg moaned softly. Oh, no. Not that kind of pressure on top of everything. But his ordeal had only begun. Dharma’s announcement was greeted with a great deal of enthusiasm. Even Celia joined in. She had somehow slipped in without Greg noticing. Terrific. Why didn’t Dharma just take out an ad and get it over with? In fact, she might go on cable and inform the entire state.
“We’ll be starting immediately.”
Wincing, as he noticed his father’s eyes widen slightly, Greg buried his face in his hands. Did his father really think they were going to – right here in the living room? If he did, then his father must be almost as stupid as Larry.
“Except for a slight problem. Greg’s not responding well to pressure. But I’m trying to deal with -“
The horrified screech interrupted his wife as she was about to launch on another animated explanation of what measures she was going to take to prevent his – not-problem from occurring again.
Could things get any worse? Greg didn’t think so. Now he noticed that his mother’s reaction was similar to his own. She had paled visibly and was pressing the napkin to her mouth, suggesting she was about to lose what little she had managed to swallow of dinner.
“How could you? I don’t want my parents to know -“
“Don’t worry about it, son. Happens to everyone. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened to you sooner. Actually, I think I can help you. I have these pills that your mother got me and when you take them you get as -“
This simply couldn’t be happening. As if he was once again a child, Greg got up from the table and ran away from the scene of confusion. On his way out he heard Celia’s voice pitching in.
“I’m so sorry, mrs Dharma. And he looks so hot. But don’t you worry, I have this remedy you can use on him.”
He didn’t want to hear more. Without another thought in his head but to get as far away from all this humiliation, Greg kept running blindly down the street. Some of the neighbors stopped and stared, but he didn’t notice. His wild rush was only checked as he ran out into the street and narrowly missed being hit by a car. The driver, who seemed to be wearing a chauffeur’s uniform, leaned out of the window and began cursing him.
“Look where you’re going.”
Now the passenger seat window slid down and a face looked out. All Greg could see of the lady was her dark glasses.
“Greg? Greg Montgomery? I can’t believe it. Don’t you recognize me? It’s me. Philly. Your cousin Philippa. Surely you haven’t forgotten about me.”
She was pouting very convincingly. Philippa. Of course. She wasn’t exactly the person he wanted to see, but her car seemed to offer a convenient means of escaping. He needed time to think, work out his plans, because it was quite clear to him that he needed a break from his family and Dharma and her family. Not to mention their friends. But the first step had to be to get away from everything that reminded him of all this –
“No. Sorry. Of course I remember you. Hello.”
“Can I drive you anywhere? Did your car break down or what? But this is your parents’ neighborhood, isn’t it?”
“Yes, please. You could drive me to – Where are you going?”
“Home, of course. I’ve been shopping in the city and I was hoping – Listen, if you don’t have any specific plans, why don’t you come along and meet Geoffrey?”
“My husband. Don’t you remember? I invited you to the wedding, but you couldn’t make it.”
“Oh, now I remember.”
Greg was lying. He didn’t have any memory of that invitation, but anywhere would be better than risking discovery.
“Yes, I’d love to come and visit your husband. If you’re sure it’s alright?”
Philippa had to bite her lower lip to stop herself from licking her lips in anticipation. She’d always wanted to get into her handsome cousin’s pants and something told her that this time she might be successful.
“Of course. Hop in. Sutton.”
The uniformed driver got out and held the door on the other side open to the new passenger.
It took Dharma a while to realize that Greg hadn’t simply gone for a walk to cool off. She’d taken his car back to their place to wait for him. But he didn’t show up before she dozed off, and when she woke up the next morning, she realized that he was still missing. This wasn’t like Greg. To her knowledge he’d only done this once before, and that was totally different. Since then, he’d found himself and even become a better person, in Dharma’s eyes as well as in Abby’s.
So what could be wrong? If Dharma hadn’t been Larry’s daughter she would have called the police right away. However, he father had instilled in her a healthy scepticism aimed at anyone in a uniform, except for the sexiest guys. In the end she decided to call Abby and consult her.
It occurred to Dharma that Abby and Greg had become so much closer lately, or not exactly lately, but in the past couple of months anyway. Surely, she’d be able to offer some kind of insight into her son-in-law’s disappearance. If all else failed, Dharma knew that Abby knew a genuine psychic who travelled all across the lower 48 with a carnival.
To Dharma’s disappointment, Abby couldn’t help her, with anything but well wishes and a suggestion that she meditate and think positive thoughts. That took about half an hour, but when she was done, Greg still hadn’t been in touch, and by now Dharma was beginning to feel the first stirring of fear.
