Maura picked up her little dog and hurried across the street. She heard her mother's voice even through the closed door and the tone that was used did not make Maura want to go inside. She decided to wait until after her mom was done with Vince before she walked into the house.
"Stuart Vincent Sexton, get down here. I'm not finished talking to you yet."
Vince sighed before turning and walking back down the steps. He couldn't believe she still had more to say. He thought he'd heard it all on the way home. He hoped she wasn't just going to say the same things over again. He wasn't stupid. He got it the first time.
Knowing better than to talk back to his Mother when she was this mad, he stood in front of her silently and waited for her to say whatever she was going to say. He hoped she would just get it over with right away and let him be.
When Lucy spoke this time, her voice was much lower than it was a moment before, "Stuart, you're almost 18 years old. You're almost an adult, so it's time to start acting like one. You need to start making better decisions, your own decisions. In life you aren't always going to have someone to bail you out or give you another chance. In fact, this school year coming up is your last chance for high school. It's time to start taking things seriously." Lucy paused with a sigh. She wondered if she was just wasting her breath. "I think you know that I don't expect to have another day like this . . . Go on upstairs. I'm sure you have some homework or studying you should be doing."
Vince opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it. Instead, he simply answered, "Yes, ma'am," and went to his room.
As soon as Vince headed upstairs, Maura ventured inside.
"Hi, Mom. What's going on?" Maura asked timidly. "Vince is in trouble again, isn't he?"
"Yes, a lot of trouble," Lucy sighed. Then she glanced down and noticed the little, black dog at Maura's feet. "Where did that dog come from?"
"I found him on the way to Judith's house. He was just cowering in the ditch on the side of the street. He looked so alone and scared. I just couldn't leave him there," Maura poured her heart out. "Do you think I could keep him, Momma, just until I find out who he belongs too? Please?"
Lucy mustered a smile for her daughter. Maura was such a sweet girl with so much love to give, to people and especially to animals. It was hard to say no.
"Yes, but only for awhile. If you can't find out who he belongs to, you'll have to find a new home for him."
"Oh, thank you, Momma!"
"And he needs to stay outside. We don't know if he's housebroken."
"Ok, whatever you say," Maura agreed happily. "I'll go make up a bed for him outside right now."
Maura scooped up the little dog in her arms and planted a kiss on her mother's cheek, before skipping outside.
"Don't worry, little puppy," she whispered in the dog's ear once she was out of her mother's earshot. "Momma talks strict, but once she sees what a sweet little doggie you are, she'll let you stay in the house." She was also hopeful that if they didn't find the dog's owners, her mother would let the dog stay for good.
As soon as Maura was outside, Lucy flopped down on the couch. It had been an exhausting day. As if her job at the hospital wasn't demanding enough, she didn't even finish her shift before she had to take off to deal with Stuart - or Vince as he preferred to be called now that he was older. She couldn't help calling him by his given name sometimes. After all, he would always be her baby, even when he tried her to her breaking point. She still hoped he would get it together and start turning his life around before it was too late. If he didn't, she didn't know what she would do.
She did the best she could, but sometimes she couldn't help feeling that she hadn't done right by him, that he would have done better if he'd had a father in his life. She never would have imagined that she would end up a single mother of two kids with two different fathers, and with neither one of them in her children's lives. She wasn't sure if it was more sad for Vince, whose father slowly slipped out of their lives after the divorce, or for Maura, who never knew her father at all. She thought that it was just sad over all.
She was about to pull herself up from the couch and head upstairs for a shower, hoping the warm water would help relax her after a stressful day, when she heard a voice at the door.
Lucy walked to the front door and found her best friend, Chloe, standing in the entryway.
"I saw Maura out front and she said you were home. Did another animal follow her home?" she asked with a grin.
"You know how Maura is with strays, she can't bear to see an animal lost or alone."
"I'm surprised you're home. I just saw your car in the driveway on my way home and thought I'd drop in and see if you're planning on coming to the meeting Thursday night." When Lucy responded with a blank stare, Chloe could tell her friend wasn't her usual self at the moment. "Is everything alright?"
"Not really. It's been a rough day, to say the least."
"You know what, you go sit on the patio and put your feet up and I'm going to go in the kitchen and get us a couple of glasses of wine and you can tell me all about it."
Lucy smiled at her friend. "How do you always know the right time to show up and always know just what I need?"
"It must come from being friends for so long," Chloe replied. "I'll meet you out there."
Once the two women were settled on the patio, Chloe asked, "Ok, so what's up?"
