At any rate I was wandering from room to room, dusting books, and rearranging furniture, feeling completely useless without a book to write—when there was a pounding on my front door. If it was the Fed Ex guy he’d leave the package, I didn’t much fancy seeing anyone at the moment. But, the pounding didn’t go away, it increased in fervency and eventually I made my way to the front door, duster still in hand. I looked through the peephole. Fig was on my doorstep, a black baseball cap pulled down over her hair. She was gaunt, her face deeply lined, and her clothes limply hanging on her bones. My better sense told me not to open the door, but I was curious about what she had to say. She had to know that I knew at this point.
When I opened the door her face was already arranged. The first words out of her mouth were somewhat thrown at me. I couldn’t tell if her voice was frantic or aggressive. “I’m sorry, all right? I’m not above saying I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?” I asked. Maybe this was my time to punch her in the face, cuss her out, and tell her what I really thought, but like always, I found myself drawn into her madness. Wanting to know how she was processing everything.
“What I did. That’s not me, it’s not who I am.” She started to make crying sounds, but I watched for the tears and there were none. She’d told me once that before she moved to Washington with George she’d had a relationship with a man from her hometown. So, in fact it was who she was. Lie number one.
“Darius was the only one who spoke to me. I was so alone … George was … well, you know how he is. He wasn’t there for me.”
“I spoke to you,” I said. “I was there for you.”
I felt pity for her. So desperate to be something she wasn’t. Her eyes were wide, watery. I imagined she was backtracking, thinking of a new tactic. I looked at her then, I mean I really looked at her. Not in the way I’d wanted to see her before, finding only the good. The way she evaluated, glanced, said things to garner a reaction. If you were a kind person, she’d be a kind person. If you believed in saving the environment, she’d be into it, too. We’d once been out with her and George when I’d been telling them about the various strange illnesses I’d had in the past few years. She’d sympathized with me and then told her own stories about getting the swine flu and how awful that had been. I’d believed her until George’s face had screwed up and he’d said, “When did you have the swine flu?”
“You remember … it was after the cruise. I was in bed for weeks…”
George had shaken his head. “No, no, I don’t remember. I think I’d remember something like that.”
Darius had laughed all the way home. “Do you think she realizes that she’s lying? Or is it truth in her head?”
I looked at her now, as she was trying to play the pity card. It had always been her strongest play, hadn’t it? Sick, fragile, depressed, alone—whatever worked.
“George was abusive,” she said. “I didn’t want to tell anyone I was afraid of him.” I pictured George—sheepish, polite, downtrodden—George. I imagined he wasn’t very good at being aggressive, but who knows? Fig brought out the absolute worst in people. “He wouldn’t let me tell you what I’d done. He threatened me.”
“What did he threaten you with?” I waited for her to answer, hoped for it even. If she told me something plausible, perhaps … what?
I smiled. What was the point of this? Even if I told her what I thought of what she did, she wouldn’t hear me. Fig was like Darius in that way, they only thought of how things affected them.
“When did it start?” I asked her. The best thing I could get out of this was closure. Darius had disappeared after he left that night, changed his number.
“I don’t remember,” she rushed. “I think I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
“You have PTSD?” I asked. “From what?”
“Just everything that happened. I don’t remember,” she said, again. How many lies were there so far? I was losing count.
“You could have fucked some stranger. I loved him.”
“I know. I think that all the time.” She was looking at her shoes, avoiding my eyes.
“Were you in love with him?”
Her head shot up, and she laughed. “No,” she said, firmly. She was being dismissive, but that confession hurt me more than anything else she’d said.
“It would have been so much better if you’d said yes,” I said, softly. My heart was starting to ache. “So, you hurt me, hurt my child, hurt George—all for a couple fucks? It didn’t even mean anything to you.”
“I mean, I loved him, sure, like a friend,” she rushed. “We were very good friends. He was already cheating on you, Bad—Jolene. I wasn’t the only one.”
“You didn’t know that at the time. You can’t use that as justification. You can’t use anything as justification.”
“I’m not! I came here to say sorry!”
“You coming here doesn’t have anything to do with people finding out about what you did? Say, the authors whose websites you design?”
She feigned shock. “No! How could you say that?”
“I can say plenty about you, Fig. Why didn’t you come before? Darius has been gone for almost a year.”
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