I realized that my main feeling in life now was guilt. Patsy’s words added on to the pile of it I already had over Joanna and Bella. Now there was guilt over my child suffering the loss of her mother while I did little to compensate for it. But what could I do? There was no replacing Joanna.
“I’ll ask, but I’m not going to force her.” I seriously considered not asking her but saying I had. I could tell them that Bella couldn’t come. I didn’t enjoy lying, but I wasn’t comfortable bringing my mistress… shit, I really was a cliché… to my daughter’s sixth birthday party.
“No, of course not. Oh, Lily will be so excited.” There was another pause. “How are you Blake?”.
I knew she meant emotionally, like how my soul was doing. She often did it, I supposed, to serve as a surrogate mother. As much as I appreciated having her around, I wasn’t comfortable telling her my innermost thoughts. Imagine me talking to her about my inability to resist fucking my assistant. The same assistant she wanted to come to Lily’s party.
I answered the question as if it was a general question, like how’s the weather. “I’m okay. How are you and Jim?”
“We’re good, but we worry about you.”
“I’m fine, Patsy, really.”
“We just want you to be happy. Joanna would want that.”
“Joanna was my happiness.” I dug the heel of my palm into an eye socket.
“I know. She was ours too. But we have to live, Blake. Show Lily the vibrancy of life.”
I wasn’t sure what she wanted me to do. I gave Lily all I could give, didn’t I?
“We were thinking of maybe taking a family trip to Disney World this summer. Lily and you, and Jim and me. What do you think?”
It sounded like a nightmare. It was hotter and more humid in Florida during the summer than it was here. It was also crowded.
“How about spring break or the fall instead?”
“Well, okay. The idea is that we all take time together for fun as a family.”
“Lily would love that.” I downed my drink and contemplated getting another.
“What about you Blake? What would you love, besides having Joanna back?”
A new wave of guilt hit me because my first thought about what I’d love wasn’t Joanna or even Lily. It was time with Bella.
“I’d love for Lily to be happy.”
Patsy’s sigh sounded disappointed. “Your happiness counts too, Blake.”
“I appreciate that. I promise I’m good.” When did I become such a good liar?
After the phone call, I showered, again feeling I couldn’t get into my marriage bed with Bella on me. The rational part of me knew I was being ridiculous, but I had to do whatever I could to ease my irrational mind. And because I did, I questioned my actions again. I shouldn’t be touching Bella if my conscience would give me a thrashing every time. How could I touch another woman when I still loved my wife? I was risking problems at the company and putting Bella in a precarious position. Even with all that, I understood now, there was something about Bella that drew me to her. When I was with her, she smoothed the raw edges of my life. Like somehow, my broken pieces weren’t so scattered. She fulfilled some missing piece. She was like an Oasis in the middle of a desert. A man had to drink, right?
But I was an asshole using her to fulfill my own needs. What did she need? Was I providing her something besides lessons in sex? Was there something I could give her besides an orgasm? Me not knowing much about Bella beyond her being alone in the world made me feel like a dick. Big surprise. What in my life wasn’t making me feel guilty or like a jerk? Even so, I knew I needed to find a way to give Bella something in return for what she was giving me.
The next day, I wondered if what had happened with Blake the day before was real, or just a dream. As usual, he was holed up in his office when I got to work, and I didn’t see him for most of the day. Had I dreamed that he fucked me on his desk and let me give him a blow job? Because he was acting exactly the same as before.
Then again, maybe that was the point. No one was supposed to know about our little affair. We needed to act like we always did so no one would suspect us.
Since I agreed to monogamy in our affair, I worked at creating some distance with Dylan. I kept working and acting distracted instead of bantering with him. Eventually, he caught on.
“Is something wrong, Bella?” He sat in the chair in front of my desk with his ankle crossed over his knee.