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“We should get married”
She’ll say. She’ll be looking at you from across the table, looking over an opened bottle of wine, her eyes lazy, her fingers with red painted nails daintily wrapped around her fourth, maybe fifth glass of wine and a wry smile on her face.
“Married?” you’ll ask
“Yes, let’s skip the whole I like you, you like me stage, let’s just get right into it.”
“This is not getting a puppy Stacey…”
“You think I don’t know that? I do. But what the hell let’s just do it. Right? It will be that our one thing.”
You’ll look into her eyes and behind the thin veil of drunkenness you will see a sincerity and this will scare you. After all it was just for fun for laughs, the hugs that lingered on a bit too long, the rose scent her hair left on your pillow when she took a cab home in the morning, her soft lips – both of them, it was just fun.
“Can I think about it? At least for tonight? God Stacey! You need to think about it too! Preferably sober, no?”
“Nope, no thinking.”
She will lean in and be so close to your face her wine laced breath would tingle against your shaved stubble. And maybe you will think what the hell is there to lose right? Why not jump into it with both feet, eyes closed and no sense? And maybe you will say yes. Actually you do say yes and that night the two of you have possibly the best sex of your life, and that’s it, that’s the problem, once it’s the best you’ve ever had the only way is down; a slow slippery slope or a quick great tumble down. But you will say yes. I said yes.
News travels fast especially if it’s bad news disguised as good, so when I got a call form Ann that morning and every other morning, afternoon, evening and night after that I hit ignore. I did not want to deal with her tirades, and she knows how to throw a good one in her steely voice, never losing composure, her eyes trained almost unblinking, her lips partly pursed and the off white stick of tobacco in her fingers twirling smoke into the air oblivious to the unfolding drama. I had to live with the fear that she might show up one day at our place, Stacey moved in, and start asking questions, causing trouble, stirring the pot and poking her perkiness where it does not belong. I knew I had to see her, explain things before the wedding. Damn. The wedding, it is a thing now, before it was an idea but now it’s tangible. It’s that mirage you get closer to and instead of disappearing the edges of the oasis start getting a clear distinction, only you are happy to see an oasis if you’re in a dessert. I am not happy about this wedding, but do men back out? Do they really? Shit, let me call Ann.
“Hey can we talk?”
“You can and I’ll listen. You have two minutes.”
Her voice wasn’t cold, in fact she sounded jovial, like she’d been watching a good episode of the big bang, or just had one.
“I need to see you…”
Letting the statement linger like she does with her cigarettes with my words I heard her sigh.
“Sure, see you in twenty?”
Twenty hours? Twenty minutes? She can’t mean twenty minutes I have a dinner with Stacey, her sister and a cousin of hers.
“Make that an hour.”
“Half an hour?”
Why does she have to be so stubborn?
“Okay, twenty. See you in twenty.”
Stacey walks into the room as I adjust the lapel of my coat. She walks over towards me and plants a kiss on my cheek and says hi.
“This will look good with a purple flower pin right?”
She wasn’t talking to me, she was talking to her friend, her best maid who walked in closely after her. In a blue hugging dress, black sneakers with no laces and a New York cap pulled over her head she mumbled something.
“Pardon?” Stacey asked
“Yeah it’ll look good. Really good.” She said.
Her name is Peggy, she did not look like a Peggy. Peggy’s are graceful, whether short and plump or tall and slender. They move like wind in between leaves. But there was something about her that seemed off, she was a bit clumsy, from how she walked like she was just about to trip or how she blurted out words without thinking them through.
The first time she had about the engagement, soon to be wedding, she wasn’t elated. She was withdrawn. She arched her brows and disappointment was written all over her creases.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
I wanted to tell her I wasn’t sure, but she was not looking at me, she was looking at her friend. Looking at her with eyes that told her she was making a mistake. I was the mistake; people like me don’t marry, we don’t do weddings. But when Stacey said she was sure, holding both her arms and bending at her knees before letting out an excited giggle and looking at me with love drunk eyes, Peggy backed off, but she shot me a look. She doesn’t trust me; apart from the look she’s told me this, a couple of times. I brush it off as another case of a crazy girlfriend looking out for their vulnerable counterpart but in some way I also don’t trust myself.
“I heard you guys are doing dinner? Mary told me; she’s so excited.”
Shit, dinner. And why is Mary talking to Peggy? She’s the cousin they don’t even know each other that well.
“Oh yeah I saw that on the group.”
Group? They have a freaking group? My phone rings, it’s a message from Anne “red or white?”
I think about it for a minute. Wine? Meat? Lingerie?
“Have both” I reply.
“Planner?” Peggy asks pointing at my phone with her eyes.
“No, Jack, my best man. Says he needs me to help him out across town.”
Peggy nods; she does not look convinced.
“What’s up? Is it that car of his again? Tell him to buy a new one.” Stacey asks
Women. Sometimes they can be nagging but sometimes they build the lies you will use against them.
“Yeah something about the fuel pump.”
I slide next to her and plant a warm one on her cheek. My phone rings again, message. “You have five minutes.”
We’re not so far from her place. The mall I picked for my attire wasn’t far from hers; maybe I did it on purpose, maybe. I just hope there’s no traffic.
“Bye babe, I love you.” I say. I’m not sure if I really mean it though.
It was wine at least from what I can tell. She has a bottle of some Chardonnay and a bottle of Merlot sitting on the coffee table. Nothing romantic. There’s magazines strewn across the table, the television is showing some music show with a guy in blue jeans and no shirt and a network of tattoos singing to a girl in almost no clothes as they walk down the street – but it’s on mute.
“Did you have to sneak away?” she asks
“No, who does that?” I lie
“Says a man that slept with me, left and came back engaged.” She chuckled.
“We have our limits.” I retorted “Engaged one day after a one night stand is fair game but heck we won’t sneak away from our soon to be better halves we’re men not animals.”
“So white or red?”
“A whisky, neat, on the rocks please.”
“What do you think I am your wife?” She said. There was laughter dancing in her voice. “Go get it yourself, everything is where you left it…” her voice trailed off before she sighed.
When ladies sigh it’s one of two things they have something bad to tell you or something equally bad to ask you. Either way it’s never a good thing.
“Why are you here Charles? You went silent and now you’re here. What games are we playing?”
Standing at the kitchen counter pouring a good one I stared up at her back; she was facing the television.
“We have unfinished business…” I start “The kid, my daughter…”
“oh.” She said.
“What do you mean oh?”
What does she mean oh? Like that isn’t something to bring me back here. Something that made me ditch dinner with the fiancé.
“I just thought…” she let out a sigh “Never mind. About your daughter; there’s none.”
Maybe the neighbors heard the glass shatter as it hit the floor and the patter of the settling drops of the whisky as it wet it. Or maybe they heard my jaw drop when I looked up on the floor and found Ann there in her silky smooth skin staring back at me. Her words haunting my morals and shaking the vows I was yet to make.
“But maybe we can make one…”