The Gathering Brood by Carol Hoenig, 3/19/2020

Chapter One: Meet Lottie, Allen, Emily, Denise and Natalie

Meeting Allen:

“You sure there’s no place nicer than this dive?” Gail slid off the bed. “Everything smells like mildew.”

Heading Out

Allen gave a final, desperate lunge before relinquishing to the disheartening limpness, having spent himself much too quickly on the blonde beauty. Blonde beauty…blonde beauty. Her name escaped him, and he had a moment of panic until it came back to him. Gail. Yes, Gail. No need to concern himself with the last name, recalling the first was accomplishment enough.

    “Mmm, more,” Gail said, wrapping her lengthy, limber legs around his ropy ones.

     “Later, babe. We have a reunion to go to.”

     “They know you’re bringing me, right?”

     “Sure.” Fact was, he hadn’t mentioned it. Didn’t matter, though, since it was a given he’d be bringing someone; didn’t matter if she was blonde, brunette or redhead, his family expected him to be bringing someone. Weddings, funerals, no matter, Allen Lamb never appeared without a beautiful woman at his side, as if the paparazzi were still hounding him all these years later.

    He smacked Gail lightly on her curvy bottom. “Come on, let’s shower. We’ll be late.”

    “You sure there’s no place nicer than this dive?” Gail slid off the bed. “Everything smells like mildew.”

    “This is the nicest place,” he said. “My sister lives in never never land.”  

    “Sure isn’t Chicago, that’s for sure,” she said, padding across the floor toward the bathroom. He followed her, letting her set the temperature to the shower, waiting for the water to turn from a faint brown to clear, before climbing in.

    True, he had been accustomed to four-star hotels where the beds were turned down each night with a mint on the pillow, but the suburbs of Connecticut didn’t offer any such ambiance. At least that’s what he’d told himself while trying to brush off concerns that he might soon be out of work and needed to keep a close watch on his spending habits. After all, the residuals from his time in the spotlight were now paltry and the head honcho at the station where he worked appeared to be grooming younger talent to take Allen’s place.  Of course, Denise had offered him a bedroom at her sprawling colonial, but she’d also mentioned sotto voce that her boys were at an impressionable age, which meant he and Gail would be required to sleep in separate quarters.

    “You’re serious?” he’d said.

    “Allen,” Denise had replied, “Josh saw that story about you online and I caught him showing his friends.”

    He wasn’t quite sure which article she was referring to, but he doubted it was as innocuous as Good looking local talk show host Allen Lamb certainly enjoys the “whiff of women” since he can be seen at any number of social gatherings with a new woman at his side for every occasion. What the article didn’t mention but implied was how those same women would later end up in his bed. Or perhaps Denise was referring to the incriminating article from a few years back where a telephoto lens caught him bare-assed riding a sumptuous raven-haired up-and-coming actress at the public pool at her hotel only hours after he interviewed her on his show.

    “Denny,” he said, hoping to change her mind, “you can’t believe everything you read.”

    “Pictures, Allen. There were pictures.”

    He sighed. “No worries, Sis, we’ll get a hotel.”

    Now, standing beneath the shower, Gail was pressing up against him as she reached around scrubbing his chest with the bar of soap. Normally, his manhood would immediately stand at attention, but not today. He attributed the impending reunion to be the culprit. Off in Chicago, it was easy to forget that he was the Lamb’s firstborn and the apple of his mother’s eye. God help him, he couldn’t bring himself to visit when she was going through her chemo and radiation, even though he made a point to call her at least once a week. She told him she understood how difficult it would be for him to see her so weak and fragile. It was the copout he accepted when in reality he was afraid that she’d see the man he’d become—no longer successful Benny who held audiences captive for several years on the very lucrative television show. How rapidly he’d gone from being up and coming to diving into a freefall.

    “You’re so tense,” Gail said, rubbing his shoulders, before backing away and climbing out of the tub while he stayed behind, water beating on his tense shoulders, cascading over him, over his pathetic excuse for being a man, for a few minutes more before turning the shower off and climbing out. He reached for the flimsy towel on the rack, the water dripping off him. He stopped and stared absent-mindedly at Gail as she slipped into a sheer summer dress. It didn’t hurt to be seen with such gorgeous women, he thought, but it was time perhaps to change his image, be taken more seriously and not just be some good-looking has-been who still tried to live in Benny’s shadow.

    “What?” Gail said, glancing up while sliding her foot into an open-toed sandal.

    He shook off the thought and sputtered, “Just thinking how beautiful you are.”

    She sashayed over to him, tousling his thick head of wet brown hair. “I like being with you.” She took the towel from him and patted his moist body dry, crouching down in front of him.

    He reached down, pulling her to her feet, and said, “We’d better get moving.”

    To be Continued: Tomorrow, meet Emily