What the hell?
“What do you mean he wants to have a baby?”
“Just that. He wants to start trying.”
She said it so matter-of-factly, so calm. There I was, wanting to throw up the egg rolls I’d eaten for lunch, and she was talking about babies like it was a trip to the market.
“You’re not going to do it, are you?” I asked.
“Well, why not?” she said. “It’s probably time.”
“A baby will ruin your life,” I blurted. “He thinks it’s so easy. It’s not. It’ll put more pressure on your relationship. You think he’s distant now, wait till an infant comes along, then you’ll really know what distant is.”
She was staring at me from her spot on the carpet, her eyes blinking so languidly I thought for a minute the world was moving in slow motion.
“How would you know that, Fig?” she finally asked. “How would you know what it’s like to have an infant?”
“I … I’ve seen it—with my friends.”
She put what she was holding into the suitcase and stood up. “We’ve already had a baby. Have you met Mercy?”
I frowned at the sarcasm. “Yeah, but she’s older now. Becoming self-sufficient. Do you really want to start again?”
“It’s what people do. They have children and build lives together.”
Right, I thought. But not with the person I’m in love with.
“I have to go,” I said. “Enjoy your vacation.”
“Yes, I will.” Her voice was icy.
Something bad was coming. I could feel it. The air around me was tense, filled with the static of all the things I’d done. Was I sorry? I wasn’t sure. There was time to stop, but I hadn’t, had I? Maybe I was just sorry I was caught, that it had to be over. I liked the thrill of it all, the dangerous way it made me feel. And now I hadn’t heard from him and I was too scared to reach out. What if he told her? What would I do then? My business was tied with hers.
I fretted. I didn’t eat. I sat at home and imagined all the ways this could turn out. I drank.
When my phone pinged one morning, telling me I had a text from Darius, I sprang out of bed. Wouldn’t do to get in more trouble. I went to the kitchen and put on the kettle, banged mugs around to sound busy. I read what he’d sent while sitting at the table, my mug of tea in hand. My hand shook. I should probably eat something.
Jolene was pickpocketed, it read. Need your help.
At first I was disappointed. Then I rallied. He texted me for help. That meant he trusted me, that he knew he could turn to me when he needed something.
How? What happened? I sent back. And then…
I’ll do whatever.
They got her while she was taking a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower. Where was Darius when it happened? He said he was distracted, taking his own photos. Jolene said eight girls surrounded them and he just edged his way out of the circle and walked away, leaving her alone with them … not looking back. Who do you believe? Jolene was a storyteller by career, so my vote went to Darius. The problem was money. The pickpockets had taken her entire wallet and then dispersed in different directions to confuse the victim. She hadn’t known which one of them had dipped their hand into her purse and stolen everything she had.
Why can’t you use your cards? I asked him.
I cut them all up, he sent back.
There was a long pause before he answered. They were all maxed out. Trying not to use them. That was odd, but I didn’t press him. Why couldn’t they just pay them off? Did Jolene know they were maxed out?
I wanted to ask, but that was none of my business.
So, what do you need me to do?
Wire money, he sent back.
Well, shit. He didn’t even have his bank card. What the hell was going on?
Okay, I sent back. Just tell me where.
Jolene’s freaking out, he said. She’s blaming me.
Of course she was. How was it his fault that some delinquents had made her the target of their crime circle? Besides, everyone knew you had to be careful when you were in touristy places like the Eiffel Tower. I highly doubted Darius had just left her to fend for herself if a group of thieves surrounded her. That didn’t seem like him at all. I had to protect Darius from her. I knew what she was like when she was angry. Poor guy. He didn’t deserve that. I grabbed my purse from the kitchen table and texted him as I was walking out the door.
Leaving now. Don’t worry. Money on the way.
Amanda and Hollis lived on Bainbridge Island, a thirty-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle. She’d invited me to visit “anytime,” so on Friday morning I gave her a call to ask if they were free for the weekend. I couldn’t take the oppression.
“Yeah, of course. Come on over,” she said, breathlessly into the phone. It sounded like she was working out. “I’ll grab some wine and we can hang out here for the night.”
I got her address and went to pack a small overnight bag, throwing my laptop in at the last minute. I was shaking when I climbed into my car and set off for the ferry.
Barbra didn’t seem like enough today. I played songs that reminded me of Darius, a list I’d been compiling ever since we met, and I tried not to think of them in France together. It wasn’t fair, not just that she was with him instead of me, but the fact that she had everything: money, travel, clothes, the admiration of hundreds, if not thousands of women. She didn’t deserve any of it. I’d seen the real her, unlike her thousands of fans. I was privy to those private moments of human ugliness. If they could just catch a glimpse of the real Jolene Avery, they’d not praise her with quite as much volume. Sure, she wrote good words. I myself had been a victim of her words—eating them up like they were the absolute truth. I’d even reposted quotes from her book to my Instagram page, deeply moved by her third eye into the human psyche. On more than one occasion, I’d found myself fantasizing about how I’d let everyone into the secret: she was human just like the rest of us, and I wanted to be the one to expose that truth. I heard the ferry’s horn and realized with a start that we were pulling into the dock. I needed to pee and I had an overwhelming urge to text Darius and ask him how things were going. I resisted the urge to pull out my phone to see if either of them had posted something new to Instagram. It wasn’t healthy for me to keep looking, and besides, it was all a farce anyway. He’d told me how absolutely miserable he was, so anything either one of them posted was a complete social media lie. I bought a coffee in a little shop on Main Street and carried it down to the docks to look at the boats. I didn’t even want a coffee, I just needed something to distract me. My brain was in overdrive, flashing images of Darius and Jolene on their perfect vacation until I wanted to scream from the torture of it. My heart was racing so fast I had to sit down on the dock to catch my breath. It was then I noticed the silver spoon lying next to me. Clean and new like it had just come out of the wash. When I picked it up it was weightless, a plastic spoon made to look expensive.