How to Have a Perfect Marriage
Dicey Grenor Books
Published by Dicey Grenor
Copyright © Dicey Grenor, 2013
All rights reserved
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Cover image by Grafx Passion
How to Have a Perfect Marriage
Penola and Lennon have the perfect marriage because they follow twenty rules that ensure marital bliss. Controversial fiction author, Dicey Grenor, has released these rules so that couples everywhere can benefit from them. In case you’re wondering—hell yeah, it’s fiction…just like the “perfect” marriage. Fans of Dicey’s work will enjoy this novelette’s explosive combination of nonfiction and dark humor. New-to-Dicey readers will need to buckle up for this tongue-in-cheek ride and expect the unexpected.
“You guys look so great together.” The server refilled their water glasses and smiled.
Penola glanced at Lennon’s platinum cufflinks, splayed her hand in the air to show off her sparkling platinum rock, and sighed. “We do have great chemistry, don’t we?” They had the perfect chemistry.
The server’s eyes narrowed and her smile faded a bit, but she placed the leather folder with their check face down on the table and walked off without another word.
Jealous bitch. Penola looked around at other customers and the pianist clanking some tunes that were so old, they were moldy. Matter of fact, he was old. The piano was old. The low-hanging chandelier he sat underneath was old. The jacked-up price of their meal and valet service didn’t hide the fact that, although this was the best place in town to have a meal that didn’t include dog or cat meat, it belonged in a history museum rather than the tourist district.
She’d had enough of this scene. The problem with ritzy places like this was that it kept out all the rift-raft…and fun. If someone didn’t start dancing on one of the tables soon, she’d die from boredom.
She touched Lennon’s hand to get his attention from the server’s thick swaying ass as she left their table. Penola pretended not to notice his overly wandering eyes. As long as they wandered back to her, it was all good. And she always made sure they did. “How old do you think that man playing the piano is?” Of course, redirection helped in a pinch.
“Forty. Forty-five at the most.” Lennon stuffed some cash in the leather folder to cover the meal and tip.
It was as she thought. The pianist was ancient. Time to bust this joint and go mingle with the living. “You want to walk on the beach?”
“No.” He pulled out his iPhone and started thumbing through it.
“Well, what do you want to do? Bruno Mars is playing on the island tonight. We can go—”
“No. I’m tired, babe. It was a long flight. You can go on, I’ll just—”
“Or we could go back to our room and have sex?” She wagged her eyebrows.
He paused mid-thumb stroke. “Sure. We can do that.”
Penola smiled, pretending she wanted to spend their anniversary vacation locked in the room romping between somebody else’s bed bug infected sheets. That was far from the truth. They didn’t have to go on vacation to have sex, but at least she knew it would occupy his time and please him immensely. Two birds, one lightning bolt. Because there was no way in hell she was leaving him alone for even a moment with all the potential spring fling partners lurking about.
She took a deep breath and remembered her mother’s words of wisdom. Rule #1 to having a perfect marriage: Keep your husband happy. With Lennon’s tendency to bore quickly, stress easily, and see the glass as half bone-dry, keeping him happy wasn’t easy. But she’d never shy away from a challenge. She’d married for better or worse, and if every day was worse, she’d still remember Rule #1.
She never missed an opportunity to adhere to it either. She’d noticed how his forehead creased with stress the minute he had pulled out his phone. Never mind the fact that he’d promised not to use it while they vacationed. He needed to be uplifted. Soothed. Relieved. Penola would be there for him. It was her duty. There would be plenty of time to do stuff she wanted. And if there wasn’t, she’d have to suck it up, because when it came to Rule #1, her happiness just didn’t matter. Better yet, his happiness was her happiness.
“I need to go to the men’s room.” Lennon stood, dabbed his mouth with the corner of his white cloth napkin, and walked off before she could respond. He walked by their server and slyly passed her his business card before proceeding to said destination. Well, he thought he was sly. As with all of his attempts to stray, Penola didn’t miss a beat. She always found a way to block them before they’d even begun. She would find a passive way to handle it though. Classy women didn’t make a scene.
She smiled politely when he returned, and gestured for him to sit. “Honey, I changed my mind about skipping dessert. Let’s share some pie.” They couldn’t leave just yet. Not while the chick still held his contact info.
He grabbed his suit jacket from the back of his seat to leave. “I don’t want pie. I want…you know.”
Of course, she did. She just needed to make sure she was the only one he was going to get it from. “Oh, this won’t take long. I’ll get it to go.” Penola waved for the server to return to take her dessert order.
As soon as the server approached, her ponytail bouncing with the carefreeness bound to come with her responsibility-free job, Penola stuck her pointed high-heel pump out and tripped her. It was such a subtle, calculated move, no one else noticed.
Penola jumped to her feet in a feigned attempt at helping the server before her head banged on the table’s edge and the server went down to her knees in a crunch. Wow. That had to hurt. Penola would have been embarrassed for her if she hadn’t seen her approving smile when Lennon passed her his card. Sure, Penola had too much class to make a scene, but that didn’t mean she was above making the smug girl make a scene on her own. Server girl had no idea who she was dealing with.
“You tripped me!” Well, maybe she did.
Penola looked shocked and appalled. “What?” She looked to her husband for help. “I can’t believe she has the nerve. You saw it. I tried to help her.” Penola batted her eyelashes innocently and refocused her attention on the server. She really wished she could gloat right now, but that would contradict her innocent claim. “Are you okay?”
“No thanks to you.” The server jerked her arm away from Penola. “Psycho.”
Penola—who had exercised the slyness Lennon only wished he had—put Lennon’s card that she’d lifted from the server’s pocket, in her own pocket. The server certainly wouldn’t need that. She’d need a lawyer instead. “I demand to see the manager. Not only did you ruin our evening by losing your balance and drawing everyone’s attention over here, but you accused me of tripping you. Not to mention your rudeness has been downright intolerable.” Penola made a show of wiping water that had splashed onto her blouse. “I will have your job for this.”
