12.22.2011The worst of it
“Five more minutes,” Jill said. “I’ll go home with you then.”
“You don’t have to. Stay here with your friends.” I stood slanted against the wall, my resolve crumbling and my nerves testy. Jill and I had only been shagging for a week, she wasn’t responsible for my well-being.
“I shouldn’t have brought you here. You’re in no emotional state to weather Sophie’s wrath.” She placed her hands on my hips. “I’m sorry.” She inched her face a little closer, her lips almost grazing mine.
“It’s not that.” I tilted my head away from her. “I don’t care about Sophie.” I wanted to bolt out of there, run to Lou’s house and pretend Claire Burns didn’t exist. I was so sick of missing her, of being without her and her piercing laugh and the bold green stare of her eyes.
“Neither do I,” Jill said and flashed me a very promising smile. “Come on, I’ll take you home now.”
From the corner of my eye I spotted Lucy glancing in our direction. She was one of the main reasons I wanted to go. Jill put her hand on my neck and squeezed it gently. I looked at her and noticed the tenderness of her features, the kindness of her personality, the quiet, calm charm with which she had given me a way out that week. I knew her expectations would rise soon and the hunger for something more would manifest itself, a hunger I couldn’t possibly share. I knew I had to retreat soon, before it started hurting, but I didn’t have the power. I didn’t want to be alone and face my broken heart in loneliness.
“Just get me another glass of overpriced wine,” I said. “With the right amount of alcohol, I can handle a bunch of pre-menopausal lesbians.”
“You’re a star,” she said and kissed me below the ear. “Just the one though, then I want you to myself.”
I went to sit at the other end of the table of Lucy and Joan and answered some cougar’s generic questions. Jill didn’t leave my side, her hand always touching me somewhere. I felt Lucy’s eyes burn on me. Was she really biding her time? Did she have a plan? One more wine turned into four and as soon as I felt the buzz annihilate my inhibitions I freed myself from Jill’s touch and pulled Lucy aside.
“Do you love Joan?” I asked.
“What kind of question is that?”
“A very straightforward one.”
“What’s it to you?”
“Just yes or no will do, Lucy.”
“Of course I do,” she said, her eye-brows shooting up, lending her face a vulnerable, shocked air. “She’s great.” I was half-drunk but I could still read between the lines. I knew Lucy so well by then, I could decipher every inflection of her voice, every hand movement, every flicker in her eye. It was a stupid question anyway.
“We should talk one of these days, boss. Because I don’t see any of this ending well.”
“Just leave it, Lee. I’m a big girl and I know what I’m doing.”
The hell you do, I thought. Lucy was a walking romantic disaster and she was the only one who didn’t see it. I could only guess why Joan put up with her. Maybe that was love.
How horrible it must be for Joan to look at Lucy when I was around. How painful for Lucy when I brought Lou round to Eleanor’s when she was there. And how awkward for Jill that I kept banging on about Lou. Such a mess. Such unhappiness, I thought. And that wasn’t even the worst of it.
To be continued…