With Sally and Mack, the problems started quietly and never let up. We all knew she didn’t trust him. But I didn’t realize how much he scared her. “He’s always asking for things,” she told me. “The kind of easy things you do for any neighbor. Like could I watch Gini for a minute? Have I seen the dog? Do I have change for the washer? But it frightens me just to talk with him.” “Why?” She had no rational answer. “Where’s Joni through this?” I asked. “Taking Kyle to auditions. Or classes.” “I wondered if he went to school.” “Not that kind of class. Singing. Acting. That Chinese thing.” “Tae Kwon Do?” She shrugged. “May as well be.” “I thought Donna watched Gini,” I said. “Sometimes,” Sally conceded. “When she’s around. She watches the twins, too. She’s great with kids. Mack supposedly works.” “He doesn’t?” “How can he wash windows if Joni has the car? And you never see him do anything around here.” “He changes light bulbs,” I joked. “Yes! Aren’t they awful!” She laughed. The courtyard had maybe a dozen lights, set low in the flower beds. Before Mack came, they were all white. Now, as each burned out, he replaced it with a different color. “Looks like a whorehouse,” Vic scoffed. I trusted his experience. “Sometimes one of Mack’s friends picks him up,” Sally went on. “They go off, but I wouldn’t guess where.” “He shaved the other day. Maybe he’s looking for work.” “Not the kind you think! He’s playing a prison guard on TV!” Why wasn’t I surprised? “We’re surrounded by actors!” Sally finished. She didn’t seem pleased. The next time I saw Donna – Garth had flown back to Arizona after three lust-filled days – I asked if there was any way she could help Sally. “Garth really liked you guys!” she said instead. “Can’t wait to see you again.” “Great!” I wondered if I sounded convincing. “He said we should all go to Hawaii!” Right. Garth. The guy I was currently seeing. Sand. From Here To Eternity without me. “Now what’s your problem with Sally?” Donna suddenly asked. I snapped to reality and explained. “I never liked Mack,” she admitted. “I put up with him ‘cause of Joni. And to protect the kids.” “Would he hurt them?” “I doubt it – but who wants to take a chance?” “Could you watch out for Sally?” She hesitated. “I’m tired of being a den mother. And Sally can take care of herself.” “Just asking.” She thought again. “Yeah, well, if it were anyone but you...” She stopped. “Tell you what, I won’t babysit for her. But I’ll let you know if things get bad.” “That’s all I need.” Though what would I do then?