Interlude 1: Beth"Oooooooohhhh." Cherie dunked her feet into the bath. "I've been dy-ing for this."
"This is heaven." Alison leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes.
Beth bit her lip and pulled off the other trouser sock. "It's a pedicure."
"That was harsh," said Alison, opening her eyes and turning her head. "You still all wound up about your mother-in-law?"
"No. Yes. I guess so," said Beth, easing herself onto her chair and slipping her feet into the bath.
The pedicurist stuck her head in the doorway. "All set, ladies? I'll let you have a good soak for fifteen minutes and let the water jets give you a massage to start, m'kaaaay?"
"Perfect," said Cherie, giving the pedicurist a recently-whitened smile.
"Did you figure out how she spent the house money and her pension already?"
Beth frowned. "She says she didn't. She says she just wants the job to keep her busy."
"That's the thing about old age homes," said Alison. "They have lots of... you know, activities and things."
"She say she's too young for a home. And Owen thinks so too. All the people in his mum's side of the family live to be in their nineties or something. If I remember right, one of his grandparents that lived through both the wars made it to a hundred and two or something."
"Wow," said Cherie. "Tough people."
"What did you say the job was again?" said Alison. "Tech support or something?"
"Order taker for a pizza chain."
Cherie giggled. "That would be so weird. Order a pizza and it's Beth's mother-in-law."
"It's only in Toronto!" Beth shrugged. "Maybe it's a good idea. Owen always said his mum acted weird before his dad's secretary quit to have a baby and his mum took over the job."
"Oh right, you told us about that," said Alison. "She'd get him ready for school and be normal about that, Owen's dad would go to work, and then Owen would get home and she'd be spaced out with her breakfast not eaten?"
"Valium," said Cherie. "My mum used to do stuff like that when she was on it. It was before I was born, but my brothers remember her being like that."
"But Owen says his parents never did any drugs. Ever."
"Oh please. Pot's legal there."
"Not when they lived there, I'm pretty sure." Beth adjusted her feet to let the water jets hit her in new places. "Nah, never mind drugs. What creeps me out is the story Owen told me about his mum saying she was too busy socialising to have breakfast."
"Ew, like she was cheating on his dad or something?"
"No... but he says that the time she told him that, she was still wearing her housecoat and pink fuzzy slippers from the morning."
"Oh please!" That was Alison. "The neighbourhood I grew up in was like that too. I used to see my best friend from Grade 4's mother in her bra and panties practically every morning. The families knew each other so well she wouldn't bother closing the curtains when she got dressed if she knew my dad was already out of the house."
"Owen's mum's not like that," said Beth. "She's really easygoing about some things, but she wouldn't be caught dead so much as taking out the garbage in anything but an outfit you could at least go to the mall in."
"I think you're making too big a deal out of it," said Alison.
"Yeah," said Cherie. "It was so long ago. And it does make it sound like Owen's mum has the right idea getting a job. Maybe she's just one of those people who needs to be busy."
"You'd think she'd find somewhere better to hang out than a call centre, though."
"She'll be working from home."
"Ooooh, smart!" said Cherie. "That's good. Call centre people can work some weird hours. She'll be safe that way."
"Cherie's right," said Alison. "Stop worrying Beth. Don't let your mother-in-law spoil your pedicure."
"When is Owen going to talk to her, anyhow?"
Beth leaned over and plucked her cell phone out of her purse to check what time it was. "They should be getting there around now."
"He took the girls?"
"Aren't you, you know, worried about them being around your mother-in-law? If she's unstable like that..."
Beth frowned. "I don't worry about them if they're with Owen..." She dropped the cell phone in her lap instead of putting it back in her purse. "I'll call them in half an hour and see how things are going."