“Well, I think it’s cool,” Sarah says, picking up a bright blue anal plug—also still in its original packaging. “I mean, Aunt Mags lived the life she wanted to live. She traveled where she wanted to, hung out only with the people she wanted to, only did the things she wanted to. And if that included giving herself a whole bunch of regular orgasms with a pink vibrator—”

She grabs the vibrator in question—a long and slender wand, with balls of varying circumference placed at adjustable intervals along its length. “Then I say, more power to her.”

I snicker. “I take it you mean that literally.”

She giggles as she tosses the unopened vibrator back in the chest. “At least now we know what Angela meant when you mentioned she took a chance inviting you to the Stella and Dot party, since it wasn’t really Aunt Maggie’s style.”

My eyes go wide as I remember puzzling over the strange comment. “You don’t think this is what she meant, do you?”

“I think it’s exactly what she meant,” Sarah answers. “I’ve been to enough bachelorette parties in Newark to recognize Lovewinx and Pure Romance as two different at-home-sales brands.”

“And Maggie went to enough of these that women in the neighborhood knew to invite her?” Nick asks, his dark-brown eyes looking slightly bemused.

“There’s a couple thousand dollars’ worth of products in here easy,” Sarah says as she bends down and picks up a giant gold vibrator that looks more like an ancient scepter than it does an instrument of female pleasure. “So my guess is yeah.”

I look more closely and realize my sister is right. There are a lot of products in this trunk, and all the ones I can see are completely unopened. “You don’t think she went to those parties just because she was lonely, do you?”

“Ummmm, she has a trunk full of sex toys to prove just the opposite.”

“Yeah, but even you said they aren’t used. What if she just bought them so people would keep inviting her to the parties, so she wouldn’t have to be on her own all the time?” Suddenly I feel incredibly guilty for all the weekends I planned to get over here to see her and then couldn’t because something came up with Karl or the firm or the life I built for myself in New York.

“I said most of them weren’t used,” Sarah reiterates. “Not all of them. Because judging from the state of these two—” She holds up a short, fat vibrator in a vivid green and another, longer one that sparkles. “They’re very well used.”

“Good on her, then,” Nick says.

No one is laughing now, and I find myself nodding along to Nick’s pronouncement. Hey, it’s kind of cool to realize a woman as old as Aunt Maggie still thought of herself as a sexual being. Especially since I felt like that part of me has been dead for longer than I’d like to admit—right up until someone started to bitch about the length of my grass.

“So what do you think?” Sarah asks after she tosses the used vibrators in the trash. “Should we donate the brand-new ones or throw them away?”

I have no idea. Is it even legal to sell or give away someone’s sex toys? Forget the HOA; do I really want the police on my front porch? That would definitely make the tristate local news and kill any chance of getting a fair divorce settlement.

“Don’t stress, sis. I’ll take them,” Sarah says, sweeping several sex toys still in their original packaging into one of the empty boxes. “I’ve sworn off men, not orgasms.”

I have absolutely no idea what to say to that. Judging by the amused but still wide-eyed look on Nick’s face, neither does he. The universe, however, finally smiles on me and my doorbell rings, rescuing me from having to say anything more.

I hustle down the front staircase, eager to get to the door before the porch ends up eating a human sacrifice. Who would ignore all the signs I left? Prepped to yank the person inside, I throw open the door. My mom stands on the other side in a pale-pink sheath dress and matching bolero jacket. On her face is a stiff almost-smile. In her hand is the extra-large roller suitcase sitting next to her.

“Really, Mallory,” she says as she walks inside, leaving her suitcase on the porch—no doubt for me to bring in. “You’re going to scare your visitors half to death if you answer your front door like that.”


So much for the universe being on my side for once. Part of me figures that at least it can’t get worse, but I know better than that.

Chapter Thirty-Six

   “So, Mom,” I say as I roll her suitcase inside. “Any particular reason you brought a suitcase with you?”

Please let it be because she wants to lay claim to something of Aunt Maggie’s. I don’t care what it is—cooking magazines, hair clips, her entire sex-toy collection. She can have anything she wants, just please, please, please let it be that my mother needed a convenient way to pack something up. Not because—

“Don’t be ridiculous, Mallory,” she says as she stands in the middle of the front room and looks around disapprovingly. “Obviously I’m moving in.”

And the hits just keep on coming.

Of course she’s moving in. I mean, why wouldn’t she be? After spending the last however many weeks haranguing me about the sanctity of marriage and how important it is for me to go back to my husband, she’s left hers.

The irony of the situation is almost more than I can stand…especially since it seems to be completely lost on her.

For a second, I think about hitting my head against the nearest wall until I knock myself out, but that’ll just lead to a lecture on my very non-ladylike behavior, which must be the reason I can’t keep a man. And while such lectures are always a barrel of laughs, the truth is I’m just not up for it today—or ever again.

“Is there any particular reason you’ve decided to move in here?” I ask.

Mom surveys the room, which I admit is still a work in progress. “I haven’t suddenly gone senile, so I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t treat me as though I have.”

Her gaze lands on Sarah as she walks down the stairs with Nick, and Mom’s mouth puckers up like she’s just sucked a five-pound bag of lemons. “You must be the mistake.”

“Mom!” I am so mortified that the volume it comes out at is close to a yell. But I’m also astonished, because how did she even know Sarah was staying with me? “Don’t talk to her like that!”

I turn to apologize to Sarah, but she’s already fleeing to the kitchen. I start to go after her, but Nick puts a hand on my elbow.

“I’ll make coffee,” is all he says, but his expression shows that he’ll take care of her.