It is time. I have to do it. Have to sit down with Brant and talk this through. He is an intelligent individual. He loves me. Lee loves me. I should talk to Jillian about this, but I don’t want to. I am too worried about what she would say. The orders she will shove down my throat. Orders I have no intention of following. I know what the right thing to do is: to allow Brant to live his separate lives without interference. I understand that. But it is too late for that. I f**ked up this entire situation two years ago. When I saw Lee and stepped closer. Fucked him in a parking lot and fell in love with his smile. Chased him down and wrestled his heart into submission.
My options are limited. Lose Lee or tell Brant. Put Brant’s psychological well being in danger because I am too selfish to lose Lee. Again, I know what I should do. What path Jillian would scream at me, her hatred compounding with every unjustified shake of my head.
Am I that horrible? I think the answer is yes; I know it is wrong, but my love is too strong to feel anything but right. I can’t lose Lee. And I did all of this out of love for Brant.
Yes, this is selfish.
Yes, I am putting Brant in danger.
Yes, I am possibly saving my relationships in the process.
Yes, I am taking the biggest gamble of my life.
I love them both too much to do anything else.
I cradle two glasses of wine in my left hand and step through the open glass sliders, the wave of ocean wind crisp in the dark evening. Take my place on the outdoor couch next to Brant and tuck a bare foot underneath me. Handing him his glass, I try to figure out where to begin.
His wine is half gone by the time I finally speak. “I’ve been keeping something from you.” I set my glass on the table before us and turn toward him. I don’t need to draw attention to the conversation, his focus is complete, as it always is. He follows suit, setting down his wine, his eyes settling on me, the clench of his jaw the only sign of tension. I stare at that tightening muscle and wonder at it, the tic rarely seen in Brant. I swallow, trying to find the next sentence, my hands moving nervously as I attempt to pull together intelligent thought.
“Is this about the other man?” His voice is deadly calm. A calm I have never heard from him but would have expected in an angry version of Brant. Calculated. Controlled. Angry.
I blink. “What?”
“The other man you’ve been seeing.” He says the words casually, but I see the tightness in his face, the stiff line of his mouth.
“What are you talking about?” Of course he knows. The man is brilliant. Can spot minute changes in a hundred pages of code. I haven’t exactly hidden my behavior. I figured an absent man can’t catch someone who—in his mind—doesn’t exist.
“We’re both intelligent adults, Layana. Don’t play stupid.” His voice is harder than I’ve ever heard it, yet quiet. He isn’t a yeller. I swallow.
“Okay. Yes, in part this is about him. Just… bear with me for a minute. I’m getting there.”
“I’ve been waiting for you to tell me. Waiting for you to explain what on Earth I am not providing for you.” I can hear the threads of hurt in his voice. Small. Easily missed, yet in the structure of Brant’s voice I hear them as loudly as if he is screaming.
“It’s not what you think. I—”
“How long has it been? Five months? Longer? I suspected before, but didn’t know for sure until we lived together.” He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his eyes intent on mine. Analyzing. Searching for truth among so many old lies.
That hurts. I see the flinch in his features. The swallow in his throat, the moisture that comes to the edges of his eyes. He drops his head to his hands. “Is this why you won’t marry me?”
“Not in the way you think.” I hadn’t intended on my relationship with Lee to be the catalyst that started this conversation, but I move on. Let it open the door wider.
“Do you love him?”
I lean closer, hold Brant’s hands and force his eyes to mine. “I love you. Everything about this has been about you.”
He pulls his hands away. “Stop talking in f**king riddles, Lana, and tell me why.”
“I need you to look at me. I need you to listen.”
He does. He stops talking, he looks me in the eyes, and he focuses. Loses his ego, loses his hurt, and focuses on my words. Does what Brant was built to do. Analyze and interpret.
I give up the quest for the perfect words and dive in.
“His name is Lee. I met him in Mission Bay. He does odd landscaping jobs out there for cash. He was dating another girl for a large part of last year. I’ve been sleeping with him off and on for two years. I used to do it at my house, now I do it in the guesthouse. Lee is not his real name, it’s an identity that he’s adopted.” I swallow, then go in for the kill. “Brant, his real identity… it’s you. He’s a personality your brain created, an identity that you adopt at times. Mostly during times of stress. You have a condition called dissociative identity disorder. It’s what used to be called multiple personality disorder. I haven’t been cheating on you. The other man… it’s you. It’s just a different side of you, one who has his own personality.”
His expression doesn’t change when I stop talking. He just stares into my eyes and listens to silence. Blinks a few times, long intervals between. “I’m thinking,” he finally says. “Trying to decide if you are lying or if you sincerely believe what you just told me.”
“I’m not lying.”
His eyes hold mine. Studies them. Moves slightly as a process occurs behind them. “I believe that you mean what you’re telling me,” he says slowly. “That doesn’t mean you aren’t insane.”
I smile slightly. “I’m not insane.”
“One of us is. I’d much rather it be you.” My smile drops.
“You’re not insane.”
“I’m absent-minded, I’m not living separate lives.”
“I’ve been f**king your other personality for two years. You are.”
“Do you love him?” The question, when repeated a second time, has entirely different tones.
“Yes.” I blink, tears suddenly present, the wealth of my emotion at an all time high. It isn’t fair to love a man in two different ways. One way is hard enough.
“More than me?”