And who would love him then?
It took him two and a half hours to fall asleep. And then that morning, he had been woken up at 6:00 to hear Carrie talking to room service saying, “Don’t send salted nuts. I don’t want salt in the morning. You sent salted nuts yesterday after I asked you three times not to! If you can’t send the right type of nuts, maybe you should be in another field of work.” Then she hung up the phone.
Brandon had laid his head back on his pillow. She was not a kind person. He wasn’t even sure she was a good person. Before he knew what he was doing he opened his mouth. “Oh my God,” he said. “You’re awful. What the fuck have I done?”
He got out of bed and started gesticulating wildly, going on about what an uptight ice woman she was. “I’ve made every wrong turn a person could make!” he said, standing in his boxers. “I don’t think I love you. I’m not sure I have ever loved you. Why would I think this was where I wanted to be? I don’t want to be with a woman who screams at people!”
Carrie stared at him like he had two heads. And then she said, “No one is making you stay here, you gigantic fucking prick.”
Brandon considered her words and realized she was right. No one had made him sleep with her. No one had made him leave his wife for her. He’d done it all himself. But he simply could not, for the life of him, remember why any of that had felt like such a good idea.
“I think I should go,” he said.
“Be my guest,” Carrie said, gesturing to the door. “And feel free to fuck right off.”
Brandon grabbed his things, and left.
He trained that morning at a different court. He took a long, punishingly hot shower. Then he sat in the locker room in his towel for an hour, immobile, considering what to do.
All he could think of was how good it felt when Nina rubbed her hands through his hair, or the look on her face when she told him she’d love him forever.
Right then and there, he had made up his mind to get her back.
And he had! And now everything would be OK. As long as Carrie Soto left them alone.
Nina and Casey were sitting in silence when someone opened the door.
They both turned to see Tarine. “You need to come downstairs,” she said.
“It is Carrie Soto.”
Nina was already tired. “What about her?”
“She is on your front lawn throwing clothes and threatening to light them on fire.”
• • •
Nina started down the stairs, making her way through the crowd with Tarine.
Greg Robinson had the music up so loud it was shaking the ground, vibrating the very foundation of the house. People were dancing with such fervor in the living room that the picture frames were bouncing against the walls.
It was Nina’s house, Nina’s carpet they were standing on, her stairs supporting them, her booze they were drinking, her food they were eating. And yet, each person in Nina’s way remained in her way until she tapped them on the shoulder, or nudged herself through. She found herself growing more and more annoyed. Her husband’s mistress was on the front lawn and she couldn’t even get outside to deal with it because there was a group of pro surfers smoking pot in her foyer.
“Excuse me!” Tarine said. “Get out of the way!” The surfers moved immediately.
When Nina finally made her way to the front of the house, she looked out to the driveway to see her husband trying to calm a woman who was waving her arms around and ranting.
Carrie Soto, in white track pants and a white-and-green T-shirt, was standing on the gravel in her driveway with Brandon’s clothes dumped in a pile. Nina could see Brandon’s favorite black Ralph Lauren polo off to the side, saw his lucky white sweatband lying on the rocks. He loved that sweatband.
He came back to me but left his sweatband with her?
“Brandon, I swear to God, you need to stop being such an asshole. I really might just burn all of your shit to the ground,” Carrie said.
The crowd outside was entirely focused on Carrie, giving her a wide berth. People were coming around from the sides of the house to see what the commotion was. Nina could feel the people behind her peering over her head to see more.
“Carrie, please,” Brandon was saying. He was standing just at the foot of the steps, his arms up in defense. “Let’s talk about this like adults.”
Carrie started laughing. Not maniacally, not angrily, but rather with genuine amusement. “I am the adult, Brandon. I am the one who told you not to leave your wife unless you were serious about us, do you remember that?” Brandon started to say more but Carrie interrupted. “Do you remember me telling you that I would not allow myself to be a home wrecker unless you and I were truly in love? That this was forever? Do you remember me telling you that?”
Brandon nodded. “Yes, but Carrie—”
“No, don’t ‘yes, but’ me. You’re an asshole, Brandon. Do you get that?”
“What did I tell you when we first slept together, Brandon? What did I say? Did I say to you that I wasn’t going to sleep with another woman’s husband unless it was for something real?”
“And did I tell you that you better not fuck with my heart? Did I tell you that, Brandon?”
“I believe my exact words, you son of a bitch, were ‘If I fall in love with you, don’t fuck me over.’”
“I don’t know if—”
“No, don’t argue with me. That is what I said.”
“OK, that is what you said. But—”
“You woke up this morning after making love to me the night before and when I got off the phone with room service to order us raw almonds, you said, and I quote, ‘Oh my God. You’re awful. What the fuck have I done?’ And then you left.”
“Carrie, please. Can we talk about this in private?”
Carrie looked around, taking in the crowd that was forming. Then she looked behind Brandon, to the front door, where she saw Nina. Her face fell.
Brandon turned and saw Nina, too. “Nina—” he said.
“Nina,” Carrie interrupted. “I am sorry. I shouldn’t have taken up with him and I shouldn’t be airing all of this dirty laundry and ruining your party.”
Nina continued staring at Carrie but didn’t say anything. How was it that this woman could shout out every thought running through her head? Why was it that Carrie Soto felt entitled to scream?
In that moment, Nina was not mad or jealous or embarrassed or anything else she might have expected. Nina was sad. Sad that she’d never lived a fraction of a second like Carrie Soto. What a world she must live in, Nina thought, where you can piss and moan and stomp your feet and cry in public and yell at the people who hurt you. That you can dictate what you will and will not accept.
Nina, her entire life, had been programmed to accept. Accept that your father left. Accept that your mother is gone. Accept that you must take care of your siblings. Accept that the world wants to lust after you. Accept accept accept. For so long, Nina had believed it was her greatest strength—that she could withstand, that she could endure, that she would accept it all and keep going. It was so foreign to her, the idea of declaring that something was unacceptable.