Page 62 of Bad Mommy

“How do you know it’s him?” I rushed.

“It’s him.”

“Okay,” I said. “Send them.”

“Are you-”

“-Send them.”

I hung up before he could say anything else. Then I went to all of Ryan’s social media profiles to see if he listed his e-mail address publicly. He did. But, who could have wanted him to see those videos? Who had something to gain? It certainly wasn’t Darius.

A minute later I got a notification that Ryan21 had sent me an e-mail. I poured myself a drink before opening it. There were three files attached to the e-mail. He’d left the title blank.

I clicked on the first one. Darius—clear as day—sitting backward on the toilet in the spare bathroom, only the bottom half of his face showing. My eyes focused on his dick. It was right there in the frame. His lips were moving. He was saying something. I turned up the sound.

“You have the prettiest pussy.”

The prettiest pussy. Oh my fucking god.

The next video I opened he was masturbating. I closed it before it finished. I couldn’t. The last one he was speaking to the girl—Nicole—or whoever else he’d sent the video to. I turned up the volume once again. He was rubbing his hand up and down his dick, biting on his bottom lip. “She’s gone. Come over,” he said. “I can’t wait to be inside you again.”

You knew it was coming. Everything pointed to it. He was a cheater. He violated oaths he took in his profession, why wouldn’t he bring those addictions closer to home? There were no lines; he had no boundaries. He was this thing that used women. Who had sent me this? Who had wanted me to see? And why drag Ryan into it?

In early June, George sent me a text, saying he wanted to meet for coffee. I stared at it for a few minutes trying to figure out how he got my number. I had no memory of ever giving it to him. Hesitantly, I agreed. I was busy. I didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t seen either of them since the thing with Darius had come out. Curtains drawn, and cars pulled into the garage like all of a sudden they were hiding from something. I couldn’t be bothered. I needed space from any sort of drama. It was raining bitches and bogs outside on the day I was supposed to meet him. I put on my rain boots and rain jacket and walked the mile to a grungy little coffee place called the Tin Pin. I arrived before he did, so I paid for a tea and carried it over to a scarred table in the corner. Someone had scratched Mona is a whore into the wood. I stirred my tea and glared down at the message. Another example of the fucked up way society viewed women. All the men who slept with Mona were left untouched, while our girl Mona was being called out. I took out the pocket knife I kept in my bag and scratched so are all the men she fucked underneath it.

One of the baristas saw me and said, “You can’t do that.”

“It was already done, I’m fixing it,” I said. She rolled her eyes and retreated back behind the counter.

Freedom of speech was fine. Just get it right, you assholes.

George walked in ten minutes late and dripping wet. I waved him over to Mona’s table, kicking out the chair for him.

“Hi,” he said, shrugging out of his coat.

“Hi yourself.”

He left to get a drink, while I finished mine. When he came back carrying a coffee I noticed how tired he looked. Or maybe he always looked that way. How often did I actually look at George? He was practically a hermit. We’d shared an occasional wave when he pulled into the driveway and I was outside.

“Fig and Darius were having an affair,” he said.

The tea curdled in my stomach. I wrapped an arm around my waist as I slumped in my chair.

“Say something,” said George. “God, this is fucked up.” He ran a hand through his already disheveled hair as he shifted around in his seat like a toddler. I saw him reading Mona’s inscription while I grappled with his words.

What was I supposed to say? Was I even surprised? Yes, yes, I was actually.

“Da fuck,” I said. “You have to be shitting me?”

He looked relieved that I’d finally said something. “I’m not, unfortunately.”

“When?” I said. “How?”

“When you left, when she said she was out for a run, or going to the market for something. I don’t know. They found ways. Don’t people like that always find ways?”

I was lightheaded, my vision swimming in and out of focus. My house. He betrayed me in my own house. The one I let him move into and share with me. The one he freeloaded in while his debt built up, and lawsuits were filed against him. For months since I caught Darius I’d been searching for ways to cope, to forgive and to burn off the bitterness that was trying to build stage in my heart. I wouldn’t let a man like that take my hope. But, this—this was different. He brought his shit home, into the safe place I created for my daughter. And her, that woman. I’d pushed aside the warnings, I’d pushed aside my book, and my daughter, and my friends to … help her. What type of world was this where the people who you thought loved you the most were the betrayers? I looked at George. He was haggard, thin; he couldn’t keep still. He’d cut himself shaving. There was a little bit of dried blood on his chin.

“When did you find out? What month?”

“March,” he said, “of last year.”

I cringed. That was just a few months after they moved into the house next door.

“That’s when I was in Phoenix with my dad,” I said, softly. “Was that…?”