Allysia knew from the beginning that dinner was a bad idea. No one wants to sit in some stuffy restaurant after a good portion of their day has been spent in airports. She felt sorry for Regan. None of them were really dressed for it anyway. More importantly, neither her nor Troy really knew what exactly Audra had taken before they had left to pick up Regan, but it was apparent that she was coming down off of whatever prescribed drug of choice it was. The first sign that every thing was going down hill was at the door. Although they had reservations, they still had to wait to be seated. Audra was suddenly fuming. Troy had to calm her down a bit. TJ could not be still to save his own life, which was normal for him, but his fidgeting was nothing compared to Audra’s inability to sit still. From that moment forward, the evening went like water swiftly circling a drain.

Poor Regan looked overwhelmed, especially when she glanced at the menu. Audra convinced her into ordering something expensive, though she tried to refuse. When Regan tasted it, Allysia watched as she pretended to cough so that she could spit it into her napkin. It was obvious that she hated it. Allysia kicked her husband in the shin when he started to chuckle.

Allysia smiled and raked some of her food onto a bread plate, passing it to Regan, under the guise of an exchange. “Here taste some of this and let me taste some of yours,” Allysia suggested to Regan. “I’ve never tried that before.”

TJ, missing nothing, tried to give her some of his food under the table.

“It’s not nasty,” he whispered, giving her an encouraging smile.

Audra only made matters worse by taking offense. She pretended not to notice, but then gave a speech about training the palette, the benefits of proper exposure and having acquired tastes. Regan could not really understand what Audra was talking about, all she knew was that the stuff looked appetizing but tasted awful. When Audra finally finished Regan had reserved a very refined and silent “fuck you” for her. Allysia found it hard to keep herself from laughing. As Regan’s guard drifted away, her face was an open book.

As time passed, Audra grew more and more vicious. By the time they had finished their main courses, Allysia had actually told Audra to shut-up, which caused Troy to moan, impatiently checking his watch. He seemed to be in a different mental stratus sphere. The only time he tuned in was to converse with TJ.

Audra argued with the waiter and sent her desert back twice. Regan watched wide eyed, having declined desert--as did everyone else except TJ, who gobbled his up in a matter of seconds. Regan had never actually seen anyone act the way that Audra was acting, accept on TV. “It’s just fluffed chocolate pudding for Christ’s sake,” Regan thought to herself. It was unbelievable. No one had any alcohol with their meal, but Regan sort of wondered if Audra had downed several shots during her trip to the ladies room. What else would explain this Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde she kept pulling? Now she was waving her fork around, going on and on about how close everyone in the family was.

“When you meet Ian, you’ll just love him. He definitely was our father’s favorite. ‘Our father,’ isn’t that strange? We have always been close, even after that whole thing with Allysia. And now, you are one of us too. There is no space between us.”

Ignoring the sudden tension around the table, she pointed her fork at each individual person. “Take Troy for instance…he’s the sweetest of us all. You call on him, and he‘s there without a single question, strong and solid like a rock…but he’s whipped. And Allysia, she’s a force to be reckoned with…and a whore!”

“That’s enough Audra!” Allysia stood up. “Troy!” she demanded.

“Ian…he’s an intellect in denial…super-duper, cherry on top whore, but a sweet one. Honestly! But, you will love them all to death.”

Troy slowly stood to his feet, placing a couple of large bills down on the table.

“I’m not finished,” Audra yelled out. Her dessert had hardly been touched, but at this point no one was expecting her to actually eat it. She glared at Regan.

“Do you realize that your mother spelled your name wrong?”

“Oh not that,” Allysia breathed. “Troy, pick her ass up and let’s go.”

Troy gently grabbed Audra by the arms and pulled her up. “Let’s go beautiful.”

People were staring at them but Regan ignore it. She had felt as if all eyes were on her the minute they had arrived.

“No really,” Audra continued as they made their way through the restaurant. “My father’s name is spelled R E A G A N. Your name is spelled R-E-G-A-N. I saw it on your birth certificate.”

Regan turned around to look at her so-called sister. They were going to have to get something straight right from the beginning. No one was going to be saying shit about her mother. Besides, why the hell would Audra be interested in her birth certificate? And furthermore, why would she choose now to bring it up?

“So what exactly are you trying to say,” Regan demanded.

Troy tried to move the two girls along, but Audra stood her ground.

“My father’s dead and you my dear are his namesake. But, your name is spelled wrong,” Audra summarized sweetly.

Regan started to turn around, dismissing the girl’s comment as drunken gibberish. So what, her name was spelled differently. Regan could care less.

“Your mother really was not very bright, was she,” Audra added.

