August 25, 2016
Sunday was not sunny. Winter returned overnight and deposited half an inch of ice on the ground, on the trees and on the wires. Power lines snapped throughout the northeast leaving thousands of residents without heat or light. Brenda’s condo was somehow spared.
The winter gloom belied the time and when she awoke after a fitful night of tossing and turning it was already nine in the morning.
“God!” she yelled out, bolting upright.
She stared at Sean’s pillow and fell face first into it, breathing shallowly. Don’t leave me Sean, please, she pleaded.
Slowly she summoned herself out of bed, wrapped the robe around her body and walked to the bedroom window. She was surprised to see the ice, the stillness that greeted her from the outside. It was reminiscent of England in the nineteenth century. No cars, no busses, no trucks. Just ice, kids with sleds, parents with snow boots, a few folks with ice skates attempting to maneuver over the rough surfaces glazed with enough ice in which to skate, and a sense of calm and solitude. It was as though time stood still, even regressed to an era that ceased to exist.
The cell phone shattered her reverie; the ID startled her even more.
Jake! What’s he doing calling me? We haven’t spoken in years and I don’t want to talk to him now. He’s a bum. Worthless.
She let the phone go to voicemail.
A minute later a text came through.
Sorry to bother you Brenda but I got something important to tell you that involves your boyfriend. Call me. J
You asshole, she thought.
She threw the phone on the bed, walked down to the kitchen, brewed a pot of coffee and peered out the window, trying to restore the insincere serenity she felt before the call. The coffee was comforting and she sat in the living room, watching the surreal scene that continued to unfold outside.
“Okay, you win,” she said aloud, unable to recreate the ambiance she experienced before.
She stormed upstairs, retrieved the phone, ambled back to the kitchen and poured another cup of coffee, oscillating between the scene outside and the phone. Another pendulum.
She hit Jake’s number.
“Brenda, how you doing?” he answered unctuously. “It’s been awhile. I figured you couldn’t stay away from me for too much longer.”
His voice dripped with sarcasm.
“Fuck you Jake. Why you bothering me?”
“Fuck me Jake? Now what kind of greeting is that for the best sex you ever got?”
She was seething but forced herself to control her temper.
“Look, that was a long time ago. I told you it was over. I was at a low point and you, ah, you fit my needs for the moment. But that was then. It’s over. And you cost me my best friend.”
She shook her head.
“So why are you bothering me now? Haven’t you made my life miserable enough? And Landi’s?”
She could feel his slime through the phone.
“Now Brenda,” he said with fake empathy, “let me remind you that I didn’t force you to, ah, get down with me. I didn’t make you scream when I was fucking you. You wanted it and I just gave you what you needed. In fact,” he paused for effect, lowering his voice, “I think you used me. You violated me for your own pleasure.”
“You’re a piece of shit!” she screamed at him. “You’re a rotten, disgraceful, despicable, pernicious, profligate piece of excrement. I hate your guts!”
The silence lasted for a few moments.
“Now that’s the Brenda I know,” he responded sardonically. “The little princess bitch who don’t know when to shut her fucking mouth and try to be civil. You were always the hottest chick in the streets; everyone wanted to do you. But you were so cold, so frigid, so, ah, out of touch with the rest of us that no one would want to be with you. And you know what?”
He waited for her response but she said nothing.
“You’re still that little stuck up bitch that nobody wants. Except that I had you, and you were a nice piece of ass.”
She stared at the phone, shaking.
“So what is it that you have to tell me?” she asked with as much serenity she could summon.
Jake laughed raucously. A deep, guttural, obnoxious laugh intimating he had the upper hand. Which he did.
“I really liked being with you Brenda,” he said, moderating his hubris. “I had a really great time with you and was sorry, even hurt, that you called it off.”
Brenda was nonplussed, caught off guard.
“Well, I’m, ah. Being with you wasn’t so bad at the time. Sorry for yelling and cussing at you just now.”
“No problem. I didn’t expect anything less,” he said with a trace of sarcasm.
“You getting uppity with me again?”
“Just tell me why you called.”
He drew in a breath and exhaled loudly.
“I’ll get right to the chase. Landi was over your boyfriend’s place yesterday.”
“Jake, I don’t know what you’re trying to prove but you’re so out of touch with reality that it’s pathetic.”
“Right. Pathetic. Yesterday? He wasn’t even around yesterday. He was out of the area. So there’s no way she was over his place. Unless she was there to clean it. You know, like a cleaning service.”
“Yeah, a cleaning service. Like she was cleaning his dick?”
“You’re a scumbag! I told you he’s not around this weekend.”
“Well, my contacts, and you know I have good contacts, told me that Sean is still in his place in The Ridge. Never left it.”
“You’re a lying piece of shit. Why you saying this? He went to Massachusetts to see his daddy in the hospital. You think he would make up shit like that? Jeopardize his father’s life by putting a jinx on it? I think you’re out of your mind. You’re just all fucked up.”
He breathed deep again.
“Brenda, I know you don’t believe me but I’m telling the truth. The lily pad was with Landi yesterday, I even know when, from eleven until three, and although I don’t know for sure what happened in his apartment, what do you think they was doing for four hours? Playing checkers?”
Brenda hadn’t experienced vertigo before and was unprepared for its onset. She fell into the couch, staring blankly around the room.
The room began to resume its familiarity.
“What?” she asked weakly.
“Ah, yeah. Yes. I’m fine.”
“Hey, I said I was sorry I had to tell you.”
“Yeah, well don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. You didn’t have to say anything. Anyway, why did you feel obligated to tell me this? It ain’t none of your business and if you were a decent person you wouldn’t have said anything. Like I said before, you’re just a pathetic piece of shit and don’t ever call me or contact me again. Just leave me alone,” she said with finality, her voice filled with as much ice as was outside.
She ended the call and slunk back into the couch, covering her face with her hands, shaking her head back and forth.
“It’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true,” she spoke aloud.
But she knew it was.
And she knew what she had to do.