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I didn't want to ring the doorbell but I found my finger pressing the button anyway. I waited. Nothing. I pressed again, jabbing it over and over until someone inside started swearing. I glanced back at the car, Gee waved at me questioningly. I shook my head no and smiled to take the edge off the gesture.
I turned back just as the door opened and not a minute too soon. Grandma stood in the door way, wearing nothing but her blue feathered panties and holding a fresh Marlboro. I hurriedly stepped between her and the view from the car.
"Grandma, shouldn't you put a robe on before answering the door?"
"Don't call me that. You know I hate being called Grandma." I tried to keep my eyes on her face but it was hard to ignore the silicone enhanced chest pointing at me. Were they bigger than last time? What sixty-five year old woman got breast implants anyway. Then again, what grandma wanted to be called Bambi?
Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, "Are your boobs bigger?"
I think the old tart would have frowned at the question if she hadn't been botoxing since I was in middle school.
"I had them juiced up a bit to prevent wrinkles when I got my new face lift."
Her eyes narrowed as she took in my black slacks and red sweater, "You could use bigger tits yourself. Men like a set on a woman."
"Some men like a woman for who she is, not her breast size."
Bambi snorted as she lifted her cigarette to her lips and took a deep puff, "Yeah, men just keep beating down your door."
I sighed, some things never changed. I shifted the gift bag from my left hand to my right. Bambi's fake eyelashes fluttered to the movement. One good thing about Grams, she could be bought.
"I need a favor, Bambi."
"Yeah, I figured. I haven't seen you in four or five months. What's in the bag?"
"Two bottles of single malt scotch and five hundred bucks cash. That'll keep you in botox for a week or two."
"What'd I have to do to get it?"
"I'm getting married. He wants to meet my family and I need you to be normal for a couple of hours and not tell Dad anything."
Another long puff on her cigarette, dark pink nails glinting in the daylight. Her eyes slid back to the bag, "I am normal."
"You're not exactly a Norman Rockwell grandmother. I want you to wear clothes that aren't tight and cover your breasts, if that's even possible now. Don't mention stripping, liposuction, or anything to do with sex."
"What you want me to talk about the weather?"
"Sure, if you want. But no Dad."
"Like I'd invite Randall and that woman over. She wants him to put me in an old fart's home. She just wants the money my Fred left me."
"Bambi, I don't have all day." I cut her off in mid-whine. The last thing I wanted was to be in the middle of another one of Bambi and Dad's dramas. Dad's new wife wanted Bambi's money and Bambi didn't share.
"Fine, when do I have to be ready?"
"We're going to pick up dinner and bring it back here. We should be back in a half an hour." I looked past her into the living room. A naked oil painting of Gram in her prime covered half the main wall.
"Don't forget to take down the racy artwork."
Bambi grabbed the bag out my hand, the bottles clinked together as she turned, and shut the door in my face. Crazy old woman.
"And no drinking! We'll be back in thirty minutes."
"Bite my wrinkled ass, little girl."
Why couldn't I be adopted?
I stalled as long as I could but forty minutes later, I was standing in front of the same white door with Gee by my side holding three plastic bags of food. My hand shook as I rang the buzzer. The door swung open and a new Bambi greeted me. Her bright red curls were pulled back in a ponytail, an oversized zip up sweat suit hid the gigantic mammaries. Even her platform heels were replaced with sequined tennis shoes.
Relief eased the ball of tension in my stomach. She was doing it. I took Gee's warm hand in mine.
"Grandma, this is my fiancé, Gee Morrison."
Kohl-lined eyes slid over Gee's buzzed brown hair, his broad shoulders, they lingered on his zipper before coming back up to his face. Bambi flashed her sexiest smile, showing off all her white, shiny capped teeth. Her pink tipped nails fingered the tap of the zipper to her sweatshirt. Before she could flash Gee the goods, I took his arm and steered him past her into the house.
The boudoir photos were gone, no lingerie was thrown over the white leather furniture. It was a bit modern but normal, blessedly normal. She'd even set out a a scrapbook of photos, complete with a basket of scrapbooking material and scissors.
The old girl was really trying. I felt pretty pleased with myself until Gee's muscled arm stiffened in my hold. His gaze was fixated on the mantle. Shit! Chippy still sat on the mantle.
A plastic chipmunk mooned the room, its irreverent rodent face looking back over its shoulder. I forced a laugh.
"My Dad gave that to my Grams when he was a little boy. Isn't it cute? She always keeps it on the mantle."
Let's hope Gee never found out about Chippy's secret gift. Gee leaned in and kissed my forehead. He was such a good man, so sweet. Bambi poured drinks at the drink cart.
"I would have loved something like that when I was a kid."
Setting a tray of iced sodas on the coffee table in front of them, Bambi sipped from a large tinted glass. I scowled at her. I hoped to God she wasn't guzzling booze, it wasn't even one in the afternoon. Grams shrugged and took a deep drink. I led Gee to the dining room table so we could set out the food we'd brought in the bags. I just wanted to eat and go before something bad happened.
I opened the second food container, the smell of bbq nauseating me when the doorbell rang. Bambi and I both stared at the door in mute horror.
Bambi paled, "I'm not expecting anyone, Savannah."
