Monday, August 14, 2017

Marriage Made Me Do It

It is time to offer up two fabulous gifts to one lucky winner! If you are interested in entering the contest for my upcoming dark comedy released by HarperCollins Publishers UK, Marriage Made Me Do It, keep reading!



Ignoring the droning voice of the old man talking up front, I let my thoughts wander. As usual, they went back to my youth. Growing up in the Seventies and Eighties, I was blissfully ignorant of how screwed-up my life would turn out when I reached the A-word: Adulthood.

I’m the oldest sibling of three girls born into a middle-class family. We grew up living in the suburbs, safely hidden from the dangers of “the big city.” God, life back then had been a breeze. We walked to school, without fear of stranger danger, on sidewalks wide enough for three people to stand side by side, with shade provided by sprawling oak trees. We played with our friends—outside, mind you—until the streetlight in our cul-de-sac buzzed, ready to come on. We didn’t have electric gadgets to tether us inside, weakening our bodies and turning our minds to mush. Nope! We survived skinned knees and bike wrecks, eager to go out and do the same thing again the next day after school. We’d run to the house and land on the porch before the streetlight sparked to life and eat a home cooked meal—at all places—the dinner table.

We weren’t rich, like my best friend Elizabeth Gelmini’s family—they had a swimming pool and a tennis court, for Godsakes, and both her parents drove BMWs—but we weren’t poor, either. Since I was the oldest, I got the new clothes, and my younger sisters, Rebecca and Rachel, were forced to wear my hand-me-downs. Boy, do I miss the days when Rebecca whined and complained while stomping around in her Pepto-Bismol-colored room throwing hissy fits as only a pre-pubescent girl can.

“I don’t want Roxy’s clothes! Look, Mom! There’s a stain on these jeans. And this shirt is so out of style! No one wears puffed sleeves anymore! I’ll look like a fool and all my friends will laugh at me. Why can’t I get a new pair of Calvin’s or Jordache’s? Tennis shoes without holes in them, or even the latest design of a shirt?”

“Rebecca Denise, that’s enough. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know. Your father works very hard to provide a good life for you girls so I can stay home and raise you. Stop being so unappreciative. I didn’t give up a chance for a career in nursing just to listen to an ungrateful child yell at me.”

“Mom! I can’t wear her shirts. Roxy’s big boobs stretched them out! I’ll have to stuff my bra!”
The memory made me smile, which I quickly concealed with my hand. This was not the place or appropriate time to be happy.

I glanced over at Rebecca. Though her features had matured and changed, her attitude certainly remained the same. Rebecca was the quintessential middle child. Textbook case. Hell, her picture was probably underneath the caption “Middle Child Syndrome” in every psychology book on the planet. If it wasn’t, they were missing out on the perfect poster child.

Cosmos, forgive me, but I’ve hated her ever since the day my parents brought her whiny ass home from the hospital.

Mom and Dad lived by The Suburbia Handbook. Roger and Claire Rayburn built their lives around the ancient, mental code of ethics. Mom and Dad almost nailed Rule Number Two, chapter and verse.
All married couples must procreate and raise, at a minimum, 3.2 children, preferably staggered in ages by three years.

They missed the target goal by having offspring of the same sex. They needed at least one with a set of balls to pass with flying colors. Unfortunately, the estrogen pool was deeper and stronger—or perhaps Daddy’s sperm refused to bring forth another knuckle-dragger into the world. Who knows? But, they made up for missing the bar by acing Rule Number One: High school sweethearts must marry; the wife is to stay at home and raise the children while the husband brings home the bacon.

Nailed it.

Like my mother, I aced Rule Number One—the track star married the football jock. Boom! Item number one checked off the list. I didn’t count the demerit (we had to get married our second year of college). Getting married at 20 wasn’t because of overwhelming, all-consuming, mind-altering love. Nope. I tied the knot with Carl A. Davenport because I neglected to read the instructions that came along with the prescription—taking antibiotics might disrupt the effectiveness of birth control pills.
Fuck. I got knocked up at 20 because of a freaking sinus infection.


No, wait, I wouldn’t count that one. It was the manufacturer’s fault—they should have written that part in big, GIANT print, rather than using letters so small one could only read with a microscope.
Carl continued his studies and obtained a master’s degree in education and was now a tenured professor at the local college. Me? I gave up the dream of going back to school, following the guidelines of the invisible handbook passed on to me by my mother. I was a “stay-at-home Mom” (better known as Drunk Wino). I tried to follow the rules, but sometimes missed the mark. No one could ever label me an overachiever!

Rule Number Two altered a bit during the Nineties—inflation and such—and the required number of children went from 3.2 to 2.5 (unless you were a devout Catholic and preferred to birth an entire baseball team). I failed Rule Number Two and only popped out one child—a daughter— who decided I was the Wicked Witch of the West, minus a broom, when she hit puberty. Hormones turned my sweet child into a raging alien life force. Thank goodness Carol planned to attend college in a few weeks or our home would be a demilitarized zone.

