It was one thing hearing Ben say — jokingly, of course — that the new maid was hot. Vivian could laugh that off without a second thought. It was another thing entirely to be sitting at the dinner table and hear her teenage daughter express the same sentiment without a hint of humor.
“I agree with Dad,” said Violet, her voice as solemn and crisp as when she tried to discuss French existentialists with them the day before. “The maid’s really hot, Mom. It’s kinda weird.”
“She’s not hot,” said Vivian by reflex, before checking over her shoulder to make sure Moira wasn’t in earshot. “For God’s sake, you two, she’s — what, sixty?”
A brief shadow passed over Ben’s face, his eyebrows furrowing; but before he could say anything, Violet had stabbed her fork at Vivian and said, “So? That’s not much older than you two. You can be sixty and still hot.”
“Wait,” said Ben.
“I’d fuck her,” said Violet.
“What?” She had the self-righteous, defensive tone of pretty much every teen Vivian had ever spoken to, and barreled on before Vivian could do anything more than roll her eyes. “You guys hate bisexuals now? Very forward-thinking of you.”
“It’s not about sexuality, Vi,” said Vivian; she could hear how heated her voice was and hated it. “It’s about the fact that you think it’s appropriate to — have sex with a sixty-year-old maid.”
“Just say ‘fuck,’ Mom. Trust me, you’re not winning any points by censoring yourself.”
“Wait,” said Ben again, holding his hands up. No doubt he was trying to pull some therapeutic practice before this argument got out of control. “Viv, when you say sixty —”
“You know, it is so like you and Dad to pull something like this,” said Violet, abandoning her fork so she could cross her arms and give them a proper glare. “You act like you’re oh-so-liberal and sex-positive, but the minute your daughter—”
“My teenage daughter,” Vivian stressed.
“—fucks a woman, you—”
“You’ve actually fucked her? ”
Violet’s incredulous tone indicated she couldn’t believe Vivian would say such a thing. Vivian could empathize with that.
“You fucked the maid,” she repeated, her voice flat. “Ben, are you hearing this?”
Ben looked mildly constipated. “Yeah?” he said faintly.
“You fucked the maid,” said Vivian again, with more outrage this time. “When, Violet? Aren’t you in AP classes? Don’t you have homework and — and obscure philosophy books to read? When the fuck did you find time to fuck the maid?”
“Ugh, Mom,” said Violet, which was a rather neat sidestep of the question.
“Where?” asked Vivian, leaning forward on the dinner table. Her voice wavered. “Oh, God, Violet, where?”
“Mom, it’s not that big a deal,” said Violet. “I talked to Constance. Everyone fucks the maid.”
“Constance? ” said Vivian, at the same time that Ben said,
For a moment, they looked at each other, both baffled by the other’s response. Then, with instincts honed by fifteen years of parenting, they turned their attention back to Violet, who was fiddling with an unraveled string on her cardigan as though she hadn’t just revealed that she fucked a sixty-year-old maid.
“She said it’s part of her duties,” Violet said, shrugging. “Like, as the help.”
“Who said?” asked Vivian. “Moira? Or Constance?
“Constance,” said Violet, as if that should’ve been obvious. “She’s been doing it since Constance lived here. It’s like, part of the job.”
“Since Constance lived here?” said Ben, his voice even weaker than before.
“It most certainly is not part of the job!” said Vivian. “Violet, no maid is paid to fuck her employer. That’s crazy talk.”
Behind Vivian, Moira briefly stepped into view with a feather duster in hand, heard that last sentence, and gracefully swiveled back out of sight, unnoticed by anyone but Violet.
“If it makes you feel better,” Violet said, “we just used our fingers.”
Vivian stared at her, face blank. Ben was scowling.
“Fingers,” Vivian repeated, her tone deadly. It wasn’t exactly a question, but Violet answered anyway.
“Well, yeah, and mouths. She’s got hella experience. It’s nothing like what I do with Tate.”
Ben, at the far end of the table, made a choking sound and turned away, possibly so angry that it had made him physically ill. Frozen in her spot, her face a death mask, Vivian didn’t feel much better.
“Where’d you fuck Moira, Violet?” asked Vivian.
Violet’s eyes flickered down to the dinner table and then quickly danced away. She said nothing.
“Where?” asked Vivian, voice cracking.
“I think you know where, Mom.”
From his spot at the end of the table, turned away from both of them, Ben let out a sound dreadfully close to a sob.