Perhaps – After taking the dogs for a walk, she sat down to call the hospitals. That kind of uniform didn’t count. And though Larry had told her all kinds of things about a government conspiracy to test weird stuff on innocent patients, and Abby strongly disapproved of traditional medicine, Dharma felt that she ought to at least ask if they’d admitted an unconscious man, answering to Greg’s description.
No one had seen anyone remotely like Greg, until late in the afternoon, when a Hispanic nurse got Dharma’s hopes up. However, once she arrived breathless and worried, the man in question turned out to be redheaded and in his forties. By the time Dharma showed up, the man had regained consciousness and was filled with suggestions involving nurse’s uniforms and bedpans. At first Dharma thought she would get the guy’s phone number for Jane, but at the last moment she recalled that her friend was now, quite surprisingly happily married.
Still no trace of Greg and now Dharma was really beginning to worry. He wouldn’t do this to her. She knew he wouldn’t. Something had to be wrong. But it was against Dharma’s principles to spend time brooding over things that couldn’t be changed. So in the evening she invited Jane and Pete over for dinner and an impromptu seance. Jane’s idea.
Dinner was nice, but the seance didn’t yield much, though Jane claimed to have spoken to various interesting personalities. They didn’t, however, make themselves known to Dharma. And though Pete, after some persuasion involving the promise of sexual favors from his wife, backed Jane’s story, the whole thing was a bit of a disappointment.
Greg didn’t like the looks of Geoffrey W Dorchester IV, one bit. The man was only a few years younger than Greg’s dad, and had a disconcerting way of staring mercilessly into Greg’s eyes. Most of the time, Greg got a feeling that his cousin’s husband was really referring to something quite different than what he was ostensibly discussing.
Philippa was exceptionally friendly and considerate, in stark constrast to the last time they’d met. She’d been in high school and her favorite occupation, apart from cutting classes, watching soap operas and listening to loud music, seemed to have been making Greg uncomfortable.
Even now, Greg felt his cheeks heat up as he remembered Philly’s tricks and ruses. To add insult to injury, his mother had insisted that he was nice to the unspeakable girl. After all, she belonged to the Montgomery side of the family. Her ancestors included senators, Supreme Court judges and an odd assortment of wealthy heiresses with connection to Hollywood stars hinted.
Though Philly was far from subtle, Greg’s innocense delayed his finding out about her true intentions. It was probably nearly a week until he suddenly realized what Philly’s odd behavior was about. By then, she’d grown tired of his failure to pick up on her plan.
Greg was lying in bed, trying to get to sleep, though his mind was really full of memories of happier days with Dharma and the dogs. He was missing his home, though he knew he couldn’t bear to set foot there again. Why did Dharma have to do this to him? They were doing great. He was so happy. Then this disaster hit him out of nowhere. A slight noise from the direction of the door had him starting out of his miserable thoughts and turning to face the source of the noise.
Someone was opening the door – Greg hurriedly switched on the bedside lamp and as his eyes were adjusting to the suddenly glaring light, he began to realize that his cousin was standing there, wearing the tiniest of negliges. This was nothing compared to the stuff Abby kept bringing Dharma. It was so flimsy and tiny, it hardly covered any part of Philly’s body. And she appeared to have improved with time, not the other way around. Greg could still remember how all his friends had envied him the connection with the hot teenager. If only they had known the knack she had of making you feel small and insignificant.
“Philly? Is anything wrong?”
His voice became a strangled whisper.
“No, silly. Nothing’s wrong. Except I couldn’t sleep and I was wondering if you’d mind terribly keeping me company. Oh, please say you will, Greg.”
“Great. I knew I could count on you.”
And to Greg’s horror, Philly walked over to his bed and sat down, so close to him, that he involuntarily moved over and nearly fell over the side.
“There. Isn’t this cosy? Just like old times.”
What old times? Greg wanted to ask. Though he’d occasionally suffered from highly embarrassing wet dreams about Philly, he knew for a fact that they’d never been in this close proximity, in any type of clothing.
“Philly, you can’t do this. Your husband -“
“What about him? He can sleep alright, the old fool. Might have something to do with the pills he’s taking. Anyway, he’s such an old bore. Tell me something amusing, Greg. Go on. You married that quaint little hippie girl. What’s it like? Tell me about her parents too. And about your mother. Is she still as prententious and snobbish?”
“Look here, if you won’t get out of my room, I will. Since I can’t sleep either, I’ll go for a walk.”
“A walk? Don’t be silly. If you want to go out, I’ll bring the Rolls. Or if you’re in the mood for something a bit more speedy, the Ferrari. I got it in July. It was my 25 birthday present from my husband.”
