“There,” I said. “Ha! I told you!” I let go and clapped my hands.
Her lips folded in and she blinked, disbelieving. Then, with a sigh, she leaned forward again and peeked through the blinds. I was excited. I didn’t care what I was right about, it felt good even if it was about something as sick as this.
We watched quietly as Fig stepped out of her front door, her running shoes on, her short hair pinned away from her face. She leaned down for a moment to double knot her laces then straightened, stretching her arms above her head in a stretch. She glanced toward the house. Jolene squealed, and we both ducked, sliding down the wall, and collapsing on the carpet in fits of laughter. Jo’s eyes were bright and happy when she looked at me. We just shared a moment, and as I stared at her I thought, I’ve never loved anything so much. I smiled and grabbed her fingers, pressing my lips against them. She stared down at our clasped hands, her brow furrowed.
“So, you’re saying that ever since we started doing these fucking Fitbit challenges she’s bent on beating me? Me—not Amanda, or Gail, or you?”
“Well, yes, sort of. She likes to win, but you’re the most important person to beat. She’s obsessed with trying to one-up you. I mean she’s obsessed with you in general, but one-upping her obsession is definitely priority.”
“That’s so fucking weird.” She looked away, and I could tell how uncomfortable it made her. Jolene wasn’t in a competition with anyone but herself. That was the annoying thing about confident people: they didn’t play your games.
She turned back to the window. There was nothing out there now but the rain.
“How often does she do this when I’m ahead in steps?” she asked.
“She waits until you log your steps, which is usually pretty late—around nine or so. Then she either jumps on the treadmill or goes for a run. Every time.”
“But, I still beat her.”
“Yeah, that’s the funny thing.”
As soon as Fig disappeared from view, Jolene left the room. “Where are you going?” I called after her.
“Are you kidding me? I’m going to whip her ass.”
A minute later I heard the treadmill power on, and Jolene’s feet beating down in a steady rhythm. I smiled to myself. Life was a game. It was fun when you were an active player.
“Please don’t ask her to come over tomorrow,” I said.
We were in the bedroom. Jolene was brushing her hair in front of the mirror, her nightly ritual. I watched the brush travel from the crown of her head to the tips: stroke … stroke … stroke. Normally, I found it soothing to watch, but tonight it was setting me on edge. She’d run five miles on the treadmill, securing her win and probably sending Fig into a fury.
Fig often texted me to complain about Jolene. It was in a sort of lighthearted, playful way—one that wouldn’t upset a husband, but I felt her resentment cradled underneath the wit. I smoothed the sheets over my lap. I’d already taken off my boxers, hopeful, but all of a sudden, I didn’t feel like fucking.
“She’s in a really bad place,” Jolene said, setting the brush down and turning around to look at me. “I think she’s suicidal. She keeps posting pictures of railroad tracks.”
“She does that to manipulate you.” My dick was limp. I’d masturbated twice today to a picture Fig sent me. I guess I didn’t have the stamina I used to have.
Jolene didn’t argue or deny it. She set to tidying her dresser, ignoring me. That was the thing about her: she had your number, and even if you were crazy, she still made the effort to care. Welcome to being married to an enabler. I patted the space on the bed next to me and she came to sit down. Her robe slipped open and I had view of her long, tan legs. I felt my dick stir. Running a finger up and down the tattoos on her arm, I pleaded with her again.
“Every time you ask her over for dinner she stays until three in the morning.” I left out the part about how I was the one always left with Fig in the living room while she went to bed. Jolene didn’t like when I whined.
“She doesn’t understand boundaries.” I was referencing more than just her staying late. “Last time we had everyone over, Hollis asked me what time we go to bed every night and Fig answered for me.”
“You’re kidding?” she said, her face mortified and amused. I wasn’t.
“She told Hollis that we go to bed between eleven and twelve, and when I looked at her funny she added that our bedroom windows face each other and she always sees the light turn off.”
Jolene shook her head. “She does that to me too. Especially when my friends are over. It always makes me feel like I’m her pissing pole.”
“She bought your dress,” I said. “The new one. I saw her wearing it yesterday.”
“Oh god. That’s just perfect.” She sighed.
“You should say something,” I told her. “If it bothers you.”
She was already shaking her head. “No. She’s mentally fragile. If she wants to copy me, that’s fine. Half the time I think it’s in my head anyway. Maybe we just have the same taste, you know?”
I snickered. “I can prove that it’s not in your head.”
She looked at me skeptically. “How?”
“You know how you were talking about painting the dining room last week when everyone was over?” Jolene nodded. “She kept asking what color? What color? And you never really answered her.”
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