It was a dreary Monday morning in Kokomo, Indiana, as Megan Neary stood waiting for her bus to school with a light but steady rain bearing down on her and dousing her shoulder-length light brown hair into mangly strands as if she just got out of the shower without using a towel on her hair. Her utilitarian black winter jacket and medium-blue jeans were becoming wet as well as the rain trickled off her shoulders and rolled down her person, an unglamorous display camouflaging an otherwise modestly attractive girl. Most of the others at the bus stop were staying dry, either standing or sitting in the enclosed sanctuary with a plastic roof overhead. Not Megan though. As comfortable as the others looked inside out of the rain, she was more than happy to spare that dry comfort for the ability to smoke a cigarette. She savored every drag from that cigarette more than usual, letting the pleasure of the smoke hitting her lungs distract her from the reality of standing in a cold mid-February rain….and it was working. She knew there were others waiting for the bus who were shooting daggers at her for smoking, particularly because of how young she visibly was, but she didn’t care. She was almost at the point where she no longer cared what people thought of her…..almost! She was reminded that there were certain people still capable of getting under her skin as a familiar red BMW pulled up to a stoplight directly in front of her. Despite the rain coming down, she was unsurprised when the BMW’s passenger window came down with a familiar taunting female face and voice quickly emerging…..
“Are you really so stupid that you won’t even step in out of the rain?!” said the teenage girl in the car with a grating and demeaning voice that had been like fingernails on a chalkboard to Megan for more than three years now.
But from deeper inside the car came a male voice that was also familiar to Megan for all the wrong reasons. The male driver, similar in age and very close in appearance to the female passenger, taunted Megan with a bad-faith offer……”Maybe you’d like a ride.”
“Oh yeah, where are my manners. Nobody should have to stand in the rain waiting to go to school. Hop on in the backseat, Megan”, sneered the female passenger again in a way Megan wasn’t buying at all.
Megan stood there silently, avoiding eye contact and doing her best to tune out the continued heckles that were so cruel that Megan correctly sensed that even her fellow travelers at the bus stop who were annoyed by her smoking two minutes earlier were suddenly sympathetic towards her. Megan could see out of the corner of her eye that the light had turned green and felt relieved that the verbal assault was about to end…for now anyway. The female passenger who had for the last 30 seconds been taunting with “C’mon, Megan. Hop on in. We’re serious!” suddenly sneered “Fine then….we’d never let a loser like you in our car anyway even if you didn’t smell like a fucking ashtray” before the driver pressed forward down the street.
The 5’7″ Megan felt about two inches tall standing there, having been humiliated publicly for the umptieth time by the Forbes twins, Brandon and Lisa. She had the misfortune of making their acquaintance more than three years earlier when she started at her new high school. The Forbes family was royalty in town, with their father being a private equity baron who had major dealings in Kokomo and other cities all over the Midwest in the past quarter century. The family lived in the toniest neighborhood in town and while Megan didn’t come close to sharing that upscale upbringing, the working-class neighborhood where her caretaker aunt lived was on the outer edges of the school district where the Forbes family and Kokomo’s other silver spoon offspring studied at the nearby high school. She didn’t feel overly connected to most in her high school and pretty much suffered through her days en route to the diploma at the end of the tunnel. But the only people she genuinely despised were the Forbes twins, who couldn’t have more perfectly fit the stereotype of spoiled rich kid assholes or the stereotype of schoolyard bullies who began their reign of terror by tripping her in the hallway in the 9th grade and are completing it with stunts like she just endured this morning in the second half of her senior year. If she was forced to choose which of the two was worse between Brandon and Lisa, she honestly wouldn’t know who she’d select. She hated them both to her core, and she hated them even more because she was the second generation in the Neary family to be shit on by the Forbes family, and she was pretty certain that neither Brandon nor Lisa even knew the history….
Ten years earlier, her dad worked at an auto parts supplier in town and endured a serious injury on the job in the interim period after a buyout at the hands of Arthur Forbes’ private equity business. Forbes was able to take advantage of a loophole due to the ongoing transfer of ownership that denied her father medical care or any chance of a settlement. With no way to pay for the treatment he desperately needed, Megan’s father died a year later when she was only eight years old. Her mother fought years of legal battles trying to secure some kind of settlement from Forbes for the loss of her husband, but lost every battle….and eventually her own sanity. For five years now, Megan’s beloved mother was institutionalized, unfit to care for her own daughter and relinquishing custody to her alcoholic sister Beverly.
Megan could tolerate her aunt in small doses and the feeling was mutual, and it was clear right away when Megan moved in that beyond being supplied with a roof over her head, Megan was on her own and would have to build her own future from a very unsteady ground floor. The result was Megan was forced to ride the bus to and from a high school every day where almost everyone else her age was driving to school in a car their rich parents bought for them. And more consequentially, it also meant logging in as many hours as she could working at a fast-food restaurant after school most days to pay for whatever future she could possibly stitch together, and then doing her homework on the dark bus ride home. It was a bleak way to spend her senior year, but it had to be done, and the only time Megan had to feel sorry for herself was when the demonic twin children of the man she blamed for her father’s death twisted the knife by publicly humiliating her.
Megan finished her cigarette and crushed it out beneath her shoe while still standing in the rain. The continued pleasure was such that she desperately wanted to squeeze one more cigarette in before the bus arrived, but when she looked to her left she could see the bus approaching and knew she didn’t have time for another one. She wished she could have savored the final drag from that last cigarette a little longer….because it would be quite a while before she’d have the opportunity to enjoy another one.
Ten days passed as February turned to March. It was fast approaching 4:00 on a Thursday afternoon and Megan stood in the parking lot near the dumpster at the Taco Bell where she’s worked for the last year and a half, smoking a cigarette with her college-age friend and co-worker Beth in the final moments before her six-hour shift began. Megan and Beth were randomly chatting and Megan was distracted to the point that she didn’t even notice the familiar-looking red BMW pull into the lot approaching the nearby drive-thru until the exact second the driver put his power window down and they made eye contact. After a couple of moments of eye contact and getting over their mutual surprise to see each other at this fast food parking lot, Brandon Forbes quickly reverted to business as usual, letting loose a boisterous and obnoxious laugh that was clearly meant to be at Megan’s expense while dismissively looking her up and down and checking out her fast food uniform.