Guilt tainted her voice. What did she do? Gee's faced darted back and forth between us, confusion wrinkling his brow. I pasted on a reassuring look and walked over the door. Taking a deep breath, I cracked it open.
The minute the door opened slighly, my father forced his way into the room, slamming me back into the wall.
"You fuckin' bitch."
His lean face flushed red, he stalked over to Bambi and shook a white letter in her face.
"How could you empty that account?" he demanded, "Dad left that money for me."
Bambi fumbled with the pocket of suit, took out her pack of cigs, tapped out one. She ducked under his pointing finger, grabbed Chippy off the mantle, pressed between his plastic ears. Flame shot from the hole under it's little tail. Just as she lit the cigarette, Dad grabbed her wrist, and her fingers lost their grip. The white cigarette flipped across the room.
"Stop it, Randall, can't you see I've got company?"
"I don't give a damn about impressing one of your boy toys and Savannah knows better than to interfere. Now, where is my money?"
Gee started to rush forward to help but I frantically waved him back. Grams could take care of herself and Dad usually forgot I existed. But as bad as Dad was, at least he didn't bring Candace.
"That two-toned whore you married is draining you dry. I moved it someplace safe.."
"It's my inheritance and I want it."
Grams lip curled, "Why? So you can buy that fridge cow of yours a personality?"
"Don't talk about my wife that way."
"Then don't ask me about my money."
"Not anymore." Gram sneered as much as she able with the muscles in her face arificially frozen.
Randall raised his hand to smack Bambi across the face, she lifted her face and dared him. His face swelled red with rage but his hand dropped.
"Goddammit Mother, I want my money."
"And I told you no. Be a good boy and go home before I cut off your allowance too."
A headache pounded behind my left eye, my stomach felt unsettled. The room even smelled of the smoky anger between the two. They were ruining everything. Tears pricked behind my eyes but I tried to push them back. Gee, the big, sweet bear still looked like he wanted to punch my Dad's lights out. Maybe, I could explain this somehow.
I gave Gram a sick look, "Grandma, Gee and I are going to go. This seems like a bad time."
My father's enraged face turned to me, really seeing me for the first time. He stepped closer and I smelled bourbon and breath mints. Drunk again. Why couldn't he be a nice drunk like Grams?
"Did you know about this?" I couldn't control a flinch at his tone.
"I have no idea what you're talking about Dad." I emphasized the word Dad.
"You always take her side." His lower lip stuck out in a pout. Part of me wanted to sooth him, settle him down but I had to get Gee out of here.
Gee's hands were clinched into fists, his face slowly filling with banked anger. He leveled my father with a killing look but as usual Dad was too drunk to notice. I edged back toward the door. With a little luck, we could get out of here without a major disturbance.
"Dad, Gee and I have to get going..."
Gram's scream cut off my excuses. Oh shit. Flames were climbing the curtains in hungry orange fingers. I guess that smoke I smelled was really smoke. I tried to go to Gram but Dad grabbed me by the shoulders, the crumpled white letter fluttering to the ground at our feet.
"I want my money, Savannah. Make her give it to me."
I struggled, "Your drunk. Let me go, the house is burning down."
He shook me again, my teeth clattered but all I could see was Gram and Gee beating at the spreading flames with throws from the couch.
"I want my..."
I reached behind me, looking for something, anything to get him off. My sweaty fingers closed on something cool and metal. I brought it up hard, stabbing into Dad's hand with the scissors. He howled, let me go to cradle his bleeding appendage.
I rushed to the kitchen, yanked open the cabinet and took out the fire extinguisher I installed there years ago. I pulled the pin, depressed the handled, and foamed the burning curtains.
Within seconds, the flames were out. Bambi's zipper was undone, her red push-up bra doing overtime to handle the load she had stuffed into it. Her curls had worked free, and tangled down her neck in a waterfall of scarlet. Dad sat on the couch, holding his bleeding hand, and cursing.
I glanced nervously at Gee, expecting disgust. Instead, he gathered me close and started to laugh. Big airy guffaws, his chest seesawing in and out. Tears dripped down his red face. His hysteria sparked my own.
"Gee baby, I'm..." His finger touched my lips, halting the apology.
I tried again.
"Gee, I'm so sorry..."
"Nothing to be sorry about love."
I blinked at him. I'm sure my face resembled a trout out of water, my lips working but no sound coming out.
"But Gee, how can you say that? " I looked around the damaged room, my whining father, my half naked Grandmother, the burnt curtains, "My family is crazy."
Gee hugged me tight, "Everybody's family is crazy."
"My Grandmother used to be a stripper, my Dad's an alcoholic. They aren't normal."
"What's normal? My brother cross dresses and my mother obsessed with the QVC shopping network. I was afraid of what you'd think when you found out."
Bambi opened the scotch in the background, her shirt still undone. She poured two glasses, and gave Dad one. More booze, great.
Dad took a gulp, "I still want my money."
I held on tightly to Gee, "I adore you, you know."
"Yeah, I'm fond of you too."
"You sure you can handle this? " I gestured to the general mayhem of the room.
"Sure, I can handle anything as long as I have you."
"Really? I mean this is pretty mild. My stepmother is crazy."
"Yeah, I can handle this but I don't see us having a lot of family dinners."
I kissed him hard on the lips, "Thank God!"
I wonder if I should tell him my twin sister was getting out of prison next month?