“Fuck this job.” The server removed her apron, earrings, necklace, and watch then untucked her white uniform shirt and rolled up her sleeves. “I won the lotto last night and just put in my two week notice.”
Penola heard the flick before she saw it. The flick of a pocketknife opening right before it slashed towards her face. Apparently, Penola didn’t know who she was messing with either. Island girls didn’t play. Or was it server girls that lacked a sense of humor?
The sneer on the server’s face proved that she was someone who was accustomed to handling situations with violence. Apparently, the restaurant had not kept all the rift-raft out. Penola had only expected some cursing, some complaining, and the server getting fired. She knew how to beat folks at mind games. Her money and status usually gave her the one-up she needed to end up on top in any situation. She was completely out of her element with this physical confrontation.
“No, not her face!” Lennon shouted as he stepped in the middle of Penola’s impending ass-whooping and grabbed Penola’s assailant before she could land a scratch. Good thing Lennon cared for his wife’s appearance because the blade had barely missed her recently reconstructed nose.
By this time, they were surrounded by restaurant staff and customers, each showing concern and able to testify to the server’s aggressive, psychotic, totally unprovoked behavior. Good thing the server had a backup plan. She really would have lost her job for this. She could still face criminal and civil charges, and lose all that lottery money before she had a chance to spend it on a breath mint. All because her jealousy had been at the wrong place, wrong time, and directed at the wrong couple. There was no way she could have known that Penola’s Rule #18 was: Let no one come between you and your husband. That applied to preachers, teachers, cops, robbers, and especially women with thick asses.
More importantly, the server couldn’t possibly have known Rule #19 was: Always remind your husband, without words, how much better you are than other women. Because of that, Lennon had a chance to see the skank hood rat in action, which was too bad for her, if she had been looking to score a social climb. The server was a drama queen, and Lennon hated drama. He wanted to be able to do whatever he wanted to do without consequence. Of course, that was impossible, due to other rules that had to be followed. It just meant Penola had to be more creative in how she went about making sure he seemed to get everything he wanted. With one flick of her blade-wielding wrist, the server had single-handedly gotten herself off his conquest radar.
Penola watched as the server was handcuffed and marched out of the establishment. Thank you and au revoir. At least something exciting had finally happened.
Penola declined a statement to the police and a restaurant gift card that came with the promise of better service next time. She didn’t care about the assault charges she could file or the civil suit she could have against the restaurant. She didn’t need the money, and she didn’t feel offended. She felt victorious. The only thing that mattered was that she would be the one keeping her husband happy. She’d have his undivided attention tonight. Things were as they should be in her perfect marriage.
She smiled triumphantly at dodging another close bullet. Lennon’s wandering eyes were getting shiftier by the day, his actions more aggressive. Good thing there was a formula for having the perfect marriage and her wonderful mother had passed it down to her. Penola would do whatever it took, short of gouging Lennon’s eyes, to make sure they stayed happy. Hell, maybe she would gouge his eyes if it came to that. A blind husband was better than no husband.
As she passed the pianist, she flipped her long extensions off her neck and dropped a twenty dollar bill into his tip jar. She prided herself on being super generous to the needy, and figured he could use the money to buy some Geritol.
Well, actually Rule #1 was: Keep your husband happy with sex, which was what she did all night, despite Lennon’s claim of being tired. Tiring him out was sort of the point. An empty gun couldn’t go off unexpectedly.
Penola rolled off Lennon, took a shower, and went to the kitchen to fix breakfast for her honey button. It didn’t matter that she was on vacation. It didn’t matter that he was already fast asleep, or that she’d had a long journey and busy day, or that she felt her lids getting heavier by the minute. She always fixed his breakfast at six in the morning. Just because she’d drained his dragon until five thirty, didn’t change that. Discipline was important. Following a strict daily regimen was important. Rule #2: Keep your husband happy with food was important. So Penola ignored her body’s signs of exhaustion in order to stick with another rule that helped her maintain the perfect marriage.
God, she was tired.
But whether he ate right away or not, she’d keep up with her cooking duties. His favorite breakfast would be ready once he woke up, and he’d be grateful for it. Grateful enough that maybe he’d even do something she wanted to do today. Like snorkeling, even though he couldn’t swim. Or horseback riding, though he was terrified of horses. Or playing tennis, even though he probably shouldn’t since he had bad knees from when he fell off a horse, rolled down a cliff into a river, and nearly drowned when he was a child.
Point was—after depleting his body juice last night and replenishing it with vitamins and nutrients and carbs this morning, she would earn his gratitude and rack up in the karma bank. A sexually satisfied man with a full belly wouldn’t have the energy to cheat, turn down his wife’s requests, or get upset or stressed about anything but the most egregious actions. If it got to that point, fortunately, the measuring scale for “egregious” would be weighed in her favor.
Penola went to the bathroom to relieve herself, leaving the French toast and bacon and cheese omelet sizzling on the stove. After padding the toilet with half a roll of tissue, she got comfy on her throne and took a deep breath. Mmmm. Lennon would love his breakfast. It smelled delicious.
Smelling food as she cooked for him always put her in a better cooking mood despite the fact she actually hated cooking. Cooking equated to grease, fat and calories. None of which worked for her. It was hard enough resisting the urge to throw up after every time she ate. Even harder cooking foods she didn’t even eat. Vegans didn’t pollute their bodies with bacon, cheese, or eggs.
She weighed a whopping one hundred, ten pounds, and therefore, continuously dieted so she wouldn’t make her mother’s mistake of getting up to one twenty. They were both five feet, eight inches tall, and had to watch their weight closely. Obesity certainly wouldn’t help her keep her husband happy. There was a perk to Lennon getting fat and sloppy though, and he was one hamburger away. Other women would be less competition because no one else would find him attractive. They would rebuff his advances immediately. The ones attracted to his bankroll would be in for a defibrillator shock when they learned the money belonged to her. Lennon didn’t have a pot to piss in or a funnel cup to pour it. If it weren’t for Rule #7: Share everything equally, Lennon would be homeless with a cardboard box and matted beard.