“It’s official. They will hire absolutely anybody at this place, won’t they”, Brandon sneered before quickly looking at Lisa in the passenger seat and rhetorically asking, “Are you sure you still want to order food here?”
In a rare moment of moxie, Megan fired back with the only backtalk arrow in her quiver. “Aren’t you two way too good to eat at Taco Bell no matter who was waiting on you?”
Brandon and Lisa again laughed dismissively and obnoxiously and Brandon fired back with “You better watch it, bitch, or I’ll tell your boss and you’ll be fired from the only job you’ll ever be qualified for your entire life. You should get fired just for how much you stink anyway!”
Lisa piled on from the passenger seat, adding “We come to Taco Bell to pick up an occasional chalupa after school. You come to Taco Bell to make them for us for the rest of your pathetic life.”
Beth stood next to Megan absolutely shocked at what she was witnessing, never seeing anyone their age showing this kind of disrespect to someone. As much as Beth wanted to give them a piece of their mind, she didn’t want to risk her job either with what were obviously some genuinely miserable people who wouldn’t hesitate to complain to her manager.
Brandon noticed cars were forming a line behind him at the drive-thru and decided it was time to place his order. It took a few seconds and then he was pulling up to the window, with Lisa getting one more dig in at Megan’s expense shouting “Try not to get your filthy ashes all over everybody’s food!”
Megan’s demeanor was a combination of meek defeat and acute humiliation as she turned to the still-shellshocked Beth, taking a drag from her two-thirds smoked cigarette and shruggingly saying “See what I gotta put up with at Asshole High?”
“I had no idea!” Beth said, shaking her head with a look of pity in her eyes for Megan, who she already felt sorry for knowing how challenged her childhood was. Beth was taking the final drag from her cigarette before a late 20s Hispanic woman came busting out the back door with passion in her eyes approaching them in her work smock with the name tag “Lupe–Assistant Manager” pinned to her apron.
At first Megan and Beth thought they might be late for their 4:00 start time but looked at their phones to see it was still 3:57 as Lupe looked at Beth who was in the final drag of her cigarette, asking in her thick Latin accent, “Would you mind if I had a word with Megan alone?”
“No problem”, Beth said crushing out her cigarette and heading inside, knowing Lupe was gonna have words with Megan, who she knew she was close with, about the verbal assault she either witnessed or overheard. “How do you know those little pricks??!?!?” Lupe asked removing a pack of Newports from her smock and lighting one up, gesturing for Megan to smoke another of her Marlboro Reds.
“I’ve had the misfortune of going to school with them since 9th grade,” Megan responded, quickly changing the subject having picked up on Lupe’s familiarity with them based on the question. “You know them too?”
Lupe made a dramatic gesture with her eyes in tandem with an exaggerated exhale of cigarette smoke before responding in her thick accent that Megan had finally mastered interpreting. “For three years now, I’ve been doing housekeeping at the Forbes place once a week. Those kids are absolute monsters….and the parents are no better.”
Megan’s eyes bulged wide open. “You’ve been housekeeping for the Forbes family?!?!” she asked half-surprised, although she was seldom surprised by any of Lupe’s oddball experiences at this point. She was basically the Mexican-American female version of Forrest Gump, stumbling into one iconic situation after another and always wowing her Taco Bell co-workers with these stories which were almost too crazy NOT to be true.
Lupe flashed a knowing smile to her favorite co-worker before formally responding “Oh you know the jetset circles I run in! Seriously though,” Lupe continued, “I think those kids are as big of brats as they are just as their way of dealing with the parents’ drama! Mom has at least three boyfriends she hits on a near-nightly basis and every time I’m cleaning in Dad’s office, he’s watching some webcam sluts!”
Megan stood there dragging hard from her cigarette, listening to Lupe’s story but with a glimmer of light flashing in her usually defeated eyes that Lupe had never really seen before. Lupe continued to share details even though it was clear Megan’s mind was starting to drift. She squinted her eyes and asked “What’s going on with you?”
Taking another intense drag from her cigarette, a devious smile emerged on Megan’s face before she responded, “The very beginning of a plan.”
Lupe seemed taken aback by the unusual comeback, asking through a confused wince “What kind of plan?”
“The kind of plan that’s gonna require your help,” Megan responded, a raging fire in her eyes.
Lupe was intrigued and a little bit scared seeing this side of her friend she hadn’t seen before, answering several of Megan’s questions in the next couple of minutes while they finished their cigarettes. Megan was putting Lupe at considerable risk by involving her in the plan she had in mind, given the high-roller crowd she was pitting her up against and given Lupe’s immigration status. Megan didn’t know the extent of Lupe’s back story and never explored it closely figuring it was none of her business, but Lupe had hinted before that she came to America illegally 10 years ago and was operating with a fake ID. Megan had plenty of time to consider how much at risk she wanted to put herself and Lupe, but two things were clear. First, she was never gonna get a more perfect opportunity to get revenge on the people who destroyed her family and her childhood. And second, she needed Lupe’s car and her access to the Forbes family home to pull off what she had in mind.
It was 10:35 that Thursday evening when Megan got off the bus after her work shift. She immediately pulled her pack of Marlboro Reds out of her purse and lit one up after exiting the bus, walking the final three blocks to her aunt’s place. This neighborhood is a tad sketchy and she’s always sure to stay aware of possible danger lurking, especially this time of night, but has never encountered any trouble. And tonight in particular, her mind was otherwise occupied, floating a buffet of scenarios through her mind and trying to figure out which one made the most sense and would be the easiest to implement.
She was smoking faster than usual and lit up a second one in the approach to her aunt’s place. She walked inside with cigarette in hand, never concerned of facing any consequences for smoking given that her aunt was a smoker herself and shrugged off Megan’s habit right after she started it a year and a half earlier. Aunt Beverly was passed out on the couch again, as usual with a two-thirds empty wine bottle sitting on the coffee table in front of her. Usually Megan did a slow burn coming home to witness this near-nightly routine, but tonight she was too preoccupied on the plan she was devising to escape having to put up with this routine much longer.
Megan walked into the bathroom and turned the light on, looking at herself carefully in the mirror as she removed her work uniform and stripped down to her bra and panties. For most of her life, her self-esteem had been zero. She never really sought to attain beauty or be thought of as “hot” by guys but over the past few months she noticed far more guys were looking at her. She first picked up on it the prior summer when she went with friends to the city pool a few times and noticed guys were looking over their shoulder to check her out. It had scarcely occurred to her that she could be a sex symbol and she hadn’t really given it much further thought….until tonight.
