One week later, back in Seattle…
“You must be Bill,” said a petite brunette with a prominent jaw donning chef’s whites. She sat across from him, sliding in the beige cushioned booth in Lilith’s upscale restaurant in downtown Seattle.
Bill covered his mouth with the white square cloth to spit a small chewed-up chunk of meat. He threw the cloth on top of his plate before he reached for his third glass of Shiraz to wash the scurvy taste in his tongue before he looked up to address the newcomer.
“Nora, I presume?” He would have used her full name as a proper gentleman should but he was irked at the breezy way she had spoken to him.
The brunette nodded. “How’s your steak?” she said in a thick British accent, eyeing his plate.
His lips thinned. “Dry. I asked for rare and they gave me medium well.”
She leered as she sank into her seat. “You are quite the charmer, aren’t you? It’s a bloody mystery why your wife’s cheating on you.”
His jaw tightened. Eric really had a type: Pompous, sarcastic bitches.
“Why am I here?” he decided to cut this meeting short.
She reached into her chef jacket’s pocket. A shrill cling of the gold wedding ring against the patterned china grated his eardrum.
“I didn’t realize ‘forevermore’ only lasts a month in Bill time,” she ridiculed, emphasizing the engraving inside the wedding band he gave to Sookie when they tied the knot in Vermont.
When he had questioned the whore where her missing ring was, she told him she had lost it while doing laundry. He knew it was an utter lie but he didn’t have the energy to call out her bull.
“I found it in Eric’s pants when I was looking for him in his apartment,” she offered without him asking.
He should have known.
“Does anyone else know you have this? Except for Lilith, of course.” It was Lilith who set up his meeting with Nora after all.
She scoffed, leaning toward him, her arms folded on the tabletop. “Why?” she cooed. “Are you afraid the missus will find out?”
“You’re one to talk,” he snapped with a derisive snort. “Tell me, Nora, does Eric know you have this?”
Her smile twisted into a scowl. “You know none of this would have happened had you kept a tight leash on your wife.”
“The same could be said about you,” he volleyed back. He slid off the booth and scooped his wallet out. He took a couple of crisp bills and dumped them on the table. “I’ll take care of it. This conversation never happened.”
Bill had spent most his life living in the shadows. Not by choice. He craved recognition and the fame that came with it. That was probably one of the reasons he became a reporter. If he couldn’t be the person people write about then he should be the person writing about people. It gave him power and authority. He could spin lies and tell truths and no one would be able to tell the difference.
Tonight, however, he opted to be a shadow as he chose the darkest corner in the bar. He fiddled with the ring Nora gave him earlier, rolling it across the high cocktail table, flicking it with his thumb and whacking it with his palm before it could roll off the table.
“Care if I join you?” a deep husky voice came up from behind him. He didn’t turn around to glance at the source of the sound. He just pocketed the ring, grabbed his first scotch of the night and took a small sip.
The blonde with deep brown eyes and full red lips sidled next to him. Without looking at her, he fished for the hotel card key from the pocket of his gray corduroy jacket and skated it near her glass of dirty martini.
“Nineteen twenty-four,” was all he said before he slipped off his stool and darted for the exit.
He went to the lobby, using that time to place a call to his P.I. to check on the whore. His slut of a wife had been very nice and proper ever since his parents died. Guilt, it seemed, was a potent elixir to resuscitate a dying marriage.
There was nothing notable in the investigator’s report. Sookie went to a job interview then visited her sister in First Hill. She dropped by a liquor shop to buy bottles of wine. Bill instantly felt optimistic after hearing about her purchase but his hope for a blue-moon-fuck was quashed when the PI added quickly that the wines weren’t for her but for their neighbors. Apparently the whore decided to give away gifts to win over the families next-door.
That seemed about right. Whores were always trying to please people.
He kept the call short. He glanced at his watch and exactly fifteen minutes after he walked out of the hotel bar, he went up to the room he booked and rang the bell three times. The door flew open not a minute longer.
“Hey handsome,” the blonde purred, a glass of whiskey in her hand.
He took the heavy glass from her as he stepped in. “You know the drill,” he grumbled.
Unlike his adulterous wife, he knew how to cover his tracks. He watched his mistress wipe the lipstick off her full mouth with a moist towelette before she secured her long blonde wig with bobby pins. He even had her wear the same brand of perfume as Sookie’s to avoid detection on his clothes. Spin lies, tell truths. No one would be able to tell the difference.
“When did you fly in?” he asked the woman who was slowly stripping in front of him.
