Monday, October 23, 2017

Chapter 60: Other people's opinions

Why did you paint you room that color?
Do you want people to laugh at you?
That's not what they're showing on television, don't you ever pay attention?
Now why did you say that? Someone will think you meant it.
You're too good for that place. Why do you insist on working there?
I don't have to tell anyone where you really work.

It's really only sleep that drowns out the memories of those disapproving voices. Growing up on guilt and living in a relationship built on one simply makes them louder. Don't forget shame.

You didn't really do that, did you?
No one has to know.
We'll pretend it never happened.

No wonder alcohol appeals and starvation tastes so good.

If you'd be nicer, maybe people would like you.
Be a little more patient. Lose the harsh tone.
How could you be so stupid?

Amazing how twenty-year-old wounds still know how to bleed. A first venture into writing, shared with her first boyfriend... and the Loving Mother exploded. How could you give that boy your story? Don't you know that all some girl who doesn't like you has to do is get her hands on it? She'll hand it out to everyone in school and then they'll all laugh at you! Go get it right now. He doesn't need to read it. I don't know why you're even dating him, for God's sake. Where's your pride?



When do wounds heal? I'm going to get a gun and shoot you. Even today, fifteen years later, it's not the customer's threat but the reaction of her supervisor.

When you lay on the couch and the shrink starts to ask questions, where does one begin?

Did it all start when she was barely ten and on that dusty path and the boy jumped her with intent to kiss her? Or did it start when she was screamed at by her mother for being in a secluded area and inviting it simply by being alone? She can still hear the boy's brother urging him on. Kiss her, Billy! Kiss her! She remembers, still, the way the brother was ringing the bell on her bike -- the one they'd pulled her off of. She remembers the scuffle and landing on the ground, the brown dirt and tall brown grass and a boy with dark brown hair trying to... to what? Steal a kiss? Or steal something more? He kept ringing the bell. Nonstop. Kiss her! While her mother actually looked for her, calling her name. Meredith! Where are you? Meredth!  MEREDITH! But all of meredith's effort was in trying to fight the boy off and nothing was left to call for help. Hurry up, Billy! Kiss her! Then, finally, Run! Her mother's coming! Leaving Meredth to sit up and dust herself off and run to Dakota for comfort.

How could you be so stupid?

Twenty-five years later she sat on the couch and stared out the window and thought about her mother's reaction while the shrink scribbled madly. Where does one begin?

"My mother was scared. She always yelled when she was scared."

A non-committal "umm-hmmm."

"What else do you want to know?" How about the day the customer threatened to shoot me? Do you want to know how he looked at me and promised to bring a gun in? Do you want to know about the way I changed my habits, just in case he meant it? Or would you prefer the story of how my boss managed to turn it all around and make me look like some hysterical female? That was only fifteen years ago. I tend to work in fives. Twenty years. Fifteen years. Ten years. It's time for my next crisis. What will keep me awake this decade? Maybe anorexia will suffice. That would be nice. I'm really not in the mood for anything more. Really.

"Tell me what you do when you're scared."

You're kidding me, right?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Chapter 59: Stopping the Bleeding

I feel the urge to write tonight, though I've nothing to really tell. Nothing to announce. Nothing to rant about. Does this mean I'm on an even keel this eve? I'm watching Saturday Night Live's 25th Anniversary episode on DVD.

What do I write about? Angst is tiresome.

Ahhh, a Dan Akryod skit: Julia Child cuts her finger and bleeds all over creation. "The first thing one must do is stop the bleeding," is the advice.

Stop the bleeding. There's a metaphor.

I've been trying to do that for years. I think I finally did that. Amazing. True, my approach was cliched and worn, but it worked. Granted, some might shake their heads at me and sigh over said approach, but it worked. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

You know what I did, don't you?

I tangled with Liam, of course.

Saving one's life does not necessarily mean running off and living happily ever after with someone else. Dirty socks and bad habits make "happily" impossible after awhile. Saving one's life very well might mean staying exactly where you are in life... and adding to it.

True, in my case, I didn't stay put. That's a technicality, thank you.