As Greg well knew, Philly was three years older than him and it had been her 35, not 25 birthday, but he let that pass. If her husband didn’t know, it was his business.
Without saying anything else, he got up, grabbed his clothes and retreated into the bathroom. When he was dressed, he cautiously opened the door a crack and peered out. Philly appeared to be gone, but he didn’t want to take any chances. Tiptoeing out into the corridor, he tried his best not to make any noise. At this point, he began to seriously re-think his visit in the Dorchester household. Philly didn’t appear to have changed at all, since they were teenagers. Certainly not for the better.
In the morning, Philly acted like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. She was polite, charming, matter-of-fact at the breakfast table, while keeping up a witty repartee with her husband. He too, appeared to be in an excellent mood, and showed no signs of being perturbed by the unexpected visit.
The following night, Greg toook the precaution of locking his door before turning out the light. He had been re-thinking his decision to move in with Philly like this. Perhaps, he could find another solution to his problem.
He hadn’t even fallen asleep, when he heard someone at the door. Whoever it was, maybe they would go away, when they discovered that the door was locked. Unfortunately, the hostess had a key to each room in the house, and before long, Philly was standing in the doorway.
“Greg? Are you asleep?”
“Yes, go away.”
“Don’t be such a bore. I’ve just brought you a drink. Look. Just warm milk.”
“Philly – it’s very nice of you to – Anyway, I don’t drink milk anymore.”
“I know. This is genuine soy milk. It’s getting cold. I refuse to stand here any longer like a maid.”
Greg didn’t know what else to do, so he reluctantly held out his hand for the cup.
“Thanks, that was great.”
Lying did come easy to a lawyer, after all. And Philly’s contented smile made Greg believe he’d managed to fool her. It was only after a while that he began to notice something odd. His head felt so odd. There was a dizzy sensation that was unpleasant to begin with. Only a few minutes later, he felt fine.
Under Philly’s watchful eyes, Greg underwent a total transformation, and turned into something like a young Larry back in the wild 70’s.
Philly ran to the door and called to the person who had been waiting impatiently there for much longer than he’d intended.
“It’s ok, Geoff, you can come in. He’s beginning to shape out nicely.”
“About time. Are you sure it’s working as it should?”
“See for yourself.”
Philly got into bed with Greg and began to undress him. A delighted giggle greeted her action.
“Geoff would like to get to know you better, Greg. That’s ok, isn’t it?”
“Sure. The more the merrier. Hop in, Geoff. Mm. Philly, did I ever tell you how much I’ve always liked your bosom?”
“Not in so many words. But I knew. That goggle-eyed look always gives you a hint. Not bad, is it? Dad gave me the surgery for my 17 birthday, so I would look good for the prom.”
“Very nice, darling. I’m sure Greg appreciates it still. I know I do.”
Philly’s husband let his words be accompanied by a far from discreet groping.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Aren’t you and Greg going to get – comfortable?”
“Be patient, sweetie. I think Greg is the sort of guy who needs to build up to these things slowly. And you like that too, don’t you?”
Geoff’s reply was considerably muffled as he was crushing his wife’s lips underneath his own while trying to talk at the same time.
“I think you’d better sit in that armchair over there. Greg and I are going to need some space.”
“Oh. I’d much rather stay and watch you up close.”
“No. Over there. Now.”
“The show will be worth it, baby, you know it will.”
And Philly put her considerable skills to work on Greg. To her suprise, he wasn’t nearly as inexperienced as she’d come to expect after watching him drool all over her for all those years. That hippie girl must have taught him a thing or two. Interesting.
For a while, she didn’t pay much attention to her audience. Then some odd strangled noises called her mind back to the present. Geoff was looking really strange. His face was more or less purple, and he didn’t seem to be breathing ok. What now? Philly had about had it, with that old fool.
“Philly, I think your husband is sick.”
“You’re right about that. As sick as they come. But I guess I’d better take a look.”
Ignoring her state of nudity, Philly bent over her husband. This wasn’t his usual revolting reaction to watching her in bed with someone else. It appeared to be far more serious. Was he even breathing? Philly was beginning to regret ever inviting Geoff to the show. It would have been much better to try Greg out on her own.
If the old fool had gotten himself killed, what would happen to her lovely millions? His unspeakably horrid children from his first marriage would swindle her out of all of it, if she didn’t move fast. She’d better find the new will Geoff had told her he’d made.
But first she might as well have Geoff moved back into his bedroom. What if someone thought it odd that he’d drop dead in the guest room while a guest was occupying it? She debated with herself whether she ought to get Greg to help move the body or get one of the servants to do it. In the end, she decided that Greg would most likely be too much trouble.