The smell of bacon almost made her cooking worth the effort. Knowing she was laying the foundation for ruining his cheating options made it a pleasure. Contributing to Lennon’s overall marital satisfaction and compounding his indebtedness to Penola for her sacrifices—priceless.
She took another deep breath…that honestly sounded more like a snore, which was weird. And for some reason the bacon smelled differently this morning. Bacon mixed with smoke…
Oh, snot! Penola’s eyes flew open. She jumped up in a panic, aware of the smoke alarm ringing angrily. Accusatorily. Screaming “Penola, you’re an ass!” over and over again. Knowing she had to rush to the kitchen, she pulled her panties up, washed her hands, lotioned them, brushed her hair, applied lipstick, and then ran in a hurry. She stopped to turn the alarm off along the way. How many dingdings did it take to remind her she was an ass? None. They were all for torture purposes.
When she finally made it to the kitchen, she discovered, to her surprise and dismay, that falling asleep while using the facilities and leaving food on the stove, would start a fire. Actually, she did know that. What she’d discovered was that leaving a loaf of bread on a burner that wasn’t supposed to be on at all, would catch fire and spread rapidly if she fell asleep on the toilet.
Dammit. It was wheat bread. The only thing she had planned to eat. What a tragedy.
Lennon ran from the bedroom wearing the nude birthday suit she’d left him in bed with. “Did you leave the stove on again?”
Penola nodded as she watched the fire dance. This was the fourth time. Somehow she figured reminding him how much she hated cooking but did so anyway, for his sake, seemed out of place. “Help me find an extinguisher.”
It only took him a hot second to get it from under the sink cabinet. He must have scoped it out when they first checked in, proving what little faith he had in her. Or proving how well he knew her, which was an excellent sign of how close they were, and how well they complemented each other. She chose to believe that.
Lennon began spraying the pans and stove surface generously. “You insisted on getting a suite with a kitchen so you could cook, Pen. What have I told you about leaving the stove unattended?”
Uh oh. Burning breakfast was bad. Burning a kitchen was egregious. Not only was she close to getting the silent treatment and spending today’s activities alone, Penola was in danger of causing him stress, which was a violation of keeping him happy. She considered her options: go on the defensive and tell him to cook his own damn food from now on, or remember Rule #17: Maintain peace by apologizing when you’re wrong. Repeat, depending on severity of the offense. She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.” Simple enough.
“I’ve heard that before.” Lennon had put the fire out completely, laced his fingers behind his head, and began shaking it as he inspected the mess.
“And I’ve meant it each time.” This was severe. A repeat apology was in order. “I truly am sorry, Lennon. I only wanted to fix a nice breakfast for you.” She turned on the waterworks to show how deeply, deeply sorry she was. Now to remind him of her good deeds. “After the day…and night,” hint hint, “we both had, I was so tired I could barely stand. I haven’t had a wink of sleep, but no matter my own inconvenience, I made it a point to at least fix your breakfast.”
His eyes widened in exasperation as he looked at the mess she insisted on calling “breakfast”. His jaw ticked. “This is going to cost us. I’d rather you not cook at all if this is the result.”
“You don’t mean that. You love my cooking.”
“Actually, I don’t.” He leaned against the charred counter and folded his arms. “In fact, I’d rather eat cat litter. There have only been a handful of meals that didn’t end up burning the house down, and I had to feed those to Rufus when you weren’t looking.”
Say what? She blanked at his cruelty.
Of all the hurtful things to say—he had the nerve to feed the meals she labored over to…to the dog? The meals she made to keep him happy? What was she supposed to do with that information? Her mom didn’t have a rule for this.
His expression softened from rage to concern. She realized she could use this.
Her head dropped. “That really hurts, Lennon.” Best to look like someone in need of pity rather than rage.
“I know you mean well. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, but you can’t cook. We’ll hire one. You can sleep in an hour longer in the mornings.”
We’ll also pick Rufus up from the kennel as soon as we return…and drop him off at SPCA to be put down. Dogs were not allowed to come between her and Lennon either. “Fine.”
Rule #2 was to keep him happy with food. It didn’t specify that she had to be the cook. Accidentally burning Lennon up as he slept would definitely not be conducive to having the perfect marriage. She’d concede to hiring a cook. An old, shriveled up male chef, that is. Preferably, a eunuch.
Make-up sex time.
She threw her arms around his neck and kissed both of his cheeks softly. She wouldn’t hold it against him that he didn’t like her cooking. He wouldn’t hold it against her that she kept burning things up. She would never accept that she really couldn’t cook, however. Lennon just had weird taste.
This was still a winning situation. She never liked the dog anyway. A house as nice as theirs should never have a dog as large as a poodle. A Shih Tzu maybe, but not a poodle. Never mind the dog. Perhaps with a few more kisses, she could convince Lennon to forget how he’d caught an electric eel that stung him last time they’d gone fishing, and give fishing a go today.
The smell of burned breakfast underneath fire extinguisher chemicals did not make for a romantic mood setting, and neither did the disruptive banging at the door.
A maintenance worker, fire marshal, and hotel manager had come in response to the alarm and stared at Penola when she offered to fix them breakfast. Whatever. She’d had no intention of cooking a thing. They had missed out on the best seaweed smoothie ever, none of that greasy unhealthy crap she liked to fatten…er, sweeten Lennon with.
Once a few hotel neighbors showed up, Penola sighed in relief. It had been another close one. Good thing she’d learned from past experience to take some time to fix herself up before tending to a fiery stove. Things would have been a lot worse if she hadn’t applied lipstick before all the spotlight attention.
The charge to their hotel bill and subsequent eviction was worth the time she spent making it up to Lennon later in their new hotel room. The sleep was even better. She slept ’til she drooled. Matter of fact, she slept so long and hard that once she woke up, she realized she’d only dreamt the hot, sweaty make-up sex. Either way, it was a good make-up session. And she immediately called maintenance to fix the air conditioner.
They went to see “Escape From Planet Earth” after that. They were short a child or two for the animated film, but they sat next to a family with seven kids and thanked their lucky stars they didn’t have any. Yes, going to see the movie was a rather lackluster vacation activity, but Penola went along with it because she didn’t want to push the envelope today. Sundays were usually lazy days anyway. They had six more days to enjoy island amenities.