As you know, I decided that being a good girl was emotional suicide, and -- being one who abhors the idea of such a death -- I opted to let Liam perform a little, shall we say, "mouth-to-mouth." Who knew a kiss would be so powerful?

As a result, I became more selfish about life. More? Me? The woman who began an affair with a married man because she was suffocating from a lack of attention? Be more selfish? What next -- a fling with a priest?

Pardon the sarcasm. Another friend had started to speak about becoming a couple.  I am single, after all, as he often pointed out.   But when he speaks about an "us," he speaks in phrases that scream "him" and what I can do for him. How I can make him happy. How I can be the woman he needs. How I can please him. No, he wasn't propositioning me. He's really quite a gentleman, and it isn't about sex as much as the whole nines yards.  A Relationship.  A real one.

But I can't get past the undertones.  Why does it always seem like it's more about them then me? Not that I want some man -- any man -- falling all over creation trying to please me. But why can't I hear words of "let me... for you" from someone who means them? I don't want to be needed. I need to be wanted.

He's been gone some time now.  I'm single again.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Chapter 58: Musings

A post to never publish,  musings on him and what we might or might not have. I wrote that previous unposted post, you know, withthe assumption that it i could get it offf my chest.  Out of my head for once and for all.

Then again, I'm typign under the influence A glass of wine at my side. Well, my third. Actually I'm watching Something's Gotta Give and thinking too much. So I'm writing about Greyson or to Greyson or maybe just of him.  Or Greyson. Damned if I know. I don't know, really. But the movie is pretty good, anyyway. Some moments of passion that remind me of what I crave. It comes down to just wanting a man who notices me, who will look at me and sees only me.

I wonder if he exists. Or do all men just end up wanting to fuck, making conversation and foreplay figments of my memeory? Why is the treasure between the legs so much more then everythign else to men? Is the rest of me just as treasurable? Or do I mean pleasurable? I mena both, I think. Really, they treasure me and take pleasure in me... nd I reciprocate. I treasure and pleasure as well. I always reciprocate, evne if it's at a differnt pace.

My head feels light. I thin kI'm tipsy. No shock huh? Im all about moderation but not tonight.  Not after that dinner at Rorys..  I'll finish the fucking bottle if i have to. Time to let go and be me and see what happens. Too bad Im alone. Maybe good thing that I'm alone..

He wouldn't have much of a chance tonight with me. Of course he'd wake up with a load of guilt because the night before I would have had my way the night before. Once I told him that I wcould have him if I wanted him. I still believe it. I'm hellbent on believing that dreams the one where He kissed me and we were fine... and the one where I kissed and he was wracked with guilt. He can have me if he comes to me but I won't seduce him. Unless I'm drunk
L\ast night I drempt that he slipped his hand under my blouse We behaved because the bus driver might have witnessed and I was worried about that. stupid dreams.

I think that I'm goig to have troubel walking. I can't trype very well right now. Drink numer four. Bottle empty. Game over ? House is on now.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chapter 57: Not broken

"I am not broken, Rory!"

Damn it felt good to scream. If I had to listen to one more platitude about fate and karma, I was going to kill someone.

"I am not some toy that needs glued back together, you know that! I survived too much hell for that to be the fact! I am not your pet project, and I am not some shrink's case study on how much hell someone needs to live through before she's considered damaged goods!"

Rory was her usual self, of course. Unflappable. While I was ranting, she was listening and waiting her turn. "I never said that you were damaged. I simply said that you were finally getting your head on straight... or at least I thought you were until I picked you up off your floor. Frankly, after your life, I'm surprised that you aren't broken."

What does one say to that? Nothing, actually.

Rory toyed with her drink -- soda, she wouldn't drink alcohol in my presence after the accident -- waiting for me to say something else.

I didn't.

"You know, you can't lie to me. I've been there and done that, Mer. I know about insane boyfriends, if you recall. I also know about self-destructive behavior. I wrote the book on both." And she had.  It was a best-seller.

"So?"