And looking at herself in the mirror, she found herself admiring her perky young breasts, her mostly flat stomach, her smooth, cellulite-free legs, and even her face. The pimply mid-teen 9th grader who was clinging to baby fat and was about as shy and insecure as could be three years earlier made for such an easy target when she moved to this new school district, but looking at herself right now, she determined her insecurity about her appearance was now more or less a legacy of the Megan of the past. She placed her half-smoked cigarette in her mouth and let it dangle, admiring the sexy badass image she evoked standing there half-naked. It was only now that she was 100% confident in herself that she was capable of pulling off the nasty plan she had in mind for the Forbes family. She puckered up her lips around the filter of her Marlboro Red, firming it up in her mouth as she dragged and then let the cigarette so limp as the smoke flowed from her lips and nose followed by a sinister smile. The Megan that everybody knew was about to be reborn.
Two weeks later, Megan sat in Lupe’s car a half block outside the Forbes home, slouching in her seat so as not to be noticed, smoking a cigarette but being sure to direct her exhales downward so as not to arouse any suspicion from a neighbor in this very upscale neighborhood who may happen to be peeking out the window. Megan made up the excuse of a doctor’s appointment to get out early from school and borrowed Lupe’s car. In her most recent housecleaning job, Lupe got her hands on some personal information of both Mr. and Mrs. Forbes that Megan needed for her revenge plot, and was now in the process of utilizing that information. She had been here a half hour now and she was hoping Lupe’s information that “Judith Forbes always goes to see ‘Tom’ every Wednesday afternoon at 1 while their spouses are away” and, finally, Judith was exiting her home and climbing into her Audi to make an early afternoon departure. Megan didn’t want to follow too closely but also didn’t want to get too far behind because she needed to be there when Judith arrived at Tom’s place. She lit up another cigarette as she pressed forward, nervous as hell about what the next hour would bring. There was no turning back now and the riskiest part of Megan’s plan was about to unfold.
As Megan followed, she pondered how the timeline of her approaching 18th birthday was pretty perfect. She was still a “child” while committing her current crime and thus won’t have arrests on her adult record if she gets caught today but in a week she’d be 18 and legally old enough to engage in the next phase of her plot. After about five minutes of driving through the city’s more upscale streets, she followed Judith right up to the driveway of the man she was cheating on her husband with. She could tell Judith was nervous getting out of her car and that made Megan’s amateur detective work that much riskier. But luck was on Megan’s side as a parking space was open on the curb right in front of Tom’s house. She parked and readied the high-priced camera she borrowed from Lupe, whose husband is a professional photographer, and zoomed in as Judith approached the waiting Tom on Tom’s front porch. They embraced and then kissed, and Megan managed to pull off a half dozen incriminating shots, including the one where Tom led Megan by her hand into his front door. Megan was relieved and excited to have pulled this off as so many things could have gone wrong. She lit up another cigarette to celebrate, took a couple of satisfied drags, and then drove off. Step one accomplished….but still a mile to go….
The hard part was over but Megan still had some detective work to do that Friday night, when she took the night off work to bust Judith on film during her next breach of her marriage vows. Lupe told Megan that Judith met another guy at a hotel on Friday evenings for more extramarital hanky-panky, and Megan figured it would be icing on the cake to get one more picture of Judith cheating on her husband with another guy only two days later. Megan got a plum parking spot near the entrance and waited more than hour in Lupe’s car, filling it once again with cigarette smoke as Megan’s escalating flurry of nervous situations were quickly turning her into a chainsmoker. Judith showed up around 6:30 and approached a man waiting in the entryway for her arrival. It was once again a breeze for Megan to zoom in the camera just as Lupe’s husband showed her how to do and snap a couple of pics of Judith and her latest Johnny-come-lately kissing and then going inside the hotel. She now had two smoking guns and was less than 24 hours away from turning the Forbes’ world upside down.
Megan drove on out to Lupe’s place and had her husband Bruce develop the film and produce multiple prints. Bruce was impressed at how well rookie photographer Megan’s photos turned out after being skeptical she’d be able to produce sufficiently incriminating photos. Megan printed out a letter reading “Dear Arthur Forbes: Your wife is sleeping with multiple men on a regular basis as these photos prove. Just thought you’d like to know. A friend”. Lupe assured Megan that Arthur Forbes was clueless about Judith’s affair and that with their relationship already on the rocks and Arthur’s ego almost cartoonishly fragile, serious repercussions would ensue quickly after Arthur opened up this manila envelope which Megan sent to Arthur’s office at his business. She rode the bus home and dropped the envelope into a mailbox a few blocks from her aunt’s house. She then lit a Marlboro Red and practically skipped home through clouds of her own exhaled cigarette smoke, thrilled with what she’d already accomplished. Phase 1 of her plan was complete, and Arthur and Judith Forbes were likely to have a very bad day come Monday.
It killed Megan all day Monday and into Tuesday wondering how the fallout of her detective work was playing out, and never had she anticipated a night working at Taco Bell so eagerly as she did Tuesday, where she would learn from Lupe what her Tuesday morning housecleaning session at the Forbes home yielded. After school, she got off at the bus stop nearest Taco Bell and practically sprinted. Before she even got there, she saw Lupe out back smoking a cigarette and grinning ear to ear, so she knew the news was good. Lupe stood there playing coy, forcing a breathless Megan to ask the question as she lit up a cigarette of her own.
“Well??” Megan inquired.
“Well……someone got kicked out of the Forbes home last night,” Lupe responded making colorful gestures with her eyebrows. “Congratulations girl!”
“Yes!” Megan exclaimed with the enthusiasm of an elementary girl who’d just been partnered with her crush for square dance classes in phys. ed.
“Happy birthday a day early”, Lupe added.
“So you got the password right?” Megan inquired to make double sure she had everything she needed for tomorrow night.
“LegNAssMan66 just as I wrote it last week,” Lupe reminded.
Megan cringed and grinned at the same time. “Charming.”
“Think you’re ready for this?”