“I’ll be right back, sweetie. Geoff isn’t feeling well. He ought to get back to his room.”
“Alright. Be quick. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Yeah, right. As if she’d be in the mood for that kind of thing now that her inheritance was in jeopardy. Money first, fun second, that was Philly’s motto.
There was still a goofy grin all across Greg’s features, as he eagerly anticipated Philly’s return.
Using the intercom, Philly got her husband’s physical therapist, Lenny to come and move the body. She’d have to buy the creep off later, but first things first. Lenny knew far too well how richly he’d be rewarded if he kept quiet about the unusual scenes he’d seen around the house of his employer over the years.
Having disposed of the body, Philly went to work on looking for the will. Towards morning, she realized that Geoff must have been lying to her. He’d never intended to leave her anything. What a jerk.
This was a disaster. She’d have to do something about it right away. Fortunately, Greg was still at hand. If she could use the right leverage, she could probably get him to divorce the hippie girl and marry her instead. The Montgomery fortune wasn’t exactly what she’d pinned her hopes on, but if that was all she was likely to get, she’d take it.
When she returned to Greg’s room, she found him asleep. Impatiently, she shook him awake. By now, the effects of drug had worn off, and Greg looked about as pleased to see her as she’d been to find herself without an inheritance.
“Philly? What’s wrong?”
“Don’t you remember anything?”
Judging by the look of dismay on Greg’s face, he was beginning to recall some, if not all of what they’d just done.
Unable to think of a reply, Greg sunk into despair. But Philly had no intention of letting him escape that easily.
“I – I’m sorry, but -“
“No buts. You had sex with me, and that killed Geoff. That means you owe me. You’ll have to marry me instead.”
“What? No. I’m married to Dharma and I love her and -“
“Maybe you should have thought of that before you were all over me.”
“I would never -“
Greg’s mind was returning to normal. The only explanation he could think of was that Philly had had him drugged. That soy milk –
“You drugged me. You -“
“Whatever. But if you think you can pin that on me, you’re wrong. They’ll say you took that drug on your own. And I’m sure that if I wanted to, I could find evidence that Geoff was here. How would you like it if your colleagues found out about that? Or your mother?”
This was a nightmare. Not only had he cheated on Dharma, albeit under the influence of a drug, but he’d really fallen into a sticky trap. He had no idea how he was going to get out of it.
“While you think it over, you’d better stay here.”
Before Greg could make a move to stop her, Philly had taken his key and locked the door from outside. This couldn’t be happening.
Dharma was on her way out to a yoga instruction session, when the phone rang. She debated with herself whether she ought to pick up, but in the end decided that it might be news about Greg. Breathlessly, she snatched up the phone.
“Hello – Greg? Where are you? What? Why did you – Yes, I see, but – She did what – Tell me everything – Don’t give me that. Let’s hear the truth now, Greg. You wouldn’t be sounding like this if you were just on a visit with your cousin. Yes. I see. Really? Well, we’ll see about that. Calm down, darling. No, it’s ok. You’ll see. I’ll be there in an hour. I’ll sort that bitch out. Just lie low and I’ll get you out of there in no time. Yes, of course. I love you too. Don’t worry about it.”
No, there was nothing to worry about. She and Jane would deal with that stuck up bitch, and Pete would deal with any legal matters. They certainly had every angle covered.
When she picked up the phone the second time, there was a look on Dharma’s face that would scare even the finest of Montgomerys.
“Jane? Yes, it’s urgent. It will have to wait. Really? Wow. Alright, I’ll admit that you would have won the trophy, but this is more important. Greg’s in trouble. You and Pete are going to have to get dressed right away and come and pick me up. Sorry about that. Tell Pete, I’m really sorry. Yes, alright. Pete? Oh, come on. This is your best friend we’re talking about. You and Jane can -“
“Oh. Well, anyway, he’d do it for you. Great. I knew I could count on you. You guys are the best.”
Secretly, Dharma was quite glad she’d managed to put a stop to that one. This gave her and Greg time to come up with something really far out and clean their friends out totally. That trophy belonged to them, not Jane and Pete. But dutifully, she turned her mind away from pleasures to come, in favor of staging the rescue of her husband and partner in the great trophy war.
After a long, and rather shaky drive – Jane and Pete could never come to an agreement about which one of them was the best driver – Jane’s car pulled to a stop outside the Dorchester mansion.