God, I really miss Carol being little. My daughter is a replicated copy of me. Carol had dark, thick black hair; alabaster skin; long legs and full lips, and thankfully, a rack smaller than mine. Carol had been an inquisitive child, full of life, a sweet laugh, and boundless energy. A tiny shadow stuck to my side, mimicking everything I did. That lasted until Carol hit the age of 5 then poof! My clone rebelled, running in the opposite direction of my life. I sensed the disturbance in the force, so instead of attempting to indoctrinate Carol’s mind with the rules, I simply hoped she’d follow them later in life, after watching me from a distance.


Carol Claire Davenport put as much distance as possible between my world and the one she desired to live. Headstrong, and determined to succeed in life without a man’s help, paying her own way through life, and—gasp!—hiring help to perform such trivial tasks as cleaning or cooking, Carol bucked tradition every chance she had, including phases of punk haircuts, head-to-toe black clothing and makeup (for a while, it felt like Morticia Addams lived in our house) and refusing to clean her room. My little straight-A student and lovely mixture of introvert and extrovert wanted nothing to do with my “old school ways” as she liked to refer to how I lived my life. Carol idolized her aunt Rachel’s free-spirited approach to life, and jumped at every chance to spend time with Rach when she was in town.

Had I wanted another brat—er—offspring—I was shit out of luck. My ovaries opted to shrivel up and die not long after Carol was born. Maybe my body had the ability to see into the future and knew I couldn’t handle raising another bundle of flesh I’d give up my life for only to have him or her turn on me the second puberty hit. Yeah, that was it. Thank God for omniscient reproductive organs! There is a clause in the Handbook noting bodily failure in Rule Number Two, which kept me from accruing a demerit.


I took after my mother’s side of the genetic pool. Jet-black hair, long legs, and boobs the size of ripe watermelons. Everyone else adored my full chest, but not me. Carrying all the weight around—every freaking day—was painful. Running track was dangerous. I had to wear three sports bras just to corral the heavy flesh so I didn’t bust an eye socket. By the time I was 25, back problems surfaced, along with my preferred method of numbing the pain: Drinking wine. That little lesson landed on my doorstep, courtesy of Mom and Grandma. I watched them down wine like it was fresh mountain water all my life. Of course, they preceded the wine with handfuls of pills—Valium for Grandma and Xanax for Mom—a tradition I didn’t follow.

Other women flocked to their nearest plastic surgeon to get implants to look like me, which I found rather amusing. Why, oh why in the world did they do it? Personally, I think it should be required pre-surgical treatment to strap two, 10 lb weights on their chests for at least a full month. Get the entire “heavy breast experience” prior to undergoing the knife. Just one month of being forced to sleep on their backs, trying to find a bra that fits, enduring catcalls, and never having a man look you in the eye while speaking—ever again—would deter most. Give them a real taste of what to expect, before having some cocaine-addicted surgeon slice into their milk dispensers so they could then afford the newest Mercedes to drive around town.

Rule Number Eight: One must always drive a vehicle that is better than the ones owned by friends and neighbors. (This is not a guideline it’s a hard-core edict! See Rule Number Nine about houses, too).

Then again, maybe the wretched experience with strap-on boobs wouldn’t matter. The media had ingrained its warped perception of beauty since the dawn of the big screen and TV. Boys were indoctrinated with ridiculous, impossible body types as their ideals, and young girls learned to be ashamed they weren’t “perfect” every single time they looked in a magazine, watched a movie, or plopped in front of the boob tube. Ah! Lightbulb alert! Boob tube—an appropriate name! And who paid for this mind-altering phenomenon? Not the men. They reaped the benefits of unhappy girls who went under the knife.


I sought out, and found, a surgeon to reduce my oversized chest, much to the dismay of my husband, Carl (yet another young boy whose views of beauty were warped by media-generated garbage). For the first time since puberty dumped too many hormones into my breasts, I could walk around without a bra on and it didn’t look like two baby hippos were fighting under my shirt. Hallelujah! After going from cup size Holy Shit Those Are Huge down to Gee, I’m No Longer Carrying Fucking Watermelons On My Chest—Just Nice Oranges, I continued my relationship with wine. Why the hell not? Several glasses of Moscato each night kept me from acting out my sick, knife-wielding fantasies on those who’d pissed me off one way or another.

Though I wore the persona of a normal, well-adjusted person for others to see, inside my mind had always been a different story. Even when young, I learned to fake the smile and serene demeanor when faced with adversity, only unleashing my real emotions inside. Rather than slit the throat of my fourth grade teacher for dressing me down in front of the entire class over what she perceived as a “less than stellar” book report, I remained quiet. After school that day, I went home and took out my anger on one of Rebecca’s favorite dolls.

Adhering to the strict set of proper and correct rules for living, I refrained from punching in the throat—or worse—rude cashiers, snarky friends, impatient waitresses or any short‑tempered individuals within my hearing range. Instead, I satisfied my dark, demented thoughts of retribution by simply envisioning my reactions.