“Two nights ago. I love the loft you got me. It has the most spectacular view of the needle. We should meet there next time.”
He didn’t say another word as the woman he had been seeing for more than a year now went down on her knees and started pleasuring him the way his whore back home refused to.
Five was the lucky number.
Five hours and a fifth of whiskey later, he came home tipsy and still extremely annoyed.
It was a little past two in the morning and only the light on the front porch was turned on when he pulled into the garage.
He saw a light flicker from the house across the street and noticed their neighbor’s drapes being pulled halfway. He could only see a blurry silhouette and knew that the lowlife was spying on him. He would have flipped off the meddlesome deadbeat but he was too busy loathing his wife to be mad at someone else.
He pushed the button to shut the garage door behind him before he stumbled inside through the kitchen door. Toeing his leather shoes off at the foot of the stairs, he careened to their bedroom to find his slut.
“Honey, I’m home!” he slurred.
He found her sleeping, lying on her side right at the very edge of their king size bed. She always slept like that. Her back to him as though waking up to the sight of him would make her wretch.
He kneeled beside her and flicked the night lamp to see her better.
Ah, such an innocent angel.
He twirled a lock of her hair around his index and middle fingers, brought it to his nose and took a long drag. Her hair smelled of green apple, or was it lilac? Maybe it was the smell of children’s tears. He heard she-devils love to bathe in tears.
Her lips parted to let out a whimper. He almost smiled. It would have been so easy if she had just learned to love him. They would have been so perfect.
Why the hell did she have to love another man?
He let go of her hair and brushed her forehead with the tip of his fingers. She let out another moan. Only this time the moan carried a name that made him want to crawl out of his own skin.
Was she dreaming of fucking him?
Was she thinking it was the bastard’s hands stroking her face?
His teeth gnashed as his eyes landed on the pillow beside her. His hand itched to grab the pillow and smother her with it. Silence her forever. End his misery.
He pinched his eyes shut, shaking off the homicidal thought. He wouldn’t give her the luxury of a quick death, he reminded himself.
With a heavy breath, he dipped his head to kiss her cheek. She flinched, startled at the contact. She blinked rapidly, clearing her vision.
“Bill!” she bolted upright, tugging the blanket to cover herself.
“I’m sorry,” he drawled. “I didn’t mean to wake you, sweetheart.”
Her throat bobbed as she swallowed thickly. “What time is it?”
“Two? I think?” He made an exaggerated effort to check the clock radio beside the night lamp. “The boys in the office dragged me to have a few drinks. Rite of passage, I guess.”
She was still tensed as she continued to eye him. “Again?”
He wouldn’t even dignify that with a response. She had no right to be judgmental.
“Go to sleep then. We have to wake up early for Hunter’s christening.”
Bill repressed the urge to roll his eyes. Hunter, what a tacky name to give a child. He expected something classier from Pamela given that she was a class-A snob.
His lips broke into a toothy grin instead. “Well, now that you’re up maybe we can…” He looked at her through heavy lidded eyes, knowing well enough that the whore would catch his drift.
“It’s late Bill.” She caught it alright.
Excuses, fucking, excuses. He wondered if she kept a list of alibis somewhere because she never seemed to run out of them. Bill couldn’t remember the last time they had slept together. It was probably in Vermont, when they consummated their marriage that first night. It was a conscious effort to recall it because frankly it was forgettable to say the least. A corpse would have been warmer than the frigid bitch.
“Would you like a drink first? I think I saw a bottle of vodka downstairs,” he retorted acidly.
“Stop it!” she snapped with a glare.
He clenched his jaw as he straightened up so he could look down on her. For once he wanted to be the one with the upper hand.
“Am I really that revolting, Sookie? That you have to be out of your fucking mind to have sex with me?”
“Bill!” she spat, crossing her arms defensively.
“So you do know my name,” he sneered, the high level of alcohol in his blood made his tongue loose. “It’s not so hard to remember, isn’t it? Bill. One syllable. One fucking syllable. Is that so hard to remember?”
“Yes, sweetheart, like that,” he prodded. “Bill, please. Bill. Bill. Bill! Not Eric!”
The tick on her jaw made him realize he might have overplayed his card.
“You’re drunk,” she said tersely, springing off the bed while pushing past him. She grabbed her pillow and hugged it. “I’ll sleep on the couch. You can have the bed.”
He winced when the door slammed behind her. He could hear her footsteps as she pounded down the stairs.
Muttering profanities under his breath, he hurled his pillow at the door then fell face flat on the bed as he waited for sleep to give him reprieve from his personal hell.