"You aren't going to believe this. I got called away from work today and had to leave early to go pick up my son at the police station."
"Oh my God," Chloe exclaimed in disbelief. "What happened?"
"He and these other boys were caught spray painting graffiti at the back of the school. Of course, the others ran away before they got caught and Stuart ended up being the only one that was caught. I just don't know what to do with that boy anymore. He just doesn't have the sense to not do things he knows he's not supposed to do and to not hang out with people who are not a good influence on him. He's not a bad kid . . ."
"No, he's really not," Chloe readily agreed.
"He's just so impressionable. Honestly, it scares me that he's almost 18 and a legal adult. He's almost old enough to be out on his own, or at least he's supposed to be getting to that point. He still has so much growing up to do and I'm starting to wonder if he's ever going to get to where he needs to be."
Chloe just shook her head. "I hope for his sake and yours that he's just a late bloomer. How's he doing in summer school?"
"I don't know, but I'm supposed to meet with his school counselor next week, so I don't think that means he's doing very well. I don't understand him. I was such an overachiever when I was his age. I worked so hard to get good grades and I had so many goals and dreams for myself. I wanted to go to college, I wanted to be a doctor. Vince seems to have no goals for himself. He doesn't even seem to care if he finishes high school or not. If he doesn't graduate, I don't know what he's going to do. What happened today cannot be a preview of what his future is going to be like. I cannot let that happen."
"Oh, Lucy, no you can't. I know you won't let that happen and if there's any way I can help, I will do whatever I can to help you both."
"You have already done so much to help us," Lucy said gratefully. "I don't know where we would be if you hadn't shared that apartment with me when I was newly divorced, unemployed, and had two babies to take care of. There was no way I could have gone back and finished my residency if you and Eileen hadn't been there to help out with the kids when they were small."
"That's why Vince and Maura are like my own kids to me. If you need someone else to try to knock some sense into him, I won't hesitate."
"I know you wouldn't," Lucy laughed before growing serious again. "But I don't know if it would do any good."
"Do you think it would do any good to talk to Craig about it?"
"I doubt it. Since he remarried and started a new family of his own, he's been almost totally absent from Vince's life. A call or a card at Christmas and maybe Vince's birthday, if he remembers, is all he's done in years. For as hard as he fought for custody when we split up, he certainly gave up easily . . .I don't think I'll bother to call him. I can't imagine him having anything positive to offer."
"Let's hope the school councelor will be of more help. I'm sorry, I can't do more, Luce."
As the women stood up and shared a parting hug, Chloe said, "Call me anytime you want to talk."
"Ok, I will and I'll be at the meeting on Thurday, unless they call me in to the hospital. I'll see you then, if not sooner."
As Lucy started to pick up the empty wine glasses and go back into the house, she heard footsteps coming back to the patio. At first she thought that Chloe had come back for something, so she was surprised when she turned around and saw Lawrence Arrendale walking down her garden path.
"Hi, Lawrence. What brings you by?" Lucy asked lightly, but his presence had brought a sudden sickly feeling to her stomach. She didn't think his visit was meant to bring good news.
"I heard about what happened with your son today and I'm very concerned with the path he seems to be headed down."
"I'm not pleased with what happened today either, but I'm taking care of it," Lucy said, standing up straighter. "I can handle my son and he knows that I will not tolerate him doing anything like this again."
"I hope you can keep your son under better control. I don't have to tell you, I'm sure, that part of the appeal of living in Arrendale Heights is that this is an exclusive and a safe neighborhood. We don't want any of our residents, regardless of their age or how long they've lived here to be involved with any illegal activities of any sort. It damages the integrity of what this neighborhood stands for. If you weren't such a long time member of our neighborhood association and if you hadn't been such a good friend of Eileen's, I would have had to suggest that the board vote on whether or not you should be allowed to continue to remain a part of our neighborhood. Because I know that nobody in this neighborhood wants it to come to that and because of your outstanding reputation, Lucy, I'm willing to let it go this time and give your son another chance to turn around and live up to what this neighborhood expects of him. You need to make sure that nothing like this happens again or next time you will have to face the board of directors."
Lucy was so furious, she wanted to clench the wine glasses in her hands until they shattered, but instead she gritted her teeth and held her temper. "Don't worry. I have already seen to it and it won't happen again. If there isn't anything else, I have other things to do."
"That's all," Lawrence replied.
As Lawrence turned and walked back down the garden path, Lucy stormed into the house and slammed the door behind her.