“Not sure but I’m definitely becoming a woman on my 18th birthday!” Megan said before taking a big drag from her cigarette, wondering if she would get any enjoyment or only disgust with what she would be doing on the night of her birthday in a little more than 24 hours.
Megan was usually drowsy and beaten down after a long day at work and school but the following evening at the end of her 18th birthday, she was filled with a nervous excitement and sprung out of the bus with a flourish before making the walk back to her aunt’s place in record time. Her aunt was passed out on the couch again, three and a half sheets to the wind with her kids all fast asleep in their bedrooms, and ordinarily she’d have been depressed and angry that nobody in the home acknowledged or even remembered that this was her birthday. She had other priorities tonight though and went right to her bedroom and closed the door. She climbed on the bed and took out her laptop, logging onto the adult website Lupe had found on Arthur Forbes’ web history.
She had set up her new account the previous night and was authorized to use it tonight. She scanned the dozens of names of users presently on the site until she found “LegsNAssMan66”. After finding the site, Megan stripped down to her bra and panties, exhaling nervously and then sent a private request to the profile she just found. She was prepared for any scenario–that he might ignore it at first, that he might be away from his computer, that it may require a few nights of sending him requests before he’d take the bait–but it was her lucky night because only about 30 seconds after she sent the request, she got a notification that he checked out her profile, and about 30 seconds after that she got a response from LegsNAssMan66. The big fish himself took the bait right away. Now came the slow process of reeling him in.
“Hey sexy. Love the profile”, came the instant message from Arthur.
“Thanks hun!” Megan responded. “I saw you were from right here in Kokomo and thought it must be fate haha.”
“Lol yeah I think you’re the first girl from Kokomo I’ve run into on here.”
“Yeah I’m new here. It’s my 18th birthday and I just set up my account. Figured it’d be a good way to get some money.”
“Happy birthday, sweetie!”
“Do anything fun for your birthday?”
“Not really but hoping to have some fun here tonight with you. You’re an ass and legs man and I like to think I’m pretty well endowed in those areas haha”
“Lol oh I’m sure you are. Ready for me to check you out and see for sure?”
“I’m ready. :)”
Megan always wondered what it would be like to talk to the man she blamed for ruining her life. Particularly given the context, she felt a little dirty about it, but given that he was falling into the trap she had set so easily so far, she was more than willing to keep the racket up and do whatever she had to do to seal this deal. Right now, that included turning on the webcam on her computer and letting the man she despised most in the world who was more than twice her age see her perform for him in her underwear. She turned the volume on her computer and hoped her acting performance was convincing as Arthur Forbes was doling out shallow compliments and giving Megan some direction. She twisted and contorted her body at his beckon call, feigning a smile on her face as she showed off her body in a way she never did before, even for the pothead ex-boyfriend she dated the prior fall.
She was getting bored after about 15 minutes of this but was willing to indulge as long as she needed to, but a request came from Arthur’s mouth that surprised her.
“Do you smoke cigarettes, sexy?”
“Would you mind smoking one for me? I find young girls who smoke sooo sexy. Lol”
Megan was briefly in shock, as it had never occurred to her that anyone would find her smoking to be “sexy”. For her it was just a nasty habit that helped calm her down during her brief moments of downtime during the day. Still, the fact that she possessed something else that made Arthur Forbes desire her could only be a good thing. She grabbed her pack of Marlboro Reds off her nightstand and lit one up. Immediately, Arthur was energized at a whole different level and requesting dangles, talking exhales, French inhales, and an assortment of other tricks that Megan delivered upon request to glowing accolades. After she finished one cigarette, he asked her to smoke another and she joyfully agreed, lighting up in as seductive of a way as she could think of, still having a hard time wrapping her mind around the idea that someone found her smoking to be sexy. As he continued to lavish over-the-top praise for her smoking, Megan smiled as she realized this was gonna be easier than she ever imagined.
The connection Megan hoped for had happened. Every single night after work for the next 10 days, she performed for Arthur, taking every conceivable request he could think of for her to wear including leggings, leather, bikinis, a dress, a miniskirt, or whatever else he could think of, and every single night he also requested she smoke cigarettes. Megan was grateful for the pocket money this webcam service was providing for her since so much of the money was going for cigarettes. She had typically smoked about a half pack a day but was now smoking more like a pack a day thanks to these webcam sessions with Arthur. It scared Megan that was having a genuine connection with this guy she hated so much, and as the flirty banter got hot and heavy at times, she had to mentally check herself and keep her eye on the prize, letting her parents’ condition be a reminder that this guy was the bane of her existence.
During their “downtime” where they just chatted, she exploited Arthur’s efforts to open up after just learning his wife had been cheating on him. Megan offered a metaphorical shoulder for him to cry on and probed him for details, playing along every step of the way while processing the information in hopes she could use it against him moving forward. Megan began to share some of her own story, filtered in a way that left out key details and mostly focused on her fast-food job and living with her drunk aunt, which Arthur did his best to pretend to sympathize with. Megan knew he was incapable of genuine sympathy though and his responses never seemed particularly genuine, which actually worked to her advantage since she figured he’d be less likely to press her for the full story which would of course reveal to him who her real parents were.
In the middle of one of her semi-pity parties, Megan pushed the envelope and confessed how she wished she could just “pack up her stuff and move in with you tonight”. Arthur, in a moment of weakness himself, suggested that just might be a possibility since he was so lonely after his wife’s betrayal. Megan said she would genuinely be up for it and Arthur’s radar never really went up thinking he was being conned. Whenever the thought crossed his mind, he reminded himself that there’s no idea she could know who he was beyond that he lived in Kokomo, and figured that finding out he was the richest guy in town would be an extra perk for her when the time came.
Spring break at school started the following evening and Arthur revealed that “his kids were going to Florida for a week”, creating a perfect timeline for Megan to dig her talons into him. They set up a date the following night and Megan put on all her charm and giving an Oscar-worthy acting performance to make this obnoxious and arrogant 49-year-old man think she was into him. The night ended at his place, and Megan held her nose and slept with him for what she knew would be the first of many times she’d have to. An offer was made for a more permanent arrangement…..and Megan took him up on it. She was moving on out of her aunt’s place…..and was about to become a wrecking ball on the Forbes home in a way none of its remaining three residents were even vaguely prepared for.