"Don't play tough either. You loved and lost Bryce. You thought you loved Reed. Then you met Liam, but he turned on you.  Am I right so far?" I nodded, and she continued. "Seems to me like he is doing the same to you that Reed was: turning you into some mindless little ornament. Then you do a header into your nightstand and nearly bleed to death. I still don't believe it was your cat that you tripped over, by the way.  You have too many empty liquor bottles in your recycling bin, and I'd have to be blind not to notice the weight you've lost. You spent your life not wanting to be your mother, yet you're doing exactly what she did."

By now I was staring at the table, my face red.

"What are you looking for, exactly? It can't be the sex, not with so many toys out there that won't talk back or worry about their orgasm. Or are your batteries dead?"

"Has fucking Cade killed your brain cells, Roar?"

She didn't grace me with an answer.  Which was much classier than I was being.

"Leave my sex life out of this, Roar."

"Fine. Come to my house tomorrow. I'm having a few people over; you'll blend right in. No one needs to know a thing about you except that you're my friend. I have to go pick the baby up at my mother's now; otherwise she'll beat my ear over being late. But show up about noon. I'm putting munchies out at one. Dinner will be at five."

"Sure."

"One more thing, Meredith."

"Yeah?"

"You show up sober and with an appetite." With that, she left.

Sometimes I really hate having best friends who actually care. Then again, she's the first one, the only one, to remark on my vices.

Liam encouraged them, I remember now..

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chapter 56: Introducing Meredith

Everyone's little dream girl. A man's fantasy in the flesh. Fucking whore, actually. Oh, I know, self-loathing gets you nowhere. Gets you nothing except for drunk. And I'm not drunk. Rory's serving tea and water.

Dinner at her house was a pleasant little farce. A play in one act: Introducing Meredith. The story of a lonely woman who can't solve her personal problems yet is an excellent author. Writers are liars. We pen everything that the reader wants and nothing that we want.

Writers are nothing. We whore ourselves out to the public, tell them that we'll please them for the right dollar amount. Is it any different then my mother? At least her fucking around was honest and forthright. Mine's much more subtle. It requires a pen and a notepad, a smile and a dictionary. She laid on her back and moaned on cue. I sit at my desk and draft PR pieces meant to tickle your subconscious. You don't know when I'm manipulating you. Her clients did. They paid her to, you know.

By the end of the evening, Liam's Replacement wanted to know everything about me. I was, he said, interesting. I was, he declared, different from any woman he'd ever met. I was, he swore, refreshing.

Would I go out with him this weekend?

If I could have, I would have laughed in his face. Chalk one up for Dakota's bitter daughter, I thought. Interesting? Different? Refreshing?

What else is new? But I covered my sarcasm and smiled softly at his compliments, blushing when it was appropriate. A bit of cleavage and a push-up bra paired with a brain are rather deadly, aren't they? I'll confess to leaning forward now and then just to see his reaction.

I had trouble remembering his name. Still do. It doesn't matter. If he knew the real me, readers, he'd forget my name anyway. I'm not a nice girl.

Because I'm not that nice, he's taking me out to dinner and a movie this weekend.

If I was nice, you know, I wouldn't be angry or bitter. I'd have appreciated his interest and forgiven his kindness. I would have quit goading him with subtle bits of body language and would have worn something more appropriate. I would have behaved.

It wasn't until dinner was over and the guests were gone that Rory's grace was replaced with an anger that matched mine. I should have known better then the push her. She's fought worse in her life; I was nothing in comparison.

You can't hate a friend who wants for you what you know you need.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chapter 55: Fixing

"I've been thinking."

That never bode well. I gave Rory the eyeball. This was visit three in five days, and we were sitting at my kitchen table, the remnants of a pizza between us. And pop. No beer. Rory took it upon herself to clean out my liquor cabinet while I spent the night in the hospital.

"You need a man who doesn't need you. You need one who just wants you."

"This is tedious, Roar."

"Hear me out. I was talking to Cade about it last night, and we think that you are probably at the point where you aren't broken in the sense that you need someone to take care of you, but you are 'broken,' for lack of a better word, in choosing relationships. Look at my cousin, for example."

"Matt? The divorced one?"

"Right. He married that woman while he was on the rebound from psycho-chick. I know you remember her."