Regan’s hand lashed out so fast that by the time the actual sound of it slapping across the side of Audra’s face sliced through the air, Regan had turned and stormed away.

Troy and Allysia stared at Audra in shock.

“Wow,” TJ yelled out. “Aunt Regan just hit Aunt Audra.”

Allysia could not suppress her smile. And a half-smile even slipped off Troy’s lips. Audra looked absolutely dumbfounded, her hand to her cheek.

“She hit me,” she whined.

“I bet that brought your ass back to earth,” Allysia said with a grin before going after Regan.

Troy grabbed TJ by the collar as the child tried to follow his mother. He figured he would give the two women a minute alone. “Why?” he asked Audra, not bothering to hide his disappointment.

“Troy,” Audra cried out dramatically, “she hit me!”


The cool air felt refreshing against Regan’s feverish skin. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back in an attempt to fight back willing tears. Was this day ever going to end!?! “I shouldn’t have come here,” she announced to no one in particular.

“Yes you should have.”

Allysia’s voice made Regan turn away, ashamed. Immediately she brought the heel of her hands up to her eyes to wipe away any tears.

Allysia hugged her new sister-in-law from behind. “I do believe you are exactly what we needed,” she whispered into Regan’s ear.

Regan pulled her head back a little to look the woman in the face. Allysia’s brown eyes were sparkling and she was smiling ear to ear.

“What is this,” Regan questioned, “some type of initiation?”

“Not even close,” Allysia replied quickly. “Initiation would be family night at the round table.”

Regan had no idea what she meant by that.

Allysia rubbed the poor girl’s back. “But tonight, you did beautifully.”

Regan laughed in disbelief. The whole day for her had been unbelievable. She felt as if she were caught in some dream that was on the borderline of being a nightmare, she just had not turned the right corner yet. Why, she asked herself for the thousandth time? Why had she come here? Why was she even subjecting herself to all of this? The answer was even sadder than the situation itself. She had aged out of the foster care program. Larry and Patricia, her foster parents, had not thrown her out, like any other foster parents would have. After all, they would have been justified because the county money was shut off the day Regan graduated from High School. She knew that her foster parents needed the space that she took up and the money. Luckily for her, they were in it for more than just the money. They were a rarity within a sometimes sick system. The bottom line was that Regan had nowhere else to go. There was being on your own and then there was BEING ON YOUR OWN. What the fuck did she have to lose? She owned half a house: why not live in it? She would not be eligible to receive any money from her trust until she was twenty-one. What else could she do? Where else could she go?

“Is she okay,” Troy asked, holding the limo door open for the two of them.

“You think you can do this,” Allysia whispered in her ear.

Regan nodded. She really had no choice. Even if she wanted to fly back to Jersey, she did not have enough money in her pocket for that. She slid into the waiting limo.

Despite Troy’s generally stoic nature, he tried hard to relieve the tension in the limo on the drive to the house. Regan almost felt sorry for him. He apologized for Audra’s behavior after Audra refused to. In an effort to lighten the mood, he attempted to explain some of the interesting things about Asheville that Regan could look forward to. Evidently, the town was an extraordinary tourist trap. There was a castle, vineyards, various different festivals and historical sites. He suggested that she could meet him for lunch one day, maybe Ian could bring her. That would give the two of them an opportunity to get to know each other better. He was a corporate lawyer.

Regan smiled politely and nodded in response. His attempts were just not enough. The mood remained the same. Everyone sat in their assigned spaces. Audra sat next to the window sulking, looking out into the darkness with her hand pasted to her swollen cheek. Allysia tried hard to suppress her smile as she cradled TJ’s head in her lap as he slept. There were times when she had wanted to slap Audra so bad, especially during the first couple of years of her marriage to Troy. She had the funny feeling that the little spoiled brat had never ever been disciplined as a child. That made witnessing what Regan did all the more precious. She really wished Ian was there.

Allysia reached over and took Regan’s hand. She knew that the girl was probably asking her self what the hell had she gotten into. There were times when she had to ask herself that too. “I’m so glad that you are here. I hope we can be good friends. Please don‘t stay mad at Audra. She’s glad you’re here too. Tomorrow she won‘t even remember what she’s said to you.”

Again, Regan tried to smile. That figures, she thought.

“I’m sitting right here,” Audra announced, her voice muffled as if there were some actual damage done to her face. “I get tired of people talking about me like I’m not even here.”

Where was that woman, the epitome of control that smiled like she did not have a care in the world? What ever was crumpled up against the side of the car was not the Audra Regan thought she knew. If Regan had known the chick was so crazy, she would have stayed her ass in Jersey.

Allysia started laughing; she could not help herself any longer. Troy reached into the mini bar and pulled out two small bottles of Scotch.