This is fiction.
We sit outside at the cafe. I’ve got a cigarette in my shaking hand. With his mouth full of food he says, “I promise I’m not trying to get in your pants.”
I inhale deeply on my cigarette, the familiar buzzing begins in my brain.
A few yards away I see a girl with a purple scarf around her neck, her hair in a loose bun. I bet she’s never had this kind of conversation. I bet if I talked more to people like her I’d never have gotten into this mess.
I blow the smoke out, stalling. He continues to eat greedily. I push cake crumbs around my plate.
“Will you help me?” he asks, still chewing, his eyes glued to the food he’s scooping from his plate.
I need to help him, I need the money. But he can’t afford it. I tell him so.
“Can’t we work something out?” he teases as I feel his hand on my leg underneath the table.
“You still owe me from the job in Queens,” I remind him, shifting my leg out of his reach.
“Actually, here’s half of that,” he says, scooting a small satchel across the floor towards me. I wasn’t expecting this. Hell, I was hoping he wouldn’t have the fucking money and that would be the end of it, my out. Next thing I know I’m tucking the bag into my lap.
“I’ll get you the rest next week,” he adds, tossing some crumpled bills onto the table. “My guy’ll call you with the details tonight.” He swipes a paper napkin across his mouth. And then he’s gone.
I grab all my stuff and head out, the drizzle dampening my dirty hair.
Time to get the kids from school. They ask me what smells funny. I say it must be coming from outside, someone smoking, ewwwwwww. We go through the motions: homework, snacks, fighting, making messes, my yelling at them to clean up. I force them into the shower and I escape to fold laundry.
A half-torn receipt is in the barrel of the dryer. It’s from two nights ago, Ruth’s Chris. What the fuck, we haven’t been there in years even though it’s minutes from our house. And it’s then that I remember two nights ago Matt was in Portland. For a deposition.
“Can’t send one of the associates,” he’d said when I balked at the last minute notice.
“Can’t trust any of ’em not to fuck it up. So guess who has to handle it?” He’d acted all pissed off while he packed hurriedly and then I felt sorry for him.
Down the hall the shower’s still running and the kids are shrieking. I grab my pack of cigarettes from the kitchen and light up right there. I don’t sneak out to the back porch. I don’t use my secret ashtray, just an old drinking glass. Slowly I walk over to the wet bar and grab the bottle of Absolut. After an extra long swig, my throat and stomach burn. My body revolts almost instantly, sending it right back up. The puke stares back at me from the sink. I laugh and leave it there.
I light another cigarette. And another. And another.
One of the boys comes down and walks in, clamps his hand over his face and I hear a muffled, “What is that sm….” and breaks off when he sees me sitting in the cloud.
“Mom, what are you doing?”
I cannot speak.
“Mom, what’s wrong? I didn’t know you smoked,” Ben says.
“I don’t. Please go to your room and play,” I say. He stares at me without moving. He’s dripping water all over the floor.
“GO!” I bellow, pointing. I watch the wet footprints he leaves.
I thought I was the only one with a secret life. Apparently Matt’s got his own gig going on.
Can our marriage survive TWO secrets?