How could I forget? The woman was insane. She'd even gone so far as to get mad at Rory for having a picture of Matt with a previous girlfriend in my photo album. Rory was, she claimed, refusing to accept her as a part of Matt's life. Um, no. I just don't update my albums each time a cousin gets a new squeeze. After Matt moved out, thankfully they'd only been living together, she took a knife to the few belongings he'd forgotten. He got them back in a big FedEx box about a week later, butchered beyond recognition.

"Anyway, you know that Alexis snagged Matt before he knew which end was up."

"Right. Get to the point, Rory."

"Bitchy, aren't we? Look, you're stuck with me as your friend... so suck it up and deal with it because no one -- and I mean no one else -- knows you the way I do. I'm the one who gave you that hot little pink dress for your twenty-first birthday, and I'm the one who took you out that night for your first legal drink. You're just going to have to listen to me."

I had to laugh over the memory of the dress, and after that I was much more willing to listen to her. She had a point.

"Matt loved to be the knight in shining armor, and Alexis knew it. You want a knight in shining armor, but you're confusing everything up. You are miserable with men who try to control you -- look at how you were with Reed. You weren't much happier with Liam, but he was on the other end. You controlled him. This third guy, Greyson... I'm not even sure where he fits in."

"He doesn't," I said flatly.  "He's just a friend."

She didn't look like she believed me, but didn't argue. "You need someone who isn't a coworker and who doesn't have some sort of ego issue and has to put you down every time you have an independent thought. You need someone who won't put up with your bullshit and who won't rush to play the hero."

I had a feeling that she was about to make a suggestion and that it would involve dinner and a nice dress. "Who is he?"

She smiled. "One of Cayden's friends from college. He's a writer, too."

"I can't believe that I'm hearing this!  A man will not fix my life,"  

"I know that," she said calmly.  "And you should know me better than that.  You are lonely, Mer.  That's what I'm trying to, as you suggest, fix is your loneliness.  When it comes to your life, you're the only one who can fix that."

She had me there. "Fine," I said, deflated.

"Come over Friday at six."




Sunday, October 08, 2017

Chapter 54: Questionable Cheer

It was a basket of cheer. A prize in the office raffle. And Meredith had been the winner.

And she was alone.

Liam was dead. Rory was busy. Gone with the Wind was on and Rhett was about to leave Scarlett.

Meredith finished her third glass of wine as Rhett walked out and Scarlett remembered that tomorrow was another day.

The Shop Around the Corner came on next. She flipped stations. Pretty Woman. She left that on, but found herself hating Julia Roberts for finding someone to love her. She flipped stations again.

By the time An American in Paris came on at midnight, Meredith was sipping her way through the second bottle of Zinfandel.

When she thought she'd had enough, of both the implausible romance and the wine, she turned off the television and made her way to bed.

From her hospital bed the next afternoon, after the dreams had given way to daylight and Rory had finally left -- promising to pick her up tomorrow morning when she was released to go home -- Meredith let herself think about everything. For once, absolutely everything.

She'd tripped over Cleo, more than likely, who was chasing her little jingle ball around the bedroom. It had been a stupid accident, one which might have ended differently had she not had too much to drink.

Rory had found her the next morning when her phone calls went unanswered. Meredith had cracked her head on the nightstand but was too gone to do anything but lay there. The injury itself wasn't life-threatening, the doctor said, just enough to make a 24-hour stay in the hospital a good idea. And perhaps, he said outright, a counselor could stop in and talk to her about any issues she "might be having."

Might be having.

Meredith wanted to laugh. Oh, she had issues. No doubt about that. How about anorexic alcoholic? If she wasn't one, she was on the verge.

Might be having? How about not just "having" but experiencing to the fullest? How about welcoming and encouraging? How about knowing that destroying myself and that I can't do a thing to stop myself? How's that? Is that enough "might" for everyone?

Greyson called.
Her boss from work called.
She talked for a few minutes, enough to be polite, then pleaded pain and hung on up both.

She needed to think about her dreams.

She'd been on a train, riding in a plush passenger car with a number of strangers. In the dream, of course, she knew them, and there were some pleasant conversations. Then the locomotive burst into flame and the entire train plunged off of the bridge it was on and into the sea. Perhaps the ocean. Either one, it didn't matter. The point was that she was going to die.

