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.