Charlotte rushed around her empty house. Her roommate having moved out she felt alone. Looking at the mantle with the newly framed wedding photo of her best friend and her new “brother-in-law”, she felt a twinge of jealousy. Huffing out an irritated breath she grabbed her suitcase. If she didn’t leave soon she’d miss her first consolation of the day. Slipping herself into her coat she couldn’t help but think about how it would feel to see her family off to school and work. Or have her husband help her into her coat. More irritated now than before she hustled off into cool, misty, morning air.

Six meetings later and two cups of coffee later, Charlotte was finally getting something to eat. What was supposed to be lunch had somehow morphed into linner. Knowing she’d probably end up working late again tonight she didn’t bother with the guilt trip of late eating. Since her best friend had gotten married she’d worked late just about every night. It was hard going home to an empty house. Slipping off her heels, she took a bit of her sandwich and allowed her mind to drift.

“Stephen! If I have to call your name one more time! Get down here and eat this breakfast before your bus comes!”

At ten years old, Stephen was a bundle of energy even at 7 in the morning much to both his parents chagrin. Charlotte blamed her husband Lucas. He of course blamed karma for mixing him up with his brother. Stephen dutifully jumped down the steps and proceeded to leap frog from tile square to tile square.

“Stephen for crying out loud just sit at the table.” His father said in an irritated voice.

“Ugh. K. Dad.” Stephen said sulkily.

“I told you we should’ve just got a cat.” His sister Susan said. At twelve she was becoming more of issue than her younger brother. Much to Charlotte’s growing frustration she was already stealing her makeup…very expensive makeup and had an attitude to match.

“That’s enough of that Ms. Susan. Now both of you finish up and get going.”

Rolling her eyes, Susan finished up her food and took her dishes to the kitchen where she promptly dropped them into the soapy water and sauntered out.

Completely taken aback, Charlotte gaped at her husband. “Do you want to get her or shall I snatch her majesty by the hairline I gave her?”

Seeing the fumes bounce off his wife he thought it prudent to guide the children out of the house to their bus.

Alone Charlotte searched around for her keys and thermos. Where on earth were they?

“Lucas have you seen my-”

“I put your keys on the hook and your thermos is in the dishwasher” He said, with a satisfied grin.

Swallowing the growing four-letter words she vehemently wanted to spew, she turned slowly and said sweetly, “Honey…you know I put my keys in the dish across from the kitchen and that thermos isn’t dishwasher safe…for the third time.”

Raising his eyebrow at her failing attempt at sweetness he said, “What was the point then putting that on the “Honey-Do List” if you weren’t going to use it? And why have a thermos if it can’t go in the dishwasher?”

Ignoring her urge to scream she said in a bland voice, “The hooks are for coats. Hence the “coat rack” label on the package. As for the thermos.. ugh. I don’t care. I’ll be home late tonight can you get dinner started?”

His pithy remark slipped his mind as he realized he would be left alone to face their brood.”Start dinner? Wait. Why are you working late? We talked about this.”

“Lucas please. I just want to wrap up this account. I can’t do that unless I finish these last few details. I was supposed to go in early this morning if you recall?” She said aiming an accusatory glare his way.

“You weren’t complaining as I recall…” He said smugly.

“Whatever. Just remember that’s how we got the brood you don’t want to make dinner for.”

Smugness gone he helped his wife into her coat and took the scarf she handed him. As they dashed out to their respective cars she barely dodged the trash can knocked over between her car and the driveway. Glaring at her husband she got in her car and drove away.

The ringing of her cell phone broke off her thoughts. It was 8 o’clock and she decided to call it a day. Pulling up to her house she stared at the dark house. The automatic porch lights were the only welcome she need she would find.

She walked past the trash can, in its proper place, and unlocked the front door. After turning on the hallway light she looked at the wall, bare of a coat rack and plopped into one of the chairs in front of the kitchen island. Her thoughts melancholy, she decided to take a bath instead of her customary shower. Perhaps a candle lit soak would ease her tension. She wanted the husband but could definitely do without the energizer bunny for a son and the diva for a daughter.