After sleeping so long earlier, she couldn’t get to sleep when it was bedtime. She decided there was no better time to clean than the present. Rule #3: Keep your husband happy with a clean house came to mind. She did it at home. She’d do it on vacation.
Lennon couldn’t sleep either, so he took the time to break his promise about refraining from doing business while on vacation, and pulled out his iPad. Penola left him to it and hunted down the hotel housekeeping staff for a broom and mop, ignoring their confused looks. The fact that they didn’t get why she desired to clean her own room was testament to why she was married to Lennon and they were still single. Sure, she saw rings on their fingers, but she wasn’t fooled for one minute. She’d bet a million bucks of her hard-earned inheritance money that they’d bought their own fake wedding rings to wear and front. So they could look at her crazy for requesting Windex, Clorox, Ajax and rubber gloves, all they wanted. They really should have been taking notes, not just on cleaning for a husband, but shopping for classy jewelry.
She was on her knees scrubbing the tile bathroom floor when Lennon came in behind her.
“Does this make me look fat?” He held out his arms and stood for appraisal.
She looked up at the tank top he’d squeezed over his Michelin inner tube waistline. Was this a trick question? Yes. “No.”
“No?” He used both hands to pick up his belly and let it flap back down. “Are you sure?” he asked suspiciously.
Quick, quick. Rule #6 was: Boost his ego when he seems insecure. She had to think of something ego-boosting fast. “Your gut isn’t as big as John Goodman’s, not even close.” He frowned and looked down at his stomach. Okay, apparently that was no consolation. “I mean…it’s…no the shirt doesn’t make you look fat. But those tight elastic shorts you’re wearing are squeezing…” She trailed off when he turned to leave. This was not going well. “Honey button, wait!”
Penola, with her bad mouth and bad-er ideas had actually broken a rule, well part of it. Rule #13: Do not compare him to other men, and do not expect perfection from him, unless you put on your glasses that have perfect lenses, and you can see him as perfect every day all day. This will bring you to Rule #14: Do not lie to your spouse unless it is to protect his fragile feelings. Put on your perfect lenses, see him as perfect then lie to him until you both believe it is truth.
She got points for trying to protect his feelings, but she lost them all by bringing up John. Lordy. Lennon was almost out of the bathroom. She had to make this right.
“Lennon, wait! I didn’t mean anything by it.” She jumped up to go after him and tipped the sudsy mop water bucket all over the floor. The mop that stood straight in the bucket and leaned against the wall crashed down on the back of Lennon’s head. The water running fast underneath his feet made him slip, kick a leg out, and crash to the floor in a splash before she could get to how she liked holding on to his gut, especially during cold weather. His extra installation came in handy when she needed another layer of warmth. It came in handy when he needed cushion for a fall too.
Lennon lay on the floor, one hand on a knee, the other under his back, and an ugly groan in his throat.
Karma was a bitch. Just last night she’d intentionally tripped a girl and gotten her arrested. Tonight she’d accidentally tripped her husband and—hey, wait a minute. That wasn’t karma. That was Lennon’s dumb luck.
She took a deep breath, stepped over Lennon, and went to call paramedics. She may be prone to setting fires, but Lennon was a klutz.
While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, she remembered Rule #15, which was a huge feat due to the rules becoming much longer and harder to remember: Tell a joke to liven his spirits. Showing your sense of humor will also show you have more than sex, cooking, and cleaning to offer. You have a winning personality. If this does not work, give him a blow job. Personalities are oftentimes overrated.
She sat Indian-style next to him on the floor and tried to come up with a joke. If she could remember her mother’s rules verbatim, surely she could remember something that would make Lennon howl from laughter instead of pain.
When she had it, she cleared her throat, took a deep breath, and pretended she was auditioning for standup comedy. “Why did the chicken cross the road?” She waited for him to answer. He just stared at the ceiling, so she went ahead with the punch line. “Because he saw Lennon crashing to the floor and was desperate to get out of the way.” She laughed.
Okay. Penola tried again. “Knock, Knock,” she waited for him to answer, continuing when he didn’t, “Who’s there? Fire marshal. Fire marshal, who? Like I just said, Fire Marshal. That’s my name, first and last.”
Lennon winced from pain, ’cause it certainly wasn’t from her funny jokes. Whenever she decided she should work for a living, she’d definitely take up comedy.
“Penola, stop. This is bad.”
Sympathizing with his pain, she continued. “What do you call a woman who burns down a kitchen four times?”
She paused, considering his answer. Maybe. “No. A woman who can’t cook.”
He blinked. “Are you actually admitting you can’t cook?”
“If it’ll make you feel better, yes.”
Lennon finally smiled. Penola knew she’d found her calling…until he revealed he had an interest in being comedic competition. “I have one,” he began. “What do you call a woman who’s about your height and about your weight?”
She shrugged. Too damn easy. He’d never be as good at comedy as she was. “Penola.”
“No. You don’t call her at all. She’ll be dead from starvation and malnutrition within a week.” He erupted in belly-rolling laughter.
Ohhh. Good one, Lennon. “Feeling better?”
“Almost. Here’s one more. Why did the chicken cross the road?”
“To keep you from eating him?”
“No. He saw you lean and thought a tree branch was falling and wanted to get the hell out of the way.”
She frowned when he laughed at another of his silly ass jokes. She even considered a wise retort and decided against it. Even though they both knew the chicken would rather get hit than eaten, there was no sense in getting uptight about it. Lennon was one freak accident away from death himself. She’d shut her lips if she were him.
At least he was smiling again. That amounted to a Penola slam dunk. But she wouldn’t celebrate yet. She had a feeling she would have to go through a number of rules during his recovery period. Of course, she was willing to do whatever it took to make him feel better. That’s what having a perfect marriage was all about. They’d been married for a long time now, celebrating their one month anniversary. She was getting really good at this. Maybe she should even write a how-to book for other couples.
