“So then I’ll see you when I get back?” he asks. “It could be pretty late.”
“I’ll stay up.”
He seems happy about that, stealing one last kiss before he turns back for the farmhouse.
I watch him walk away and a very clear thought flashes in my head like a neon sign. I try to ignore it and it starts glowing even brighter, as if someone flipped a switch to max brightness. I bat the thought away and my brain says, Nice try, then adds exclamation marks. In the end, I have no choice but to acknowledge the intensely blazing thought:
I AM FALLING IN LOVE WITH JACK MCNIGHT!!!!!!!!!
If you’re curious, one day is made up of 24 hours, which is 1,440 minutes, or 84,000 seconds. 86,000 seconds feels like too long to go without Jack. Sure, technically, I went twenty-eight years without him, but now I’m counting seconds. So far, he’s only been gone for 10,800 of them; I have a lot more seconds to live through before he walks through that front door again. Fortunately, life sees fit to make those seconds as interesting as possible.
While I’m scrubbing the upstairs bathroom, an unfamiliar black SUV pulls up on the gravel drive. It catches my attention for two reasons: it’s fancier than any car I’ve seen at Blue Stone Ranch, and it doesn’t park over near the farm trucks. It pulls up right in front of the house. I push to stand and peer out of the bathroom window just in time to see the driver’s side door open and a tall, well-dressed man step out.
My husband, Andrew, has finally decided to come to Texas.
I had a feeling this day would come. I knew he would eventually track me down and show his face. Andrew has built up a large ego in recent years, and I imagine me leaving in the middle of the night was quite a blow to it. He’s either here to demand I come home or to seek some kind of retribution. Either way, he’ll want some kind of apology from me. He loved nothing more than when I groveled at his feet, begging for his forgiveness and love.
I hate the woman he turned me into, and I refuse to revert back to that outdated facsimile of myself—the subordinate housewife, the woman who took his verbal abuse for years without saying a word. I’ve changed.
He’s staring up at the farmhouse with his hands on his hips, a look of disgust contorting his classically handsome face. He spits in the dirt. I move away from the window and whip my rubber gloves off.
I’m surprised; I thought I’d be more nervous than I am. I feel the exact opposite: calm and resolute. I walk out of that bathroom and down the stairs without a moment’s hesitation. I feel like if I unbuttoned my shirt, I’d find a spandex superhero uniform.
I might not have invited him to come, but I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad, because it dawns on me that he probably still thinks I’m the same old Meredith, ready to tremble at the mere sight of him. For the first time in our marriage, he doesn’t know who he’s messing with.
When I make it downstairs, I call out for Edith, but I don’t get a reply. I guess she must have gone into town. Good. I head for the front door. Andrew’s still standing on the gravel drive, apparently waiting for me to make an appearance.
I wonder how different this meeting would be if Jack was here. I doubt he’d let me face Andrew on my own, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m facing my demon all by myself.
It feels better than I imagined it would, similar to how it felt to leave him that night.
The screen door slams behind me as I step outside.
“Morning, Andrew,” I say with an insincere smile.
His piercing gaze snaps to me and I see rage there like I’ve never seen before. I bet he’s pissed he had to come all the way out here to talk to me. He hates wasting time; busy, important men like him never have enough of it.
“Nice of you to make the trip. For a while, I didn’t think you’d bother. How was your flight?” I asked.
My voice is a sugar-dipped cone with whipped cream and a cherry on top.
“Cut the shit, Meredith.”
My smile holds steady. “Manners, Andrew. Remember, you’re in the south now. But, if you’d like to cut to the chase, I have some bad news: I’m not going back to California with you.”
He sneers at the suggestion. “You honestly think I still want you? Look at yourself. Jesus.”
He’s talking about my work clothes, my t-shirt and jean shorts. My hair, which he only ever saw styled and perfect, is in a high ponytail with an abundance of flyaways. I don’t think he’s seen my face without a pound of makeup in a few years.
“Well, you traveled an awfully long way just to tell me I look like shit, though I do recall you always had a flair for the dramatic. What is it that you came to hear? That you ruined my life?”
He laughs acerbically. “Ruined your life?! Ruin—” He shakes his head and pivots on his foot, turning away and wiping his mouth before he jerks back around and points a finger straight at me. “I gave you more than you fucking deserved. You think you’re the only pretty thing worth something? You’re a dime a fucking dozen.”
His words roll off me like I’m wearing insult-repellant gear. “I’ve heard this all before, Andrew. Nothing left in your little bag of tricks?”
Something in him snaps at that. “What did you just say to me?”
My voice is louder when I continue, “You’ve said that same exact thing a million times.” I wave my hand in continuous circles. “I’m ‘a dime a dozen’. Well gather up your dimes, sweetie, and go collect your dozens, because I’m done giving a shit about what you think of me.”
I think he’s going to lose his mind. I’ve never talked to him like this, but he’s more cunning than that. He collects himself so quickly that for the first time all day, a shiver of fear runs down my spine.
“That’s good.” He smirks. “You’ve got a little backbone now, huh? You think you can leave me and make a new life for yourself? Your sister tells me you’re the housekeeper for the guy who lives here. You like cleaning toilets? Mopping floors? If I’d known you liked to be on your knees that much, I wouldn’t have paid all that money to have a maid.”
It’s strange to me that I ever found him attractive. Looking at him now, his sharp bone structure seems too severe—cruel, even.
“Are you whoring yourself out to him too?”
His words hit too close for comfort, but I force a bored expression.
“You almost sound jealous.”
He snorts and angles his head back to the black SUV. I didn’t see her before, but there’s a pretty blonde perched on the front seat watching our exchange. I wonder if she’s one of the girls he slept with during our marriage or if she’s new. Either way, I feel bad for her. Piece of advice for ya: get out while you still can.
Whatever motive inclined him to send those flowers and apologetic note is dead and buried. Her presence is confirmation that Andrew isn’t here to drag me back home with him—that, and the manila envelope clutched in his right hand.
“What’s in the envelope? More love letters?”
“Divorce papers.” He says it like it’s supposed to wound me, so I’m careful not to appear too gleeful. I don’t want him knowing how badly I want out of this marriage. “I figured you’d stay here for a few weeks and then come crawling home, but these weeks without you have been nice. I realized how glad I was to be rid of you. You really were a boring fuck there at the end. I’d like to try my hand with someone who’s a little more appreciative of the life I give them.”
I assume he means the mail-order blonde in the SUV.
“Did you come all the way here just so you could tell me you’re glad to be done with me? You could have just mailed the papers.”
“I was curious to see your new life.” He nods toward the farmhouse. “You think this new guy will want you after he finds out what an ungrateful cunt you are?” He must see me wince because he laughs. “Don’t tell me you have feelings for him?”
His laughter takes a turn for the sinister, and I want to say something, want to tell him to go to hell, but my words die on my lips.
“Jesus Christ, Meredith. You’re pathetic.”