Eight days after that fateful dinner date where Megan met Arthur and set the stage to move in with him very soon thereafter, Brandon and Lisa came stumblingly into the front door of their father’s home bright and early on a Sunday morning, having flown back from Florida overnight. It was only 8 a.m. and while they slept on the plane, the twins were still exhausted when they hauled their luggage inside, immediately noticing something was amiss and musing amongst each what the hell was going on before their father came into the kitchen to greet them, wearing only a T-shirt and shorts having just gotten out of bed.
Before Arthur was even able to get out a proper greeting, Lisa barked out a question through her cringed nose, “Why does it reek of cigarette smoke in here?”
Arthur paused for a moment, trying to find a way to break the news that he knew they wouldn’t like but was ultimately too self-centered to care about before finally saying, “Well…kids….I’ve met somebody while you were away.”
Brandon and Lisa stood there in shock that after the turmoil their mother put the household through just a couple of weeks earlier, their father would so quickly throw another painful monkey wrench in their lives. Brandon broke the angered silence with “you can’t be serious, dad”.
Just as Arthur was about to respond, Megan came out from outside the hallway in a way that was timed perfectly for her own sinister motives but contrary to Arthur’s requests that he let Megan tell his kids the whole story before formally introducing them. Megan strutted into the kitchen wearing only her pink bra and panties, carrying her ashtray with her with a freshly lit Marlboro Red dangling from her lips. She pretended to not know the kids had gotten home when she said, “You coming back to bed soon, baby?” before looking up and making eyes with the stunned Brandon and Lisa Forbes.
“What’s she doing here?” Lisa shouted at the top of her lungs with Brandon chiming in simultaneously with words to the same effect.
Arthur looked at Megan with confusion, saying “You two know each other?”
Megan, putting on an Oscar-worthy acting performance, pretended to be shocked herself and said through a talking dangle, “These are your kids, Arthur?” as her cigarette bounced up and down in her lips.
All hell then broke loose with both kids screaming obscenities at their father and trash-talking Megan as “the biggest loser in school”. Lisa appeared to be genuinely hurt to her core as she looked at her father and pointed to Megan saying “You left mom for her??!!” Megan acted embarrassed but was barely able to contain her smirk. For the first time in three and a half years, she had the asshole Forbes twins on the defensive in the most personal way. This little stunt alone probably made up for the years of merciless bullying that the Forbes twins imposed on Megan, but she was just getting warmed up with what she had in store for them, and it couldn’t have possibly been more satisfying watching the shitstorm ensue right in front of her while she stood there half-naked. It blew her mind that she spent the whole week living under the same roof as Arthur Forbes and it never came up that Megan was the same age as his kids yet there was nary an inquiry whether or not she may have known them. Arthur’s self-centeredness made him such an easy mark.
After about a minute of barely getting a word in amidst his enraged children screaming at him and cursing Megan, Arthur had had enough. “All right!” he shouted in an authoritative way that commanded immediate silence in the room and impressed Megan who finally saw how Arthur was capable of being a successful business leader. “You may have some prior differences with Megan and I feel kind of bad springing this new on you like this right after your mother left, but Megan and I have something special and as of now she lives in this home!”
Arthur put his arm around Megan’s bare waist and pulled her close to him, to which Megan couldn’t contain a small smile while watching both kids visibly grimace at the sight. She didn’t know for sure how Arthur would respond to finding out what his kids thought of her. At one level she would have gotten partial satisfaction if the gig had ended right there and Arthur had asked her to leave, but feeling his lizard hand wrapped around her waist as a public display in front of his kids assured her she was gonna get to ride this out as far as she wanted to.
“As long as the four of us live under this roof, you will show Megan respect…and Megan will show respect to you,” Arthur continued, looking down to Megan to verify she felt the same as she pressed herself closer to him and put her arm around him. “I realize this might be awkward at first but I know all of you and you are good people who can get along living in this house. Yes, Megan smokes. I’m not a huge fan of it myself but she’s a smoker, it’s part of her lifestyle, and we’re gonna tolerate it. Now does anybody have anything to say here that’s constructive?”
Brandon and Lisa launched iceberg missiles out of their eyes at Megan as she put her hands all over their father, not knowing what to say. Megan took advantage of the brief silence by looking up at Arthur in their embrace and making a cynical suggestion, “Baby, why don’t you let me talk to them for a minute and I’ll meet you back in bed in a few minutes. I think I can maybe break the ice a bit better if you’re out of the room.”
Brandon and Lisa pleaded with their father through their eyes not to leave, but Arthur concurred with the teenage girl who in two weeks had completely wrapped herself around his finger, responding “That’s a good idea. Why don’t I leave you two kids alone? Good luck, sweetie,” he said bending down for a quick peck on the lips.
Megan approached Brandon and Lisa a coupe of steps closer than she had been but didn’t completely invade their space, taking a drag from her cigarette and exhaling quasi-recklessly so it wasn’t a direct hit but so that Brandon and Lisa were both waving the cigarette smoke out in front of their faces while Megan pretended to not even notice and began talking with just the faintest smirk on her face to let the kids know as subtly as possible that this was all a game and that she was winning. “I know this is weird guys, but your father and I have something special and we’re gonna see things through. We haven’t always seen eye to eye in the past but I see no reason that we can’t be a family. If there’s anything you’d like me to do for you guys, just name and I’ll try to help out.” She paused momentarily and was pleased that both twins were too stunned to comment, just sitting there looking at Megan with searing rage while frantically waving her stream of secondhand smoke out of their faces.
“Well good,” Megan concluded. “I’ll give you some time to think things over and maybe we can have a family meeting in a couple of days. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go have intercourse with your father.” She turned around before she could visualize their response to that last comment, strutting like a peacock out of the room and shaking her booty with each step until she was out of sight. Once her back was turned to them, the faint smirk on her face turned into a beaming smile. She didn’t particularly love that she had to make good on what she told the twins she was going to do, but knowing how horrified they were about it made it all worth while.
Megan took full advantage of the awkwardness that ensued in the days and weeks ahead, both at home and at school. Brandon and Lisa suddenly had nothing to say when they saw Megan in and around school. She stood up to the bullies in the most epic possible way and they backed down in an equally epic fashion. They resented their father just as strongly if not more so and barely spoke to him anymore, only going through the motions of the occasional “family breakfast” and discussion because they knew he was their meal ticket and they couldn’t possibly walk away from him and his money without financial repercussions that would haunt them long-term. They knew their father was petty enough to withhold their promised tuition for Princeton next year if they crossed him, so they bit their tongue, hoping he’d come to his senses and rid them of this classmate they despised who had so callously and calculatingly taken the place of their mother.