After: 1. an unnecessary ER visit that Lennon insisted on, even though the paramedics said he’d be fine, 2. a knee brace the doctor said he didn’t really need, 3. an icepack that was overkill, 4. two Ibuprofen, a pity party, and an ambulance chasing lawyer’s business card, Lennon was ready to hang out on the couch for the rest of their vacation. Nice. It was the kiss of boredom for Penola, but not Lennon. Once he was convinced his leg wouldn’t need to be amputated, he was fine. Happy, even. The Monday night football game on TV pepped his attitude about being injured greatly. In fact, if Penola hadn’t been the one to tip the bucket, she would have thought Lennon had hurt himself on purpose.
Penola wanted to have f-u-n, and she wanted to have it with her husband. Too bad Rule #12 was: Spend quality time together, but make sure you don’t try to do it during a football game, basketball game, soccer game, tennis match, golf tournament, Nascar race, boxing match, or when he’s sleeping, or when he’s trying to have sex, or when he’s eating, or working, or talking on the phone with his friends and especially not with his mama, or texting them, or Facebooking it, or playing video games…
Penola was almost sure the rule was much longer than that. Once the restrictive nature of the rule was established, she had no desire to remember any more of the specifics. She got the gist: Quality time was important, but she’d have better luck finding Jimmy Hoffa’s body in one piece than finding the right time and mutually enjoyable event to spend with her husband. Especially when the klutzy man couldn’t wipe his own ass without popping a blood vessel.
But Penola being Penola intended to rise to the challenge and smack it flat on the booty. Lennon was her husband, and she wanted the perfect marriage her mother promised her would come as long as she followed a few simple rules. All she had to do was think of Rule #16: Keep it fresh and adventurous. This will ensure he doesn’t get bored with you…and it shifts his attention to you, no matter what else may really be more entertaining or important. He won’t know the difference. Penola, ever resourceful and highly motivated, would spend some quality time with her husband if it was the last thing she did. The time would just have to be adventurous and new enough to hold his attention.
She snapped her fingers once she had the perfect idea. Lennon frowned because Penola was clearly interrupting his game. No worries. She’d turn that frown upside down real soon.
Penola went out for a few hours and returned with something grand enough to pull Lennon’s attention away from anything on the screen. “Honey button, I have a surprise for you.”
He didn’t even budge on the couch or otherwise acknowledge that she’d spoken.
She forgave his rudeness, attributing it to his latest traumatic injury. “Do you want to know what it is?”
He shook his head and wrapped his feet tighter in the blanket. It was truly a bitchy…endearing move. He hadn’t ignored her this time—progress.
Penola walked towards the couch and pushed Lennon’s surprise towards him. “Here she is.” The high-dollar whore Penola had purchased for fifty dollars from a street corner grinned as she crept towards him with the poise of a junkie phenin’ for a hit. Hopefully, she wouldn’t spend all her earnings in one crack house.
Lennon glanced over, did a double take, and punched the off button on the remote. “She’s the surprise?”
“Yes, dear.” If it hadn’t been Penola’s plan to seduce him from TV with the strumpet, she’d be hurt by his reaction. Instead, Penola gave herself a pat on both sides of her back. She was the bomb. She knew exactly how to please her husband. How to tickle his fancy. And make him believe she was the Queen of Adventureland for granting such a fantasy to him. It wasn’t her fault Lennon was vile enough to believe a threesome would turn up the heat in their sex life and stupid enough to think she was stupid enough to go through with it. No siree, Bob! She only intended to make it look like she would. She smiled sweetly and activated part B of her elaborate scheme. “Let me get the drinks.”
She went to the kitchen and poured three drinks, adding a little something extra to the whore’s glass. Why have some Ajax leftover if she couldn’t put it to good use? Penola just hoped she could get the special drink in the whore’s system before crabs leapt from her cooch to the couch.
Penola headed to where she’d left them. Dammit. The whore had already sat down next to Lennon on the couch, but she wouldn’t be upright for long. Penola went back to the kitchen to add a little dab of Windex to her intended target’s glass. Scheming was tough, but good wives were willing to do it.
“Ah…there you are. And there you are.” Penola passed the glasses around and sat on the other side of Lennon. “Honey button, do you like your surprise?”
Lennon’s eyes continued looking his surprise up and down. That cactus must have had his tongue. Penola took his actions as an affirmative, though she didn’t get the appeal of the see-through blouse and tight miniskirt with holy pantyhose. At least the whore had clean, straight teeth. That probably accounted for the high price tag. Then again, she’d probably chip a tooth on that tongue ring soon and knock her value down a dollar. However, if she was lucky enough to knock the others out, she could probably go up to fifty-four ninety-nine and boast of the best slob-knobbing on this side of England.
For some reason that made Penola smile. Watching Lennon’s surprise empty the contents of her glass down her throat, made Penola smile more.
“Why don’t you kiss her, honey button?” Time to get this show on the road. Penola had only paid for an hour. It took fifteen minutes to get her here. It would take fifteen minutes to get her back. That left thirty minutes to—
There it went. Faster than Penola had expected, but just as she’d planned. The whore had hurled her lunch all over Lennon as he leaned in for a kiss. Penola would get points for being a good, understanding, adventurous wife, and the whore would be blamed for screwing with Lennon’s chance of a lifetime. She’d ruined it, not Penola. He’d never know he was never going to have a chance at pounding that.
“Yuck!” Lennon cried. Guess he didn’t like having puke on his lap.
That would teach him to try to hook up with anyone other than his wife. How was that for adventure?
Penola jumped up with all her Oh, no’s and Oh, my God’s and ran to get towels to clean up the mess. She’d have to hurry so she could get the nasty chick cleaned up and back on her corner in time for her next trick. Who was Penola and Lennon to stand in the way of someone earning a living with such a promising career? Penola made haste, spraying bleach all over the whore. Her next customer could thank Penola later.
Penola knew it was on now. TV ball game or not, when she returned, Lennon would be ready to thank her profusely for “surprising” him.
If Penola could high-five herself, she would. What a perfect marriage.