There were better ways to wake up from a fitful sleep. This was not one of them.
His hand desperately reached for the pillow beside him to cover his face as the glare of the morning sun hit his eyes.
“Pull back the curtains!” he ordered gruffly when he heard her heels click against the hardwood floor.
“It’s almost nine. There’s aspirin and Gatorade beside you. Take them and hop in the shower. I’ll lay your clothes on the bed,” came her clinical voice.
He sat up, leaning his head against the headboard, using his hand as blinders as he tried to follow her movements. Her hair was in a loose braid swept to the side. She was wearing a virginal white dress topped with a light yellow cardigan. She looked every bit like a sweet Stepford wife. Too bad she was tramp.
“C’mon, Bill,” she whined, checking her vintage silver watch – the only piece of jewellery she insisted on wearing—which was a gift from her grandmother. “We still have to pick up the cake and drop it off at Pam’s before we go to the chapel.”
She was rummaging the closet for his clothes, acting as though they hadn’t had a fight last night. That had always been the norm with her. Eric was their Pandora’s box. Once in a while he would open it and she would fight him to keep it shut. Like her own little vault that no one else was supposed to see, touch or, heaven forbid, unlock. They would argue. More precisely, he would rant and explode and she would shut down and wait for him to finish. He would leave and she would let him. She was too proud to chase after him. He would crawl back to her and they would sweep everything under the rug. Pretending it never happened was the key to maintaining their relationship.
In short, it was just another day in paradise.
Not today though. Not this time.
“Call Pam. Tell her we can’t make it.”
She stilled for a moment before she whirled to face him. “I’m not gonna do that.”
“I’m still mourning, Sookie. I’m sure even someone as callous as your sister can understand if I’m not too keen on welcoming her bastard into the Christian world.”
He saw her hands fisted on the side. “Funny, you don’t seem to remember you’re supposed to be grieving while you were out drinking with your buddies for the past week since we got here.”
He sneered sarcastically. “This is rich. I’m getting judged by the resident wino.”
Her stare tightened along with her jaw. “I’m not a drunk. Unlike you, I haven’t had a drink in weeks.”
“So that explains the drought in our bedroom.”
“Is that why you’re snippy?” It was her turn to use sarcasm. “Because I’m not lettin’ you have some?”
“Among others, yes.”
“I’m your wife, Bill. I’m not your whore. And we’re not going to have this conversation now. I’m going to Hunter’s christening. With or without you.” She spun on her heel and dashed to the door.
Bill shot out of bed fast enough to catch her by her shoulder. He forced her to turn to him before she could reach for the knob. “You’re not leaving.”
“Watch me.” She tried to shrug out of his grasp but that only made his grip tighten.
“Are you that desperate to see him?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Leave Eric out of this.”
He snorted derisively as he reached inside his pants. He hadn’t had a chance to change before he fell asleep.
“Look what I found.” He held up the ring to her face. She had a good poker face but the slight tensing of her shoulder belied her expression.
He waited for the denial that he was certain would come. The lies and the excuses that never seemed to end.
She jutted her chin and looked him straight in the eyes. “Where did you find it?”
He recoiled, caught off guard by her blunt admission.
“Do you want me to lie, dear, and tell you I found it in the Laundromat where you claimed to have lost it? Or do you want the truth and tell you Nora found it in her boyfriend’s pants?”
She twitched at the deliberate stab. “I didn’t realize you and Nora were friends,” she deflected.
“We share common interests,” he drawled. “Tell me, darling, how did it get into Eric’s pocket? Did it come off while you were taking off his pants right before you fucked him?”
“I didn’t sleep with him,” she gritted as she tried to roll her shoulder off his grip.
He dug his nails deeper, feeling the sheer fabric of her cardigan yielding to his fingers.
“But you wanted to, didn’t you?” he snarled, his face inches from hers. She turned her head away. Must be from the stench of sour breath mixed with stale scotch. He moved closer, determined to torture her.
“Didn’t you?!” he screamed again.
To her credit she didn’t flinch nor blink. Not a tear in her emotionless eyes. Her throat bobbed as she swallowed thickly before she whispered, “Yes”.
The impact of her response must have been too much as he sagged before he backpedalled toward the bed and slumped at the edge of the mattress. He gripped the back of his head with both hands as he stooped down.
“You know what a husband’s worst fear is?” he hushed. “It’s not finding his wife in bed with another man. It’s lying in bed with his wife knowing she’s thinking of another man.”
Spin lies, tell truths. No one would be able to tell the difference.