At this time of night, most of the lights were out, especially in the servants’ quarters. Only two rooms appeared to be lit up, and even those only sparingly. Good. That should give Dharma and Jane time to exercise their somewhat rusty burglar’s skills. Larry had insisted that Dharma learn all kinds of useful trades. After all, as he put it, you never knew when they might come in handy.
Jane’s father, of course, had taken his art a trifle more seriously, and as a result was now enjoying life in rather more tropical latitudes, as a precaution against being forced to settle for the state’s hospitality in one of the institutions of the oppressed. Or in plain English, prisons.
His beloved soul mate, Jane’s mother, had joined him there, but since about three years, she was co-habiting with a couple of hot young surfers. That didn’t bother Jane’s dad as much as it might have. After all, drinks were cheap, and the weather nice. And there was only so much romantic chit-chat a man could take. Not like those latinos or whatever the locals were called. Apparently, they liked nothing better than to court and pamper a woman.
Pete cast a nervous glance in his wife’s direction, but knew better than to oppose her. Inwardly, he said a silent prayer to whatever deity would hear him, that he wouldn’t be caught red-handedly, trying to break into a luxurious home, or for that matter, any place where US law applied. Facing a judge in a the new capacity of accused, didn’t bear thinking about.
In a matter of seconds, or so it seemed to Pete’s amazed eyes, his wife had bypassed a sophisticated security lock and was now waving frantically to him to follow him inside, before the perimeter alarm went off. Two minutes later, the cables to that alarm were cut and Jane and Dharma could relax a little. Keeping their voices low, the women began to issue their orders.
However, despite all precautions, the trio of amateur burglars suddenly found themselves facing a woman, who judging by the cut of her nightclothes, appeared to be no one other than the mistress of the house. So much for a stealthy approach.
Completely unperturbed, Philly walked over to the phone, intending to put her sexy cousin’s wife in the slammer, and thus insuring her own access to Greg. She hadn’t counted on meeting Jane, however.
Hissing to her husband to go upstairs and find Greg, Jane began to take on her most amusing adversary to date. This should be good for a couple of laughs. From time to time, she and Dharma had indulged in a bit of heiress baiting, and it now seemed to Jane that it had been far too long since the last time.
Feigning a ludicrous invented foreign accent, Jane sidled in between Philly and the phone. Without even looking around, Jane knew that Dharma would be only one step behind.
Pete couldn’t help feeling a trace of pity towards the undeniably sexy woman, who was to be subjected to Dharma’s and Jane’s worst attack. But like Jane so impolitely had reminded him, his best buddy was upstairs, apparently held against his will by the hot babe he’d just seen.
On the landing, Pete stopped and looked around. Most doors were closed, and he didn’t have a clue to where Greg might be hidden. It now occurred to Pete that if Greg was indeed being held against his will, he’d most likely be locked in, unless – Smothering a grin, Pete subdued the image of his uptight friend handcuffed and naked on a bed.
Greg would really hate that. With Jane’s help, Pete had discovered that there was much to be said for that treatment, but who could guess whether Dharma had been as successful in her training of Greg? Besides, Pete reminded himself, Greg was such a faithful guy, he’d hate being put in such a situation by anyone other than Dharma.
Not knowing any other way to ascertain his friend’s whereabouts, Pete settled for the simple, albeit somewhat time consuming method of trying each door handle. Only two were locked. Since there was nothing else for it, Pete decided to risk calling out his friend’s name.
“Greg, buddy? It’s me, Pete. Are you in there?”
No reply. He moved on to the next one, Pete tried again. After a short delay, there was a faint reply from inside.
“Pete? Can you get me out of here?”
It seemed to Pete that Greg was displaying an almost total lack of appreciation for his rescue attempt, at least judging by his voice, but not daring to face Jane again, if he disappoined Dharma, Pete decided to look around for the key. He didn’t find it, and realizing that he was running out of time, he thought of a desperate solution to his dilemma.
In the movies, it always looked so easy to break in a door. He rammed the door with his shoulder, almost dislocating it in the process. Despite the pain, Pete noted with satisfaction, that the door appeared to be hanging loose on its hinges, so he tried again, this time with a kick. That had the desired effect, except for the fact that his ankle began to hurt even more than the shoulder. But he could put his weight on the foot, so he concluded the damage was only superficial.
“Greg? Where are you?”
The bed looked as if it had recently been vacated, but there was no trace of his friend anywhere in the room. Pete walked over to the bathroom.
“Hey, buddy, we need to get going. Jane’s dealing with your cousin or whatever relation that babe is to you.”
“Greg? What’s wrong?”
“Don’t come in here.”