Okay, so quality time didn’t turn out the way Penola had wanted it to. Sure, Lennon was grateful for Penola’s attempted surprise. So much so that he started calling around to find a suitable replacement for the whore. He even went so far as to call the restaurant where Penola had her altercation their first night here. He pretended to be the server’s long-lost brother in need of current contact information. Unbelievable. Lennon actually thought Penola would be down for a threesome with the woman she tripped and got fired and arrested. And he thought the server would actually be down too.
Gee whiz. Lennon couldn’t look anymore pathetic.
Turned out Penola didn’t want to spend any more time with Lennon, “quality” or otherwise.
Instead, she went for a long walk on the beach.
She went tango dancing.
Then horseback riding.
She did everything she could all by herself. And she had f-u-n doing it. She did her best to follow Rule #4: Forget your happiness. Just keep him happy. Smile at all times until you believe you are happy too. Reciting the rule over and over didn’t help get her mind right. She wasn’t in the mood to keep him happy at the moment. That made her nervous. It meant she was in danger of NOT having the perfect marriage. It would be her own fault, due to her own bad attitude.
When she got back to the hotel suite, she passed Lennon on the couch where she’d left him and stood in front of the bathroom mirror to practice smiling. She looked fake as hell, like an alley cat with tiger stripes, but she kept at it until she had a respectable smile. One that looked less Crypt Keeper-ish.
She was finally in a positive mood, ready to practice Rule #5: Have great communication. Share your feelings respectfully, especially when you don’t feel like talking. She looked over at Lennon and winced. This must have been the ideal time to communicate, because she especially didn’t want to. He’d gotten the telephone book out and had started calling around for potential threesome buddies. It made her skin crawl.
Penola sat down next to Lennon and explained how she felt about his reaction to the whore. She explained how his over-zealousness to have someone else in their bed made her feel. She explained how she felt about him not wanting to do anything fun while they were on vacation. And how he she felt about him not keeping his promise to stay off his phone and laptop. It was a hard thing for her to do. She had to strike the right balance between expressing her feelings and not being a nag or saying something that would impede Lennon’s own happiness. This was solely for the purpose of communication, not to put her happiness above his.
She felt proud of herself for handling it so well. When she was done, she waited for a response. Moments went by. “Lennon, do you have anything to say?”
He looked at her, lifted his cheek from the couch, and farted. Loudly.
Penola’s face balled up. She jumped up. She was shocked and outraged. Disgusted. Sure, she remembered Rule #9: Ignore body parts that stink, burps and farts that are loud, and any suspicious body odors or skin discolorations. But flatulence was not something she took lightly. Neither were body odors, and he hadn’t gotten up from the couch to wash at all. She’d rather he cheated with the server or beat her senseless than burp or fart where she could hear or smell it. Some things were just unforgivable.
Penola had always thought this was the most ridiculous rule ever…until now. She’d explained the one pet peeve she had to Lennon before they got married. He had said he would be conscientious and avoid it in her presence. The rule made perfect sense now because she would have been ready to end the marriage immediately if she weren’t so well-equipped with guiding rules.
She stormed off to the bedroom and slammed the door. Ignore it, my ass. Her mother had never smelled Lennon’s gas. There was no ignoring it.
In fact, this was a perfect time to implement Rule #10: Get angry, Lord knows he asked for it, but don’t stay angry. Go workout instead. She started putting her workout clothes on. A jog would do her some good. It would air out her nose and lungs.
Lennon came to the door while she strung up her shoelaces. “Sorry, Penola.”
“I didn’t realize you were so adamant against sexual experimentation.”
Now, he did.
“And I used my phone and laptop out of habit. I didn’t mean to break my promise.”
Okay. Maybe that made sense. What else?
“I’ll be ready to go around the island with you tomorrow.”
That was better. They were getting somewhere.
“And I didn’t think you’d be able to hear me pass gas. It won’t happen again.”
Awww. He was such a sweetie. She got up and opened the door to hug him. Wrapped in his warm embrace, she really did feel happy. Good thing she couldn’t stay angry with him. “I forgive you.”
Having such a wonderful husband made following Rule #11 easy: Practice Forgiveness. Over and over again. Even, no especially, when he doesn’t deserve it. Love unconditionally, or at least fake like you do. Stepford wives make the best role models. She’d never thought of herself as a Stepford wife, but if that was what it took to have the perfect marriage, there was no question about whether she would display a fake smile often. Forgiving his gas was pushing it. She sincerely hoped he had learned his lesson. She was not Super Woman.
There was a knock at the door.
They broke away from each other, Lennon going back to the couch, Penola going to welcome the unwelcomed guest.
There was a woman with a stroller hauling three children way too big for the thing. Legs and arms were thrown outside the stroller in several different directions. Four pairs of eyes were on Penola, one set at eye-level.
“I’m sorry, but we didn’t order room service.” Around these parts, Penola could imagine folks needed to take their kids to work with them. She wasn’t mad at ’em. She just wasn’t going to pay for someone else’s food.
“Mueva perra. Estoy buscando a Lennon. Él mi papá del bebé.”
Penola grimaced. Everyone should know how to speak English. That was just lazy. “Um…Lennon?” It wasn’t that he knew how to speak Spanish, but she was certain the chick had said his name somewhere in all that gibberish.
Lennon came up behind her, wide-eyed and looking like he was ready to bolt. “What are you doing here, Isabella?”
Chicky-dee didn’t respond. She pushed the stroller inside the room and turned to leave.
“Wait!” Penola marched across the hallway and knocked on the neighbor’s door. When an elderly lady opened it, Penola asked, “You hablo in el Espanisho?”
The lady nodded and stepped out. Penola pointed to Isabella and gestured for her to speak to the translator. Isabella said something fast and sassy…and funny, apparently. It took the translator a minute to collect herself before letting Penola in on the joke.
“She says the triplets are Lennon’s. She took care of them for the first four years of their lives. He can do the rest.”
Penola turned green. “We don’t want them.”
The neighbor translated to Isabella.
“Yo tampoco.” Isabella waved her hand in the air dismissively and walked off.
