Previously on Monroes…
Ash, Bailey and Hunter all move into the Monroe mansion.
Rea successfully gets on everyone’s nerves…
So, she goes to the one person that always listens to her.
Chapter 2: Invisible Traps
Shannon and Rea became best friends years ago, when they were both models. Now, Shannon runs a successful boutique and Rea spends her time shopping at it.
Shannon, who is a decade younger than Rea, doesn’t mind Rea’s frequent visits to her shop or the random visits to her apartment at night. Rea is always welcome because she is like an older sister to Shannon.
The living room of Shannon’s apartment was a cozy space, perfect for entertaining a few close friends and the occasional family member.
Rea was already halfway through telling Shannon about the whole fiasco at home, by the time they got to the living room.
“Rea, I have to be honest with you. It sounds to me like you have a crush on Ash and everyone can see it but you.” Shannon said as she and Rea sat on the sofa together.
Rea smiled coyly, “Well, let’s just say that if he came onto me, I wouldn’t refuse.”
Shannon laughed, “Ah, the truth! But, Rea, was it really such a good idea to try and flirt with Ash in front of everyone?”
“Maybe not,” Rea shrugged, “But I’m just so sick of the way they all treat me. I just want to do one thing that is going to get back at all of them for all the crap I’ve had to put up with.”
“And you want to use Ash for that.” Shannon confirmed.
“Yeah, and besides, Bailey isn’t even right for him.”
“You think you’re better suited for him?”
“I know so.” Rea said confidently, “Bailey has really ‘deteriorated’ over the years. I still remember how incredible she looked on her wedding day but since then, she has really let herself go.”
Shannon chuckled, “Maybe so, but how the heck are you going to pull off this whole thing with Ash if Ash hates your guts?”
“Well, I think that Ash is going to get bored of Bailey eventually. I mean, her outfits are so bland, she doesn’t look like she’s seen the inside of a gym before, and the way she gets so cranky probably drives poor Ash insane. All I have to do is show him why I’m so much better than Bailey.” Rea explained.
“Wow. Okay, Rea,” Shannon said, “I hope I don’t ‘let myself go’ after I get married.”
“Oh, that reminds me, how are the wedding preparations coming along so far?” Rea asked.
“Terrible. I feel like I’m doing everything on my own. Jeff is always busy. It’s like he’s in another country but he’s actually just in another suburb.” Shannon complained.
“He is starting to sound just like Don.” Rea said, shaking her head.
“But I don’t want to talk about my so-called fiancé right now. Let’s discuss how you’re going to nab Ash. Actually, I think I have an idea.” Shannon smiled deviously.
After a lengthy conversation with Shannon that night, Rea went back home, armed with a new plan and a healthy boost of confidence.
Weeks went by after the night of the fight in the office. Rea did her best to keep her distance from everyone until the tension around the house simmered down a bit.
Eventually, the time came for Hunter to start going to his new school in the city of Central Espansy. Although he didn’t like school much, Hunter was thrilled about going to a place he hadn’t been to before. His love for adventure, no matter where, was definitely something he got from his dad.
Bailey had some exploration of her own to do so Don gave both Bailey and Hunter a lift to the school.
At the school, Bailey went with Hunter all the way to his classroom to meet his teacher and see his classroom.
The classroom was a pleasant space, full of bright colors and fun, educational posters on the walls.
Hunter’s teacher placed him at a desk with a hyperactive little girl called Annie. She had long, brunette hair, green eyes and freckles.
The school had a ‘buddy system’ where the new kids would be assigned to a kid who had been in the school for long enough. Annie was Hunter’s buddy.
Right from the start, it was obvious that Hunter and Annie would be good friends. They shared similar interests in TV shows, video games and adventure.
Thanks to Annie, school had gotten off on a good start for Hunter.
On the playground, Annie introduced Hunter to her older brother Cody (who was one grade above her) and some of her friends.
It was on the playground that Hunter realized that his new friends were a little mean to the other kids. Annie was very popular, not because of her success in various school activities but because others were afraid of her, her brother, and his friends.
Annie, Cody, and their friends would make mean jokes about the other kids and pull silly pranks on them.