“Ok. But if you think you have time for a shower, think again. This place could be swarming with cops any minute now, unless Dharma and Jane were able to cut the babe off from the phone.”
“I’m not having a shower.”
What was with Greg now? Had his cousin left some embarrassing traces of her – attentions – all over his body? This he had to see. Ignoring his friends pleas, Pete walked closer. Wrong again. Apparently, Greg’s only problems was a lack of clothes.
Good plan. That hot chick must have taken away not only her captive’s shoes but every garment he owned, forcing Greg to cower behind a small hand towel. Trying unsuccesfully to fight down a wide grin, Pete pressed his advantage.
“Never mind, buddy. Time to go. Come on. I don’t know about you, but I’d definitely object to spending the next few years in jail.”
Greg winced. He’d been wondering what explanation Philly would offer for her husband’s sudden demise. Though he told himself not to imagine all kinds of horrors, Greg had a nagging suspicion, that if he didn’t agree to marry Philly, who was really his second cousin, not his first, and was thus theoretically eligible for marriage to him, he might find himself accused of causing her first husband’s death. If he agreed to divorce Dharma, which was unthinkable in the first place.
“Ok. I’m coming. Give me that coat.”
“What? No. I’m sorry, pal. I’d love to lend it to you, really I would, but Jane gave it to me, and she’d kill me if she knew I was letting someone else wear it.”
There was a glint of something that definitely seemed alien to Greg’s usually sunny self.
“That’s not the right attitude towards your rescuer, is it, pal? Let’s go. I can guarantee that you won’t freeze to death in this nice cosy place. And it’s only a short walk to the car. Jane parked it right underneath the front steps. Quite nicely too, but don’t tell her I said that.”
Greg realized that there was no use arguing with Pete. Clutching the hand towel to his lower abdomen and below, Greg gingerly followed Pete out of the bathroom and onto the landing outside the room which had become his prison. Maybe Pete was right. All that mattered was getting out of this hell before someone else saw him.
Downstairs, the women were nowhere to be seen, but Philly seemed to have dropped her neglige right below the stairs, and Pete reached down to pick it up. After one look at Greg, Pete resisted the urge to press it to his nose, instead, he held the garment out to his friend.
“Here. Something for you to wear while we get you to the car.”
“What? Are you insane? I won’t wear that.”
“Suit yourself, buddy. This way.”
Even if Jane had left the car conveniently close to the stairs, it was now nearly twenty yards away. Still no sign of the women, and Pete was beginning to have serious misgivings about their chances of leaving the scene of the crime undetected.
“Sorry about that, Greg. I didn’t realize the car would have been moved. But you’ll be ok. This isn’t Alaska.”
At that moment, the cold wasn’t what was weighing the hardest on Greg’s mind, and he didn’t even reply. If his state of undress hadn’t bothered him so much, he’d have run. As it was, he ignored Pete and hurried on. A noise from behind them startled them. That was man’s voice, not Jane’s or Dharma’s. This unnerved Greg so badly, he dropped the towel, and by now, he had no compunction against running.
The two men reached the car at the same time, and scrambled to get inside. By now, they’d caught sight of Dharma and Jane, coming around the corner of the house, and Pete knew better than to fight with Jane over the steering wheel, so he sat down in the other seat. Greg gratefully settled for the backseat.
He was staring out the window, to follow his wife’s approach, but something made him turn back and face Pete again.
“Ok. I won’t. Honestly. Wow. I had no idea you were so – Do you work out?”
“Oh, ok, ok.”
“Move over, Pete. Let’s go.”
“I’m over here. Just drive, will you.”
Dharma threw herself inside, and slammed the door shut. Jane had already stepped on the accelerator, but though the door swung open again for a second, Dharma managed to grab it in time.
Dharma threw something white at him. On closer inspection, ‘it’ turned out to be his own shorts.
“Where did you get those?”
“Jane and I have ways of making people talk. We -“
“That’s ok. I don’t want to know.”
“Alright. But I can tell you this: Your cousin will never forget us.”
A weak groan was all the reply she had. Greg had a very bad feeling about all this. If no one was forced to spend the next couple of years of his or her life in jail, they were very, very lucky.
“Oh, you poor baby, you must be cold. Jane, turn up the heater.”
“Ok. But you’d better do your part. Unless you’d like Pete -“
It took a while for her meaning to filter through to Greg’s drugged mind. He still felt a bit dazed from whatever it was Philly had given him.
“No, thanks. I’ll be ok. Just focus on the driving, Jane.”
“I want to take turns.”
“No, you can’t, Pete. I’m the commander of this mission, so I get to drive.”
“Excuse me? Commander?”
