Mallory stood at the entrance to her living room, stunned. Her furniture was gone. All of it. From the softly padded recliner couch and elegant glass-topped coffee table to the six-foot wooden bookcase and large wall painting – everything had been replaced with cheap thrift store pieces. A long piece of driftwood stood where her grandfather clock had been. In place of her thick floral area rug lay a threadbare remnant. The walls were bare except for a curling poster of a band she had never heard of.
Anger built in her as the shock wore off. Jag! It had to be him. Who else had the lack of respect for her things as he did? Ever since he had tossed her boxes of memories into the dump a few months ago, she had been watching him closely but he had shown no signs of removing anything else. Other than giving her excuse after excuse for not moving out, and constantly forgetting to clean up behind himself, he had been a decent guest. Until today.
“Jag!” she called down the hallway. “Jag! We need to talk!”
The door to the guest room opened and Jag stepped out, closing the door behind him. “You’re back?”
“Yes, I’m back.” Mallory motioned to the living room. “Did you do this?”
“You’re back early,” he said as he sauntered towards the kitchen. “I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”
“Come back here. We need to talk.”
Jag continued walking. “Sure, but first I need a drink.”
“No! Now.” Mallory’s voice shook with tension. She didn’t like confrontations, and she had overlooked some of his behavior to avoid them, but this was too big to ignore. “What did you do to my living room?”
“Our living room.” Jag said as he disappeared around the corner.
Our living room? Mallory stood facing the kitchen, indecisive. Should she follow him and force the discussion? Wouldn’t that send the message that he was in charge? She didn’t want that, but waiting meekly for him could also send the same message. The sound of a hallway door opening interrupted her thoughts. With heart racing, she whirled around. If Codee was at work, and Jag was in the kitchen, who was in the hallway?
She didn’t have to wait long to find out. A head covered with dark brown curls peeked out around the corner and called out softly, “Jag?” When she caught sight of Mallory, she gasped and withdrew back into the bedroom.
A woman? Jag had a woman in his bedroom?
Seething now, Mallory started for the kitchen but was met by Jag carrying two bottles of water.
“Jag –“ she started, but he cut her off.
“Just a minute. I’ll be right back.”
Mallory watched him walk to his room, hand one bottle through the doorway, and then walk back to her, all with a smug smile on his nonchalant face.
“Yes? Is something wrong?” he asked as he continued past her into the living room. Sitting on the worn out couch, he put his feet up on the battered coffee table, leaned back, and clasped his hands behind his head. “What do you need to talk about?”
“What… where… how…” Mallory sputtered, not knowing where to start. She raised her hands in an all-encompassing gesture. “This!”
“Do you like it? It was all free.” Jag continued smiling.
“But what did you do with the furniture that was already here?” Mallory stopped. No! He couldn’t have! Not wanting to know but having to, she asked “You didn’t dump it, did you?”
“Of course not. That stuff was worth some money.”
“So where is it?”
“I sold it.”
Mouth open, Mallory stared at him. He stared back, unfazed.
Closing her eyes, she tried to control her anger. “Why?” she finally managed to squeeze through clenched teeth.
“I needed the money.”
“But it wasn’t yours to sell.” Loss filled her as she opened her eyes and looked around.
“Sure it was. I live here, too. Besides, you have so much, I figured you wouldn’t miss a few pieces.”
“You’re wrong on both accounts. You may live here, but it’s my house. MY house. You’re just a guest. And I do miss my “few pieces”. It took me years to save up to buy that furniture. And for you just to sell it while I’m out of town for a few days, how dare you?”
“Calm down. It’s just furniture. It’s not like I sold your dog. If you’re not happy, you can just buy more.”
“That’s not the point. You sold what wasn’t yours. Where’s the money? That’s not yours either.”
“I gave it to my family. Things are really hard for them right now. I figured they needed it more than we do.”
“Didn’t you think you should have at least asked first? I might have been able to loan…” Mallory stopped as a crash came from Jag’s bedroom. Pointing towards the hallway, she demanded, “Who is in your room?”
“My sister. She lost her house and I told her she could live with me.”
“Don’t worry. I got her a separate bed.” Jag got up. “I’ll go see what happened. I told her not to try moving the TV by herself.”
Mallory sank on a nearby tattered armchair. She wished she had never invited Jag to stay with her. Even though he had had a good reason for what he had done, it didn’t justify his actions. She wanted him – and his sister – to leave. But with nowhere else to go, they would end up on the street, and she couldn’t force herself to do that. She had to find another way. Maybe his sister would be more cooperative, and then, in turn, influence him to show more respect.
Mallory got up and headed for Jag’s room. It was worth a shot.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.