Hunter knew it was wrong and he desperately wanted to say something about it but he decided that if he wanted to enjoy his days at school, he would have to play along.
After school, Bailey came to fetch Hunter. Annie and Cody’s dad, AJ, also came by. AJ was a single dad and devoted most of his time to his two kids, whose mother had left them six years ago to pursue her music career, but she never came back.
Bailey and AJ started chatting and, much like their kids, they got along well right from the start.
While the kids ran off to play, Bailey and AJ sat on a bench nearby and had a chat.
During their conversation, AJ mentioned that he worked at and owned a hair salon. Bailey told him that she was developing a set of hair-care products, the results of which was her and Hunter’s luscious hair.
“Have you worked in a hair salon before?” AJ asked.
“No, but I was a hairdresser back in Tarah Maven. That’s where I’m from. I would do hair for weddings and parties, while selling my products.”
“That’s pretty interesting. How would you feel about working at a hair salon? Maybe tomorrow morning, we can meet here and I can take you to my hair salon.” AJ offered.
“Oh, I’d like that.” Bailey replied enthusiastically.
“Great. Well, I’m taking my kids to a new ice-cream bar that just opened. You and Hunter can come along. We can talk more about your hair products.” AJ said, inviting Bailey.
Back at home, Rea wanted to begin her plans to get on Ash’s good side. Seeing that Bailey wasn’t home, Don was at work, and May was taking her afternoon nap, Rea thought it was the perfect time to start.
Rea found Ash in one of the two living rooms, watching the sports news channel. Ash didn’t do much during the day, other than finding ways to stay entertained.
Rea stood in the door of the living room and waited for Ash to notice her.
When Ash saw Rea, he switched off the TV, got up and began to leave but Rea stopped him just as he reached the doorway.
“Please don’t go away.” Rea begged, “I’m not here to fight. I just want to talk.”
Ash sighed, “About what?”
“About Hunter,” Rea replied, putting on her most solemn expression, “I’m really sorry for yelling at him. I really didn’t mean to do that, please believe me. I was angry at Don and I took it out on the first person I saw, without even thinking.”
“Are you done?” Ash coldly asked.
“Seriously?” Rea yelled, unable to hide her frustration, “What is it that all of you have against me? I just told you that I didn’t mean what I did to Hunter.”
“You think this is only about that one thing with Hunter? Rea, that doesn’t even scratch the surface. Do you want to know why no one here respects you? It’s because we don’t trust you.” Ash bluntly told her.
“What did I do that was so untrustworthy?” Rea inquired.
“Marvin Donnefeild.” Ash said with emphasis.
“Ugh! For the last time, nothing happened between me and that man.” Rea said in her defense, “I met him when Don introduced me to him at a conference and that’s all. I don’t know him personally and I never have.”
“I don’t believe that for a second.” Ash responded, “Tell me how the tabloids got pictures of you and Marvin Donnefeild on a date. Where was Don? Did you ditch him at the hotel?”
“He didn’t come along.” Rea replied, a little softer than she normally spoke, “I went on vacation alone, just like I always have for the past 15 years. That time, and just like all the other times, Don was too busy to go with me.”
Ash looked surprised.
“Don didn’t tell you, did he?” Rea asked, noticing Ash’s facial expression, “It was the week of our wedding anniversary. I went to the Western Espansy alone because Don was busy but he promised me that he would join me a bit later. He never pitched. I was at a restaurant having lunch on my own when I saw Marvin Donnefeild. He was also on vacation so we had lunch together and that was it. Never saw the man again.”
Ash thought for a long time before speaking, “But why did Don lie that he was with you?”
Rea thought of a previous conversation between Ash and Don and found the perfect answer to get Ash completely hooked on her every word.
“Pride – that’s how Don is. Just think, why didn’t he tell anyone that he was on a trip with me? Why, after all these years, did I not run off with Marvin Donnefeild but instead I stayed, even though you all treat me like a criminal? But hey, believe me or don’t believe me – I really don’t care anymore. There’s only so much I can take.”
Rea turned around, about to walk away, but Ash stopped her.
“Rea, wait.” He said. With her back turned to him, Rea grinned.
She put on her classic pretend-sadness and turned around to face him.
