EDIT: The Countdown has begun! The Homecoming Effect is now $.99 (at 11am but whatever).
Bunny is just trying to rebuild her life after leaving her husband when she meets an attractive young man just out of college and spending his summer babysitting his two younger brothers. But a sexy summer fling turns found family on the run when an incident at the boys’ school has a far-reaching impact on the world at large. When the only safe place for Bunny and her boys is a strict religious community suspicious of their new residents’ legitimacy, straight-shooter Bunny is force into a complicated web of lies to keep her family whole.
Bunny squared her shoulders, tucking Uncle Jerry’s old briefcase under her arm, and pushed her way out the screen door. Junior had the other two boys busy shoveling in the back corner of the yard, which left him alone with her in the dirt driveway. He shaded his eyes to look at her and pursed his lips to whistle but thought better of it. Instead, he nodded at the house, in the general direction of the boy on the couch. Bunny shrugged. She had no more insight into Charlie’s snit than he did.
He looked away down the dirt road that led to the town square. “You want me to walk you?” he asked, grasping his shovel with both hands and leaning heavy on it. It was a boyish gesture that didn’t quite fit his manly physique but gave him the appearance of roguish indifference, which was exactly what he was going for.
She shook her head. “Cantor is coming. He says he wants to strategize but I think he’s scoping us out.” She approached him, adjusting her dress self-consciously. He couldn’t remember her ever looking so uncomfortable in a dress. But things change, he reminded himself. People change.
“Jesus, again? What does he think he’s going to find?”
“Thankfully, it’s not about Uncle Jerry. They’ve accepted that by now. I think he’s still looking at you, actually. Running the numbers in his head, I bet, and debating which assumption is the most sinful.” She sighed, letting her posture go slack for just a moment before rolling her shoulders back again. She was steeling herself. It was a routine he’d seen a thousand times before. She was anxious and he wanted to do something about it. He wanted to smooth the lines from her forehead with his thumbs but that was too much. He knew he could lighten her mood in safer ways.
“Ain’t all sins equal?” he asked, mockingly, his gaze drifting momentarily to her hemline again. “You look nice,” he said, meeting her eyes with a wry smile. There was something about being outside the house, separated by a few feet and a large shovel, that made him feel a little more daring. “About eight years younger,” he smirked.
“In my 60-year-old dress?” she laughed. “Uncle Jerry’s mom was not a small woman. This was the best I could do.” She gave a little twirl, sending the hem up above her knees and the twinkle in her eye when she stopped reminded him of when they first met. He leaned his shovel back against the car and took a step toward her, reaching for her in his mind, but failing to translate that thought into action.
The scuffling of stones on the street nearby stopped both their breaths and they jerked their heads in the direction of the ominous sound. “Ready?” she asked, taking a deep, calming breath and planting a fake smile on her face. Junior didn’t move. He wished he’d kept the shovel. His head was frozen on his neck, his eyes fixed on the spot where Cantor would soon appear from behind the tree line, nose-first, chin-second, and balding head third.
The very second the shiny forehead appeared, Bunny sprang into action, playing the part she had invented the day the family of five had arrived on Uncle Jerry’s doorstep. “Oh what timing, Cantor, I was just checking on the boys before heading out to meet you! Charlie’s a little under the weather, I’m afraid. Sleeping off a fever as we speak. We just can’t seem to get used to this heat.”
“Mrs. Brandt,” Cantor nodded, “Mr. Brandt. How’s the day treatin’ ya?”
“Fine,” grunted Junior, reaching back to pick up his shovel. He swung it over his right shoulder in what he imagined was a manly and intimidating gesture. He was sure it wouldn’t affect the old man, given the full foot he stood over him or the roughly 40 year age difference, but it made Junior feel better to assert himself regardless.
“And your boys?” Cantor asked, making no attempt to hide the suspicion in his voice. What good was a shovel and 6 feet of muscle against an old man’s mouth?
“As it should be,” he said, turning back to Bunny, nonplussed. “Shall we?” he asked and Junior cringed at the false courtesy.
Bunny ran a hand over Junior’s slick shoulder, smearing dirt and sweat, something she wouldn’t do for any but the most discerning audience. Cupping his chin in her hand, she pulled him down for a quick peck on the lips. Junior tightened his grip on the shovel, his eyes trained on the old man, whose brow furrowed as he judged the interaction.
As she pulled away, Bunny patted Junior’s cheek tenderly, pretending an intimacy that wasn’t entirely unpleasant to him. Nor did he fail to notice that as she dropped her hand from his cheek, she let it slide down his neck, tickle his collarbone, and rest ever so briefly on his chest. It was the only time she’d get away with it and he knew she knew it just as she knew he wouldn’t comment on it later.
“Lunch is on the counter, don’t leave it sittin’.” She patted his pec twice before dropping her hand. “Charlie can come outside after he eats but don’t give him nothin’ too strenuous. Boy wants to impress his daddy,” she said to Cantor, “don’t they always?”
She led Cantor down the driveway, calling back to Junior, “I’ll be back ‘fore dinner, Darlin’. Wait for me!”
It was the “wait for me” that struck him. She hadn’t said that since the last time they almost got caught.