“Hey, they’re on a comeback.” I smiled. I tried one last thing.
“Is she a Washington native?”
He shook his head. “Nope. Said she moved here from the Midwest.”
I got cold. From the tips of my toes all the way to my heart, which suddenly beat at a gallop. I moved through the rest of the visit as quickly as I could, signing, smiling, and making a follow-up appointment. The minute I got to my car I tossed my purse in the passenger seat and dialed Amanda.
“Fig,” she said, after I finished my story.
I breathed a sigh of relief. That’s exactly what I had been thinking, but I felt crazy even saying it.
“This is nuts,” she said. “I’m going to call and pretend to be her to find out if she goes there.” She hung up before I could protest. I sat in my car, feeling sick to my stomach. Why? Did she want my life so badly that she was even pretending to have it to the dentist? By the time Amanda’s number flashed on my phone I was a mess.
“She’s a patient there. I scheduled a cleaning for her filthy mouth.”
I had to pull over.
“You’re telling me that Fig Coxbury goes to that dentist—that Wu guy?” My finger jabbed uselessly in the air.
“Okay, okay,” I said, parking my car. I leaned my forehead against the steering wheel. “But, it may all be a coincidence, right? I mean there could be an author who goes there too, Seattle is a large city.”
“Nope, it’s not actually that large. No. You’re going to have to stop being so goddamn stupid—do you hear me? She wants your life. She’s even pretending to have it to your local dental health specialist. Wake up, Jo.”
“All right,” I said. “I’m awake. What now?”
“Sell your house. Move. She’s not right in the head.”
“I can’t just sell my house. I was there first.”
“She probably bought the house next door because she was already obsessed with you.”
We both fell silent. It was ludicrous, but wasn’t everything that was happening? What if it was true?
“I’ll, um … talk to Darius. See what he says.” I hung up feeling guilty. I had no intention of talking to Darius about this. There were a lot of decisions I needed to make.
Sometimes you get this gut feeling that something is wrong. It sits in your belly like a sack of hard rocks. You can’t forget it’s there, yet you sort of learn to live with it at the same time. You still don’t want to be right. You’d rather tell yourself you’re crazy, become an alcoholic, cry yourself to sleep every night. Anything but face the truth … that you are right. That he is indeed cheating. Since when did it become easier to be crazy than cheated on, you know? It’s just nicer to be crazy than to be unloved.
What were we fighting about when my life fell apart? Oh, yes—Ryan. Fucking Ryan. I’d not spoken to him in weeks. He was seeing a blonde, hashtagging all of his photos with #datenight. A martini sitting next to a rocks glass on a glossy bar top. That was enough to make me back off. I’d never tell someone not to text me because I was in a relationship, but I wouldn’t text someone who was. I liked women too much to mess with their men. I was in the kitchen making coffee when Darius pulled up a photo Ryan had posted to Instagram.
“Did he post this for you?” he said. His face was damp—greenish—like he was sweating off a fever. He held the phone in front of my face and shook it.
“It’s not a snow globe, Darius,” I said. I grabbed his wrist and looked more closely at the picture. Ryan sat next to his baby niece on the grass. “Wait,” I said. “Are you asking if Ryan posted a picture of himself and a baby for me?”
“Don’t play stupid, Jolene,” he said. I balked. Was this really happening?
“I think I’m with stupid,” I said, turning away. He grabbed my shoulder and spun me back around. “The white box around the picture,” he said. “That’s what you do to your pictures.”
“Yes, me and a million other Instagram users. What the fuck does Ryan’s picture have to do with me? And why are you stalking him?”
“He’s in love with you.” He swiped at his sweaty forehead with the back of his hand. He looked like a fucking crack head.
“Again, what does that have to do with his niece?”
He didn’t stop me when I walked away. I heard his footfalls as he paced the kitchen. Back and forth, back and forth. He was opening and closing cabinets—something he did when he was anxious. Da fuck.
I’d seen him like this once before, years ago when he was leaving his fiancée and my best friend. He acted cracked out, manic. He’d sob one minute and be angry the next, then he’d start saying shit I preferred not to remember. Things that made no sense, void of logic. Like this, like the picture Ryan posted.
A few hours later I was folding laundry in our bedroom. What time was it? Midnight? One? He opened the door and walked in softly, tiptoeing almost. He was minimizing his noise to minimize my temper. It was comical.
“I’m sorry,” he said, before I could speak. “This guy makes me crazy. I’ve seen your texts. I’ve been reading them.” I blinked at him, and he looked away.
“You make yourself crazy,” I said. “You’ve been reading my texts? That’s not creepy at all.” I put my folded underwear into a drawer and slammed it shut, moving to the closet. I kept my movement steady, calm. But, my thoughts were flying around like darts, hitting all the sore spots. He had all of my passwords, possession of my iPad, which I knew about. I had never taken precaution to keep him from seeing anything. He was so paranoid that he’d been spying on me, and for how long? And yet, I didn’t have a single one of his passwords. How had that happened? Was I really that trusting, or was it that I didn’t care to keep an eye on him? It’s not like I didn’t know what he was capable of.