“I didn’t know the whole story. I guess I just treated you the way that I have been because it’s what Don did. I didn’t think about the whole thing myself. What I mean is… I’m sorry.” Ash humbly said.
At that, Rea couldn’t hold back the huge grin that appeared on her face.
“That’s one point for me.” Rea thought to herself.
In the evening, Bailey and Hunter had arrived home full of smiles, both having made a new friend.
Bailey saw Malibu and asked her where Ash was.
“He is in the dining room with Mrs. Monroe. Now that I think about it, that’s also you.” Malibu said, confusing herself before she went back to her chores.
Bailey was surprised, considering that Rea had been avoiding everyone lately. What changed? Had Rea started another argument? She had to find out.
Bailey crouched down to Hunter.
“My love, head up to your room for now and start reading through those booklets and notes you got from school today, okay?” Bailey instructed.
Hunter nodded enthusiastically. Still hyped up from the ice-cream, he ran upstairs.
Bailey then went to the dining room to see what was going on. When she got there, what she saw was shocking: Rea and Ash sitting at the food-laden dining table together, laughing and chatting.
The pair simultaneously looked and saw Bailey standing at the door.
“Oh, you’re home. Come join us. Malibu has made a delicious meal for everyone.” Rea said brightly.
Bailey flat-out ignored Rea, not even taking a look at her as she walked up to Ash.
“A word, please.” Bailey demanded. Her hand was firmly placed on her hip.
Ash looked at Bailey and then back at Rea before he got up and followed Bailey away.
Ash followed Bailey to the other side of the dining room. The room was big enough to have a conversation on one end without being heard on the other end of the room, unless you were really shouting.
“What was going on there?” Bailey demanded to know, hands clenched in fists.
Ash shrugged, “We were just talking.”
“Have you forgotten how she treated our son?” Bailey reminded him.
“Bails, come on, she didn’t mean to do that. She has already apologized. Let’s move on.” Ash replied.
Bailey tried to get in another word but Ash hushed her.
“Uh-uh. Not another word about this. Now, come along, let’s eat.” Ash said.
Later that evening, Don arrived home at his usual time and had his dinner in the home office, as per normal, while everyone else sat at the dining table together.
Ash and Rea carried most of the conversation at the table, with May occasionally speaking. Hunter even warmed up to Rea and told her and Ash about his new school.
As for Bailey, she ate in silence. She kept a watchful eye on Rea, waiting for Rea to do something to disturb the peace so that she had the opportunity to silence Rea, but the moment never came. Bailey was so angry at Ash for being so friendly with Rea.
After dinner, everyone went their own separate ways, except for Ash and Rea who remained in the dining room, having drinks.
When Ash entered his room later that night, he found Bailey just staring out the window, lost in thought.
He quietly went up to her, embraced her from behind and kissed her head.
“Bails, what’s the matter?” He asked in a whisper.
“You know how I feel about Rea.” Bailey mumbled, placing her hand on his arm which was firmly around her curvy waist.
“Rea is just… misunderstood. Anyway, forget about her. It’s our time now.” He said, turning her around, “So, how was your day?”
Bailey sat on the edge of the bed and Ash sat beside her.
“It was okay,” Bailey reluctantly began, “I met the dad of one of Hunter’s new friends. He owns a hair salon in the center town. I told him about my hair products and my work in Tarah Maven and he asked me to come to his hair salon tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ll get to work there and sell more of my products.”
“What’s wrong?” Bailey cautiously asked, “I thought you’d be happy for me but it seems not.”
“I thought that after we moved here, you’d stop all this crazy, business nonsense.”
“And do what? I can’t just live in someone else’s house and laze around all year. We can’t live here forever. We need to build our own lives, have our own house, our own money and-“
“Why can’t you just relax?” Ash raised his voice above hers, “Take this as a long, overdue vacation.”
“For how long? A month? A year? What are we teaching our son? That it’s okay to slack off and live off other people’s hard work for the rest of our lives?” Bailey yelled.
“Is that what you think of me?” Ash raged.
Bailey shook her head repeatedly, “No, that’s not what I meant! I’m just saying that—”
It was too late. Ash got up and stormed out of the room.
It was only later on that Bailey found out that he had gone out and didn’t tell anyone where he was going.