When the train stopped, caught on a reef, Meredith took a deep breath and crawled out, frantically swimming to the surface before she ran out of air and drowned.

Somehow she made it and was rescued.

When a rescuer asked why she didn't try to save the others on the train, she looked at him. "I had to save myself first," she said simply.

I have to save myself. That's what it comes down to.




Friday, October 06, 2017

Chapter 53: Landing

I can't move... everything is pressing down on me... I want to be swallowed up to disappear to melt into the floor and through to the dirt and on and on down and further down... please.... I landed here aiming for my bed but missing and landing here beige carpeted floor... no... red?... read, past tense... sound the same... read me like an open book... read me learn me.... when did I buy a red carpet.... ? Maybe I'll move the floor is hard and the carpet raspy like his whiskers but not as nice. Red? Why am I here why did I miss the bed and land here? How long have I been... red... red means passion... passion all over the floor hot and sticky life blood.... nothing hurts anymore... someone's screaming...

Why are we so frightened of what is?

Why is someone still screaming... don't call me... let me be... don't be scared...

What is the good of running away if whatever we are is always there?

I'm not running anymore. I don't have to now.

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ,
Moves on...

Says Omar. It's destiny... serendipity... fate...

... nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

I can't undo me... I'm undone... done... nothing hurts anymore...

If I lay here, would you lie with me...

When you shake me it hurts.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Chapter 52: Personal Narratives

We all have our own narratives.  We all frame our stories a certain way.  Design them and casting ourselves as the stars.  The world revolves around us.  People worry about our opinions.  About our wants and needs.  That's what we tell ourselves, anyway.

There's nothing wrong with it.  Nothing abnormal.  It's all quite human, actually.  We need to create a schema that works for us, something into which we can assimilate everything that the world hurls at us and try to make sense of it.  Sometimes it works well.  Sometimes not so well.  

Liam's dead.

Five months ago, he realized that his narrative no longer worked for him so he took a running leap from the roof of his very expensive condo and landed on Liberty Avenue with a very unceremonious splat.  He ran out of ways to spin what he was doing.  It turned out that the documents from the Fox Project implicated him after all.  

The days after were a blur, as the stereotyped reaction goes, as I tried to understand the man that he was rather than the man I thought him to be.  

I'd let him kiss me.  Let him convince me that his greatest fear was that I'd be taken down by the files I had.  He didn't want me to turn them over to anyone.  He wanted me to hold onto them and do nothing.  "For now," he always said.  

In my narrative, he loved me and was trying to protect me.  In his, I was an afterthought.  

Our narratives can get away from us sometimes.  We can lose control over things that go unsaid and others can fill in the blanks, assigning us roles we have no intention of playing.

After Liam's suicide, I fell into another's narrative.   It's an interesting one, though I don't know where it's taking me quite yet.





















Monday, July 03, 2017

Chapter 51: Undone

He re-buttoned my shirt when we were finished. I don't even know how to explain the intimacy of such an act.

Any man can undress a woman. So long as he has the skill, he can seduce her right out of her clothes. She's left, then, when it's over, to re-dress and right herself. Re-do what was undone, all without his help. Prostitutes to wives cover themselves when the men are finished. Some might lie about first, indolent and sated, but even they draw a sheet up over their breasts... or so says Hollywood. We're taught to cover what the men uncovered, as if our nude bodies would offend once their purpose were past.

He re-buttoned my blouse. I didn't ask; such a thing never crossed my mind. Why would it? I've been covering myself since the first time, and no one else ever offered otherwise.

Of everything else that transpired, somehow that's was the most delicate of moments, the most intimate. Tender. Gentle. Soft.

Those are the intimacies I ought not enjoy. They're the ones that lead to thoughts of things I'm not even sure I have let alone want sometimes.

He buttoned my blouse. Somewhere an author mused over the word button and how it came to suggest undone and undoing, two words that are tied to closely to sex and lust. He was my undoing. He undid me. Took me apart then put me together. For all appearance's sake, re-assembled just the same. I went back to work and no one was the wiser. Though for as buttoned-up as I was, I felt undone for the rest of the day. Sitting in meetings, talking to clients... I was undone. Un-buttoned and offered to my lover just a few hours before, now wondering what they'd think if they knew that the office's ice princess -- yes, I knew about the nickname -- had spent the morning coming un-done, melting you might say, in broad daylight in the backseat of a car.