“Yes, of course, my love. Captain Jane.”
“Commander Jane. But I’m the second officer, right?”
“No, that’s Dharma.”
Pete digested this in silence, then prepared his sweetest smile. Sometimes that had an effect on Jane.
“Can I at least drive halfway?”
“Stop bickering, you two. Can’t you see that Greg’s miserable?”
Groaning inwardly, Greg looked down on his rather bluish feet. Thanks a lot, Dharma. Now they’ll stare at me again. But he didn’t say anything. It felt too good to be back in Dharma’s arms. She didn’t generate all that much heat, but it still felt comfortable. It was almost like being home again. He even dozed off, and hardly noticed the passage of time. Suddenly, the car jerked to a stop, and the wonderful warmth began to fade.
Greg looked outside, and found himself right below his own apartment. Finally. But how did he get up there, without attracting too much attention? It was broad daylight by now, and people were rushing to work.
Dharma saw his dilemma and descended on Pete.
“That coat. Hand it over.”
“Why not? It will only be for a few minutes. Do you really think he should go up there in only his shorts?”
Jane didn’t even try to smother the giggle that spilled over her lips.
Acknowledging defeat, Dharma decided to move on.
“Come on, be fair. Greg’s freezing. What about that nice, warm sweater you knitted for Pete?”
“Did not. He made it himself.”
“Jane. You promised not to tell anyone if I learned how to knit.”
“Never mind. Here. Take my jacket, Greg.”
Greg stared at the small garment, but realized he didn’t have any choice. It was red, and had no apparent ‘girly’ details. It would be far too small for him, but at least it would help cover him while he made his way upstairs before he attracted any more attention. Already, some of the people hurrying by, had stopped and were staring into the car. The sight of a half-naked man was hardly what you expected to see in the early morning, in an ordinary street.
“Thank you, Dharma.”
Painfully aware of the spectacle he was presenting to the bored commuters, Greg hurried up to the front door. If he was lucky, his neighbors would already be on their way to work.
Once inside the apartment, Greg hurriedly made for the bedroom, ignoring Dharma’s concerned look. He knew she was bound to suspect something before long, if he didn’t tell her anything, but at the moment, all he wanted was to get some decent clothes on, and get back into bed. His own bed. With no leering, conspiring strangers.
To his relief, Dharma didn’t seem eager to push him into confessing or confiding anything. Instead she went into her housewife act, bringing him breakfast in bed, fussing over him. This brought on a bad attack of guilty conscience. If any of his jumbled memories were correct, he and Philly had – No. How could he possibly have – But he was sure she’d given him some drug. Under other circumstances, he would never have done anything of the kind. The question was, would Dharma understand? There was only one way to find out.
“Dharma – We need to talk.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking and thinking, and I now think I know why you ran away. The pressures of having a baby. Greg, darling, I should have known you better than that. Of course you didn’t want everyone to know about what we were trying to do. Like the time you were trying to get your driving license and Kitty had invited all your friends from school over to celebrate and it turned out that you’d failed.”
“My mother told you that?”
Greg should have known. Dharma had this way of insinuating herself into his mother’s confidence. Though in all fairness, his mother was as bad as Abby or Larry or – Dharma, when it came to telling embarrassing secrets.
“Yes, she’s told me a lot about you when you were a child. Like that time when -“
“Thanks, Dharma, but I think we can leave that for another time.”
“Alright. What was it you wanted to tell me?”
Yes, how did he tell her that he’d slept with another woman, involuntarily or not? What was it his dad had been going on about after his affair with Abby had ended – at least Greg fervently hoped it had ended – about the Goddess wanting women to sleep with as many men as possible? No. Dharma wouldn’t see it that way. Not when it came to him. Just like Abby hadn’t seen it quite that way, when she’d learned that her fiance had slept with Kitty. With Dharma, only the truth would do.
The despair in Greg’s voice was finally getting through to Dharma, and with real concern in her eyes, she fell silent, awaiting whatever Greg was about to tell her.
“Philly wanted me to marry her.”
Where did that come from? This wasn’t how he’d intended to tell the story, but after all the shocks Greg had suffered, his brilliant legal mind wasn’t quite up to its usual level.
“Then I guess she was disappointed.”
Dharma appeared to find his outburst rather puzzling.
“Eh, yes -“
“Didn’t she know that you and I are married?”
“Yes, but -“
“Oh. And she’s married too, right? Kitty showed me some pictures from her wedding. She said you were busy studying international law, right at about the same time Edward was on a business trip to Cancun -“
“She also wanted me to have sex with her. With Geoff still in the room.”
