And then, the second Mark came through the door and said, “Let me explain,” that’s when she reanimated.
“I’m not interested in anything you have to say,” Gabby said.
And he had the gall to say, “C’mon, Gabby, I deserve a chance to—”
That’s when she threw a magazine at him. I couldn’t blame her. Even I would have started throwing things at him then, when I heard those stupid words come out of his mouth. She started by throwing whatever was nearby. More magazines, a book that was on the coffee table. Then she threw the remote control. It cracked, and the batteries went flying. That’s when Charlemagne and I hightailed it to safer ground.
“Why is there a dog here?” Mark asked. He started scratching his wrists slowly. I don’t even think he knew he was doing it.
“Don’t ask about the fucking dog!” Gabby said. “She was here all night, and you didn’t even notice. So just shut the fuck up about the dog, OK?”
“Gabby, talk to me.”
“Why were you at my office today?” he asked her.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! You’ve got a lot worse problems than how you got caught!”
That’s when she walked into the kitchen and started breaking big stuff. Porcelain stuff.
Which brings us to now.
“Who is she?” Gabby screams.
Mark doesn’t answer. He can’t look at her.
She pauses ever so briefly and looks around at the mess. Her shoulders slump. She can see me off to the side. She catches my eye. “What am I doing?” she says. She doesn’t say it to me or Mark, really. She says it to the room, the house.
I take advantage of the moment and walk, through the shards, to put my arms around her. Mark moves toward us, too.
“No,” I say abruptly and with force. “Don’t you touch her.”
He backs away.
“You’re going to move out,” Gabby says to him as I hold her. I start rubbing her back, trying to soothe her, but she pushes me away. She gathers her strength. “Get your shit and leave,” she says.
“This is my place, too,” Mark says. “And I’m just asking for a few minutes to talk this out.”
“Get. Your. Shit. And leave,” Gabby says. Her voice is strong and stoic. She is a force to be reckoned with.
Mark considers fighting back more; you can see it on his face. But he gives up and goes into the bedroom.
“You’re doing the right thing,” I tell her.
“I know that,” she says.
She sits down at the dining-room table, catatonic once again.
Charlemagne starts walking toward us, but Gabby sees her before I do.
“No!” she shouts at the dog. “Be careful.”
She stands up and gently walks over to Charlemagne and picks her up. She carries her in her arms over the broken plates. She sits back down at the table with Charlemagne in her lap.
Mark flies through various rooms in the house, getting his things. He slams doors. He sighs loudly. Now seems like the time to start realizing that I never liked him.
This goes on for at least forty-five minutes. The house is silent except for the sounds of a man moving out. Gabby is practically frozen still. The only time she moves is to reposition Charlemagne in her lap. I stand by, close, ready to move or to speak at a moment’s notice.
Finally, Mark comes out into the living room. We stare at him from the dining-room table. “I’m leaving,” he says.
Gabby doesn’t say anything back.
He waits, hoping for something. He gets nothing from her.
He walks to the front door, and Charlemagne jumps down onto the floor.
“Charlemagne, no,” I say. I have to say it twice before she stays put.
Mark looks at her, clearly still confused about why there is a dog named Charlemagne in the house, but he knows he won’t get any answers.
He opens the front door. He’s almost gone by the time Gabby speaks up.
“How long has this been going on?” she asks him. Her voice is strong and clear. It does not waver. It does not break. She is not about to burst into tears. She is fully in control. At least for this moment.
He looks at her and shakes his head. He looks up at the ceiling. There are tears in his eyes. He rubs them away and sniffs them back up. “It doesn’t matter,” he says. His voice, too, is strong. But it is full of shame; that much is clear.
“I said, how long has this been going on?”
“Gabby, don’t do this—”
Mark looks at his feet and then at her. “Almost a year,” he says.
“You can go,” she says.
He turns away and does just that. She goes to the window to watch him leave.
When he’s finally gone, she turns to me.
“I’m so sorry, Gabby,” I say to her. “I’m so sorry. He’s an asshole.”
Gabby looks at me. “You slept with somebody’s husband,” she says. She doesn’t need to draw any direct conclusions from this. She doesn’t need to say out loud what I know she’s thinking in her head.
“Yep,” I say, both owning my actions and feeling deep shame for them. “And it was wrong. Just like this was wrong.”
“But I told you it didn’t mean you were a bad person,” she says. “I told you that you could still be a wonderful, beautiful person.”
I nod. “Yeah, you did.”
“And you did this to somebody.”
I want to claim that the situation is different. I want to say that what I did with Michael isn’t as bad as what this other woman has done with Mark. I want to, once again, hide behind the fact that I didn’t know. But I did know. And what I did was no different from this.
I slept with someone’s husband. I shouldn’t have done that.
And now I’m having a baby by that man. And I’m going to raise that baby.
Pretending this child isn’t the result of a mistake I made doesn’t make it any less true.
And I know now that I have to face things. I have to admit things in order to move forward.
“Yes,” I say. “I did a terrible thing. Just like Mark and that woman did a terrible thing to you.”
Gabby looks at me. I pull her over to the sofa, and I sit us both down.
“I made a mistake. And when I did, you saw that I was still a good person, and you reserved your judgment, because you had faith in me. That was a wonderful gift. Your belief in me. It’s made me believe in myself. It’s made me start to change the things I’ve needed to change. But you don’t have to do that for them. You can just hate them.”
I swear, she almost smiles.
“We can both just hate them for as long as we need to, and then, one day, when we feel stronger, we’ll probably forgive them for being imperfect, for doing a terrible thing. One day, sooner than you think, I bet we’ll go so far as to wish them the best and not give them another thought, because we’ll have moved on with our lives. But you don’t have to believe that right now. You can just hate him. And I can hate him for what he did to you. And maybe one day, he’ll change. He’ll be a person who did something in the past that he would never, ever, ever do again.”
She looks at me.
“Or he’ll just be shitty forever, and you’re better off being as far away from him as possible,” I tell her. “There’s that theory, too.”
She smiles a smile so small and so quick that I start to question if I really saw it. “I’m sorry,” she says finally. “I didn’t mean to bring you into this. I’m just . . . I’m sorry.”
“Don’t give it another thought,” I say.
Gabby cries into her hands and then collapses into my arms. “He’s not even allergic to dogs,” she says. “I’ve wanted a dog for years, and I couldn’t because of him, but I swear, it’s all in his head. I bet you he’s not even allergic to them.”
“Well, now you’ve got one,” I say. “So there’s a silver lining. Why don’t we just sit here and think of silver linings for right now? What’s another one? Did he always forget to take out the trash? Did he leave his wet towel on the bed?”