Step 1 of the plan began with Tommy confiding in Stu and Heather. He told his parents about the money saved to eventually get Diane and her new boyfriend better living conditions. Heather's eyes widened at the bundle of cash sitting directly in front her, but Stu didn't seem to notice her response. The three of them spent the entire morning looking on real estate websites to find the perfect house for Diane and her boyfriend. They also discussed the process of saving the rest of the money required for such a purchase. They decided to visit a real estate agency the next evening with the rest of Tommy's brothers.
On the morning of the visit, Tommy took out all of the cash and placed it underneath his mattress, with just enough of the bills sticking out for Heather to see them. Tommy got out a minute video camera and connected it to his open laptop, being careful to place the camera in a much more inconspicuous area on his desk. Now all that was left was for Heather to take the bait. He then found Dill and Matt downstairs, and the three of them were off to surprise Diane with their big news. Except thats what they wanted Stu and Heather to think. Instead, they hid in Tommy's car a few streets over, giving Heather enough time to snoop through Tommy's room. They returned home to an empty house. Stu was off at work, and Heather's car wasn't in the driveway. The other stepbrothers must have been at various extracurriculars as well.
The three boys expected Tommy's room to be a mess, but it was much, much worse. All of the dressers had been pulled out and flung across the room. Everything inside the closet currently resided on the floor in messy heaps. Tommy's mattress was completely flipped over, with the wad of money gone from its hidden spot. The three boys called Stu to notify him of the chaos. Their dad drove home immediately, completely bewildered at the state of Tommy's room. He didn't know who would do such a thing, but the boys knew well in advance. The small video camera still hidden by Tommy's laptop showed them everything they needed for their plan. The boys transferred the video to Tommy's laptop and sat down with Stu, revealing to him the incriminating scandal right before his very eyes.
Tommy remembered how, "The video showed an empty room before Heather had walked in, not at all sneakily, as she pulled out my drawers, pulled my clothes out and threw them to the ground before doing the same to my closet. As the video ended, Dill and I could see the gears clicking in our father's head."'
In the 9 years total that Tommy and Dill had known Stu, they had very seen him angry. Until that very night. Stu called his wife and said through gritted teeth, “Come home. Now.”
Heather took her time coming home, arriving with several thick shopping bags adorning each arm. It was to be expected, but her calm and collected demeanor still spooked the three boys. She was a completely different person from the monster who had destroyed Tommy's room only for a few thousand dollars. Tommy and Dill were holding back tears, while Matt's long-held disappointment with his Mom immediately spread across his face. Stu lost it, shouting at Heather for taking the money that his sons had spent so long saving up. It was as if all the years of receiving her vitriol had finally broke something in him. He was relentless, his voice displayed a fury the boys had never known from their mild-mannered father.
Heather merely scoffed at her husband's newfound rage. She dug up the wad of cash, with most of it still intact. She had apparently spent only a fourth of it during this outing, so she should have obviously been praised for her consideration and generosity. Her response just made everything worse.
“Leave this house, I don’t know why I haven’t divorced you already!” Dad spewed forth at his wife. With her power actively being disrupted, the cracks began to show on Heather's cool facade. A hint of worry seeped into her face, as it finally dawned on her that she wouldn't get away so easily this time.
Tommy never forgot how, "She began to plead and beg as my father forcefully turned her around and pushed her out of the house, still yelling at how horrible she was."
Matt's response was distressing. Here was the mother he had grown up with, who had supported him through everything he had been through, but turned out to be a monster. How could he turn his back on her? He knew that she was unhealthy, that she would only cause more strife for his family, but there was a distinct part of him that wanted to be with her. That part of him wanted to return to how things used to be, even though there would absolutely be no going back. Sure, the past had been full of violent outbursts behind closed doors, but there was a strange stability to the whole procedure. Matt knew what to expect back then, and he hated how much of a question mark the future was turning out to be.
Matt begrudgingly followed Heather outside. He watched on in agony as Heather slammed the front door, demanding to get back inside. It was clear that the rest of the family wouldn't budge, despite her running around the house and banging on every door and window they had. Matt simply watched the chaos unfold, unable to reach out to his mother. The rest of the brothers remained inside with Stu, with no one daring to utter a sound or make a sudden move. They were all on tumultuous ground, and no one wanted to make it worse than it already was. Stu stared on without any expression.
Finally, at long last, Heather left in a huff. Matt stayed behind, collapsing on the ground as tears began to pour out from him. Stu lead the brothers outside and they gathered around Matt in a fierce and devote group hug. In between the wracked sobs of various brothers, Stu repeated how immensely sorry he was for this to have happened. The whole group remained that way for some time, eventually returning to the empty house together. Stu continued to apologize for the rest of the night, as if he was in a daze.
When Tommy finally went up to his room to go to bed, the guilt that was festering inside of him seemed to overflow. Did Tommy, Dill, and Matt cause this reaction to happen? They had certainly organized the plan that lead up to this outburst. But would it have happened anyway? Things were already tense between Heather and Stu despite their cordial appearance. With the bruises getting worse on Stu, something was bound to happen, right? Did the three brothers simply expedite the process, or was this how their family was meant to unfold all along? Tommy stared at his leftover crumpled pile of cash. It seemed to taunt him now. It was a reminder of the massive rift in the family, and for the defeated way that all of the brothers seemed to act that night. No one wanted to talk. Each brother seemed to be processing their feelings internally at different rates. What would happen to their family now?
END OF PART 3