Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chapter 45: Guessing Games

Hangovers are hard to come by for me, so when I woke Friday morning, the headache took me by surprise. Excluding the dry tongue-stuck-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth sensation, to be honest, I'd never really had a hangover. What had I been thinking last night to drink so much?

The pillow next to me was obviously unused, answering my question as to whether of not I'd let more then my guard down last night. I was still in my clothes. Damn, I must have been gone -- I hate sleeping in jeans.

What is it about certain memories, anyway? This one, at this time of year, really did make me want to drown myself in a bottle of whatever happens to be handy.

Always keep them guessing, my mother's words came back to me abruptly.

Keep who guessing? I wondered with more then a hint of sarcasm. Right now I have no memory of how I made it to bed, when I made it to bed, and what happened to Greyson.

I closed my eyes. Why did the sun have to be so damn bright? What had I been thinking to have windows in here, anyway? Right now, a dark cave and a pair of sunglasses sounded ideal. Actually, going back to sleep for the next few days was pretty appealing as well. I didn't have to be at work until Monday, after all. Seventy-two hours until I had to move.

Then I heard it: the sound of someone moving around in my kitchen.

The smell of bacon hit me, making the room spin. I'm going to kill him. What is he thinking to cook food when I feel like this?

Years of training kicked in after a moment. While I scoffed at my mother's lifestyle, there were a few habits that I picked up... one of which propelled me to the shower. A woman did not show herself to a man unless she looked her best, and to hell with how she was feeling. A simple hangover would not be an excuse to wander downstairs looking like I had one.

In the fog after a shower, though, mirrors can indeed lie and distort. It's the heat of the moment. In that after-shower fog, I'm perfect. Svelte. Seductive. Flawless.

I barely glance, though, for now my head is clearing, and I know that I should get downstairs before much more time passes.

Fresh jeans and a sweatshirt, nothing fancy. God only knows what I said last night, and casual cotton somehow seems the safest route.

What does a woman say to a man who apparently spent the night? Particularly when she hasn't a very clear memory of much beyond crying on his shoulder? With Liam, it would be easy. He would understand without asking much; he'd let me keep my secrets. He was rather non-curious, you know. Or maybe he just never wanted to ask. Not that I have room to speak about that. I'm equally guilty of asking little.

When the time's right, I know, we share our secrets with those we care for, we have the necessary conversations and create the verbal intimacies that separate sordid affairs from solid relationships. But what are words, anyway?   We exchange millions of them over a lifetime, some right, many wrong. All with some purpose.  What did we exchange last night?

What words do I use next?

Clear mirrors never lie, but Lord knows we do. It looks like he tried to stop. Those words were lies. Well, true enough in the sense of skid marks and failed breaks, but even as I heard those words my unbelieving brain refused to accept them. He never stops, why would he try now? Stopping is too much an end to something, he said. He prefers to pause. That's what happened. It looks like he tried to pause. Stopping means he's finished. We can't stop now. He can't stop now. We have too much to do...

Now it's time to look in the mirror, to check for make-up smudges and lipstick on my teeth. To adjust collars or add earrings, both of which I do. One last look, one last stall, and it's time.

"Wish me luck," I say to my reflection.

She just stares back.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Chapter 44: Company

Happy Thanksgiving. I suppose that I could go on about what there is to be thankful for -- my health, my job...

Loved ones? What loved ones? What am I to do, call Aunt Geenie and ask to be taken back into the fold? Me! The daughter of that McKenzie whore! Carrier of the Hagan family DNA by default! If only good old H.J. hadn't hooked up with that no-good Dakota McKenzie woman! Ask to be re-instated to that family nightmare? How laughable.

Pardon the sarcasm, readers. But an empty kitchen table stings even now.

My sole guest was going to be Jack, but Mr. Daniels was half-empty and there's no point in drinking to half of a hangover. Jim was my second choice, but I've never been one to stock Mr. Beam. And I couldn't even seek some comfort from the south. The lesson to be learned here, of course, is that there's no danger in my becoming an alcoholic.

So, despite my best intentions, it was a sober Meredith that Greyson found on the other end of the line. "Hey, Merrie, I've been thinking," he said by way of introduction. I didn't mind his forgetting a hollow holiday wish, to be honest. "We're both sitting home alone, and that's really rather stupid of us both. I'm calling to ask you out for the evening. For company, nothing else. Why sit there all alone when we can do that any other evening? It's Thanksgiving, kiddo. Let's celebrate with a pizza and beer somewhere." There are times I appreciate his lack of tact. At least he didn't pretend not to know that I was in a house as empty as his.  Nor did he pretend that romance was part of the equation.

We're sorry ma'am, it looks like he tried to stop.

"Give me a half hour. I'll meet you at Cavatalino's Pizza," I said before I could talk myself out of it.

I didn't think about Liam as I fluffed my short hair and touched up my lipstick. What was there to think about? It was over.

Hours later, Greyson helped me stumble up to my door. I hadn't meant to have quite as much as I did, but I kept thinking too much.

We're sorry ma'am...

Punch lines.

Here was another one. What a joke I was. Meredith Beth Hagan, the girl with a harsh first name and soft second. Rough and gentle. Two sides to me like any good Gemini. Hard with the world, the ice princess. Soft with Liam, silky and buttery and hot. Cold and hot, mercurial.  Greyson sometimes calls me Merrie, a softening of the hard noises that make up my name. How tired I was of being two people. How suddenly tired I was of being independent.

"Do you need any more help, babe?" He asked as my door swung open.

It looks like he tried to stop.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Chapter 43: Punch lines

How tempting to celebrate Thanksgiving with a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Celebrate. Meredith gave an unladylike snort of contempt each time the word crossed her mind. What was there to celebrate? 

And there she was, staring at her kitchen walls and wondering what the fuck had happened to her fairy tale life.

"Don't go out tonight, Jamie, let's just stay in."
"Mer, love, I'll be right back. I just need to drop these papers off for tomorrow. You'll have me all to yourself this week, I promise. Once I get home, I'm turning my cell phone off until next Monday."
"Okay," but she was disappointed. His kiss, however, made up for it.
"Once I get back, little one, you'd better be ready. I'm going to make love to you until you beg me to stop."
"I could never do that," she laughed. "You'll be begging me to let you stop."
"We'll have to make it a point to find out then."
The joke, of course, was that they'd yet to make love.

The punchline was exactly that. Was it really today? Of all the years for that date and Thanksgiving to coincide. Fuck. Every time she remembered it she felt as if someone punched her. Punchline. Punch me, pinch me, tell me it's just a line.

We're sorry, ma'am. It looks like he tried to stop.

Black tire skids, two black lines. Punch lines.