Megan got the most sadistic pleasure tormenting the Forbes twins in the bedroom with their father. Despite his early protests that it was inappropriate, Arthur ultimately agreed to Megan’s kinky suggestion that they leave their bedroom door open at night. Megan knew with Arthur’s ego what it was that he would get a cheap thrill having his kids hear him pleasure this young girl. And Megan hammed it up as much as humanly possible, almost always climbing atop Arthur when they copulated, bouncing and grinding on him while screaming at the top of her lungs in orgasmic pleasure, an endless, ear-splitting cacophony of “Yes! Oh yes! Arthur! Oh Arthur” that she knew Brandon and Lisa were listening to across the hall whether they wanted to or not. This exercise was mostly to stick it to Brandon and Lisa, but it was also partly a coping mechanism to help her get some perverse pleasure out of a nightly sexual routine with this man who she still despised, and frequently had to remind herself just how much she hated him even as she opened up her body for his personal amusement. The only part of it she genuinely enjoyed was catering to his smoking fetish with nightly role-playing, smoky kisses, and exhales into his face. The novelty of the smoking fetish never wore off and she felt even more empowered being in the role of turning a man on with the smoking habit that most judged her harshly for.
Megan never had a lot of free time even before she started this high-stakes hustle against the Forbes family, but she had even less now that she was spending so much time that she wasn’t at school or at work with Arthur and his kids. In the rare moments when she had some downtime, she did a little online searching to see if she could find out exactly how careless Arthur Forbes was with his money. The findings of her investigation: pretty darn careless! She didn’t think he’d possibly use his handle from the webcam site (LegsNAssMan66) as his password for his financial accounts…but he did. And Megan got a look at his balance sheet which was at first frightening. There were rumors going around, which Megan heard background noise about in the past few months, that the Forbes company was on its heels after a string of business ventures that lost money. But Megan didn’t realize the extent of it until she looked at Arthur’s recent history of withdrawals and shuffling money around. At first she didn’t know if the final stage of her plan was even tactically possible anymore, but her ultimate finding gave her hope that she might be able to dig the knife in one last time if she was able to pull this off. She had middling confidence whether she would, but everything had gone just perfectly thus far.
And the weeks went on as April turned into May. Megan continued playing house with the Forbes family, which she figured would be an insufferable chore, but actually enjoyed the sex, particularly the way she was using it as a weapon, and in endlessly tormenting Brandon and Lisa. Sunday mornings were “family breakfast day” at the Forbes home, Megan’s favorite time to twist the knife on the kids. She always paraded around the kitchen in her bra and panties while cooking breakfast, always with a cigarette in hand or dangling from her lips, never quite believing Arthur let her get away with all this in his home in front of his children. Sausages and pancakes were on the menu this morning and Megan hand delivered each plate with a faux perkiness to a sullen Brandon and Lisa, always sure to get an exhale from her cigarette in just as she made the delivery knowing how much they both despised her smoking. After bringing a plate of breakfast food for the kids, Megan returned with a plate for Arthur, who sat across the kitchen table from Brandon and Lisa. After setting the plate of food in front of Arthur, Megan sat down on his lap. Arthur wasted no time feeling up Megan’s nubile teenage body, a sight that absolutely sickened his offspring.
“Aren’t you gonna eat anything this morning, sexy? You went to all the trouble of making it for us,” he said, touching his finger to her nose.
“I’ll just have a bite or two of yours. I don’t want to get fat and lose this body you love so much,” Megan said in a babyish lover’s voice, laying it on thick while sticking Arthur’s fork into his pancakes and cutting off a forkful which she then fed to the middle-aged Arthur who readily accepted it and smacked her on the right asscheek that was hanging off his lap. Megan giggled at his boyish friskiness and took a drag from her cigarette, turning to the twins in front of her and giving a quick look as she exhaled her smoke their direction.
“I have completely lost my appetite!” Lisa snorted before throwing back her chair and storming out of the room.
“Lisa….c’mon,” Arthur halfheartedly called back with no success, but soon lost interest in his daughter’s presence as Megan approached his mouth with another forkful of pancakes. Brandon looked straight down at his plate and ate the food, not willing to give up a meal but also refusing to make eye contact with the spectacle playing out in front of him. Megan then took a bite of pancakes of her own followed by another before Arthur asked what she wanted to do on their day off.
“I’m glad it’s a day off for you but some of us have to cook meals for the rest of Kokomo and not just breakfast for their baby,” Megan responded, hoping to change the subject by pulling in for a kiss and letting Arthur taste her fresh ciggy breath like he always enjoys so much.
Arthur didn’t cooperate though as when the kiss ended he said, “No girl of mine should be working fast food. Why don’t you quit that nasty place?”
“Well I thought about putting in my two-week notice but my coworkers depend on me and I don’t want to let them down.” She then reverted to her lover’s voice and added, “I just hate letting people I care about down,” before beginning to kiss all over Arthur’s neck and chest. Arthur caressed her asscheek again and reasserted that he wanted her to put in her notice, which was fine with Megan because she needed a little more time to organize the final phase of her plan anyway.
“Sounds like a plan, baby”, Megan uttered to end the conversation, taking one final drag from her cigarette and crushing the butt out into the overflowing ashtray, exhaling as sneakily as possible in Brandon’s direction. Megan didn’t even have to work today, but work was her alibi for a much more personal errand….one that may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
Megan entered the Sturm Home with a heavier heart than usual for this month’s visitation hours. She made it to these visitation days every month but was now regretful that she didn’t seek out even more time because it was almost certainly gonna be her last chance today. She approached the front desk and saw the familiar face of “Jane” who worked there, who led her into the commons area. Sitting there at a table was a face that brought a wave of uncontrollable emotion to Megan’s face. It was her mother Stephanie…..who as usual was drugged into a state of sedation and only marginally aware of her surroundings. Upon seeing Megan, a glimmer of a smile emerged on Stephanie’s face. Megan didn’t know how much her mother was able to process about their history or even if she knew that she was her only daughter, but that ray of light in her mother’s eyes at least let Megan know she was a familiar and friendly face.
