“Did you know he was cheating on me?” I blurted, keeping my eyes steadily on her face. “Did he tell you?”
Her pallor changed. All of a sudden her skin was the color of milk, sticky and white.
“Darius … what…?”
I started crying. I thought I was over the tears, that I had things under control, and here I was dripping tears on her back steps. Fig moved quickly, stepping aside to let me in. She pulled out a chair at the island. I slid into it, burying my face in my hands, trying to pull myself together.
“What the hell happened?” Her eyes were held open wide, not believing.
“He met her at a conference,” I said. “She’s a journalist.”
“What?” Her voice cracked. She sat suddenly in the chair next to me causing our knees to bump.
“Her name is Nicole Martin,” I said, taking the tissue she offered me. Fig’s eyes darted around the room and I wondered if she was trying to place the name. She was like that about names, always asking you to repeat them, then saying them herself. Darius always joked about her immediately going home and searching Facebook for them. “She’s freelance.”
“How did you find all of this out?”
“Which part?” I asked.
“His phone,” I said, covering my mouth. The images still popped into my head every time I closed my eyes. It was like a tit and pussy parade.
“He was showing me something on his phone and he hit the wrong button and his album popped up instead. I saw … pictures of women.”
“More than one? More than this … Nicole?”
“Yes, more than her,” I said.
For a second she didn’t say anything, she just stared at her hands, which were gripping the edges of the counter. “Oh my god.”
I had the feeling that if she weren’t already sitting she would have needed to.
“Where is he now?”
“I made him leave. A few weeks ago. I didn’t know what to do.” I wondered if she already knew. His car had been gone from its usual spot. She was such a watcher.
“How’s Mercy?” she asked.
“Not good.” That was an understatement. Mercy was withdrawn, sad, picking fights with the kids in her classroom. She asked for him every night, wanting him to read her story.
I reached up and touched my temple where a headache was starting to root.
“Do you have a headache?” she asked. “Hold on…” She went off to the bathroom and brought back some aspirin in the palm of her hand.
“How long has it been going on?” she asked, pouring me a glass of water.
“Over a year,” I said, swallowing the pills. “She didn’t even know he was married. He just kept everything separate … compartmentalized.”
“How do you know that?” Fig said. “She’s lying.”
I could see how anyone would think that. The other woman was often villainized more than the cheating man.
These women owed me nothing; they were strangers. Perhaps they owed themselves something better than their actions, but Darius was the one who owed me his loyalty and life.
“I called her,” I said. “She was crying. She told me everything.” I’d messaged her on Facebook after searching her name (which Darius had reluctantly told me). She’d sent me her number right away. When she answered the phone, her voice had cracked and we both just cried together for the first few minutes. “I’m so sorry,” she’d said. “Maybe I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that there was something shady about his story, but I didn’t want to see it. I should have known.” He’d told her that he was divorced, and with the lack of social media sites to follow him on, how was she to know the difference?
“You’re way too trusting, Jolene,” Fig said, softly.
“She wasn’t the one who made a commitment to me, Fig,” I said. “He was. It wouldn’t matter to me if she’d known he was married and thrown herself at him. It was his job to tell her NO, to protect our relationship and keep his dick in his pants.”
Fig nodded noncommittally.
“God, how could I be so stupid? All those late nights in the office … he’d been so distracted. I thought it was because I was on a deadline and I wasn’t as present with him.”
“You weren’t good for each other,” she said, firmly. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s disgusting what he did. How he could deceive someone for such a long time. I don’t understand why.” And then she added, “He has one hell of a good poker face.”
I had whiplash. Did she just defend him, and what was that in her voice … joy? I felt sick. I was wrong to come here. It always happened like this, I’d tell myself that I was imagining the weird feelings about Fig, but then as soon as I was near her I’d want to leave.
“I can’t believe he just drove away and he’s never coming back,” she said.
Yeah, shit. That had been my thought too. But, then he was my husband. I thought only death would us part.
I looked around the kitchen, searching for some clue, some confirmation of what I was feeling. “Is George here?” I asked. “I’m sorry, I didn’t even consider that you guys would be busy…”
She waved off my comment. “He moved out. Two weeks ago.”
Now it was my turn to be shocked.