Ol’ middle sis Rebecca didn’t have the same worries, for her body had been dipped in the pool of mishmash genes from my father’s side of the family. Shorter legs, smaller breasts, dingy brown hair, and an attitude the size of Texas. Oh, and Dad’s horrible eyesight. When she found out she needed to start wearing glasses—the kind as thick as Coke bottles—Rebecca Denise Rayburn flew into the biggest, ugliest, snot-filled tantrum of all time.

It was hysterical. I laughed so hard while she bawled and squalled like a newborn kitten, Dad grounded me for a week. Those seven days of banishment to my room had been worth the few minutes of hilarity at Rebecca’s expense.

If I had to pinpoint the moment our sisterly relationship curdled like sour milk, it would be the day she came home with enormous frames swallowing her small face. I teased her nonstop for hours until she sobbed. And no, an additional week of grounding didn’t faze me in the least.

Things were never right between us again. We’d fought before, but after the incident of the poor eyesight, it was full-on war. Roxy versus Rebecca was probably foretold by some ancient sage—detailing the apocalyptic event between two strong-willed, mean-as-fuck women.

Not that I gave a rat’s ass. Rebecca was a bitch. A raving, I’m-off-my-meds, lunatic bitch. When the song “Lunatic Fringe,” by Red Rider hit the airwaves in 1981, I changed the title and words to “Lunatic Bitch,” in honor of my insane sister. Rebecca didn’t stick to the rulebook completely. Yes, she married her high school sweetheart right after college, but she went to work immediately after graduating with a degree in accounting. Bucking tradition, Rebecca paid the bills while her hubster finished med school.


Rebecca earned another bad mark for not giving birth. Mom gave her—and Rachel—grief for years to give her grandchildren. Apparently, my single contribution wasn’t enough. Before Mom’s mind traveled to a new dimension, she’d whine and bitch about how all her friends had several grandchildren to spoil.

Demerit. Demerit.

Rachel, on the other hand, was the best sibling ever created from the union of an egg and sperm. Ever. She was kindhearted, full of smiles, never a complainer, which was sort of odd since she was the baby. Rachel was a free spirit, flitting from one moment to the next, distracted easily by a light wind, never one to hold a grudge. Rachel wasn’t as tall as me, yet had a similar build. She’d been born with an ample chest, thick, mahogany hair, and generous curves.

Out of the three of us Rayburn girls, Rachel was the animal lover, though Rebecca attempted to keep up, yet always failed (i.e., Rebecca neglected to remember animals need to eat or they die). Every baby bird on the ground, abandoned cat, scrawny stray dog, half-dead hamster—they gravitated to Rachel’s sweet soul. Like some cosmic connection, a weird instinct guided them to head directly into her path. And sure enough, Rachel Danielle Rayburn scooped them up and brought them home, much to the dismay of our parents.

I didn’t have any lovey-dovey, sisterly, protective feelings toward Rebecca (again, Lunatic Bitch), but boy, I sure did with Rachel. Instead of getting caught up in the Eighties’ drug scene (like Rebecca and I both dabbled with—Lunatic Bitch snorted so much she had to stop and have surgery for a deviated septum—ha!) Rachel was the exception to the hedonistic lifestyle embraced by most.

Looking back on it now, it was kind of like Rachel was an old soul meant to be in her teenage years during the Sixties. Rachel would have been the perfect flower child, right at home in Haight-Ashbury, wearing flowy dresses, her dark mahogany hair dotted with flowers as it billowed around her sexy body. Well, a flower child minus the drug part. To my knowledge, Rachel never got high or drunk. Life, and all it had to offer, was enough stimulation for my baby sister.

God, I miss her so much. It isn’t right. Carol and Rachel were my two reasons for living. Rachel should be here, sitting on the stiff, uncomfortable pew, mourning the loss of one of her screwed-up sisters, not the other way around. Rachel’s life ended with eerie finality before the age of 35, damn near close to how Dad always said it would: Animals would be her downfall.

Rachel’s ill-fated stint working undercover for some whiny, ASPCA-type sacks of shit, ended her life. While trying to save a dog from being put down, Rachel suffered a wicked bite. Instead of going to the doctor immediately, she waited until infection set in—and rabies. For two weeks, doctors fought to save her life, yet failed. The only Rayburn daughter to toss The Suburbia Handbook to the wayside and live in—gasp!—the big city, was dead. I hate myself for thinking it, but I’m sort of glad Dad passed on and Mom is lost inside her mind, wandering the locked hallways of Dementia Hotel.
No parent should have to bury their child. It was wrong—a crime against the natural progression of the way the world was supposed to work.


**Here are the prizes one lucky winner will receive - open to U.S. residents only and must be 21 years of age or older to win.**

One bottle of Moscato especially designed for the book, along with an engraved wine glass PLUS a signed copy of the paperback.

To enter, you must be the first person to comment with the correct answer to this question:

What is Roxy's final rule?

Marriage Made Me Do It releases on September 15, 2017. Preorder your copy now so you will have the answer on release day!

Amazon UK

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