Un-button, undo, unleash. Release. Free. Open. Uncage and unchain. The scene from Their Eyes Were Watching God comes to me, where Janie lets her hair down -- undoes it -- when her husband passes.  When she re-does it, tying it under her bandana, she does so because she chooses to, not because he always commanded her. Un-doing on purpose; re-doing by choice. Throwing the shutters open and heralding the man's death, a trumpeting cry of freedom. Secret, though. No one would approve otherwise.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Chapter 50: Baubo

From a distance, it looked like they were just talking. No one could see -- from that distance -- that the lower buttons on her blouse were undone and his hand was inside, feeling the warmth of her belly where her fire lay.

According to legend, a woman's fire is in her belly, closer to her thighs then her mouth. When she speaks with her face's mouth, the fire has too much time to cool. When she speaks with her other mouth, the heat remains and speaks much more truly. The little belly goddess Baubo's mouth is between her legs; she represents sexuality, particularly pure sexual humor.

When he touched her, his own body's warmth filled his palm, increasing the heat she already felt. She found herself thinking about that heat within her and how he rekindled it just by being near her. She wondered if he know about Baubo.

Then it didn't matter. His hand inched downwards, touching her intimately, and thoughts of the belly goddess were pushed aside and replaced by a thankfulness that she'd worn the pale pink bra today. He'd told her once that he imagined her in one of his white button-down shirts with the pale pink bra underneath. Today was the closest she could come to meeting that fantasy. When she dressed that morning, she'd laughed at herself for even bothering -- for she was sure that he'd never see it.. A white shirt was impossible, the pink would have been too noticeable. She'd opted for a pale blue shirt and left the two top buttons undone, just for him.

But he took her for a drive, an innocent ride in the park, where they could hold hands and talk without much fear. The tension, though, was undeniable. It sat between them, she noticed, laughing at their frustration.

"Can we park somewhere?" She finally asked, wanting just to be able to talk without his having to focus on the road. She had no other intentions, having promised herself to respect his boundaries -- and help him keep them.

But then his hand crept to her belly, undid the button, and slipped in. And they talked, though she has no memory of about what. What she remembered most, when she laid in bed that night, was the look in his eyes, the absorbed fascination as he studied her hair, her face. She'd never seen that before in a man's eyes, not that she could recall, anyway.

She knew what was coming and, frankly, did nothing to stop him. How could she? She wanted it as much as he did. The kiss, their first kiss, nearly sent her over the edge then and there. The throaty little sounds that she tends to make were automatic and immediate. Usually they're delayed, waiting for the pitch of excitement to kick in, waiting until her body finally begins to respond. He murmured something about "so that's how you sound," but she was too immersed to fully hear him.

They were on an isolated road in the park in the middle of the morning in the dead of winter. If people passed by, she no longer knew. If you asked her about her sunglasses, she'd only be able to tell you how he took them off of her and tossed them into the backseat. If you wanted to know when he unbuckled her seatbelt, she'd look at you blankly, just knowing that it happened at some point. She can, however, detail the feel of his unshaven face and tell you about nipping at his earlobes. Her mind's eye can still see him unbuttoning the rest of her blouse's buttons and, because she actually considered the wisdom of this act, she can tell you how she asked if he felt guilty and then gently pushed him away when he said he did.

"I don't want you if you feel guilty," she said softly, aching because she knew they'd have to stop. It was true, too, as much as it would mean losing him.

He kissed her again, wrapping his fingers in her hair and tugging just so. It was a slightly possessive kiss, it seemed... as if he were claiming her.

Regretfully, she disentangled herself. "You have to make up your mind, darling." Who knew being reasonable and logical could be so awful? She hated herself right then, hated the idea of doing the right thing and not simply seeking instant gratification. Everyone else, it seemed, took and worried later. Not her. Never her.

