Claire’s response – a short story by Linda Claire

Claire’s son had been involved through out his middle school years in the boy scouts. His troop was known for many fine things including their great overnight trips and adventures. The troop was also known for their amazing annual Christmas party which was hosted by a married couple who were also troop adult volunteers. Every December, this husband and wife offered an extravagant party complete with soda fountains, ice-cream cones, and jukebox games and this was all done as their generous way to support the troop. Claire would have recognized those leaders had she bumped into them somewhere. After all, she had dropped her son off at the weekly meetings many times, but she had not stayed to attend those meetings and didn’t really know this couple or the other scout parents. This was because Claire had been happy when her ex-husband agreed to take the lead on being with their son at the boy scout meetings and overnights. It gave Claire a moment of time every week to re-gather from her busy single working mom life. Actually, she usually spent the time on those Tuesday evenings doing grocery shopping. This was also a special time for her son to share with his father.

Well, it was December 2003, and the annual Christmas party was almost here and it was the big buzz in the boy scout troop. Claire’s ex-husband called to say that he had a conflict the evening of the party. He could drop their son off at the party house, but could not stay. No problem, in fact, Claire was really quite curious about seeing this party for herself. She was always socially at ease and wanted to put names to some of the faces she had heard about during the year. This would be fun.

Claire put on a rather nice outfit and checked her clock for the time and then she checked the address as she prepared to leave from her home. Her plan was to find the home and then rendezvous inside with her son at the party. Her ex had already explained that he would just be dropping their son off at the party home.  Claire did not want to be late, but she also did not want to be one of the first guests to arrive. She purposely left about 15 minutes past the time she normally would have allowed. She drove to the correct neighborhood and instantly spotted a house surrounded by many cars with all the Christmas lights beaming from the yard and the inside the home illuminated through every window.

Claire walked up the sidewalk to the entry and found the door open. She entered. “What the heck?” Claire said to herself when she entered the home. “Ding-dong. This place is over-the-top,” she continued talking silently to herself. “Oh man, this is amazing.” The furniture and artwork were almost jaw dropping.

Almost immediately, she was welcomed by a uniformed waiter providing formal butler style tray service with a full variety of canapes. But, it seemed that there were no children at the party. “Now, that’s a bit odd,” she thought. She asked one of the couples sitting there where the children all were. “Oh, on the lower level with planned supervision provided” they informed her. “They have their own special foods downstairs too.”

“WHAT?” the next thing Claire noticed was a full open bar with an obviously experienced and uniformed bartender. No wonder everyone had exclaimed about this annual event. When she approached the bar, she noticed that the liquor choices were all top shelf. She ordered a Manhattan with extra cherries. What a treat!

Claire made her way over to a sofa where some other folks were laughing and enjoying the evening. A grand piano was in the room and soon, an accomplished pianist arrived to play Christmas carols softly in the background.

Claire was determined to give the boy scout meetings more attention in her future! No wonder her ex was always so willing to be a part of this organization.

Eventually, Claire wanted to check on her son. She made her way to the lower level of the home. The basement, like the rest of the house was all decked out and even had a full movie theater set-up. But, the children were not the right age. They were much younger.

“Something is not right,” she thought. Claire went back upstairs. She made her way over to a friendly looking woman and asked, “Where are the boy scouts? I went down stairs, but I could not find them.” The woman looked at her as if she had said something ridiculously funny. “The what?” the woman finally replied. Claire raised her voice over the din of the many on-going conversations. “I’m looking for my son, he is in the troop.”

“I’m sorry,” the lady started out saying “I don’t really know what you are saying, what troop?”

“The boy scout troop, of course.” Claire now looked at the woman as if she was ridiculous. “After all, this is the boy scout holiday party!” Claire said.

The woman now seemed nervous, “This is the party for all those who donated to the local art center.”

Claire’s response…What was Claire’s response. The room was tilting. What was her response…Fear? Embarrassment? Self-recrimination? No time to think about anything. Claire’s response would be the simple flight mechanism.

She ran out of there and fast!

A complete fear that she had made some horrible wrong problem with the address entered her mind. Her hands were shaking as she opened her purse and pulled out her hand-written note with the address printed on it. The street name was correct. “Oh NO…the house numbers were different.” “Is that why there were so many cars on the street?”

With total stealth like moves Claire walked across the street and opened the door to the correct house.

“Your son was starting to get worried about you,” a kind woman said upon seeing Claire. “I hope everything is OK?” the woman continued.

Claire looked around the house. It was nice too. There were several open pizza boxes on the counter along with a selection of bottled waters and soda pops. No canapes. No open bar, just the happy noises of middle school boys coming up from the lower level.

Claire’s response? “Well, it will be my little secret” she told herself. Never will this be spoken of, she thought.

Claire then sat down at the Boy Scout party holding her water bottle and chatted with the other parents. It was perfect. Her son came through the room and gave her a high five before running off to be with his friends again. The evening was saved.

P.S. Claire spent some time in January deciding if she could be a donor to the local art center…after all, she didn’t want to miss that event in her future!

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