Megan sat right next to her mom and made small talk. There were hints of the mother she remembered in the way Stephanie carried herself, but at least at her current level of medication, she was the shell of the woman she was just five years earlier before her breakdown. And even after years of seeing her like this, it never stopped breaking Megan’s heart, particularly since her condition was widely figured to be irreversible at this point, with little prospect of her ever living the life of a free woman again. At only 41 years old, Stephanie was poised to be confined to this institution for her remaining years.
Stephanie occasionally uttered statements but they were seldom coherent or on topic, and she struggled to find the words, leaving Megan to do most of the talking. For most of Megan’s half hour with her mom, she made small talk about work and about graduating in a few short weeks, but as her visit came to close, it was time for her emotional farewell, the moment she dreaded for hours. Megan pulled her chair right next to Stephanie and embraced her with a hug, before talking to her mother in a quiet voice so she’d be sure nobody else heard this very private moment.
“You would probably be so ashamed of me right now if you knew what I was doing, mama,” she began, the first tear beginning to roll down her cheek. “I’d like to say I’m doing it for the right reason but I don’t know if revenge is the right reason. I only hope that one day you’ll understand why I had to do this for you, for dad, and for myself before I could leave this town and get on with my life.”
Despite her dazed and deluded state, Stephanie could sense from Megan’s tears and tone that whatever she was telling her was extremely serious, and a tear before rolling out of her eye to accompany the tears shed by her daughter. Megan reached up and wiped Stephanie’s tear away as she continued, “I can’t promise I’ll ever see you again, mama, or if you’ll know me at all by the time I do return. But some day I hope to see you again….one way or another.”
The conversation was not making Megan’s situation any easier and she knew she had to cut things off before she completely lost it. She kissed her mother on the forehead and then held her in a lengthy, tearful embrace saying “Goodbye mama!” before finally letting go and getting one last look at the loving mother who had been so good to her for her first 13 years of life. Megan knew she’d feel guilty about walking away from her for the rest of her life, but it had to be done. There was just no coming back after what she was about to do to the Forbes family.
A few days later, Megan was sitting up in bed looking at her laptop, filling the bedroom with smoke from her just-lit Marlboro Red. Arthur was mulling around the bedroom preparing to climb into bed himself as Megan did her best to appear transfixed by the images on her computer screen. Arthur climbed into bed, touching Megan on the shoulder but failing to generate a response from her, thus pressing him to inquire about her distraction.
“Whatcha looking at?”
Megan gave him a flirtatious, up-to-no-good side eye glance as she dragged from her cigarette before responding with “Maserati, baby. Maserati!” through a talking exhale that captured Arthur’s attention at least as much as Megan’s actual words.
Arthur leaned over in bed to check out the flashy red Italian convertible on Megan’s computer screen. “You’re into those flashy cars, huh?”
“Oh yeah!” Megan answered with a flourish. She paused a couple of moments before getting up the nerve to make her big play. “I think I’ll put it on my graduation gift wish list,” she said while wrapping her arm around Arthur’s and leaning into him affectionately, exhaling a plume of cigarette smoke straight into his face just as he loved.
Arthur laughed out loud in a “nice try” sort of way, but Megan pressed forward in a seemingly half-hearted way. “I’m seerious!” she said playfully. “I’ll make a deal with you! I will continue my job and pay my way through community college if you pay for my wheels.”
“You’re serious aren’t you??!?!” Arthur responded in playful surprise.
“Yeah! I’ve always wanted a hot car and I would think Mr. Arthur Forbes would want his girlfriend to be driving around in style to maintain his image.”
Arthur laughed again, but now appreciating that Megan was serious about this. She continued to show him photos of the car and Arthur was impressed with her knowledge of and passion for the car as she spent the next few minutes describing details about it. Witnessing this, Arthur began to entertain early thoughts of fulfilling her wish and buying the car, and Megan could tell her sales pitch was working. She was willing to play whatever underhanded card she needed to get him to buy this car for her, but judging from the look on his face as she continued talking about it, the more she realized she probably wouldn’t even have to go nuclear to get what she wanted.
A couple of weeks went by and Megan could tell by Arthur’s body language and verbal cues that he was working on delivering that “big surprise” for her. She still dropped the occasional Maserati reference just to see how Arthur responded, and she always walked away 99% sure the final phase of her epic hustle was coming together. High school graduation was fast approaching and she found herself getting more and more nervous about what came after. She was grateful that she still felt nothing but contempt for Arthur as it made her manipulation that much easier to pull off with only a partially guilty conscience. He had been kind to her these past couple of months but only because she was a perfect sexual fantasy for him who he wanted to keep on the hook.
The big day came the weekend before graduation. Arthur came home from work a little late and handed Megan a set of keys when he got in the door. Megan acted shocked that he actually delivered on his promise when she went outside and got inside the $150,000 Italian car he just bought her. Brandon and Lisa had thought they were past the point of being shocked by anything Arthur did that involved Megan, but they threw another hissy fit about Megan’s new car right outside in the driveway as Megan adored the new wheels. Megan reflexively pulled out her cigarettes as she sat behind the wheel and was about to light one when Arthur noticed, breaking away from his bitching son and daughter long enough to scold Megan.
“Uh, baby. I do have one rule in the new car. No smoking.”
Megan seemed a little surprised but took the unlit cigarette out of her mouth to return it to the pack.
Arthur explained himself, hoping he hadn’t hurt Megan’s feelings and adding “This is your car, baby, but I would like to drive it to business meetings and special events. I can’t have it smelling of cigarette smoke in front of my clients. I hope you understand.”
Megan smiled back, “Sounds like a perfectly reasonable deal, baby. I can’t object to the guy who just bought me a Maserati having one small condition,” she added, winking at him. She pats the leather passenger seat with her right hand and added, “Now why don’t you hop on in and let me give you a test drive.”
Arthur smiled and began to do as requested. Megan then turned to the distraught Brandon and Lisa hovering on the side and deviously said “I’ll be happy to give you guys a test ride too when I get back if you’d like,” feigning a good-faith offer.
“Fuck you!” exclaimed Lisa, while Brandon shouted “Piss off, bitch!” at almost the same time, both turning to walk away in defeat. This was supposed to be an exciting week for them with graduation looming, but their father and especially Megan were ruining it for them. Their resentment couldn’t have been more palpable as Megan gave her new car some gas before pulling out of the driveway and taking to the streets of Kokomo.
