“I think you’ve had enough.”
“There you go again, with the I thinks. I think this about Meredith, I think that about Meredith. Well guess what? I don’t need Jack to tell me when I’ve had too much…JACK! Pffffff. Now please leave.”
“Not until I’m sure you won’t get sick. I can’t remember how much liquor was left in that bottle.”
“Okay, but can you close that door? You’re letting all the freezy-freezy air out.”
He obliges then I hear him take off his shoes and sit down on my bed. Meanwhile, I’m lying in the shape of a chalk outline from a homicide, legs splayed on the floor.
“I didn’t realize you were a drinker,” he says gently.
“I’m not. I hated every sip. Alfred peer pressured me.”
“Well watch out around him, he’s also a big fan of tattoos.”
“Ha ha, funny man. Now, please be quiet. I was in the middle of wallowing and I’m not finished. You can stay, but you have to stop asking me questions.”
The bed creaks, and maybe he’s getting comfortable where I sleep. Maybe he’s stinking up my blankets with his sexy scent. I’ll have to run the linen through the wash twice tomorrow morning, or I could just leave his scent there…maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. I push the rogue thought aside and try to get back to what I was thinking about before he so rudely interrupted me. Oh, right, Mexico. Mexico…I can’t remember why I was thinking about Mexico. I groan, fling my arm away, and sit up, eyes blinking open as I try to find my balance.
Jack’s sitting on the bed, just as I imagined, except he’s not in his suit anymore. Like me, he changed when we got home. Sweatpants and a t-shirt—how adorable of him.
“Have you been here long enough to confirm I’m not going to get sick?”
The very edge of his sexy mouth tips up like the smirking emoji. “No.”
I glance away. “Right.”
“Why were you drinking?”
I sigh and lie back on the rug. My head is spinning.
“Are you okay?”
I hold up both thumbs. “Peachy.”
“Why did I drive you to drink?”
“Because you hurt my feelings on Thursday.”
“I’m sorry for that, Meredith.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that before. I know the routine. It goes like this: make me fall for you, be mean to me, say you’re sorry, and then repeat. It’s the same thing Andrew used to do.”
“He was mean to you?”
“I don’t want to talk about this.”
“How was he mean to you?”
There’s a long silence as I stare up at the ceiling.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” I enunciate the words like they each make up their own sentence.
“How about we trade off?” he goads. “A secret for a secret?”
“I know all your secrets.”
“Edith told me about your parents’ accident. She told me how you changed. It’s why I know you’re not as mean as you pretend to be.”
“You told me on Thursday I’m the meanest person you’ve ever met.”
“It might still be the truth, but I just wanted to make you feel bad for hurting me.”
“See? You just went first. That’s a secret.”
That wasn’t so bad, I guess.
“Tell me one of yours.”
With my gaze on the ceiling, it’s like I’m lounging on a therapist’s couch. It almost feels like he’s not really there, like we aren’t really talking at all.
“All right. I actually like your cooking,” he admits.
I smile then wipe it away quickly before he sees it. “That doesn’t count. Everyone likes my cooking. I want a real one.”
“Okay fine. You want to go deep?” He thinks for a second, and then he sighs. “The way I figure, there’s only a handful of people who really give a shit about you in this life. I’m not talking about friends you see at Super Bowl parties. I’m talking about people who would take a bullet for you. There just aren’t that many, for a lot of people.”
“I know what you mean.”
“I used to have three people like that, and the day my parents died, I lost two of them. Now it’s just me and Edith.”
I turn my head so my gaze catches his. He’s staring down at me from his perch on the bed. I think he’s been watching me this whole time, studying me with indecipherable emotion in his eyes. It’s that gaze that makes the truth tumble out of my mouth.
“You want to know something even sadder?” I swallow and look away, back to the safety of the ceiling. “I don’t think I have anyone.”
“What about your parents? Helen?”
“Sure, on paper, they’re my family, but I’m not close with them. I hardly even know them anymore.”
When he speaks again, there’s remorse in his voice. It’s so heavy and sad it breaks my heart.
“In my office, when I said you didn’t have any family or friends here—”
“Yeah, that hit the mark.”
I wipe away the tear slipping down my cheek and shake my head.
“This game fucking sucks.”
“It’s my turn.”
“Fine. Make it something juicy.”
“I was jealous you went to the wedding with Tucker.”
That is juicy.
When he doesn’t answer, I turn to find he’s still studying me, except now his gaze is on his t-shirt, my pajama top of choice. I wonder if he’s annoyed I didn’t give it back with all the others.
I sit up and turn to face him, sitting cross-legged on the rug.
“If it helps, every single woman at the wedding was infatuated with you, except maybe Leanna. You might have been putting out some major fuck off vibes, but had you smiled at any one of them, you would have had her falling in love with you on the spot.”
He tilts his head to the side. “I smiled at you and as I recall, you nearly ditched me on the dance floor.”
“Those were different circumstances.”
“Right.” He frowns, and it might be the alcohol, but I swear he’s looking at me with desire. Yeah, he definitely is—it’s the same look Alfred gives his food bowl.
“My turn?” I say quickly, anxious to break up the tension starting to brew in this tiny shack. “Okay here’s mine: I’m really bummed I didn’t get to eat a piece of wedding cake. I really wanted a corner piece.”
He smiles. “Cute. Now take your turn.”
“That was my turn.”
“I just told you I feel like I’m alone in this world.”
“And I confessed I have an addiction to icing.”
Seems equally as important to me.
“Fine. Okay.” I sweep my hands though the air and turn away, eyes narrowed on my bathroom mirror. He wants honesty? He’s about to get it. “I think you’re handsome—h-o-t.”
I scold him with my stare, and he doesn’t even have the decency to hide his arrogance.
Enough. I’ve had enough. I push to stand and yank the door open.
“How about we change this into a game of truth or dare?” I quip. “I dare you to leave this shack right now.”
“That’s a terrible dare.”
“Fine, truth: did you mean all that stuff you said in your office? Do you really think so little of me?”
“Meredith, I was wrong. I was angry, and jealous, and worried that you were too good to be true. I’m sorry.”
I want to delve into every single word he just said, but I’m too drunk. I’ve already forgotten half of them.
I nod. “Okay, fine. Let’s just forget about it.”
“How was Andrew mean to you?”
I pinch my eyes closed. I knew he’d bring that back up, knew he wouldn’t be able to leave well enough alone. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to keep my lips zipped about my marriage. The reasons are stacked one on top of another at this point: I’m embarrassed that I put myself in that situation in the first place. I’m ashamed I stayed as long as I did. I’m hesitant to call it abuse and to open up about the things Andrew used to say, because then I’d actually have to acknowledge that I was a victim. I don’t like that word. I don’t want to have to wear it like an albatross around my neck. I just want to move on.