No translation needed. She was leaving the kids behind. The translator laughed her way back to her room, got a Spanish dictionary, and offered it to Penola. “Looks like you’re going to need this…and this.” She also offered a stun gun, but Penola declined. Thoughtful gesture. Too tempting.
Lennon looked at Penola. “I don’t even remember their names.”
“That’s the best you got? How ’bout denying they are yours?” At least get them a trip to Connecticut for the Maury show first.
“C’mon, Penola. I didn’t know you then. You can’t blame me for having kids when I didn’t know you.”
“But you knew about them.”
“Of course. Isabella and I were engaged for ten years. I broke it off when I met you.”
“You didn’t think this was something I needed to know? Maybe before your ex-fiancée hunted us down on our vacation and delivered your children?”
“No. But I figured once you found out, you’d be happy I chose you above all else.” Penola would bet he’d chosen her money above all else, but still. He had shown that she was the better deal, better than any other woman for him. She could respect that. “Look at it this way, we have three children and you didn’t even have to gain a pound for them.”
She admired his logic and positive attitude. She looked at the rugrats looking back at her. They were cute enough that she wouldn’t mind being in public with them. Thankfully, she’d already missed the terrible two’s. Once she saw the bag of clothes and food tucked in back of the stroller, she knew she could make it work. The perfect marriage would lay the foundation for the perfect family—without the mutilation to her body. Plus, they already knew Spanish. Brilliant. The stork had brought her a ready-made family with kids to go horseback riding, sail boating, walking on the beach, dancing… As a matter of fact, the triplets could prove to be more useful than Lennon.
“You got a point, Lennon.” She wheeled the stroller with her new babies further into the suite and shut the door.
Just to be on the safe side, she ran back across the hall to get the stun gun. For all she knew, she had just adopted three Children of the Corn and needed to sleep with one eye opened and a hand on her weapon.
Amazing how much Penola’s life had changed since she had been given the unexpected gift of triplets. They ate everything in sight, pooped it out immediately, slept about two hours a day combined, and tore through the suite like tornadoes. It was wonderful. Never a dull, boring moment. She had never felt more alive.
“Are you really going to bring them back home with you?” Penola’s best friend was on the phone, surprised Penola hadn’t killed the children yet.
“Yep. They belong to me now. They help me see the world in a different perspective. I’m learning to be more patient and understanding.”
“What about Lennon?”
“I’ll bring him back too.”
“No, I don’t mean that. I mean, shouldn’t there be some repercussions for him lying to you like he did?”
“Not according to my rulebook. I’m supposed to communicate with him, which I did. He knows how I feel about his deception. I’m supposed to practice forgiveness, which I am. As my husband, he’s entitled to another chance. Unlimited chances, really. I’m also supposed to keep him happy, which I intend to do with sex in another minute.”
“Seems like you have it all worked out. I’m assuming you’re bringing the nanny with you too?”
“Most definitely. I paid good money for her. At one hundred dollars a week, she’s going to take care of the kids and clean the house and cook. She’ll get a break from the kids whenever I’m ready to do fun stuff with them.”
Lennon yelled from the bedroom that he was still waiting on Penola.
“I have to go now, but we’ll see you tomorrow night after our plane lands.”
“Okay. Have a safe trip back.”
“We will as long as Lennon doesn’t slip on the airport escalator again.”
They laughed and disconnected.
When Penola walked into the bedroom and saw Lennon lying there waiting for her, she nearly gagged. She had not been interested in being with him physically since she’d had the kids. They completed her in a way he never had. She felt bad about sending them out with the nanny just so that she could abide by Rule #8: Don’t forget Rule #1, especially after you have children. It’s the same rule, with an addendum. With extra people in the house and extra responsibilities, you must be extra sensitive to your husband’s needs. So don’t just have sex. Have lots of great sex. Well, try to have great sex. Okay. Forget the great sex. It won’t be great for you. Just make sure you have lots of sex. As long as he’s having an orgasm, it’s great for him. And remember your job is to keep him happy.
Penola exhaled noisily and stepped towards him.
Once in the throes of his passion, he asked if it was good.
“Oh, yeah. It’s great,” Penola mumbled. “Awesome. Mind-blowing. Oo-ah.”
That was all it took to heighten his pleasure and end Penola’s torturous duty. She went to the bathroom to finish herself off. She had a difficult time concentrating though. All she could think about was Lennon being the father of her kids. Irresponsible, broke, klutzy, non-funny-joke-telling Lennon. Her kids deserved better.
She thought of how lucky Isabella was. She didn’t have to cook for, clean for, have sex with, or listen to Lennon fart anymore. Lennon was Penola’s problem. Because she’d married him. What did she do now that she realized the perfect marriage wasn’t all it was cracked up to be? There was nothing wrong with having rules. Problem was when she had to follow rules in order to make a marriage perfect with a man like Lennon. Someone she had to permanently leave her “perfect lenses” on for. She’d rather wear them when she looked after her children, not some grown man who acted like a child.
She’d have to end this marriage and find a better husband for herself and better father for her children.
That’s when she remembered Rule #20: When you’ve done everything to make him happy and he’s still an ass, remember that divorce is not an option.
Penola realized she’d been duped. Her mother had promised the perfect marriage, without explaining how unnecessary it was to make that a goal in life. But she’d naively taken the plunge. And now she was stuck with a husband and rules she didn’t want. Penola threw her head back and screamed in anguish.
Penola didn’t sleep at all. Knowing she had to get the nanny up bright and early to get the kids dressed before she got herself ready didn’t help her get to sleep either. It should have been motivation. But she tossed and turned as she lay on the bed with her children next to her. Lennon slept in his favorite spot on the couch in front of the TV. She’d only had the triplets a few days, but felt more bonded to them than she did to Lennon. She had to do something about that. She needed to get rid of Lennon.
She thought back to her elaborate, overly-priced wedding. She thought about her overly-ambitious wedding vows. She remembered that she’d vowed to remain married ’til death did they part. Penola chuckled as she came up with her own Bonus Rule: When you’ve done everything to keep the bastard happy but you’re miserable and he is too, kill the motherfucker. Death IS an option.