“Your relatives really are weird. That’s like something out of – Didn’t Kitty say this was from the Montgomery side of the family? I guess there are weirdos everywhere.”
“Please, let me finish.”
“I thought you were finished. Is that why she locked you up and refused to let you leave? So she could talk you into having sex with her and her husband?”
Greg winced at her choice of words. That was far too close to the truth, except for one crucial difference. It had already happened. All the sick sex, with Geoff present.
“Dharma, she gave me something. Some drug. I don’t know. I never wanted to – Can you ever forgive me? I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Dharma processed his outburst in silence, and it seemed to Greg like he didn’t take one single breath in all that time. In reality, her silence couldn’t have lasted more than one minute at the very most, but he felt as if his heart had stopped beating and that the entire world was waiting for Dharma’s answer.
“Really? Then I’m even more happy about what Jane and I did to that bitch. Oops. Abby says you should never call people names and besides, a bitch is just a female dog, and that’s far too nice for someone like Philly.”
“You’re not mad?”
Greg’s words came out weakly, and he was wondering if he was still back at Philly’s house, drugged and delirious.
“Yes, I am. Hopping mad. At Philly. That sick – Anyway, she took advantage of you, and -“
“There’s more. Geoff – uh – died of a heart attack while – we were – uh -“
“He died while you were having sex with him?”
“NO. I was having sex with Philly. He was just watching.”
“I see. Good. I mean, may his soul go in peace. And maybe he died a happy man. I just meant -“
“I know what you meant.”
“Can I go back and finish the job on Philly? Jane and I never got round to -“
“No. Dharma, please. If she doesn’t call the police and have us all arrested for – whatever she can think of – we’re very lucky. Don’t do anything to make things worse.”
“Alright. But it’s such a shame. Jane can -“
“I’m sure she can. But not this time, ok?”
“Oh, ok. Don’t be so stuffy. There’s no way Philly will call the police. She knows Jane and I will get her, and if we don’t, Abby and Larry will, or one of our friends, or -“
“I get the picture. I never knew you could be so -“
“Yes, I knew that. I meant – I don’t know -“
“Never mind. Don’t worry about it. It will never happen. You just focus on getting that drug out of your system and -“
Dharma was trying to guage Greg’s mood. How would he react to a discreet hint that he might need to get tested for whatever a woman like Philly might be carrying?
“And a visit to your doctor.”
There. Dharma was positively beaming. Wasn’t that a perfect Kitty euphemism? Not a word that could upset her delicate husband.
It was a while until Greg saw her meaning, but when he did, she knew right away, because his face took on a very sweet shade of pink.
“Yes. I – uh – will do that. But as far as I remember -“
“Let’s just say I don’t think we’ll need to worry about that.”
Greg had a suspicion Philly hadn’t wanted to become pregnant. Not with him as the father, not while she was still married to Geoff. In any case, whatever the reason, it was lucky for him and Dharma.
“Is that all?”
“Yes, that’s all. Dharma -“
“What is it now? You know I’m not mad at you.”
“Yes, you’re the most wonderful woman in the entire world. I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
“Oh, you don’t have to be. It was all her fault.”
“No, I mean for acting like a baby, and running away like this.”
“Let’s just forget about all this. I shouldn’t have embarrassed you like I did. You’re back, and safe. That’s all that matters. But we’ll still try to have a baby, won’t we?”
“Of course. As long as we tell everyone after you’re sure you’re pregnant, not before.”
“Deal. I think you should get some sleep now, Greg. You look tired. She must have tired you out completely.”
“No. It was only once and Geoff died after only about three minutes.”
“Ok. Go to sleep now, sweetie.”
“I’ll go call Jane and Pete and thank them for their help.”
And delay them in any plans they might have for the retaking of that trophy.
“And I’ll call Abby and Larry and your parents and tell them you’re back.”
“Ok. But you won’t tell them anything else?”
Dharma leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. Greg was beginning to realize that he’d been lucky in more ways than he could count, when he married Dharma. What other wife would accept what he’d just done, and not get angry or particularly upset even? She was one in a million. With that reassuring thought in his mind, Greg drifted off to sleep.
His dreams were mostly benign, except for one where he and Dharma had 8 children. The worst part was that they looked like Jane, Pete, Abby, Larry, his own parents and – Philly and Geoff.
But when he woke up screaming from that one, Dharma was standing over him, telling him lunch was ready. A very late lunch, consisting of his favorite vegan dish. By the time they’d digested the food, the dream had faded, and Greg was feeling a lot more like his old self again. He’d had a lucky escape, and from now on, he wouldn’t even try facing the world on his own. Everything he needed was right here.