"Okay," he finally said after a moment's hesitation. And his lips were on hers, this time indeed claiming her. She would be his at that moment, his kiss demanded it. She intended to ask him how he could make his mind up that quickly; she intended to hold onto a semblance of reason even as she allowed herself to drown in his arms. She had to keep some semblance, didn't she? That's what women did. They kept their heads on straight, they spoke from their lips and used their brains. While men could be irresponsible, women like her would be responsible and make sure that no one made a move that could be regretted. She would hold on to reason and let him enjoy. She would. That was her role, after all.

But then his fingers slipped to the waistband on her pants and she could only moan while the fire within surged, charring the words she meant to speak but didn't really believe or want to give voice to. Responsible intentions vanished, ashes in the wind. Instead she spoke with her body, opening herself to him. Those words took no form, but they were the ones he heard.

The little belly goddess, if she were watching, would have been pleased.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Chapter 49: Some Things You Can't Hide From

In what is apparently classic fashion for me, I left.

To hell with work, with Greyson, and with Liam, and with memories. To hell with love and lust and romance. I'm going to become that single lady on the street who lives with twelve cats and no men. Female cats, thank you!

Don't ask me why Liam ended up lumped in there, but Greyson's parting shot made it impossible to leave him out. Why isn't he fighting for you, Merrie? Why is he so accepting about everything? My God, he found a strange man in your house and didn't do a thing about it! What's going on in that head of yours that you have to get mixed up with someone like that? Why can't you pick someone who can handle you, who will let you be yourself? You're too alive to squander yourself on a man so far away and still so married.


Even then I managed to refrain from dumping anything on him beyond a killing scowl. Don't ask me why. I should have emptied my coffee mug on his head, then followed it with the Pepsi on his desk. Run all over him? All over Liam? Ha!

My supervisor accepted my excuse of a headache, said I looked rather pale, and that she hoped I'd feel better tomorrow.

Liam didn't have to question Greyson's presence, I told myself. Why would he have to question anything? He trusts me!

That's right, run away again, I told myself. Just like you ran from Reed, from Liam. This is different, though. I'm trying to get my life together. The last thing I need is some two-bit journalist... ! Who in the hell does he think he is? What right did he have to dig that deeply into my life?

And why did this article never materialize? If it had, Reed never would have... then again, those first few weeks after the accident were still a little hazy. Admittedly, I took full advantage of the pain pills they'd given me for my broken leg. It made dealing with everything easier. Reed had been the one to handle everything. He'd decided what to keep and what to sell, what to store and what to display. So little of me was kept and kept out, per Reed's direction, that when I moved out a few months ago it wasn't that difficult. Most of my life was still boxed when I told Reed that I was leaving. Even my brother had commented on it when we moved me out. What's with this, sis? It's not like you to leave everything packed up. It looks like you figured you weren't staying that long. Am I right?

No, Stephen, that's not true. I thought this would be permanent. It's just, well, Reed decided otherwise.

Ah, com'on, kiddo. This is your brother you're talking to. You grew up with Dakota. Mincing words and telling lies ain't your style. Though God only knows why you're letting something as silly as a cyber-fling drive you out of this life. What are you thinking anyway?

Just finish loading the truck, will you? I know what I'm doing. I'm not our mother, and I won't put up with being that man's occasional amusement.

It's not like he's having an affair. He's still sleeping with you. Not her.

I forced myself to stop thinking. Perhaps, in hindsight, I hadn't unpacked because I knew something was wrong. Liam once suggested that Reed was threatened by my strength and thus had to try to run my life, which I scoffed at. It wasn't like Reed was some abusive, controlling man. Weak and insecure and  jerk, yes. He was also incredibly passive. Trying to control me and my life would have taken too much effort on his part. No matter what I didn't know about life, I did know what he wasn't.

I pulled into my driveway, turned off the car, and retreated into my house, to my kitchen for something -- anything -- to chew on while I mulled over the man (men?) in my life.

One of these days I need to go shopping. In moods like this, I need something crunchy... and the only thing I had was a box of croutons. At least I had my supply of Pepsi.

So what happened to the article? No one ever mentioned it to me, showed it to me. Not even Aunt Geenie, who would have delighted in tormenting me with it. She would've sent the magazine to me immediately -- along with a note about how much I was living up to the McKenize name. She would've sent something to Stephen, too. Come to think of it, Stephen's miserable wife would've made it a point to share it with me as well. So what happened to the article?