Lennon was so prone to accidents, Penola just needed to come up with the perfect one that would kill him and convince everyone it was only an accident. Maybe she could go in there and make him have a heart attack during sex. Not enough time to pull that off before her flight. She could give him a rusty razor to shave with so he could contract a flesh-eating bacteria. It would take too long for that to kill him. Sending him on an errand in the thunderstorm and locking him out until he caught a bad cold and died of pneumonia would take too long also.
No. No. And no. None of these would work…but she did have a plan. It was time to part ways. Time to kill her perfect marriage.
She slyly crept into the living area and changed the channel on the TV to one that had a bad signal. Lennon immediately woke up as if he’d been watching the TV instead of it watching him. “Honey, I think the signal went out. You should go on the roof to adjust the satellite antenna.”
That should be harmful enough. Lennon would either fall off the roof, fall down the stairs on the way to the roof, or get struck by lightning in the storm. With that in mind, she loaded him down with as many metal objects as she could. A metal flashlight. A metal wrench. An umbrella with a metal handle. When he left, Penola began moving the packed suitcases from the bedroom to the front door. She’d be totally exhausted on the trip back home, but she’d be much happier.
There was a startling thunderclap right over the hotel that made Penola whisper a last farewell for Lennon. She could even see sparks flying down from the window. Something had really been fried outside. Lennon, if she was lucky. She hoped it would be a long time before she saw him in the afterlife. She also hoped he wouldn’t be able to come back as a ghost and haunt her while she lived the rest of her life.
Another thirty minutes passed, then another fifteen. She felt even more content that he was gone forever. Should she stick around until someone showed up to notify her of his unfortunate demise?
No. She was still slightly concerned his ghost might appear. Best to leave now without a forwarding address.
She had the nanny and concierge take the kids and their luggage to an awaiting taxi. As she was about to turn out the lights and shut the door on her vacation, Lennon showed up. He was soaked, but no worse for wear.
Plan A was a failure. Aw, dammit.
“Darn cat got electrocuted up there. I thought they hated water. He shouldn’t have been out in this weather.” Lennon walked in, wrench in hand and a scowl on his face. “From what I could tell, nothing was wrong with the satellite but—” He looked around at the empty room and must have put two and two together. “Where are my kids? You sold them into island slavery, didn’t you?”
Two and two equaled three in his book. “They aren’t your kids. They’re mine.” He looked confused. Penola tried to explain in the simplest terms possible. “I want you dead.”
“Dead. Really? We’ve only been married a month and a week. Don’t you think that’s drastic? Maybe we should get divorced.”
“That would be breaking a rule.”
“A rule?” He frowned and shook his head like the subject wasn’t really worth a follow-up. “Well, annulled then.”
“Nope. I don’t want to go through the courts at all. They’ll take my kids.”
“Your kids?” He sighed and sat down. Silent moments passed. “You’re just as unstable and deranged as your mother was.”
Penola paced. “At least you knew all my flaws before you married me. You knew my mother killed my father then turned the gun on herself. That should have been a warning to you.”
“The money you inherited from your dad was enough to make me overlook your shortcomings.” He laughed. “So is that what you plan to do here? Kill us?”
“No. I won’t leave my children alone.”
He sat on his spot on the couch that dipped low. “That’s good. I’ve been thinking maybe I should stay on the island.”
Penola thought that was a good idea. She kissed his cheek goodbye. “Lennon, what do you call a starving woman who does everything she can to have the perfect marriage, even follows some ridiculous rules passed down from a lunatic, but nothing works because her husband’s a snake in the grass?”
“Penola,” said Lennon, the snake.
She nodded. “Yes. What else?”
“Yes. And one more thing.”
He thought about it, assessing her mood. Her posture. The empty room. He gulped from nervousness and whispered, “Uh…a widow?”
“Yes.” She pulled the neighbor’s stun gun out of her pocket and raised it to his head. “And a murderer.”
Penola pulled the trigger and watched him squirm and jerk and grit his teeth. Since Lennon had a pacemaker implanted years ago after his ticker went wonky in a Halloween haunted house and he had a heart attack, the shock to his system was enough to send him on his way. Penola had finally ended her perfect marriage…and had not broken a rule or fingernail doing it.
She left the platinum watch on his wrist as a tip for whoever would have to clean up his mess. Holding her head high, Penola left for the taxi, and later the airport, and later her home, where she lived happily unmarried ever after with her kids…until the following week when she hunted their biological mother down on vacation on an island and left them with her. So Penola lived happily ever after with Rufus, the dog she decided to keep because he enjoyed her cooking.
Moral of the story: The only perfect marriage exists on a nameless island in your freaking mind. And don’t marry a crazy person. You may not live long enough to regret it.
Thank you for reading . Please write a review and check out more of Dicey Grenor’s books. They are for readers who do not offend easily, are not turned off by violence or profanity, and don’t mind being turned on with explicit sex scenes. Readers looking for something unpredictable and unique may like Dicey’s books.
The Narcoleptic Vampire Series (erotic urban fantasy) is about a vampire with narcolepsy, who also works at a fetish club, and has a love interest with a personality disorder. There are currently six books available in ebook and paperback editions for this series.
is a taboo novel also available in ebook and paperback editions. It is about a married mother of three, who has an affair with a sixteen-year-old. Lastly, is Dicey’s Irish rock-n-roll erotic romance story about best friends who like a little kink in their friendship.
Dicey is a wife, mother, attorney, and author. Here’s how you keep in touch with her:
Penola and Lennon have the perfect marriage because they follow twenty rules that ensure marital bliss. Controversial fiction author, Dicey Grenor, has released these rules so that couples everywhere can benefit from them. In case you’re wondering—hell yeah, it’s fiction…just like the “perfect” marriage. Fans of Dicey’s work will enjoy this novelette’s explosive combination of nonfiction and dark humor. New-to-Dicey readers will need to buckle up for this tongue-in-cheek ride and expect the unexpected.