Twelve days had passed, along with the graduation ceremony for Brandon, Lisa, and Megan, when Arthur’s quiet Saturday afternoon was disrupted by a frantic Brandon and Lisa bursting through the front door to confront him, shaking envelopes in their hands that they had just picked up in the mail.
“Dad,” led Lisa in a raised voice full of genuine concern, “According to this, our tuition checks to Princeton bounced. What the hell is going?”
Arthur took the envelope from Lisa with a confused look on his face. He winced and realized he screwed up, touching his hand to his face. “We’ve been having a rough stretch at work lately and I ran quite a bit shorter on funds than I thought.” He paused to consider his options before uttering, “I’ll make this right, kids.”
Both twins looked exasperated as Brandon asked, “Didn’t you say we had special reserve accounts at the bank set aside for our tuition?”
Arthur stood there looking at the sheet at a loss for words before Lisa interrupted curtly, “Well don’t we??!?!”
“You did,” Arthur responded. “But I diverted it.”
It didn’t take long for both twins to realize where the money went, looking at each in horror. “You spent it all on her didn’t you?” Brandon asked with contempt. “That little tramp got all our college money, didn’t she?”
“Yes….yes!” Arthur answered with annoyance in his voice, having been completely busted. “Like I said, a couple of deals have gone badly in the last few months and we’re running lower on funds than I anticipated. I thought by now the Pearson account would have kicked in.”
“I don’t believe this!” Lisa screamed, on the precipice of tears. “Dad, the deadline for our tuition is June 15. That’s six days away. You have to make this happen!”
Arthur stroked his chin with his right hand, trying to come up with something before reaching the obvious conclusion. “You kids’ education comes first. I’m just gonna have to take back the Maserati.”
“Hallelujah the first sensible thing you’ve said since mom left!” Lisa sneered. “Where is the little bitch anyway. I want to see the look on her face when you take her precious car away from her.”
“She should be home by now,” Arthur said, knowing that she left for work this morning and was supposed to be done by mid-afternoon. “Let me call her up.”
Arthur took out his cell phone and punched Megan’s number on the speed dial. He was surprised when he immediately heard a shrill dial tone followed by a computerized operator voice saying “We’re sorry. This number is no longer in use. Please check the number and try again.” Arthur looked at his phone expecting he must have punched in the wrong speed dial, and then watched his fingers carefully to make sure he got Megan’s number this time, only to hear the same message in seconds. He pulled the phone away from his, with a look on his face that was still more confused than suspicious. His already irate son and daughter looked up at him with a more mortified look having heard the computerized voice on his phone just as Arthur had, and they seemed to know before Arthur did that the game had very dramatically changed.
Meanwhile, driving west on I-74 through western Illinois about halfway between Peoria and Moline was a pale blue 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis driven by Megan Neary, her face beaming with pride and liberation as she hustled westward, checking her speedometer to make sure she was going under 75 and thus not risking getting pulled over, but still in a major hurry to get as far away from Kokomo, Indiana, as she could in her new car. The next morning after Arthur bought her the Maserati she called around looking for any dealership in the area willing to do a trade-in for a low mileage used car. She knew she’d take a haircut on the $150,000 Maserati even though it had only 200 miles on it, but she was more than satisfied to have walked out of the dealership with a $7,000 used car and a $119,000 check in her pocket.
Megan looked to her purse in her passenger seat and just couldn’t resist digging in to unearth the documentation of the perfect con she was in the process of getting away with. She reached into the purse to see the $131,000 receipt she had from her bank before she withdrew her money for cash, which she had arranged for more than a week in advance, that included her $12,000 in savings along with the $119,000 from the car trade-in. She didn’t feel particularly comfortable having the satchel full of more than $100,000 in her trunk underneath her spare tire, but it would have to do for now until she got to whatever town she decided to settle in several states away. She rolled down her driver’s side window and grabbed her cigarette lighter, igniting a flame to the bank statement to erase it as well as the last evidence that Megan Neary ever existed. As soon as the statement was smoldering in flames she tossed it out the window to finish burning into ashes on the freeway.
Megan then reached back into her purse for her new driver’s license and Social Security card, the license featuring the face from Megan’s old license along with the name Megan Teague. Megan knew her friend and fast-food boss Lupe was the linchpin to making the first and last stages of her plan come together….the first being access to Judith Forbes’ affairs and to Arthur’s online usernames….and the last being access to the same identity auteur who helped Lupe produce false documents years back proving that she was in America legally. Lupe’s source created a fake identity for Megan as well, that of a girl from Steubenville, Ohio……who just happened to be heading west. After cashing out at her bank, Megan made one final stop to Lupe’s house to bid her farewell and slip her $15,000 of untraceable cash for her efforts.
Megan didn’t know for sure what she was gonna do wherever she ended up, but figured something along the lines of a part-time job and then enrollment in the nearest community college for the fall term. All that was important to her was that she was out of Kokomo and that she had finally extracted the payment she thought her family was owed from Arthur Forbes while making the rest of his loathsome family pay the consequences as well. She figured when she set up her new bank account in the new town, she’d filter in her cash windfall to the account a few thousand dollars at a time over the course of months to minimize suspicion. Perhaps in time, after everything cooled off, and depending on her condition, she’d arrange to have her mother transported from Kokomo to the mental institution nearest her new residence. It would be a high-stakes gamble, but after just scoring a royal flush with the high-stakes gamble she just took, she thought another roll of the dice for her mother’s sake may some day be in order. But for right now, she was just looking to enjoy her new life, knowing she wouldn’t have to worry about money anytime soon.
The sun was starting to get into Megan’s eyes as she drove west and the June afternoon was transitioning to evening with the Quad Cities and the Iowa border approaching. She reached back into her purse for two more items. She first grabbed her sunglasses and placed them over her eyes, and then reached for her pack of Marlboro Reds, firing one up with the lighter she had recently utilized on the bank statement, taking a soothing seven-second drag with a pleasured look on her face that was followed up a cloudy exhale that flowed towards the windshield before crashing into it. Megan may have been forbidden from smoking in the Maserati, but the “smoking permitted” light was always gonna be flashing “on” in her Mercury.