Time to do with I've always avoided, I guess. A moment later, I had my laptop up and running and was googling London's name. Nothing -- most of the hits dealt with the city. Jamie + Addams + Meredith + Hagan. I'd try both of our names.

Bingo. Hidden in the on-line archives of American Faces magazine.

...Jamie Addams, Lafayette County's rising son, was killed... in his car was co-worker Meredith Hagan... the single-car accident on River Run Road shattered her right leg...

I skimmed it quickly, but found nothing whatsoever about my life. Hell, aside from the mention of my being in the car and my broken leg, there was nothing of note. Even if someone I knew had seen it, it wouldn't have been worth mentioning.

So what was he doing researching my life?

Dammit. I was going to have to talk to him again, wasn't I?

My head was absolutely pounding. I didn't want to talk to him again. I didn't want to talk to someone who had a way of making me question everything I thought I was so sure of.

I picked up the phone. "It's me. We need to talk."

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Chapter 48: Friday Morning Recap

"You had me fooled, Mer."

She rolled her eyes. Bad enough Liam was gone again. Bad enough Beth thought her a slut.  Now Greyson was going to insist on talking to her about the weekend. "My private life is private, remember?"

He ignored her tone and went on as if she hadn't snapped at but invited instead.

"You're better than that, you know. Why are you wasting your time with a guy who leaves you alone on holidays?"
"Drop it," she said, her teeth clenched.
"You spent Thanksgiving with me, don't forget. You cried on my shoulders, not his. I held you, he didn't."
"Don't!" She wanted to cover her ears like a little girl might. If she didn't hear him, she wouldn't have to think about what he was saying.
"Don't? Don't what? Tell you the truth?"
She slammed her pen down. "Truth? You think I don't know the truth?" It took all her control not to scream at him, though she wished she could! How good it would feel! She hadn't screamed, hadn't let much emotion out at all in fact, since she'd left Reed.
"Oh, no," he said softly. "You know it, Merrie dear, you just choose to ignore it." If he'd snapped back, if he'd yelled, if he'd called her names, she could have handled herself. She could have fought back, lied if she had to. But this, this low drawl that hit her square... she turned in her chair, faced her back to him, and stared at the wall.
"Leave me alone. You don't know a fraction of the story. You have no right, Greyson." Somehow she didn't let her voice crack.
"I know that your old co-worker blew into town at six in the morning and came straight to your house."
"You're assuming too much."
"He had his own key. Who wouldn't assume? By the way, did he tell you what he did when he found me on your couch, Mer? No? Nothing.  He did nothing except tell me that I could leave."
"You're exaggerating," she said to the wall.
"I'll tell you something, I grew up fighting just like you. I don't let anyone lay a hand on me without my laying one back and winning." When he saw her shoulders fall, he faltered for a moment. What was he doing? What did he hope to win here, anyway? But something made him keep going. "He never did a thing, Mer. He questioned me. If that had been me, the last thing I'd be doing is asking questions. He'd have been a foot off the ground and against the wall before anything else."
"I would think," she choked, making him again wonder at why he was doing this to her. "I would think that you'd be grateful that he didn't attack first."
In Greyson's eyes, Liam tossing him out on his ass it would have been acceptable. Expected. Hell, even admirable. When it came to a woman, Greyson believed that once he had laid claim to her, she was -- despite its medieval implication -- his and his alone. Any man who dared come too close was the enemy.
He wasn't a fool though; despite Liam's calm facade, Greyson sensed that the man could do him harm. Meredith was right about that, though to tell her would cause him to tip his hand too far.
It was why Liam hadn't even attempted to stake his claim on her that bothered Greyson.  He just assumed that he would be next.  He wasn't there because he loved her.  He was there because he didn't.

"I know about him."
Meredith didn't turn around. She didn't move.

"I know about the car accident. Two years ago this past week, I believe."

If she moved, Meredith knew, she'd start screaming. Her fingers dug into the arms of her chair, and Greyson watched her knuckles whiten.